House of Commons
Wednesday 16 June 2021
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Virtual participation in proceedings commenced (Orders, 4 June and 30 December 2020).
[NB: [V] denotes a Member participating virtually.]
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the death of our friend and colleague Jo Cox, who was murdered on her way to meet constituents in her Batley and Spen constituency. She was doing what so many of us do as constituency MPs, and that made her death more shocking to us all. May I, on behalf of the whole House, express our sympathy with her family, friends and colleagues on this sad anniversary? We will never forget Jo or her legacy. We remember her wise words: that we have
“far more in common than that which divides us.”—[Official Report, 3 June 2015; Vol. 596, c. 675.]
Business before Questions
Monken Hadley Common Bill
Bill read the Third time and passed.
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
Negotiations: Lord Frost and the European Commission
May I associate myself with your remarks about Jo Cox, Mr Speaker? I am sure that none of us in that House will ever forget where we were on that day. My thoughts are with her friends and family, and the amazing legacy that she has left.
I would like to thank Arlene Foster, who resigned as First Minister of Northern Ireland earlier this week. Arlene has given 18 years of public service to the people of Northern Ireland. We have seen throughout the covid pandemic the phenomenal work that she has done as First Minister in Northern Ireland, working with all the parties to take Northern Ireland through a very difficult time, especially as the Executive were newly reformed just weeks before. I would like to thank Arlene for her work. I will continue to work, as I have done over the past few days, with all the party leaders in Northern Ireland to ensure that we can keep a sustained and stable Executive in the weeks, months and period ahead.
I regularly discuss our approach to the Northern Ireland protocol with Lord Frost. We have conducted joint engagements together in Northern Ireland on a regular basis with businesses and civil society, as well as joint engagements with Vice-President Šefčovič to consolidate our understanding of the real-world impacts of the protocol. At last week’s Joint Committee, the Government outlined our continued commitment to engaging to find the pragmatic solutions that are urgently required and needed to ensure that the protocol can achieve the delicate balance that was always intended. We in the UK will continue to work actively to find and deliver the solutions.
May I, too, express my condolences to the family, friends and comrades of our late colleague Jo Cox on this anniversary?
A trade war has been threatened, but, most importantly, the stability and the peace process in Northern Ireland are at stake. Two international treaties are at stake; so, too, is the reputation of the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world, because our allies fear that this Government would be prepared to breach either or both of those treaties. Does the Secretary of State now regret saying that the Government were prepared to
“break international law”,
“in a very specific and limited way”?—[Official Report, 8 September 2020; Vol. 679, c. 509.]
I was answering a question that I was asked last year and giving a factual position. The reality, as we outlined at the time, is that we were creating an insurance policy to ensure that we could continue to deliver on the Good Friday/Belfast agreement in terms of unfettered access from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. We were then able to secure that, and we therefore did not need to take those clauses forward. That was exactly what we said we would do. Our colleagues around the world can be very clear that we will do what we have said we would, and they can have confidence that we will continue to protect the Good Friday/Belfast agreement in all its aspects and all its strands.
Like the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), Jo Cox was in my intake in 2015. She was a sparkling light among us and we miss her enormously. I associate myself with your remarks at the start of our proceedings, Mr Speaker.
Does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agree that mutual trust is possibly the key ingredient to sorting out the position with regard to the Northern Ireland protocol? Our Committee has just had Lord Frost before us for an hour and a half, taking questions; I think that he agreed on that proposition as well. What is my right hon. Friend doing as Secretary of State to ensure that the issue of trust and its importance is understood across Whitehall?
My hon. Friend the Chairman of the Select Committee makes an important point. I have not had a chance to see the transcript of the meeting this morning that he and his Committee had with Lord Foster, but I work closely with Lord Foster on these issues and one of the key things is that mutual understanding and trust. That is one of the reasons I have always felt strongly that our colleagues, friends and partners in the EU should be engaging with civic society and businesses in Northern Ireland to ensure that they really understand the sensitivities and the nuances in Northern Ireland. I am pleased that the Commission and Maroš Šefčovič have done a couple of those meetings already. I would like to see more of that as we go forward, so that we can build that understanding. It is fundamental to the basis of having trust that each one understands why it matters to deliver on the protocol in the way that was always intended: in a pragmatic, flexible way that delivers for the people of Northern Ireland.
I join the Secretary of State in sending all our love to Jo’s family on this very difficult day, and in paying tribute to the outgoing First Minister, Arlene Foster, for her many years of public service and for the lesson she has treated all of us to in recent weeks on how to do politics with dignity, even in difficult times.
I support the Secretary of State in his efforts to ensure that there is a strong, stable, functioning Executive in the current negotiations to meet the enormous challenges facing Northern Ireland, and one that respects all existing commitments. However, it was an extraordinary diplomatic failure for the Prime Minister to spend a crucial summit on home soil being rebuked by our closest allies. Northern Ireland does not have any more time for bickering or blame games, so is it not time to get serious and commit to a veterinary agreement that would eliminate the vast majority of checks down the middle of our Union?
The hon. Lady has a different reading of the weekend. One thing that was very clear over the weekend was that our partners—particularly our partners and friends in the United States—were very much in the same place as us on the precedence and importance of protecting and delivering on the Good Friday agreement. That is something that they were such a strong part of, and that we are always focused on as being of paramount importance for us. We have put forward a number of proposals—more than a dozen, I believe—to the European Union Commission around how we can deliver on the protocol in a pragmatic, flexible way that delivers for the people and businesses in Northern Ireland. We look forward to continuing those discussions with the EU, but when the EU talks about flexibility and pragmatism, it has to show it as well as talk about it.
We need to see the details of that veterinary agreement in order to ensure that it really would eliminate the vast majority of those checks. A significant part of the problem is that people in Northern Ireland feel that these changes have been imposed on them—that they have been done to them, not with them. So how is the Secretary of State going to ensure that representatives from politics, business and civil society in Northern Ireland are brought meaningfully into the negotiations, not just engagement, so that any solution is sustainable and permanently eases tensions?
The Executive and Executive members have been part of a specialist committee. They have also been part of the wider engagement meetings and had a chance to feed into them. Obviously this is a negotiation between the UK Government and the European Commission, and it is therefore right that the UK Government lead on that, but we have been the ones who have been engaging across businesses and civic society, as well as with the Executive politicians, and we will continue to do that and continue to encourage the EU to do that.
May I associate my colleagues with the comments made about the late Jo Cox and also pay tribute to our former leader and First Minister, Arlene Foster, for the sterling leadership that she provided to Northern Ireland during what has been a very difficult period for all of us?
What progress has been made in the Secretary of State’s discussions with the EU side to ensure that when people are travelling with their pets between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in either direction, they are not required by the EU to carry so-called pet passports and incur the cost of having their pets vaccinated for a disease that has not existed in the United Kingdom for almost a century?
In reflecting on the excellence of delivery that Arlene Foster had, I am going to learn a lesson that I am sure all Members here will be pleased about: I am going to avoid singing at any point this afternoon as I simply cannot live up to the talent that she showed on Friday.
Pet travel from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is one of the critical issues that we have been discussing with the EU. We see no reason why part 1 listing could not be granted by the EU, and indeed it should be. We meet all the requirements for it, as the right hon. Gentleman has rightly outlined, and we have one of the most rigorous pet checking regimes in Europe to protect our biosecurity, so we will continue to push for a solution with the EU. As he will be aware, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland has recently confirmed that there will be no routine compliance checks on pets or assistance dogs entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain until at least October 2021.
We hope it will go well beyond October and that this matter will be fully and completely resolved.
Does the Secretary of State agree with the Prime Minister that it would be wrong for the EU to impose a ban on the sale of chilled meats, including sausages from Great Britain, to Northern Ireland? What action does he intend to take to prevent this from happening?
I absolutely agree. Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom and its consumers should be able to enjoy the products that they have bought from Great Britain for years. Any ban on chilled meats would, in fact, be contrary to the aims of the protocol itself and would be against the interests of the people of Northern Ireland. An urgent solution must be found so that Northern Ireland’s consumers can continue to enjoy chilled meat products bought from Great Britain.
We have proposed options for either extending the grace period or putting permanent arrangements in place. We are working hard to try to resolve these issues consensually with our partners, but as the PM has always made clear, we will consider all options in meeting our responsibility to sustain peace and prosperity for the people in and of Northern Ireland.
Mr Speaker, may I associate myself and my colleagues with your opening remarks, and those from both Front Benches, in paying tribute both to the legacy of Jo Cox and to the public service of the outgoing First Minister, Arlene Foster?
In his discussions with Lord Frost and Maroš Šefčovič, to which of the following did the Secretary of State commit his Government? The integrity of the Good Friday agreement; the free flow of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland; building trust by working to implement what they agreed to in the protocol; or further standards-lowering trade deals, which could restrict the ability to agree a veterinary deal with the EU? Surely the Secretary of State must recognise that it cannot possibly be all four.
I fundamentally disagree with the principle that the hon. Gentleman has just outlined. The reality is that the Good Friday/Belfast agreement—he has fallen into the trap that too many people fall into—has more than one strand. East-west is a vital strand, and we will continue to protect it. That is why it is important for people to recognise and understand that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom and should have the same rights and access to products as anywhere in the United Kingdom.
I, too, send my thoughts to Jo Cox’s family today.
With all the talk of sausages and the protocol, I hear very little from this Government on the benefits of the protocol for local producers. What is the Secretary of State doing to promote those benefits? Can he tell the people of Derry what exactly he and Lord Frost think is wrong with Doherty’s sausages?
The hon. Gentleman and I agree on a number of things, including the quality of sausages from across Northern Ireland, which, as Members can probably tell, I get to enjoy from time to time. He makes a fair point, and it is at the heart of the issue. It should be a matter of consumer choice, not regulatory regime. The reality is that, as across the United Kingdom, consumers who go into a supermarket in my constituency in Great Yarmouth will see a range of products that is different from what they will see in the midlands, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. That is because of consumer choice, not regulatory command.
We have to ensure that Northern Ireland’s residents have the ability to make that choice. If the hon. Gentleman looks, as I know he does constantly, at the media, I have made the point a few times that, if we get the protocol to work in a proper, flexible, pragmatic way, it creates an opportunity for Northern Ireland. But we also have to be cognisant of the fact that, at the moment, it is causing real disruption and real problems for businesses and consumers in Northern Ireland, across the whole community, and it has an impact on people’s sense of identity in the Unionist community. We have to accept that, respond to it and deal with the protocol in a pragmatic way. That is why I think it is so important that the EU engages with people in Northern Ireland to get a real understanding of why Northern Ireland is such an important part of our United Kingdom.
Links with the United States
The Government have always cherished our close relationship with the United States. It was a combined effort of the UK, Irish and US Governments that brought the troubles to an end, and it will take a renewed and ongoing partnership to safeguard Northern Ireland’s stability and prosperity in the future. That is why I announced earlier this month the appointment of Trevor Ringland MBE as the first special envoy to the United States on Northern Ireland. The special envoy will support our Government’s important mission to promote Northern Ireland as an excellent place to live, work and do business.
I welcome the news that my right hon. Friend has appointed a special envoy. Does he agree that it is important to engage not just with the US but with all our international friends and partners to ensure a greater understanding of the challenges that Northern Ireland faces, but also of the opportunities that this integral part of the UK has?
My hon. Friend is spot on: she is absolutely right. We in the UK are committed to working internationally to tackle global challenges, as was demonstrated by our hosting of the G7 just last weekend. As an integral part of the Union of the United Kingdom, we will always fully represent the issues that matter most to Northern Ireland when we engage with our international partners. That is the spirit in which we appointed the special envoy to the US, and I look forward to working with Trevor Ringland on that. She is also right to say that Northern Ireland is a phenomenally exciting place to live and work, with so much opportunity, in cyber, advanced engineering, technology—I could go on. It has a lot to offer the world and we will continue to promote that around the world.
May I associate myself with your comments earlier today, Mr Speaker? My thoughts are with all of Jo’s friends, family and former colleagues.
Inflaming tensions, undermining trust and a formal diplomatic rebuke—we would expect this language and action to form the backdrop to a summit with our adversaries, rather than with our closest allies. Is the Secretary of State not alarmed that our Government are increasingly isolated from our partners on the protocol? What comfort can the Secretary of State, who boasted about breaching international law, provide to the new US Administration that his word can be trusted?
Obviously, I do not recognise the context the hon. Lady outlines, but I would say to her, as I said earlier, that what colleagues and people around the world can see is that I will always be straight and give a direct and honest answer to a question, as I did last year. I work regularly with our partners in the US, and they are clear in understanding our determination to make sure we deliver on what is, to an extent, a joint endeavour between the UK and Irish Governments, with the support of the US: delivering protection of the Good Friday/Belfast agreement. We make no apologies whatsoever for putting the people of the UK and the people of Northern Ireland first in everything we do around Northern Ireland.
I congratulate the Secretary of State and wish Trevor Ringland well on his appointment as a special envoy from Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State will know that Northern Ireland has attracted significant interest internationally over the last number of decades. At pivotal moments, it has been incredibly helpful, but at other times that involvement can be naive and, worse still, partisan. In that vein, may I ask the Secretary of State what reflections he has to make on the deeply unhelpful and destabilising contribution from the Irish Tanaiste yesterday, at such a grave time of political instability in Northern Ireland?
I join the hon. Gentleman in expressing some surprise at the comments we saw yesterday. We would be concerned about any deviation from the principle of consent, as enshrined in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, but that agreement of course also respects the right of anyone to express their views, and we fully support that. We note the recent life and times survey, which showed support for a united Ireland at a low of 30% in Northern Ireland. I am also aware of the polls that put Sinn Féin ahead in the Republic, which may explain the timing of some of these comments from the Tanaiste. I urge everyone to dial down any rhetoric, particularly at this time of year, as it is unhelpful and ill-advised. Whatever the circumstances, this Government will support the principle of consent and all of our obligations under the Belfast/Good Friday agreement.
Northern Ireland Protocol: Implementation
There have been extensive technical discussions with the European Commission, both as part of the formal withdrawal agreement structures and in support of them. I have joined Lord Frost in his comments, engagements with Vice-President Šefčovič, Northern Ireland businesses and civil society, as I have said, as well as meetings with the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney. These discussions have covered a wide range of issues related to the operation of the protocol. There is an urgent need for this ongoing dialogue to make real progress soon—as soon as possible—so that we avoid any disruption to critical supplies such as food and medicines.
I was not lucky enough to be in this place with Jo Cox, but it is clear that she made an enormous impact during her time here and is much missed.
I know that both negotiating teams worked hard, but it was really disappointing to see the lack of a significant breakthrough last week. We need pragmatic, sensible arrangements in place, just as we need devolved government working again with a new First Minister. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the EU needs to engage with the practical proposals that are being put forward on issues such as veterinary agreements and authorised trader schemes if we are to make progress on the ground?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I know that he has a huge knowledge and understanding of the nuances and the issues in Northern Ireland. It is absolutely right that we need to see a pragmatic and flexible approach. The EU has talked about that, and the vice-president himself outlined that point on British media. We need to see that in practice as we move forward. As I said, we have put forward a whole series of proposals and we look forward to the European Commission engaging with those in a real and direct way.
Following some of the comments last week, particularly those from President Macron, will my right hon. Friend do everything in his power to make it very clear to those in the EU who want to divide up our country that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the UK?
My hon. Friend makes a correct and an important point. We have been crystal clear on this, and I will be again today: Northern Ireland is a full and an integral part of the United Kingdom. Authority is exercised within Northern Ireland by the UK, not the EU. We believe that being part of the UK is in the best interests of all in Northern Ireland, but we also believe, and I think it is fundamental, that Northern Ireland contributes to making us a stronger and more prosperous United Kingdom.
Given that certain provisions of European Union law apply to the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland by virtue of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, can the Secretary of State explain the legal effect of the unilateral extension of grace periods? Does he not agree that the time has come to do the right thing by the people of Northern Ireland and make use of the diversion of trade provisions of article 16 that allow for legally effective action against arrangements that are damaging the United Kingdom’s internal market, businesses in Great Britain and consumers in Northern Ireland? Secretary of State, the time for action is now, not when the Belfast agreement is in complete tatters.
We are working hard and in good faith to find solutions. Our overriding focus, as I have said, is on stability and safeguarding the Belfast/Good Friday agreement and restoring cross-community confidence in the practical operation of the protocol. The protocol could work with common sense, good faith and flexibility from the EU, and we are working to resolve the issues urgently, acutely aware of the time constraints that we face, as the hon. Lady rightly outlined. We are continuing to talk, and I hope that we can make better progress through the Joint Committee structures designed for resolving these problems. If we cannot do that, as I and the Prime Minister have said, no options are off the table.
Northern Ireland Protocol: Implementation
You are always here to help, Mr Speaker. Thank you.
We have taken extensive steps to implement the protocol, including providing £500 million for a range of support schemes, such as the trader support service and the movement assistance scheme. The trader support service alone has created 1.8 million declarations, supporting nearly 700,000 consignments since January. Despite these huge efforts, though, the protocol is presenting significant challenges for Northern Ireland, and we are seeing sustained disruption to trade, which is causing real impacts on livelihoods and disruption for citizens. So unless pragmatic, risk-based solutions can be found rapidly to a range of issues, cross-community confidence in the protocol will be eroded. We will therefore be continuing to work actively with the EU to find urgent solutions.
Sorry for the delay, Mr Speaker— I have only been here 20 years.
Is not the truth that the Prime Minister signed up for something in the protocol that he had no intention of honouring, in the way and practice he has followed throughout his life and got away with? The truth is, though, that he is not getting away with it now. Is not that the reality?
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman has a very good read of the protocol. The protocol that we signed up to is very clear that it will not disrupt the everyday lives of people in their communities, but it will respect the integral market of the United Kingdom and the Good Friday/Belfast agreement. Arguably, two—some would argue all three—of those things are currently in breach. We have a duty to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland and we will do that.
Is it not a fact that the protocol has partitioned the United Kingdom? It has undermined business, damaged the political and social fabric of Northern Ireland, and our EU partners, in whose single market we share, do not even know that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. There are more checks now happening between GB and Northern Ireland than between Belarus and the EU and between Russia and the EU. This morning, Lord Frost has told us that there is no risk whatever for any of these goods entering the single market. Give us a timeline, Secretary of State: when will this be fixed?
The hon. Gentleman makes some very important and correct points. The protocol was always about dealing with goods that are at risk or are moving into the European Union. It is farcical to have a situation with products that are never moving into the European Union. Indeed, businesses, including well-known super- markets that do not even have stores in the Republic of Ireland, are having to go through the same sort of checks. We want to ensure that that is resolved. We absolutely understand that the EU’s core focus, as it has said, is on protecting its single market. For us, this is about respecting the single market, but our core focus is on protecting the Good Friday/Belfast agreement in all its strands, and ensuring that the residents and citizens of Northern Ireland can have access to the products that they should have as an integral, important part of the United Kingdom.
Today marks five years since the murder of our friend and colleague Jo Cox. My thoughts—and I am sure those of the whole House—are with her family and friends.
I am sure that the House will wish to join me in offering our thanks and best wishes to Sir Roy Stone, who is leaving the Government Chief Whip’s office and the civil service. He has worked for 13 Chief Whips, and for over 20 years has played an invaluable role in delivering the Government of the day’s legislative programme. We wish him well.
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 am sure that we would all wish to associate ourselves with the Prime Minister’s remarks in relation to both Jo Cox and Roy Stone.
I know that the Prime Minister will report to the House in more detail later on the G7 summit, which President Biden described as “extremely collaborative” and successful. In taking forward the agenda—in particular, the part of the agenda of the summit that calls for us to work to uphold the rule of law and respect for an international rules-based system—will the Prime Minister bear in mind and task all parts of the Government to promote the great asset that we have in English common law, and in the expertise and reputation for integrity of our judiciary and legal systems? Will he make sure that those willing assets are harnessed in the pursuit of that G7 agenda, be it through writing commercial contracts with English law as a jurisdiction or helping, through our expertise, developing countries and markets?
My hon. Friend raises an important and vital sector of our economy—our legal services industry and judicial system, which is admired around the world. It is one of the reasons that we are capable of attracting so much inward investment to this country and one of the key exports that we have been able to promote just recently—thanks, for instance, to our free trade deal with Australia.
May I join with the Prime Minister’s remarks in relation to Sir Roy Stone?
This week also marks the fourth anniversary of the Grenfell fire tragedy, in which 72 people lost their lives. It is frankly an outrage that there are still more than 200 high-rise flats with Grenfell-style cladding, and that many leaseholders are trapped in homes that are neither safe nor sellable. The best way to mark this tragedy is not with words, but with action; I urge the Prime Minister finally to end the cladding scandal.
As the Prime Minister has already said, today is the fifth anniversary of the death of our dear friend and colleague Jo Cox. Jo had already changed so many lives for the better. She was passionate about creating a fairer, more just world. I know she would have gone on to achieve so much more, and that she would have been so proud of the work of her foundation and what it is doing in her name. Jo and I were in the same intake into this House; we were friends and our children are around the same age. There is not a day that goes by when we do not miss Jo. I know that I speak not just for those on the Opposition Benches, but for many across the House, when I say that today we remember Jo. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
Does the Prime Minister recognise that his decision to keep our borders open contributed to the spread of the delta variant in this country?
No. Captain Hindsight needs to adjust his retrospectoscope, because he is completely wrong. We put India on the red list on 23 April, and the delta variant was not so identified until 28 April and was only identified as a variant of concern on 7 May. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman criticises this Government for wanting to keep our borders open, just remember that he voted 43 times in the last five years to ensure that our border controls were kept in the hands of Brussels.
This is absurd. I have, on seven occasions at PMQs, raised the question of the borders with the Prime Minister. They are all marked up in the transcript; they are all there in Hansard, Prime Minister. It is time for a better defence: your defence is as bad as your border policy.
The Prime Minister talks about the dates. Let us go through the dates. On 24 March, a new variant was reported in India. On 1 April, India was reporting over 100,000 new infections a day, and rising. But the Prime Minister kept India off the red list until 23 April. In that time, 20,000 people came into the UK from India. What on earth did the Prime Minister expect would be the consequences of that? The British people did their bit by following the rules and getting vaccinated, but the Prime Minister squandered it by letting a new variant into the country. That was not inevitable; it was the consequence of his indecision. If the Prime Minister disagrees with me—he answered the first question, “No”—what is his explanation as to why Britain has such high rates of the delta variant?
There is a very simple reason why the UK generally has a better understanding of the variants in these countries: we do 47% of the genomic testing in the world. I really think that the Leader of the Opposition should get his facts straight, because the delta variant, as I have said, was identified in this country on 28 April. I have a document on which I believe he is relying—it seems to be published by somebody called David Evans, general secretary of the Labour party—in which he says that the delta variant was identified on 1 April. He says that B1617—the delta variant—was designated as under investigation on 1 April. That is not the delta variant; that is the kappa variant. It is a “gamma” for the Labour party. The delta variant, as it happens, is seeded around the world in 74 countries and, sadly, is growing. But there is a difference between those countries and this country. In this country, we have vaccinated almost 79% of the adult population and given two vaccinations to 56%—a programme that he would have stopped by keeping us in the European Medicines Agency.
The question was: what is the Prime Minister’s explanation for our high rates of the delta variant? Answer came there none, other than that, apparently, we understand the variants.
The data is very, very clear. Our NHS has been doing an amazing job with the vaccine roll-out, but while the NHS was vaccinating, the Prime Minister was vacillating. It is because of his indecision that our borders stayed open. It is because of his indecision that India stayed off the red list. It is because of his indecision that in that period 20,000 people came to this country from India. The consequences are now clear. The rate of the delta variant is much higher here than in other countries, and we learn today that tragically, once again, the UK has the highest infection rate in Europe: we did not want to top that table again. If his borders policy is so strong, how does the Prime Minister explain that?
For the ease of the House, the right hon. and learned Gentleman should begin by pulping his document in which he incorrectly identifies what the delta variant is. We took the most drastic steps possible to put India on the red list on 23 April, before that variant was even identified. The big difference between this country and the rest of Europe—he loves these comparisons—is that we have had the fastest vaccine roll-out anywhere in Europe. We have a very, very high degree of protection. It is thanks to the vaccine roll-out and the fantastic efforts of the NHS that we now have and can continue with one of the most open economies and societies in Europe and get on with our cautious but irreversible road map to freedom.
If the Prime Minister put as much effort into protecting our borders as he does to coming up with ridiculous excuses, the country would be reopening next week. Even now, what do we know? The delta variant is responsible for 90% of infections in this country. He is persisting with a traffic light system that does not work and will not stop other variants coming in. After so many mistakes, and with the stakes so high, why does the Prime Minister not do what Labour is calling for: drop the traffic light system, get rid of the amber list, secure the borders and do everything possible to save the British summer?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not even know what the delta variant is. We have the toughest border measures anywhere in the world, and we will continue. We have 50 countries on the red list. If he is now saying that he wants to stop all transit, traffic and travel to and from this country, it is yet another flip-flop from the Leader of the Opposition—yet another totally unintelligible flip-flop. If he wants to close this country down to travel, which is what I understood him to be saying, it is not only yet another flip-flop, but it is also totally pointless, because we have 75% of our medicines and 50% of our food coming in from abroad. He has got to adopt a consistent position.
What I have learned is that the worse the position for the Prime Minister, the more pathetic it gets. Is he really suggesting that the 20,000 people who came in from India were bringing in vital medical supplies or food? It is absolutely ridiculous. What we were arguing for was for India to be on the red list between 1 and 23 April. If that had happened, we would not have the delta variant here, and it is as simple as that. The Prime Minister’s former senior adviser got it absolutely right. He said, and I quote:
“Fundamentally, there was no proper border policy, because the Prime Minister never wanted a proper border policy.”
That is the man who was in the room. It is those in hospitality, in clubs, in pubs, the arts, tourism and travel who are paying the price of the Prime Minister’s failure. All they ask is that if they have to keep their businesses closed, they get the support they need, but where is it? Business rate relief is being withdrawn from the end of this month, affecting 750,000 businesses. Furlough is being phased out. In Wales, the Labour Government have acted by extending business rate relief for a year and providing new support for those affected. When is the Prime Minister going to do the same for businesses in England?
We are proud of the support we have given to businesses up and down the country. The whole point about the cautious approach we are taking is to continue support with furlough, support through business rates, support through grants of up to £18,000, and there is support from councils—all that is continuing, but what we are also seeing is businesses slowly recovering. The growth in the economy in April was 2.3%. Card spending over the bank holiday weekend was actually 20% above pre-pandemic levels. I know how tough things have been, and we will look after business throughout this pandemic, but thanks to the vaccine roll-out and the cautious steps we are taking, we are seeing a shot in the arm for business across the country, and we will look after them all the way.
Yet again, it is not what the Government have done; it is what is needed now in light of the decision taken this week. UKHospitality says that the sector will lose £3 billion because of the delay and that 200,000 jobs could be at risk. That is not what has been done, but what is needed now, Prime Minister. The Federation of Small Businesses warns that the Government are being dangerously complacent, and I think we have just seen an example of that.
We all want these restrictions to be over, for our economy to be open and for businesses to thrive, but the Prime Minister’s indecision at the borders has blown it. [Interruption.] The problem with everything that the Prime Minister says today—both what he says at the Dispatch Box and also what he mutters—is that we have heard it all before so many times. Last March, he said we could turn the tide in 12 weeks—remember that? Then he said it will all be over by Christmas. Then we were told 21 June would be freedom day. Now we are told that 19 July is terminus day.
The British people do not expect miracles, but they do expect basic competence and honesty. When it comes to care homes, protective equipment or borders, we see the same pattern from this Prime Minister—too slow, too indecisive, over-promising, under-delivering. After all these failures and mistakes, why should anyone believe the Prime Minister now?
Why should anybody believe the Leader of the Opposition when he cannot decide what he thinks from one week to the next? He says he has a tough position on borders. Actually, he was attacking quarantine only recently, and saying that it was a “blunt instrument” that should be lessened. What I think the people of this country want to see is a Government getting on with the vaccine roll-out and getting on with our cautious but irreversible road map to freedom. I am very pleased, and he should say it again, that we have one of the fastest vaccine roll-outs anywhere in the world—certainly the fastest in Europe. It would not have been possible if we had stayed in the European Medicines Agency. We would not have been able to control our borders if, as he voted for 43 times, we had stayed in the EU. We are getting on with the job. We are bringing forward now 23 and 24-year-olds and asking them to come forward for their vaccines. I ask everybody to come forward for their second jab. I trust he has had his. We are delivering on our commitments to the British people—not only a great outcome at the G7 summit last weekend in Carbis Bay, but a new free trade agreement with Australia and building back better across our country. We are getting on with the job, and it would be a wonderful thing, once in his time as Leader of the Opposition, to hear some support for what the Government are doing and some backing up for our approach.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this very sad case with me, and I am sure the whole House will be thinking of Sonia Deleon and her family. I think that such decisions on “do not resuscitate” should be made only in accordance with a decision involving the person concerned and their carers and families.
Can I associate myself with the remarks made by you, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on the absolutely brutal death of our friend and colleague Jo Cox five years ago? She was a woman dedicated to public service who made, in her short time here, a tremendous contribution to this House. Our thoughts are very much with her family, her friends and all those who care very deeply for her loss.
Of course, as we do that, we should also reflect on what we saw earlier this week with the journalist Nick Watt chased through the streets of Whitehall by a mob seeking to intimidate. We must all stand up in this House for the rights of journalists to be able to go about their work safely.
I say good wishes both to Scotland and England ahead of the football match on Friday evening, but if I may say so, I hope that we do not see Scotland being dragged out of the Euros against our wishes at the end of the week.
As we enter the Chamber, we see what is reported to be a WhatsApp communication between the Prime Minister and Dominic Cummings. Perhaps the Prime Minister will clarify whether or not these are genuine, and whether or not the derogatory comments that he expressed on his Health Secretary are valid.
This morning, the details of the disastrous trade deal with Australia are slowly seeping out. It tells us everything we need to know that these details are being celebrated in Canberra, but are busy being concealed in London. For all the spin, it is clear that this Tory Government have just thrown Scottish farmers and crofters under their Brexit bus, just as they sold out our fishing community. So, today, those with most to lose from this deal do not need to hear the Prime Minister’s usual waffle. Their livelihoods are at stake, Prime Minister. Just this once— just this once—they deserve honest answers from this Government. Will the Prime Minister confirm that from day one of this deal, 35,000 tonnes of Australian beef, and 25,000 tonnes of Australian lamb will be free to flood the UK market, tariff free?
This is a great deal for the UK. It is a great deal for Scotland, for Scottish whisky, and for Scottish business and services exports. It is a great deal for Scottish legal services. It is also a great deal for Scottish farming, and how tragic—how absolutely tragic—that it should be the posture of the Scottish National party to see absolutely no way that Scottish farmers will be able to take advantage of opportunities to export around the world. What the right hon. Gentleman does not realise, is that £350 million-worth of UK food already goes from this country to Australia. This is an opportunity to turbocharge those exports, get behind Scottish farming, and encourage that, not run it down.
My goodness—I do not even think the Prime Minister can believe that tripe. In the Tories’ desperation to get a post-Brexit trade deal with somebody— anybody—they have given the farm away, literally. It is blindingly obvious who are the winners and who are the losers in this deal. Australia’s economy will benefit to the tune of $1.3 billion a year. The UK Government’s own assessment states that the Australian deal is worth just “0.02% of GDP”. We would need 200 Australian deals to come close to mitigating the cost of Brexit. We were told that Brexit was all about taking back control, but for our farmers and crofters there has been no scrutiny, no consultation, and no consent. If the Prime Minister is really confident about the benefits of this deal, does he have the guts to put it to a vote in this House?
The people of this country voted for this Government to get on and deliver free trade deals around the world. I believe they were totally right. The right hon. Gentleman talks about tripe, and when it comes to exporting the intestines of sheep, which I know is a valuable part of Scottish tradition, even that is now being opened up around the world, thanks to the deals that this country is doing. If he is saying that he wants to go back into the EU, hand back control of our fisheries and our agriculture to Brussels, and lose all the opportunities that this country has gained, I think he is frankly out of his mind and going in totally the wrong direction. If he means another referendum, we had one of those.
I know that, like me, the Prime Minister cares passionately about the Union. Can he confirm that the passing of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and the Northern Ireland protocol that forms part of it, has not resulted in an implied repeal of article 6 of the Act of Union, which enables Northern Ireland to trade freely with the rest of this United Kingdom? Will he commit fully to restoring Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market?
Yes, of course. I can give assurances on both counts. I can say that unless we see progress on the implementation of the protocol, which I think is currently totally disproportionate, then we will have to take the necessary steps to do exactly what the right hon. Gentleman says.
My hon. Friend is totally right about Hillingdon Hospital, which has a great future. I look forward to working with him to ensure that the future of services at Mount Vernon is also protected. I know that a full consultation is due to start in September.
It is absolutely true that as we open up our economy there are more vacancies, which is great. We also have large numbers of young people in this country who need jobs and large numbers of people who are still furloughed. What we want to see is those people coming forward to get those jobs. Of course, we will retain an open and flexible approach towards allowing talent to come in from overseas.
I will do everything I can to ensure that we accelerate that process. My hon. Friend is right to raise it. A great deal of progress has already been made and the Food Standards Agency has been flexible, but we need to go further. We will make sure that great British shellfish can continue to be exported to Europe and around the world.
From listening to the SNP, Mr Speaker, you would think there was no Scotch whisky industry or no banking and financial services industries in Scotland. Even then, they are missing the point because this is a massive opportunity for the Scottish agriculture sector. What they need is a different type of MP who can champion and get behind them, and who actually believes in Scotland. That is what the people of Scotland need.
Nobody, least of all my hon. Friend or I, wants to see covid restrictions last forever, nor do I think that they are going to last forever. As I made clear earlier this week, I think we can have a high degree of confidence that our vaccination programme will work. I think that we need to give it a little more time, as I have explained, to save many thousands more lives by vaccinating millions more people. That is what we want to do.
I am aware of the problem, and we are doing what we can to accelerate the number of driving instructors and testers to allow young people such as the gentleman that she mentions to get their driving test done, and enable them to fulfil their ambitions.
I support the Prime Minister’s comments on Jo Cox and, as a former Chief Whip, his comment on Sir Roy Stone. Sir Roy gave amazing service to me when I was Chief Whip during the worst of the Brexit years in dealing with a hung Parliament and with the occasional disruptive Back Bencher.
Northern Ireland faces some challenges over the coming weeks in terms of nominating a First Minister and a Deputy First Minister. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is vital that the parties stick to the agreements that have been made in the “New Decade, New Approach” deal, which he and I negotiated 18 months ago, and that if they fail to do that—I know he does not like this concept—the UK Government ultimately act as a backstop?
It gives me great pleasure to thank my right hon. Friend for all the work that he did on the “New Decade, New Approach” deal. I agree that it would be a good thing for the whole package to be agreed, and I certainly support the approach that he has set out. I think that what the people of Northern Ireland want is a stable, functioning and mature Executive.
May I welcome the Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform report, published today by my right hon. Friends the Members for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) and for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) and my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman)? The report makes recommendations about how to seize new opportunities from Brexit and back start-ups and new tech. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister look closely at that report so that we can make the most of the great benefits of Brexit and lead the world in the development of new technologies?
We have invested massively in removing cladding from high-rise blocks, and we will continue to do so. I know the structure in question and I do believe that Ballymore, the company concerned, has been too slow. We are on its case. I think it is very important that people understand that overall risks of death by fire have been coming down for a very long time and will continue to come down. It is simply not the case that all the high-rise buildings in this country are unsafe, and it is very important that Members of Parliament stress that.
Independent lifeboat stations such as the Hamble lifeboat in my constituency respond to over 100 incidents a year in the Solent. The pandemic has increased the operating costs of independent lifeboat stations while also restricting their ability to raise money. Will the Prime Minister look to see what more the Government can do to support independent lifeboat stations such as the Hamble lifeboat as they keep a watchful eye on all of us?
When can we expect the co-ordinated chorus of SAGE members recommencing their media appearances to depress morale, and does my right hon. Friend fear having to give another press conference at which he again postpones the return of our freedoms? We are rightly told that we need to learn to live with covid, so what can the Prime Minister say to the country to convince us of that reality?
I associate myself with the comments of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition about our friend Jo Cox. Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating rugby league legend Kevin Sinfield on his OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours? Kevin has done so much to raise awareness of motor neurone disease and support his good friend Rob Burrow. MND is a devastating disease. There is no cure, but scientists believe they are on the cusp of developing effective treatments. Will the Government please commit to investing £50 million over five years to establish a virtual MND research institute and to accelerate research?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is an OBE, and I thank Kevin Sinfield very much for his outstanding work. We are following it up by spending £55 million on research into MND, but there will be more to come as part of our general massive investment in life sciences.
I really think that these constant attacks on Australia, its standards and its animal welfare standards will be very much resented by the people of Australia, and will not be recognised. Australia is marked five out of five, which is the highest possible, for animal welfare by the World Organisation for Animal Health performance of veterinary services evaluation team. This deal that we have done is the first ever to incorporate high animal welfare standards, as part of the package that Australia has agreed.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to assisted dying campaigner Noel Conway, who has died after taking the decision to have his breathing support removed, and does my right hon. Friend agree that it is now time for Parliament to properly consider the law on assisted dying?
I thank my hon. Friend, and I know that the whole House will be in sympathy with Noel Conway’s family and friends. There are very deeply and sincerely held views on both sides of this matter, and a change in the law would obviously be one for Parliament to consider.
In 2014, Runnymede and Weybridge was hit by devastating floods, and my constituents live under the fear of flooding. Last week, the Government signed off the outline business case for the River Thames flooding alleviation scheme, which will allow the detailed design and planning for this scheme to begin in earnest. It is fantastic news and a monumental milestone, and it will massively improve our protection from flooding. Will the Prime Minister join me in celebrating and thanking everyone who has got us to where we are, and does he agree that we need to keep the momentum going?
G7 and NATO Summits
With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the G7 summit I chaired in Carbis Bay and the NATO summit in Brussels.
Let me first thank the people of Cornwall, Carbis Bay and St Ives for welcoming the representatives of the world’s most powerful democracies to their home, an enchanting setting for the first gathering of G7 leaders in two years, the first since the pandemic began, and President Biden’s first overseas visit since taking office. Our aim was to demonstrate how the world’s democracies are ready and able to address the world’s toughest problems, offering solutions and backing them up with concrete action.
The G7 will combine our strengths and expertise to defeat covid, minimise the risk of another pandemic, and build back better, fairer and greener for the benefit of all. Alongside our partners, the G7 is now engaged in the biggest and fastest vaccination programme in history, which is designed to protect the whole world by the end of next year. My fellow leaders agreed to supply developing countries with another billion doses—either directly or through other channels—of which 100 million will come from the UK.
The world’s most popular vaccine was developed here, and the express purpose of the deal between the British Government, Oxford University and AstraZeneca was to create an inoculation that would be easy to store, quick to distribute and available at cost price, or zero profit, in order to protect as many people as possible. The results are becoming clearer every day: over 500 million Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines have been administered in 168 countries so far, accounting for 96% of the doses distributed to developing nations by COVAX, the global alliance that the UK helped to establish. With every passing hour, people are being protected across the world, and lives saved, by the formidable expertise that the UK was able to assemble.
But all the efforts of this country and many others, no matter how generous and far-sighted, would be futile in the face of another lethal virus that might escape our efforts, so the G7 has agreed to support a Global Pandemic Radar to spot new pathogens before they begin to spread, allowing immediate containment. In case a new virus gets through anyway, our scientists will embark on a mission to develop the ability to create new vaccines, treatments and tests in just 100 days, compared with the 300 required for covid.
Even as we persevere against this virus, my fellow leaders share my determination to look beyond today’s crisis and build back better, greener and fairer. If we can learn anything from this tragedy, we have at least been given a chance to break with the past, do things better and do them differently. This time, as our economies rebound, we must avoid the mistakes we made after the financial crash of 2008 and ensure that everyone benefits from the recovery. The surest way to our future prosperity is to design fair and open rules and standards for the new frontiers of the global economy, so the G7 will devise a fairer tax system for global corporations, reversing the race to the bottom, and will strive to ensure that new technology serves as a force for prosperity and hope, strengthening freedom and openness.
My fellow leaders will act as one against an increasing injustice—the denial of an education to millions of girls across the world—by working to get another 40 million girls into school by 2025. I am happy to say that the G7 agreed to provide more than half of the $5 billion sought by the Global Partnership for Education to transform the prospects of millions of children in developing countries, and £430 million will come from the UK.
Our duty to future generations compels us to protect our planet from catastrophic climate change. Every country in the G7 has promised to achieve net zero by 2050, wiping out our contribution to global warming from that date onwards. To achieve that target, we will halve our carbon emissions by 2030 compared with 2010 levels. The G7 resolved to end any Government support for unabated coal-fired power generation overseas, and to increase and improve climate finance between now and 2025. We will consecrate 30% of our land and sea to nature, protecting vast areas in all their abundance and diversity of life, giving millions of species the chance to recover from the ravages of recent decades.
It is precisely because safeguarding our planet requires global action that the G7 will offer developing countries a new partnership, the Build Back Better World, to help to construct new, clean and green infrastructure in a way that is transparent and environmentally responsible. There is no contradiction between averting climate change and creating highly skilled and well-paid jobs, both in our country and around the world; we can and will achieve both by means of a green industrial revolution at home and green infrastructure abroad.
I was honoured to welcome our friends the leaders of India, South Korea, Australia and South Africa as guests in Carbis Bay—virtually, of course, in the case of the Prime Minister of India. On Monday, Scott Morrison and I were delighted to reach a free trade agreement between the UK and Australia, creating fantastic opportunities for both our countries, eliminating tariffs on all British exports—whether Scotch whisky or cars from the midlands —and making it easier for young British people to live and work in Australia. We have also included protections for British farmers over the next 15 years and unprecedented protections and provisions for animal welfare. This House will, of course, be able to scrutinise the agreement once the texts are finalised.
This is exactly how global Britain will help to generate jobs and opportunities at home and level up our whole United Kingdom. Our agreement with Australia is a vital step towards the even greater prize of the UK joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a $9 trillion free trade area embracing the fastest growing economies of the world.
Together with the G7, the countries represented at Carbis Bay comprise a “Democratic XI”—free nations living on five continents, spanning different faiths and cultures, but united by a shared belief in liberty, democracy and human rights. Those ideals were encapsulated in the Atlantic charter agreed by Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt in 1941, when Britain was the only surviving democracy in Europe and the very existence of our freedom was in peril. The courage and valour of millions of people ensured that our ideals survived and flourished, and 80 years on, President Biden and I met within sight of HMS Prince of Wales, the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier and the linear successor of the battleship on which the original charter was devised; and we agreed a new Atlantic charter, encompassing the full breadth of British and American co-operation in science and technology, trade and global security.
The surest guarantee of our security is NATO, which protects a billion people in 30 countries, and the summit in Brussels on Monday agreed the wholesale modernisation of the alliance to meet new dangers, including in space and cyber-space, reflecting the priorities of our own integrated review of foreign and defence policy.
Britain has the biggest defence budget in Europe, comfortably exceeding the NATO target of 2% of national income. We have committed our nuclear deterrent and our cyber capabilities to the alliance, and we contribute more troops than any other country to NATO’s deployment to protect Poland and the Baltic states. We do more for the security of our continent than any other European power, showing that we mean it when we say that an attack on any NATO ally shall be considered an attack on all—a pledge that has kept the peace for over 70 years, and which President Biden reaffirmed on behalf of the United States.
Together, these two summits showed the enduring strength of the Atlantic alliance and the bonds we treasure with kindred democracies across the globe. They have provided the best possible foundation for COP26 in Glasgow in November, when the UK will bring the whole world together in a common cause. They demonstrated how global Britain creates jobs at home, while striving in unison with our friends for a greener, safer and fairer world.
I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement.
It was a Labour Government and a Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who helped found NATO, and it is an alliance that Labour will always value and protect. So we welcome agreement on the NATO 2030 agenda—in particular, strengthening NATO’s cyber-security capability. We also welcome the deepening support for our friends and allies in Ukraine and Georgia, and the recognition of the global security implications of the climate emergency, and for the first time, of the challenges that China poses to global security and stability.
On the UK-Australia trade deal, we all want to see Britain taking trading opportunities around the world, but the devil will be in the detail, and we look forward to scrutinising the deal in Parliament, in particular for its impact on British farmers and on food standards.
The G7 summit should have been the most important G7 in a generation—the first of the recovery, the first with a new US President, a chance for Britain to lead the world, as we did at Gleneagles in 2005 or after the global financial crisis in 2009; but whether on global vaccination, the climate emergency, middle east peace or the Northern Ireland protocol, the summit ended up as a wasted opportunity.
The priority for the summit had to be a clear plan to vaccinate the world. That is not just a moral imperative; it is in our self-interest, as the delta variant makes clear. Without global vaccine coverage, this virus will continue to boomerang, bringing more variants and more disruption to these shores. The World Health Organisation has said that 11 billion doses are needed—11 billion doses. The summit promised less than one tenth of that. No new funding, no plan to build a global vaccine capacity and no progress on patent waivers. The headlines of 1 billion doses may be what the Prime Minister wanted, but it is not what the world needed.
The same is true of the climate emergency. This is the single greatest challenge that the world will face in decades to come, but this summit saw no progress on climate finance. The communiqué speaks only of “commitments already made” and of those yet to be made. There was no plan, let alone a Marshall plan, to speed up cuts to global emissions, and there was little in the communiqué beyond existing commitments. This summit was meant to be a stepping stone to COP26, but, if anything, it was a step back.
It was also disappointing that there was nothing to suggest that any progress was made to restart the middle east peace process. A new Government in Israel, combined with a new US President, provides a real opportunity to end the injustice and finally to deliver an independent and sovereign Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel. Sadly, the resumption of hostilities overnight shows the price of that failure. Did the Prime Minister discuss this with world leaders, including with President Biden?
The summit should also have been an opportunity to resolve, not inflame, tensions over the Northern Ireland protocol. It started with an unprecedented diplomatic rebuke from our closest allies, and it ended with the White House still speaking of “candid” discussions. It was overshadowed by the failure of the Prime Minister to make the deal that he negotiated—he negotiated—work.
The Prime Minister may think that this is all part of a grand diplomatic game, but Northern Ireland is far too serious for that. When a Prime Minister loses the trust of our allies and trashes Britain’s reputation for upholding international law, it is hardly surprising that we are left isolated and unable to lead.
Despite all this, I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will be pleased with the G7 summit, because it delivered everything that he wanted: some good headlines; some nice photos; and even a row with the French over sausages. That just shows how narrow the Prime Minister’s ambition for Britain really is. It is why this was never going to be a Gleneagles-style success, and why the Prime Minister played the role of host but not leader, of tour guide but not statesman. On those terms, this G7 was a success, but on any other, it was a failure.
In a long career of miserabilism and defeatism, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has really excelled himself there. It was a very powerful statement after a long and difficult period in which the world came together and decided to build back better for the world. One thing that he did not mention was the fantastic agreement that we reached to come together to support the whole of the developing world, which I think he should approve of, in allowing them to have access to clean, green technology, financed by the multinational development banks, but bringing in the private sector from around the world. It is a fantastic step forward for the world.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman nickels and dimes what happened on vaccines. I think that it was fantastic that, on top of the 1 billion that we have already given, the world agreed another 1 billion vaccines, when people are racing to vaccinate their own populations. They agreed another 1 billion vaccines from the G7— 100 million more from this country. He is constantly running this country’s efforts down. Of the 1.4 billion COVAX vaccines that have already been distributed, 500 million of them are directly due to the efforts of this country, which has given £1.6 billion to supporting COVAX and another £548 million to supporting Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
As for climate change, I do not know what planet the right hon. and learned Gentleman is on. This was an extraordinary achievement by the summit. Not only did all countries commit to net zero by 2050, but we are long way towards getting the £100 billion that we need for climate change financing. He complains about the Northern Ireland protocol, but it is not at all clear what he believes himself. He says that he is not in favour of checks at the border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. [Interruption.] There should be no border, he says. He is quite right. Then what is his policy? That is exactly what this Government are standing for. I would like to understand what he actually stands for. [Interruption.] We want to get rid of those checks, and if he will support us in doing so, I would be grateful, finally, for his support.
I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman said something positive about the NATO summit. I am glad of that, although it is striking that he is not joined, for once, by the shadow Foreign Secretary, as it is still her view, as far as I can remember, that we should get rid of the nuclear deterrent—our own nuclear deterrent, on which our NATO security guarantee relies. [Interruption.] Maybe that is not her position; maybe she has changed it. As for the trade deal with Australia, the shadow International Trade Secretary has said that she does not think it possible for the UK to export food and drink to Australia because it goes “off”—actually, this country exports £350 million-worth of food and drink. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should congratulate UK exporters, support the free trade deal and stop being so generally down in the mouth about everything.
I welcome my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s leadership of the G7 over the weekend and many of its successful outcomes. During the G7, the United States proposed that all the countries adopt a common strategy on China’s disgusting use of forced labour and confront it. I understand that some of the European countries dissented from that approach, so I ask my right hon. Friend: does he stand with President Biden on this issue, not with his dissenters? If so, will my right hon. Friend emphasise that by informing the House when the Government will bring forward their promised export controls to keep goods produced by Uyghur slave labour off our shelves and the promised changes to the Modern Slavery Act 2015? Those things are very important and the Prime Minister can re-emphasise his strong credentials.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement. I can sense, after a week of ascending to the heady heights of hosting global leaders, just how thrilled the Prime Minister is to be back in this House answering questions from us mere mortals. But even us mere mortals, looking at the G7 from afar, can detect the difference between a welcoming host and an influential leader. Even a raft of carefully crafted photo opportunities in Cornwall could not hide the fact that this Prime Minister and his Government are deeply diminished on the world stage. The UK is the only G7 country cutting overseas aid and the only G7 country being questioned about its commitment to previously signed international treaties; and the UK remains the G7 country with the smallest covid stimulus package.
Although the Prime Minister may have hoped to relaunch global Britain, what was really on show over the last week was Brexit Britain—a more isolated and less influential place. Prior to the summit, the Prime Minister built up the prospects of a new Marshall plan, promoting climate action in developing countries, but what was announced appeared to be a repackaging of previous announcements. I can see the Prime Minister shaking his head, so may I ask him to confirm the exact figure the UK will be contributing to this “Marshall plan” for climate action?
On covid recovery, President Biden openly encouraged other leaders to embrace the economic logic of an investment-led recovery, instead of returning to the failed policy of austerity cuts. Does the Prime Minister agree with that economic logic? Will he therefore explain why the UK has the smallest covid stimulus package of any G7 country? Finally on the NATO summit, will the Prime Minister detail what concrete proposals were agreed to apply appropriate pressure to protect the human rights of the persecuted Uyghur Muslim minority in China?
On the Uyghurs in China, no concrete measures were discussed at NATO, but as I said in my answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith), we in this country remain implacably committed to opposing the forced labour there and to sanctioning those who profit from the forced labour in Xinjiang.
The right hon. Gentleman’s characterisation of the summit is as erroneous as that of the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer). It was a fantastically successful summit in bringing the world together on vaccination and on tackling climate change. The UK’s own contribution, which the right hon. Gentleman deprecates, is massive. I think the people of this country will think it astonishing that at a time when we have been through a pandemic, and have spent £407 billion looking after jobs and livelihoods in this country, we are still able—[Interruption.] I will give him the figure: we are still able to supply £11.6 billion to help the developing world to tackle the consequences of climate change. The right hon. Gentleman should be proud of that and not run his country down.
My right hon. Friend’s significant success at the G7 last weekend has sadly been dented by the fact that Britain is the only G7 country cutting vital aid and is doing so in the middle of a global pandemic. That decision is not only doing grave damage to the reputation of global Britain; it will also lead to more than 100,000 avoidable deaths, principally among women and children. Will he reflect on the fact that many of us, in all parts of the parliamentary party, are urging him to reverse these terrible humanitarian cuts, and that we are not, as he suggested in Prime Minister’s questions last week, lefty propagandists, but his political friends, allies and supporters, who want him to think again?
I have the utmost respect for my right hon. Friend’s record in overseas aid, but I have to say that the changes that we have made to official development assistance have not been raised with me by anybody at the G7; nor have they by any recipient country —and I have talked to many of them. That is because they know that the United Kingdom remains one of the biggest donors in the world—second in the G7—and, in spite of all the difficulties that we have been going through, we are contributing £10 billion this year to supporting countries around the world. We have also just increased our spending on female education. That was one thing that people did raise with me, and they did so to congratulate the UK Government on what we were doing. People in this country should be very proud of the contributions that they are making.
[Inaudible] the Prime Minister waxed lyrical about the fight against climate change, but only after stepping off his private jet; he made the case for investing in girls’ education around the world, yet he is cutting the amount we spend on it by 40% this year; he talked up the importance of international agreements while reneging on the one he signed; and he advocated the importance of democracy while introducing plans to make it harder for people to vote in this country. When will the Prime Minister realise that his approach of “Do as I say, not as I do” is ruinous to Britain’s reputation on the world stage?
The Liberal Democrats should get their facts right. We are not cutting spending on girls’ education, to pick one of the points made by the right hon. Gentleman; we are actually increasing it by at least 15%. We are spending £432 million on the Global Partnership for Education.
Look at what this country is doing on tackling climate change, with the commitment to net zero. That was actually made after we were in coalition with the right hon. Gentleman. Freed from the shackles of Lib Dem hypocrisy, we were able to get on with some serious work and commit, under my premiership—freed from the uselessness of the Lib Dems—£11.6 billion to help the people of the world to tackle climate change. He should realise that for people listening to him who really care about tackling climate change and allowing the world to build back cleaner, greener and better, he is making it harder not just to vote, but to vote Lib Dem.
Does my right hon. Friend recall President Macron insisting that nothing in the Northern Ireland protocol is negotiable even though he admits that it contains what he calls inconsistencies? If the peace and stability of Northern Ireland is being undermined by the application of the protocol, then it is obvious that the protocol itself must be renegotiated: how could anyone seriously consider otherwise? Will my right hon. Friend urge the EU not to give precedence to the protocol over the peace process and the Good Friday agreement, and will he remind it of the 2017 joint report, which included the aspiration that the then backstop would be removed via negotiations and what it calls “specific solutions”? Will he pursue that policy?
The problem at the moment is the application of the protocol. The protocol makes it very clear that there should be no distortions of trade and that the Good Friday peace process, above all, must be upheld, but it is being applied in such a way as to destabilise that peace process and applied in a highly asymmetrical way. All we are asking for is a pragmatic approach. I hope very much that we will get that, but if we cannot get that, then I will certainly take the steps that my hon. Friend describes.
Monday’s Australian trade deal announcement revealed the Prime Minister’s fear of democratic accountability. He has withheld details of the agreement and prevented Parliament from doing our proper job of scrutiny at the proper time. Yet, from day one, Australian farmers will be able to export over 60 times more beef before UK tariffs kick in—that is no tariff whatsoever on up to 35,000 tonnes of potentially low-welfare beef. So, from day one, will he at least commit to an annual assessment of the economic impact of his deal on Welsh beef and lamb farmers?
I will repeat the point I have made to many Opposition Members. This is an opportunity for UK farming and indeed for Welsh farmers. The right hon. Lady speaks with apprehension about 35,000 tonnes of Australian beef. We already import about 300,000 tonnes of EU beef. Australian farmers observe very, very high animal welfare standards, and they will only get completely tariff-free access after 15 years. After 15 years, we are going to give people in Australia the same rights of access as we give the 27 other EU countries.
The recent agreements on cyber defence policy and technological co-operation announced at the NATO summit in Brussels will mean that the alliance remains as strong as ever when faced with new threats. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister confirm that he remains utterly committed to NATO as the foundation of our collective security?
Reports emanating from the summit suggest that Monsieur Macron does not seem to understand the constitutional parameters of the United Kingdom, given that he thought that we were part of a different country. Will the Prime Minister take steps to ensure that all our partners know what those parameters are? Will he also take great care in the next few days and weeks not to jeopardise devolution even further in Northern Ireland, as it has been put in jeopardy in the past few days as a result of Sinn Féin’s actions?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the success of the G7, which I think did Britain proud. May I ask him about the NATO summit and whether there were any discussions about the role for the alliance in the maintenance and protection of energy security and, in particular, about the need to reduce dependence on Russia? Specifically, were there any discussions about the strategic vulnerability being introduced to Europe by the Germans’ selfish obsession with the Nord Stream 2 project? If such a discussion did not occur, will he please ensure that it does?
I do not think I am giving anything away by telling my right hon. Friend that there were certainly discussions about the vital importance of all of us getting to net zero and avoiding a dependence on hydrocarbons, whether it is strategically unwise or not.
The failure of the G7 to reach an agreement on ending investment in all fossil fuels speaks volumes about the Prime Minister’s true climate leadership. Today he mentions coal but again ignores oil and gas. That is not a green industrial revolution; that is business as usual. The International Energy Agency said last month that there must be no new oil, gas or coal developments if the world is to reach net zero, so with the success of COP26 now hanging in the balance, will he heed the call from 101 Nobel laureates for a global fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty, and will he pursue that with G7 leaders and others before the climate summit, or is he happy for that to be judged a colossal failure of his leadership too?
When we consider how much some of these countries are dependent on coal, I think it was groundbreaking for the summit to agree not to support any more overseas coal. The commitments on net zero and on making progress by 2030 are outstanding, and it can be done. The hon. Lady’s mood of gloom and pessimism is not shared by the people of this country. We know that in 2012, 40% of our power came from coal. Now, thanks to this Conservative Government and the actions we have taken to reduce dependence on coal, it is down to less than 2% and falling the whole time. The whole world knows that, and they are following the UK’s example.
It is absolutely right that I congratulate the Prime Minister and all those involved in hosting the G7 summit in my constituency over the weekend. It was an absolutely fantastic event and we in Cornwall feel very proud of the part that we played. I also want to thank the police, who were quite incredible and who travelled from all over the country to help out. I also have an apology for the Prime Minister, because the truth is that we are very proud of the Carbis Bay declaration and I may well mention it once or twice in the years to come. We are proud of the declaration because of the commitments to covid vaccines, to the education of 40 million extra girls, to the global climate change response and to a fairer economic recovery and job creation. Will my friend the Prime Minister commit to further opportunities for Parliament to understand the details of the Carbis Bay declaration as they become available?
Yes. The Carbis Bay declaration is the foundation of the treaty that this country has been helping to prepare, and which we have been pioneering, against any future pandemic. The crucial elements are zoonotic research hubs, the pathogen surveillance network, and the undertaking to share data to prevent barriers between our countries in the export of personal protective equipment, medicines, vaccines and other things. It is the foundation to ensure that the time between a new variant arriving and a new vaccine should be kept down to 100 days, and to ensure that we spread know-how and manufacturing capacity around the world. This is the foundation of a new global approach to tackling pandemics. The UK has been absolutely instrumental in setting this up, to say nothing of the funding that we have put in, and I believe that the Carbis Bay declaration will be seen as a very important step towards the treaty later this year.
I thank the Prime Minister for his update on the G7 summit. However, I find myself in the curious position of agreeing with one of my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath predecessors, who commented on the commitments secured, with the Prime Minister in the chair, as an “unforgivable moral failure”.
The agreement is simply not good enough: 11 billion vaccines are needed and 1 billion have been promised; $50 billion of funding is needed, but only $5 billion has been promised. The World Health Organisation has said that covid-19 is moving faster than the vaccines, and the G7 commitment is simply not enough. For the aspiration of global Britain is fast becoming a global embarrassment, more indicative of a Del Boy Britain. Will the Prime Minister now show real leadership, and redouble efforts to secure the suspension of intellectual property protections, and further international efforts to prevent new variants from developing? I appeal to his self-interest that none of us are safe until everyone is safe.
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman is running down the UK’s efforts, as well as what the summit achieved, which is 1 billion more vaccines, on top of the 1 billion that G7 countries have already committed to distributing around the world. This is only six months after these vaccines were invented—it is an astonishing thing! He attacks the performance of Britain and the people of the UK, but let me remind him that we in this country are responsible for one-third of the 1.5 billion vaccines that have been distributed around the world. When will he get that into his head? That is a fantastic record, on top of the 1.6 billion that we have been contributing to that COVAX roll-out. I think the people of this country should be immensely proud of the Carbis Bay declaration and the vaccines contribution that we are making. We are working as fast and as hard as we can, while still getting vaccines into the arms of our own people in this country, and that is absolutely right.
Communiqués from the G7 and NATO summits speak of increasing challenges and threats from China, be they military build- up, cyber-attacks, human rights abuses, or the belt and road initiative. Will my right hon. Friend reassure the House that the common values and commitment that we and our partners have to democracy and the rules-based international order will result in the G7 and NATO tackling the malign actions of the Chinese Communist party, whatever form those take?
Yes. Nobody at either the G7 or NATO wants to get into a new cold war with China, but on the other hand they see that the opportunities we have to trade more and engage with China must be matched by firmness in our collective dealings with it, particularly when it comes to the Uyghurs, as colleagues have mentioned several times, and when it comes to navigation in the South China sea, and the freedoms and rights of the people of Hong Kong.
The Northern Ireland protocol was a key theme on the margins of the G7 summit. The Biden Administration have made it clear that they want to see the Good Friday agreement upheld, and that while there is no immediate prospect of a US free trade agreement, a UK-EU veterinary agreement would not compromise that trade deal in any event. The Prime Minister has already said that he wants to get rid of checks across the Irish sea. Why is he so stubbornly resisting that ready-made solution, even on a temporary basis, to reduce those checks, ease tensions in Northern Ireland, and indeed help all UK food exporters?
The Prime Minister knows that treaties can occasionally be negotiated and not quite make it through the House of Commons. In the interests of ensuring that we deliver what we need to deliver at COP26, building on the impressive work in the G7 and NATO statements, as well as on trade deals such as that with Australia, will he commit to ensuring that this House is informed well in advance of COP agreements, so that we can assist, advise, and perhaps even ensure that those agreements pass easily and smoothly through the House, and encourage others to do the same?
The G7 announcement of 1 billion additional vaccine doses for developing countries was, of course, welcome, but the Prime Minister knows that the head of the World Health Organisation says that we need 11 billion doses in total if we are to vaccinate 70% of the world population. Where does the right hon. Gentleman think that the rest of those doses will come from, so that everyone can be safe because everyone is vaccinated?
One of the most important things that we agreed at the G7, along with the Carbis Bay principles that I have outlined and that will form part of the health treaty, was that we should work together to increase vaccine manufacturing capacity and fill-and-finish facilities around the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that it has only been a few months since these vaccines were invented; we are going as fast as we can, but our ambition is to vaccinate the world by the end of next year.
The G7 meeting was exactly the face that modern Britain should present to the world: competent and confident. In terms of the substance, the UK commitment to share 100 million vaccines with less developed countries is an extremely welcome first step. Can my right hon. Friend guarantee that the 70 million doses that will be delivered through 2022 will be in addition to our existing aid budget.
I kept on thinking, all weekend, “Thank God Biden beat Trump.” I think that the Prime Minister is nodding.
Following the Carbis Bay declaration, may I urge the Prime Minister to come to Wales to sign a Cardiff Bay declaration? That declaration would include radical extra investment in Wales to do the levelling up that I think he intends, so that every person—whether they live in the valleys of south Wales, in the posher parts of Cardiff or Swansea, or wherever—has an equal chance of getting to work, an equal chance of putting food on the table for their kids, an equal chance of getting on in life and, frankly, an equal chance of having an NHS that is really able to protect them. The problems that we have in Wales are exactly the same as those in England. We need significant extra investment, and the only way we can achieve it is by real, hard co-operation between the Government in Westminster and the Government in Wales.
Yes, of course; we have massively increased support for the NHS, for instance, all of which is passported through to Wales. Funding has massively increased, and of course we work very closely with the Government—the Administration—in Cardiff. I think that it would be helpful in delivering great infrastructure for Wales, whether that is improving the A55 or the M4, if there were some consistency of approach. With the M4 bypass, for instance, and the Brynglas tunnels, I think it was crazy to spend £144 million of taxpayers’ money on a study without actually doing the bypass itself. I am very happy to work with the Welsh Labour Government if they get their act together.
No fewer than five representatives of the European Union at the G7 tried to hijack the agenda to undermine the people of Northern Ireland with their one-sided and unfair view of the protocol. Will the Prime Minister, who chaired the event well, make sure that goods can flow freely in the UK internal market, given that there are legal ways of doing this unilaterally? Does not the Good Friday agreement require the EU and the UK to respect the needs and wishes of both communities?
My right hon. Friend is completely right. It was the EU that shocked people in Northern Ireland by invoking article 16 of the protocol in January and trying to put a barrier on the movement of vaccines between the EU and the UK. We would never have dreamed of doing something like that, but it was that action that undermined people’s faith in the protocol.
The recent violence and the loss of innocent life in Gaza and Israel underline the importance of restarting the middle east peace process. Britain has historical and continuing responsibilities in this region, so can the Prime Minister tell us what steps he took at the weekend to raise and progress the restarting of the important peace process in the middle east?
May I first congratulate my right hon. Friend on successfully hosting the G7 after the trauma the world has just been through? He will recognise that the discussion of NATO 2030 at the NATO summit was one of the most forward thinking and important assessments NATO has undertaken in many a decade: reinforced unity; a broader approach to security; safeguarding the rules-based international order. Does he agree that our position on cyber and space defence not only makes us still one of the biggest contributors to NATO, but one of the integral partners of the alliance?
Yes. I thank my right hon. Friend because NATO’s project 2030, set out by Jens Stoltenberg at the summit, is completely in accordance with, and almost an echo of, the integrated review set out by the Government, with its emphasis on cyber and space defences.
I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman’s statement this afternoon. One of the things I am proud of is visiting my schools in Vauxhall and speaking to young people. Last week, he said that girls’ education is the best way that we can lift countries out of poverty and lead the global recovery. I heard his response to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) on the fact that the G7 leaders did not mention the global aid cut. If that is the case, does the Prime Minister agree that his actions show a gaping hole between his words and actions? Will he respect this House by bringing that vote to Parliament and bringing that decision here?
Again, what I did hear from leaders around the world was massive, overwhelming support for the objective, which the hon. Member supports, of girls’ education. The G7 committed $2.75 billion, I think, towards the Global Partnership for Education, with the UK increasing our commitment by 15% in spite of the pandemic. I hope the message she will give to pupils in Vauxhall is that we are absolutely committed to that end.
I congratulate the Prime Minister and his whole team on delivering such a wonderful G7 summit. I welcome the announcement on the replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education. As our economy recovers and we return to the promised 0.7%, will he put at the forefront of his work in his time in Government ensuring that we really boost the efforts to educate every child in the world through UNICEF, Education Cannot Wait, the Global Partnership for Education and, of course, our wonderful UK Girls’ Education Challenge?
I thank my hon. Friend for her support for female education. I remember discussing it with her many, many times. I know how much she cares about it. The programme we are embarked on will mean 40 million more girls in school by 2025 and 20 million more girls reading over the next five years. We are going to do even more than I was saying to an hon. Lady on the Opposition Benches, when President Kenyatta of Kenya comes here in July for the Global Partnership for Education.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on his recent wedding and the delightful G7 family photos. What is his current thinking on granting amnesty to illegal immigrants? Did he have a chance to discuss that with President Biden, because they did it first there in 1986? The Prime Minister told me here on day two of the job that he was minded to go down the regularisation route, but he was thwarted by predecessors. Was that just an unscripted blurt-out flashback to the 2012, pre-PM, pre-red wall version of himself, or is he a man of his word?
We remain committed to a generous and open approach to immigration. This country already does regularise the position of those who have been here for a long time and have not fallen foul of the law. What we will not do is go back to a complete free-for-all and abandon control of our borders to Brussels, which the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) voted for 43 times in the last five years. I dare say that the hon. Member did, too.
I welcome the new climate commitments made by G7 countries to almost halve their carbon emissions by 2030, which will pave the way towards a green and global recovery. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is essential that we build on the historic climate change commitments made at the G7 with even stronger global commitments at the upcoming COP26 conference?
My hon. Friend is completely right. This was a good waymark and we made some good steps forward on the road to COP26. There is still a long way to go, but there is a great deal of enthusiasm from other countries because they can see that it creates high-wage, high-skill jobs as well as solving climate change.
The G7 did agree action on tax-dodging corporations, but it was watered down after the Prime Minister refused to back President Biden’s original proposal for a 21% minimum global corporation tax rate, which would have delivered £15 billion a year to Britain—enough to fund a proper covid catch-up in education and support for covid-excluded businesses that are now facing extended restrictions. Why did the Prime Minister put global corporation shareholders above British children and British businesses?
That is a great one from the Labour party, because they actually opposed the increase in corporation tax at the Budget. They should try to remember what they have been doing over the last few months. It was a great achievement, after a long time, to get the western world—the G7—to agree to find a way of taxing the multinational giants that make profits in one country and then hook them somewhere else. That was a fantastic thing, and we now have a minimum global corporation tax of 15%—I forgot to mention it in my opening remarks—which was another great step forward at the G7 summit.
As we reflect on the many successes of the G7 summit, the Prime Minister will know that the growing importance of soft power is very much recognised by the G7, yet there remains a £10 million shortfall between the Government’s generous package to see the British Council through the pandemic and what it needs to maintain its international network of offices, as defined by country directors in post abroad. If the gap is not bridged, the result will be the largest single set of closures in the British Council’s proud 90-year history. Given that the Prime Minister has told me personally that he gets it and that the £10 million can be given as a loan, and given that our competitors’ cultural institutes are actually expanding their physical footprint, will he now ensure that Government Departments also get it in time for the ministerial statement due shortly?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend and thank him for his continuing campaigning on this issue. We are giving the British Council more support now, because I know it has been very tough for them during the pandemic. On the gap of £10 million that he identifies and the crucial part that he thinks that will play, I will see what further I can do.
The Prime Minister will know that the £100 billion every year for climate change transformation in developing countries is the same £100 billion that was announced 12 years ago, in 2009. He will also know that the £11.6 billion that he has announced today is over five years, and he actually announced it two years ago at the United Nations General Assembly. This is not new money, and nor is the UK’s contribution of £11.6 billion over five years enough to be our part of the £100 billion every year that was promised by the G7. If there is going to be credibility in the developing world to play its part at COP26 later this year, will the Prime Minister now give us some details and make sure that the rest of the G7 give those same details about real spending, not recycling?
The hon. Gentleman should study what all the G7 countries said, because several of them made very big commitments indeed—the Canadians, the EU—to financing the tackling of climate change. He says that £11.6 billion is not enough. I think that the people of this country will think that, in a very tough time, with huge pressure on our resources, to spend £11.6 billion over the next few years to help other countries tackle climate change is a huge commitment. He deprecates. I remember how people reacted in the UN when I announced that commitment. They were ecstatic and they are quite right.
We still have 30 people who would like to ask questions to the Prime Minister, and around 20 minutes in which to do it. That is probably not possible. But the idea of a statement is that people ask questions; it is not a time for making a speech. If people ask short questions, it will be possible for the Prime Minister to give short answers and then all will be well, because we have a lot of business to get through this afternoon.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on a successful weekend in Cornwall and on a very successful summit. Away from the doom and gloom of the Opposition, it is staggering that global Britain was on display this weekend in striking new trade deals. Could he perhaps reassure the House that, when we look at trade deals, they are the floor, not the ceiling of the economic growth that this country will be able to strike now and in the future, as we reach for the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership?
With coronavirus, none of us are safe until everyone is safe. The world needs over 11 billion vaccine doses to end the pandemic, but the G7 vaccine offer falls well short and leaves billions of people without protection. To ramp up vaccine production needs a temporary waiver on intellectual property, so that all countries can access the technology. President Biden supports that, more than 100 other countries support that, but this Prime Minister is one of the people blocking it. So is not the Prime Minister putting the interests of profit-hungry pharmaceutical companies ahead of the lives of millions of people?
I hugely welcome the Prime Minister’s focus on gender equality at the G7, and I note that the Leader of the Opposition, in his opening statement, did not mention girls or women once. Can the Prime Minister, who set some very ambitious targets on girls’ education and ending violence against women and girls, come back to the House before 2026 to reassure us that progress is being made on that very important topic?
I am not sure whether you are more surprised at the Prime Minister consistently giving you a promotion or a sex change, Madam Deputy Speaker, but we will leave it to you to decide that for yourself.
While there are still billions of people across the world unvaccinated, all of us who have been vaccinated remain at risk that a new vaccine-resistant strain could evolve and undo all the work that has been done here and in other wealthy countries. So will the Prime Minister give a simple commitment to the principle that no one can claim to have defeated the coronavirus until the whole of humanity is adequately protected?
May I congratulate the Prime Minister on what was achieved at the G7 summit in Cornwall? The west had become a little risk-averse of late, and if the summit achieved anything, it was a recognition that the world is on a worrying trajectory, with new threats, new technology, new power bases posing complex, long-term challenges to our security, our trade, our freedoms and indeed our standards. The rise of China economically, technologically and militarily means that this will be their century, and the need for a new Atlantic charter underlines how frail our global order has become.
Would the Prime Minister agree that the actions that we, the west, choose to take over the next few years in addressing the long international to-do list will determine how the next few decades play out?
Might I just start by noting that the Prime Minister seems a little irritable this afternoon? I know that it is difficult when friendships break down, but I have every faith he will find reconciliation in due course.
The International Monetary Fund concluded that there would be $9 trillion economic boost if the world’s covid vaccines are provided. We have heard multiple times that while the 860 million at the G7 is welcome, that is not enough. Could the Prime Minister explain to the House why we could not go further at the G7? What were the blockages to getting above 860 million vaccines?
Did the Prime Minister talk to Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Suga about the tremendous success of social care reforms in Japan and Germany? Did he talk to Prime Minister Trudeau about the brilliant innovation in care home villages in Canada? Did he talk to President Biden about the amazing things that older people are doing, including the most powerful job in the world? Did he return to Downing Street refreshed and resolute, and say to his neighbour, “No more international conferences until we fix the crisis at home: it is time to back Boris and get social care done”?
There was widespread disappointment that the G7 did not commit to additional climate finance beyond what has already been agreed. What steps will the Prime Minister take between now and COP26 to ensure that that summit does deal effectively with the challenge of loss and damage in the countries most at risk?
In the Prime Minister’s statement, he refers to the G7 combining our strength to defeat covid. Would it not be more accurate to say that we need to make sure we can vaccinate the world to protect people, but then we need to learn to live with what will be an endemic virus? Does he share my concern about the things that are going on in Government at the moment, with the warnings about the restrictions coming back in the autumn and the winter as cases rise, and can he rule out that taking place? That would reassure many colleagues on both sides of the House.
The original Atlantic charter made a commitment to banish from the world “fear and want”—curiously missing from the redraft—but the Prime Minister’s ambition to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 is the right one. The IMF’s assessment of the deal done on Monday, however, is that two thirds of the grant financing needed to vaccinate the world is still missing—that is $23 billion. The question for the Prime Minister is: where is that money going to come from and when?
I think that the G7 and the west are making huge progress. These vaccines were only invented six months ago, or a little bit longer. We are making incredible progress in distributing them now. The ambition that we reconfirmed in Carbis Bay was to vaccinate the world by the end of next year, and that is a pretty rapid pace.
Can I welcome the plans set out by the G7 leaders to invest in global testing and slash the time needed to develop new vaccines? The Prime Minister mentioned just a moment ago that it is little over six months since scientists in Cheshire at the life science industries and AstraZeneca developed these new vaccines. I am sure he will want to join me in congratulating them on the work they have done not just here in the UK, but around the world. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that strengthening global co-operation on health and investing in new technologies is the only way to ensure that we never get a repeat of this health crisis?
Of course I congratulate AstraZeneca in Cheshire and everywhere else where it is established in the UK and around the world. It has done an outstanding job. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to stress the importance of international co-operation, and we must never ever again see countries blockading vaccines and the movement of vaccines from one part of the world to another.
A new EU-UK food and plant safety agreement would not only alleviate Northern Ireland friction, but remove non-tariff barriers for Welsh exporters created by the current Brexit deal. As the hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry) said, the US President guaranteed at the G7 that such alignment would not jeopardise a UK-US trade deal. The Prime Minister could actually have his slice of cake and eat it, if he sees sense. Can he clarify whether reports of reduced checks in the trade deal with Australia, as he mentioned in his reply to the hon. Member for North Down, would prevent such alignment with the EU?
Our hosting of the G7 and the reaffirmation of our indestructible partnership with our cousins across the pond—also seen through NATO—sets the scene for a brighter and far more aspirational future for the whole of the UK. Does the Prime Minister agree and can he explain, perhaps in writing if he does not have time now, what this means for the people of Dudley North and the rest of the country?
The people of Dudley North and the rest of the country will benefit massively from a new age of co-operation between our democracies; from the security that we are establishing, but also from our global commitment to work together to build back greener, so that we generate hundreds of thousands—millions—of high-wage, high-skilled jobs in Dudley, in the west midlands and around the whole of the UK.
The Prime Minister said that no countries have raised concerns about the aid cuts. Well, I can give him a list as long as my arm of organisations and projects that are going to be devastated by these cuts. Does he not understand that as the only G7 country cutting aid, the UK is undermining any claim to be a soft power superpower and, more importantly, putting thousands and thousands of lives at risk?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on a very successful G7 and on his leadership of the meeting; so much was agreed. Will he confirm that global Britain will continue to champion and promote the provision of girls’ education right across the world?
I thank my right hon. Friend, and I know how much he cares about this; I remember campaigning with him on this myself. We have supported at least 15.6 million children in the last five years or so to get an education—8.1 million of them were girls. We are going to be spending, as I said, more than £400 million getting girls an education over the next five years.
Every day, we are hearing of more and more horrific experiences of violence against women and the wider Uyghur Muslim community, including the disappearance of children in the Xinjiang region of China. The scale of these atrocities has not been met by the Prime Minister’s report of the G7 and, therefore, what discussions did he have about extending economic and trade sanctions, about using his powers under the Magnitsky measures, and about calling for a special meeting at the UN to find a mechanism to hold those responsible for these crimes to account?
We did discuss many times over the last few days what has happened in Xinjiang, the suffering of the Uyghurs and particularly the crimes against women that the hon. Lady describes. The difficulty with the UN Security Council approach, as she will understand, is that China is a member.
Cornwall was proud to host the G7. Will the Prime Minister join me in thanking all those who worked so hard to make it a success, including our police, who came from all over the country, Cornwall Council and public health officials, many businesses and volunteers, and the people of Cornwall, who with good humour welcomed the world, despite the inevitable disruption? I know that he is as keen as I am that the G7 leaves a lasting legacy in Cornwall, and I was pleased to show him our ambitions for Spaceport Cornwall. Will he join me in working on and putting the full weight of Government behind enabling us to achieve the ambition of launching satellites from the UK this time next year?