The Prime Minister was asked—
The whole House will want to join me in sending our deepest sympathies to all those affected by the weekend’s flooding. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has announced the activation of the Government’s emergency Bellwin scheme to provide financial support for qualifying affected areas in the north of England, and we continue to work closely with our partners to help those affected and, above all, to keep people safe.
This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall hold further such meetings later today.
Security, Defence and Foreign Policy Review
I am grateful for that reply. May I urge the Prime Minister to recall what happened to the last combined security and defence review, which was done within a straitjacket of fiscal neutrality? It meant that every extra pound spent on cyber or security was a pound to be cut from the conventional armed forces. Therefore, will he try to ensure that the next attempt at a combined security and defence review will not face such a straitjacket and will be concluded before rather than after the comprehensive spending review?
I understand very well the point that my right hon. Friend makes. I can assure him that the integrated review will be the deepest review of Britain’s security, defence and foreign policy since the cold war. I can also assure him that by transforming this country’s economy and by raising productivity, we will ensure that both defence and security are amply provided for.
I join the Prime Minister in expressing sympathy and support to the victims of flooding and thank the Environment Agency and all the emergency services that are doing their best to help people.
Our thoughts are also with those who suffer from the coronavirus and with the Chinese community in this country, who are, I am sorry to say, facing increasingly alarming levels of racism within our country. As this virus spreads, I also thank public health workers who are helping those affected and raising awareness of the danger of the virus.
Does the Prime Minister think that someone who came to this country at the age of five, was the victim of county lines grooming and compelled to carry drugs, was released five years ago and has never reoffended deserves to be deported?
The Government have learned absolutely nothing from the Windrush scandal. This cruel and callous Government are trying to mislead the British people into thinking that they are solely deporting foreign nationals who are guilty of murder, rape and other very serious offences. This is clearly not the case. Take the example of a young black boy who came to the UK aged five and is now being deported after serving time for a drugs offence. If there was a case of a young white boy with blond hair who later dabbled in class A drugs and conspired with a friend to beat up a journalist, would the Prime Minister deport that boy; or is it one rule for young black boys from the Caribbean and another for white boys from the United States?
Quite frankly, I think the right hon. Gentleman demeans himself and besmirches the reputation of the Windrush generation, who came to this country to work in our public services, to teach our children and to make lives better for the people of this country. He has no right to conflate them with the foreign national offenders we are deporting today.
The Windrush generation have been disgracefully treated by a Government who deliberately created a hostile environment. While the Government were fighting to deport people who legally came to this country as children, the Foreign Secretary refused to tell the family of Harry Dunn the reason the US is blocking the extradition of the woman who is alleged to have killed him. I now ask the Prime Minister straight: is Anne Sacoolas being shielded from justice because she is a former CIA officer?
It is widely reported that Anne Sacoolas is in fact a CIA operative. Now we know that the Foreign Secretary misled the Dunn family, who are being denied justice by the US Government, will the Prime Minister commit to his removal from office tomorrow in his reshuffle?
The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the Foreign Office has been told that Anne Sacoolas was notified to the UK Government as a spouse with no official role. We will continue, without fear or favour, to seek justice for Harry Dunn and his family, and we will continue to seek the extradition of Anne Sacoolas from the United States.
This morning Charlotte Charles, Harry’s mum, said: “We thought we had bridged the gap with the Government. But they have not been honest with us”. This is only the latest case of our country’s one-sided extradition treaty with the USA. This lopsided treaty means the US can request extradition in circumstances that Britain cannot. While the US continues to deny justice to Harry Dunn, will the Prime Minister commit today to seeking an equal and balanced extradition relationship with the United States?
To be frank, I think the right hon. Gentleman has a point in his characterisation of our extradition arrangements with the United States. I do think that elements of that relationships are unbalanced, and it is certainly worth looking at, but that is totally different from the case of Harry Dunn and Anne Sacoolas. We continue to seek the extradition of Anne Sacoolas to face justice in this country.
It has everything to do with the relationship with the USA that Anne Sacoolas has not been extradited back to Britain, because the US refuses to do it because of this lopsided treaty. I am glad the Prime Minister at least acknowledges that point about the treaty. This deep disparity with the US is about to be laid bare, when the courts decide whether the WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange will be extradited to the US on charges of espionage and for exposing war crimes, including the murder of civilians and large-scale corruption. Does the Prime Minister agree with the parliamentary report that is going to the Council of Europe that this extradition should be opposed and the rights of journalists and whistleblowers upheld for the good of us all?
In northern Syria, displaced women and their children are literally freezing to death. There are reports of babies dying as a result of the extreme conditions, and 45,000 people remain stranded with nowhere to go. The Syrian war is considered to have caused the biggest wave of displacement since the second world war. Can the Prime Minister tell the House what responsibility his Government have taken for this humanitarian crisis?
My question was about the children who are literally freezing to death. That was not an answer from the Prime Minister.
In 2017, as Foreign Secretary, this Prime Minister enacted a policy of accepting the Syrian dictator Assad’s rule over the country. Assad has delivered death and destruction to his people—a man who has gassed his own civilians. The humanitarian situation has reached crisis point, and there are now fears of all-out war. Is the message that the Prime Minister wants to send from the House today that the UK Government are washing their hands of the Syrian people, and that he is content for Assad’s regime to continue enacting these atrocities?
I really think the right hon. Gentleman needs to consult his memory better. He would find that this country and this Government have persistently called for the end of the Assad regime, and indeed have led the world in denouncing the cruelty of the regime towards Assad’s own people. That has continuously been the policy of the British Government.
I think the hon. Lady is right: we have to do both, which is why we are putting £200 million into the Youth Endowment Fund as well as supporting violence reduction units. We are also putting 20,000 police on the streets of this country, and giving them the powers, which the Leader of the Opposition opposes, to take knives off the streets with stop and search.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his campaign for the restoration of the Burscough curves. That sounds to me like a great idea. What he needs to do is put forward a costed business plan, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary will look at it very carefully.
I certainly will make that undertaking to the hon. Gentleman. I am glad that he has raised this matter. We should not tolerate crimes of violence against shopworkers or indeed anybody else. I therefore find it paradoxical that the leader of his party is soft on the deportation of serious violent offenders.
Our new Office for Veterans Affairs is helping veterans to transition to new jobs and to secure homes. A discount railcard will be rolled out by Armistice day, and veterans will get guaranteed interviews for civil service jobs so that we have more veterans bringing their talents to government.
My hon. Friend is, I am afraid, entirely right. We know that there are concerns about this system, and that is why I have asked the Minister for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse), to ask Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary for an independent review of the operation of the system. We will ensure that my hon. Friend is kept informed.
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, but as he will know, the highest-ever number of people attended A&E in this country last month—2 million people. The demand is exceptional, and I pay tribute to the work of NHS staff. As he knows, we in this Government are responding with a record investment in the NHS of £34 billion, and we are recruiting 50,000 more nurses, which will help to deal with that crisis.
In the past week, Storm Ciara has wreaked havoc along West Yorkshire’s Calder Valley, affecting the constituencies of Members across the House. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister seek to find time to visit my constituency? Horbury Bridge, where “Onward Christians Soldiers” was penned, has been acutely affected. Will he see for himself the terrible damage done to people’s homes, lives and businesses? Will he tread where the saints of our communities and emergency services have trod and continue to toil undivided towards recovery?
I pay tribute to the emergency services for what they are doing in my hon. Friend’s constituency and, indeed, in all flood-affected areas. As he knows, we have activated the Bellwin scheme to protect homeowners, and we are putting £4 billion into flood defences. I certainly will do what I can to take up his offer to visit his constituency and see the scene for myself.
As I think the hon. Gentleman knows very well, the report will be published as soon as the Intelligence and Security Committee is reconvened. As I have told the House several times, those of a conspiratorial cast of mind will be disappointed by its findings.
May I commend the Prime Minister for his belief in Britain and the massive boost to infrastructure investment around the country? However, the cost of landing fees at Heathrow airport is £25 per passenger, and those fees will rise with a third runway, leading to Heathrow becoming the least competitive airport on the entire planet. Given the delays and the escalating costs, does the Prime Minister agree that it may well be time to review progress and perhaps to deploy the bulldozers elsewhere in the country?
The House of Commons voted effectively to give outline planning consent to the third runway. It was supported by people across the Chamber—not by me, as it happens. I wait to see the outcome of the various legal processes that are currently under way to see whether the promoters of the third runway can satisfy their legal obligations under air quality and, indeed, noise pollution.
We are, of course, responsible, and we take full responsibility, but overall GP numbers are up and we are now recruiting 6,000 more. We are able to do that because we are running a sound economy and investing massively in our NHS across the whole country.
As the coronavirus hits the headlines every day, will the Prime Minister join me in thanking and paying tribute to the supreme professionalism of those at Public Health England and, in my area, to RAF Brize Norton for bringing home people who have been affected? Their work often goes unremarked, but it has the admiration of all of us.
My hon. Friend puts it beautifully, and I salute everybody involved in bringing home the victims and potential victims of coronavirus for the difficulties and risks they face. Indeed, our NHS has so far done an outstanding job in preparing and informing the country.
When Kevin Simpson’s partner of over 12 years died and his two children lost their mother, the family received no bereavement support payments at all. Because the parents were unmarried, the law denied that support to the two grieving children. The High Court ruled last Friday that this breached the children’s human rights, so when will the Government obey the rule of law and legislate to respond both to that ruling and to the similar ruling by the Supreme Court in the McLaughlin case in 2018? Will there be no further delay so that we can start supporting the thousands of similar children across our country every year who lose their mother or father?
The right hon. Gentleman has raised this with me before, and I have undertaken to meet him on the matter. We will certainly look at the case he mentions to see what exactly our response should be. He is right to draw attention to this injustice, and we will do all we can to remedy it.
On Thursday last week, two people were stabbed in Redcar in broad daylight. Another person was injured in a horrific knife crime on Saturday evening outside a busy nightclub. Figures released by the Ministry of Justice in January show that the Cleveland force area has the highest number of knife and offensive weapon offences per head of population in all of England and Wales. What additional support can my right hon. Friend give to Cleveland police to tackle this problem, and when will we start to see more police on the streets of Teesside?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this. Knife crime is intolerable, and its recent rise must be combated. That is why we brought in knife crime prevention orders, which give police the powers, where they suspect a knife crime is about to be committed, to make the interventions that are needed. That is why we are putting 20,000 more police on our streets, with the encouragement and the political support they need to carry out stop and search.
The Oxford-Cambridge so-called expressway is a 20th-century roadbuilding solution to a 21st-century challenge, and at the election Labour rightly pledged to scrap it. I wonder whether the Prime Minister has caught up with us. Will he announce today whether the expressway has finally been put to rest and scrapped?
I support the Prime Minister’s decision yesterday to go ahead with HS2, although I have to tell him there is little enthusiasm among my constituents because it does nothing to improve connectivity to Cleethorpes. To build up enthusiasm among the people of Cleethorpes, may I urge him: to instruct London North Eastern Railway to reintroduce the direct train service from Cleethorpes through to King’s Cross; to make the Gainsborough-Brigg-Cleethorpes service, which at present runs one day a week, into a seven-day service; to manufacture the rails at Scunthorpe; and, of course, to reopen Suggitts Lane level crossing?
The prosperous future of our young people all too often depends on their family wellbeing and their school readiness, which requires investment in early years. Does the Prime Minister regret the Conservative cuts to around 1,000 Sure Start centres, including in my constituency? Will he commit to greater funding and support for early years development, particularly in our most deprived communities?
The hon. Lady raises an important point, and this is why we are putting record sums into early years funding—£14 billion is going into education. It is under this Government that people will see the biggest improvements, because it is under this Government that we have a robust, strong, dynamic economy—the third fastest growing in the G7. We are able to make those investments in early years precisely because of our sensible management of the economy.
Does the Prime Minister agree that the private finance initiative deals signed by the last Labour Government to build hospitals such as King’s Mill in Ashfield, at a cost of £1 million a week, are nothing short of a national scandal? Will he please ensure that this never happens again?
It was one of the many scandals of the last Labour Government. From memory, the PFI deals that they did saddled the taxpayer with £80 billion-worth of debts in exchange for £12 billion-worth of hospital assets. That is how Labour runs government. That is how Labour runs the economy. Let’s not let it happen again.
Will the Prime Minister bring to an end the sickening outrage of a witch hunt against former police officers who served Ulster through the heat of the troubles and who will now face the most odious prosecutions for non-criminal misconduct? That would not be tolerated in this part of the United Kingdom and it should not be tolerated in mine.