The President of COP26 was asked—
Climate Change: International Engagement
I am in regular contact with Cabinet colleagues on COP26, including on co-ordinating our international engagement. The Prime Minister and Ministers across Government are raising climate change with international counterparts to secure ambitious climate commitments by November this year.
Does the President agree that diplomatic efforts ahead of COP will need to be more than discussions with other states, and with non-state actors as well? What discussions is he having with non-governmental organisations—in particular, with the Under2 Coalition—ahead of COP, and what role does he envisage their playing in November?
The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. We want this to be the most inclusive COP ever. As he will know, we have set up a civil society and youth advisory group, which is an opportunity for groups from the global south and the global north to come together and discuss issues. I can say to him that, ahead of the climate and development ministerial meeting we had on 31 March, we took a lot of feedback from this grouping in deciding what we needed to discuss.
Many stake- holders that would normally engage at COP26—civil society groups, NGOs, politicians, business leaders—still do not have clarity about how they will engage at COP in November. I understand the difficulties related to the pandemic, but can the President give the House an update today on when guidance will be provided to stakeholders about online versus offline and whether presence will be allowed in Glasgow?
I have always been clear, and I reiterated in a speech I gave in Glasgow with six months to go to COP, that we want this to be a physical event. That is the basis on which we are planning, and we are ensuring that we are exploring all measures to ensure this is covid- secure—safe for the people of Glasgow and, of course, safe for participants as well.
The recent G7 agreement on an international minimum corporation tax shows the significant progress that can be made at such forums. What can the President-designate tell us about the environmental Marshall plan the Prime Minister reportedly intends pursuing at the G7, and how will that impact on the discussions he is currently having with other countries in his capacity as COP President?
Matters related to what G7 leaders are discussing will of course come forward in the communiqué at the end of that process, and that is up to the Prime Minister and his fellow leaders. What I can tell the hon. Member is that we had a successful Climate and Environment Ministers meeting of the G7, which I co-chaired together with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In that meeting, we made commitments on overwhelmingly decarbonising power systems in the 2030s in the G7 countries, but also commitments on phasing out fossil fuel support overseas.
Climate Action and Green Recovery
The Prime Minister’s 10-point plan sets out our blueprint for a green industrial revolution. The plan invests in green technologies and industries. It leverages billions of pounds of private sector investment to create and support up to 250,000 highly skilled green jobs and level up across the UK.
And that is very welcome, but building back better after covid cannot just apply to us here in the United Kingdom; there absolutely has to be a global approach. So is the President frustrated that the big emitters such as Australia, Japan, South Korea and Russia have only resubmitted their previous climate pledges, and worse, that Brazil has backtracked on its climate pledge? What is he doing to convince them that meeting their fair share is important so that we can achieve the 45% reduction in emissions to keep our climate change within 1.5° C?
I would just say to the hon. Member that when the UK took on the COP26 presidency, less than 30% of the global economy was covered by a net zero target; that is now 70%. All the G7 countries have committed to 2030 NDCs that are aligned with net zero by 2050. Of course, he is right that we want all countries, particularly the big emitters, to come forward with ambitious emissions reduction targets.
The credibility of the COP presidency rests on demonstrable climate change action at home. However, the decision by the Government back in 2015 to scrap the Labour Government’s zero carbon homes legislation has meant that we have lost 1 million zero carbon homes in the past five years. It is a simple question: why do this Government seem to want to allow non-zero carbon homes to continue to be built?
I would point out to the hon. Member that the UK is the country in the G20 that has decarbonised its economy fastest since the year 2000. He will know that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is working on a heat and housing decarbonisation strategy as well. That will come forward, and of course we will set out our net zero strategy ahead of COP26.
Engagement with North African Partners
First, can I thank my hon. Friend for the work that he does as a trade envoy in north Africa? Of course, I and fellow Ministers speak to—and, indeed, our whole diplomatic network speaks to and engages with—Governments across the world, including in north Africa. In recent months, I have spoken to Ministers in a range of countries, including Morocco, Sudan and Egypt, which I visited in February.
We are working proactively with countries in the region through our COP26 energy transition council. We co-chair the adaptation action coalition with Egypt and we will continue to engage in north Africa, one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change.
Engagement with Sustainability Groups
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Sustainability groups and wider civil society are essential partners to the UK presidency with their links to communities most impacted by climate change. That is why we have established the COP26 civil society and youth advisory council, allowing a regular dialogue with those groups as we plan for COP26, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has also launched this week the “Plant for our Planet” campaign to encourage all our constituents, and perhaps my hon. Friend, to think about the natural world and how we can live and work better within it.
May I ask the President, and indeed the Vice-President, of COP26 to engage with my constituents and the sustainability groups we have? It is incredibly welcome to hear the steps they are already taking, but we would really like to see a Devonian perspective on COP26 this year.
Well managed agriculture will be a critical contributor to our planet’s climate solutions, and the UK wishes to use its COP26 presidency to drive the global transition to sustainable agriculture and land use. We are committed to using our presidency platform to amplify local climate action, so I am delighted to hear about the activity being led in my hon. Friend’s constituency, and COP unit officials would be very happy to follow up and meet with them.
Devon is not the only area that is leading the way in developing community action plans, and indeed South Shropshire Climate Action has produced the first constituency-wide action plan, which I will be delighted to present both to the President and the Vice-President following this session. Will there be scope for such community groups that are leading the way in finding practical means for communities to help get to net zero to attend COP26 in Glasgow in order to spread this great practice?
We are really fortunate in the UK to have, as my right hon. Friend has demonstrated, a passionate civil society that is among the world leaders in climate action. The UK launched the domestic “Together for Our Planet” campaign to celebrate climate initiatives across the UK and to inspire the public—and clearly they are already inspired—to be more engaged in climate action in the run-up to COP26. So I would be delighted to receive further information on climate action from Ludlow, as well as any other constituency that wishes to submit it, because to be able to share that is absolutely what COP26 is all about.
Discussions with Welsh Government
We are working with the Welsh Government and indeed the other devolved Administrations to ensure an inclusive and ambitious summit for the whole of the UK. I have spoken with Welsh Government Ministers at the COP26 devolved Administration ministerial group, which I chair, and I look forward to speaking to Julie James, the Welsh Government’s new Minister for Climate Change, at the group’s next meeting, which is taking place tomorrow.
Offshore energy generation will have a vital role to play in achieving Wales’s energy, economic, decarbonisation and wellbeing goals, yet we are operating at the moment with one hand tied behind our back, because the Crown Estate has sole responsibility for allowing development on the seabed. What discussions has the right hon. Gentleman had with the Welsh Government about devolving the Crown estates in Wales to Wales, as is the case for Scotland, as part of the British Government’s COP26 legacy?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, I do of course talk to the devolved Administrations, but the role of the COP presidency is to ensure that we get consensus across 197 parties. However, my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Anne-Marie Trevelyan)—the Vice-President, as she is now styled—is also the Energy Minister and the adaptation champion, and she will be very happy to discuss these matters with him.
As incoming COP President, the UK is committed to reducing all greenhouse gas emissions and is encouraging all countries to raise their climate ambition in nationally determined contributions and long-term strategies ahead of COP26. The UK announced its NDC last December; it is an all-economy target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68% on 1990 levels by 2030, and the UK’s sixth carbon budget will require UK greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 78% by 2035. The emissions scope of these targets does include methane.
A lot of the debate and discussion focuses on reducing the carbon footprint. I am glad that the Minister includes methane; as she will know, over the course of 20 years, 1 tonne of methane will warm the atmosphere about 86 times more than 1 tonne of carbon. Given that the UN and Climate & Clean Air Coalition report demonstrates that we can nearly halve those emissions by 2030 by using existing technology, will my right hon. Friend assure the House that the Government will make securing commitments to reductions in methane a priority at the upcoming COP?
In the UK, we are tackling methane emissions domestically by supporting the agriculture sector to reduce its emissions further through the agricultural transition plan. We have made good progress already to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, in our domestic agriculture sector. We produce a litre of milk with 17% less greenhouse gas emissions and a kilogram of pork with 40% less greenhouse gas emissions than in 1990. In our role as COP president, the UK has established a new international dialogue to raise international ambition on the transition to sustainable agriculture, with around 20 countries currently participating.
The Government are introducing legislation to transform our environment, including measures to improve how we manage our resources and waste, through the Environment Bill. We continue to work with other countries to move towards a resource-efficient and circular economy.
I am grateful for the Vice-President of COP26’s answer. I have had many conversations with passionate young people from schools around my patch— St Margaret’s School, St Martin’s School and South Charnwood School—who are dedicated to recycling. They wanted me to ask: will the Government consider asking for international targets on recycling rates to drive up recycling across the globe?
As in my hon. Friend’s constituency, the schoolchildren in my own constituency are passionate and regularly communicate with me about reducing waste and reusing materials. The Government’s view is that taking action is the best way to drive progress, harnessing that consumer power to drive changes in packaging use in the goods that we all buy. Our children are the ones who are going to help all us parents across the country to drive that. Domestically, we are introducing the extended producer responsibility scheme to ensure that producers cover the full net cost recovery for packaging waste, and a deposit return scheme to increase the recycling of drinks containers. That will help us achieve a 65% recycling rate by 2035.
Through the COP26 nature campaign, we are driving action to protect and restore forests and critical ecosystems, as well as helping to catalyse a sustainable transition of the agriculture sector and food systems through our forest, agriculture and commodity trade dialogues.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for what he is doing. May I ask him to step up his work on ensuring that protecting ecosystems is part of the agreement that we hope will be reached at COP? I know that we have the summit in China, but the protection of habitats and ecosystems around the world is such an important part of dealing with climate change that I hope it will be part of the deal in the autumn. May I also ask him to put some pressure on the Brazilian Government over the measures that appear to be happening there that could accelerate, rather than reduce, the loss of the Amazon rainforest?
My right hon. Friend raises a very important point. He will know that the UK co-led the development of the leaders’ pledge for nature, which almost 90 leaders around the world have endorsed, committing to global action to protect nature. Of course, we are campaigning for strong biodiversity targets to be set at the biodiversity COP in Kunming this October. As he would expect, I am in contact with the Brazilian Government as well.
Bioeconomy: Research and Innovation
We are exploring opportunities for strengthened international collaboration on innovation focused on the bioeconomy through Mission Innovation, a global initiative to enable affordable clean energy and achieve the goals of the Paris agreement. Leveraging growth of the bioeconomy will support clean growth across multiple sectors and contribute towards achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The climate crisis is turbocharged, as the trajectory of mitigation ever deviates from planet-saving targets while the Government move at a glacial pace to establish a climate economy. BioYorkshire will not only create 4,000 new jobs and upskill 25,000 people but lay the foundations for world-beating research in biosciences here in York and Yorkshire, offsetting carbon and waste. All we ask is for the Government to bring forward the funding already committed ahead of COP26. Will the Minister agree to do that and meet me to discuss the project and the importance of BioYorkshire?
I am always happy to meet new, interesting and innovative projects, and I am very happy to commit to doing that. We are absolutely leading the way on this. Mission Innovation is an extraordinary organisation, driving and shining a light on some of the most forward-thinking processes. One key challenge in helping developing countries move to clean growth is ensuring that the technologies that UK businesses and our scientists invent and take to market can be used in those developing countries.
UK Negotiating Team: Diversity and Inclusion
The UK is committed to championing diversity and inclusion throughout our COP26 presidency. More than 45% of the senior management team in the COP26 unit are women, including our chief operating officer and communications director, and around half the COP26 negotiating team are women.
Later this year, I am hosting the British South Asian youth summit, focusing on COP26. Will the Minister meet our youth champions to hear the perspective of young people living in some of the areas of the world that are most vulnerable to climate change?
As I said in response to an earlier question, we have the civil society and youth advisory group, co-chaired by two young climate activists, one from the global south and one from the global north, and on every visit that I do, I meet youth activists. Of course, I am very happy to look at the event that the hon. Gentleman is talking about and, if my diary permits, I will certainly come to it.
Our overarching objective is to keep within reach the target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 °C. To do that, we are asking countries to set out ambitious emissions reduction commitments, come forward with plans to protect communities and nature, mobilise finance and reach agreement on the outstanding elements of the Paris rulebook.
Mr Speaker, you will remember when David Cameron was hugging huskies, and I thought it was a great idea to try to do something to save the planet, so I got rid of my polluting petrol car, bought a biofuel car and then discovered that I was destroying the rainforest. I knew what to do next: get carbon dioxide down and buy a diesel car; now I know that when I drive along the street I am poisoning people. Could the President of COP26 please give me some advice? Before I buy an electric car, will he assure me that the mining of cobalt and lithium is not killing people in the mines, or would it just be easier for me to buy a horse?
That would certainly be sustainable. I am really pleased to hear that my hon. Friend is indeed a climate activist at heart; it is a revelation for all of us. It is great that he has made a decision to purchase an electric vehicle. I can tell him that he will not be disappointed. Plug-in grants are available and he knows that the Government are also backing the sector with almost £3 billion-worth of support.
As the President of COP26 knows, the International Energy Agency latest world energy outlook makes it clear that a net zero pathway for global energy requires that there be no new fossil fuel supply beyond projects already committed to as of this year. That means not just coal, but oil and gas. The report reinforces the obvious need to secure agreement on a global framework for a managed and fair phase-out of fossil fuels. Will the President therefore tell the House whether he accepts the IEA’s conclusion and, if so, whether ending all new fossil fuel supply from next year will be incorporated into the objectives of the UK’s presidency of COP26?
I actually commissioned that report and I am very pleased that it is so substantive. The hon. Gentleman is right: we need to make sure that we help all countries with a clean energy transition, and that is what we are doing through the work of the COP26 Energy Transition Council.
Two weeks ago, I chaired the G7 Climate and Environment Ministers track with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. At that meeting, the G7 nations agreed overwhelmingly to decarbonise their power systems in the 2030s, consistent with their 2030 nationally determined contributions and net zero commitments. In addition, they committed to take concrete steps to end support for international coal power generation by the end of 2021. This is a critical step in consigning coal power to history and accelerating the international transition to clean energy.
Of course we welcome plans for a cleaner, greener Britain, but can my right hon. Friend reassure my hard-working Harlow residents that the Government’s environmental measures will not mean a more expensive Britain, hitting the low-paid with extra costs and increasing the cost of living for ordinary folk?
The Government are committed to getting the transition to net zero right for all consumers. We are committed to driving savings and making our homes better insulated with more energy-efficient measures. My right hon. Friend will know that through the energy company obligation and the expanded warm home discount, we will provide at least £4.7 billion of extra support to low-income and vulnerable households between 2022 and 2026.
For a successful COP26, we have a particular responsibility as hosts to build trust with developing countries. The Government’s decision to cut aid spending—the only G7 country to do so—is therefore an appalling one, not just because it is wrong in principle, but because it is staggeringly self-defeating. The COP26 President knows that that decision makes a successful outcome at the conference of the parties harder, not easier, so may I invite him to add his voice to the powerful calls we heard yesterday, including from the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), to immediately restore Government aid spending to 0.7% of GDP?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the UK is doubling its international climate finance commitment to support developing countries; I can tell him that that has been very much welcomed around the world. With regard to the overall official development assistance spend, this is a temporary measure, as he knows. As the economic situation improves, I hope that it will be possible to restore the 0.7% target at the earliest opportunity.
The problem is that cutting aid spending severely undermines the ability of developing countries to tackle the challenges of climate poverty and public health. The COP26 President knows that: it is what developing countries are telling him in the negotiations. We need vulnerable countries to be calling for more ambition from big emitters such as China, but they will be much more reticent in doing so when they do not feel that we can be trusted.
Totemic on the issue of trust is the promise made at Copenhagen for $100 billion of public and private finance for developing countries. More than a decade on, it still has not been delivered. It is our job as hosts to deliver on that promise. Can the COP26 President therefore tell us whether the $100 billion will finally be delivered this weekend at the G7 meeting?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: the $100 billion is a totemic figure. We are doing everything we can to ensure that we are able to deliver it by COP26. I can assure him that I am having very frank discussions with donor countries—with developed countries —to ensure that they deliver on that commitment made in 2009.
All energy-from-waste plants in England are regulated by the Environment Agency and must comply with the strict emissions limits set in legislation. I am aware that Northacre Renewable Energy Ltd has applied for an environmental permit from the Environment Agency to operate an incinerator in Westbury, Wiltshire, and the Environment Agency is considering responses to the public consultation.
May I commend my hon. Friend for all the work that he is doing in Dudley on supporting the local economy and green jobs? As I set out earlier, I co-chaired the G7 climate and environment Ministers meeting, which came forward with some ambitious commitments.
I would recommend that the hon. Gentleman talks to the Leader of the House on the matter of the timetabling of the debates and other events in the House. I would also say to him that we are working very hard and pressing all the big emitters to ensure that they come forward with the ambition that is required to be able to halve emissions by 2030.
The right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) raised this issue with me, and I have set out the position on overseas aid. In terms of our schools, we are engaging, and I hope I will shortly be able to send out a pack that will encourage young people in our schools to get even more involved in COP26.
The Prime Minister was asked—
I am delighted that the UK is hosting the leaders of the world’s greatest democracies at the G7 summit in Cornwall this week. This is the first meeting between G7 leaders since the start of the pandemic. This week is Carers Week, and I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in thanking care workers and everyone caring for family, friends and loved ones. Their selflessness and devotion to helping others is an inspiration to us all. This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
I very much echo the comments of the Prime Minister on the lot of unpaid carers. After plenty of warm words for the victims of fire and rehire, including from the Prime Minister himself, the Government yesterday announced their legislative response to the ACAS report, which is to do absolutely nothing. They will do nothing for the hundreds of thousands already threatened or, as the ACAS report points out, for the many more who are anticipated to face fire and rehire when the furlough scheme ends. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. It is increasingly clear that this Government will not protect workers, so will they devolve employment law to Holyrood so that the Scottish Government can?
Actually, this Government have been absolutely clear that it is unacceptable to use the threat of firing and rehiring as a negotiating tactic. We welcome the ACAS report, which finds that fire and rehire should be used only in limited circumstances, such as to prevent job losses, when other options have been exhausted. We have therefore asked ACAS to produce clearer guidance to help employers with other options.
The east midlands could have no more fervent or effective a champion, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on his vision for the east midlands freeport and all the benefits that rail integration will bring. I know that he is about to have a meeting with ministerial colleagues to determine how the integrated rail plan can work with HS2 best to achieve his objectives.
This is the first PMQs since the Prime Minister and Carrie got married, so may I offer my warm congratulations to the Prime Minister and his wife and wish them a happy life together? I have to say that I admire the way they managed to keep it secret. I join the Prime Minister in his comments about Carers Week. I also send our deepest sympathies to the four people killed in Sunday’s terror attack in Canada. It was, as the Canadian Prime Minister said, an attack motivated by hatred and Islamophobia, and we must all unite against that at home and abroad. May I ask the Prime Minister to pass on our thoughts and condolences to the Canadian Prime Minister when he sees him later this week?
Why does the Prime Minister think that his now former education adviser, Kevan Collins, described the Government’s education plan as a “half-hearted approach” that
“risks failing hundreds of thousands of pupils”
“does not come close to meeting the scale”
of what is needed?
First of all, I want to thank Kevan Collins for his work, but above all I want to thank pupils, parents and teachers for everything they have done throughout this pandemic. The struggle has been enormous and, in addition to the extra £14 billion we have committed—taking per pupil funding up to £4,000 in primary schools and up to £5,150 in secondary schools—we are now putting another £3 billion into educational catch-up with the biggest tutoring programme anywhere in the world, and it is based on the best evidence that we could find and that Sir Kevan could supply.
Let me get this right. In February, the Prime Minister appoints an expert to come up with a catch-up plan for education—a highly respected expert, who consults widely and comes up with a plan—and the Treasury baulks at it and says, “We’ll only provide 10%.” Yes, one tenth of what is needed. The Prime Minister, whatever he says, rolled over and children lose out. So much for levelling up.
Let me help the Prime Minister with the numbers. The funding he announced last week is about £50 per child per year. Even if you add in previous announcements, in England it is only £310 per child over four years. The US has a catch-up plan worth £1,600 per child, and in the Netherlands it is £2,500. So can the Prime Minister explain why, when he was told by the expert he appointed that only an ambitious, fully funded catch-up plan would do, he came up with something that, in the words of the same expert, is too small, too narrow and too slow?
I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman needs to catch up on his mathematics because, in addition to the £14 billion I have already mentioned, there was already another £1.5 billion of catch-up funding. This is a £3 billion catch-up plan, just for starters, and it includes the biggest programme of tuition—one-to-one, one-to-two, one-to-three tutorials—anywhere in the world.
We all know there are schools and classrooms in this country where children are getting private tuition, thanks to the hard work of their parents. The right hon. and learned Gentleman asks about levelling up. What we want to do is to get on the side of all the kids who do not have access to that tuition and to support them. That is what I mean by levelling up.
Who does the Prime Minister think he is kidding? He asked Kevan Collins to tell him what was necessary to catch up. Kevan Collins told him, and he said no. Who does he think he is kidding? The Chancellor’s decision—I assume it was the Chancellor’s decision; it always is—to hold back the investment that is needed is a completely false economy, as the long-term costs are likely to be at least £100 billion, and probably more. Who will be hardest hit? Kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.
If the Government do not change course, this will hold Britain back for a generation. Here is the difference between us and them: when Labour says education is our No. 1 priority, we mean it. That is why we published a bold £15 billion plan for every child to catch up on education, and we are putting it to a vote this afternoon. If the Prime Minister is really serious about this, he would back the motion. Will he do so?
Mr Speaker, I will tell you the difference between us and the party opposite: we put in the tough measures that are needed to give kids across the country a better education. When we rolled out the academies programme, which has driven up standards, who opposed it? They did. When we put in tough measures to ensure discipline in schools, they opposed it. At the last election, they even campaigned to get rid of Ofsted, which is so vital. [Interruption.] They did. He stood on a manifesto to get rid of Ofsted.
Will he now say that he supports not only our tuition programme but our radical programme to support teachers with better training? We are now putting in not only a starting salary for teachers of £30,000, which we have introduced, but another £400 million to support better training for teachers. That is what we are backing in our party. These are serious, costed reforms, based on evidence, unlike anything he is producing. [Interruption.]
Order. Can we have just a little less shouting? I remind the Prime Minister that this is Prime Minister’s questions, and it is not about the agenda of the last general election. [Interruption.] Ofsted was not the question. I am not interested in what the Opposition put on the agenda; I am more interested in you answering the question.
Mr Speaker, let me take this very slowly for the Prime Minister. The Collins review, commissioned by the Government, was very clear: if the Collins proposed action is not taken, the attainment gap will rise by between 10% and 24%. That was on a slide shown to the Prime Minister last week. He talks about the various measures, so let us look at this more closely. Which part of our plan—the plan being voted on this afternoon—does he oppose? Is it breakfast clubs for every child? Does he oppose that? Is it quality mental health support in every school? Does he oppose that? Is it more tutoring for every child who needs it? Does he oppose that? Or is it additional investment for children who have suffered the most? Which part of our plan does the Prime Minister object to? If he does not object to it and he agrees with it, why does he not vote for it?
With great respect, Mr Speaker, I do think I am entitled to draw attention to what the Labour party stood on at the last election. They have not yet repudiated it; they did want to get rid of Ofsted. But I will tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that if he is now saying that he supports our tutoring programme—that is what I understood from him just now—that is a good thing, because hitherto what has happened is that the kids of well-off parents, thanks to their hard work, have been able to rely on private tutoring. What the Government are now doing is coming in on the side of all the other kids who do not get access to that tutoring—6 million children will have access to tuition thanks to this programme. It is a fantastic thing; it is a revolution in education for this country. If he is now saying that he supports it, that is a good thing, although I have learnt in the course of the last year that his support can sometimes be evanescent.
The Prime Minister pretends he is here for the other kids. The report says that the attainment gap will go up by between 10% and 24% if the action is not taken, and he has just rejected it. How can he be on the side of the other kids? Come off it! We have been here before: free school meals—U-turn; exams fiasco—U-turn; and now catch-up. The Prime Minister has been all over the place when it comes to education, and he is on the wrong side of it again.
I now want to turn to this week’s G7, which will be the first major summit since the recovery. The UK needs to lead, not just to host. The priority must, of course, be a clear plan to vaccinate the world. As the delta variant shows, nobody is safe from this virus until everybody is safe. The Prime Minister has made big promises on this, but it needs a truly global effort to make it happen, so will he take the lead at the G7 and do whatever is necessary to make global vaccinations a reality?
Yes, indeed. What the people of this country also understand is that not only were we able to give one of the first authorisations for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, but, thanks to the deal the Government did between the Oxford scientists and AstraZeneca, we were able to ensure that one in three of the 1.5 billion doses that have been distributed around the world are the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. That is global Britain in action, to say nothing of the billion vaccines that we hope to raise from the G7 this week.
That would sound a lot better if the Prime Minister was not the only G7 leader cutting his aid budget. I hear what he says about vaccines, but we also need clear global agreement and global funding. Hundreds of former leaders, businesses and development groups have called for exactly that kind of leadership at the G7, and that is what we need to see from the Prime Minister this weekend. The G7, bilateral discussions with President Biden and the possibility of a new Government in Israel also provide a real chance to restart a meaningful middle east peace process. The appalling violence recently, which killed 63 children in Gaza and two children in Israel, shows just how urgent this is. For too many people in Palestine, the promise of an end to the occupation and a recognised sovereign Palestinian state feels more distant than ever, so will the Prime Minister take the opportunity this weekend to press for renewed international agreement to finally recognise the state of Palestine, alongside a safe and secure Israel; to stop the expansion of illegal settlements; and to get a meaningful peace process back up and running?
It has been a long-standing objective of this Government, and I think it is common ground across the House, that the solution for the middle east peace process is a two-state solution. We continue to press for that, and I have made that position plain in my conversations with both the Palestinian Authority and of course with Israel.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman attacked the Government for failing to be sufficiently ambitious in our overseas aid spending—I think I heard him say that in that compendious question. [Interruption.] He is gesturing at the Government Benches. Under this Government we have spent more and continue to spend more than Labour ever did under Blair and under Brown, and even when they were spending money on Brazilian dancers in Hackney—which is what they did—to raise consciousness of global poverty. We are spending £10 billion a year at a time of acute financial difficulty for this country, and I think the British people know that that is the right priority for this country. If Labour Members want a vote on that matter, I remind them that the people of this country had an opportunity last month to vote on the way the Government were handling things and the balance that we were striking, and they adjudicated firmly in favour of the Government. The Opposition pontificate and prevaricate and procrastinate—
I am sure we are all looking forward to the European championships kicking off later this week. May I take this opportunity to wish all the best to our country, Scotland —to Steve Clarke and the team—and to remind the team that it is time for heroes?
Later this week, the Prime Minister will walk into the G7 summit as the only leader who is cutting development aid to the world’s poorest. At the very moment when global leadership is needed more than ever, this Tory Government are walking away from millions still struggling from the covid pandemic and a poverty pandemic. The Prime Minister has been hiding on this issue for months. This is a Government on the run from their own moral and legal responsibilities and on the run from their own Back Benchers. The Prime Minister cannot hide from this issue any longer and he cannot run from democracy in this House. Will he stand up today and commit to a straight vote in this House on his inhumane cuts, as demanded by the Speaker? Prime Minister, it is a very simple question: yes or no?
Oh, he did. Good—that’s nice of him.
Anyway, the answer is clear: as I said to the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), the people of this country were given a vote on this and many other matters very recently and they adjudicated very firmly in favour of the balance that the Government are striking. We are in very, very difficult financial times, but you should not believe the lefty propaganda, Mr Speaker, that you hear from those on the Opposition Benches. We are spending £10 billion overseas. We have actually increased—[Interruption.] All they want to do is run this country down when we have increased spending on girls’ education alone to half a billion pounds—almost half a billion pounds. That is a fantastic sum of money to be spending in difficult times and we should be proud.
I have to say that I do not think I ever heard the previous Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), call the left propagandists. The simple fact of the matter is that every single party, every single Member of this House, stood on a manifesto commitment of 0.7%. The Prime Minister has reneged on that, and Mr Speaker has indicated that the Government should allow a vote on it. It is pretty basic stuff. After a year dealing with the deadly virus, why cannot the Prime Minister get this? In a pandemic, no one is safe until everyone is safe. Now is the time to support each other, not to walk away from those in need. People are dying and they need our help. The Prime Minister has the nerve to brag about the Government’s support for the vulnerable, and at the very same time he is slashing £4.5 billion from the world’s poorest. In the week of the G7, what kind of world leader washes their hands of responsibility by cutting water and hygiene projects by more than 80% in the middle of a pandemic?
I may say that I think that the last contribution was absolutely disgraceful. The people of this country have gone through a very difficult time.
We have had to spend £407 billion supporting jobs, families and livelihoods throughout the country, and yet we are continuing to support international vaccination. This country has contributed £1.6 billion to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and I think £548 million to COVAX. Let me just remind the right hon. Gentleman of the statistic that I mentioned earlier. One in three of the vaccines being distributed around the world to the poorest and the neediest come from the Oxford-AstraZeneca supply, thanks to the deal that this Government did—or does the name “Oxford-AstraZeneca” continue to stick in his craw?
Yes. I thank my hon. Friend, because the whole point of the tutoring programme is that it is evidence-based. Every tutoring programme—there are 6 million children who can benefit—is equivalent to three to five months of educational catch-up. We will also be looking at increasing time in schools. I hope that the loyal Opposition will use their influence with their paymasters in the teaching unions to encourage them in that objective.
The Prime Minister knows full well that the best way to reduce checks in the Irish sea is make do a Swiss-style sanitary and phytosanitary agreement with the European Union. So far, he has decided not to do that. Why is he prioritising cheap, dodgy beef from Australia over the concerns of the people of Northern Ireland and reducing checks in the Irish sea?
No, what we are prioritising is the right and the ability of the people of Northern Ireland to have access—as they should, freely and uninterruptedly —to goods and services from the whole of the UK, and we are working to ensure that we protect the territorial and economic integrity of our country. That is what matters.
I thank my hon. Friend. Last year, in spite of the difficulties we faced, we delivered the highest number of new homes for over 30 years, but his point is an extremely good one. As all hon. Members know, we must find better, faster ways of releasing publicly owned land—brownfield sites—for development, and that is exactly why we are looking at the suggestion he makes.
What we are seeing across the country is people responding to massive investment— a £640 billion programme of investment in roads, in schools, in hospitals, in policing—that, bit by bit, is transforming people’s lives, hopes and opportunities. That is fundamentally the difference between the hon. Gentleman’s side of the argument and ours. We believe that there is talent, genius and flair around the whole country but opportunity is not evenly distributed. That is our ambition and that is what we are doing with our campaign for levelling up. If he is now saying, by the way, that he supports what we are doing on the tutoring revolution—because I know he is a great educational expert—then I am glad to hear it.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, my hon. Friend will be pleased to know, introduces a new criminal offence where a person who resides or intends to reside on land in a vehicle without permission and has caused or is likely to cause significant damage or distress can face new penalties. Guess who voted against that Bill on a three-line Whip? Does anybody know? It was the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras and his entire party.
I am indebted to everybody who serves the Government in whatever capacity. We have a lot of very tough decisions to make but we will continue to get on with delivering the people’s priorities—and by the way, we will continue to ensure that we deliver value for money, that we do not waste taxpayers’ money, and that Ministers follow the ministerial code.
In April 1989, 96 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough, yet nobody has been successfully prosecuted for their part in those unlawful killings. The most recent trial collapsed, because although it was accepted that police evidence had been altered, as it was evidence to a public inquiry, it did not constitute perversion of the course of justice. Will my right hon. Friend urgently look at the ramifications of that judgment for current and future public inquiries, and ensure that people are given the justice that has been so cruelly denied to the families of the Hillsborough 96?
I thank my right hon. Friend for her question. Of course, the families of the 96 who died in the Hillsborough disaster and those who were injured have shown tremendous courage and determination. My right hon. Friend raises a particular issue about the recent court case and asks for a review of the law. I can give her the reassurance that we will always consider opportunities to review the law and how it operates if necessary, and we will certainly be looking at the case she describes.
I am delighted that Southend-on-Sea has now been given the opportunity to become a city.
In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, a million and a half ladies were forced to give up their babies for adoption. By any standards that was cruel, and the hurt is still felt by those ladies today. Does my right hon. Friend agree that an apology should be given, and that all those involved in the process should acknowledge that forced adoption was wrong?
I echo my hon. Friend’s sentiments about Southend, but also what he says about those who have been affected by forced adoption. The practices that led to forced adoption cannot now occur because the law protects birth parents. He asks for an apology; I can tell him that the agencies involved in forced adoption in the past have apologised for their role—and quite right too.
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that, again, I am afraid what he is saying is completely wrong. The sums that we are already investing in education are huge and we have announced a £3 billion additional package of catch-up, investing not just in teacher training—another £400 million to help teachers improve their qualifications as they go up the ladder—but in the biggest tuition programme in the history of this country: the biggest anywhere in the world. That will make a huge difference to young people in Wansbeck and across the country. Many kids are getting private tuition at the moment, but loads are not. We want to level up.
Recently, I met Giani Singh, who 25 years ago founded the Sikh Helpline UK, which is based on West Bromwich High Street. I went to hear about the fantastic work that it has done over the years, supporting the community with advice on issues such as hate crime, domestic violence, bullying, mental health, addiction and more. Will the Prime Minister join me in thanking Giani Ji and the team for their work and wish them the very best of luck with their 350-mile charity bike ride from Edinburgh to West Bromwich next month?
No. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that once again he is completely missing the dynamism and optimism of so many people I meet in the agricultural sector, who see opportunities for Welsh lamb and Welsh beef around the world. Why is he not thinking of this as an opportunity for exports, instead of cowering in this way? Welsh lamb, Welsh beef and Welsh farmers can do brilliantly from the deals that we are opening up around the world. He should be championing Welsh agriculture and Welsh produce.
In East Surrey I have been working with brilliant parish councils in Smallfield, Burstow and Horne to ensure that we can get a better balance on heavy goods vehicle movements, allowing local businesses to thrive but ensuring that residents feel safe. I welcome the Government’s work to clamp down on moving traffic offences, but would the Prime Minister also consider taking another look at the powers of the traffic commissioners to ensure that we can find a balance?
“Our greatest national asset”; “Best of this country”; “Record increase in funding”; “Saved my life—no question”; “My No.1 priority”—all things that the Prime Minister said about our NHS. Yet award-winning South Tyneside District Hospital has lost vital services and been told by his Government to make further cuts to remaining services. Later today, I am presenting a petition on behalf of more than 40,000 of my constituents who are against these cuts. Like me, they want him to help us save our hospital and ensure, for once, that he is able to match his rhetoric with some action. Will he?
Yes, and all the changes that the hon. Lady mentions will be consulted on in the usual way. I note that Dr Shahid Wahid, the executive medical director of the trust, was recently quoted in the Shields Gazette as saying:
“This is about improving surgical services…It is not about downgrading anything”.
The hon. Lady mentions cuts: this Government, this year alone, have given another £92 billion—£92 billion—to support our NHS, on top of the huge commitments that we have already made.
Yesterday we had the fantastic announcement of £25 million of investment into Redcar town centre, which will allow us to build a new water sports facility at Coatham, a new indoor activity centre on the Esplanade and give the town a much-needed lift. I am working with the council on other bids for Eston, a tier 6 area, but in the meantime may I invite the Prime Minister to come to the mighty Redcar and see our plans for levelling up our area—and I will even treat him to a lemon top?
I thank my hon. Friend, who is a fantastic advocate for the people of Redcar. Thanks at least partly to his advocacy, we have announced a town deal to benefit Redcar and the levelling-up fund will help secure local investment in infrastructure and communities in Redcar. As and when my diary permits, I will be thrilled to join him for what I think he described as a lemon top.