The Secretary of State was asked—
Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act
While the UK Government have not made a formal assessment of this legislation from the National Assembly for Wales, the wellbeing of future generations is already at the heart of UK Government policy.
The aim of this Act is to focus minds on the long term so that we leave things better off for the next generation than they are for us. Given the decade of austerity, the risk of a no-deal Brexit and the climate emergency we are currently in, how does the Minister think this legislation would fare in UK law judging by what we are doing to the future generations now?
If we were looking well to the future, we would say that this was the first Government of one the major industrialised countries to set a legal target for zero carbon emissions. We can look at the work being done in the north Wales growth deal to drive forward sustainable growth. Given that one of the tests for future generations is not handing them unsustainable debt, we can look at how we got on and tackled the deficit that was completely unsustainable when we inherited it in 2010.
As someone who helped to develop this law from its beginning to its end in Welsh government, I have seen what a difference it has made to our public bodies, to Welsh government, and to people’s lives in Wales in terms of long-term decision making. Will the Minister commit his Government to bringing in this future generations law for the whole of the UK?
As I said, the UK Government already have the wellbeing of our future generations at the heart of our policy. Looking at Labour Members, it would be interesting to know exactly how the provisions around handing on unsustainable debt would apply to the shadow Chancellor’s economic policy.
The best outcome for Wales and the Welsh economy is that the UK leaves the European Union in an orderly manner with a deal. We will continue to work with energy and determination to make sure that that happens. However, the UK will be leaving the European Union on 31 October.
Given that 90% of Welsh lamb is exported to other countries in the European Union, does the Secretary of State still believe that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, a viable alternative market will be Japan?
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. I met the Farmers Union of Wales yesterday, and I will be meeting NFU Cymru quite soon. The Japanese market is a new market that opened in January. It is wholly separate from the free trade agreement that the European Union has with Japan, so there has been lots of misreporting that the hon. Gentleman fails to recognise and understand. However, his constituency voted to leave the European Union—why is he trying to stop the process?
Will the Secretary of State confirm what conversations his Government colleagues have had with the manufacturing industry concerning a hard Brexit?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because manufacturing is an extremely important part of the Welsh economy. Wales has the fastest growth in the manufacturing sector across the whole of the UK economy. The Welsh manufacturing sector is in good strength, and I look forward to the new opportunities after we have left the European Union.
This House has rejected the withdrawal agreement on three occasions, and it is therefore a dead letter. Given that the people of Wales voted to leave the European Union, does my right hon. Friend agree that we have a positive obligation to deliver Brexit and that that is less likely to be achieved if this House decides to pass the Bill that it will be considering later today?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I pay tribute to him for his work in this area. The Welsh and the British public want Members in this place to act on the result of the referendum, to draw a line and move on, and to focus on growing and supporting the Welsh and the UK economies for the opportunities after we have left the European Union.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the 594 pieces of legislation that this Parliament has passed in the event of a no-deal Brexit and the corresponding pieces of legislation passed in Brussels mean that the future for Wales, whether it be deal or no deal, is bright?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The UK Government are making comprehensive preparations, in the event of a deal or in the event of no deal, to best position the UK and the Welsh economy to take the new opportunities as we leave the European Union. I am determined to work with colleagues right across Whitehall to ensure that Wales is at the forefront of their thinking.
Last night, 85% of Welsh MPs voted against no deal, including some very honourable Members who braved their own Whip. No deal has no mandate from the people and no mandate from Parliament. Is the Secretary of State proud of being complicit in his Administration’s attempt at pushing through an anti-democratic, damaging version of Brexit by silencing Welsh MPs who are representing our nation’s best interests?
The right hon. Lady’s party jointly published a document, “Securing Wales’ Future”, with the Welsh Government, which said that they would honour the outcome of the referendum. The reality is that the right hon. Lady and her party are frustrating the process. People in Wales want to draw a line and move on.
Evidently the Prime Minister has a kennel of little pet dogs. As this place descends into further chaos, when the Senedd is recalled early tomorrow, Plaid Cymru will be calling for a Welsh national constitutional convention, to look at the options for Wales’s constitutional future. Can the Secretary of State confirm whether his party will get behind this national conversation, or will his seniors—the Minister for the Union and his advisers—stifle every attempt at our nation’s democracy?
The right hon. Lady claims to be the leader in Westminster of the party of Wales, but she fails to remember and to act on the instruction that came from the people of Wales to leave the European Union. She is seeking to frustrate the process. She is causing uncertainty to the Welsh economy, which is undermining business confidence.
I have listened intently to the Secretary of State’s answers, and I am struggling, because he appears to be totally out of touch with what is going on in this place and in Wales. Does he now believe that the backstop is anti-democratic and risks undermining the Good Friday agreement, as his current boss claims?
The hon. Lady did not support the withdrawal agreement—she voted against it—which has contributed to the current circumstances. Does she genuinely recognise and want to act on the instruction that came from the Welsh people, which is to leave the European Union? We need to draw a line.
That is another non-answer from the Secretary of State, among many. I thought the system here was that I ask the questions and he answers them, unless I have got it wrong or he wants to swap positions. I will ask him again: why did he vote for the backstop three times under his previous boss? Was that to curry favour and keep his job then, or is he trying to keep his job now, or both?
I am seeking to act on the democratic will of the Welsh and British people, and I am also seeking to respond to the demands that have been made in Parliament. The withdrawal agreement has been killed three times. We are working energetically and enthusiastically with our European allies in order to come back to this House with a deal, so that we can move on and focus on growing the economy and delivering on public services.
People claiming universal credit move into work faster, stay in work longer and spend more time looking to increase their earnings. The latest labour market statistics show the positive impact of universal credit, with unemployment in Wales down 10,000 on the previous quarter.
What discussions has the Minister had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about making it easier for private sector tenants in Wales to have their housing element of universal credit paid directly to their landlord?
We are always having discussions across Government about how we can improve the experience for universal credit claimants. It is possible already in certain circumstances for rent to be paid directly, but part of universal credit is ensuring that benefits mimic more the experience of being in a job and encouraging people to find one.
Does the Minister agree that, thanks to the changes that his Government have introduced this year, couples forced to transfer from pension credit to universal credit will lose up to £7,000 each and every year? What is he doing to mitigate that personal economic disaster for those couples all across Wales?
I must say that I do not recognise the figures the hon. Lady has just given, but I would say that the introduction of universal credit has ended the 16-hour cliff edge that many families faced and the introduction of the national living wage has helped boost the incomes of many across Wales.
I can say that the Department for Work and Pensions has been working with Welsh Women’s Aid to deliver training for domestic abuse specialists in jobcentres. By the end of September, every jobcentre in Wales will be covered by a specialist who will further raise awareness of domestic abuse and be able to provide additional support.
Shared Prosperity Fund
I have regular discussions with my Cabinet colleagues on a range of issues, including the UK shared prosperity fund. The Government are committed to consulting widely on the design of the fund, which will provide a real opportunity to strengthen the bonds of the Union through a programme of investment to tackle inequalities between communities.
That does not really tell us very much. The Government snuck out a statement pre-recess, with no guarantees and a very vague promise of consultation. Can the Secretary of State tell me today whether Wales and Scotland will be able to set their own priorities under the shared prosperity fund, or is this just another blatant Westminster power grab?
Wales has received more than £4 billion—or almost £5 billion—over the last 17 years or more, but remains the poorest part of the UK. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change that funding, so it can be more responsive to the needs of communities, rather than perhaps centralised bureaucrats.
Like Wales, Cornwall has benefited from the European regional development fund and objective 1 funding. Can I ask what representations the Welsh Secretary is making to the Treasury to ensure that small businesses are able to bid in, because that was the big problem with the funding in the previous round?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. He talks about the engagement of the private sector and small businesses, particularly with what are currently European programmes, and the difficulty they have had. The UK shared prosperity fund will allow us to respond to the demands of businesses in my hon. Friend’s constituency and right across Wales.
I will happily work constructively with the hon. Gentleman, as I regularly do—I pay tribute to the work he has been doing to highlight the challenges and opportunities that the Ebbw Vale railway line brings—and I will meet him and our colleagues. I would highlight, however, that Cardiff Central is also important to the network in and around south Wales. The renewal of the station, which we have announced, has been well received within the region, as has the new West Wales Parkway, which will take tens of minutes off journey times between Cardiff and west Wales.
Can the Secretary of State give this House an assurance that every part of Wales—not just west Wales and the valleys, but every part of Wales, including mid-Wales—will be in a position to benefit from the funding opportunities that will arise from the UK shared prosperity fund?
May I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for highlighting and championing this cause for some time? He recognises that some of the poorest wards in Wales are outside the current European rules about where money can be spent. His constituency is one and my constituency is another, so reshaping the UK shared prosperity fund will give us an opportunity to support his most vulnerable constituents and others, wherever else they are in Wales.
Agencies, small businesses and local authorities are making post-2020 plans now. What assurances can the Secretary of State give those businesses and agencies that the money will become available, and how will they manage to access this money?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Even if we were remaining in the European Union and we had not had the referendum, there would be no clarity on his question from a European perspective. The way in which the Labour party is prolonging the Brexit debate means more uncertainty for community groups that want to benefit from the post-Brexit policies, such as the UK shared prosperity fund.
Leaving the EU: No Deal
I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues. We would prefer to leave the European Union with a deal, but if it is not possible, we will leave without a deal, and the Government are committed to preparing for this outcome.
Wales will benefit from Brexit with or without a deal. Does the Secretary of State agree that we could deliver an extra boost to the economy of south Wales by devolving air passenger duty to the Welsh Government, allowing them to cut that tax in Wales, which would put Wales on an equal footing with Scotland and Northern Ireland?
My hon. Friend has made many points. I pay tribute to the research and report that the Welsh Affairs Committee, which he chairs, has published. It has recently received a response from the Government. It highlighted that this is one aviation market. Therefore, we cannot act in a way that would benefit one part and destroy another. I fear that the Welsh Government would increase air passenger duty in Cardiff and make the airport even more uncompetitive.
What provision have the Government made to support Welsh farmers in the event of a 40% tariff on 1 November?
I met the Farmers Union of Wales yesterday to discuss the challenges and opportunities that Brexit will bring. I plan to meet NFU Cymru shortly. We recognise that there are new markets that we need to be exploring. I have already highlighted Japan as one of those markets, but there are many more.
To continue that point, 40% of the UK’s sheepmeat is exported tariff-free to the EU. Yesterday, our shadow team met the FUW, which said that on 1 November there will be a huge lamb market in Dolgellau. If we crash out of the EU without a deal on Halloween, the lamb export market will disappear overnight. The lambs in Dolgellau will have no market value and will be culled, buried or sold off as pet food. Which of those options does the Secretary of State think is the best?
Our record supporting rural Wales and the rural economy across the whole of the UK is strong. It compares favourably with the hon. Gentleman’s performance. I hardly saw him as the champion of Welsh agriculture in the past.
Leaving the EU: No Deal
I have regular discussions with Welsh Government Ministers on a range of issues, including preparations for leaving the EU. Within days of the Prime Minister’s appointment at the end of July, the Prime Minister and I met the First Minister in Cardiff. Naturally our departure from the EU was central to these discussions.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. There are some concerns that the devolved Administrations might not be as ready as this Government for a no-deal exit. Can he confirm that this Government are doing all they can to ensure that the entire UK is ready to leave, come what may, on 31 October?
My hon. Friend has hit the nail on the head. The devolved Administrations are invited to the exit planning committees that the UK Government hold. They are fully aware of the proactive, positive steps and measures that we have introduced in preparation for leaving the European Union. I am only disappointed that the same courtesy and invitation have not been extended by the Scottish and Welsh Governments, which would allow and give us the same confidence.
The Secretary of State talked about manufacturing and the economy. The impact of Tata’s announcement on Monday that it will close Cogent’s Orb steelworks will be keenly felt in Newport. It is devastating news for workers and their families. Will he meet me urgently to discuss what the Government will do?
Absolutely. I will meet the hon. Lady and work with her to co-ordinate our response. I recognise the priority she has placed on this operation for some time and she highlighted some of the risks and concerns she had some time ago. Yesterday, I spoke to Roy Rickhuss from Community union. I have, naturally, also spoken to Tata. We are working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in terms of challenging the issues that Tata is raising to seek to bring it to the most competitive position possible.
With reports that the British Government are stockpiling body bags as part of their no-deal Brexit preparations, what assessment has the Secretary of State undertaken of the amount of Welsh people who may die as a result of medical shortages for a no-deal Brexit?
The hon. Gentleman, by supporting the motion last night and the Bill this evening, is simply prolonging the uncertainty. The Welsh people and the British people want certainty about our exit from the European Union. We are determined to leave at the end of October. We would like to leave with a deal—that will give us the smoothest possible exit—but at least we can plan for the opportunities the future brings. [Interruption.]
Order. I appeal to the House to calm down. There are a very large number of noisy private conversations taking place, which, at the very least, is rather discourteous to and disrespectful of the people of Wales.
Strength of the Union
This Government are a Unionist Government firmly committed to strengthening our United Kingdom. My noble Friend Lord Dunlop is conducting an independent inquiry to ensure UK Government structures are configured to strengthen the working of the Union, while respecting and supporting the current devolution settlements.
Does my hon. Friend agree that all four nations of our United Kingdom benefit from the close bonds of our Union and that, as we leave the EU with powers returning from Brussels, we can strengthen those bonds even further?
I totally agree with my hon. Friend. Seeing powers coming back to this United Kingdom and going to the devolved tier of government will help to bring our four nations closer together. That is why it is so strange that those people who call themselves nationalists actually want to take powers back so they can give them away again to Brussels.
Is it not the case that the real nationalist party in this Chamber now, after last night’s events, is the Tory party, which is rapidly turning into the right-wing English nationalist party?
Well, what a load of rubbish. This party is absolutely firmly committed to being a Unionist party, and we will not be fanning the flames of division by raising the prospects of second referendums, including second referendums on separation.
Leaving the EU: Potential Benefits
The Welsh economy approaches EU exit from a strong position. Leaving the EU will allow us to shape our own ambitious trade and investment opportunities, putting Wales and the wider UK at the forefront of global trade and investment.
My gosh, Mr Speaker, the Minister has answered the question for me. I cannot ask a supplementary.
We can take great pride in how the economy has performed since the referendum took place: record levels of employment; low levels of unemployment; and inactivity levels in Wales now that are better than the rest of the UK for the first time in decades. I look forward to the opportunities being a participant in new free trade agreements right around the world will give to the Welsh economy.
Now the hon. Gentleman knows how popular he is, he has a right to have his question heard with courtesy. We will keep going for as long as necessary to ensure that that happens in every case.
I’m not sure it’s worth it, to be honest. [Laughter.] If the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, how will Welsh farmers be able to sell their lamb in the European Union?
I have already mentioned the positive engagement that we have with the farming and rural affairs community, and the new markets that are open to us. The hon. Gentleman, by voting last night in favour of a motion and by supporting the Bill tonight, will just prolong the uncertainty and will not allow farmers to prepare. We are determined to leave the European Union. We want to leave the European Union with a deal, but we must draw a line and move on to exciting economic opportunities thereafter.
Severn Bridge Tolls
I am delighted to say that July 2019 saw a 20% increase in traffic westbound and an 8% increase eastbound compared with July 2018. It is too early to make a detailed economic assessment, but our initial estimates were that it would boost the Welsh economy by around £100 million a year.
I am really pleased to hear of those benefits. Will the Minister have a word with the Transport Secretary—just along from him on the Government Front Bench—and get him to take notice of them and have him remove the tolls on the Mersey crossing, which the Conservative Government said that they would never levy in the first place?
Each crossing is based on an individual case, and the Mersey Gateway, which, as the hon. Gentleman will know, was built in 2017, was based on a 30-year concession to fund its construction.
RAF St Athan: School of Technical Training
The Secretary of State has regular discussions with Ministers at the Ministry of Defence on No. 4 School of Technical Training. I will be meeting Ministers at the MOD shortly to explore options not only on maintaining St Athan’s role as an important military and civilian site, but on how to enhance the wider military presence in Wales.
The commandant has said that the school will close before April 2024. What steps is the Secretary of State taking, given that it is in his constituency, to ensure that the people there will have a chance either to move to Cosford or Lyneham, or, even better, to remain in Wales with this viable school remaining where it should be?
Thankfully, those who are based in St Athan have a very strong champion in the local MP and the Secretary of State for Wales in ensuring that the military presence is maintained. We just wish that the Welsh Government were slightly more co-operative.
The Prime Minister was asked—
I know that the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to PC Andrew Harper, who was killed while on duty. His death and the serious injuries sustained by PC Stuart Outten in London and PC Gareth Phillips in Birmingham are a powerful reminder of the dangers that police officers face every day to keep us safe.
This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
May I associate myself with the comments about the brave acts of the police officers?
On Brexit, the former Prime Minister’s deal was unacceptable to this House, but to leave without a deal is unthinkable, yet the Prime Minister pursues a game of brinksmanship built on the livelihoods, health and future of my constituents and our country. There is still an option to resolve this once and for all: if the Prime Minister really believes in no deal, let him put it to the people and ask our people if that is the price they want to pay.
As the hon. Lady knows very well, this Government will take this country out of the European Union on 31 October. There is only one thing that stands in our way: the surrender Bill currently being proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. I invite the Leader of the Opposition to confirm, when he stands up shortly, that if that surrender Bill is passed, he will allow the people of this country to have their view on what he is proposing to hand over in their name with an election on 15 October.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his excellent suggestion. As he knows, we currently apply the reduced 5% rate on domestic fuel and power, which is the lowest allowed under EU law, but of course when we leave the EU on 31 October, it will be open to us to change this to the benefit of the people of Harlow.
I start by paying my deepest respects to PC Andrew Harper, who died in the line of duty. It is a reminder of the risks that he faced and that police officers face all the time trying to protect communities. We send our sympathies to his family, colleagues and friends.
I also send our condolences to those affected by Hurricane Dorian, which hit the Bahamas at the weekend. I hope and am sure that the Government and the Department for International Development will do all they can to send all the help that is necessary.
Yesterday, it was revealed that the Prime Minister’s negotiating strategy was to run down the clock and that the Attorney General told him that his belief that the EU would drop the backstop was a complete fantasy. Are these reports accurate, or can the Prime Minister provide the detail of the proposals he has put forward to the EU?
Our negotiating strategy is to get a deal by the summit on 17 October, to take this country out of the EU on 31 October and to get Brexit done. The right hon. Gentleman’s surrender Bill would wreck any chances of the talks. We do not know what his strategy would be if he took over. He is asking for mobs of Momentum activists to paralyse the traffic. What are they supposed to chant? What is the slogan? “What do we want? Dither and delay. When do we want it? We don’t know.” That is his policy. Can he confirm now that he will allow the people of this country to decide on what he is giving up in their name with a general election on 15 October? Or is he frit?
My first question to the Prime Minister, and no answer given! I asked what proposals had been put to the EU. We asked yesterday—many colleagues asked—and he seems utterly incapable of answering. Any rational human being would assume therefore that none have been put and there is no answer. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues have said he is making progress. The EU’s chief negotiator, the Chancellor of Germany and the Taoiseach of Ireland say that no proposals have yet been made by the UK. If the Prime Minister thinks he has made progress, will he publish the proposals he has put forward to replace the backstop?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, you do not negotiate in public. We are making substantial progress and we will get that backstop out. [Interruption.]
Order. Forgive me for interrupting, Prime Minister, but there is a long way to go and a lot of questions to be reached. The questions must be heard, and the Prime Minister’s responses must and will be heard.
Let us be absolutely clear. This Government will get a deal from our friends in Brussels and we will get the backstop out. We will get an agreement that I think the House can agree with. The only thing standing in our way is the undermining of our negotiations by this surrender Bill, which would lead to more dither and delay. We delayed in March; we delayed in April; and now the right hon. Gentleman wants to delay again for absolutely no purpose whatever. What does he intend by this? The Government are spending £1 billion to put 20,000 more police officers on the streets. He wants to spend £1 billion a month—net—to keep us in the EU beyond 31 October. I will never allow that.
I really fail to see how I can be accused of undermining negotiations, because no negotiations are taking place. The right hon. Gentleman has been Prime Minister for six weeks, and he promised to get Brexit sorted. In six weeks, he has presented nothing to change the previous Prime Minister’s deal, which he twice voted against. The negotiations that he talks about are a sham. All that he is doing is running down the clock.
At the weekend, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that food prices would go up under no deal. Will the Prime Minister publish the Yellowhammer documents so that people can see which food prices will go up and by how much?
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said absolutely no such thing, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that, thanks to my right hon. Friend’s good offices and thanks to his efforts, preparations for no deal are very far advanced. I can also tell him that the surest way of getting no deal is to undermine this country’s ability to negotiate, which is what he is doing.
If this Bill is passed this afternoon—I do not want an election, and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman wants an election, but there is a petition on his own Labour website in which 57,000 people, including Carol, Nigel, Graham and Phoebe, have called for an election. I do not know whether there is a Jeremy on the list. I do know that the right hon. Gentleman is worried about free trade deals with America, but I can see only one chlorinated chicken in the House, and he is sitting on the Opposition Front Bench. Will he confirm that he will let the people decide on what he is doing to this country’s negotiating position by having a general election on 15 October?
Perhaps the Prime Minister will tell us what the negotiating position actually is.
The Prime Minister may have forgotten the question that I asked, given his rather lengthy peroration. When the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster denied that there would be shortages of fresh food, the British Retail Consortium said that that was “categorically untrue”.
I hope that no more young female staff are going to be frogmarched out of Downing Street, because there was another Government leak at the weekend, concerning disruption of our ports. The leaked documents, written by the Government in the last fortnight, show that no deal would lead to shortages on the shelves and shortages of medical supplies in hospitals. People need to prepare. So I ask the Prime Minister again: will he publish the Yellowhammer documents in full, so that people can see which foodstuffs are not going to be available, which medicines are not going to be supplied and what will happen given the shortages of vital supplies in every one of our hospitals all over the country?
I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman is guilty of the most shameless scaremongering. We have made ample preparations for coming out of the EU. What his party is recommending is yet—[Interruption.]
Order. It is very difficult to hear the responses from the Prime Minister. Members must calm themselves. There is a long way to go.
What the right hon. Gentleman is recommending is yet more dither, yet more delay and yet more uncertainty for business. What we in the Government want to do is deliver on the mandate of the people. The right hon. Gentleman used to be a democrat. He used to believe in upholding the referendum result. Can he say now whether he would vote in favour of leave or remain, and can he say now whether is in favour of a second referendum or not?
The Prime Minister failed to answer my questions about food supplies, about medicine supplies and about the problems in hospitals. He refuses to publish the Yellowhammer documents. He talks about scaremongering. Where does the information come from, other than his office in his Government? He is obviously so confident of the position that he has adopted that he is now prepared to spend £100 million of our money on an advertising campaign to try to persuade people that everything is fine. He knows it is not, and they know it is not. He is hiding the facts.
The Government have refused to publish their impact assessments on how a no-deal Brexit would affect poverty in this country. They received a request under the Freedom of Information Act from the Glasgow-based Poverty Alliance; the DWP replied that the public interest would not be served by that disclosure. Will the Prime Minister publish that analysis? If he won’t, what has he got to hide?
Unlike the right hon. Member, who would squander £1 billion a month of taxpayers’ money on staying pointlessly in the EU, this Government are getting on with running a sound economy so that the poorest people in our country are seeing increases in their wages for the first time in more than a decade. I am proud to say that those on the living wage are now taking home £4,500 more every year than they were in 2010, thanks to this Conservative Government.
Mr Speaker, you don’t have to go very far from the portals of this House to see real destitution: people begging and sleeping on the streets; child poverty is up compared with 2010; pensioner poverty is up; and in-work poverty is up. The Prime Minister will not give us any of the information of the assessments of increased poverty that could come from his Government’s proposals.
We are less than 60 days away from leaving the EU with no deal. The Prime Minister had two days in office before the summer recess and then planned to prorogue Parliament. Yesterday, he lost one vote—his first vote in Parliament—and he now wants to dissolve Parliament. He is desperate—absolutely desperate—to avoid scrutiny. [Interruption.] In his third day in office, after five questions from me, we have not had an answer to any of them. I can see why he is desperate to avoid scrutiny: he has no plan to get a new deal—no plan, no authority and no majority. If he—[Interruption.]
Order. If we have to go on longer because people sitting on the Treasury Bench are yelling to try to disrupt, so be it, we will go on longer. Some people used to believe in good behaviour; I believe in good behaviour on both sides of the House. It had better happen or it will take a whole lot longer—very simple, very clear.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
If the Prime Minister does to the country what he has done to his party in the past 24 hours, a lot of people have a great deal to fear from his incompetence, his vacillation and his refusal to publish known facts—that are known to him—about the effects of a no-deal Brexit.
I really do not see how with a straight face the right hon. Gentleman can accuse anybody of being unwilling to stand up to scrutiny when he will not agree to submit his surrender Bill to the verdict of the people in an election. He is frit; he is frightened.
He makes a contrast between this Government and his own proposals. The contrast could not be clearer: we think that the friends of this country are to be found in Paris, in Berlin and in the White House, and he thinks that they are in the Kremlin, in Tehran and—[Interruption.] He does. And in Caracas—and I think he is “caracas”!
We are putting 20,000 police on the street, we have 20 new hospital upgrades, we are growing the economy. The right hon. Gentleman, by contrast, would put a £300 billion tax on every company in the country, he wants a tax on homes, and he is calling incessantly for a general strike. The shadow Education Secretary says that Labour’s economic policy is—and I quote, by your leave, Mr Speaker,—“shit-or-bust”; I say it is both.
What this country needs is sensible, moderate, progressive Conservative government and to take this country out of the EU on 31 October, and that is what we are going to deliver.
There will indeed be more, starting with the closed question from Dr Julian Lewis.
National Security Adviser
As my right hon. Friend is aware, the decision to put the two roles together was taken by my predecessor, although I have a high admiration for the gentleman in question.
I hope that my right hon. Friend is not going to follow every policy adopted by his predecessor. This is one that he should not follow. The Defence Committee needs to take evidence from the National Security Adviser on the failure to anticipate the Iranians’ reaction to the British seizure of a tanker. It is hardly likely, however, that the Cabinet Secretary will come before the Defence Committee, so would it not make sense to have a full-time occupant of the post of National Security Adviser as soon as possible so that Select Committees and the National Security Committee can do our jobs properly?
I think that the role has been very well performed in recent times, but I take my right hon. Friend’s point very humbly and sincerely, and I will ensure that invitations to appear before his Committee are considered in the usual way and that he gets all the satisfaction he desires.
Last night, Parliament once again defeated this shambolic Tory Government. Today, we have seized back control from a Prime Minister who is behaving more like a dictator than a democrat. The Prime Minister must be stopped, and MPs must tonight unite across this House to take no deal off the table. We will defeat the Government again, so, when we succeed, will the Prime Minister respect the democratic vote of this House and the democratic will of the people we represent and finally act to remove the threat of a catastrophic no-deal Brexit?
I might ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will respect the democratic will of the people of the United Kingdom, which this House voted to do time and again, to implement the result of the referendum.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman is a new boy, but may I suggest to him that we ask the questions and he is supposed to answer them? Quite simply, my colleagues and I are sent here by the people of Scotland, where we have a majority. The people of Scotland voted to remain in the European Union and we are not going to be dragged out against our will by the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister must also not be paying attention to the polls this morning. They show that the Scottish National party is polling to win a majority in Scotland once again, with the Tories in retreat, so if he wants an election, he should enable the Bill and bring it on.
It is clear for all to see that the Prime Minister is playing a game of bluff and bluster. He does not care about stopping a no-deal Brexit. His strategy, as his lead adviser put it, is a sham. This is not a Parliament versus the people; it is a Parliament standing up for the people. The people did not vote for a no-deal Brexit. This Prime Minister is robbing the people of power and handing control to the Leave campaign, the cult now running No. 10. Once again, I ask the Prime Minister: are you a dictator or a Democrat? Will he accept the legislation today so that no deal can be avoided, and will he let us vote for an election so that the people can truly decide the next steps?
I am a democrat, because I not only want to respect the will of the people in the referendum but want to have an election—or I am willing to have an election—if the terrible Bill goes through.
There is a reason why the separatists in Scotland drone on and on about breaking up and smashing the oldest and most successful political union, and that is to detract from their appalling domestic record. They are a total shambles. They have the highest taxes anywhere in Europe. Their educational standards are falling, for which they are responsible. Their signature policy—[Interruption.] This is a useful point. Their signature policy is to return Scotland to the European Union after Brexit, complete with the euro, the full panoply of EU laws and, as I never tire of saying, the surrendering of Scottish fish just when they have been taken back by this country.
I thank my hon. Friend very much. We love Telford, of course, and it is going to see even more when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announces his spending review shortly. There will be investment in the NHS, more police officers to keep our streets and the hon. Lady’s streets safe, and more money for every school in this country. Conservatives are delivering on the priorities of the British people.
Of course we are preparing for a no-deal Brexit if we absolutely must have one. I do not think that the consequences will be anything like as bad as the merchants of Project Fear have said, but the way to avoid a no-deal Brexit is to allow this Government to get on and do a deal at the summit on 17 October. The choice for this country is who they want doing that deal: this Government or that Labour party, led by Jeremy Corbyn.
Order. We do not name people in the Chamber. People must observe the rules—[Interruption.] Order. I am simply and politely informing the Prime Minister of the very long-established procedure with which everybody, including the Prime Minister, must comply. That is the position—no doubt, no argument, no contradiction—and that is the end of the matter.
I welcome the new Prime Minister to the Dispatch Box and tell him that this year we celebrate 10 years since this House passed the Autism Act, which is still the only disability-specific piece of legislation in the UK. The all-party parliamentary group on autism, made up of Members from all parts of the House, will publish next week the 10th annual review, with recommendations for the Government right across the board. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to look at the recommendations carefully and instruct his Chancellor to put more resources and more money into helping people with autism and their families receive the help and services they need?
I thank my right hon. Friend very much for everything she has done for that cause over many years, and I reassure her that, very shortly, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will outline not just more money for primary schools and secondary schools, but also a big investment in schools for special educational needs and disabilities. That is, again, delivering on the priorities of the British people.
If the hon. Gentleman wants to put that matter to the people, the best thing he can do is persuade his right hon. Friend to summon up his courage and to stop being so frit. If he is going to pass this wretched surrender Bill, at least he should submit it to the judgment of the people in the form of a general election.
If the hon. Gentleman wants to implement the will of the people of Swansea, what he should do is vote with this Government and not for the surrender Bill tonight.
The Prime Minister has said that the Prorogation of Parliament is nothing to do with Brexit. Is that still his position?
As my right hon. Friend knows full well, there have been demands for the Prorogation of Parliament ahead of a Queen’s Speech from the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) and from across the House. This Session has lasted longer than any in the last 400 years, and there will be ample opportunity to debate the Brexit deal in this House after 17 October if this Government are allowed to get on and deliver a deal.
There is a great deal of preparatory work going on—particularly in the west midlands, which the hon. Gentleman represents—to make sure that automotive supply chains are indeed ready for a no-deal scenario, but we do not want a no-deal scenario. And the way to avoid it is not to vote for the absurd surrender Bill that is before the House today and to let the Government get on and negotiate a deal, because that is what we want to do.
The Scotch whisky industry is hugely important in Moray. The potential tariffs applied by the US as part of its trade war with the EU could cost hundreds or thousands of jobs across Scotland and the United Kingdom, so what representations has the Prime Minister made to President Trump? Will his Government do everything possible to avoid these tariffs being applied to the Scotch whisky industry?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on everything he does to represent that vital industry, which earns billions of pounds in revenue for this country. Tariffs on Scotch whisky would be absolutely absurd—a point we have made repeatedly to our friends in the United States—but, again, when we do free trade deals around the world, Scotch whisky is one of those many products that will have its chances boosted in growing export markets.
If the hon. Lady wants to speak for the people of Lincoln, who, after all, voted to leave —yes, they did—the best thing she can do is make sure we come out of the EU on 31 October with a deal. If she is genuinely prepared to frustrate that ambition, through the surrender deal being proposed today, will she at least have a word with her friend on the Front Bench and urge him, as she speaks of democracy, to submit his Bill to the will of the people, in the form of a general election on 15 October? Will she at least say that to him?
Many of us in this House will know the value of community hospitals in our constituencies, with none more valued than Leek Moorlands Hospital in my constituency. A consultation has recently been undertaken on the provision of healthcare in north Staffordshire, and there is understandable concern about the future of Leek Moorlands. So will the Prime Minister join my campaign to keep the hospital open in Leek, with enhanced services, for the benefit of all the people of Leek and Staffordshire Moorlands?
First, let me thank my right hon. Friend for everything she has done for the people of Northern Ireland and for rightly raising this issue in her constituency with me. Of course she will understand that decisions affecting Leek Moorlands must be led by clinicians, but I hope a solution can be found that benefits everyone in her constituency.
May I tell the hon. Gentleman that what the people of this country want to see is us come together to come out of the EU on 31 October with a deal? We are making great progress with our friends and partners in Brussels and Dublin, and even in Paris, but I am afraid those talks are currently being undermined by the absurd Bill before the House today. I urge him to reject it. If he must pass it, will he have a word with his right hon. Friend and ensure that that Bill is put to the people, in the form of a general election?
In the light of the Prime Minister’s answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Hertfordshire (Mr Gauke), could the Prime Minister please explain why it has proved impossible to find any official or Minister prepared to state that the reasons for Prorogation were to pave the way for a Queen’s Speech, in the course of the current legal proceedings in which the Government are involved? Would the Prime Minister like to reconsider the answer he has just given to the House?
I hesitate to advise my right hon. and learned Friend about legal proceedings but, if he looks at what happened in Scotland this morning, he will discover that that case was thrown out.
I think it absolutely bizarre that a London Labour Member of Parliament should ignore the role of the present Mayor of London, who is, frankly, not a patch on the old guy. I left him £600 million and he has squandered it on press officers. Sadiq Khan has squandered it on press officers, and the faster we get rid of him and get more police officers out on the street, the better. That is the best possible argument for Shaun Bailey as Mayor of London.
Order. In the remaining minutes of this session, I appeal to colleagues to take account of the fact that we are visited by a distinguished group of Lebanese parliamentarians, at the invitation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the all-party group on Lebanon, which is chaired by the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes). We would like to set them a good example; I am not sure at the moment how impressed they will be.
I think I can comply with that advice, Mr Speaker.
I welcome the extra £14 billion that was recently announced for schools, especially in respect of South West Devon, where I understand we will have the largest increase in the country to correct historical underspending. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this cash boost will help our hard-working teachers to prepare the next generation to reach their full potential? Will it not be wonderful, when we get through Brexit, to start to talk about education, health and social care—the things our constituents are really bothered about?
My hon. Friend is exactly right. That is exactly why we need that three-year investment in education, and to get Brexit done on 31 October and not be attracted to any more dither, delay and confusion under the Labour party.
Order. Leave me to control the proceedings; I should be immensely grateful for your assistance in that regard. The heckling must cease and we will hear the reply.
I am not going to take any lectures from anybody in the Labour party about how to run a party. Theirs is a party in which good, hard-working MPs are daily hounded out by antisemitic mobs. Let us be absolutely clear: if the hon. Gentleman is interested in democracy, I hope he has been listening to what I have been saying today. In an anti-democratic way, the Bill that will come before the House today would hand over this country’s right to decide how long to remain in the EU, and it would hand it over to the EU itself. That is what the Bill involves. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that is a good idea, let him submit it to the judgment of the British people in an election.
I am sure that you, Mr Speaker, will know that tomorrow is the ninth annual Watford jobs fair. I am taking particular interest in the 1,000 or so vacancies this year, and I feel that other Members on both sides of the House might be interested as well. I thank Victoria Lynch and Anna Cox for organising it. We have 1,000 vacancies in more than 60 companies. If the Prime Minister has any spare time tomorrow—there is not much going on here—perhaps he could pop up to Watford, where he would be very welcome.
I thank my hon. Friend, who has been a wonderful champion for Watford and for conservative values. I have been to campaign for him in Watford and seen how popular he is. There are now 20,000 job vacancies in the police, if he or anybody in Watford wishes to take up that role, and there are many more in nursing. As my hon. Friend knows, in Watford and throughout the country, unemployment is at a record low and employment is at record highs, because of the sound economic policies that this Government have followed.
Again, that is a bit rich from a member of a party whose shadow Chancellor says that business is the enemy—[Interruption.] Where is he? He has gone. The hon. Lady should listen to the people of her constituency who voted to leave the EU and implement their wishes, and that is what this Government is going to do.
Much has been made about provision for EU nationals resident in the United Kingdom post Brexit. Much less comfort has been offered to those 1.5 million United Kingdom nationals resident throughout the rest of the European Union. Is the Prime Minister in a position to confirm not on a piecemeal, but on a pan-European basis that all pensions will be paid in full, that exportable benefits will continue to be paid in full, that healthcare will be covered in full, and that rights of domicile and freedom of movement will be protected? There are frightened people who need an answer.
I thank my right hon. Friend and I can assure him that that matter is, of course, at the top of our concerns with all our EU friends and partners. We have made it absolutely clear that the very, very generous offer that this country has rightly made to the 3.4 million EU citizens here in this country must be reciprocated symmetrically and in full by our friends in the way that he has described.
I must correct the hon. Gentleman because, in fact, unemployment is well down in his constituency, employment is up and health outcomes are up. When I made those remarks, which was many, many years ago, it was, I am afraid, when his constituency had the sad misfortune to have a Labour Government in power. That is no longer the case.
I know that, like me, my right hon. Friend has deep concerns about the unfair retrospective loan charge. It is tearing families apart, driving people to despair and reportedly some to suicide. With more than 8.000 people signing my petition saying that we cannot go on like this, can he advise the House on what urgent action his Government will be taking to address this?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question because this is an issue that my own constituents have raised with me, and I know that many of my hon. Friends have also had this issue raised with them. I am sure that Members on all sides of the House have met people who have taken out loan charges in the expectation that they can reduce their tax exposure. It is a very, very difficult issue and I have undertaken to have a thoroughgoing review of the matter. Of course, I will make sure that my hon. Friend has every opportunity to have further discussions with the Treasury about how to redress the situation and about the gravity of the situation.
Order. The response from the Prime Minister will be heard.
If the hon. Gentleman took the trouble to read the article in question, he would see that it was a strong liberal defence of—as he began his question by saying—everybody’s right to wear whatever they want in this country. I speak as somebody who is proud not only to have Muslim ancestors, but to be related to Sikhs like him. I am also proud to say that, under this Government, we have the most diverse Cabinet in the history of this country. We truly reflect modern Britain. We have yet to hear from anywhere in the Labour party any hint of apology for the virus of antisemitism that is now rampant in its ranks. I would like to hear that from the hon. Gentleman.
The great lady, whom I am sure you and I both revere, Mr Speaker, once said, “Advisers advise, Ministers decide.” Can I ask the Prime Minister to bear that statement closely in mind in relation to his own chief adviser, Dominic Cummings? [Applause.]
Order. The reply must be heard. If the House were to want as a matter of course to allow clapping, by decision of the House, so be it, but it should not otherwise become a regular practice. We have heard the question, pungently expressed. Let us hear the answer from the Prime Minister.
I am used to breasting applause from Labour audiences, particularly since, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, we are actually devoted to delivering on the mandate of those Labour constituencies and we are going to take the UK out of the EU on 31 October. As for the excellent question that my hon. Friend asked, be in no doubt that we are deciding on a policy to take this country forward, not backwards, as the Leader of the Opposition would do.
The Prime Minister’s response to the hon. Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) was appalling. An apology was required, rather than some kind of justification that there is ever any acceptable context for remarks such as the Prime Minister made in that column. He is the Prime Minister of our country. His words carry weight and he has to be more careful with what he says. My constituent Kristin is afraid because her mum, a European citizen, has been struggling to get settled status after 45 years in this country. Our friends, colleagues and neighbours deserve better than his failures and carelessness with language.
In the case of his constituent Kristin—
Her constituent Kristin—if she has indeed been here for 45 years, and I am sure she has—should be automatically eligible for settled status. Clearly, it is a difficult case, but the answer is for the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) to bring it to the Home Secretary, and I am sure we can sort it out.