House of Commons
Wednesday 3 July 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—
Northern Ireland Centenary
I hope, Mr Speaker, you will allow me a slight indulgence at the beginning of proceedings to wish the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) a very happy birthday. Today is, I believe, the feast day of St Thomas, but none of us is in any doubt about the joy he brings to this House.
My Department is exploring the options to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland in 2021. The centenary represents an excellent opportunity to reflect on the past, to celebrate the present, and to build a united Northern Ireland for the future. It needs to be undertaken in a spirit of historical accuracy, mutual respect, inclusiveness and reconciliation.
I thank the Secretary of State for her response. Does she agree that people across Northern Ireland will want to enjoy, celebrate and commemorate the centenary at the events in the 18 months leading up to it but, more than that, they will want to do it in a spirit of generosity and inclusiveness, remarking upon our history, our culture and our heritage for the next 100 years of Northern Ireland within the UK?
I agree wholeheartedly with the hon. Gentleman. He is absolutely right in the way he describes how the 2021 anniversary should be marked. I reflect on the work by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson) on the world war one commemorations, which had an inclusive nature that fostered reconciliation and brought great joy to the people of Northern Ireland.
That is a matter for my colleagues in the Cabinet Office, who will have heard my hon. Friend’s question. He will know that we are changing the date of the early May bank holiday next year to mark VE-day. Perhaps they would want to consider using the subsequent bank holiday for a similar purpose.
The 100th anniversary of the establishment of Northern Ireland is an opportunity to look at the history of Northern Ireland in its times of darkness and of light, and particularly to build on the tremendous progress of recent years. Last week, commemorating the sad passing of Ivan Cooper, the Archdeacon of Derry quoted Lord Carson, who said in 1921:
“From the start be tolerant to all religions, and, while maintaining to the last your own traditions and your own citizenship, take care that similar rights are preserved for those who differ from us.”
Will the Secretary of State be liaising with her Irish counterpart and other interested parties to make the most of this opportunity, as she said, to learn from the mistakes of the past and promote the Northern Ireland of the future?
I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. We should all reflect on the words that she quoted. She will be pleased to know that, at the last meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office raised exactly those points with his Irish counterpart. It is important that we do mark this in a spirit of reconciliation, mutual understanding and looking to the future.
Devolved Government: Restoration
There has been significant engagement over the past nine weeks with the political parties in Northern Ireland, considering a range of important and difficult issues. Progress has been made, but there are a number of areas of disagreement between the political parties.
The Secretary of State’s mapping exercise on the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland revealed 96 areas directly underpinned by or linked to EU law. After Brexit, obviously, these will need to be replaced and shaped by the institutions of Stormont. Given that, does she believe that it would be irresponsible to pursue a no-deal Brexit while the devolved Administration is not in place?
My focus is on getting the devolved Administration back together and getting all the institutions that were agreed in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement working—in particular, the north-south institutions, which are incredibly important. Having those, and also having representation of the Northern Ireland Executive on the Joint Ministerial Committee, are both very important points in making sure that Northern Ireland’s voice is heard in the Brexit debate.
Both sides of the border are willing and praying for success in the talks in which my right hon. Friend is involved. The absence of devolution is now tangibly and negatively impacting upon the lives of too many people in Northern Ireland. Will she commit to ensure that the summer recess is not an excuse for pausing the talks and keep parties in the room—by force, if necessary—to ensure that, by the time we come back in September, we are on the cusp of seeing devolution return?
May I start by congratulating my hon. Friend on his appointment to the role of Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee? I have not had an opportunity to do so in the Chamber before now. I am sure he will make an excellent Chair, following his predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison), who is now a Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
I want to reassure my hon. Friend that I am doing everything in my power to ensure that the parties continue to talk. They are all still in the room. I will be returning to Northern Ireland straight after questions, to continue talks over the rest of the week. I want the talks to succeed and will do whatever I can to ensure that they do.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, he was the last direct rule Minister in Northern Ireland, and I very much hope that he continues to be. He will understand the constitutional implications of the independence of the civil service in Northern Ireland and the fact that it reports to the Executive Office, not to this House. I am determined to get the institutions restored because then the question that he asked will become irrelevant.
We have, of course, ensured that all parties are in the room. These have been talks with the five main parties in Northern Ireland—those that are eligible to form an Executive and the Alliance party—and they have all made a valuable contribution to the discussions. We have done so through working groups, chaired by five independent facilitators. Good progress has been made, but we have not had any institutions in place for two and a half years because of some very difficult issues, and those difficult issues remain.
I am trying to get the institutions restored. It is vital for the people of Northern Ireland that the politicians they elected make decisions on their behalf, so I am doing everything I can to ensure that those politicians are able to do what will be very difficult for all of them to find a compromise and an accommodation and go back into Stormont.
My role is to help the parties but, clearly, if they are able to reach an agreement, I am sure that they will want things from the UK Government, and I will consider those when we are at that stage. If my hon. Friend will forgive me, we are at a delicate stage in the negotiations and I would not want to compromise anybody’s position at this point.
One of the issues that has to be addressed in the talks is justice for victims. The Secretary of State will be aware that the late William Frazer, who was laid to rest this Monday, devoted his life to fighting for victims; I pay tribute to him and his work. Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the biggest issues must be addressing the definition of a victim, so that innocent victims are entitled to the pension they need?
The right hon. Gentleman refers to a number of issues, and he is right to do so. He refers to dealing with the legacy of the past. He will know that we have consulted on the institutions agreed at Stormont House and will publish a response to the consultation in due course. He also mentioned pensions for severely injured victims, which have been promised to them for far too long. I am determined to make progress on that matter.
Another issue that is causing real problems across the community in Northern Ireland, in the absence of devolved government, is the atrocious waiting lists in the health service, with cancer victims being made to wait a horrendously long time and targets being missed. Surely in the last days of the Prime Minister’s tenure, she will address that point and ensure that something is done to bring waiting lists under control. It is not good enough that the Government sit on their hands while this is happening.
I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman’s comment that the Government are sitting on their hands; the Government are absolutely determined to see these matters addressed and the best way to do that, as he knows, is through devolved government in Stormont. I pay tribute to him and his party for the willingness that has been shown and their determination to engage in the talks very constructively and to make progress. I very much welcome that, particularly from the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, Arlene Foster, whose attitude has been exemplary throughout.
Istanbul Convention and Northern Ireland Law on Domestic Abuse
I am sorry to report that, while the UK has signed the Istanbul convention, we are one of only a handful of signatories that have not yet ratified it. So, in the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice are working closely with the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland to establish how this can be progressed for Northern Ireland, perhaps in the upcoming Domestic Abuse Bill.
The Minister is absolutely right. If it was the will of Government to include Northern Ireland in the jurisdiction covered by the Domestic Abuse Bill, that would allow the Istanbul convention to be ratified, so I ask the Government to do that, as did the prelegislative scrutiny Committee on the Domestic Abuse Bill in one of its recommendations.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right that the prelegislative scrutiny process by the Joint Committee made that recommendation. That has opened the door and it is certainly one of the things that are therefore being considered. Obviously, we need to work through the detail, but that door is certainly now open and we are considering it carefully.
I cannot yet categorically confirm any of those measures to be in or out, but it is certainly one of the points that was addressed by the prelegislative scrutiny Committee. It was one of the things it recommended, so it is one of the things that are being considered very carefully.
Does the Minister of State acknowledge that the fact that every two minutes there is a phone call to abuse charities regarding domestic abuse means that it must top the agenda when the Assembly reconvenes? Further, will he pledge to raise the matter with local parties and be assured of the DUP’s support to make that happen?
I am delighted to hear that there is broad support for the measures that we have just been discussing. I am sure that, when the Stormont Assembly reconvenes, it will be one of the most important issues. There are others, of course, but I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman’s support.
Leaving the EU: Talks on Restoring Devolution
The Northern Ireland parties have made it clear that they want to use the limited window ahead of us to make a success of the current talks process. I agree with them that restoring devolved government cannot wait. I remain determined to do what is necessary to make this talks process a success.
The future Prime Minister held a private meeting with the leadership of the DUP yesterday. For over two years now, the Conservative party has been beholden to one political party in Northern Ireland. Does the Secretary of State seriously believe that there is no connection between this narrow and self-interested relationship between these two political parties and the continued absence of devolved institutions in Northern Ireland?
I reject that entirely. The institutions collapsed well before the confidence and supply arrangements between the Democratic Unionist party and my party and, as the Northern Ireland Office, we are rigorously impartial. I pay tribute to the Democratic Unionist party and the attitude that it has brought to the talks. I pay tribute to all other parties in that respect.
All of us in this House would want to see the restoration of a functioning devolved Government in Northern Ireland. Clearly, one of the things that is most important about that is transparency. In the interests of transparency, will the Secretary of State’s party in the months ahead be offering another Brexit bung to that lot behind us?
The matter of transparency is very important. It has been a matter for one of our working groups, which has been working and making good progress on how we improve transparency within the institutions established under the Belfast agreement. I look forward to seeing the parties going back into government and seeing those transparency measures being enacted.
Would it not quite simply be a constitutional outrage for the UK to leave the EU in October with Northern Ireland having been without an accountable and elected devolved Parliament for the entirety of the article 50 process? Is that not all the more reason why we cannot and must not leave in October?
The people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and we will leave the European Union as one United Kingdom, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we need to see restored devolved government in Northern Ireland and that is what I am working to achieve.
Did the Prime Minister consult the Secretary of State before appointing Lord Dunlop to conduct a review of devolution? Brexit is already driving a coach and horses through the devolution settlement on these islands, and it will not be helped if the two arms of Government do not know what the other is doing, so will the Dunlop review extend to Northern Ireland and the effects of Brexit on devolution?
While we listen to all the rhetoric and the excuses about talks not proceeding—we have heard that Brexit is one of them—surely it is in our interest, I am sure the Secretary of State will agree, that we make an even better Northern Ireland, a perfect Brexit and a frictionless border for all the people of Northern Ireland.
As the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) is likely to have promised the Secretary of State’s position to about six or seven people, this may well be her last appearance at Northern Ireland questions. Having now spent considerable time in Northern Ireland and knowing the damage that a no-deal Brexit would inflict, will she commit to voting against a no-deal Brexit if the House is given the opportunity to do so? Will she commit, as the Chancellor did yesterday, to doing everything she can to avoid no deal?
I assure the hon. Gentleman that this will not be my last appearance at Northern Ireland questions; I will absolutely be at Northern Ireland questions for many years to come. I believe that the right way for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union as one United Kingdom is with a deal, and that is what we are working to achieve.
With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, may I make the point to this House, which has known the murder of its own Members, that it must condemn threats to Arlene Foster? Democratic politicians are entitled to operate in security without such threats of violence.
The Secretary of State knows, because she has voted in a way to prevent it, that a hard Brexit would lead to a hard border across the island of Ireland, with the threats of terrorism that the former Chief Constable has invoked and with increased unemployment and all the difficulties that that would cause. The Secretary of State has taken a different view in the past. Will she make it clear that a no-deal Brexit would be massively damaging for the people of Northern Ireland and that she will continue to oppose that step?
I join the hon. Gentleman in condemning threats against any politician. Those of us who are democratically elected put ourselves into public service because we believe in public service. We are all entitled, no matter our political persuasion, to have protection and not to receive death threats. I join him in condemning those death threats.
With respect to Brexit, I have been clear throughout that I want to see the United Kingdom leave the European Union as one United Kingdom. I believe that the best way to do that is through a deal that enables us to leave in an orderly fashion, protecting jobs and the economy. I have also been clear that a no-deal Brexit would be longer lasting and more acute in Northern Ireland, but I am doing everything I can to ensure that we leave with a deal.
City Deals: Scope
The hon. Gentleman will know that, in line with our 2017 manifesto commitment, we have already announced two city deals in Northern Ireland, with £350 million for Belfast and a combined package of £105 million for Derry/Londonderry and Strabane. Early-stage discussions have also begun with other councils in the mid, south and west, as well as Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.
On a recent visit to the wonderful city of Derry, I spoke with those involved in shaping the education offer in the city. They told me that a central aspect of the city deal is the establishment of a riverfront university, medical centre and innovation hub. Will the Minister update the House on the timeline and progress of this much-needed facility?
The timeline for that is the same as the timeline for the rest of the city deal. Business cases have to be worked up and the business cases for all the projects have to work well. Incidentally, for any business cases that do not shape up, there are many other ideas that can also be brought through. They will then get approved and will proceed, particularly once the—
The Belfast city deal has huge potential to bring investment and economic growth to Belfast and the wider region. Will the Minister outline in a little more detail what discussions he has had with the head of the civil service and with the city councils about getting those projects to implementation stage? When does he anticipate that the first project will be rolled out?
The difficulty is that city deals are by definition local initiatives. We can lay foundations, but they need to be taken forward by local partners and local councils. Also, ultimately, as soon as we get the Stormont Executive re-established, they will have to have an essential role in this. Although we are making progress as fast as we decently can—so are local councils—we are ultimately also dependent on the progress of the talks.
May I say to the Secretary of State how grateful I am for her kind wishes? If she would care to join me in Strangers for a small sweet sherry later on, she would be most welcome. She will be aware that the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), who aspires to be the father of the nation—to be fair, he does have some expertise in the field of paternity—has announced his intention of creating a Monaco-style tax-free zone in Belfast, with, presumably, a border around that fair city. Does the right hon. Lady consider that proposal to be risible and ridiculous, or the product of an unfocused mind with no knowledge of Northern Ireland?
I join my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in wishing the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) best wishes for his 21-and-a-few-months birthday. I am afraid I cannot answer for my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson); that is a skillset I do not have.
Being Part of the UK: Benefits
May I address the invitation I have just received, Mr Speaker? Of course I enjoy a sweet sherry, but I am afraid I will be on my way to Belfast by that point.
I’m sure he will.
As this Government have made clear on numerous occasions, Northern Ireland benefits hugely from being part of the Union. Our steadfast belief is that Northern Ireland’s future is best served within a strong United Kingdom. This Government will never be neutral in expressing our support for the Union.
Northern Ireland is home to beautiful scenery and stunning beaches. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government should leave no opportunity unturned to promote tourism in Northern Ireland, especially great events such as the Open Championship, which will be held in Portrush next month for the first time in over 60 years?
I agree wholeheartedly. I had the honour of visiting Portrush and Royal Portrush last week, and saw the beaches at their best in the sunshine. Mr Speaker, you will be delighted to know that the Open starts after Wimbledon finishes, so I hope that you will be able to enjoy it.
My Staffordshire neighbour has announced that he will not be standing at the next election; I pay tribute to him for the work that he has done for the people of Stafford, and will, I know, continue to do until the next election. He is quite right to refer to foreign direct investment in Northern Ireland; it increases year on year. It increased by 25% last year, creating nearly 1,500 new jobs.
Surely one of the benefits of Northern Ireland being in the UK is that people who live in Northern Ireland enjoy the same rights as the rest of us. If the opportunity arises—say, through an amendment to legislation—to extend equal marriage to Northern Ireland, will the Secretary of State and her Government finally support it?
The hon. Gentleman knows that personally I would like to see equal marriage extended to Northern Ireland. It is a devolved matter, and it is right that politicians in Northern Ireland deal with it, but if there is a vote on that matter in this House, it will be a free vote for Members on the Conservative Benches, as has been made clear.
Would the Secretary of State, having attended Armed Forces Day events in Lisburn this year, agree with me about the importance of Northern Ireland’s contribution to the armed forces in the first and second world wars, and in subsequent conflicts? Will she lobby for us to hold the national Armed Forces Day events in Northern Ireland?
That sounds like a very good idea. I very much enjoyed my visit to Lisburn for Armed Forces Day. As the hon. Gentleman will know, because we had a discussion on the day, I then went with my family to visit the Somme Museum, and of course I was in Belfast on Monday for the commemoration of the Somme, as were many of his hon. and right hon. Friends. The contribution that the armed forces have made is very significant, and does need to be marked in Northern Ireland.
In assessing the benefit of Northern Ireland being in the United Kingdom, can the Secretary of State advise the House of the participative role it has played in the review ordered by the Prime Minister of the rights of those in Northern Ireland, based on their rights as European citizens who identify as Irish? If Northern Ireland has not participated, why not?
I welcome the Secretary of State’s claim that this Government are no longer neutral on Northern Ireland, which sets aside what was previously said about “no selfish, strategic… interest” in Northern Ireland. Will she put together promotional literature, and a promotional programme, that expresses the economic, social and cultural benefits of the Union that can be promoted not only in Northern Ireland but around the world?
The Prime Minister was asked—
While offering our commiserations to the England Lionesses following last night’s semi-final, may I say that they have inspired millions and made us all very proud?
I am sure the whole House would want to join me in congratulating Rose Hudson-Wilkin on her appointment as Bishop of Dover. I know she will take on that new role with the same dedication and care that she has shown to all of us during her time as Speaker’s Chaplain.
We offer our best wishes to all those taking part in this Saturday’s Pride. Yesterday, 10 Downing Street hosted a reception to look back with pride on everything that generations of campaigners have achieved, to celebrate the contribution that LGBT people of all backgrounds make to our national life, and to look forward to a future where the bigotry and discrimination that LGBT people still face is a thing of the past.
This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
I add my thanks, and those of everyone in Bermondsey and Old Southwark, to the England women’s football team, who have inspired the next generation of girls and boys to get involved in football.
In March, the Prime Minister told this House that we had to back her damaging Brexit plans so that she could focus on domestic issues like knife crime. On Sunday, an 18-year-old was stabbed and killed in Walworth in my constituency. Can the Prime Minister explain to that teenager’s family why she has overseen a Government of paralysis who have failed to tackle violent crime?
We are all concerned by the incidents of knife crime that we have seen. We are all concerned with the incidents that we saw over the weekend, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims. Too many lives of potential are being cut short, and those individuals and their families are being cruelly robbed of those futures.
We have not been failing to act on this; we have been acting on this. We have ensured that we are working across the board, because it takes all of society to work on this issue. It is not just an issue of policing. We have made more powers available to police—[Interruption.] Some Labour Members say it is just an issue of policing. No, we need to ensure that young people do not carry knives. We need to ensure that young people are taken away from a route into crime. That means dealing with drugs; it means dealing with gangs. We have provided more funding to police. We have provided extra powers to police. Sadly, the Labour party voted against that.
I thank my right hon. Friend for raising this issue. I have been shocked, as I am sure Members across the House have been, to see the scenes from Hong Kong on Monday and the use of violence at the Legislative Council. The vast majority of the hundreds of thousands who marched did so peacefully and lawfully. This week’s anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong is a reminder of the importance of the rights and freedoms enshrined in the joint declaration, and it is vital that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and the rights and freedoms set down in the Sino-British joint declaration are respected. I have raised my concerns directly with Chinese leaders, as have my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers, and we will continue to do so.
I am sure the whole House will want to express its condolences to the families of the rail workers who were hit and killed by a train this morning in Port Talbot. There will obviously have to be a full investigation into this, but our thoughts must be with the families and friends of those that were killed and injured.
I join the Prime Minister and others in congratulating Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin on becoming Bishop of Dover. She has been absolutely brilliant as Chaplain to the House, but she was also brilliant when she was a parish priest in Hackney. She shows such empathy for people, and we wish her well on her way. I am sure she will do really well.
I also congratulate the England women’s football team on their successful journey as far as the semi-finals and wish the men’s cricket team well in their current match against New Zealand, which I understand is 134-1 at the moment. Pride this weekend will be a source of great enjoyment. I think of all those who suffered in the past to try to defeat homophobia in our society and will be enjoying the joy of the streets of London this weekend.
The Chancellor says that a no-deal Brexit would cause a £90 billion hit to the public finances. The former Foreign Secretary says concerns about no deal are “confected hysteria”. Who does the Prime Minister think is right?
First, I echo the right hon. Gentleman’s remarks about the incident in Port Talbot. Secondly, the figure that was quoted was actually publicly available at the time. It appeared in the Government’s economic analysis in relation to these matters. If he is worried about no deal, let me say this: I have done everything I can to ensure we leave the EU with a deal. I can look workers in the eye and tell them I voted to leave with a deal that protected jobs. He cannot do that because he voted three times for no deal.
The Prime Minister should be aware that her deal was rejected three times by the House, and when something has been rejected three times, one might think about an alternative method of doing things. A confidential Cabinet note apparently says that the Government are not properly prepared for no deal, and NHS trusts have warned that it will pose a major risk to NHS services. Furthermore, Make UK, which represents UK manufacturers, recently said:
“There is a direct link between politicians talking up the prospect of no-deal and British firms losing customers overseas and British people losing jobs.”
Is Make UK guilty of confected hysteria or is it speaking up for its members and its very legitimate concerns right across the manufacturing sector?
The Prime Minister could not get her own party to support it. The Opposition parties did not support it either. As the danger of no deal looms ever larger, JLR, Ford, Nissan, Toyota and BMW have all said that no deal would threaten their continued presence in the UK. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has said:
“Leaving the EU without a deal would trigger the most seismic shift in trading conditions ever experienced”.
Furthermore, within the last week Vauxhall has said that its decision to produce the new Astra at Ellesmere Port will be conditional on the final terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. What can the Prime Minister say to workers at Ellesmere Port and elsewhere—[Interruption.]
The right hon. Gentleman asks what I would say to workers at Ellesmere Port. I would tell them that I and the vast majority of Conservative Members in this House voted to protect their jobs. The Labour party whipped three times against a deal. The Labour party whipped three times for no deal. The threat to those Ellesmere Port jobs is from the Labour party. [Interruption.]
The Labour party is about protecting jobs and living standards in this country, not crashing out without a deal. With tariffs up to 40% on some basic foodstuffs, will the Prime Minister set out exactly what impact no deal would have on food prices and on the farming industry in this country?
The right hon. Gentleman claims that the Labour party stands up for protecting jobs and living standards It has not only voted three times for no deal, thereby putting jobs under threat; it has also consistently, on a number of occasions, voted against the very tax cuts that help people to maintain their living standards. We will take no lectures from the Labour party on protecting people’s jobs and living standards.
As I recall, it was this party that put down a motion to take no deal off the table. The managing director of Birds Eye says that no deal would add 20% to the price of some foodstuffs “instantaneously”, and the National Farmers Union says that it would be very damaging to British farming. Both the candidates to succeed the Prime Minister have claimed that they will renegotiate the backstop. Can she confirm that section (12) of the European Council decision to extend article 50 ruled out reopening the withdrawal agreement, and therefore the backstop?
I do not think I need to tell the right hon. Gentleman what was in the Council conclusions. They are clear, and I have made them clear in the House. The right hon. Gentleman says that it was the Labour party that put down a motion to abandon no deal and take it off the table. The trouble is that when it came to the votes that mattered—when it came to the votes that would actually have an impact on stopping no deal—the Labour party whipped against them. That is absolutely typical of the right hon. Gentleman: all mouth and trousers.
We made very clear what the danger of no deal is, and we will do everything to prevent a no-deal exit, because we know the damage it will do to jobs and living standards in this country.
This Government have comprehensively failed on Brexit. Jobs are at risk, inward investment has fallen off a cliff, and manufacturing is at a six-year low. No deal threatens to crash the economy. The Government themselves say that no deal would cut growth by 10%, yet we have two leadership candidates who are threatening no deal, and, indeed, are competing with each other on the rhetoric of no deal. This Government is now an irrelevance. The two candidates to succeed the Prime Minister have only fantasy plans. As she and her successors have no answers, does she not accept that the best thing to do would be to go back to the people and let them decide which way we go?
I have made the point in answer to five of the right hon. Gentleman’s questions that if you want to ensure that this country leaves the European Union with a deal, you have to vote for a deal, which is what he and his colleagues have consistently refused to do. But there is another question for the Labour party. With all this talk about no deal, the question really is “Where does the Labour party stand on Brexit?” The shadow Brexit Secretary does not support Brexit. The shadow Foreign Secretary does not support Brexit. The shadow Chancellor does not support Brexit. The Labour deputy leader does not support Brexit. Labour wants to block Brexit, and that would be a betrayal of the many by the few.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising what I know is an important issue that is of concern in his constituency and elsewhere in Northamptonshire. Subject to parliamentary approval, of course, the new authorities will be a significant step towards ensuring that residents and businesses can in future have the sustainable, high-quality local services they deserve. Officials are working hard with the eight Northamptonshire councils on the detail of the secondary legislation, because that will need to include detail. Our aim is to lay the statutory instrument as soon as practical for parliamentary debate and for approval.
May I join the Prime Minister in welcoming the Pride event in London this week and of course right throughout the world, and acknowledge that it is the Scottish National party that has proportionately the largest LGBT group here in Parliament?
This Prime Minister’s days are numbered. Her review of devolution is nothing more than an act of sheer desperation. This is a Prime Minister running scared of the people of Scotland. Does the Prime Minister think the future of Scotland should be decided by the people who live and work there or by her party?
If the Prime Minister looks at the opinion polls she will see there is a majority for independence.
Scotland’s First Minister was explicitly clear when she said:
“It’s for the Scottish people—not a Tory PM—to consider and decide what future we want for our Parliament and country.”
Will the review of devolution include the views of her would-be successors that a Scot would never be Prime Minister and that Westminster should actively choke off Foreign Office support for a First Minister doing her job—doing her job, Prime Minister? This review is a farce. The real legacy of this Prime Minister is shutting down Scotland and ignoring the will of the Scottish Parliament. The Tories have never supported devolution, and it is clear that they never, never will.
My hon. Friend is right to raise concerns about Iran’s destabilising behaviour in the region. Our objective continues to be to work with our international partners to find diplomatic solutions and to de-escalate tensions.
My hon. Friend is also right to raise cyber-capability. We have a dedicated capability to act in cyber-space through our national offensive cyber programme, and last year we offered our offensive cyber-capabilities in support of NATO operations.
My hon. Friend talks about working with others: we were the first nation to do that, and we will continue to ensure that we have effective offensive cyber-capabilities that can be deployed at a time and place of our choosing across the full range of international threats.
The Committee on Climate Change was clear that 2050 is the right target date for net zero emissions. There is no ban on onshore wind. In 2015, local communities were given more say on onshore wind applications in their areas. Onshore wind has successfully exceeded its expected contribution to our 2020 renewable energy target, but at the same time we are backing offshore wind through a new sector deal, maintaining the UK as the largest market in Europe over the next decade.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for the work he has done on this important issue. He, like me—and I am sure everyone across the House—is absolutely clear that domestic abuse has no place in our country. That is why I have set out plans to end the postcode lottery of support for survivors of domestic abuse.
My right hon. and learned Friend refers to our draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which will introduce the first-ever statutory Government definition of domestic abuse, but this is not just about legislation. If we are going to transform our response, we need other action, so the draft Bill will be accompanied by a package of non-legislative action to tackle domestic abuse, and in November last year we awarded a further £22 million for various domestic abuse projects across the country. Wherever you are, wherever you live and whatever the abuse you face, everyone must have access to the services they need to be safe.
I do not know about the hon. Gentleman’s constituent, but I know that Lord Dubs came here on the Kindertransport organised by my late constituent, Sir Nicholas Winton. We as a country can be proud of everything we have done to help refugees and other vulnerable children who are affected by conflict, violence and instability. Since the start of 2010, we have provided asylum or an alternative form of protection to more than 34,600 children, and we have granted family reunion visas to an additional 26,000.
We are determined to continue these efforts. We have introduced a new form of leave exclusively for children brought to the UK from the Calais camps, so that they can continue to rebuild their lives with families in the UK. That Calais leave will grant those who qualify the right to study, to work, to access public funds and healthcare and to apply for settlement after 10 years. We have a proud record of helping refugees, and we will continue with that proud record.
May I thank my right hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity, as Leader of the House of Commons, to chair an inter-ministerial group looking at giving every baby the best start in life? Some excellent work was done by my ministerial colleagues, and a number of recommendations were made, including that the Government should establish a first 1,001 days vision for what best practice should look like. What progress has been made on addressing those recommendations?
I thank my right hon. Friend for the work that she did as Leader of the House and for her work on the inter-ministerial group looking at that issue. Beyond that, the issue of early years is a cause she has championed for some considerable time, both before and since she came into this House. I am proud that more than 850,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds have benefited from the free early education places that we introduced in 2013. Our social mobility action plan sets out a clear and ambitious plan for the early years, closing the word gap at age five, and we want to ensure that where a child gets to in life depends on their individual talents and not on their background. We will continue to work with my right hon. Friend and others who rightly put a high value on the importance of the early days in a child’s life.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have been putting more funding into our schools and ensuring that the distribution of that funding is fairer—fairer—across the country. As I just said in response to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), I want to ensure that every young person can get as far in life as their talents and hard work will take them,
As long ago as 1875, this country became the first in the world to require animals to be stunned prior to slaughter, yet the latest evidence from the Food Standards Agency is that 25% of all sheep slaughtered last year were unstunned following the use of a religious derogation. Religious slaughter is a contentious issue and a matter of personal conscience and religious conviction for many. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there should be a free vote on the Floor of the House on the issue?
I understand that my hon. Friend had a Westminster Hall debate yesterday on this issue, which raises a number of emotions and concerns across the House. We have upheld the right of religious slaughter, but this Government, as my hon. Friend will know full well, are taking steps to ensure that we monitor what happens in abattoirs through the introduction of CCTV.
VAT rules allow drugs and medications dispensed by registered pharmacists against a prescription issued by a qualified health professional to be zero rated for VAT. High-factor sunscreen can be on the NHS prescription list for certain conditions and is provided VAT-free in those circumstances.
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue, but we should ensure that people do not just think that skin safety is about sun protection products, because leading cancer charities are clear that people should be taking several steps for protection, including avoiding long periods of sun exposure. I take his point that some jobs involve people being outside for periods of time, but we should all be taking all precautions.
Under the Prime Minister’s leadership, we have a new funding formula for our schools. I warmly welcome it as a first step, but more still needs to be done. To make it fairer still, does the Prime Minister agree that areas that have been historically underfunded, such as Dorset and Poole, need to be protected, while also protecting all schools?
I recognise the concern around this issue. Our fair funding formula will ensure a much fairer distribution of school funding over a number of years. I recognise that some authorities have been at the lower end of funding in the past. Indeed, several schools in my own constituency come under Wokingham Borough Council, which is one of those very authorities. That is why we are taking steps to ensure that the impact is fair as we introduce this fair funding formula for schools across the country.
The right hon. Gentleman raises a very important issue, and I am sure the whole House will want to extend our sympathies to the families and friends of young people who suffer sudden cardiac death. He and the all-party parliamentary group on cardiac risk in the young have done very important work on this issue. I am assured by the Department of Health and Social Care that the independent UK National Screening Committee will carefully consider all the relevant evidence, and I know DHSC will study the committee’s findings when they are published in due course—it will look at the findings very carefully. This is an important issue, and we want to make sure we get it right.
My 27-year-old constituent Kirsty Garrity tragically took her own life in September last year. After her death, her father found among her possessions a book called “The Peaceful Pill Handbook,” which she had bought from Amazon. In a letter to me, Amazon said:
“We believe that legislators, rather than retailers, are best placed to make decisions on what should and should not be legally available for public purchase.”
Does that not sound rather like Facebook, which recently said that it needs to be regulated because it cannot decide for itself what to put, and what not to put, on its platforms? Does the Prime Minister agree that businesses have a duty to think very hard about what they offer for sale and what they put on their platforms, and that they have a duty to behave with a moral imperative?
I am sure we all want to send our deepest sympathies to Kirsty’s family and friends. We are determined to make sure that the UK is the safest place to be online, which involves tackling content that encourages suicide and self-harm. Working with the tech companies to get them to accept greater responsibility for the sort of material that is put out across their platforms has been a long-standing issue.
We have seen some tech companies take action to tackle the issue, and we want to ensure a more consistent response from companies to protect the safety and wellbeing of their users, especially those who are vulnerable. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price), who has responsibility for suicide prevention, is aware of this aspect of online content. She is deeply concerned, and she will be writing to Amazon about it.
First, may I send my very best wishes to the hon. Gentleman’s father for a happy birthday in a few weeks’ time?
The BBC received a good funding deal from the Government, and many people would ask why the BBC can raise the salary bill for its top performers and personalities while taking the action it has taken on TV licences. The BBC needs to think again.
The Government have ambitious targets for a low-carbon economy and country, and achieving that will undoubtedly require nuclear energy. Will the Prime Minister encourage the next Prime Minister properly to support and invest in the nuclear industry?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that, as a Government, we believe that nuclear should play a role in our energy mix, and I would wish to see that continue. That is why I am pleased we were able to take the decision we took on Hinkley Point C. I recognise that other nuclear projects have not been able to progress in the way hon. Members had hoped, but I want to see the Government continue to work with the nuclear industry to find a way to ensure that nuclear can, indeed, play a role in our future energy mix.
As I am sure my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister knows, Stoke-on-Trent is a unique city, being made up of six towns, and it is essential that all those towns prosper. Does she agree that we need to see investment in our towns, particularly through our future high streets fund bid for Longton?
I am very pleased to see the renaissance in Stoke-on-Trent, particularly in its ceramics industry. My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of high streets, and that is why we have put money into the high streets fund. Bids for that money are currently being considered.
I am very happy to congratulate Royal Portrush golf club on hosting the Open and to welcome the fact that the Open has returned to Northern Ireland. We look forward to seeing golfers, particularly from across the United Kingdom, performing well in that particular Open golf. As for being able to join the hon. Gentleman in two weeks’ time, I suspect that I, and the two contenders for the Conservative party leadership, may be rather busy in two weeks’ time, but I will certainly be watching what is happening in the Open with great interest.
Does the Prime Minister agree that the news of the fire and tragic loss of life aboard the Russian nuclear submarine Losharik while it was working on the sea bed in the high north should encourage her Government to accept that, to maintain operational military advantage and defend the west and critical subsea cable infrastructure from interference, we must, in this the 50th year of our extraordinary continuous at-sea deterrent—Operation Relentless—invest properly in our Royal Navy and her submarine capabilities?
I am sure that the whole House will want to extend condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives. This was aboard a Russian nuclear submersible, but losing one’s life under the sea is something I am sure we can all express our condolences for.
This is an important point about our submarine capability and the Royal Navy. I would like to pay tribute to all our submariners, who work so hard to keep us safe. We are committed to our submarine build programmes. The Ministry of Defence has been given access to the £10 billion Dreadnought programme contingency, so that our submarines will continue to silently patrol the seas, giving us a nuclear deterrent every minute of every hour, as they have done for 50 years, and we thank them for it.
We are spending £250 million every year to keep fares down and maintain an extensive network, which benefits people up and down the country. I am pleased to say that since I became PM the overall number of bus routes is up by more than 2,000. Of course the hon. Gentleman asks me about subsidies for buses, but he might very well ask the Mayor about his responsibility in relation to this matter.
Many colleagues will visit the lobbying event on trophy hunting today, and this is in the same week as Japan has resumed commercial whaling. What more can we do to send the strongest message that this abhorrent practice should be stopped immediately?
First, we are very disappointed with Japan’s decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission and restart commercial whaling. I have raised my concerns personally with Prime Minister Abe—I did that earlier this year. My right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary has written to his Japanese counterpart on this matter. We will continue to work with the Japanese Government to engage with them and raise our concerns at every level, and we urge them to rethink their decision.
Agreements have been reached on the sharing arrangements. Of course, we all have concerns about pensions and the continuing ability of pension funds to provide for pensioners, but one of the biggest challenges to pension funds—one of the biggest hits on pension funds—came when the previous Labour Government took £100 billion out of them.
We can be proud of the Prime Minister’s driving the global agenda on climate change, but what discussions has she had with her counterparts about how they can follow Britain’s lead as the first major economy to commit to net zero carbon and help to reverse global warming?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. I encouraged not only leaders around the European Council table but other leaders when I spoke at the G20 summit at the end of last week to follow the UK’s lead. I am pleased to say that a number have already shown their willingness to do so. We will continue with the message that we can play our part, but it will be truly effective only if everybody around the world recognises the need to take action.
Reference has already been made to the Prime Minister’s moving speech on burning injustices in education. On a day when her former school, Wheatley Park School, near Oxford, is planning to move to part-time education because of what the headteacher calls “enormous” financial pressures, does she agree that before she leaves office she must secure additional funding outside the spending review?
We have already put extra money into schools. We recognise the pressures there have been on schools and are ensuring that they are funded. I read in the Maidenhead Advertiser that the right hon. Gentleman thinks I am about to step down from Parliament. I am not. He said that the Liberal Democrat party was looking forward to a by-election in the “Windsor and Maidenhead” constituency; that is not my seat. I believe he claimed that the Liberal Democrats were looking forward to taking the seat, but they could not even win it when they put 1,000 people on the streets of Maidenhead when it was a decapitation target. Wrong on prediction, wrong on facts—typical Liberal Democrats: wrong on everything.
Two of my constituents are relatives of Kirsty Boden, one of the victims of the London Bridge terrorist atrocity. Despite the fact that at least one of the terrorists’ families received legal aid for representation at the inquest, none of the victims’ families did. Does my right hon. Friend think that we need to look again at the entitlement to legal aid for inquests, so that those people who wish to ask questions about what happened to their loved ones are not left to fend for themselves?
My hon. Friend has raised an important issue, and he will have seen from the reaction across the House the concern that people have about it. As I have said previously, we send our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims. I can see why my hon. Friend has raised this as a matter of concern. I understand that the Ministry of Justice is making a number of changes to ensure that there is more support for bereaved families, and we are committed to simplifying the process for applying for exceptional case funding, but I will make sure that the Ministry of Justice meets my hon. Friend to discuss the issue further.
The whole country has been shocked by the brutal murder of the pregnant mum Kelly Mary Fauvrelle in my constituency at the weekend and the subsequent death of her baby Riley, which was announced this morning. The police now believe that it may have been a random attack by someone unknown to the family. If the Government have been acting on knife crime, it is not working, so what further action will the Prime Minister now take to stop the terrifying increase in the use of knives on our streets?
We were all shocked when we saw the terrible act that, sadly, led to the death of Kelly Mary Fauvrelle. Of course, as the hon. Gentleman said, the baby inside her sadly died this morning. The question of knife crime is one I did refer to earlier. We are taking action in a number of ways. We will continue to work, and work with the Mayor of London, on the action that can be taken across London on this issue, but this is something that requires a multifaceted approach; it is about the whole of society. Yes, we look at giving police the right powers—we have done that—but we also need to look at how we can ensure that young people particularly do not feel the need to carry knives and that we deal with the criminal gangs and the drugs that are often behind these terrible acts of violence that take place.
Yet again this year, we can expect to welcome between 35 million and 40 million overseas visitors to our shores. Overall, tourism employs about 3 million people in the UK, including thousands in my constituency. Does that not underline the importance of a tourism sector deal?
We have, of course, been working with the tourism sector to look at what support can be given and how we can work with it to enhance not just the offer that it is able to make but the way in which it is able to ensure that people can come here and enjoy the benefits of not just my hon. Friend’s constituency but all our constituencies across the country. Tourism is an important sector for us, and we will continue to work with the tourism industry to ensure that we can enhance that sector, and enhance the benefits to this country and our economy of that sector, but also enhance the benefits to the many tourists who come here and see what a wonderful place the United Kingdom is.
Following the Windrush scandal, in which black British citizens were deported, detained and stripped of their rights to access public services, the Prime Minister rightly announced an independent review led by Wendy Williams. She said that review would be published on 31 March 2019. It is now 3 July. Can the Prime Minister confirm that Wendy Williams will publish her review before she leaves office?
It was absolutely right that the Home Secretary commissioned that review from Wendy Williams. She will be putting that report together. I believe that the report has not yet been received by the Home Office, but, obviously, we will ensure that, when that report is received, that report is published.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming last week’s announcement from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of this Government’s investment of £4.8 million in the Acorn carbon capture and storage project at the St Fergus gas plant in my constituency? Does she agree that, along with the development of renewable sources of energy, natural gas will remain an important transition fuel on the way towards a net zero emissions target?
I am very happy to welcome the investment that my hon. Friend has referred to. It is important, as we look to that net zero target, that we look across the board at the various ways in which we can ensure that we are providing for that net zero target. As he has said, the importance of natural gas within that energy mix in the future will remain. We also look at ensuring that we are providing support for technologies such as carbon capture, because that will play an important part in the future, too.
Prime Minister, a constituent of mine—a single mum who has worked for the Department for Work and Pensions full time over 30 years—has been forced to take part-time work to support her child, a severe sufferer of Down’s syndrome, from childhood to adulthood. Because of the confusing rules in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs on working tax credits for such workers, she has been forced to extend her mortgage and go part time. Will the Prime Minister please help to resolve this issue? My constituent will not be the only person in the country in that situation.
I am sure that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has heard the particular case that the hon. Lady has raised in this House. We do want to ensure—we are working, and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities is working, on ensuring this—that women are able to take their place in the workforce. We do see women in the workforce at record levels. We want to ensure, and we are working on providing, greater economic empowerment for women so that they can take their place. I am sure that the Secretary of State or the relevant Minister will respond on the specific case.
No, no. It is becoming quite commonplace for there to be a flurry of attempted points of order immediately after Prime Minister’s questions. Colleagues will have to be patient. I will exercise discretion and allow one point of order from the hon. Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), who I believe wishes to raise a matter with which the Prime Minister is well familiar, so this might be a convenient moment. Thereafter, we should proceed with the Prime Minister’s statement. Colleagues can of course raise points of order, more suitably and appositely, after statements.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. If you will indulge me, may I please take a brief moment to thank everyone involved with the introduction of the children’s funeral fund?
Since 2016, I have been asking the Government to introduce a fund to assist bereaved parents during their darkest hour and financially support them in funding a funeral. I have at times been impatient. I have at times been frustrated. But I have always known it was the right thing to do. The Prime Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar), the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Colchester (Will Quince) and civil servants have delivered on my request, and I understand that the children’s funeral fund will be operational from 23 July.
I thank everyone involved in making this happen: the organisations that have supported me; colleagues who have encouraged me; my family who, like me, have had to revisit our loss; my team, who have held my hand; and you, Mr Speaker, for your understanding. Martin’s fund is a legacy for my son and will be a comfort to every parent who will need to use it in the future; so, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. [Applause.]
I think it only right that if the Prime Minister wants to respond in a moment, she must certainly should do so. Let me just say to the hon. Member for Swansea East that the sheer passion, sincerity and integrity with which she has spoken and conducted herself are an example to us all, and that the determination that she has shown is an enormous credit to her. Her constituency, her party, the House, and people across politics and beyond are inspired by the way in which she has behaved, and we are unstinting in our admiration for her. Before the statement, let us hear from the Prime Minister on this subject because she has brought matters to fruition.
May I also commend the hon. Lady for the work that she has done? This was born out of personal sadness, but many families will benefit from the passion, commitment and determination that she has shown in championing this issue. She said that she has sometimes been impatient. Sometimes you have to be impatient, because it is that impatience that spurs others on. I am pleased that we have been able to introduce the fund, and I echo Mr Speaker’s comments in commending the hon. Lady for the way in which he has championed this cause. As I say, we share and are concerned about the personal sadness that she went through, but she has taken that and put it to good use for the benefit of families up and down the country.
G20 and Leadership of EU Institutions
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on my final G20 and final European Council as Prime Minister.
At this G20 summit in Japan we discussed some of the biggest global challenges facing our nations, including climate change, terrorist propaganda online, risks to the global economy and rising tensions in the Gulf. These discussions were at times difficult, but in the end productive. I profoundly believe that we are stronger when we work together. With threats to global stability and trade, that principle is now more important than ever, and throughout this summit my message was on the overriding need for international co-operation and compromise. Alongside discussions with international partners on economic and security matters, I made it clear that Britain would always stand by the global rules as the best means of securing peace and prosperity for all of us. I will take the main issues in turn.
On no other issue is the need for international collaboration greater than in the threat to our countries and our people from climate change. As I arrived in Osaka last week, I was immensely proud that Britain had become the world’s first major economy to commit in law to ending our contribution to global warming by 2050. I urged other G20 countries to follow Britain’s lead and set similarly ambitious net zero targets for their own countries. Those gathered at this year’s summit are the last generation of leaders with the power to limit global warming, and I believe we have a duty to heed the call from those asking us to act now for the sake of future generations.
Taken together, the G20 countries account for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Discussions were not always easy, but 19 of the G20 members agreed to the irreversibility of the Paris climate change agreement and the importance of implementing our commitments in full. It remains a disappointment that the United States continues to opt out on such a critical global issue.
I outlined Britain’s continued determination to lead the way on climate change through our bid to host, along with Italy, COP 26 next year. And, recognising that more needs to be done to support developing countries in managing the impacts of climate change, I announced that the UK’s aid budget will be aligned with our climate change goals and used to support the transition to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Both as Prime Minister and previously as Home Secretary, I have repeatedly called for greater action to protect people from online harms and remove terrorist propaganda from the internet. In 2017, the attacks in Manchester and London showed how technology could be exploited by terrorists. Following those events, the UK took the lead and put this issue squarely on the global agenda. Through our efforts, the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism was established—a body that has leveraged technology to automate the removal of propaganda online. But the horrendous attack in Christchurch reminded us that we must maintain momentum, and ensure a better co-ordinated and swifter response to make sure that terrorists are never able to broadcast their atrocities in real time. I therefore welcome the pledge by G20 leaders at this year’s summit to do more to build on existing efforts and stop terrorists exploiting the internet. The UK will continue to lead the way in this, including through our support of the major technology companies in developing a new crisis response mechanism.
At this summit, discussions on the global economy were held against the backdrop of current trade tensions between the United States and China. In this context, I reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to free and fair trade, open markets and the rules-based trading system as the best means to bolster prosperity and build economies that work for everyone. The UK has long argued that the rules governing global trade need urgent reform and updating to reflect the changing nature of that trade. We continue to press for action to build upon the agreement reached at last year’s summit for World Trade Organisation reform, and I believe the best way to resolve disputes is through a reformed and strengthened WTO, rather than by increasing tariffs.
This G20 was also an opportunity to discuss wider global issues with others, including Prime Minister Abe, President Erdoğan, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and United Nations Secretary-General Guterres. In my conversation with Prime Minster Abe, I paid tribute to him for hosting this G20 and thanked him for his role in strengthening the relationship between the UK and Japan—a relationship that I have every confidence will continue to grow over the coming years.
In a number of my meetings, I discussed Iran and rising tensions in the Gulf. Escalation is in no-one’s interest, and engagement is needed on all sides to find a diplomatic solution to the current situation and to counter Iran’s destabilising activity. At the same time, I was clear that the UK will continue to work intensively with our Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action partners to keep the Iran nuclear deal in place. The breach of that deal by Iran is extremely concerning, and together with France, Germany and the other signatories to the deal, we are urging Iran not to take further steps away from the agreement, and to return to compliance. The deal makes the world safer and I want to see Iran uphold its obligations.
I believe wholeheartedly in never shying away from difficult conversations when it is right to hold them. In my meeting with President Putin, I told him that there can be no normalisation of our bilateral relationship until Russia stops the irresponsible activity that threatens the UK and its allies. The use of a deadly nerve agent on the streets of our country was a despicable act, which led to the death of Dawn Sturgess. I was clear that the UK has irrefutable evidence that Russia was behind the attack, and that we want to see the two individuals responsible brought to justice. While the UK remains open to a different relationship, for that to happen the Russian Government must choose a different path.
In my discussion with UN Secretary-General Guterres, we spoke about the importance of the multilateral system and the UK’s strong support for it. I also raised concerns about the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the need to ensure a comprehensive response, as well as emphasising the critical nature of continued humanitarian assistance in Yemen.
I am proud that the UK continues to play its part in trying to provide relief in countries such as Yemen, and that we remain committed to spending 0.7% of our gross national income on development assistance. That commitment puts us at the forefront of addressing global challenges, so I am pleased that at this summit we announced our pledge of £1.4 billion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to help save lives.
Turning to the European Council, the focus of these discussions was on what are known as the EU’s top jobs—the appointments at the head of the EU’s institutions and the EU’s High Representative. As I have said before, this is primarily a matter for the remaining 27 EU member states, but while we remain a member of the EU, I also said that we would engage constructively, which we did throughout. After long and difficult discussions over the last few days, the Council voted for a package of candidates with an important balance of gender, reflecting the diversity of the European Union. The Council formally elected Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel as President of the European Council. The Council also nominated German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen as candidate for President of the European Commission; Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell Fontelles as candidate for High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy; and the French managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, as candidate for president of the European Central Bank.
The Commission President will now be voted on by the European Parliament in the coming weeks. After being approved by the Commission President, the High Representative will then be voted on as part of the College of Commissioners by the European Parliament before the college is appointed by the European Council. After consultations with the European Parliament and the ECB governing council, the European Council will appoint the president of the ECB. The European Parliament will also vote on its President today. Subject to the approval of the European Parliament, this will be the first time that a woman will be made President of the European Commission, and I would like to congratulate Ursula von der Leyen on her nomination.
This was a package supported by the UK, and it is in our national interest to have constructive relationships with those who are appointed. Once we leave the European Union, we will need to agree the details of our future relationship. We will continue to share many of the same challenges as our closest neighbours, and we will need to work with them on a variety of issues that are in our joint interests. But that will now be a matter for my successor to take forward. I commend this statement to the House.
I want to say thank you to my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) for the fantastic campaign she has mounted and the comfort that she has brought to those who have been through the unimaginable strain of losing a child. Those who, sadly, will lose a child in future will at least know that, because of her work, one part of the commemoration of that child’s life will be made a little bit easier. On behalf of so many families, may we just say thank you very much for everything you have done?
I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of her statement. While this year marks the 20th anniversary of the G20, there is little progress to commemorate in tackling the urgent challenges that we face. Where the leaders of the world’s most powerful countries fail, we look instead to civil society, trade unions and community groups, and to an inspirational generation of young people, for the transformative change that is required.
This summit’s communiqué did not make the necessary commitments on climate change. Does the Prime Minister agree that President Trump’s failure to accept the reality of man-made climate change, his refusal to back the Paris accords and his attempts to water down the communiqué’s commitments are a threat to the security of us all, all over this planet? Is the Prime Minister concerned that he could soon be joined by one of her possible successors, who has described global warming as a “primitive fear … without foundation”? It is the responsibility of the G20 to lead efforts to combat climate change, as the Prime Minister herself acknowledged. These nations account for four fifths of global greenhouse gas emissions. As I confirmed last week, we back the UK’s bid to host COP 26 next year. In 2017, the Government agreed to:
“Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions”
in developing countries. So can the Prime Minister explain why 97% of the UK’s export finance support for energy in developing countries goes to fossil fuels, and less than 1% is for renewable energy? The Government’s pledge to cut carbon emissions by 2050 is an empty one. They have no serious plan to invest and continue to dismantle our renewable energy sector while supporting fracking.
The Prime Minister says that the international community must stand against Iran’s destabilising activity in the region. The Iran nuclear deal agreement was a multilateral agreement signed up to by President Obama, and a number of other Governments, but reneged on by President Obama’s successor. Beyond just saying that we need to protect the deal, what action has the Prime Minister taken to ensure this? What conversation did she have with President Trump on this issue?
Is it not about time that the Prime Minister’s Government stood up to our supposed ally, Saudi Arabia? She says that she met Crown Prince bin Salman but gives no details. So can I ask her: did she raise the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, did she raise the killing of thousands of Yemenis, and did she pledge to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia? Did she raise with him the Saudis’ financing and arming of Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar, who is fighting the UN-recognised Government of Libya, and who, only last night, has been held responsible for an airstrike on a migrant centre in Tripoli that killed 40 people and injured dozens more? The Prime Minister rightly points to the need to protect people from terrorist propaganda, so before she leaves office, will she finally release, in full, the report she suppressed on the Saudi Government’s funding of extremist groups?
The Prime Minister talks of confronting countries that interfere in the democracy of other nations, including Russia. I remind her that it was Labour that delivered amendments to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, which introduced the Magnitsky powers. The truth is that the Conservatives have questions to answer about the almost £1 million-worth of donations from wealthy Russians to their party under her watch. If we stand up to corruption and condemn human rights-abusing regimes, then politicians should not be trading cash for access.
The Prime Minister mentioned the worrying outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Could she outline what assistance the Department for International Development is providing in that terrible situation? I welcome the Government’s £1.4 billion for the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. However, the main conclusion from the G20 is that the world deserves better leadership for the urgent challenges facing humanity.
Moving on to the EU summit in Brussels, it has taken leaders three days to come up with a decision on who should take the EU’s top jobs. But a three-day summit pales into insignificance next to the three years of failure that this Government have inflicted on us all over Brexit. I would like to congratulate those who have been appointed or nominated to new roles within the EU, especially Josep Borrell as High Representative for foreign affairs and security. For as long as we remain in the EU, we should seek reform. That includes increasing our efforts to tackle tax evasion and avoidance; stepping up our co-operation over the climate emergency that faces us all, all over this continent and this planet; and challenging migration policies that have left thousands to drown in the Mediterranean while sometimes subcontracting migration policies to Libyan militias.
Can the Prime Minister explain her decision for the Conservative party to join a political group that includes far-right, Islamophobic parties such as Vox of Spain? It claims that Muslims will impose Sharia law on Spain, turn cathedrals into mosques, and force all women to cover up. It is a party that campaigned to repeal gender violence laws and threatened to shut down feminist organisations. Does the Prime Minister understand the worry that this will cause many people in this country who will rightly be asking why her party has aligned itself with this far-right organisation whose policies are built on division, discrimination and hate?
Finally, does the Prime Minister agree that whoever succeeds her should have the courage to go back to the people with their preferred Brexit option to end the uncertainty and get Brexit resolved?
The right hon. Gentleman raised a number of issues, moving between them with sometimes no apparent link, but I will try to address them. On climate change, I have already expressed my disappointment that the United States has pulled out of the Paris agreement. I repeated to President Trump at the G20 my hope that the United States will come back into the Paris agreement in due course. I am pleased that the other members of the G20 held fast to the irreversibility of the Paris agreement and the commitments we had previously made. As I said in answer to Prime Minister’s questions, we are showing the lead on this. I am encouraging others to follow, and they are showing their willingness to do so.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about international development money in relation to climate change. I am pleased to say that we have committed to provide at least £5.8 billion of international climate finance between 2016 and 2020. This is not only a question of energy mix. It is also about climate resilience, and we are leading on that for the UN climate action summit in September this year. We have already helped 47 million people to cope with the effects of climate change, supported 17 million people to access clean energy and reduced or avoided 10.4 million tonnes of CO2, so we are putting our words into action.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about my meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. I did indeed raise the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. I was very clear that we expect a transparent and open judicial process and for those who are responsible to be brought to account. I also raised the importance of a political solution in Yemen and the fact that we are supporting the work of UN special envoy Martin Griffiths and want to ensure that all parties are committed to coming around the table and finding a political solution in Yemen.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the issue of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I had a meeting with the director general of the World Health Organisation at the G20 summit, during which we discussed that. I also discussed it with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. This is a serious humanitarian challenge. The security situation in eastern DRC makes dealing with this outbreak more difficult in terms of operating through Government and other organisations. The United Nations and the WHO are committed to working through community groups on the ground. He asked about our response. We are the second largest bilateral donor to the response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the largest to preparedness efforts in neighbouring countries. We have been working not only where there has been an outbreak in the DRC but to ensure that neighbouring countries can respond effectively. I am pleased to say that, when there was a small number of cases in Uganda, Uganda responded extremely well and very professionally, and we have not seen further cases there.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Russia. I thought his comments were a bit rich—who was it, after the nerve agent attack on our streets in Salisbury, who believed the Russian Government rather than our own intelligence agencies? It was the right hon. Gentleman, so I will take no lessons from him on our relationship with Russia.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the European Council. I do not think I heard him welcome the gender balance in the appointment of the top jobs. It is important that we see the first woman nominated to be President of the European Commission and a woman nominated for the role at the European Central Bank.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about Brexit. It was always going to take two years to negotiate; that is the time set out in the treaty under the article 50 process. We brought the proposals to the House. He rejected those proposals. He has not brought forward proposals that command a majority—[Interruption.] I think the Shadow Foreign Secretary said that he has.
No, I said that the House rejected it.
I had noticed that the House had not supported the plans that I brought forward but, once again, it is a bit of a nerve for a party that consistently says it wants to leave with a deal to consistently vote against leaving with a deal.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about going back to the people on Brexit. He talked about the delay and uncertainty. We have been waiting for weeks for the Labour party’s policy on Brexit. We keep being told that the shadow Cabinet is taking a decision on a second referendum and, week after week, we still wait to hear it. It is little wonder that the shadow Home Secretary says she is beginning to worry about Labour’s Brexit policy.
As you know, Mr Speaker, since the 1980s I have consistently raised the question of Germany’s increasing dominance in the European Union and the European Commission. In his recent book “Berlin Rules”, our former ambassador to Germany states that the EU is and will remain “a German Europe”. Nine of the 28 European Commissioners have German leaders of their cabinets. There are six German directors general. He says that:
“it is Germany’s view which is sought by the Commission before it acts, and by other governments before they decide”,
in the Council of Ministers by majority vote behind closed doors. Is that not a grave concern and a reason why we should leave the European Union by 31 October?
I am a little disappointed. Germany has not had presidency of the European Commission since something like the 1960s, so it is a bit churlish of my hon. Friend to suggest that we should not have voted for a German President. May I also point out that Ursula von der Leyen was born in Brussels? That might make it worse for my hon. Friend than the fact that she is from Germany. It is important that we see not only a gender balance but a geographical spread across the Commission in the appointments. He talks about us leaving the European Union. I want us to leave the European Union. I voted three times for us to leave the European Union. Had he voted with me, we would already be outside the European Union.
I thank the Prime Minister for her statement and advance sight of it. On a point of clarification, the Prime Minister suggested in Prime Minister’s questions that there was no review of devolution. That is of some surprise to those of us who were listening to Radio Scotland this morning and heard Lord Duncan talk about exactly that; indeed, he said that Lord Dunlop has been appointed to that role. Many Scottish journalists have tweeted that they have had briefings from No. 10, so perhaps the Prime Minister will take this opportunity to clarify whether she is going to Scotland tomorrow or whether she does not know what her diary involves.
I endorse the Prime Minister’s robust response to Russia, which must end its destabilising activity. Those responsible for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal should be brought to justice, and the Russian state must take responsibility and allow justice to prevail. I also thank the Prime Minister for confirmation of the nominees for the Commission. We, of course, welcome the attempt to achieve a gender balance. It is important that the European Parliament is now able to take a role in this process.
The SNP welcomes that many of the world leaders reaffirmed their support for the full implementation of the Paris agreement but condemns President Trump’s ducking of the issue. The fact that President Trump refuses to wake up to the reality is irresponsible and delusional. This ticking time bomb needs a rapid and robust response. While the UK Government’s commitment is to reach targets by 2050, in Scotland we are trying to achieve net zero faster, by recently committing to a target of net zero emissions by 2045. Scotland has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 47% since 1990. But we all need to go further and faster. We have an obligation to the planet and to future generations to recognise that this is a climate emergency.
I welcome the fact that world leaders affirmed their commitment to the implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable growth and that the summit agreed to work towards a free, fair, stable and open-market environment in trade and investment. However, the Osaka declaration following the G20 summit says that there is still concern about the state of the global economy, noting
“growth remains low and risks remain tilted to the downside.”
The Prime Minister must take responsibility for the Government’s failure to grow the UK economy and fight inequality. Without an appropriate economic response from the UK Government, inequality is set to get worse rather than better. The Institute for Fiscal Studies agreed when it stated:
“If the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts are correct, inequality is likely to increase in the next few years.”
Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur, found that one fifth of the UK population—14 million people—live in poverty and that, by 2021, 40% of children will be living below the poverty line. Those are staggering figures. No Prime Minister can be proud of leaving this as her legacy.
There was a glaring omission in the Prime Minister’s statement. The Japanese Foreign Minister warned against a no-deal Brexit, and said that it could risk Japanese auto manufacturers going through customs and that operations may not be able to continue. Therefore, I want to ask the Prime Minister: does she agree with the Japanese Foreign Minister?
Will the Prime Minister vote against a no-deal Brexit and against anyone intent on delivering a no-deal Brexit as being her successor? Furthermore, will she now act to undo the punitive austerity measures put in place by her Government to unlock economic growth and to begin to turn the tide on income inequality across the United Kingdom? Will she admit that she has made a multitude of mistakes, and failed to use power to help the powerless and rebalance our economy in a way that lifts the poor out of poverty and the disadvantaged into advantage? Prime Minister, this is your legacy of failure. It is your choice in your final days to do the right thing.
First, I will be going to Scotland tomorrow and I will be making a speech about the benefits of the Union of the United Kingdom. May I suggest that, rather than, as SNP Members always do, jumping on the bandwagon of something they read in the newspapers, they should actually wait to hear what I have to say in my speech tomorrow before they opine upon it?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments about Russia and the importance of our working to reduce and stop Russia’s destabilising activity, which takes many forms. We have seen it, most particularly, in the use of that chemical weapon on our streets, but of course we see it in cyber-attacks, in disinformation and in attempts to interfere in what is happening in other countries—often in democratic processes—and we will continue to work with others to bring about the aim that we all want.
The right hon. Gentleman references again the issue about no deal and a deal. I am afraid that the answer to his points has not changed. It has not changed from Prime Minister’s questions a little earlier this afternoon. I have consistently said that I think it is in the best interests of the UK to leave with a good deal. I believe we negotiated a good deal. Parliament was not willing to support that good deal, but I voted three times to ensure that we left the European Union with a deal. He chose to vote three times to leave with no deal, so I am not taking any lessons from him on that particular issue.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about failure to use powers. Actually, the best example of a failure to use the powers they have is the SNP Government in Scotland, who have been given extra powers, yet have consistently failed to use them. Whenever they are given extra powers, they do not use them. All they do is come back and say, “Please, sir, can we have some more?” Start doing the day job and stop focusing only on independence—that is what the SNP needs to do.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about economic growth. I am pleased to say that this country, under Conservative Governments, has seen I think 27 quarters of economic growth. That is the longest period of consistent growth of any of the G7 countries and that is a record the Conservatives are proud of.
I share the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for the appointment of so many women to the top jobs in Europe’s institutions, and I thank her for the role she played in that. I really commend her for the good will and determination she has brought consistently to the table at both the G20 and the EU summit. Does she agree that if, when we leave the European Union, we are going to continue to enjoy a constructive relationship with our neighbours, it is very important that we leave in an orderly fashion, with an agreement?
I thank my right hon. Friend for her kind words. I agree that it is important that, once we have left the European Union, we continue to have a strong and deep partnership and relationship with the European Union and obviously with the individual member states within the European Union. I believe the best way of achieving that is to leave with a good deal and I am only sorry that Parliament was not able to find a majority for that good deal. It is obviously up to my successor to find a majority in Parliament that can enable us to leave in a way that is in this country’s national interest.
The Prime Minister’s statement says that
“the best way to resolve trade disputes is through a reformed and strengthened WTO”.
Is it not the case that the dispute settlement mechanism no longer works because the United States does not recognise it and there are insufficient judges, and that those who would have Britain dependent on so-called WTO rules are making Britain dependent on a very weak and damaged organisation?
The right hon. Gentleman is right to focus attention on the important dispute resolution mechanism at the WTO. That plays an important part in enforcing the rules the WTO has. Obviously, if appellate body member appointments continue to be blocked, that risks the effective operation of the dispute settlement system. That would not be in our interests and it would not be in the interests of any of the members of the WTO, so we are strongly supporting an informal process that has been launched by the general council at the WTO to seek a resolution to this issue of the appellate body. Proposals put forward so far by WTO members bring the right ingredients to many of the concerns raised and we are urging all members to engage constructively in those ongoing discussions.
It sets off your black gown, Mr Speaker.
After having to negotiate with these people for so many dreary months, the Prime Minister must be mightily relieved that she will no longer have to go to Brussels, but what advice would she give her successor about dealing with these people? Would she recommend, for instance, the injunction that no deal is better than a bad deal?
I have always believed that no deal was better than a bad deal, but I believe we negotiated a good deal. The advice I would give my successor is to act at all times in the best interests of this country. I believe it is in our best interests to be able to leave the European Union with a good deal, but it is up to my successor to find a majority in this House to enable us to leave the European Union.
It is reported this morning that Canada is apparently unwilling to roll over the provisions of the CETA deal—the comprehensive economic and trade agreement—for the United Kingdom in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Could the Prime Minister tell the House whether she discussed this matter at the G20 summit? May I take this opportunity to congratulate the Chancellor, sitting next to her, on the clear statements he has been making in recent days about the obvious danger to our economy from a no-deal Brexit?
First, we will continue to work with the Canadians on the roll-over of the Canadian trade deal. I am pleased to say that the Department for International Trade has been able to see agreements on the roll-over of a number of trade deals, including significant deals such as the one with South Korea. But we will continue to work with the Canadians on this issue and it is right that we do that in detail to make sure that what comes out as a result of those roll-overs are arrangements that are in the interests of this country. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman has tempted me to say this: he has consistently stood up and argued for the case of not leaving the European Union without a deal, yet he has also consistently voted to leave the European Union without a deal.
I understand that, far from remaining silent at the EU summit, our Prime Minister made recommendations for not just one but for all four of the top jobs, and every single name she nominated or suggested was a highly qualified, highly competent woman. Can I thank the Prime Minister, as this might be her last statement as Prime Minister, for all she has done to champion women in politics in this country and across the world? Can we also send a message back to No. 10 to thank her husband for the highly dignified way in which he represented our country in the partners photo at the G20?
Yes, I am not sure if it is the rickshaw photograph of my husband that my hon. Friend is referring to, but I will happily take those compliments back to him.
I was happy to put forward the names of a number of women and to champion the need for gender balance in the appointments to the EU’s so-called top jobs. I believe it is important that we see that gender balance. I am pleased to have continued to be able to champion women, and I will continue to do that when I move to the Back Benches. May I also say to my hon. Friend that, apart from the appointments that have already been announced, it is expected that other women will take up senior posts within the Commission? Those are of course matters for the incoming President of the Commission, but I would expect to see more women taking senior roles in those roles in future.
Those people, including the President of the Commission, will not take up their positions until 1 November. It is, of course, possible that we will have left the European Union at that point, but I want to see a President of the European Commission—as I said to members of the European Council—who wants to continue working to find an arrangement for the relationship between the UK and the European Union in the future that is a positive and constructive one and that enables us to live with our near neighbours in a way that is to the advantage and benefit of both the United Kingdom and the European Union.
As the Prime Minister knows, the UK decided not to give notice to quit the European economic area, as required under article 127. Although I absolutely understand that she would not want to bind the hands of her successor, will she instruct officials to consider rejoining the European Free Trade Association pillar of the EEA agreement, since —as she will understand—the EU is under an international obligation to make existing treaties operable?
I recognise that my hon. Friend has championed that aspect of our future relationship. I think that the future relationship that we had negotiated with the European Union was actually better than the proposals that he has put forward, because it gave us greater independence while maintaining economic advantages in our trade relationship with the European Union. That, of course, has been rejected by the House, and it will be up to my successor to find the right way through.
Did the Prime Minister see the embarrassing sight yesterday of the Brexit party MEPs turning their backs on the European Parliament? Does she agree that such acts are born of the absurd notion, which has done so much damage to the country, that we are some kind of subjugated colony of the EU, rather than the full, equal and highly successful member that we have been? Will she join me in rejecting this notion of Britain as a colony, lest it lead to more humiliating spectacles such as we saw yesterday?
The United Kingdom has played a full role as a member of the European Union. We have been highly regarded around that EU table, and I want us to continue to be able to have a relationship with the EU in the future that will see us not only having greater independence outside the European Union, but able to contribute and work with our partners in the European Union on the challenges that we all face. Issues such as climate change are not restricted to one country or to one grouping of countries; these are issues for us all. We want to continue to work constructively and to maintain that high regard in which the UK has always been held.
Did my right hon. Friend get the opportunity to thank our colleagues in the European Union for their immense contribution, together with us, towards the collective peace and security of Europe over all the years of our membership—not least the free peoples of eastern Europe and those in the Balkans who, at times of conflict, look towards the EU as a beacon of peace and democracy? Did she reassure them that with our membership of the Security Council and NATO we will continue to find ways to collaborate successfully on that continuing peace and security, and that they should ignore the sometimes childish and unfortunate anti-German rhetoric that occasionally comes from our Benches?
I have repeatedly given our commitment to maintaining the security of Europe. We do that, of course, through NATO, as the second-biggest contributor and biggest European contributor to it, and we will continue to do so. I was able to thank members around the European Union Council for the co-operation that we have seen between the United Kingdom and member states of the European Union, and to express my desire that that co-operation and working together will continue in the future for our mutual benefit.
I do not know whether it is because of the prospect of the new European institution heads, but the Prime Minister will know that the former Foreign Secretary and the current Foreign Secretary are absolutely adamant that during August and September they will be able to negotiate a superior withdrawal agreement—perhaps with extra “positive energy”, as the former Foreign Secretary says. Does the Prime Minister think that it will be that simple?
Obviously it is up to whoever succeeds me to take forward negotiations and look at the relationship for withdrawing from the European Union and our future relationship with the European Union in the way that they think fit. The EU Council has made statements about the negotiations so far and about its position on those negotiations, but obviously it will be up to my successor to take those forward.
Did my right hon. Friend have the opportunity to discuss with Secretary-General Guterres or other G20 leaders the troubling reports surrounding the alleged torture and death of the navy captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo in Venezuela? If there is evidence of torture and human rights abuses by Maduro and his henchmen, will she press for them to be held to account by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights or, if appropriate, referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague?
I recognise the concern that my right hon. Friend has expressed in relation to this case. I was able on a number of occasions to raise the overall issue of Venezuela; I was recently also able to discuss it with the President of Colombia when he visited the United Kingdom. We are all concerned about the state that we see in Venezuela, about actions that have been taken in that country, and about the appalling circumstances and conditions in which so many Venezuelans find themselves living, which is why so many Venezuelans have been fleeing their country to neighbouring countries, putting a significant burden on those neighbouring countries.
It is good to hear the Prime Minister making it clear that there is no question of normalising relations with Russia while it remains in flagrant violation of the international norms that, as a permanent member of the Security Council, it is supposed to be at the forefront of upholding. Does it not gall her to see the man who is supposed to be the leader of the free world—the President of the United States—laughing and joking with this rogue President, Putin? Should not the UK be leading the charge to increase the pressure on Russia, potentially even through expelling its ambassador, while it enables atrocity after atrocity in Syria, gravely damaging the multilateral rule of law and order that is vital to ongoing peace and security in the world?
I think what is important for the United Kingdom is that we continue to take this strong position in relation to the activities of Russia. I have referenced a number of those already; I have not yet referenced in response to questions the actions that Russia took in Ukraine, which are matters that I also raised with President Putin.
It is important to look at the actions that the United States has taken. After the attack that took place in Salisbury, it expelled about 60 Russian officials. We saw a significant and unprecedented international response, but in fact the largest number of expulsions took place from the United States. Its actions, I think, have been important in this.
The Prime Minister said that international development expenditure would be aligned with emissions reduction, but last week the Secretary of State told us in terms that his main effort was resilience, not emissions reduction. The Prime Minister’s priority is the right one, but does the Secretary of State know?
I assure my right hon. Friend that we are working on all these issues. As I indicated in response to an earlier question—I think it was in response to comments that the Leader of the Opposition made—it is important not only that we work on reduction, but that we ensure that while that reduction is taking place, we help those countries that need to build their resilience and their ability to deal with the climate change that we are already seeing. They are not mutually exclusive; I think we should be doing both.
Democracy, freedom and human rights, and the upholding of those principles through international law, must surely be the cornerstone of British foreign policy. Given that this year we have seen the largest number of mass executions on a single day in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, given the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi by that regime, and given its abominable and inexcusable actions in Yemen, does the Prime Minister really believe that it is appropriate to allow the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman to host the G20?