With permission, Mr Speaker, I shall make a statement on the mission of this new Conservative Government.
Before I begin, I am sure that the whole House will join me in paying tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) for all that she has given to the service of our nation. From fighting modern slavery to tackling the problems of mental ill health, she has a great legacy on which we shall all be proud to build.
Our mission is to deliver Brexit on 31 October for the purpose of uniting and re-energising our great United Kingdom and making this country the greatest place on earth. When I say “the greatest place on earth”, I am conscious that some may accuse me of hyperbole, but it is useful to imagine the trajectory on which we could now be embarked. By 2050, it is more than possible that the United Kingdom will be the greatest and most prosperous economy in Europe, at the centre of a new network of trade deals, which we have pioneered. With the road and rail investments that we are making and propose to make now and the investment in broadband and 5G, our country will boast the most affordable transport and technological connectivity on the planet. By unleashing the productive power of the whole United Kingdom—not just of London and the south-east, but of every corner of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—we will have closed forever the productivity gap and seen to it that no town is left behind ever again and no community ever forgotten.
Our children and grandchildren will be living longer, happier and healthier lives. Our kingdom in 2050—thanks, by the way, to the initiative of the previous Prime Minister—will no longer make any contribution whatsoever to the destruction of our precious planet, brought about by carbon emissions, because we will have led the world in delivering that net-zero target. We will be the home of electric vehicles—cars and even planes—powered by British-made battery technology, which is being developed right here, right now. We will have the free ports to revitalise our coastal communities, a bio-science sector liberated from anti-genetic modification rules, blight resistant crops that will feed the world, and satellite and earth observation systems that are the envy of the world. We will be the seedbed for the most exciting and dynamic business investments on the planet. [Interruption.]
Order. I apologise for interrupting the Prime Minister. There is far too much noise in this Chamber, and there are far too many Members who think it is all right for them to shout out their opinion at the Prime Minister. Let us be clear: it is not. The statement will be heard, and there will be ample opportunity, in conformity with convention, and as established by me over the last decade, for colleagues to question the Prime Minister, but the statement will be heard, and heard with courtesy.
Mr Speaker, I applaud your intervention. I also think there is far too much negativity about the potential of our great country, as I think you will agree. Our constitutional settlement, our United Kingdom, will be firm and secure; our Union of nations beyond question; our democracy robust; our future clean, green, prosperous, united, confident and ambitious. That is the prize, and that is our responsibility, in this House of Commons, to fulfil. To do so, we must take some immediate steps. The first is to restore trust in our democracy, and fulfil the repeated promises of Parliament to the people by coming out of the European Union, and by doing so on 31 October.
I and all Ministers are committed to leaving on this date, whatever the circumstances. To do otherwise would cause a catastrophic loss of confidence in our political system. It would leave the British people wondering whether their politicians could ever be trusted again to follow a clear democratic instruction. I would prefer us to leave the EU with a deal; I would much prefer it. I believe that it is possible, even at this late stage, and I will work flat out to make it happen, but certain things need to be clear. The withdrawal agreement negotiated by my predecessor has been three times rejected by this House. Its terms are unacceptable to this Parliament and to this country. No country that values its independence, and indeed its self-respect, could agree to a treaty that signed away our economic independence and self-government, as this backstop does. A time limit is not enough. If an agreement is to be reached, it must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop.
For our part, we are ready to negotiate, in good faith, an alternative, with provisions to ensure that the Irish border issues are dealt with where they should always have been: in the negotiations on the future agreement between the UK and the EU. I do not accept the argument that says that these issues can be solved only by all or part of the UK remaining in the customs union or in the single market. The evidence is that other arrangements are perfectly possible, and are also perfectly compatible with the Belfast or Good Friday agreement, to which we are, of course, steadfastly committed. I, my team, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union are ready to meet and talk on this basis to the European Commission, or other EU colleagues, whenever and wherever they are ready to do so.
For our part, we will throw ourselves into these negotiations with the greatest energy and determination and in a spirit of friendship. I hope that the EU will be equally ready and will rethink its current refusal to make any changes to the withdrawal agreement. If it does not, we will of course have to leave the EU without an agreement under article 50. The UK is better prepared for that situation than many believe, but we are not as ready yet as we should be.
In the 98 days that remain to us, we must turbo-charge our preparations to ensure that there is as little disruption as possible to our national life, and I believe that is possible with the kind of national effort that the British people have made before and will make again. In these circumstances, we would of course have available the £39 billion in the withdrawal agreement to help deal with any consequences. I have today instructed the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to make these preparations his top priority. I have asked the Cabinet Secretary to mobilise the civil service to deliver this outcome, should it become necessary. The Chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available—[Interruption]—£4.2 billion has already been allocated.
I will also ensure that preparing to leave the EU without an agreement under article 50 is not just about seeking to mitigate the challenges, but about grasping the opportunities. This is not just about technical preparations, vital though they are; it is about having a clear economic strategy for the UK in all scenarios—something that the Conservative party has always led the way on—and producing policies that will boost the competitiveness and productivity of our economy when we are free of EU regulations.
Indeed, we will begin right away on working to change the tax rules to provide extra incentives to invest in capital and research. We will now be accelerating the talks on those free trade deals, and we will prepare an economic package to boost British business and lengthen this country’s lead, which seems so bitterly resented by Opposition Members, as the No. 1 destination in this continent for overseas investment—a status that is made possible at least partly by the diversity, talent and skills of our workforce.
I therefore want to repeat unequivocally our guarantee to the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us. I thank them for their contribution to our society and for their patience. I can assure them that under this Government they will have the absolute certainty of the right to live and remain.
I want to end by making clear my absolute commitment to the 31 October date for our exit. Our national participation in the European Union is coming to an end, and that reality needs to be recognised by all parties. Indeed, today there are very many brilliant UK officials trapped in meeting after meeting in Brussels and Luxembourg, when their talents could be better deployed in preparing to pioneer new free trade deals or promoting a truly global Britain. I want to start unshackling our officials to undertake this new mission right away, so we will not nominate a UK commissioner for the new Commission taking office on 1 December—under no circumstances—although clearly that is not intended to stop the EU appointing a new Commission.
Today is the first day of a new approach that will end with our exit from the EU on 31 October. Then I hope that we can have a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals and as friend and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead. I believe that is possible, and this Government will work to make it so. But we are not going to wait until 31 October to begin building the broader and bolder future that I have described; we are going to start right away by providing vital funding for our frontline public services, to deliver better healthcare, better education and more police on the streets.
I am committed to making sure that the NHS receives the funds that it deserves—the funds that were promised by the previous Government in June 2018—and these funds will go to the frontline as soon as possible. That will include urgent funding for 20 hospital upgrades and for winter readiness. I have asked officials to provide policy proposals for drastically reducing waiting times for GP appointments.
To address the rising tide of violent crime in our country, I have announced that there will be 20,000 extra police keeping us safe over the next three years, and I have asked my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to ensure that this is treated as an absolute priority. We will give greater powers—powers resisted, by the way, by the Labour party—to the police to use stop and search to help tackle violent crime. I have also tasked officials to draw up proposals to ensure that in future those found guilty of the most serious sexual and violent offences are required to serve a custodial sentence that truly reflects the severity of their offence and policy measures that will see a reduction in the number of prolific offenders.
On education, I have listened to the concerns of so many colleagues around the House, and we will increase the minimum level of per pupil funding in primary and secondary schools and return education funding to previous levels by the end of this Parliament.
We are committed to levelling up across every nation and region of the UK, providing support to towns and cities and closing the opportunity gap in our society. We will announce investment in vital infrastructure, full fibre roll-out, transport and housing that can improve the quality of people’s lives, fuel economic growth and provide opportunity.
Finally, we will also ensure that we continue to attract the best and brightest talent from around the world. No one believes more strongly than I do in the benefits of migration to our country, but I am clear that our immigration system must change. For years, politicians have promised the public an Australian-style points-based system, and today I will actually deliver on those promises: I will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to conduct a review of that system as the first step in a radical rewriting of our immigration system, and I am convinced that we can produce a system that the British people can have confidence in.
Over the past few years, too many people in this country feel that they have been told repeatedly and relentlessly what we cannot do. Since I was a child, I remember respectable authorities asserting that our time as a nation has passed and that we should be content with mediocrity and managed decline, and time and again—[Interruption.] They are the sceptics and doubters, my friends. Time and again, by their powers to innovate and adapt, the British people have shown the doubters wrong, and I believe that at this pivotal moment in our national story, we are going to prove the doubters wrong again, not just with positive thinking and a can-do attitude, important though they are, but with the help and the encouragement of a Government and a Cabinet who are bursting with ideas, ready to create change and determined to implement the policies we need to succeed as a nation: the greatest place to live, the greatest place to bring up a family, the greatest place to send your kids to school, the greatest place to set up a business or to invest, because we have the best transport and the cleanest environment and the best healthcare and the most compassionate approach to care of elderly people.
That is the mission of the Cabinet I have appointed, and that is the purpose of the Government I am leading. And that is why I believe that if we bend our sinews to the task now, there is every chance that in 2050, when I fully intend to be around, although not necessarily in this job, we will be able to look back on this period—this extraordinary period—as the beginning of a new golden age for our United Kingdom.
I commend this future to the House just as much as I commend this statement.
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his position and thank him for an advance copy of his statement.
No one underestimates this country, but the country is deeply worried that the new Prime Minister overestimates himself. He inherits a country that has been held back by nine years of austerity that hit children and young people the hardest. Their youth centres have closed, their school funding has been cut and their college budgets slashed, and with the help of the Liberal Democrats, tuition fees have trebled. Housing costs are higher than ever, and jobs are lower paid. Opportunity and freedom have been taken away. Austerity was always a political choice, never an economic necessity—[Interruption.]
Order. I indicated that people would not shout down the Prime Minister. Precisely the same applies to the Leader of the Opposition. Don’t try it: you are wasting your vocal cords and, above all, it won’t work. The right hon. Gentleman will be heard and these exchanges will take as long as they will take, whatever other appointments people might have. The right hon. Gentleman will be heard. Stop it!
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
The right hon. Gentleman’s predecessor promised to end austerity, but spectacularly failed to deliver. People do not trust the Prime Minister to make the right choices for the majority of people in this country when he is also promising tax giveaways to the richest and big business—his own party’s funders. So can he now indicate when he will set out the detail of the exact funding settlement for our schools and for our hard-pressed local authorities and police, so that they can start planning now? We must also address the deep regional inequalities in this country. The northern powerhouse has been massively underpowered and the midlands engine has not been fuelled, so will the Prime Minister match Labour’s commitment to a £500 billion investment fund to rebalance this country through regional development banks and a national transformation fund?
The right hon. Gentleman has hastily thrown together a hard-right Cabinet. I have just a couple of questions on those appointments. Given his appointment of the first Home Secretary for a generation to support the death penalty, can he assure the House now that his Government have no plans to try to bring back capital punishment to this country? And before appointing the new Education Secretary, was he given sight of the Huawei leak investigation by the Cabinet Secretary?
I am deeply alarmed to see no plan for Brexit. The right hon. Gentleman was in the Cabinet that accepted the backstop and, of course, he voted for it on 30 March this year. It would be welcome if he could set out what he finds so objectionable, having voted for it less than four months ago. Can he explain this flip-flopping? The House will have a sense of déjà-vu and of trepidation at a Prime Minister setting out rigid red lines and an artificial timetable. There is something eerily familiar about a Prime Minister marching off to Europe with demands to scrap the backstop, so why does he think he will succeed where his predecessor failed?
However, I do welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment finally to guarantee the rights of European Union citizens. It is a great shame that this offer has only been made now, more than three years after my party put that proposal before this House. Our friends, neighbours and family should never have been treated as bargaining chips, which has caused untold stress and worry to people who have worked so hard for this country and the communities that make it up.
Does the Prime Minister accept that, if he continues to pursue a reckless no deal, he will be directly flouting the expressed will of this Parliament? Industry, business and unions have been absolutely clear about the threat that that poses: no deal means no steel, no car industry, food prices dramatically rising and huge job losses. Make UK, representing much of manufacturing industry, says no deal would be
“the height of economic lunacy”.
Companies from Toyota to Asda have been clear about the dangers of no deal. Is the Prime Minister still guided by his “f*** business” policy? Those recklessly advocating no deal will not be the ones who lose out. The wealthy elite who fund him and his party will not lose their jobs, see their living standards cut or face higher food bills.
If the Prime Minister has confidence in his plan, once he has decided what it is, he should go back to the people with that plan. Labour will oppose any deal that fails to protect jobs— [Interruption.] We will oppose any deal that fails to protect jobs, workers’ rights or environmental protections. If he has the confidence to put that decision back to the people, we would, in those circumstances, campaign to remain.
The office of— [Interruption]
Order. It will take as long as it takes. I have plenty of time; I am totally untroubled by these matters.
The office of Prime Minister requires integrity and honesty, so will the Prime Minister correct his claim that kipper exports from the Isle of Man to the UK are subject to EU regulations? Will he also acknowledge that the £39 billion is now £33 billion, due over 30 years, and has been legally committed to be paid by his predecessor? This is a phoney threat about a fake pot of money, made by the Prime Minister.
We also face a climate emergency, so will the Prime Minister take the urgent actions necessary? Will he ban fracking? Will he back real ingenuity like the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon? Will he increase investment in carbon capture and storage? Will he back our solar industry and onshore wind—so devastated over the last nine years? Will he set out a credible plan to reach net zero?
I note that the climate change-denying US President has already labelled the Prime Minister “Britain Trump” and welcomed his commitment to work with Nigel Farage. Could “Britain Trump” take this opportunity to rule out once and for all our NHS being part of any trade deal—any trade deal—with President Trump and the USA? Will the Prime Minister make it clear that our national health service is not going to be sold to American healthcare companies? People fear that, far from wanting to “take back control”, the new Prime Minister would effectively make us a vassal state of Trump’s America.
Will the Prime Minister ask the new Foreign Secretary to prioritise the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and is he working with European partners to restore the Iran nuclear deal and de-escalate tensions in the Gulf?
The challenge to end austerity, tackle inequality, resolve Brexit and tackle the climate emergency will define the new Prime Minister. Instead, we have a hard-right Cabinet staking everything on tax cuts for the few and a reckless race-to-the-bottom Brexit. He says he has “pluck and nerve and ambition”; our country does not need arm-waving bluster; we need competence, seriousness and, after a decade of divisive policies for the few, to focus for once on the interests of the many.
I struggled to discover a serious question in that, but I will make one important point that it is worth making: under no circumstances will we agree to any free trade deal that puts the NHS on the table. It is not for sale. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that for 44 of its 71 years of glorious existence, the NHS has benefited from Conservative policies and Conservative government, because we understand that unless we support wealth creation, unless we believe in British business, British enterprise and British industry, we will not have the funds; unless we have a strong economy, we will not be able to pay for a fantastic NHS. That is a lesson that the right hon. Gentleman simply does not get.
I struggled to see the country in the right hon. Gentleman’s description of the United Kingdom today. The reality is that unemployment is, of course, down under the Conservatives to the lowest level since the 1970s. Crime is down a third since 2010. We have record inward investment into this country of £1.3 trillion. We have fantastic new electric car factories—[Interruption.]
Order. Mr McDonald, you really are at times a reckless delinquent. Calm yourself, man. I know you get very irate because you feel passionately. I respect your passion, but I do not respect your delinquency. Calm yourself, man; take some sort of soothing medicament and you will feel better as a consequence.
They do not like the truth that more homes were built in this country last year than in any of the last 31 years bar one. Wages are now outperforming inflation for the first time in a decade. The living wage—a Conservative policy that I am proud to say I championed in London and that was then stolen by our wonderful Conservative Government and made into a national policy—has expanded the incomes of those who receive it by £4,500 since 2010. That is a fantastic achievement, and it is a Conservative achievement.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about trust and asks, “Who can you trust to run the Government?” How on earth? He asks about Iran—a right hon. Gentleman who has been paid by Press TV of Iran and who repeatedly sides with the mullahs of Tehran rather than our friends in the United States over what is happening in the Persian gulf. How incredible that we should even think of entrusting that gentleman with the stewardship of this country’s security.
Worse than that by far, this is a right hon. Gentleman who is set on an economic policy, together with the shadow Chancellor who was sacked by Ken Livingstone for being too left wing—[Interruption.] Quite rightly, he was sacked for fabricating a budget. He forged a budget—sacked for forging a budget. He would raise taxes on inheritance; he would raise taxes on pensions—[Interruption.] I am answering; I am telling you—[Interruption.]
Order. Mr Lavery, you are another over-excitable denizen of the House. Calm yourself; it would be therapeutic for you to do so. There is far too much noise on both sides of the House, and I fear that the noise on the Front Bench is proving contagious. I note that certain Back Benchers are becoming over-excitable. They must restrain themselves. I know that the Prime Minister will, of course, be both passionate and restrained.
It is only with an effort that I can master my feelings here, Mr Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman would not only put up taxes on inheritance, pensions and corporations; he would put up taxes on income to 50p in the pound. [Interruption.] There he is, the shadow Chancellor—the forger of the budget of 1984, Mr Speaker.
Give the Leader of the Opposition a chance and he would put up taxes not just on homes, but on gardens. He speaks about trust in our democracy. I have to say that a most extraordinary thing has just happened today. Did anybody notice? Did anybody notice the terrible metamorphosis that took place, like the final scene of “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers”? At last, this long-standing Eurosceptic, the right hon. Gentleman, has been captured. He has been jugulated—he has been reprogrammed by his hon. Friends. He has been turned now into a remainer! Of all the flip-flops that he has performed in his tergiversating career, that is the one for which I think he will pay the highest price.
It is this party now, this Government, who are clearly on the side of democracy in this country. It is this party that is on the side of the people who voted so overwhelmingly in 2016, and it is this party that will deliver the mandate that they gave to this Parliament—and which, by the way, this Parliament promised time and time and time again to deliver. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman and all his colleagues promised to deliver it. The reality now is that we are the party of the people. We are the party of the many, and they are the party of the few. We will take this country forwards; they, Mr Speaker, would take it backwards.
I unreservedly welcome my right hon. Friend to his place. Today the EU will have listened and realised that the days of supplication are over and that we are intent on a policy to leave the European Union. I urge him in the course of his attempts at the Dispatch Box not to be too unkind to his opposite number. The right hon. Gentleman has not just become a remainer: over the last three and a half years, he has been trying to remain again and again and again, despite his own party’s determination.
In the process of my right hon. Friend’s preparation to leave without a deal, if that were necessary, could he now not allow us to do this in private? Could he instruct his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to do all this now in public—week by week, to tell the world, the European Union and our colleagues that we are nearly ready, and then finally that we are ready to leave, if necessary, without a deal?
I thank my right hon. Friend very much for that excellent question and the point that he makes. It is vital now that, as we prepare for a better deal, a new deal, we get ready, of course, for no deal—not that I think that that will be the outcome and not that I desire that outcome. But it is vital that we prepare business, industry and farming: every community in this country that needs the relevant advice. As my right hon. Friend has wisely suggested, there will be a very active and public campaign to do so.
I should welcome the Prime Minister to his place: the last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. It is often said that the Prime Minister lives in a parallel universe—well, my goodness, that has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt this morning. In fact, it looked as if he was about to launch himself into outer space.
There are questions to be asked as to the mandate that the Prime Minister has for the office that he now occupies. He has been appointed not by this House, not by the people but by the Tory party. What have they done? It horrifies me that the new Prime Minister finds his position through such an undemocratic process. Indeed, it was the Prime Minister himself who called the system a “gigantic fraud” when Gordon Brown was parachuted into office, just like he was, 12 years ago. Scotland did not vote for Brexit, we did not vote for no deal, and we most certainly did not vote for this Prime Minister.
Will the Prime Minister accept the First Minister’s call this morning for an urgent meeting of the Heads of Government? Scottish Government analysis has shown that a no-deal Brexit will hit the economy hard, with a predicted 8% hit to GDP, threatening up to 100,000 Scottish jobs. Just this week alone, we have seen the International Monetary Fund, the Confederation of British Industry, the Trades Union Congress, the food and drink industry and the British Chambers of Commerce all warning of a no-deal Brexit. The Office for Budget Responsibility has revealed that a no-deal Brexit could lead to a plunge in the value of the pound and leave a £30 billion black hole in the public finances. What analysis has the Prime Minister made of no deal? When he was asked last week, he had no answer. He wants to drive us off the cliff edge and he does not even know the impact of the damage that will cause. This is the height of irresponsibility —economic madness driven by ideology—from the Prime Minister, supported by his new right-wing ideologues on the Front Bench.
A new deal from Europe is the stuff of fantasy. Time and again, Europe has made it clear that the withdrawal agreement is not open for negotiation. Last night, Leo Varadkar confirmed once again that it will not happen. The Prime Minister has no plan. He is full of bluster, but the consequences of his fantasy land will have devastating consequences. He is deluded. Let me warn the Prime Minister: if he tries to take Scotland and the United Kingdom out of the European Union on a no-deal basis, we will stop him doing so. This House will stop the Prime Minister. We will not let him do untold damage to the jobs and constituents of our country. Parliament will stop this madness in its tracks.
The Prime Minister was elected by 0.13% of the population. He has no mandate from Scotland. He has no mandate in this House. Scotland has had a Tory Government for whom it did not vote for 36 of the past 64 years. The Barnett formula that protects spending in Scotland has been criticised by the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary. Will the Prime Minister today rule out changing the Barnett formula, or is Scotland under attack from this Prime Minister?
The whole internal Tory party crisis has been a democratic outrage. Scotland’s First Minister has been clear that she is now reviewing the timetable for a second independence referendum. Scotland will not stand by and let decisions be taken by charlatans on our behalf. I ask the Prime Minister to do the honourable thing: call a general election and let the people of Scotland have their say.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his suggestion. I should point out that the people of this country have voted in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and what they want to see is this Parliament delivering on the mandate that they gave us, including him. I take no criticism of my election from the party whose leader, Nicola Sturgeon, replaced Alex Salmond without a vote, as far as I know. Did she not?
The right hon. Gentleman is completely wrong in his analysis and his defeatism and pessimism about our wonderful United Kingdom, which he seeks to break up, because if we can deliver a fantastic, sensible and progressive Brexit, which I believe we can, and the whole United Kingdom comes out, as I know that it will, what happens then to the arguments of the Scottish nationalist party? Will they seriously continue to say that Scotland must join the euro independently? Will they seriously suggest that Scotland must submit to the entire panoply of EU law? Will they join Schengen? Is it really their commitment to hand back control of Scottish fisheries to Brussels, just after this country—this great United Kingdom—has taken back that fantastic resource? Is that really the policy of the Scottish nationalist party? I respectfully suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that that is not the basis on which to seek election in Scotland. We will win on a manifesto for the whole United Kingdom.
Our history is littered with Prime Ministers being dealt an extraordinarily difficult hand but, by pluck and determination, finally winning through in Europe. To make it possible, though, every MP has to realise that this is no longer a conscience issue. We have to learn to compromise and vote for something that may not be the perfect solution for us personally but is best for our nation.
I thank my right hon. Friend very much for his remarks and for the spirit in which he made them. He speaks for many of us in saying that we need to get this done, we can get it done and we will get it done.
The 3 million EU citizens are our family, our friends, our neighbours, our carers, yet for three years they have been made to feel unwelcome in our country. They deserve better than warm words and more months of anxiety. They deserve certainty, now. The Prime Minister has made assurances, so will he back the Bill of my Lib Dem colleague Lord Oates, which would guarantee in law the rights of EU citizens? Or is he all talk and no trousers?
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her own election and join her in insisting on the vital importance of guaranteeing the rights and protections of the 3.2 million who have lived and worked among us for so long. Of course, we are insisting that their rights are guaranteed in law. I am pleased to say that under our settlement scheme some 1 million have already signed up to enshrine their rights.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his place as Prime Minister and welcome the optimistic tone that he used in his opening statement. He has set out his priorities for Government, but will he consider two others? The people of Northern Ireland have been without a Government for two and a half years, and that has affected many, but most deeply it has affected those who were victims of historical institutional abuse and those who were severely physically and psychologically disabled in the troubles, through no fault of their own. Will he commit to deliver for those people?
I thank my right hon. Friend very much for what she has done. She has worked tirelessly to promote good government and the restoration of the Government in Stormont, and she has a record of which she can be very proud indeed. If and when Stormont is restored, it will be largely thanks to her hard work, efforts and diplomacy. I thank her very much. She is right to insist on the proper way of sorting out some of these very difficult legacy issues. I think it is common ground across the House that it is not right that former soldiers should face unfair prosecution, with no new evidence, for crimes or for alleged crimes, when the charges were heard many years ago. I thank her for what she has done in that respect as well.
In following the right hon. Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley), may I also thank her for her public service to Northern Ireland? I warmly congratulate the Prime Minister on his appointment and thank him for the conversations that we have had, and we look forward to further conversations in the coming weeks to ensure that we can have a sustainable Conservative and Unionist Government going forward. The alternative is unthinkable in terms of national security and the Union of the United Kingdom, never mind the economic damage that would be inflicted upon this great nation of ours. I warmly welcome his positivity, his optimism; that is what this country needs. Does he agree that, in terms of our shared priority, the Union comes first, that we need to deliver Brexit with a deal, but that we must be prepared for no deal if necessary? We need to get the devolution settlement up and running, but let us strain every sinew to strengthen the Union, get a deal to leave on the right terms and get Stormont up and running again.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman very much for all the co-operation and support that has enabled the Government of this country to carry on and to protect the people of this country from the depredations of the Labour party, because, frankly, that is what we would face were it not for his encouragement and his support. He is, of course, right in what he says about the primacy of the Union. He and I share the same perspective that we can do that by coming out as a United Kingdom, whole and entire, getting rid of that divisive anti-democratic backstop that poses that appalling choice to the British Government and the British people—to the United Kingdom—of losing control of our trade, losing control of our regulation or else surrendering the Government of the United Kingdom. No democratic Government could conceivably accept that, and I am entirely at one with the right hon. Gentleman.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on getting off to a terrific start. His words yesterday outside No. 10 and again today will have brought real hope and inspiration to people and interests right across the United Kingdom. He touched on one of them just now. The common fisheries policy has been a biological, environmental, economic and social catastrophe that has ruined coastal communities and brought devastation to our marine environment. Some recent comments by Government Ministers have alarmed those fishermen that, perhaps, the negotiations will involve the CFP being used as a bargaining chip. Will the Prime Minister confirm to me that, on the day we leave, we will establish total sovereignty over the exclusive economic zone and all the resources within it, we will become a normal marine nation like Norway or Iceland, and, from then on, we will negotiate, on an annual basis, reciprocal deals with our neighbours?
I thank my right hon. Friend. Valiant for truth in these matters, as he has been for so long, he is, of course, quite right that we have a fantastic opportunity now to take back control of our fisheries, and that is exactly what we will do. We will become an independent coastal state again, and we will, under no circumstances, make the mistake of the Government in the 1970s, who traded our fisheries away at the last moment in the talks. That was a reprehensible thing to do. We will take back our fisheries, and we will boost that extraordinary industry.
The Prime Minister said in his statement that he had alternative arrangements for the border. I asked the Chancellor, the former Home Secretary, what those arrangements were and what the technology would be 17 times and he could not tell me. Can the Prime Minister tell me what the technology is and what the arrangements are, or is this just more bluster and guff?
As the right hon. Lady knows very well, it is common ground between the UK and indeed Dublin and the EU Commission that there are abundant facilitations already available, trusted trader schemes, electronic pre-registering, and all manner of ways of checking whether goods are contraband and checking for rules of origin, and they can take place away from the border. I want to make one point on which I think we are all agreed: under no circumstances will there be physical infrastructure or checks at the Northern Irish border. That is absolutely unthinkable.
It is great to have an optimist as Prime Minister. Once we have left the EU, can we please have more service plots of land, so that people can bring forward their own housing schemes? Will he encourage the housing sector and the new Housing Minister to meet, as soon as possible, the Right to Build Task Force, which has already, for the mere expenditure of £300,000 from the Nationwide Foundation, added 6,000 to 11,000 extra dwellings to the pipeline?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the campaign that he has waged for so long. He and I have discussed this. I tried to steal his idea years ago. I support it unreservedly and I will make sure that the relevant meeting takes place as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister has set out his new Brexit policy, but did he notice that, yesterday, the Taoiseach said that any suggestion that a whole new negotiation could be undertaken in weeks or months is “not in the real world?” If Leo Varadkar is right and, as a consequence, the House of Commons votes in the autumn against leaving the European Union on 31 October without an agreement, what will the Prime Minister’s policy be then?
What the right hon. Gentleman has said is redolent of the kind of defeatism and negativity that we have had over the past three years. Why begin by assuming that our EU friends will not wish to compromise? They have every reason to want to compromise, and that is what we will seek—a compromise. I respectfully say to him, and indeed to all hon. and right hon. Members, that it is now our collective responsibility to get this done. Both main parties in this House of Commons know full well the haemorrhage of support that we face if we continue to refuse to honour the mandate of the people. I think that, if he talks to his constituents in Chesterfield—
I am sorry. Forgive me. I was thinking of the right hon. Gentleman’s father. His father, of course, was right.
If the right hon. Gentleman talks to his constituents in Leeds he will know that they want him to honour the mandate of the people, and that is what we will do.
I very much congratulate my right hon. Friend on assuming his role and on his cracking policies and appointments so far. Actions speak louder than words, and it says a great deal when the four great posts of state are held by descendants of immigrants, and we should take great pride in that. May I turn the Prime Minister’s attention very briefly to something that affects millions of people in this country, and that is cancer. His predecessor introduced the one-year cancer metric at the heart of the cancer long-term plan in order to encourage earlier diagnosis. This could save tens of thousands of lives a year. Will he look at that and commit to continue with that proud policy going forward?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. The simple and short answer is yes, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health is only too happy to talk to him at his earliest convenience.
Diolch yn fawr, Lefarydd. Data shows that the Prime Minister faces a binary choice: delivering Brexit on 31 October or maintaining his grip over the four nations of the United Kingdom. He can indulge in bombast and gesticulation all he likes, but the facts are irrevocable, so can he confirm to me, which is his heart’s desire: leaving the European Union or retaining the United Kingdom? He has to pick one, do or die.
Diolch yn fawr, Mr Speaker. My short answer to the right hon. Lady is that, of course, the people of the whole United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, and the people of Wales, to the best of my knowledge, voted emphatically to leave the EU, and that is what we will do.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that he and I do not exactly see eye to eye on the question of the likely consequences of leaving without a deal, but may I ask him to maintain his optimism about the possibility of achieving a deal and to recognise that there lies within this House, I believe still, a possible majority in favour of almost any sensible arrangement? I personally will certainly vote for any arrangement he makes for an orderly exit from the EU.
I thank my right hon. Friend, who has been zealous in his pursuit of arrangements to prevent the no-deal option. I share his desire not to get to a no-deal outcome. I am delighted that he is willing to put his shoulder to the wheel and work to find a solution that will bring us together across the House and get this thing done, because that is what the people want us to do.
If optimism was all it took to get things done, I am sure that thousands of people would be spending this blisteringly hot and sunny day waltzing across the Prime Minister’s garden bridge and jetting off on holiday from Boris island airport. As it is, people need real solutions to their problems. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that fixing the crisis in social care requires an immediate cash injection as well as long-term funding reform, and a system that works for disabled adults as well as older people; and that, above all, it means deciding that funding cannot be left to individuals and families alone? We must pool our resources and share our risks to ensure security and dignity for all.
I thank the hon. Lady very much for her question. I agree very strongly with the thrust of what she says. I suggest it is high time that this House again tried to work across parties to find a cross-party consensus about the way forward. That is absolutely vital. [Interruption.] If the Opposition are not interested, we will fix it ourselves, but I urge them to think of the good of the nation.
I thank the Prime Minister for the letter that he sent to the Defence Committee earlier this month, pledging what he called
“an absolute commitment to fund defence fully”.
Does he accept that events in the Gulf have cruelly illustrated the fact that the size of the Royal Navy is now way below critical mass? Will he join the Defence Committee in wishing to reverse the reckless reduction in defence spending by successive Governments from 3.1% of GDP in the 1990s to just 1.8% in like-for-like terms today?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the campaign he has waged for many years to support our armed services. I share with him a strong desire to increase spending, particularly on shipbuilding, which not only drives high-quality jobs in this country, but is a fantastic export for the UK around the world. The ships we are building now are being sold for billions of pounds to friends and partners around the world. We should be very proud of what we are achieving.
Do the Government stand by the commitment they made in the joint UK-EU statement of December 2017:
“In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”?
Of course, that is the very trap from which it is now absolutely vital that we escape. As the right hon. Gentleman says, that 8 December document effectively commits the UK to remaining in regulatory alignment in the customs union. We believe—and it is common ground in Dublin, Brussels and elsewhere—that there are facilitations available to enable frictionless trade not just at the Northern Irish border but at other borders too, in order for the UK to come out of the EU customs union while doing a free trade deal. That is what we are going to achieve.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his post; I so welcome his enthusiasm. Would he come down to our seaside towns, which desperately need love and investment? He would be most welcome to come personally. May I ask him to keep a focus on the future of seaside towns and the vital role they play in our communities?
I thank my hon. Friend. He is totally right to focus on seaside towns and coastal communities because too often they have been forgotten, as has their infrastructure. This new Government’s programme is to unite this country with infrastructure, better education and technology to bring opportunity not just to cities around the country, but to rural and coastal communities as well.
But, despite all the optimism, if the Prime Minister fails to secure some magical, mythical new deal with the European Union, will he promise now at the Dispatch Box that the matter will return to this sovereign Parliament so that we can decide what happens next before 31 October? A simple yes or no will do.
This Parliament has already voted several times to honour the mandate of the people to come out of the EU, and that is what we should do. I think that the right hon. Lady herself voted to trigger article 50, unless I am mistaken. I would encourage her to stick by the pledge she made.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that although money for schools is very welcome, further education and apprenticeships are probably the best enablers of social mobility, giving people a second or third chance? Will he ensure that apprenticeships and further education have the cash that they desperately need?
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for all the work that she has done in her career. She is absolutely right to raise the issue of further education and skills. Indeed, I had a long discussion on that very theme last night with the new Education Secretary, and that will be a priority of this Government. Yes, it is a great thing that 50% of kids should have the ambition to go to university, but it is equally important that other kids should acquire the skills that they need, which can be just as valuable and can lead to just as fantastic careers. It is vital that we invest now in further education and skills.
The UK’s air pollution is at illegal levels and scientists are clear that we need to do a lot more to address the growing climate crisis. Few will forget the Prime Minister’s pledge to lie down in front of the bulldozers to stop the construction of a third runway at Heathrow airport. Luckily for him—luckily for us all—he is now at the steering wheel and can turn those bulldozers around. Will he do it? Will he scrap the third runway?
Of course, the bulldozers are some way off, but I am following the court cases with a lively interest because I share the hon. Lady’s concerns about air quality and pollution. However, I would point out parenthetically that NOx pollution has in fact fallen by 29% under this Conservative Government. The hon. Lady did not point that out. I will study the outcome of the court cases with a lively interest.
Angela Merkel has indicated that there might be some flexibility on the backstop. Does the Prime Minister believe, as I do, that the French and Germans are likely to put the EU under more pressure to be flexible?
We should approach these talks in the spirit of maximum optimism, although optimism seems to be a quality that is deprecated on the Opposition Benches. It is a well-founded optimism because common sense dictates that now is the moment for seriousness and compromise, and I think that is what we are going to find.
This morning’s announcement of 12,500 job losses at Nissan worldwide is really worrying, although at this stage there is no indication that any of these job losses are going to be at the Sunderland plant in my constituency. But it does highlight the fragile nature of the automotive industry. This really should refocus our minds, therefore, on the existential threat that a no-deal Brexit would be to the automotive industry in the UK. Will the Prime Minister today rule out a no-deal Brexit and commit to an active, innovation-led industrial strategy that will protect our industrial towns and cities?
I will indeed commit to that approach, because I think that is the right way forward. If I may say so, Nissan in Sunderland is the most efficient plant in the world, and what a fantastic thing that is. Just in the past few weeks, as the hon. Lady will have noticed, BMW has announced a huge investment to build electric Minis at Cowley and Jaguar Land Rover has put £1 billion into electric vehicles in Birmingham. That, by the way, is how we will tackle the climate change issue—not with the hair shirt-ism of the Greens but with wonderful new technology made in this country.
May I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on lifting the mood of the nation? Will he look at the record amount of funds going into education, to address not only the funding going to further education but the distribution among the highest-funded and lowest-funded education authorities?
That is of course what we are doing. That is the nature of the pledge and the undertaking that we are making with the £4.6 billion that we have announced. The objective, as I think Members will know by now, is to lift per capita per pupil funding to a minimum everywhere of £4,000 for primary school pupils and £5,000 for secondary school pupils.
I want to maximise participation and there is therefore a premium on brevity. I appeal to colleagues to be unselfish and to ask single-sentence questions without preamble so that they are also helping their colleagues.
The phrase “workers’ or employment rights” was absent from the Prime Minister’s statement, so will he make a commitment now that EU workers’ rights will be protected in the event of Brexit?
Not only that, but under the freedoms that we will obtain we will be able, where necessary, to enhance workers’ rights in this country.
Will my right hon. Friend look at helping to make the work of the 20,000 more police officers more effective by implementing preventive measures such as restricting the number of properties being converted to houses in multiple occupation, which are undoubtedly a magnet for antisocial behaviour?
Of course it is vital that we look at prevention measures of all kinds. I am familiar with the problem that my hon. Friend raises and I will take it up with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
The Prime Minister has again given a long list of public spending commitments. I, for one, can see the difference between optimism and fantasy, so either the Prime Minister is a fantasist or he will tell us now how he is going to fund these commitments.
Actually, the spending pledges I have made have been modest, so far. As the hon. Lady knows full well, they are well within the fiscal headroom that this country currently enjoys, and it is about time that that money was spent. If Labour Members are now opposing that spending—if they now think that we should not be putting another £1 billion into policing and another £4.6 billion into education—then now is the time to speak. But the Labour Front Benchers seem to have departed.
While waiting to vote a fourth time on a negotiated agreement with the EU27, will my right hon. Friend recognise the achievement of the past three years in dealing with abuse of residential leaseholds and lend his weight to making sure that we go on making progress so that leaseholders are not abused or exploited?
I am well familiar with the problem that my hon. Friend describes and the injustice that many leaseholders have been facing, and I side with him on that. I congratulate him on the campaign that he has run. We will make sure that we look after the interests of leaseholders who are, I think, being cheated at the moment.
The sixth principle of public life reads:
Holders of public office should be truthful.”
Can the Prime Minister stand at that Dispatch Box and tell us whether, in his public life so far, he has maintained that principle?
I think that if the hon. Lady looks at what I have promised the British public and promised the electorate in my political career, and looks at what I have delivered time and time again, she will see that when I have said I would deliver X, I have delivered X plus 20, whether it was cutting crime in London, investing in transport or building more homes—more, by the way, than the Labour Mayor ever did. I am very proud of my record and stand and fight on my record.
Can I urge my right hon Friend the Prime Minister to continue all the efforts the Government have so far been engaged in to secure and save a future for the British steel industry, which is so important to the north of England? One way of doing that would be to commit quickly to HS3—Northern Powerhouse Rail.
I thank my hon. Friend for his advice. Yes, I am a huge fan of Northern Powerhouse Rail. I went up to Manchester airport and saw the plan. It is a truly visionary and exciting plan, and I think we should definitely be doing it. If I might remind him, it is not just rails in this country that are built by British Steel in Scunthorpe; it may be to the advantage of the House and the pessimists of the Opposition to know that the TGV in France runs on rails made in Scunthorpe as well.
The Prime Minister recently appalled and offended many people when he criticised investigating historical child abuse as
“spaffing money up the wall”.
What does he have to say to those who have suffered at the hands of predatory paedophiles, especially those who are still seeking justice, and will he now apologise?
This country is proud of its record as a world leader in fighting child sexual abuse, and under this Government we will continue to lengthen that lead.
I hope the Prime Minister agrees that having a general election might be something that the Leader of the Opposition wants but it is not what the country needs and it will not resolve the Brexit deadlock. Will he bring back any Brexit plan, put it to this House and then put it to the people, because that is the way we can finally break the Brexit deadlock, unite the country, move on, and get on to fixing the real problems that Britain faces, not least improving social mobility and achieving equality of opportunity?
My right hon. Friend and I go back a long way and she and I agree on so many things, but on this I must, I am afraid, respectfully disagree. Having a second referendum, which is now Labour’s policy—it was not before, but it is now the party of return or revoke—would be catastrophic for our Union because it would of course undermine our most important case that when you have a referendum, that deeply divisive and toxic event should only take place once in every generation. That was what we said to the people of Scotland. How could we look at them and say we could not have a second referendum in Scotland if we had another referendum on the EU in the UK? It is simply the wrong thing to do.
Given the welcome change of the Prime Minister’s recognition of the benefits of migration, will he bring forward the reconsideration system proposed by the former Home Secretary, now Chancellor, for overseas students falsely accused of cheating in the English language test by the US firm ETS so that they finally have the chance to clear their name?
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made me aware of the issue to which the right hon. Gentleman refers. I will make sure that we write to him about what we are doing to address it. As he knows, I have a long-standing commitment to supporting the freedom of people of talent to come to this country. If he looks at my political record, I do not think, genuinely, that he will find anybody who has done more to champion the rights of immigrants to this city or to this country.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to infrastructure. In addition to his support for Northern Powerhouse Rail, will he consider looking at ways that HS3 can be constructed from the north, thus maximising the jobs in our region?
I have asked Doug Oakervee, the former chairman of Crossrail, to conduct a brief six-week study of profiling of the spend on HS2, to discover whether such a proposal might have merit, and I will ensure that I revert to my hon. Friend as fast as possible on its conclusion.
Following today’s deeply troubling news from Nissan, has the Prime Minister spoken to the company about what impact this may have in Sunderland? Following his statement, what reassurance can he offer to the tens of thousands of workers in Sunderland and across the north-east whose jobs and livelihoods depend on Nissan’s continued success?
The automotive sector globally is suffering a contraction, partly as a result of the diesel crisis and the move to electric vehicles, and what is happening with demand in China; that is a fact. There is, as far as I know, no impact in Sunderland yet, but I draw the hon. Lady’s attention again to the massive investments that are none the less happening in our country, including in Oxford and Birmingham, with world-beating companies investing in British technology. It is worth billions of pounds, and we should salute it
I congratulate my right hon. Friend, welcome him to his job and wish him the best of luck in achieving an amicable agreement with the EU. Violent crime concerns many of my constituents. In Essex, we are already seeing the impact of the extra 360 police who have been added to the force, so I thank him for promising 20,000 more across the country. Will Essex get its fair share?
I thank my hon. Friend. I want to pay tribute to the work of Roger Hirst, the police and crime commissioner in Essex, who is helping to deliver the numbers achieved. It is good news that we will have even more—20,000 more—and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is working on that.
Why does the Prime Minister refuse point blank to answer any questions put to him about his relationship with the former Russian arms dealer Alexander Temerko or the owner of the Evening Standard, Evgeny Lebedev, who has written in glowing terms about President Putin and Assad? What exactly do they have on him?
I struggle to find a point in the hon. Gentleman’s question. If he has an allegation that he wishes to make, I suggest that he sends it to me in writing, and I will be happy to respond.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on a brilliant start, and particularly his support of the health service. Is he aware that his counterpart in India, Prime Minister Modi, has oversight of two health Ministries: the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of AYUSH, which is for traditional and complementary medicine and has 7,000 hospitals? Will he ensure that the Health Secretary is in contact with AYUSH?
I thank my hon. Friend and congratulate him on the heroic campaign he has waged to promote alternative medicines and therapies of all kinds. I feel sure that it would be to the benefit of my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary, who is not in his place—he has gone off to solve social care. I think it very important that we have an open mind about Ayurvedic medicine and other such therapies, but we should approach it on the basis of science first.
Does the Prime Minister’s guarantee for EU citizens extend to EU children in the British care system? If so, how will he achieve that without changing the existing arrangements?
Yes, I believe it does. We will ensure that local authorities are aware of their responsibilities.
I welcome the Prime Minister to his place and thank him for the passionate, optimistic defence of free market values that we have heard today. Will he look at the offer that we give our armed forces, in particular with a view to retention? May I also invite him to visit RAF Brize Norton, not only to thank them for the excellent hard work they do there but to see where we need a little bit of help?
I will be only too happy to visit my hon. Friend in Brize Norton; I have a feeling that I may be going there in the course of my duties anyway. I congratulate him on the campaign he wages and the interest he shows in our armed services, particularly the RAF. I will ensure that they get the pay they desire, and I believe that they are getting a new and improved pay settlement on Monday.
Does the Prime Minister agree that the UK, Europe and the world face a climate emergency? If he does, what is his plan?
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman asked that question because, as he knows, it is this party and this Government who are leading the world in setting a net zero target by 2050. There are people who do not think it can be done. There are all sorts of sceptics, pessimists and Britosceptics who think that this country cannot pull it off, but actually we can. We have cut carbon emissions in this country massively since 2010, and we will continue to do so. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman says that it was his achievement. I remind him that, even though the population of London expanded by 200,000 during my tenure as Mayor of London, we cut carbon dioxide emissions by 14% with new technology, and that is the approach we will adopt.
I share my right hon. Friend’s optimism for a deal, not least if we are fully prepared for no deal. As a Kent MP, may I ask him to ensure that those preparations will keep freight flowing through Kent’s ports?
My hon. Friend is right. It is vital that we give business in Kent and hauliers of all kinds the logistical support they need, and as she knows, a huge amount of work is already being done.
It is quite clear that this is now a Vote Leave Government. Contrary to what the Prime Minister said, he has been clear about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. I want to take him back to his words as part of Vote Leave. He said on 1 June 2016:
“There will be no change to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.”
The day before the referendum, he said he wanted to reassure people that if they voted leave,
“there won’t be a sudden change that disrupts the economy.”
No change to the border and no sudden change to the economy—does he stand by his promises, yes or no?
Of course, because that is the most sensible way forward. As the House will have heard several times, this Government will under no circumstances institute checks at the border in Northern Ireland. As for a smooth and orderly departure from the EU, that is now in the hands of our friends and partners, and I hope that they will see sense and compromise.
For decades, Members in this House across the political divide have been critical of other countries’ democratic processes. Does my right hon. Friend agree that failure to deliver on the public mandate to leave the EU would ensure that our credibility on the international stage was irreparably damaged?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is a sad irony that the Labour party, which purports to be the party of the people, is now the party that seeks to thwart the will of the people, and it sends a terrible message around the world.
What did the Prime Minister meet Cambridge Analytica about in December 2016, when he was Foreign Secretary?
I have no idea.
Luton and Dunstable University Hospital has a capital bid approved by the Department of Health and Social Care. Will the Prime Minister ask the Chancellor to look favourably on it?
My constituents are not looking for handouts; they want to be able to stand on their own two feet. They are ambitious and want to get on in life and provide for their children, but just sometimes they have to rely on universal credit. As it is structured now, people do not get a penny for the first five weeks, unless they take out a loan from the Government. That loan puts them into debt from the moment they start on universal credit. Will the Prime Minister please, please look at taking away that five-week problem?
The hon. Gentleman, I am sure, knows that people can get a 100% advance on universal credit on day one, and as he knows—[Interruption.] Labour Members want to scrap universal credit, and I hear what they say, but the old welfare system kept people trapped in benefits. Two hundred thousand people are going to be lifted out of benefits and into work thanks to universal credit, and it has added massively to the incomes of 700,000 families across this country.
On the hottest day on record and with escalating tensions in Iran, does my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agree that now is the time for a UK nuclear renaissance, and may I add that Copeland is the centre of nuclear excellence?
I thank my hon. Friend, and she is entirely right: it is time for a nuclear renaissance. I believe passionately that nuclear must be part of our energy mix, and she is right to campaign for it. It will help us, by the way, to meet the carbon targets that the pessimists on the other side think are too ambitious.
I love our country, but what I love most about our country is the people—all the people. However, the reality, as all the evidence is showing, is that the richer are getting richer and the poorer are getting poorer, with those hit by austerity dying early. What is the Prime Minister going to do to address these inequalities now, not by 2050, or does taking back control mean that he is more interested in sustaining the wealth, income and power of the few, not the many?
I am afraid what the hon. Lady says is absolutely diametrically the opposite of the truth, because income inequality has in fact declined since 2010. [Interruption.] It has. The incomes of families on the living wage—a policy promulgated by this Government—have increased by £4,500, for those who are on it, since 2010, and wages are now rising faster than inflation for the first time in a decade. It is the Conservative party that is committed to higher wages and higher skills; the Labour party wants higher taxes and fewer jobs.
Nowhere is enthusiasm and optimism more needed than in the agriculture sector, so may I welcome what the Prime Minister said in his statement about the future for food in this country?
I thank my hon. Friend very much. He has been a doughty champion of food and farming in this country for many years, and he is quite right to be filled—suffused, as he is—with optimism about it.
I warmly welcome the inclusion of social care in the Prime Minister’s list of priorities for his Government. As he will know, there is the thorny issue of how we should pay for it. Two Select Committees of this House have worked together with a citizens’ assembly to reach consensus on how we should fund this fairly. Will the Prime Minister meet me and the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) to discuss how we reach a consensus and get it done?
I thank the hon. Lady, and I will of course make sure that I study the suggestions she has made in her reports. They will of course be taken into account as we come forward with a solution—a plan—for social care.
Given the busyness of the last few days, the Prime Minister may have missed the new leader of the Liberal Democrats saying that she would ignore a leave vote in a second referendum. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that campaigning for a referendum you intend to ignore is pretty pointless?
I thank my hon. Friend, and it smacks of tyranny. It smacks of tyranny. These people pretend to be democrats, yet their plan is to quash the will of the people time and time and time again.
Last September, the Government announced a report on the merits of safe standing at football games. Two months ago, Ministers confirmed to me that they have the report, but that Members could not see it. The Prime Minister says he is a plain speaker. Could he exercise some plain speech today, and release this report and get safe standing going at our football grounds?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that very important point with me. I am informed that the issue of safe standing at football matches is currently under review, but clearly we take it extremely seriously.
May I say thank you to the Prime Minister? On his first day here in the House of Commons, he has given an unequivocal guarantee to EU nationals like my mother and father. That should have been three years ago by the previous Administration. Having met Mr Barnier last Friday, may I ask the Prime Minister, if he wants to take the country out on a no-deal basis, to confirm that he will do everything in his power to protect the 1.3 million British nationals living and working in the EU?
Of course. I thank my hon. Friend for what he has done to protect the rights not just, obviously, of his parents but of the 3.2 million —and of the 1.3 million UK nationals living and working in the rest of the European Union. It is self-evidently in the interests of our friends and partners on the other side of the channel that they should give symmetrical protections, and I am sure that they will. But I think the House would agree that it is also incumbent on us to look after the rights of the people who have lived, worked, dwelt among us and made their lives here, and that is what we are doing.
Some unkind fellows have suggested that the new Prime Minister does not do detail, but I just heard him admit that we have already spent £4.2 billion as a country on stockpiling medicines, on lorry parks and on fridges in the event of no deal. He said that the Chancellor had confirmed that all necessary funding would be made available if we continued no-deal preparations. Can he put a figure on that number, because I am sure he would not come without an idea of what it is?
Of course, the hon. Lady is not quite right, because the figure she refers to is not the amount that has been spent but the amount that was allocated by the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer. May I make a point that I think the House should reflect on in relation to this expenditure and what we are trying do now in getting ready for a no-deal Brexit—not that we want it, but we must get ready for it. It is that, under any circumstances, in the next few years it will be necessary for the UK to extricate itself from the customs union and the regulatory orbit of Brussels. That will require changes in which it is important to invest, and that is what we are going to do now. That is why there will be a big public information campaign, and I am sure she will want to join in advertising the benefits of that campaign.
Order. I would like to accommodate everybody. That may not be possible, but I am going to try. Single-sentence questions—if people go beyond that, they will be cut off. It is as simple as that.
The Prime Minister visited Aberdeen and saw the successful oil and gas industry, which by delivering hydrogen can deliver net zero. Does he agree this industry is supporting 280,000 jobs he will get behind?
Yes, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on what he is doing to support our hydrocarbon industry in Aberdeen and thereabouts. Clearly, that industry has a great future, and it can be used additionally to help reduce our carbon footprint as well.
As Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman’s trademark bluff and bluster will not wash. He needs to be on top of the details, so can he now answer: what is in article XXIV, paragraph 5(c) of the general agreement on tariffs and trade?
As the hon. Lady knows full well—not that we will get to that situation, and not that I wish to rely remotely on article 5(c)—we intend of course, if we have to, to confide absolutely in article 5(b), which provides ample—[Interruption.]
Order. I do not know what the hon. Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck) is looking so dissatisfied about. I am quite sure the Prime Minister would be able to quote it verbatim—in Latin—by 3 September, when the House returns.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his commitment on free ports, which is fantastic news for Teesside. Can I just push him on one issue regarding our local industrial strategy, which is of course the maintenance of the current Government approach to the sale of British Steel? This is essential for providing investor confidence.
I thank my hon. Friend, and he can take it that this Government are going to leave no stone unturned to get a good solution for British Steel at Scunthorpe, at Skinningrove and elsewhere.
In the north-east, children and young people will be off school today, and they may well be watching this spectacle, but forgive me for not encouraging them to have faith in the Prime Minister’s bluster and warm words, because the simple fact is that a no-deal Brexit puts at risk our 63% exports to the EU and therefore their families’ jobs. Will he rule it out today?
I hope the children in her constituency that the hon. Lady describes will be able to learn from watching these proceedings that they are going to get more funding for their schools—£4,000 per pupil in primary schools, £5,000 per pupil in secondary schools—and I am sure that would be welcome news to them all.
The vast majority of people in my constituency who voted to leave welcome the Prime Minister’s determination to deliver Brexit. Beyond that we welcome extra police numbers, because we share a concern about rising crime. When will we know the numbers for the different force areas?
I say to my hon. Friend that he will know them as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister talks passionately about unleashing the productive potential of the whole north-east—just as he did about freeing kippers, but without the detail. What three things does he admire most about the north-east, and how will a no-deal Brexit make it more productive?
I think the people of the north-east should be left to decide what they admire most about that fantastic region, and it would be patronising of anybody to say what they admire about any particular region of the UK. The north-east is the only region of the UK that is a net exporter—[Interruption.] Yes—I bet she didn’t know that! The hon. Lady is not interested in economic success. We are interested in backing business and industry—[Interruption.]
Order. We must restore some calm. I have been listening with rapt attention to the Prime Minister, but I do not want his arm to collide with the microphone. That would be analogous to a tennis player crashing into the net, which I know he would never do, knowingly or otherwise.
Across the country more young people are carrying knives, and knife crime has gone up. In his previous role as the excellent Mayor of London, my right hon. Friend solved that issue. What action will he now take to solve it across the country, given that it will take time for the new police officers to arrive?
I thank my hon. Friend for his campaign for safer streets in his constituency, and I was proud to work with him in London when we reduced serious youth violence by 32%. We reduced the murder rate by 50%—not even the pessimists and doubters on the Opposition Benches could contest that—and we kept that rate at fewer than 100 a year for four or five years running. We reduced knife crime in London with a very active policy of stop and search. I know Labour Members opposed that, but they were wrong, and we took thousands of knives—11,000 knives—off the streets of London. We saved lives across the city, and my hon. Friend can be proud of what he did to help that campaign.
The Prime Minister has stated his commitment to increasing school funding, but this week we learned that his predecessor’s announcement of a 2.7% pay increase for teachers will only be partially funded by the Government, and that schools will face budget cuts as a result. Will he demonstrate his commitment to schools by agreeing fully to fund that increase in teachers’ pay?
The position is very clear. We have committed to a £4.6 billion package of extra funding across the country, and that is what we will do.
Despite last night being the hottest night of the year, I slept soundly for the first time in months. Will the Prime Minister ensure that I and millions of others can sleep soundly in our beds?
I hesitate to do anything to disrupt my hon. Friend’s nocturnal arrangements in any way, other than to say that I think the whole country can sleep soundly in the knowledge that we will come out of the EU on 31 October. We are going to get it done, deliver on the mandate of the people, and take this country forward in the way that I think it wants.
Which workers’ rights does the Prime Minister want to enhance that we are currently prohibited from doing by the EU?
That will be a matter for this House, and the hon. Gentleman should welcome that opportunity. If he is now saying that he does not wish to do anything to improve the rights of workers in this country, or that the entire corpus of EU law must remain whole, inviolate and untouched, that is why the people of this country are fed up with remaining in the EU—they want legislation for the advantage of the people of this country.
The model of brevity from Hove must now be matched by that from Cheltenham.
The Prime Minister’s father is a great champion of the environment. Will my right hon. Friend continue that noble family tradition?
I certainly will, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on everything he does to promote the environment. It is amazing that thanks to the work of colleagues on the Government Benches, the environment and green issues are now seen as the agenda that we Conservatives lead on. We will continue with that, and to make improvements to our environment that will be of immense value to the people of this country.
Yesterday the Prime Minister started in the job that he always wanted. How will he guarantee that millions of people across our country do not see their employment end because we are hurtling towards a no-deal Brexit that does not command the majority of this House?
The answer is for the House of Commons to do what is sensible and right, deliver on the mandate of the people, and get Brexit done by 31 October. That is the right thing to do.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement on increasing funding for education. Will he expand more on what we might do to help those with special needs, not just in my constituency but across the whole country, who have considerable requirements?
My hon. Friend is entirely right. He may have noticed that we announced policies to allow the establishment of schools for those with special educational needs, and in areas where local authorities need those SEND schools, we will fund them.
The new Prime Minister has outlined a significant spending programme. The new Chief Secretary to the Treasury has already committed to Government debt falling every year, and we know that a no-deal Brexit would be a significant cost to the national finances. How are those three things compatible with each other?
The answer is that the spending commitments so far are really rather modest, and they can be amply financed by the strength of the UK economy, which the Labour party would jeopardise through its retrograde policies.
Will schools get some of that welcome extra cash in this financial year or must they wait until the next year?
It is my intention for schools to get that extra cash as fast as it can be humanly expedited.
Some 80% of children excluded from mainstream schools have special educational needs and disabilities. It is not enough simply to fund new specialist schools; we need mainstream education to support special educational needs and disability. What is the Prime Minister’s plan for that? It ain’t just about cash.
The hon. Gentleman is entirely right. All schools need SEND funding, and that is part of the £4.6 billion programme that we have announced.
Does the Prime Minister agree that, notwithstanding his commitment to increase capital funding to rebuild the NHS estate, we should focus on improving mental health care across our country? That will build on the work that I and other Members of the House have done over the past five years to ensure that we also deliver for those with mental health issues.
My hon. Friend is entirely right. We should promote mental health in this country by giving businesses incentives to look after the mental health of their employees, and prevent the burden from falling so heavily on the NHS and social services.
The Prime Minister said that he wants to govern for the whole country, but in a previous role he accused my constituents of wallowing in their “victim status”, repeated offensive and proven untruths about the cause of the Hillsborough disaster, and called Liverpool “self-pity city”. Will he apologise from the Dispatch Box to the people of Liverpool for the offence he has caused?
I ask the hon. Lady to look at my political record and at what we have achieved. Look at what I have done, as a one-nation Conservative, to lift up and help with policies that are uniformly delivering better outcomes for the poorest and neediest in society. That is what I stand for, that is what I believe in, and that is what the whole Government will deliver.
Does my right hon. Friend welcome the findings of the alternative arrangements commission, led by me and my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan)?
I do. They are, if I may say, a withering retort to the gloomsters on the Opposition Benches who say there is no solution and who begin the prospect of negotiations by saying that defeat is inevitable. That is not true. As my right hon. Friend has identified, the facilitations and the remedies do exist. What it takes now is the political will to get there.
The Conservative party 2017 manifesto says:
“We need to deliver a smooth and orderly departure from the European Union”.
That phrase is repeated eight times in the document. Does the Prime Minister therefore agree with me that he has no mandate to deliver no deal?
The hon. Gentleman will know, since he is a keen student of the Conservative party manifesto, that the Government were committed both then and since to preparing for a no-deal outcome. Not that we want that. [Interruption.] I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Matt Warman) who reminds me from a sedentary position that the policy was that no deal was better than a bad deal. We do not want it, but the way to avoid it is to prepare well for it.
I congratulate the Prime Minister and welcome him to his role. Some 19% of my constituents still do not have access to 10 megabytes of broadband, affecting their business, educational and leisure opportunities. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister commit, as he has done during the campaign, to delivering broadband to every one of my constituents?
I thank my hon. Friend. She may have noticed that in the course of the recent election campaign I made it absolutely clear that we will accelerate the programme of full fibre broadband by eight years, so that every household in this country gets full fibre broadband within the next five years.
Will the Prime Minister order an inquiry into the £76 million that was wasted paying management consultants to work on the “Shaping a Healthier Future” programme for north-west London, which the Health Secretary has now abandoned after nine years?
I can certainly say that the “Shaping a Healthier Future” programme for north-west London has not perhaps delivered the results that we wanted. I think the hon. Gentleman and I share a constituency interest, shall we say, in ensuring that we get the improvements to healthcare not just in north-west London but across the country. That is why this party and this Government are spending an extra £20 billion. That is why yesterday I announced new upgrades for 20 hospitals across the country, including some, I believe, in north-west London.
I welcome the Prime Minister to his role and his commitment to infrastructure in the north of England. Will he commit to the Government continuing to invest in small projects across the north of England, such as the M55 Lytham St Annes bypass?
I lost count, in the course of the recent campaign, of the number of dualling schemes and bypasses that I seemed to commit myself to. I will certainly make sure that we invest massively in road. Although I believe passionately in mass transit, there is no doubt that for many people investment in improving our roads is absolutely essential for economic progress.
The Prime Minister said that some may accuse him of hyperbole. I do not. I accuse him of getting his facts wrong. The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, was elected by the Scottish Parliament in 2014, defeating Ruth Davidson by 51 votes. Will he apologise for getting it wrong?
I was relying on the very clear advice of a very distinguished colleague of mine. I will undertake to write to the hon. Lady with further and better particulars about the dispute that seems to have arisen between us about that point of fact.
My right hon. Friend, I know to my core, is a great one nation Conservative. In that spirit, will he find time in his very busy schedule to take a close look at my six-year campaign to ban unpaid internships, which I am sure he agrees would bring great meritocracy to this country?
I absolutely endorse my hon. Friend’s campaign. We should be a meritocracy and people should be able to access jobs not according to who they know, but according to their talents. He is entirely right.
The office of Prime Minister is accountable to this House, so detail is needed. Exactly what changes to the withdrawal agreement does he believe he can achieve?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady. The answer, I think, was contained in my statement. She will have heard it, along with the House. As a first step—let me put it that way—we need to get rid of the backstop. I listened to the debate. It was opposed by people on all sides of the House. If our friends and partners will see their way around to doing that, I believe we would be well on our way to solving the problems.
Will my right hon. Friend support the establishment of a stand-alone UK investment and development bank, such as those that the Netherlands, Germany and France have even though they are also members of the European Investment Bank, which we are about to leave? Could one of the first investments be a giga battery factory in the west midlands?
Not only will I endorse that suggestion, but I invite my hon. Friend to meet my right hon. Friend the Chancellor at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss it.
What does it say to the promises of restoring sovereignty to this House that the Prime Minister made when he was leading the leave campaign that he has appointed Dominic Cummings as one of his major policy advisers? Was he right to defy a Select Committee and not attend?
The Government are appointing a fantastic team that will take this country forward. It is absolutely astonishing: the hon. Gentleman talks of the campaign to leave the European Union; Opposition Members voted to trigger article 50. It is an utter disgrace that they are now trying to reverse that result.
I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s programme for government. As he employs an additional 20,000 police officers, can he ensure that county areas such as Warwickshire get their fair share?
Not only that, we must do much more to ensure that police in rural areas get out to victims of crime in a timely and efficient way. I know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be insisting on that as well.
If the Prime Minister actually cares about it, why did he devote only one sentence out of 61 sentences in his speech last night and only two sentences out of 97 in his statement today to the climate emergency?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for parsing and counting the lines in my speech. I can tell her that, by what I have said today the House will know that we place the climate change agenda at the absolute core of what we are doing. By the way, she will also I think acknowledge that it is this party, by committing to net zero by 2050, that is not only leading the country but leading the world. This party believes in the private sector-generated technology which will make that target attainable and deliver hundreds of thousands of jobs. That is the approach we should follow.
In this new spirit of optimism on the Government Benches, will my right hon. Friend tell one of his Ministers to organise a city status competition, so at long last Southend-on-Sea can become a city?
Mr Speaker, I think I have no alternative but to answer in the affirmative to that question.
The Prime Minister has repeated that this United Kingdom will leave the European Union by 31 October with or without a deal. Will he tell the House what range of figures he is working to, as to the impact on GDP of any outcome?
That is why it is absolutely vital that we prepare for a no deal. After all, the more determined and the more capital our preparations, the less likely the risk of any disruptive or disorderly Brexit.
My right hon. Friend’s commitment to 20,000 new police officers is very welcome, as was the now Chancellor’s commitment to a new policing covenant. We have managed to get “Back Boris” over the line; when does he expect to complete the job on “Back bobbies”?
I thank my hon. Friend. The answer is as soon as possible—certainly within the next three years.
The Prime Minister surely does not agree with the Home Secretary about the return of the death penalty, does he?
I have the fullest admiration for the Home Secretary’s policies on law. I do not support the death penalty, but what the people of this country want to see is proper sentencing for serious violent and sexual offenders—[Interruption.] I am glad to see some nodding from those on the Labour Benches. There are Members opposite who know where their constituents truly are on some of these issues, and they are right, unlike the current leadership of the Labour party. That is what we will do, but of course, we will also be pursuing all the preventive measures necessary to reduce our prison population and to pursue a humane and liberal approach at the same time.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on his election. Britain is establishing itself as a world leader in the new technologies of the fourth industrial revolution. Will he support our small businesses and start-ups that create the wealth that funds our public services?
I thank my hon. Friend for all the good work that he has done to promote investment in such start-ups. I look forward to further conversations with him about ways that we may encourage that investment.
The Prime Minister says that he believes in the London living wage, yet so many cleaners in Whitehall are still not paid it. Will he commit today from the Dispatch Box that every single entry-level worker and cleaner in Whitehall will be paid the living wage, regardless of whether they work for the Ministry of Justice, the Department for International Development or any others?
I thank the hon. Lady for that important point. I have to say that—[Interruption.] The answer is yes. I was very proud when I was running London that we massively expanded the living wage. We made sure that it was paid not just by Greater London Authority bodies but by their contractors as well, and that is what we should be doing.
I remind colleagues of the one-sentence imperative.
May I welcome my right hon. Friend to his post? I also welcome the comments that were made earlier about the SNP’s policy on fishing: to take us back into the CFP. Will he also confirm that as we come out of the CFP, we become an independent coastal state, only negotiating on access to our waters on an annual basis?
My hon. Friend is completely right. I congratulate him on the vision that he has for promoting Scottish fisheries and for using the opportunity of coming out of the EU to build that extraordinary industry. He and I have discussed it and I think that we should be taking forward the plans that he suggests. It is quite dismal to listen to the SNP because, as I say, it would give back to Brussels control over our fishing. What kind of a manifesto is that? I bet the SNP U-turns on that before too long.
Why does the Prime Minister think he is so unpopular in Scotland? Just by him being Prime Minister, support for independence for Scotland rises to 53%. Is it all this Eton schoolboy bluster and buffoonery, or is it because he is prepared to take our nation out of the European Union against its will on a no-deal Brexit?
I think that possibly the reason why I seem to get a good reception in Scotland—which I did—[Interruption.] When I went to Aberdeen—I remember arriving and meeting some friends in Aberdeen airport—there was a very friendly reception throughout. It may be because the people of Scotland recognise that they have a commonsensical Conservative approach, which would not hand back control of their fisheries to Brussels just as Scotland has regained control of its fantastic fish.
I thank my right hon. Friend for bringing some sunshine into this place. I invite him to come to the sunshine coast of Clacton, if he can put up with the 1 hour and 40 minute journey that it takes to cross the 69 miles. Will his Government please focus on infrastructure to places such as ours, which are so often overlooked?
I thank my hon. Friend for the plea that he has put in. He has added the line to Clacton to the long list of infrastructure projects that I propose now to expedite. He is quite right, because our programme is to use infrastructure, education and technology to level up across the country, and that is what we are going to do.
Will the Prime Minister join me in opposing the early release of Vanessa George, the serial paedophile who abused babies and toddlers in Plymouth, especially as she still refuses to show remorse by naming which one of those babies she abused, filmed and circulated images of?
I understand why the hon. Gentleman was nodding to my answer earlier. It would be wrong of me to intervene in particular cases, but I think that he and I are at one in agreeing that people should serve appropriate sentences for serious crimes.
I know that my right hon. Friend, from his head to his toes, is a committed and passionate Unionist. Does he therefore agree that, as we leave the European Union on 31 October as one UK, and as powers come back to this country from Brussels, we can strengthen the bonds of our four nations?
My hon. Friend makes a powerful case. When we come out of the EU as a United Kingdom—whole, entire and perfect—the SNP will find that its guns are spiked and that the wind has been taken out of its sails, and that its sole manifesto commitment is a bizarre pledge to restore the control of Scotland’s fish to Brussels. That is what it stands for. That is its programme and I am waiting for the U-turn.
As London Mayor, the Prime Minister courted popularity with pledging an amnesty for illegal immigrants and his vocal opposition to Heathrow expansion. Now that he is an position to do something about those two issues, is he a man of his word?
As the hon. Lady will know very well, I have answered the question on Heathrow. I remain deeply concerned about the abilities of the promoters of the third runway to meet their obligations on air quality and noise pollution. I will follow the court cases with a lively interest.
As for the amnesty on illegal immigrants, it is absolutely true that I have raised it several times since I was in Government, and I must say, it did not receive an overwhelming endorsement from the previous Prime Minister when I raised it once in Cabinet. I think that our arrangements, in theoretically being committed to the expulsion of perhaps half a million people who do not have the correct papers, and who may have been living and working here for many, many years without being involved in any criminal activity at all—I think that legal position is anomalous. We saw the difficulties that that kind of problem occasioned in the Windrush fiasco. We know the difficulties that can be caused and I do think—I will answer the hon. Lady directly—that we need to look at our arrangements for people who have lived and worked here for a long time, unable to enter the economy and to participate properly or pay taxes, without documents. We should look at it. The truth is that the law already basically allows them an effective amnesty—that is basically where things have settled down —but we should look at the economic advantages and disadvantages of going ahead with the policy that she described, and on which I think she and I share a view.
Does the Prime Minister share Margaret Thatcher’s belief in home ownership, and will his Government do everything they can, perhaps including implementing some of the stamp duty reforms that I suggested last week, to promote the home ownership dream?
I thank my hon. Friend for everything that he has done to promote home ownership and the stamp duty reforms. I believe that in this fantastic capital city of Europe and of the world, stamp duty is choking the market at the moment. We need to think about the way it is working and to see what we can do to free it up and give more people the chance of home ownership.
In 2012, when the majority of the Members of the Scottish Parliament wanted to hold an independence referendum, the Prime Minister’s predecessor and friend, David Cameron, agreed the means to do so. Now that the same mandate exists, is he brave enough to do the same, or is he afraid that he will be the last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?
I think that distinguished former Prime Minister’s commitment was—and it was universally agreed—that the event in 2014 was a once-in-a-generation referendum, and that is the way it should be.
My right hon. Friend will know that under the Conservatives, record numbers of women are in work in this country. If we are to be successful post Brexit, we will have to make sure that we continue that. Will he join me in helping those 50,000 women a year who feel that they have no option but to leave their job because of pregnancy discrimination? Will he help me to enforce the law, so that more of those women can be productive members of society?
I thank my right hon. Friend for everything that she has done to promote working women and equalities of all kinds. I will certainly look at what we can do to alleviate the difficulties that pregnant women, in particular, face, and we will get on with that.
Crashing out with no deal would be an unacceptable outcome, damaging to our economy and undermining our future prosperity. That is the view of three Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Government. Does he accept that there is no mandate for no deal, and that if he proceeds with no deal, it will be against the will of this House and of the people, and he will be solely responsible for the chaos that will ensue?
I wonder how many referendums we would have to have before the Liberal Democrats respected the result.
I have been here quite a while now, and the Prime Minister definitely has not reached his quota of 20 hospitals for upgrade, so does he agree that the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch and the Worcestershire Royal Hospital must be Nos. 1 and 2?
I thank my hon. Friend for that very cunningly posed question. I think she may be fortunate, because I am given to understand that one of the hospitals in question serves the Chancellor’s constituency as well.
I know that those in government have to make tough investment decisions, so I want to know which is the Prime Minister’s priority: Crossrail for the north, fully electrified from Hull to Liverpool, or Crossrail 2 for London?
It is like asking a tigress to choose between her cubs. I refuse to choose.
Will the Prime Minister commit to fighting on behalf of persecuted Christians worldwide, following the release of the recent Truro report?
I certainly will. I thank my hon. Friend for his question.
The Prime Minister’s carelessness and lack of attention to detail aided and abetted the Iranian regime in locking up a British citizen. I ask the Prime Minister to put right what he did so wrong, and take personal responsibility for ensuring the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Of course, we work very hard to secure the release of Nazanin and all dual nationals who are held, in my view unfairly and illegally, by the Iranian regime. It is time that an innocent woman was released.
We in Harlow are optimistic, too—optimistic that the Prime Minister will cut the cost of living for working people and invest in skills and apprenticeships—but we are particularly optimistic because he said yesterday that there would be 20 new hospital upgrades. Can we be optimistic about getting the new hospital in Harlow that we desperately need?
I think I had better be careful here. There will be 20 new hospital upgrades, and details of the programme will be announced forthwith.
Having been incarcerated for over 600 days now, and having made accusations of torture against the Indian state, Jagtar Singh Johal has, since incarceration, seen in post two Prime Ministers, three Foreign Secretaries and four Under-Secretaries, one of whom was suspended from their position. Can the Prime Minister assure my constituent, a UK national, that his Government, in making their trade deals with the Indian state, have my constituent’s name at the top of the agenda? Will he seek a meeting with the Foreign Secretary, me and the Singh Johal family at the soonest opportunity?
I know that the Foreign Secretary will take up the case of Jagtar Singh Johal assiduously, as all previous Foreign Secretaries have done.
I very much welcome the Prime Minister to his place, and welcome his commitment to making religious freedom a key priority. That being the case, given that he supported the campaign on Asia Bibi from the Back Benches, and in the light of the report of the Bishop of Truro, will cases like that now be looked at differently by the United Kingdom?
I thank my hon. Friend for the campaign that he managed on Asia Bibi, and indeed others. It is very important that our country sends a clear signal that we will provide a beacon for people facing such distress and persecution.
Further to the Prime Minister’s answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq), will he commit his Government to lifting the ban on asylum seekers working if the state takes more than six months to resolve their case?
The Home Office is currently reviewing that matter, and we will make an announcement shortly.
I was delighted that the Prime Minister spoke at the very earliest opportunity about adult care and the changes needed to it. May I commend to him particularly the joint report of the Health and Social Care and Housing, Communities and Local Government Committees, which I took part in, and which talks about insurance-type solutions as well as hypothecated taxes?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I do not want to prejudge what we will do, but we will put forward a detailed plan for how to deal with social care, and I hope it will attract cross-party support.
Will the Prime Minister look closely at reversing UK Government plans to close East Kilbride’s Centre 1 tax office, the closure of which would cause the loss of thousands of jobs in my constituency? Will he be true to his word today that no town will ever again be left behind?
I will make sure that the Chancellor writes to the hon. Lady about that matter at the earliest opportunity.
Single mums often come to my constituency when non-resident parents do not fulfil their duties. What is the Prime Minister’s plan for tackling this problem?
We must work with our partners around the world to make sure that non-resident parents fulfil their duties. As the hon. Lady knows, there are conventions to insist on that.
I begin by thanking the new Prime Minister for all the good work he is doing to make the case for Scottish independence. How long does he honestly think he can set his face against the right of the sovereign people of Scotland to decide their own future?
As far as I can remember, in 2014 the people of Scotland had a referendum, and the hon. Lady’s side did not prevail; the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom, from which there are many benefits—economic, political and geo-strategic. That is a great future for the people of Scotland, and one that I think will prevail.
To inform the debate, could the Prime Minister tell the House what the tariffs are under World Trade Organisation rules for sheep, planes and cars—the key industries in my constituency that will be damaged by a no-deal Brexit?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows full well, our intention is to make sure that there are no tariffs imposed, and that we leave with a zero-tariff, zero-quota outcome, which I am sure that he would support.
There was no mention of defence in the Prime Minister’s statement, and still less of nuclear deterrence. Does he recognise that we are in a race against time to build the new Dreadnought class of submarines in order to maintain continuous at-sea deterrence? Will he throw the whole weight of Government behind that vital task?
I admire the hon. Gentleman’s commitment to a vital national asset that is, of course, made in his constituency. I only draw attention to the real risk that would be posed not just to the economy but to the security of our country, if it should ever be governed by the party that he has rightly left.
One sentence of fewer than 30 words. I call Jack Dromey.
Yesterday, 50 representatives of 2 million workers in manufacturing came to Parliament to detail their grave and growing concerns over the threat of a no-deal Brexit. They asked whether the Prime Minister would meet them, so that he could hear at first hand just how serious a no-deal Brexit would be for them. Will the Prime Minister agree to do that?
I am grateful, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for what he is doing to work with manufacturing industry. I give him my absolute assurance that we will do everything we can to protect just-in-time supply chains. As he may know, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is now in charge of making those preparations. I am sure that he would be only too happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and the representatives that he mentioned.
The Prime Minister famously said “F*** business” in the context of Brexit. Does he not accept that communities such as mine depend on manufacturing such as JLR? By logical extension, does he mean f*** my community?
People across this country will have heard me mention the JLR investment in Birmingham three times already today. It is a measure of this country’s success that it continues to attract such fantastic investment from JLR, and indeed from other car companies, and that is because we have cut corporation tax, whereas the Labour party would put it up to the highest level in Europe. That is the risk posed to JLR and to many other businesses around the world.
Of course, as a result of this Prime Minister’s Brexit obsession, the United Kingdom that the people of Scotland voted for in 2014 no longer exists, so can he confirm that he is both familiar with and supportive of the principles of the claim of right for Scotland?
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that I have given several times already today, which is that the people of Scotland had a vote in 2014, and they voted overwhelmingly to remain in the Union. They were absolutely right, and I see no reason to dissent from that view.
The Prime Minister mentioned aviation. Norway has an aviation emissions plan that includes making all short-haul flights electric by 2040, and it includes research and development to achieve that. Does he have that scale of ambition?
The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that in my opening statement I mentioned electric planes.
The Prime Minister will know that, in order to make the United Kingdom the home of electric vehicles, he will need to protect the intellectual property of those making the electric vehicles. Will he therefore step in and save Wrightbus—a company that he is very familiar with—which is facing significant economic hardship at present? Will he make that a priority?
It is a great pity, in my view, that the current Mayor of London—not a patch on the old guy—decided to cancel the contract with Wrightbus of Ballymena, which has been of great value to the people of this country. I give the hon. Gentleman an assurance that we will do everything we can to ensure the future of that great UK company.
Optimism is one thing, but pantomime is quite another. On what is likely to be the hottest day on record for the UK, it is astonishing that the Prime Minister is seeking to outsource tackling climate change to the private sector. Can he tell us one thing that his Government are going to do in the next month to tackle the climate emergency?
I will tell the hon. Gentleman one thing that we are doing: we have secured for this country the COP 26. We will be hosting the world climate change conference here in the UK, once again showing the world what UK technology and technological optimism can achieve.
We know that the Prime Minister is opposed to a second Scottish independence referendum. That is not my question. My question is this: if the people who actually live in Scotland elect a Parliament in Edinburgh, and if by a majority that Parliament votes to consult people on their constitutional future, will he respect that decision—yes or no?
It was common ground across all parties, including the Scottish nationalists, that the referendum was a once-in-a-generation decision. That decision was taken in 2014, and that was the right answer.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to invest in frontline healthcare. Bedford Hospital urgently needs funds in order to expand and meet the needs of our growing population. Will he give our hospital the money it needs?
We will of course make sure that the £20 billion extra that we have committed to the NHS goes to the frontline and to all hospitals in this country.
The central policy of the Government is now to deliver Brexit in October, including without a deal. As such, it is unclear whether the Prime Minister commands a majority in this House. Will he now do what the Leader of the Opposition will not do: prove his own political virility and table a motion of confidence for the House to vote on when we return?
The House of Commons has voted several times to honour the mandate of the people. It is the law of this country that we leave the European Union on 31 October. That is what democracy requires, and that is what we will do.
Despite his Unionist bluster, the Prime Minister cannot deny his anti-Scottish sentiments, which are on the record books. As a gesture going forward, will he at least find the money to repay the £160 million of EU convergence uplift funding that was stolen from Scottish farmers by Westminster?
Had the hon. Gentleman been paying the slightest attention, he would have heard that I have pledged to restore the money to Scottish farming, and it is thanks to the Scottish Conservatives that we have done so.
In his statement the Prime Minister said that he wanted to close the opportunity gap, but two thirds of his Cabinet were privately educated, which is more than double the composition in his predecessor’s first Cabinet. He is not leading by example, is he?
I think that what the people of this country want to know is what is the Government’s programme for taking this country forward. I think that the contrast is between a Conservative party, which is the party of the people, and which wants to improve healthcare and invest in public services, and the Labour party, which would destroy the UK economy and ruin the livelihoods of everybody.
The Prime Minister says that he wants to leave no town behind and to unleash this nation’s productive potential. If that is not just empty rhetoric, will he commit to saving the Caley railway works in Springburn in my constituency, which are due to close tomorrow? I want to see the railway works reopened as quickly as possible, so will he form a cross-Government taskforce to save them as quickly as possible?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, business support is a devolved matter, so he should look to the Government of Scotland—the incompetent Government of Scotland—as his first port of call.
What an invidious choice. I call Mr Peter Grant.
The very limited guarantees contained in the EU citizens settled status scheme come nowhere near the promise the Prime Minister has previously made that no EU national will be any less favourably treated after we leave the EU. Therefore, as well as the settled status scheme, will he now guarantee the right to healthcare, pension rights, the right to leave and return, the right to bring over family, the right to vote and all the other rights currently enjoyed by EU citizens? And does he need to get permission from his Chancellor of the Exchequer before answering that question?
Those guarantees, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we are giving unilaterally, in a supererogatory way. Of course, I want to see a symmetrical response from the other side of the channel, but I think that we should be very proud of the steps that we are taking.
This session has underlined what my constituents believe: that the Prime Minister does not have a clue what is he doing. Will he tell us how he responded to the Fife packaging company that had to write to him to explain that the kipper packaging rules are made in Westminster and have nothing to do with the EU?
It really is extraordinary that the Scottish nationalist party is returning to the issue of fish. It is now clear that its whole policy is not just to join the euro and submit to the whole panoply of EU regulations, but to hand over control of Scottish fisheries—Arbroath smokies, kippers and all—to the EU. That is its policy, and I would like to see it try to get elected on that.
Order. I thank the Prime Minister most warmly on this his debut outing at the Dispatch Box for his answers and his patience and courtesy, and for responding to 129 inquisitors.