Skip to main content


Volume 664: debated on Wednesday 4 September 2019

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.

Q3. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that when we leave the European Union on 31 October, we will no longer be subjected to EU rules on VAT on our energy bills, costing Harlow constituents and households around £55 extra every year? Will he confirm that we will take back control of our energy bills and save households around £1.5 billion a year on their heating and lighting? (912211)

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 he 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 will not, 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 do not 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 fewer 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 has 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.