This Government are committed to levelling up the whole country, and Dorset is no exception. I am delighted that the local growth fund in Dorset has contributed £98.4 million to 54 projects since 2015, and I understand that Dorset Council has also made a bid through the levelling-up fund to improve access at Weymouth station.
As a former soldier, I know that time is never wasted on reconnaissance. May I ask my right hon. Friend to come and get some good Dorset sea air, visit Weymouth and see the infrastructure for himself? Until we improve it, we cannot attract the investment, jobs and prosperity that we so desperately need, in an ancient seaside resort that needs a bit of love, attention and Government money.
I think the whole country should be proud of what we have done to welcome people from Afghanistan. Operation Warm Welcome continues, and as I speak, we have already received more than 15,000 people from the Kabul airlift, the biggest exercise that this country has undertaken. However, I am sorry to hear about the particular case that the hon. Lady has raised. May I ask her to send it directly to me, and I will take it up?
I share the indignation and the frustration of my hon. Friend at the cruel behaviour of the gangsters, the criminal masterminds, who are taking money from desperate, frightened people to help them undertake a very, very dangerous journey across the channel. This is a perennial problem, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is dealing with it in the best possible way, which is to make sure that they do not leave those French shores. We depend to a large extent on what the French are doing, but clearly, as time goes on and this problem continues, we are going to have to make sure that we use every possible tactic at our disposal to stop what I think is a vile trade and a manipulation of people’s hopes.
I think everybody sympathises with people who are on low incomes, whom we have tried to protect throughout the pandemic. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor brought forward a package that was recognised around the world as being almost uniquely progressive in the way it directed funding and support to the lowest paid and the neediest. That was quite right, but we are also now trying to ensure that we have a high-wage and high-skilled jobs-led recovery, and that is what is happening. I am proud to be a Conservative Prime Minister who is seeing wages for the lowest paid rising at their fastest rate for many years.
This is, I think, the first opportunity for the whole House to thank all those who have played a role in rolling out the superb vaccine programme over the past six months or so, ranging from the whole of the national health service to the military. If I may, I should like to make particular mention of the Order of St John—St John Ambulance—of which I have the honour to be an honorary commander. All parties in the House with an interest in St John will have an opportunity to thank its volunteers personally if they would like to do so at a reception that I am hosting on the Terrace straight after PMQs today. Perhaps you, Mr Speaker—and the Prime Minister and others—will honour us with your presence to thank the thousands of volunteers who have done such superb work over the last six months.
I will indeed join my hon. Friend in thanking St John Ambulance for everything it has done. The volunteers have been fantastic and I have met many of them over the past 18 months who have done an absolutely astonishing job. I do not think that I can come to his reception, but I am sure it will be very well attended. May I also take this opportunity to urge everybody in the country who has not yet had a vaccination and who is eligible for one to get it as soon as they can?
I think the whole House will recognise that the Education Secretary has done a heroic job in dealing with very difficult circumstances in which we had to close schools during the pandemic. Never forget that the job of teachers and parents up and down the land would have been made much easier if Labour, and the Labour leadership in particular, had had the guts—and if the hon. Gentleman had had the guts—to say that schools were safe.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that our constituents, including mine in Hertford and Stortford, should come forward and see their GP if they have concerns about their health, and that his statement yesterday should give them assurance and confidence that this Government are there for the NHS and that the NHS will be there for them in their time of need?
Yes. That is why we are putting in another £36 billion under the measures we are putting forward tonight, and I am absolutely astonished that the party of Nye Bevan has confirmed today that it is not going to vote for that. We want GPs to be seeing the right people at the right time, and we want to fix the waiting lists. That is the objective of the measures that we are bringing forward.
I am of course sorry to hear about the troubles that the hon. Lady’s constituent is experiencing, but I remind her that under the EU settlement scheme we have helped almost 6 million people to settle in this country, which is double the number that was expected at the time of the Brexit referendum. That is a tribute to the compassion of this country and its willingness to help those who come here and make their lives here.
St Francis tower in Ipswich has been a beneficiary of the building safety fund. However, Oander and Block Management, which manage the building, have shrink wrapped the entire tower and it will be on the building for up to 12 months. Many desperate tenants are living in darkness for 12 months, and bars have been put on the windows so that they can barely be opened.
Does the Prime Minister agree that, yes, this vital work needs to take place but that we need balance and that we need to do this quickly for the lives and mental health of the desperate people in that tower right now?
No. As I have said, households in the top 20% of income pay 40 times more than the poorest. And pay for nurses is exactly what this measure funds, which is why it is so astonishing that the hon. Gentleman and his party are determined to vote against it tonight.
This Friday my private Member’s Bill, the Asylum Seekers (Return to Safe Countries) Bill, will have its Second Reading. The intention is that an asylum seeker who comes to this country from a safe country will be returned to that country. The Bill would end the problem of people coming across the channel. Will the Prime Minister urge his colleagues to vote for the Bill on Friday?
We have introduced the Nationality and Borders Bill, which will make it no longer possible for the law to treat somebody who has come here illegally in the same way as someone who has come here legally. It is high time that distinction was made, and that people understand there is a price to pay if they come to this country in an illegal fashion.