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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 704: debated on Wednesday 1 December 2021


The President of COP26 was asked—

COP27: Finance for Loss and Damage

10. Whether he plans to have discussions with the President of COP27 on continuing negotiations for a loss and damage facility. (904497)

12. What steps he is taking to help ensure that there is a loss and damage facility in place before COP27. (904499)

COP26 was the first COP where a section of the cover decisions was devoted to loss and damage. We agreed a new Glasgow dialogue on loss and damage, which will discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities to avert, minimise and address loss and damage.

The COP26 President will know of the extraordinary anger and sense of betrayal that was felt by the climate-vulnerable countries, in particular, when they saw the finance facility that they had proposed downgraded to just a dialogue. Will he say more about how practically he will use that dialogue to create momentum for a finance facility to be agreed at COP27? Given that from day one of that COP, the UK returns to being a negotiating party, not having the presidency, will he guarantee that the Government will support the creation of that facility in Egypt and that they will follow Scotland’s example by contributing new and additional funding specifically for loss and damage?

I note the hon. Lady’s point, but the fact that we have established a formal dialogue on loss and damage for the first time does demonstrate progress. Ultimately, this will be a party-driven process, as she knows. Parties will have to decide, based on consensus, what the outcome of the dialogue will be.

I stress again that the Group of 77 plus China—the world’s underdeveloped countries—were disappointed, crucially, with the wording on finance. They say that it is weak and have called for greater support, but there have been no specifics on how that should be met. Does the COP26 President agree that resolving that disappointment is vital both for ensuring global success against climate change and for maintaining a balance of power on the world stage?

I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady on the importance of this issue. I very much hope that we will make progress on the dialogue. I should point out that, in addition to the dialogue, we have also done what we set out to do: to operationalise the Santiago Network, so that technical assistance can be provided. Parties have also agreed that funding will be provided to support the work of the Santiago Network.

As the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) mentioned, the first organisation in the world to give a definite financial commitment to a loss and damage facility were the Scottish Government, who, officially, were not even part of COP. They have committed £2 million and, as a result, other organisations—the Government of Wallonia for one—and a number of philanthropic bodies have also committed money. Does the COP26 President agree that, in holding the presidency of COP26, the United Kingdom is in a unique position to encourage others to follow Scotland’s example? Does he also agree that a significant commitment from the United Kingdom would almost certainly open the doors for substantial funding from other wealthy organisations?

Again, I make the point that it is the first time that we have agreed the need for a dialogue. During our presidency year, we will pursue that very actively.

I congratulate the President of COP26 on the excellent work that he has done for this country and for the world. Will he also inform the House what discussions he has had with the Treasury about what we as the United Kingdom Government can do to help the countries that are threatened?

I will ignore that additional comment. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) for his very kind words. A number of things have happened in relation to the UK. The Chancellor has set out the conditions to restore the 0.7% commitment and we know that, on the latest forecast, that will be restored by 2024-25. In addition, the UK worked with other countries to ensure that the $100 billion delivery plan also set out when additional funding will be made available to support developing countries.

Whether it is progress in relation to a dedicated loss and damage funding facility, efforts to raise ambition when it comes to national climate commitments, or delivering on climate finance and adaptation pledges, implementing the Glasgow agreement will require the work of our COP presidency not only to be sustained but to be enhanced over the next 11 months. Can the President therefore confirm today that the COP26 unit will be fully funded to deliver on all the work programmes mandated in the Glasgow agreement, and that the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero will continue to receive support from the Treasury throughout the remainder of the UK presidency?

I can certainly confirm that we will be taking very seriously our work during the presidency year, and I will return to the House in due course and set out a written statement on our role during that presidency year.

Civil Society and Youth Groups

2. What steps he took to ensure that (a) civil society and (b) youth groups were included in the COP26 process. (904489)

In the run-up to the summit, I met civil society and youth groups on international visits. We established the COP26 civil society and youth advisory council. I attended a Youth4Climate conference in Milan, and obviously the conference of youth in Glasgow. I can confirm that, at COP itself, we had over 160 youth, indigenous peoples and broader civil society speakers who participated in presidency-themed events.

Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that it is an important feature of this COP event that so many young people’s voices were able to be heard, in particular through digital methods, such as the children of West Lodge Primary School in my constituency, who told me on Monday how much they had valued their opportunity to participate directly?

My hon. Friend makes a really important point, and I want to pay tribute obviously to the children of West Lodge Primary School and also to him for all the work that he does in his constituency. We have an opportunity for all of us to play our part in tackling climate action, and we want to ensure during our presidency year that the voices of young people are integral to driving climate action.

I also pay tribute to the President of COP26 for the incredible work that he did. Has he had any discussions with the Egyptian Government about whether civil society groups can attend the fringe meetings, including very important people such as David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, and also first nations around the world that maybe did not have a seat at the table?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her kind words. Obviously, we had some initial discussions with Egyptian colleagues at COP26 itself, but I hope to have a conversation with them, certainly before Christmas, and to visit Egypt again in the new year to talk about how we work in our presidency year as we move to COP27.

Outcome of COP26

The Glasgow climate pact, agreed by almost 200 countries, is an historic agreement that advances climate action. It is the result of two years of marathon work and a two-week sprint of negotiations, and I think we can say with some credibility that we have kept the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5° within reach.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the pupils of Gig Mill Primary School, Wollescote Primary School and Cradley Church of England Primary School on taking part in my COP26-inspired Christmas card competition? There were some magnificent results. It is all about the environment, it is very green and it is also about recycling, because one of them actually used a potato head as a print to make a reindeer Christmas card. It was very clear to me that the legacy of COP26 is very much alive and kicking in the younger generation.

I congratulate all the primary schools and the students who took part in this Christmas card competition. It is perhaps an inspiration to all of us for our Christmas cards. Undoubtedly, we need to ensure that climate action continues to be raised as an issue, and we all have a role to play.

I congratulate the President of COP26 on his personal dedication, hard work and commitment at the Glasgow summit. Will he confirm that, as a result of the summit, for the first time ever over 90% of the world’s GDP and about 90% of global emissions are now covered by net emissions targets, and that all 197 countries have pledged to revisit and strengthen these targets by the time of COP27 next year?

My thanks to my hon. Friend for his kind words, and he is absolutely right. When we took on the COP presidency, less than 30% of the global economy was covered by a net zero target, but we are now at 90%, and yes, all countries have agreed to look again at their 2030 emission reduction targets and come back on those by the end of 2022 to ensure that they are aligned with the Paris temperature goals.

Following that point, one of the positive outcomes of COP26 was the agreement for countries to revise their emissions targets next year. Will the President explain exactly what he will do over the next 12 months to ensure we get the breakthrough we need at COP27, not only to keep 1.5° alive, but to achieve it?

That is a very fair question, and as I said, in due course I will set out for the House in a written statement precisely what we will do in our presidency year. As the hon. Gentleman knows, a significant number of commitments were made by countries at COP26, and our intention is to ensure that they deliver on the commitments they have made.

No one doubts the Secretary of State’s commitment to delivering on climate change, but can he say what he intends to do over the next 12 months? The pledges that were made at COP26 must have been alarming to him, because with current pledges we are way off delivering on 1.5°, and the achievements that countries will make by 2030 will be way off target. What will he do to step up his activities as president for the next year to ensure that we get back on target to keep 1.5° alive?

As I said, I will set that out in writing. If we consider all the commitments made by countries, including the net zero commitments and long-term strategies, there are credible reports that suggest we are heading to below 2°. Of course this is the start of a decade of action, which is why we need to push forward during this year.

Does my right hon. Friend believe that the current structure of Government is adequate to ensure that the UK can deliver a more ambitious nationally determined contribution at COP27?

The make-up and structure of the Government are obviously a matter for the Prime Minister—I know my right hon. Friend will have raised that issue at the Liaison Committee—but our current NDC is aligned to net zero.

I want to commend the COP President, or should I say No Drama Sharma, for his efforts in Glasgow. He is right that we have to spend the next 12 months maximising the pressure on the big emitters, and we can make a difference with the UK-Australia trade deal. Australia’s 2030 target is consistent with 4° of warming. Will he tell the Secretary of State for International Trade to rewrite that trade deal, and not to water down commitments, which is the current plan, but to make it conditional on Australia, as well as the UK, having 2030 targets that are consistent with 1.5°?

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his new role. My only disappointment is that the phrase “shadow COP President” does not appear in his title—that is where he could take some lessons from the deputy leader of the Labour party about how to expand his number of portfolios. On the point about Australia, I confirm that the trade deal will include a substantive chapter on climate change, which reaffirms both parties’ commitments to upholding our obligations under the Paris agreement, including limiting global warming to 1.5°.

I know I am shadowing the Department that the right hon. Gentleman would quite like to run, so perhaps that announcement will be forthcoming in the future. I am mildly encouraged by what he says on Australia.

Let me take two other issues where he can show leadership: the Cumbria coalmine, and the Cambo oilfield, which are the equivalent of 18 coal-fired power stations running for a year. He knows that we need to get others to phase out coal, and that we need to phase out fossil fuels. Surely the right way to send a proper signal to the rest of the world ahead of COP27, is for the whole Government to start practising what he is effectively preaching, and put a stop to Cambo and Cumbria.

We have previously had discussions at the Dispatch Box on both Cambo and Cumbria, and the right hon. Gentleman will know that they are being looked at by independent regulators and that pronouncements will be coming forward. We have significantly reduced the amount of coal in our electricity mix. Indeed, there will be no more coal in the UK electricity mix from 2024.

I commend the COP26 President and his team for all their hard work at COP26, but one issue missing from the Prime Minister’s ambition for the conference was fossil fuels generally. It is clear that we need action to tackle the use of fossil fuels globally, but in a way that supports a just transition for workers. Does the COP26 President agree that not having a concrete commitment from COP for a global just transition from fossil fuels is a disappointment, and that following the Scottish Government’s example in delivering a just transition and opposing further oil exploration would set a strong example for the next COP?

We do support a just transition; in fact, the $8.5 billion deal agreed with South Africa will enable decarbonisation and a just transition in that country. We also now have 34 countries and five public finance institutions supporting a UK-led initiative to end international public support for the unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022.

Alternative Fuels

At COP26, leaders of countries representing over 70% of global GDP committed to work together to make clean technologies and sustainable solutions the most affordable, accessible and attractive option in each emitting sector before the end of this decade.

Teesside is quickly becoming the epicentre of hydrogen technology in the UK; with recent announcements on blue and green hydrogen production, we are confident that Teesside will be able to deliver more than half of the Government’s 2030 hydrogen ambitions. Around 85% of all homes are on the gas network, and domestic heating accounts for over 30% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions. It is clear to me that we will not make net zero without switching our gas network to 100% hydrogen. Will the Minister recognise hydrogen as a fuel of the future, and will he join me in my campaign for the UK’s first hydrogen village in Redcar?

I agree with my hon. Friend that hydrogen is a fuel of the future. As he will know, the idea of a hydrogen village trial was proposed in the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan, and gas network companies are working with local partners to develop proposals for the trial. I suggest that he speaks to my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary to make the case for Redcar.

Climate Change: Indigenous Peoples

6. What plans he has to promote the voices of indigenous people in climate change discussions during the UK’s presidency of the COP. (904493)

Indigenous peoples’ voices were represented throughout COP26, and of course the UK Government funded the indigenous peoples’ pavilion in the blue zone. We will continue to amplify indigenous peoples’ voices during our presidency year.

I am grateful to the COP26 President for his response. The territories of the world’s 370 million indigenous people cover 24% of the world’s land and contain 80% of the world’s biodiversity, including sites of precious natural resources. It is they who protect forests vulnerable to the encroachment of modernity, which has caused climate change. Given that indigenous communities are successful in maintaining control of their territories and traditions against the onslaught of man-made climate change, does the COP26 President agree that it is time for them to be treated as equal partners in decision-making processes, including at the United Nations?

As I said, we will absolutely amplify the voices of indigenous peoples, but as the hon. Member will also know, the UK worked with others to mobilise a pledge of at least $1.7 billion over the next five years to ensure that there is support for indigenous peoples, particularly when it comes to forest tenure rights.

Limiting Global Heating

9. What recent assessment he has made of progress towards the globally agreed aim of limiting global heating to well below 2° C and pursuing efforts to limit heating to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels. (904496)

13. What recent assessment he has made of progress towards the globally agreed aim of limiting global heating to well below 2° C and pursuing efforts to limit heating to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels. (904500)

We can say with credibility that at COP26 we kept 1.5° alive, but as I acknowledged in Glasgow and indeed here, its pulse is weak. That is why we now need to turn commitments from countries into action.

COP26 agreed that the Paris climate agreement must now be implemented to keep global warming below 1.5°, but it has been revealed that the UK has emitted around 50 million tonnes of carbon in the past five years from collapsing peatlands alone. I asked the Minister this last time, and I ask him again: where is the climate leadership in this Government’s allowing two thirds of UK peatlands to be burned while the world is on fire?

As the hon. Lady will know, we have a peat strategy, which I am sure my colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs would be happy to share with her. More widely, as a country we have decarbonised our economy faster in recent years than any other G7 or G20 nation.

We know the oil of Cambo and the coal of Cumbria have to stay in the ground if we are to keep temperature rises at below 2.4°C. I say 2.4°C because that is the new reality after this year’s COP26. Will the COP President commit to stopping Cambo and the new coalmine in Cumbria, and end the climate hypocrisy that so undermined his presidency at COP26?

I responded to the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) earlier on the issue of Cambo and Cumbria. I would just say to the hon. Gentleman, more generally, that I recognise we need to work very hard during our presidency year to ensure that commitments by all countries are turned into action. That is what we will be doing.

Topical Questions

At COP26, we won historic commitments from countries and businesses to act on coal, cars, cash and trees. Countries have also committed to revisit and strengthen by the end of 2022 their 2030 emission reduction commitments to align with the Paris temperature goals. After six years, we have finalised the outstanding rules governing the Paris agreement. Of course, as I have said, we need to ensure that commitments are turned into action.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his incredible work at the COP26 summit in Glasgow. Will he continue to work with schools and youth groups throughout the rest of his presidency? Can I invite him to Warrington to meet young people in my constituency?

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. I commend the work of young people in his constituency and I will ensure that my diary works so I can visit them.

T2. On behalf of my constituent Poppy, who was one of the young people at COP26, what are the Government doing to help to ensure that aid gets directly to those communities most affected by climate change now, such as the Wampis living in the Amazon who Poppy met and whose plight she was deeply moved by? (904540)

The hon. Lady raises an important point. One issue is about the quantum of money; the other is access to finance. That is why we are now launching five pilot projects in developing countries around the world to ensure that access to finance is much better.

T4. My right hon. Friend will know the increasing importance of north Wales in supplying clean and green energy to the national grid. Further to COP26, how would he describe the prospects for tidal range technology in the region? (904542)

My hon. Friend is a great champion for his community on this particular issue. He will know that the Government remain open to considering well-developed proposals for harnessing tidal range energy in the bays and estuaries around our coastlines. Obviously, I recommend that he also speaks to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

T3. According to Friends of the Earth, 33,000 premature deaths a year in the UK are linked to air pollution. During the COP26 climate summit, the Environment Bill passed its final stages in this House. Shamefully, it did not include legally binding targets for air quality, which were called for by so many, including hundreds of my constituents in Liverpool, West Derby. As the UK retains the COP26 presidency, will it lead by example and bring in the extra measures needed to clean up our air? (904541)

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point, but air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010. Our clean air strategy proposes a comprehensive suite of actions required across all parts of Government to improve air quality.

T5.   Following on from the success of the North Devon climate summit, my constituents are keen to understand how can we empower people to make their own choices on a global scale. (904543)

I commend my hon. Friend and her constituents for the success of the North Devon climate summit. Every Government need to play their part and I am pleased that the UK Government’s “Together for our Planet” campaign provides practical advice on how everyone can go one step greener.

Synthetic aircraft fuels are still in their infancy. Domestically, the Government have a tool, the renewable transport fuel obligation, by which they can mandate the mixing of synthetic fuels with conventional aircraft fuel, thereby starting the process of making synthetic fuels viable. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of any similar mechanisms in other countries, so we can start an international agreement on mixing synthetic fuels with aircraft fuels and driving the route to net zero?

As the hon. Lady knows, the Government are putting funding behind sustainable aviation fuels. I would be very happy to arrange a meeting for her with the Secretary of State for Transport or with a Transport Minister.

I particularly welcome the COP outcome relating to deforestation: 130 countries, representing 90% of the world’s forests, pledged to end deforestation by 2030. How will that be monitored? What steps will be taken if countries do not keep their word?

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. The 90% of forests that are covered by the pledge are also being backed by £14 billion of public and private funding, so there will be a mechanism for checks and balances. In addition, we agreed the transparency framework at COP26, so we will be able to see whether countries are meeting the commitments that they have made.

Before we come to Prime Minister’s questions, I would like to point out that a British Sign Language interpretation of proceedings is available to watch on

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Today, I am wearing a purple tie in recognition of the International Day of People with Disabilities this coming Friday. In July, we published the UK’s first national disability strategy to help to create a society that works for everybody.

I know that the thoughts of the whole House will be with those who are continuing to face disruption caused by Storm Arwen. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will update the House on the continuing response to Storm Arwen after Prime Minister’s questions.

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.

The Prime Minister and I have a shared commitment to protecting our natural environment and improving our biodiversity across the country. Indeed, that is why I am campaigning to extend the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty towards the south-west of Hitchin. Will my right hon. Friend set out how he plans to strengthen the protections for our countryside, while also ensuring that housing developments are both green and sustainable for the long term?

Yes, indeed. I can tell my hon. Friend that Natural England is considering an extension of the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty, and I am sure that it will listen to his passionate appeal very carefully.

May I join the Prime Minister in his words on disability and the victims of extreme weather? May I also mark World AIDS Day? Extraordinary advances mean that people living with HIV on effective treatment can now enjoy normal life expectancy and are no longer at risk of passing on the virus. It is within our hands to end new transmissions in the UK this decade. We must do so.

As millions of people were locked down last year, was a Christmas party thrown in Downing Street for dozens of people on 18 December?

What I can tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that all guidance was followed completely in No. 10. May I recommend that he does the same with his own Christmas party, which is advertised for 15 December and to which, unaccountably, he has failed to invite the deputy Leader of the Opposition?

Nice try, but that won’t work. The defence seems to be that no rules were broken. Well, I have the rules that were in place at the time of the party. They are very clear that

“you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party”.

Does the Prime Minister really expect the country to believe that while people were banned from seeing their loved ones at Christmas last year, it was fine for him and his friends to throw a boozy party in Downing Street?

I have said what I have said about No. 10 and the events of 12 months ago, but since the right hon. and learned Gentleman asks about what we are asking the country to do this year, which I think is a more relevant consideration, let me say that the important thing to do is not only to follow the guidance that we have set out but, when it comes to dealing with the omicron variant, to make sure that—as we have said, Mr Speaker—you wear a mask on public transport and in shops, and that you self-isolate if you come into contact with somebody who has omicron. Above all, what we are doing is strengthening our measures at the borders. But in particular, Mr Speaker—and I think that this is very valuable for everybody to hear—get your booster!

I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is eligible for his booster. I am not going to ask him, Mr Speaker, as I am forbidden to ask him questions, but I hope very much that he has had it.

The Prime Minister says that we should concentrate on what he is asking the country to do. We are asking the country to follow the rules. The Prime Minister does not deny that there was a Downing Street Christmas party last year. He says that no rules were broken. Both those things cannot be true. He is taking the British public for fools.

As for following the rules, Prime Minister, it might be good just to look behind you when it comes to the question of masks. As ever, there is one rule for them and another rule for everybody else.

At the last election, the Prime Minister promised to build 40 new hospitals. It is on page 10 of his manifesto. With waiting lists so high, that is a very important commitment. The Cabinet Office and the Treasury have checked on progress, and it is reported that they have a reached a damning conclusion. I know that the Chancellor will have seen that. They have concluded that the project needs a “red flag” because it is unachievable. Prime Minister, is that true?

No. The right hon. and learned Gentleman plays politics and asks frivolous questions, but we are getting on with delivering on the people’s priorities. We are making record investments in the NHS, on top of the £34 billion with which we began, and then the £97 billion that we put in to fight covid. We are helping to build another 40 new hospitals with an injection of £36 billion of investment, which that party voted against.

Well, this is strange, Mr Speaker, because the Government have not been denying the reports about the red flag and they have not done so since, but now the Prime Minister is. There is obviously some confusion on those Benches over whether the Cabinet Office and the Treasury think he is on course to break yet another promise, this time on the building of new hospitals. He can clear that up this afternoon. If he is so confident in his answer, why does he not publish the progress report in full and let us all see it?

What we are doing is not only building 40 new hospitals—and it is incredible that we have been able to keep going throughout the pandemic—[Interruption.] Yes, it is. We are not only building those hospitals, but making record investments in our NHS. We have more doctors and more nurses working in our NHS than at any time in the history of that magnificent organisation. Rather than running down what they are trying to do and casting doubt on their efforts, the right hon. and learned Gentleman should get behind them and, in particular, he should support our booster campaign.

Well, there we have it. The Prime Minister says, “I deny that my hospital building programme has been flagged red as unachievable, but I do not have the confidence to publish the report.”

The more we look at this promise, the murkier it gets. I have a document here, which was sent to the NHS by the Department of Health and Social Care. It is called “New hospital programme communications playbook”—I kid you not—and it offers

“advice to make it easier to talk about the programme”.

You might think that everyone knows what a new hospital is. I certainly thought I knew what a new hospital was before I read this guide, but it instructs everyone to describe refurbishments and alterations in existing hospitals as new hospitals. We can all agree that refurbishments are a very good thing, but they are not new hospitals. So how many of the 40 are fix-up jobs on existing hospitals and how many are actually the new hospitals that the Prime Minister promised?

You obviously do not always go around building on greenfield sites. You rebuild hospitals, and that is what we have said for the last two and a half years. It is the biggest programme of hospital building this country has ever undertaken. It has been made possible by this people’s Government, and it is in addition to what we are doing with the community diagnostics hubs and in addition to what we are doing in investing in our NHS. I have said it once and I will say it again: the Opposition had the opportunity to vote for that £36 billion but they turned it down. We are getting on with the people’s priorities; they are playing politics.

It is no wonder that so many Tory donors paid so much for that wallpaper last year—the Prime Minister probably told them he was building a new flat. It is the same old story from this Prime Minister, week in, week out: defending the indefensible, and broken promises. His mates were found to be corrupt; he tried to get them off the hook. Downing Street throws parties during lockdown; he says it is not a problem. He promised that there would be no tax rises, then he put up tax. He promised that there would be a rail revolution in the north, then he cancelled the trains. He promised that no one would have to sell their home for care, then along came his working-class dementia tax. He promised 40 new hospitals, but even if we count the paint jobs, his own watchdog says he cannot deliver it. Is it not the truth that any promises from this Prime Minister are not worth the manifesto paper they are written on?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman drivels on irrelevantly about wallpaper and parties, playing politics. By the way, I am told that when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and shadow Secretary of State for the future of work was told that she was not invited, she denounced it as idiotic, childish and pathetic. They are getting on with factional infighting; we are delivering for the people of this country. Today, cutting tax for the lowest paid people in this country. As a result of our universal credit changes, 1.9 million families are getting £1,000 more in their pay packets this year. The biggest programme of rail infrastructure this century, with three new high-speed lines. And we are fixing social care. They have no plan whatever, and don’t forget that their resort to absolutely every problem is either to take this country back into lockdown or to open up to uncontrolled immigration. That is their approach. We are delivering on the people’s priorities, and we have more people in work now, as a result of the balanced and proportionate approach that we are taking, than we had before the pandemic began. If we had listened to Captain Hindsight, we would all still be in lockdown. That is the truth.

Q4. Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister will know that we will not be able to stop the endless waves of illegal migrants crossing the English channel until we break free from the constraints of the European convention on human rights, which impedes our ability to tackle this tragic situation and protects even the most violent criminals from being deported. Does he agree that it is time to take back control and fulfil our 2015 manifesto commitment to get rid of Labour’s Human Rights Act and bring in a British Bill of Rights? (904476)

We will certainly review the human rights system, but in the meantime there is something we can all do next Tuesday and Wednesday, because our Nationality and Borders Bill is coming back to the House after long gestation. The Bill gives us the power to make the distinction at last between illegal and legal migrants to this country, it gives Border Force the power to turn people back at sea, and it gives us the power to send people overseas for screening, rather than doing it in this country. I am not asking the Opposition but telling them: it would be a great thing if they backed our Nationality and Borders Bill and undermined the criminals.

I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks on disability, and of course our thoughts are very much with all those who are recovering from Storm Arwen. Like the Leader of the Opposition, of course we commemorate World AIDS Day.

Mr Speaker, I am sure your thoughts and the thoughts of the House are with the family and friends of Siobhan Cattigan, the Scotland rugby player who unfortunately died over the weekend at the age of 26, having won 19 caps.

It is deeply regrettable that, once again, we are forced to spend so much time in this House discussing the Prime Minister’s misconduct, but when the person in charge so blatantly breaks the rules, it needs to be talked about. Last Christmas the Prime Minister hosted a packed party in Downing Street, an event that broke the lockdown rules that everyone else was expected to follow. He might deny it, but I spoke to the Daily Mirror this morning and it confirmed what happened. The newspaper has legal advice on the potential illegality. At a time when public health messaging is so vital, how are people possibly expected to trust the Prime Minister when he thinks it is one rule for him and another rule for everybody else?

The SNP should concentrate its line of attack more closely. I have said before that the right hon. Gentleman is talking total nonsense. Frankly, he would have been better off saying something about the victims of Storm Arwen in Scotland.

If I did not hear it, he was drowned out by his supporters. We need to work together—the Government of the UK working with the Scottish authorities—to help those people get their power back, and that is what we are doing.

That is a disgraceful answer. The Prime Minister did not even listen, because I mentioned Storm Arwen.

The real reason why all this matters is that we find ourselves at another very difficult moment in this pandemic. This is a time when leadership matters, when truth matters and when trust matters. Only this morning, leaked SAGE advice confirmed that the UK Government’s current international travel restrictions will identify significantly fewer cases. It is exactly the same advice that the Prime Minister received from the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales on Monday, and he has ignored that advice.

Since then other countries, like Ireland and the US, have moved rapidly on international travel to protect their people. Will the Prime Minister finally convene a four-nation Cobra meeting to tighten travel restrictions, or will he continue to ignore the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and his own SAGE advisers and imperil the health of the public of these islands?

Of course we want to work closely with the right hon. Gentleman. There will be abundant opportunities today and in the weeks ahead to concert our activity, but he is simply wrong in what he says about the steps the Government have taken to prevent the seeding of this variant from abroad. This country was actually the first to respond to the 10 countries that are most likely to seed the new omicron variant in this country. We put them on the red list, so people not only have pre-departure tests but they are quarantined. He is not right in what he says, and every other country in the world—[Interruption.] I do not mind if the right hon. Gentleman shouts. I tell him very calmly and quietly that 100% of passengers arriving from every other country in the world must take a PCR test, and they cannot get out of quarantine unless they test negative. Those balanced and proportionate measures are designed to protect the British people from the omicron variant, and that is the right approach to take.

Q5. Britain has some of the most unaffordable childcare in the developed world, which reduces opportunities for working families, particularly single parents, deepens gender pay gaps and makes levelling up much harder. Will the Prime Minister meet me to discuss the proposal in my just-published policy paper “Poverty Trapped” for an immediate review to design out these internationally uncompetitive costs, while still delivering a safe and enriching level of care for our children too? (904477)

I thank my hon. Friend for that. He is completely right about the importance of childcare and the transformative influence it can have, which is why we have spent £3.5 billion in each of the past three years on free childcare entitlements, particularly for the most disadvantaged. I am always happy to meet him and to discuss his ideas further.

Farmers across our country are crucial to our nation’s prosperity, as has been shown, once again through the pandemic, but many are now on the brink. Farmers across the country, in villages such as Hodnet, Baschurch and Woodseaves and countless others, are about to see their payments cut by at least 5%, starting this very month. The Prime Minister promised a new support system, rewarding more sustainable farming, but in the meantime he seems prepared to see many British farms go bankrupt. There is an easy solution: stop cutting the current system’s essential payments until the new scheme is fully rolled out. Will the Prime Minister do that, and help our struggling farmers before it is too late?

British food and farming does an absolutely outstanding job, and it is growing the whole time. Last night, I met representatives of the UK food and farming industry, which we support and continue to support with the same level of payments. But what we are also doing is opening up new opportunities for them around the world. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that in every single embassy there is now a dedicated expert on supporting UK food and farming exports to the rest of the world, which support 4 million jobs in this country and earn this country £21 billion of revenue.

Q6. More needs to be done to tackle the people trafficking gangs that exploit migrants across Europe, promising to get them to this country. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is totally unacceptable that companies such as Facebook allow those smugglers to offer their services on their platforms—not only routes into the country, but the sale of forged British papers in order to aid their access? Does he agree that when this House passes the Online Safety Bill we will have the power to do more to make companies such as Facebook take down content that promotes illegal activity? (904478)

I thank my hon. Friend for that. He is absolutely right to say that too many of these gangs are using social media, which is why the online harms Bill is so important. It will indeed be of assistance to us in taking down that kind of material.

Q2. Women have been left with internal damage and pain that they describe as being like “razor blades inside them”. Many have lost their careers and some have even lost their lives. It is impossible to know exactly how many women are left suffering. So why will the Prime Minister not give these mesh-damaged women the redress that they were recommended in the Cumberlege report? (904474)

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady, who raises an extremely important issue about a phenomenon that I know has caused huge distress to many, many women in this country. We published the Cumberlege report, and if there is anything more we can do, I am certainly willing to look at it. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising this.

Q8. The levelling-up agenda has already changed so many areas of our country for the better. In my constituency, our town centre in Worksop is in desperate need of regeneration and of finally solving our flooding problems. Unfortunately, my council in Bassetlaw missed the deadline for the latest round of grants. What can this Government do to help support areas such as mine, which have struggled with their bids, in order to make sure they are successful the next time around? (904480)

Step No. 1 is to vote out those dozy Labour councillors. I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent representation of Bassetlaw and can tell him that the second round of bidding for the levelling-up fund will open in spring next year.

Q3. Between 2010 and 2019, West Midlands police lost 2,221 officers. The force should receive an additional 1,200 new recruits by 2023 via the police uplift programme, but that will still leave a shortfall of 1,000 officers. This lack of frontline police has left the force stretched and under significant pressure, with officers telling me that“there are simply insufficient resources to investigate every crime.”Will the Prime Minister commit to providing West Midlands police with a fairer funding deal to ensure that the force can return officer numbers to 2010 levels? (904475)

I thank the police officers in the west midlands, and I thank the hon. Lady for drawing attention to what we are doing to increase the number of police officers—[Interruption.] No, we are on track: of the 20,000 that I pledged on the steps of Downing Street two and a half years ago, we have already recruited another 11,000. I am proud to say that our police officer workforce is more representative of the whole of this country, with more women and more people from ethnic minorities, than ever before.

Q9. Last week, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, the hon. Fabian Picardo, appeared before the European Scrutiny Committee and gave evidence about the continuing negotiations between Gibraltar and the European Union on their future relationship. The Chief Minister made it clear in his evidence that his ambition was that Gibraltar’s future should be “British, British, British”. Will my right hon. Friend say what the Government are doing to support the Chief Minister to achieve that aim and, in particular, to exclude any role for the European Court of Justice? (904481)

Frankly, I cannot really improve on the verdict of my friend Fabian Picardo, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar: Gibraltar is British, British, British and will remain so. By the way, I see no future role for the European Court of Justice.

Q7. My constituency of Edinburgh West has some of the most polluted streets in our country. An estimated one in 29 deaths in Edinburgh are related to air pollution and we do not meet World Health Organisation guidelines, so will the Prime Minister meet me to discuss whether his Government can support my private Member’s Bill, which would tackle the issue, bring us into line and let us all breathe a little easier? (904479)

I thank the hon. Lady for raising that issue; it is incredibly important, which is why we are now moving to all-out electric vehicles across the whole of the country, faster than any other European country. The World Health Organisation has praised our clean air strategy as an example for the rest of the world to follow. We will set out our evidence-based approach and the targets we are setting, but I would of course be happy to make sure that the hon. Lady meets the relevant Minister to set out her case.

Q11. Last month, the drug company Pfizer announced the successful trial of a new treatment called Paxlovid. The trial showed the drug to be roughly 90% successful, or better, at stopping death. Our current vaccine strategy is an enormous success, but it leads to a never-ending biological arms race against the mutating virus. As a supplement to a vaccine strategy, this treatment will allow Governments around the world to avoid the need for future emergency restrictions. What are the Government doing in the short term to secure supplies of this revolutionary treatment and in the long-term to enable the building of factories to produce it in Britain? (904483)

My right hon. Friend is spot on. The roll-out of Paxlovid in the NHS will of course depend on its approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, but the Government have, as a precaution, already invested in hundreds of thousands of courses of the drug.

Q10. Wales has 11% of the UK rail network, yet receives only 2% of UK rail enhancement funding and, as reported on WalesOnline, will be denied billions of consequential funding from HS2. Having under-delivered on rail in the north, and having under-delivered on rail in Wales, why should anyone trust this Government to deliver on their promises? (904482)

I am afraid that she has completely failed to look at what Sir Peter Hendy set out in his Union connectivity review. It is a fantastic agenda for change and improvement, particularly in Wales and particularly on the north Welsh corridor where the railway links deserve to be improved and will be improved under this Government.

Q13. Getting investment into Gedling is important. At a previous PMQs, I put aside my political differences with Labour-run Gedling Borough Council to champion its levelling-up fund bid, which, like other funding bids that it has made was sadly unsuccessful. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important that councils such as Gedling now take stock and learn from this experience and will he confirm that help from Government will be available to do that so that, in future, hopefully Gedling and other councils will be able to make more successful bids. (904485)

Yes, of course, we are very happy to help Gedling and other Labour-run councils to get their act together where necessary and to put in those bids. Just to remind my hon. Friend, more levelling-up fund bids come due in the spring of next year, and I wish Gedling well in its future bids.

Q12. My grandfather, along with thousands of others, came to this country 70 years ago, working seven days a week in squalid conditions to help rebuild this country. Now, the Home Secretary’s Nationality and Borders Bill means that she can revoke our British citizenship and deport us for even the most minor wrongdoings. Given the horrific track record of the Government and the Home Office, with their treatment of minorities, the hostile environment and the Windrush scandal, let me ask the Prime Minister the burning question that is now on the lips of everyone from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background right across the country, “When is he coming for me?” (904484)

The hon. Gentleman should look at the Conservative Front Bench today, and he should withdraw what he has just said—he should withdraw it. What he said was absolutely shameful, and, as he knows full well, the Nationality and Borders Bill does nothing of the kind. It helps us to fight the evil gangs who are predating on people’s willingness to cross the channel in unseaworthy boats and I would have thought that a sensible Labour party would support it.

Q14. This Saturday is Small Business Saturday. I am proud to represent some fantastic local businesses, such as Kays of Grantham, the Stamford Notebook Company and the Bourne Bookshop. This Government have provided unprecedented support throughout the pandemic. Can the Prime Minister assure me that his commitment to our high streets will continue long into the future? (904486)

I thank my hon. Friend for all the support that he gives to Grantham and Stamford. I can tell him that Small Business Saturday is receiving huge support from the Government. We had a kind of festival last night to celebrate it in Downing Street. I encourage everybody to get out this Saturday—safely with their mask on, Mr Speaker, when they are in a shop, but that should be no inhibition on people buying in their shops up and down this country.

Q15. Next week, the 97th victim of the Hillsborough tragedy will receive the Freedom of Liverpool. Andrew Devine passed away earlier this year, aged 55, having defied the odds to survive the injuries that he sustained at Hillsborough aged 22. A coroner’s inquest in Liverpool in July ruled that he was unlawfully killed as a result of the disaster, making him the 97th victim. Following my tabling last week of early-day motion 649 on Hillsborough and the national curriculum, will the Prime Minister agree to meet me to discuss the roll-out of the Hillsborough real truth legacy project, including the addition of the Hillsborough disaster to the national curriculum and help to consign to history the narrative of lies and smears peddled by some elements of the media and the establishment over the past 32 years through the power of education? (904487)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the powerful point that he has just made. Even though 32 years have passed since that devastating tragedy, I know that the wounds remain very raw in Liverpool. The Government are committed, as he knows, to continuing engagement with the bereaved families, and to ensuring that the lessons from that tragedy continue to be properly learned and that the victims of Hillsborough are never forgotten. I am happy to ensure that the hon. Gentleman meets the relevant Minister to take forward an agenda that I think is shared by people up and down the country.