Governments of all stripes have supplied free school meals since 1906, and I am proud that it was this Conservative Government who extended universal free school meals to five, six and seven-year-olds. The Labour party was in power for 30 of the past 100 years and never did anything like that. We support kids of low incomes in school, and we will continue to do so, but the most important thing is to keep them in school and not to tear off into another national lockdown, taking them out of school. We will continue to use the benefits system and all the systems of income support to support young people and children throughout the holidays as well.
Yes, indeed. I thank my hon. Friend for everything he does to lobby for that. Our local delivery partner in Devon and Somerset has provided connectivity of the kind that he describes to 300,000 premises across those two counties. We are going to be a world leader in connectivity as we build back better.
It was the Labour Mayor of London who bankrupted TfL’s finances, and any changes that he brings in are entirely his responsibility. I suggest that the hon. Member holds him to account.
I know that the Prime Minister is committed to doubling down on levelling up. Will he join me for a virtual tour of Stoke-on-Trent Central and a roundtable with key partners focused on delivering for the left behind, not least to ensure that the transforming cities fund investment will revolutionise public transport in the city?
That is an easy commitment for me to make, and I am delighted to do so. I can tell my hon. Friend that we are investing nearly £20 million through our city deal in pioneering a new programme of sustainable low-carbon and low-cost heat energy to Stoke-on-Trent.
Yes, indeed. I thank the people of Luton for their hard and heroic work, as I thank people across the country for what they are doing. I want to support businesses in Luton, which is why we want to continue with the sensible, balanced, regional and local approach that we are taking. I hope that the hon. Member agrees with me that it would make no sense at all for hard-pressed businesses in Luton to have their lights turned off and their doors shuttered in a series of multiple lockdowns of the kind recommended by the Labour party.
The people of Aberconwy in north Wales are learning to live with covid-19, but we are frustrated by national Welsh Government policy that seeks to place restrictions on us that are the same in the village of Cwm Penmachno as they are in the capital, Cardiff. Last week, my right hon. Friend agreed that a shared responsibility is the way to tackle this pandemic. Does he see the future of this situation as a series of rolling national lockdowns, or can businesses and residents hope that they will be given more trust to look after their own health and those they care for?
My hon. Friend puts the distinction clearly and sharply, which is that we are following the common-sensical and balanced approach. Where local leaders step up to the plate—I am delighted that South Yorkshire came on board this morning; I had a great conversation with Dan Jarvis last night—and where local leadership is shown, we can really make huge progress in getting the R down. That is the right approach for the country.
Of course we have free school meals throughout term time—that is entirely right. We want to make sure that we continue to support people on low incomes throughout the crisis, and that is what we are going to do.
As my right hon. Friend will know, part of my constituency has now been placed under tier 2 restrictions. Can he therefore reassure everyone that if they stick to the rules, observe the “hands, face, space” message, and self-isolate when required, accompanied by suitable enforcement for those who blatantly flout the law, we will come out of these restrictions all the sooner?
My hon. Friend puts his finger on it. That is exactly what we need to do. The areas that go into high levels of concern are reviewed every 14 days, and the restrictions, as I told the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), are reviewed every 28 days. The way to get through this is exactly as my hon. Friend says: to follow the guidance, particularly the “hands, face, space” basics.
I can confirm that Hammersmith bridge has been closed thanks entirely to the incompetence of the current Labour Mayor of London, and that Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate, is going to reopen it, which is the best thing possible.
As my right hon. Friend leads the country through Brexit and delivers global Britain, will he ensure that the values and policies of his Government to which he first gives consideration are those that will unite and bring our country together, and make all those who voted remain for what they thought were the internationalist values of the European Union proud again of their country in bringing those values to global Britain?
Indeed. That is why we are going to use the G7 presidency and the COP26 summit to champion our values across the world, particularly the one that my hon. Friend mentions—female education, which is the single policy that can really transform outcomes across the planet. Our global objective is to help 40 million girls across the world to get a decent education.
Of course I sympathise deeply with businesses that face difficulties because of the pandemic, although I remind the hon. Lady that the infection rate in her constituency is now running at 815 per 100,000, and we must get that down. I thank the people of Nottingham for what they are doing to get it down. We will of course continue to provide the full panoply of support that we have offered, and more, throughout this crisis.
Following the introduction of tier 2 restrictions in York, can the Prime Minister be more open in communicating the evidence base for York going into tier 2, outline a road map for the city’s return to tier 1, and urgently consider the creation of specific support for York’s hospitality industry, which is suffering losses from the limbo that tier 2 is creating?
Yes, I can tell my hon. Friend that the infection rate in York, alas, is now running at 279 per 100,000, and we must get it down. But we can get it down; we can get it down through the package of measures that we have described. You can see, in areas where people are complying with the guidance, that it is having an effect, because if it were not for the efforts and energies of the British people, the R would be running at 3 or more; it is now between 1.2 and 1.5. It will not take much—compliance in those areas that are hit at the moment—to get that R back down below 1. That is what we are aiming for, and that is the way to get businesses across the country, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood), in my hon. Friend’s constituency, back on their feet as fast as possible. It would not be sensible, in my view, to plunge them all back into a sustained series of national lockdowns, particularly in areas where the virus is low.
The NHS track and trace is now testing more people than any other country in Europe; it has tested, I think, 26 million people so far—or conducted 26 million tests. I am also proud, on the hon. Lady’s other point, that we have been able to support people across the country in the way that we have. She is not correct in what she says about the combined impact of the job support scheme and universal credit, because they work in tandem, and that lifts people’s incomes to 80%, and in some cases more than 90%, of their current incomes. That is the support that we are giving at the moment, but the best thing is to get our country through this crisis, without going back into the social, the psychological, the emotional and the economic disaster—and “disaster” was the word that the Labour party used only a week or so ago—the disaster of a series of national lockdowns.
In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I suspend the House for three minutes.