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Commons Chamber

Volume 708: debated on Wednesday 2 February 2022

House of Commons

Wednesday 2 February 2022

The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

Connectivity: Scotland and the Rest of the UK

1. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on improving connectivity between Scotland and the rest of the UK. (905311)

Stirling has today submitted its bid to be the UK’s city of culture 2025. Winning the bid would bring investment and international attention to the town, and I am sure that every Scottish MP will join me in wishing Stirling the very best for the competition. As I am sure you are aware, Mr Speaker, today—2 February—is also Groundhog day. Of course, in Scotland, every day feels like Groundhog day with the SNP’s incessant calls for another independence referendum.

Turning to question No. 1, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart), and I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues about improving cross-border connectivity. The UK Government are currently considering the recommendations from the Union connectivity review and a formal response will be published shortly.

Does my right hon. Friend share my disappointment that the Scottish Government refused to engage with the Union connectivity review, and does he share my hope that these party political games will stop and that the Scottish Government will work with the UK Government to improve transport links for the people of Scotland, such as vital improvements to the A1 and the construction of the Borders railway to Carlisle?

I do share the disappointment that the Scottish Government did not engage in the Union connectivity review. In fact, the Cabinet Secretary for transport, Michael Matheson, instructed his civil servants not to engage with Sir Peter Hendy, the author of the review. But the UK Government have invited the Scottish Government to work closely in partnership to consider the recommendations and identify solutions that work best for all people in the United Kingdom.

There is no doubt that the UK Government speak a lot about improving connectivity with Scotland, but what is the Secretary of State specifically doing to improve connectivity between the UK Conservative Cabinet and what they refer to as the political lightweights of the Scottish Conservative party?

I am not quite sure how that is linked to connectivity, but as the hon. Member knows, not only do I support the Prime Minister in the role that he is carrying out, but I support our leader in Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross).

Rail links between England and Scotland are crucial in promoting regional interconnectivity not just to London, but to premier resorts such as mine of Southport. Would my right hon. Friend commit to meeting me so we can discuss putting the link back in through the Burscough curves to connect Southport better with Scotland?

Yes, I will meet my hon. Friend. I know that he has six beautiful golf courses in his area, so connectivity would be wonderful for us Scots, because we do enjoy a game of golf.

With the pandemic leading to more and more people looking to holiday in the UK, what discussions—notwithstanding the comments about the refusal of the Scottish Government—has the Secretary of State endeavoured to have with the Scottish Government about harnessing that new-found demand and supporting important transport hubs such as Edinburgh airport and Haymarket station in my constituency to facilitate improved connectivity?

As the hon. Lady will know, connectivity is important. It is not just about air; it is also about rail and road. We are very keen to improve connectivity because we realise that that leads to economic growth and improves people’s livelihoods. We are engaging with the Scottish Government in a spirit of good will with a view to improving connectivity for all parts of the United Kingdom.

Growth Deals

The Moray full deal and the Falkirk heads of terms were signed in December. We now have nine deals in implementation and three in negotiation covering all of Scotland. The Government have committed over £1.5 billion for the deal programme in Scotland.

I am sure that the Minister is aware of the Scottish Government’s strategic transport review, and no doubt he will share my disappointment at the very lukewarm support for the extension of the Borders railway to Hawick, Newcastleton and on to Carlisle. Does he agree that this Government should show their full support for the project and tell us when the feasibility study for the Borders railway extension will be started?

I absolutely share my hon. Friend’s disappointment. When we signed the Borderlands growth deal, I was determined that the feasibility study for reopening the full Borders line should be in there. I am keen to see that work starting as soon as possible, and we will soon respond to the Union connectivity review, which also references that line. This is a classic example of where the Scottish Government should stop obsessing and spending their time, resources and money on yet more independence preparations and instead deliver on projects that really matter to the people of Scotland.

The Borderlands region will see £20 million less investment in its city region deal from the UK Government than from the Scottish Government. Why is that?

If the hon. Lady looks at the full package of investment that is going into the Borderlands deal, she will see that this Government are full square behind that area. It really is disappointing that it comes down to this petty point scoring when the whole point of the city region and growth deal is that all parts of government—local, Scottish and UK—work together on delivering the priorities that are determined by local people.

Talking about the Borderlands growth initiative and the growth deal, does the Minister agree that it is extremely important and beneficial to the whole region, and that Carlisle has become the regional capital of parts not just of England, but of Scotland? Does he also agree that south Scotland recognises the importance of Carlisle’s economic performance to the whole region? Does he further agree that that helps to support the Union?

I absolutely agree that the Borderlands growth deal is unique in that it straddles the border. The economic footprint of the region is incredibly important. Last year I held a meeting in Carlisle with local authority leaders and other stakeholders to discuss not just the growth deal, but how it can be the starting point for a proper economic partnership that straddles the border and delivers for my hon. Friend and his neighbouring constituencies.

Strength of the Union

This Government are committed to upholding and strengthening the United Kingdom. My Department works closely with our partners across Government and with Scottish stakeholders. This Government are delivering record investment in Scotland and are ensuring that the many benefits of the Union are shared across the United Kingdom.

The Leader of the House recently described the leader of the Scottish Conservatives as “a lightweight figure”. Does the Secretary of State believe that that comment helped to strengthen the Union?

I have made my position very clear: I do not think that Douglas Ross—[Interruption.] Well, I made it very clear in the Scottish media, which hon. Members may not have noticed, but that is fair enough. He is the leader of the Scottish Conservatives and was put there by the membership, and we are a constitutionally devolved organisation. He is doing a very good job and holds Nicola Sturgeon to account, and he has my full backing.

On the Union, this Government are committed to delivering freeports across the United Kingdom, including at least one in Wales. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the creation of at least one freeport in Scotland will result in investment and thousands of jobs and demonstrates why our Union is so effective at delivering for our communities?

I am pleased to say that, after a lot of initial opposition and resistance, we are close to agreeing two freeports with the Scottish Government. My hon. Friend is a great champion for Wales, and I hope that the Welsh Government will also accept a freeport.

The Sue Gray report released on Monday was utterly damning about the Prime Minister’s conduct, yet the Secretary of State continues to back him against the wishes of his own Scottish Conservative leader, who I notice is not in the Chamber for Scottish questions. We now know that the Metropolitan police are investigating no fewer than 12 incidents in Downing Street, with more allegations every day. It is little wonder then that a recent poll found that the Prime Minister is as unpopular in Scotland as Alex Salmond. Does the Secretary of State think that the Prime Minister, in refusing to do the decent thing and resign, is good for the Union or helps those who want to break it up?

The Prime Minister is resolute in opposing a second Scottish independence referendum and therefore very good for the Union.

What is Groundhog day, Mr Speaker, is the Secretary of State’s defence of this broken Prime Minister.

Tomorrow, the Bank of England is projected to raise interest rates, and inflation is running at a 30-year high. There will be much anxiety in Scottish households that Ofgem will announce the raising of the energy price cap, leading to a massive hike in bills. Last night, my colleagues and I voted to give every single Scottish household support towards the cost of their spiralling energy bills. Under Labour’s fully costed plans, we would save every Scottish household £200 and save £600 for over 800,000 Scottish households hardest hit by the cost of living crisis. That is proper action on this crisis for those both on and off the grid, like many thousands in the Secretary of State’s constituency. Given that the SNP did not back these plans in the vote last night either, why are Scotland’s two Governments refusing to take any action whatsoever to help Scots with spiralling energy costs?

The UK Government are taking action. The energy price cap is being maintained and will be renegotiated—that is ongoing work for the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. We are providing a £140 rebate on energy bills for 2.2 million households with the lowest incomes, and we have the £300 winter fuel payment for pensioners.

The strength of any Union rests upon the confidence people have in those who are running things. I know that I disagree with the Minister’s political judgment, so let me appeal to his business judgment. Hypothetically, if he were handed evidence that the man running his company had been incompetent and dishonest, and was subject to a police investigation, bringing the entire company into disrepute, would he let him carry on in the role, or would he expect him to step back?

As has been said many times at this Dispatch Box, the Prime Minister is very sorry for what happened—he has apologised. He has said that if he could have done things differently, with hindsight, he would have done. It is also the case that no one has said that he is the subject of a police investigation. The police are looking into the events that have been passed on to them by Sue Gray, and we will wait for the outcome of that inquiry.

I find it quite incredible. Many of the public believe that this Prime Minister has a long history of racism, homophobia and misogyny. He has lost numerous jobs due to his level of dishonesty. He has presided over 150,000 deaths and the loss of nearly £5 billion of public money to fraudsters. Eighty per cent. of people in Scotland want him to resign, and the leader of the Scottish Tories wants him to resign. Let me ask the Minister this: as Scotland’s only representative in Cabinet, what would it take for him to ask for the Prime Minister’s resignation?

The Prime Minister is doing a fantastic job. He is focusing on the things that matter: delivering on the recovery from this pandemic, the vaccine programme that he backed early on, the booster programme that he led before Christmas, trade deals that will improve outcomes for Scottish food and drink, and many other things. He is a very good leader. The hon. Lady is absolutely prejudging the outcome of the police inquiry.

Following the reference to confidence by the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mhairi Black), I welcome the publication of the levelling-up White Paper, and the Government’s commitment to decentralising the UK shared prosperity fund to local areas in Scotland and Wales. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is an example of confidence in local decision-making, of real devolution and of good Union working?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right—I know that he is a great champion of the Union. The levelling-up paper, which will be launched today, will contain a lot of initiatives and show that we are using structural funds to practise real devolution by giving that money directly to local authorities.

Scottish Parliament: Legislative Remit

4. What recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on the legislative remit of the Scottish Parliament. (905314)

The UK Government remain focused on the issues that really matter to people in Scotland, including recovery from the pandemic. My Department continues to work closely with both the Scottish Government and UK Government Departments on the ongoing implementation of the Scotland Act 2016.

Yesterday, Holyrood backed a motion rejecting voter ID measures in the Elections Bill because they would disenfranchise Scottish voters. That is an indication of the strength of feeling for people across Scotland, and in my constituency, that the UK Government are not giving them due consideration through the legislative process. Can the Secretary of State confirm what plans the Government have to extend Holyrood’s legislative powers?

We are respecting devolution with the Elections Bill: we are bringing in voter ID only for UK elections. We believe that stealing someone’s vote is stealing someone’s voice.

Coastal Communities

Communities across Scotland have benefited and will continue to benefit from our focus on levelling up. Particularly for coastal communities we are investing a further £100 million over the next three years for transformative seafood projects that will help to rejuvenate our coastal communities.

The petrochemical and oil and gas industries are vital to coastal communities across our United Kingdom, in Teesside and in Scotland. Will the Minister confirm that this Government are committed to supporting our petchem sector and further oil and gas exploration in the North sea, which will inevitably help us achieve net zero, not hinder it?

Yes, I can. The Government are committed to delivering a North sea transition deal, which will be a global exemplar of how a Government can work with the offshore oil and gas industry in partnership to achieve a managed energy transition. This deal between the UK Government and the oil and gas industry will support workers, businesses and the supply chain through this transition by harnessing the industry’s existing capabilities, infrastructure and private investment potential.

This Government’s multimillion-pound investment in the fishing industry will benefit coastal communities right across the UK, from Cornwall to Scotland. Does my hon. Friend agree that only by boosting coastal communities and spreading opportunity to every corner of our country can we succeed in our mission to improve the lives of everybody in our great nation?

Indeed I do. The Government have gone well beyond their manifesto commitment to replace European Union funding, by investing an additional £100 million over the next three years for these transformative seafood projects that will rejuvenate the industry and our coastal communities. Levelling up is about helping communities across the UK, and that means building back better, spreading opportunity, improving public services and helping to restore and celebrate pride in our coastal communities.

The world-leading European Marine Energy Centre in Stromness was developed as a consequence of access to EU Interreg funding, money to which we no longer have access. Does the Minister agree that the UK’s shared prosperity fund should be the source of replacement funding for organisations such as EMEC that no longer have access to Interreg funding? What is the Scotland Office doing to make that case within government?

I had the pleasure of visiting Stromness last summer, when I saw for myself the huge potential that Orkney has to lead the country in renewable energy. I continue to speak to the leader of Orkney Islands Council to explore all the ways in which we can help to fund these exciting projects.

Many coastal communities, including in my constituency, benefit from improved coastal shipping. What actions has the Secretary of State taken to assist in introducing a direct ferry service from Scotland to critically important export markets in Europe?

I was pleased to reply to a debate that the hon. Gentleman and other colleagues spoke in a couple of weeks ago on exploring the potential for restoring the Rosyth to Zeebrugge link, which, for commercial reasons, ceased operating a few years ago. There are lots of potentials for reopening that. It is primarily a matter for the Scottish Government, but I am happy to work with him and his colleagues to explore all these opportunities.

The ScotWind allocation announced last week has the opportunity to create thousands of jobs in Scotland. The reality is that in its time in office the Scottish National party has created lots of highly-skilled jobs, but they are not in Scotland—they are in China, Poland, Portugal and elsewhere. The Scottish Government failed to put in place sufficient demands for local procurement as part of awarding the contract; it is particularly disappointing for coastal communities, who can see offshore wind turbines being installed but cannot see the jobs. What discussion has the Minister had with the Scottish Government about ensuring that the supply chain for ScotWind creates jobs in Scotland and across the UK?

I agree with the basic point the hon. Lady is making. Referring back to the answer I gave the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael), may I say that if we look at renewable energy as a whole, we see that there are enormous opportunities to develop that technology in Scotland, through our contracts for difference round, which is as big as all the other rounds put together? Huge investment is going in, in offshore wind and in tidal, and I will continue to explore every avenue to make sure that this country is able to secure the lion’s share of that industrial capacity.

Levelling-up Fund: Benefits to Scotland

6. What assessment he has made of the potential economic benefits to Scotland of the Levelling Up Fund. (905316)

Eight projects in Scotland have received a share of more than £170 million from round 1 of the levelling-up fund. Those projects will create new jobs, boost training, grow productivity and deliver tremendous economic benefit to Scotland.

With all the news on the levelling-up White Paper today, will my right hon. Friend update the House on progress towards the fund’s second round? There will be as many bidders in Scotland as there will be in my constituency, where we are keen to move forward with a bid to regenerate Lye.

Unsuccessful applicants who have passed the gateway stage will be offered feedback to support future bids. They will also be encouraged to reapply. Round 2 of the levelling-up fund is due to open in spring this year, and more information will be shared in due course.

I feel for the Secretary of State having to come to the Dispatch Box to defend his Government’s appalling record on spending for the devolved nations. Their broken promises on fully replacing EU funds look to set Wales back more than £1 billion over the next few years. Will he confirm exactly how the Government plan on plugging that gap? The shared prosperity fund will see all the devolved nations lose out on vital funding and is simply not good enough.

To be absolutely clear, regarding funding to the devolved Administrations, the first comment I would make to the hon. Lady is that the settlement for Scotland this year of £41.6 billion is an increase of £4 billion and is the highest settlement that the Scottish Government have received since 1998, so since devolution began. Regarding the UK shared prosperity fund, the European regional development fund and the European social fund are absolutely being replaced with no reduction whatever, as per our manifesto commitment.

Will my right hon. Friend inform the House of what engagement he has had—or other UK Departments have had—with the Scottish Government and, in particular, with local authorities in Scotland to ensure that levelling up is truly a levelling-up exercise across the whole of the United Kingdom?

As my hon. Friend knows from when he was in the Scotland Office with me, we have had a lot of engagement with Scottish local authorities. We have been very clear that we will deliver the levelling-up money and work with those local authorities to practice real devolution.

Transport Links: Scotland and the North-east of England

7. What steps he is taking to improve transport links between Scotland and the north-east of England to promote economic growth. (905317)

The Union connectivity review recognised the importance of the A1 and recommended that the UK Government should seek to work with the Scottish Government to develop an assessment of the east coast road and rail corridor. The Government will respond to the UCR and publish that response in due course.

On the day that the levelling-up agenda has been published, will the Secretary of State tell the House what steps he is taking to devolve powers and finance to the northern regions, so that we can strengthen ties with the Holyrood Government independently of Westminster, so increasing rail capacity, trade and opportunities for business?

I know how passionate the hon. Gentleman is about transport matters as I had the pleasure of serving with him on the Select Committee on Transport for a number of years. If he reads through the levelling-up White Paper, which came out today—I appreciate that it is quite a weighty tome, so he might not have had a chance to digest it all yet—he will see in that the measures to which he is referring. We can encourage better connectivity between the different economic centres of the UK. I would be absolutely delighted to see a strengthening of that corridor between Scotland and the north-east of England.

Defence Investment in Scotland

My office and I have regular discussions with the Ministry of Defence on all matters relating to defence in Scotland, including defence investment with industry and commerce in Scotland, which totalled almost £2 billion in 2020-21.

Scotland is home to the Royal Navy Submarine Service, including our essential independent nuclear deterrent, which protects the whole of the UK. As President Putin continues to escalate his military posture and the aggression on the Ukrainian border—let us be clear that it is President Putin escalating this and not the Russian people—does my right hon. Friend agree that our commitment to defence investment in Scotland, including in Trident, is important, indeed vital, to Scotland’s security as part of the UK and as part of NATO? [Interruption.]

Order. I need to finish these questions. It is in good order that you hear your own Secretary of State.

Mr Speaker, you will not be surprised to hear that I completely agree with my hon. Friend. The UK’s independent nuclear deterrent, which is Trident, based at the HM Naval Base Clyde, exists to deter the most extreme threats not only to the United Kingdom but to our NATO allies. Our nuclear deterrent is the ultimate assurance against current and future threats and remains essential for as long as the global security situation demands.

Rise in the Cost of Living

10. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the potential effect of the rise in the cost of living on people in Scotland. (905321)

This Government have consistently said that the best way to support people’s living standards is through good work, better skills and higher wages. Our plan for jobs is working, the economy is growing and unemployment is low. The national living wage, the universal credit taper and allowance changes are putting more money in people’s pockets.

The UK energy market is demonstrably broken. Surely that is of concern to all of us in all parts of the House. I am particularly concerned about rural energy prices and disparities between urban and rural areas. Competition law and energy law are reserved to this place. Will the Minister support my call for an investigation into uncompetitive energy practices? If he will not, would he care to come to the city of Stirling and explain to the people of Stirling and Scotland how the UK energy market is working for them?

First, let me welcome the city of culture bid by the hon. Gentleman’s home city. I am always happy to visit Stirling—in fact, I believe that I am coming up to visit in the next couple of weeks. I am very happy to meet him to discuss the measures to which he refers, but energy prices are rising globally. That is a consequence of the coronavirus restrictions easing and demand coming back, together with other geopolitical factors, so I would put the points that he raises in that global context.

Speaker’s Statement

Before we come to Prime Minister’s questions, I wish to make a statement about the House practices regarding accusing Members of lying or of deliberately misleading the House. I recognise that there are frustrations around the House’s practices.

First, let me say that there are means by which accusations of lying may be brought before the House, including by means of a substantive motion. The Scottish National party did so on its Opposition day in November. However, Members may not accuse each other of lying or of deliberately misleading the House unless such a substantive motion is under consideration. “Erskine May” is clear that it is

“to preserve the character of parliamentary debate”,

which I take to mean to stop it descending into fruitless cycles of accusation and counter-accusation.

It also says:

“Expressions when used in respect of other Members which are regarded with particular seriousness, generally leading to prompt intervention from the Chair and often a requirement on the Member to withdraw the words, include…charges of uttering a deliberate falsehood.”

It is important to stress context. Similar words said in different proceedings might attract a different response from the Chair depending on the subject being debated, tone and other considerations. In general, though, the Chair will not tolerate accusations of lying or of deliberately misleading the House. That is the long-standing practice of the House, as set out in “Erskine May” and followed by successive Speakers and Deputy Speakers.

Of course, long-standing practices may change—for example, if the House decided that it wanted a different approach, perhaps informed by a Procedure Committee inquiry—but it is not for me to change the practice unilaterally. Therefore, I ask Members to respect this approach. I know feelings run high on important issues we discuss, but there are plenty of ways of making strong feelings felt within the rules and without placing the Chair in the invidious position of having to order Members to withdraw or seeking their suspension.

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

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


This Sunday, Her Majesty the Queen will become the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum jubilee. While it is a moment of national celebration, it will be a day of mixed emotions for Her Majesty, as of course the day also marks 70 years since the death of her beloved father George VI. I know the whole House will want to join me in thanking Her Majesty for her tireless service. We look forward to celebrating her historic reign with a series of national events in June. 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.

On Monday, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said mandatory vaccinations would be subject to a consultation. Can the Prime Minister make it unequivocally clear—no ifs, no buts, no qualifications—that mandatory vaccinations for NHS staff will be abandoned? Will he also make it clear that that is also true for care workers, many of whom have already lost their jobs? What support will the Government be giving to get those care workers back into the care sector, and will those who have lost their jobs get compensation?

I thank my right hon. Friend for her thoughtful work on this. I want to stress that vaccines remain our best line of defence, and I think that NHS staff and all those who work in the care sector have a professional responsibility to get vaccinated. However, as my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary told the House on Monday, given the difference between omicron and delta, it is right—my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Esther McVey) is right—that we revisit the balance of risks and opportunities. The Health Secretary has said we will launch a consultation and, subject to the responses and the will of this House, the Government will revoke the regulations.

Following your opening remarks, Mr Speaker, I want to say to Government Members that theirs is the party of Winston Churchill. Our parties stood together as we defeated fascism in Europe. Now their leader stands in the House of Commons parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to try to score cheap political points. He knows exactly what he is doing. It is time to restore some dignity.

One of the most absurd claims made on behalf of Operation Save Big Dog is the Prime Minister and the Chancellor writing in The Sunday Times that they are the “tax-cutting Conservatives.” Why do these alleged tax cutters keep raising taxes on working people?

On the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s first point, I do not want to make heavy weather of this, but I am informed that in 2013 he apologised and took full responsibility for what had happened on his watch, and I think that was the right thing to do.

On what we are doing to tackle the cost of living and taxation, our covid recovery plan is vital in helping people with the cost of living: lifting up universal credit payments by cutting the tax that people effectively pay, lifting the living wage, and helping councils with another half a billion pounds for those who are facing particular hardship. What we are also doing, and this is absolutely vital, is increasing the number of high-wage, high-skill jobs in this country. There are 420,000 more on the payroll than there were before the pandemic began, because we have had the fastest exit from covid of any European economy, because we had the fastest vaccine and booster roll-out.

It is not just the national insurance rise. Thresholds for income tax frozen—a stealth tax on working people. The threshold for tuition fees frozen—a stealth tax on working people. Local authorities forced to increase council tax—a stealth tax on working people. You can be as stealthy as you like, but you cannot hide reality. We have the highest tax burden for 70 years in the middle of an inflation crisis. I ask the Prime Minister again: why do he and the Chancellor keep raising taxes on working people?

What we are doing is helping people with the cost of living, cutting taxes for those on universal credit, as I have said, and helping people with the cost of their fuel, with the cold weather payments and the warm home payment—doing all the things that this country would expect. We are lifting the living wage, which this party introduced. This Government have increased that by a record amount. Above all, the most important thing we are doing is helping people into work, with 500,000 people off welfare and into work under our way to work scheme. There are more people in work now than before the pandemic began, and that is the record of this Government. Never forget that there has never been a Labour Government who left office with unemployment lower than when they came to power.

Lots of words, lots of bluster, but no answers. A word of warning, Prime Minister: that will not work with the police.

I will tell the Prime Minister why the Government are putting taxes up: low growth. In the decade of Tory Government before the pandemic, growth slumped. It was much, much weaker than under the last Labour Government. If the Tories matched our record on growth, we would have £30 billion more to spend on public services without having to raise a single tax. Surely even this Prime Minister does not need someone else to tell him that he and the Chancellor are having to raise taxes because the Tories failed to grow the economy over a decade.

No, I think everybody in this country can see that we have been through the biggest pandemic for 100 years and that we have looked after the people of this country to the tune of £400 billion, which we put into furlough and all the other schemes, with 11.7 million people protected. Everybody knows the cost of that. At the same time, despite all the difficulties we have faced, we have now got the fastest growth in the G7. That is absolutely true. We have youth unemployment at a record low. We have got three times as much tech investment coming into this country as France, and twice as much as Germany. [Interruption.] Yes, that is absolutely true. If we want to know about Labour economics, never forget that the last time they were in office, when they were finally booted out, they left a note saying, “There is no money left.” That is the way they run the country.

The UK has suffered the worst economic crisis in the G7. The Prime Minister has more chance of persuading the public that he did not hold any parties than he has of persuading them that the economy is booming. High taxes are not just the result of low growth. Under this Government we have seen a pandemic of waste and fraud, from the Prime Minister’s yacht to Government contracts for mates of Ministers. They have treated taxpayers as an ATM for their mates and their lifestyles. Now we find that they have written off £8.7 billion on personal protective equipment and the Chancellor is writing off £4.3 billion in fraud. That is enough to cover the tax hike he is inflicting on working people. Why did this Government block the National Crime Agency from investigating all the billions they lost to fraud?

Of course we despise fraud and those who steal from the taxpayer, which is why we have already recovered £743 million in lost furlough money and £2.2 billion that was stolen in bounce back loans, and we will go on. But I have to tell you, Mr Speaker, that I am proud of what this Government and this country did: securing record quantities of PPE in record time, and furloughing and looking after the entirety of British business and society in the way that we did.

Once again, Captain Hindsight comes to this House and attacks the Government for doing exactly what he urged us to do 18 months ago. Mr Speaker, it so happens that I have been rustling in my notes and I have found a letter dated 22 April 2020—which I will place for your convenience in the Library of the House—from the shadow Chancellor, the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves), to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), suggesting that we could secure PPE supplies from a theatrical costumier and get ventilators from a professional football agent. No wonder fraud was running at £21 billion a year under Labour. I am proud of what this Government did to secure PPE and I am proud of the way we protected this country.

Who wants to be the first to leave? Please put your hand up, because I am going to pick one of you.

The Prime Minister might want to sharpen how he answers questions under interview; he is going to need to in the next few weeks. Waste and low growth explain why we have high taxes, but they do not explain why it is always working people who are asked to pay more. Yesterday he ordered his troops not to support a windfall tax on oil and gas companies. As a result, the country is missing out on over £1 billion that we could have used to cut taxes on energy bills for working people. Today he is ordering his troops to vote for tax cuts for banks. As a result, the country is missing out on another £1 billion that we could have spent cutting taxes for working people. Why are the Chancellor and the Prime Minister protecting oil companies and bank profits while putting taxes up on working people?

Let’s just get to the heart of what this is all about. This is all about dealing with the consequences of the biggest pandemic that this country has seen, with an unprecedented economic crisis, in which the state had to come forward and look after the people of this country to the tune of £408 billion. Everybody can see the fiscal impacts of that. Shall I tell the House what this Government and this country are voting for, and what we are doing? We are investing now in 45,000 more NHS workers—more people in our NHS—this year than there were last year: 10,900 more nurses; about 5,000 more doctors; 9 million more scans and 100 community diagnostics hubs to help people to get the scans and the treatment that they need. And the incredible, lamentable thing is that the Opposition—the party of Nye Bevan—voted against those funds and that investment, and they would have made our covid recovery impossible.

For all the bluster, the truth is that the Conservative party is the party of high taxes because it is the party of low growth; it is the party of high taxes because it is the party of eye-watering waste.

We know that this Prime Minister has no respect for decency or honesty. I can take it when it is aimed at me, but I will not accept it when he gaslights the British public, writing absurd articles about cutting taxes at a time when he is squeezing working people to the pips. Isn’t it the case that he and his Chancellor are the Tory Thelma and Louise, hand in hand as they drive the country off the cliff, and into the abyss of low growth and high tax? [Interruption.]

Mr Gullis, I think you have been trolled for long enough and you do not want to be trolled any more. That is the last comment I have—otherwise I will ring your mother.

I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is Dick Dastardly and Muttley, both of them pulling in different directions—we know they have different views.

We are getting on with the job, and of course I think it is absolutely extraordinary that the Opposition have done nothing to support our covid recovery plan and they voted against our plans to support the NHS. Just in the last few days, while the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been fixated on the issues that he is absolutely determined to escalate, we have opened freeports across the country, and we are getting 500,000 people off welfare into work with our Way to Work plan.

In just a few short minutes—I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will hang around, because he will hear him—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up will deliver the long-awaited levelling up White Paper, full of good stuff, including 55 education investment areas across our country. It is a wonderful economic and moral mission to level up and give opportunity across the whole country, and a fantastic vision for this country. The Opposition have nothing of the kind to offer the people of this country.

While we are getting on with coming out of covid, and we are the second fastest, or the fastest economic recovery in the G7—the fastest, the fastest—the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have kept us in lockdown. We are fixing the NHS and social care, when the Opposition voted against it, and they have no plan. We are building a coalition—[Interruption.] We are building a coalition—[Interruption.]

Order. Prime Minister, I am this way, not that way—maybe Specsavers might be the answer to see where I am—but can I just say that Dame Caroline Dinenage is desperate to get the next question to you? I call Dame Caroline Dinenage.

Q2. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. First, I would like to give my condolences to the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), and say how good it is to see her back in her place.Sophie Fairall was just 10 years old when she died in September. Childhood cancer is often described as rare, yet cancer is the biggest killer of children under 14. Sophie’s GP failed to diagnose her cancer, and it was only when she went to A&E that they discovered the tumour in her little body that was 12 cm long. On World Cancer Day on Friday, I would like to ask the Prime Minister to please advocate for more and better training for general practice to identify cancer in children. (905432)

I thank my hon. Friend. I am very sorry to hear of Sophie’s case, and my thoughts are with her family and her friends. She is right that research is crucial in tackling childhood cancers. That is why we are investing in more research, but it is also vital that we do tests, diagnostic scans and screens early enough, and that is why it is also important that not only has National Institute for Health and Care Excellence updated its guidance on referring childhood cancers in February last year, but we are investing in 100 new diagnostic centres in community hubs.

I am sure that you, Mr Speaker, and the rest of the House will want to join me in celebrating and supporting World Cancer Day.

Mr Speaker, in relation to your earlier statement, I have a difficulty reconciling the Prime Minister’s version of events with other evidence and, as you know, I have a duty to reflect and represent the deep public anger with the Prime Minister. That said, I respect the absolute impartiality that you take in your role, and I want to set it on the record that I respect both you and the authority of the Chair.

This morning, the Telegraph newspaper revealed that the Prime Minister attended a party in his flat on 13 November 2020. The Prime Minister previously told the House that no party took place. The police are now investigating this party, and we face a very real prospect of a sitting Prime Minister being questioned under caution and being fined in office. If he is questioned, he must go, and if he is fined, he must resign. Mr Speaker, you will agree that the House should not be treated with contempt, so can the Prime Minister—[Interruption.] Here we go again. So can the Prime Minister update the House on his whereabouts on the evening of 13 November? Surely he does not need to wait for an investigation to tell us exactly where he was.

“Here we go again” says the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and I must say those were entirely my feelings: he asked exactly the same questions, as I recall, in the Chamber a few days ago. He knows that the process must go on, but I can tell him what has been going on in Downing Street in November and throughout: we have been delivering the fastest vaccine and booster roll-out anywhere in Europe; we have been getting people back into work; and we have been helping to bring the west together to defy what I think is completely unacceptable threats and intimidation from the Putin regime against Ukraine. That is what we have been doing.

That was a disgraceful response, and I have to say to the Prime Minister that he should read the room and see the expressions on some of his colleagues’ faces; he has lost it. We have now reached the ridiculous scenario of a Prime Minister who cannot even tell us where he was. He lives in a world where he thinks everything is owed to him, and he never pauses to think what he owes to the public. The Prime Minister is now a dangerous distraction at home and a running joke on the international stage. What does it tell the Prime Minister and the public that on the morning he has returned from Ukraine the Chair of the Select Committee on Defence has submitted a letter of no confidence in him?

It tells me that it is more vital than ever for the Government of this country to get on with the job and deliver our covid recovery plan, and that is what we are doing.

Q3.   I would like to say diolch—thank you—to the Prime Minister for visiting my Ynys Môn constituency, where he saw at first hand the enormous beneficial impact the new nuclear plant Wylfa Newydd could have if built on Anglesey. Nuclear power must play a role if we are to meet our carbon and net-zero commitments, level up and combat rising energy prices. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the rapid deployment of nuclear technology must be a priority for this Government, and if so will my right hon. Friend commit to financing a nuclear plant at the Wylfa site in this Parliament? (905433)

It was a great joy to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency, where I believe she is known as “Atomic Kitten”—or so she informed me—and she outlined in great detail her plans for Wylfa. It is a fantastic vision and a fantastic site, and it remains a very interesting and attractive prospect for new nuclear power.

I am not sure if the Prime Minister has noticed but while he has been partying working families in Northern Ireland have lost £1,000 from their universal credit, their national insurance has been put up by this Government and their energy bills are going through the roof. He is very fond of telling us that we are all in this together; isn’t it the truth that this Prime Minister has only ever been it for himself and his rich mates?

No, I am in it to serve my country and the entire United Kingdom, and I am also proud that we have had the biggest investment in Northern Ireland since devolution began and we have cut taxation on universal credit.

Q5. South Western Railway has totally cut off Dorset, Somerset, most of Wiltshire and Devon from its direct rail services to London as well as slashing our service in half, most of which is totally unnecessary. Will my right hon. Friend support me and my neighbouring colleagues in getting direct services back to West Dorset and having a timetable that is fit for our region? (905435)

I thank my hon. Friend very much for his question; he knows whereof he speaks. He is an expert in the subject and has lobbied very effectively for his constituents and reflected their frustrations. I am told that the timetable is expected to return to December 2021 levels from Saturday 19 February.

Q4. I was out this weekend speaking to a constituent who has a cold and leaky house. She has already seen her bills go up from £100 to £170 a month. The Government have failed to insulate her house and failed to control her fuel bills. Bribing people with their own money is no plan. The Prime Minister has no plan to cut VAT and no plan to get the oil and gas industry to contribute. Another constituent, who voted for the Prime Minister, went further and called him “despicable.” What use is a Prime Minister who has no plan for families struggling with the cost of living and who has lost the trust of the people of this country? (905434)

The hon. Member talks about cutting VAT. I wonder whether he voted for Brexit and our ability to cut VAT—perhaps he could indicate. We delivered that and celebrated its anniversary on Monday. I sympathise very much with his constituent and understand the pressures that people are facing on the costs of living, but what we have got to do is invest and protect them. We are putting in £12 billion-worth of support and financial help for families in hardship this year, which is absolutely vital after the pandemic. The most important thing is to have a jobs-led economic recovery. In case I failed to make myself clear before you wound me up, Mr Speaker, that is why we have the fastest economic growth in the G7.

Q6. The Greater Manchester mayoral clean air zone scheme—in effect, a congestion charge affecting all 500 square miles of Greater Manchester, including my constituents in Leigh—is a job-destroying tax on ordinary working people. We all want clean air, but the model proposed by Mayor Burnham is unworkable and economically devastating, with charges of £60 per day per lorry driver. Taxis, white van men and even buses will be caught by it. Will the PM intervene to prevent Mayor Burnham from inflicting this disastrous Labour scheme on Greater Manchester? (905436)

I know from my own experience how vital it is when trying to clean up air in a great city not to penalise business unjustly, and particularly small businesses. It has become clear that the scheme proposed by the Labour Mayor in Manchester is completely unworkable and will do more damage to businesses and residents in Manchester. We must find an alternative that does not punish local residents. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will say more about that in the coming days.

Q8.    If the Prime Minister receives a fixed penalty notice for attending a party or hosting a party during lockdown, will he inform the House, and will he resign? (905438)

Q7. Since I was elected, my fabulous constituency has really seen the green shoots of prosperity. Government support is bringing a green revolution to Blyth Valley. However, with such growth there has been increased congestion on our roads, and we are in desperate need of upgrades to road infrastructure. Will my right hon. Friend please meet me to discuss the urgent problem and help Blyth Valley out of its ever-increasing traffic jam? (905437)

My hon. Friend is the best champion that Blyth could possibly have. He does a quite amazing job. I thank him in particular for helping to secure the Britishvolt gigafactory in Blyth—an absolutely amazing investment. Of course, growth and prosperity bring challenges when it comes to congestion on our roads, and we have to tackle that. We are working with the council on a bid for the Blyth relief road, and I will ensure that he gets a meeting with the Transport Secretary to discuss it further.

Q10. The problem with a distracted Prime Minister is that he makes the wrong choices. While he has been living it up, many of my constituents are living on the breadline as food, energy and taxes shoot up. In York, rent prices are now the highest in the north and some of the highest in the country. York is now in the top 10 places in the country where there is a cost of living crisis, pushing my constituents further into poverty and debt. When will he stop protecting himself and start protecting my constituents? (905440)

One of the first things I did when I became Prime Minister was ensure that we looked after people on low incomes by increasing local housing allowance, by increasing the living wage—not once but twice, and by record amounts—and by doing what we have now done with universal credit. The most important thing about the UK economy right now is that we have a strong, jobs-led recovery, and that is what is going to drive up wages, drive up productivity and drive up growth. That is what this Government are delivering.

I thank my right hon. Friend very much for his question. Very briefly, I can tell the House that the mission, which I hope everybody will support, was to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine, for our country to show that we stand with the people of Ukraine, and to show that we stand for the sovereign and territorial integrity of Ukraine at a very difficult time. On the borders of Ukraine, as everybody knows, there are about 125,000 Russian troops massing. The situation is very perilous, and the job of the UK is to lead the west in bringing together the most important countries in creating a package of economic sanctions that will deter President Putin from what I believe would be a disastrous miscalculation, and also to strengthen our support for the Ukrainian people and, indeed, the Ukrainian army. We are doing that by supplying lethal but defensive weaponry, as well as training, to the Ukrainians, which is greatly appreciated. But I must say that the situation remains risky and it is vital that diplomacy finds a way forward.

Q14. On a related issue, after the publication of the Russia report the Prime Minister claimed“tackling illicit finance and driving dirty money and money launderers out of the UK is a priority.”His warnings to Mr Putin of late would surely have carried more bite if he had used the 18 months since the publication of the Russia report to legislate for an economic crime Act to stop the flow of dirty money from Russia. Why has he not prioritised this issue of national security? (905444)

Contrary to some of the myths that are peddled, this Government have come down very hard on dirty money from Russia and everywhere else—that is why we brought in the unexplained wealth orders—and indeed China, which Opposition Members might like to consider. That is why we have sanctions on Russia following what it did in Crimea in 2014. We have Magnitsky sanctions on everybody involved in the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. To the hon. Gentleman’s point, we are bringing forward the economic crime Bill, and it will be voted on in the third Session of this Parliament.

Q11. Two years ago this week, despite the best efforts of the Opposition, this Government delivered on the democratic decision to leave the European Union. [Interruption.] Despite there being a global pandemic in the two years since, more than 70 free trade agreements have been signed. However, as we recover, many more opportunities can be realised. Will the Prime Minister commit to appointing a Minister with responsibility for realising the Brexit freedoms and benefits that will boost all our constituencies? (905441)

Mr Speaker, you can hear from the chuntering opposite that they still want to take this thing back. They still want to cancel Brexit, but it is largely thanks to Brexit that we had the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe, that we have been able to deliver our freeports and that we have been able to do 60 or 70 free trade deals around the world. I will not anticipate any decisions I may make about the Government, but I certainly think it would be a good idea to have a Minister driving that post-Brexit agenda.

Q15. Let us just recap, Mr Speaker. First we were told that we must wait for the Sue Gray report; then we were told that we must wait for the police investigation to conclude. We had, “There was no party,” then we had, “If there was a party, I was not there,” and then we had, “If there was a party, all rules were followed.” But no one believes the Prime Minister. If any of the above were true, why did Allegra Stratton have to resign? (905445)

I explained that sad matter on the Floor of the House. No one wanted Allegra to resign, and I was very sad that she did.

Q12.   My constituent Jinty Sheerin has launched a campaign for a dedicated menopause clinic in Devon. Women in East Devon currently face a 120-mile round trip to get to the nearest specialist menopause clinic. It is not good enough, is it? Will my right hon. Friend outline what steps the Government are taking to improve access to menopause services in Devon and the south-west? (905442)

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this very important campaign. We are committed to improving menopause care so that all women can have access to the support that they need to manage the symptoms. Menopause will be a priority in our women’s health strategy, and we are committed to establishing a UK-wide menopause taskforce.

If the Prime Minister needs a Metropolitan police inquiry to tell him whether he attended a party on 13 November in his own Downing Street flat, why should we believe that he is a fit and proper person to have his hand on the button of our independent nuclear deterrent?

I hesitate to remind the hon. Lady that she campaigned actively to install a Prime Minister who wanted to get rid of our nuclear deterrent altogether.

Q13. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the Government and our NHS have done an amazing job with the vaccine roll-out, making it a resounding success. Will he join me in thanking the wonderful NHS workers, volunteers and pharmacists who have worked so hard to help to make that possible in Dewsbury, Mirfield, Kirkburton and Denby Dale? (905443)

I thank my hon. Friend, who does a fantastic job in representing his communities, and I thank all of them—everyone involved in the roll-out in Dewsbury, Mirfield, Kirkburton and Denby Dale. It was an extraordinary national effort. Anyone who has visited a vaccine centre will know that feeling of pride in what was happening; that feeling of energy in a collective effort to make our society and our country literally healthier day by day. I thank all those people from the bottom of my heart.

That is the end of Prime Minister’s questions. Will those who wish to leave please do so quietly and quickly?

Speaker’s Statement

Jack Dromey

We now come to tributes to Jack Dromey.

Jack made his mark long before he came into this House, in particular as a fearless, energetic trade unionist. I remember campaigning with him in the ’80s and ’90s to save the Royal Ordnance factory in Chorley. He was positive, down to earth, and determined to help working people—characteristics that remained with him throughout his career. I have to say, as somebody who knew Jack and worked with Jack: he was innovative; he was absolutely visionary. We sat down, upon a closure where thousands of jobs were going to go, and Jack said, “We’re in this together; we will stand shoulder to shoulder with the people whose jobs are at risk.” He said, “We’ve got to look beyond what kills people. We can do something different. Let us look for alternatives that save people’s lives.”

The expertise that was in Royal Ordnance Chorley was second to none. Of course we had to fight for the jobs in the first place. It became a choice between Glascoed and Chorley, and Jack said, “With the land values we know where British Aerospace will be.” In the end we came up with real alternatives. We had seen Lockerbie. We had seen the destruction and the loss of life, and in Chorley they designed a cargo that stopped the plane coming down. That was the vision of Jack, who said, “If we can’t save the jobs in making bombs, let us save jobs by finding an alternative to save lives.” So that is my personal experience of Jack Dromey. I knew him on other occasions, but I have to say: he was inspirational to me and he has been inspirational to many others in this House.

Since his election to this House in 2010, he proved to be an exemplary Member of Parliament. He was an assiduous and effective campaigner for his constituents. As a Front Bencher, he was trusted to lead for the party in particularly sensitive areas such as housing, policing, pensions, and, most recently, immigration. While he was a robust Front Bencher, he always demonstrated respect for his opponents and was well like and admired across the House. Nobody could fall out with Jack Dromey.

While we mourn a colleague, it is Jack’s family who will of course feel the loss most deeply. I know the whole House will join me in expressing our condolences to the Mother of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman). Harriet, I know that all Members of this House will join me in saying to you and your family that we are so sorry for your loss, and it is a sad loss for this House.

I will now take brief points of order to allow for tributes to an esteemed colleague.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 7 January, this House suffered the loss of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington, Jack Dromey, and it is right that we should come together now in tribute to his memory. Let me offer my condolences, on behalf of the whole Government, to the Mother of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), and her family.

Although Jack and I may have come from different political traditions, I knew him as a man of great warmth and energy and compassion. I can tell the House that one day—a very hot day—Jack was driving in Greece when he saw a family of British tourists, footsore, bedraggled and sunburned, with the children on the verge of mutiny against their father: an experience I understand. He stopped the car and invited them all in, even though there was barely any room. I will always be grateful for his kindness, because that father was me, and he drove us quite a long way.

Jack had a profound commitment to helping all those around him, and those he served, and he commanded the utmost respect across the House. He will be remembered as one of the great trade unionists of our time—a veteran of the Grunwick picket lines, which he attended with his future wife, where they campaigned alongside the mainly Asian female workforce at the Grunwick film processing laboratory. Having married someone who would go on to become, in his words,

“the outstanding parliamentary feminist of her generation”,

Jack became, again in his words, Mr Harriet Harman née Dromey.

Jack was rightly proud of the achievements of the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham, but we should remember today his own contribution to this House during his 11 years as the Member for Birmingham, Erdington. He was a fantastic local campaigner who always had the next cause, the next campaign, the next issue to solve. I was struck by the moving tribute from his son Joe, who described how Jack was always furiously scribbling his ideas and plans in big letters on lined paper, getting through so much that when Ocado totted up their sales of that particular paper one year, they ranked Jack as their No. 1 customer across the whole of the United Kingdom.

Jack combined that irrepressible work ethic with a pragmatism and spirit of co-operation, which you have just described so well, Mr Speaker. He would work with anyone if it was in the interests of his constituents. As Andy Street, the Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands, remarked:

“He was a great collaborator always able to put party differences aside for the greater good… Birmingham has lost a dedicated servant... And we have all lost a generous, inclusive friend who set a fine example.”

While Jack once said that he was born on the left and would die on the left, I can say that he will be remembered with affection and admiration by people on the right and in the middle, as well as on the left. Our country is all the better for everything he gave in the service of others.

On a point or order, Mr Speaker. Since the sudden passing of our friend Jack, tributes from every walk of life have captured the essence of the man we knew and loved: larger than life, bursting with enthusiasm and ideas, and tireless in the pursuit of justice and fairness. Jack channelled all those attributes into representing the people of Erdington, into a lifetime of campaigning for working people, and into his greatest love, his family.

The loss felt on the Labour Benches is great. The loss to public life is greater still. But the greatest loss is felt by another of our own, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman). She and Jack were married the best part of 40 years ago. The annual general meeting of the Fulham Legal Advice Centre may not sound like the place to find romance, but that is where Jack and Harriet met, with Jack addressing the meeting, and Harriet inspired to blaze a new trail—one that eventually led her to the place she holds today, as an icon of the Labour party and of this Parliament.

When we hear Harriet talk about Jack, one word comes through time and again: “encouraged”. It was Jack who encouraged her to join Brent Law Centre. It was Jack who encouraged her to stand as an MP—the first pregnant by-election candidate. It was Jack who encouraged her to run to be the Labour party deputy leader. When Harriet became the first woman in 18 years to answer at Prime Minister’s questions, Jack sat in the visitors’ gallery with their children, beaming down with love and admiration. I am so glad to see Jack’s family here today, beaming down with the same love, affection and pride.

The sense that Jack was always on your side is felt across this party and across the trade union movement. You can always get a measure of someone by how they treat their staff or those who rely on them. One of Jack’s former employees has said that whenever they met new people, he would always say that she was the real brains of the operation and he was merely the bag-carrier. His humility and sense of humour were legendary.

Shortly after Harriet’s book came out, a staffer had a copy of it on their desk. Jack roared with laughter as he saw a photo of himself in his 20s, barely recognisable with the prodigious thick beard. “Good grief!” he exclaimed, “What was Harriet thinking?” “What? Putting the picture in the book?” replied the staffer. “No,” Jack said, “marrying me!”

I was fortunate enough to work alongside Jack when I was a new MP in 2015. Our friendship endured, and as I gave a speech in Birmingham just a few weeks ago, it was Jack’s face that I saw in the audience, beaming up at me. He texted me the next day saying how much he had enjoyed it. That was two days before he died, which brings home the shock of his sudden, tragic passing.

Jack cut his teeth as a campaigner who spoke truth to power. He picked battles on behalf of working people, then he won them. It would be impossible to list all those victories today. He led the first equal pay strike after the Equal Pay Act 1970 was brought into law; he supported Asian women to unionise against a hostile management at Grunwick; and, even this year, he campaigned for a public inquiry on behalf of covid bereaved families.

Jack was a doughty campaigner, dubbed “Jack of all disputes”, who was feared by his opponents, but he was also deeply respected and liked across the political divide. Each and every one of us is richer for having known him. We will all miss him terribly.

The funeral service on Monday was beautiful and moving. Today, our hearts go out to Harriet, Joe, Amy, Harry and Jack’s grandchildren. The loss and grief they will be feeling cannot be measured or properly described. It cannot be wished away or pushed down and ignored, because great grief is the price we pay for having had love. We all love Jack and, even though he may no longer be with us here, that love will always live on.

May I say through you, Mr Speaker, and through the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) the mother of Amy, Joe and Harry, that the personal was very well covered in St Margaret’s two days ago? The political has been covered by the press and by Gordon Brown when he spoke at the service. I would like to contribute a parliamentary word and a trade union one.

The parliamentary one is that Jack showed what can be achieved if, by chance, you cannot have ministerial office during your time here. For those who come here thinking that being a Minister is the only thing that matters, they are wrong.

Secondly, I believe that if we could have more people who have had serious, continued trade union experience coming into this House, the House of Commons would be better for it, and I hope that that will not just be on one side of the House.

Over recent months, we have been forced to gather here far too often to remember colleagues who, very sadly and often suddenly, have been lost to this Parliament.

Jack Dromey is another Member of this House who has gone well before his time. On behalf of myself and my colleagues in the Scottish National party, I want to extend our deepest sympathies to all who knew and loved Jack. My thoughts, of course, are most especially with the Mother of the House; she has lost a constant companion at her side. She and the family bear the biggest burden of the loss of someone who was at the very centre of all their lives.

I would also like to extend sympathy to Jack’s beloved party, because we all know he was a Labour man through and through. I will also remember Jack as one of the feistiest campaigners in this place—a man rooted in trade union politics, rooted in the rights of workers, and a man who never lost an ounce of that spirit when he entered this Parliament. That fighting spirit extended to causes and campaigns far and wide, and I know that it extended to strikes and protests in Scotland, too. He was a true friend of Scottish workers and a champion of workers everywhere.

Jack was true to the cause and that is probably why he was so good at working cross-party and winning support and friendship across this place. My friend, the former Member of this place, Neil Gray, worked very closely with him on the Pension Schemes Act 2021 and he still speaks so fondly about Jack’s determination and his passion to make sure that that Bill was amended. He would often bound up the stairs to my office to seek my and my party’s support for various campaigns not just for him, but more often, for Harriet.

I will finish by sharing one story that I read about Jack, which I thought was both very telling and very touching. Apparently, a few years ago, a great admirer of the Mother of the House from the feminist movement approached Jack and said, “I always feel a bit nervous around Harriet—I am so in awe of her,” only for Jack to reply, “Me too. Even after all these years.” Today, we can assure Jack and his family that many of us were in awe of him, too. We deeply admired the way he conducted himself and the way he carried himself every day of his life. He left his gentle mark on so many and he will be greatly missed. May he now rest in peace. God bless you, Jack.

Thank you for allowing me, exceptionally, to speak from the Front Bench on a very difficult occasion. What an honour, my dear Jack, and what a sadness it is to speak of the friend I got to know from the other side of the Aisle.

For three years, Jack was the shadow Pensions Minister and we became close. We would meet, talk and plan, and sometimes agree to disagree, but always with equanimity. Politics is adversarial and heated. The media encourage us—in fact, demand of us—to be aggressive and mean-spirited. Jack did not play that game. Others have spoken of his decades of work for the union movement, of his being a loving father and a devoted husband, and even of his management of truculent children on a deserted Greek road. I want to talk about two things. First, he is the best example I know in 11 years in the House of Commons of cross-party working. Many used to joke about how often I would exchange texts with Jack. We worked together and we got results. I would give him briefings on all future legislation, ongoing inquiries and difficult issues. That requires a lot of trust, and such trust can go wrong, as we all know. But he never used confidences unfairly or for quick political gain. I believe that we and this House work better for such a thing. During the process of the Pension Schemes Bill, we spoke or sent texts to each other more than 110 times—I counted them up. Without his help, the Bill, in particular, the measures on collective defined contributions, and the work with the Transport and General Workers Union, would not have happened as they did.

Secondly, I want to talk about Jack’s kindness and generosity of spirit. My children died in childbirth in June 2020 and I want to share with the House what he said when I tried to return to work, as we had two Bills to do that autumn. He saw that I was struggling at this Dispatch Box on 29 June. He sent a text to me afterwards and I wanted to share it with the House:

“Guy, I know we both have a job to do, but I was not comfortable today. I feel for you, and your wife, my friend. We will build work around you. My thoughts are with you. Please take your time. Best wishes, Jack”.

Jack Dromey was, in my opinion, a man made in the Teddy Roosevelt spirit: kind but combative; passionate but polite; and always in the arena, always striving for the benefit of others. There can be no finer compliment than saying that “The Man in the Arena” quote, which is my favourite, applies utterly and totally to Jack. Farewell my friend, it was an honour to know you.

My husband Henry introduced me to Jack and Harriet when we got together in the ‘70s. We were, as ever, at some conference, Jack was, as ever, preoccupied with fixing some vote, and I was in total awe of Harriet and Jack. Fortunately, I got the seal of approval and we have been friends now for nearly 50 years. Those who knew him well know what a generous, kind, funny, enthusiastic, interested and interesting, loyal, unselfish and consistent friend Jack was.

Jack’s life was filled by his total passion for social justice, his tribal loyalty to the Labour party, his consummate determination to be at the heart of any and every campaign that might help to make the world a better place, and his relentless optimism that he would always win. Jack’s life achievements were so many, his campaigns so eclectic, that it is impossible to capture everything in a short tribute. I want to focus on his work before he became an MP. From the Grunwick strike to fighting to maintain the Rosyth and Plymouth dockyards, from corralling the first ever equal pay strike at Trico to observing the Luanda mercenary trials in Angola, seeking to stop the execution of three British mercenaries, wherever there was injustice, Jack was there. I remember Jack in the ‘70s leading the occupation of Centre Point in London, when London was littered with empty new office buildings while the homeless slept on the streets; in the '80s, when he bravely led the trade unions to oppose Militant in Liverpool; in the ‘90s, when he served on Labour’s national executive committee and worked to modernise the Labour party and make us fit to govern; and in the noughties, when he organised the cleaners’ strike here in Parliament when they were earning as little as £5 an hour.

Finally, two personal memories. In all our fantastic adventurous holidays together, whenever we arrived at a new destination, Jack’s first question was always, “What’s the wi-fi code?” He was not looking for a local restaurant. He was not finding a place for us to have a drink. His first priority was always, “Is everything okay in Erdington?” On new year’s eve, we would always have a sing-song, me playing the piano and everybody else singing. Each year, Jack, with his great singing voice, would give us a solo performance, that harked back to his Irish roots, of “Danny Boy”, with the women joining in to help him with the high note at the end. We always brought in the new year with a bang.

Our grief at his loss is an expression of our love for the man. Jack will continue to live on in all our todays and tomorrows as we take forward the campaigns he worked on and enjoy the successes he achieved. Thank you, Jack, for everything, and for just being you.

It is a privilege and an honour to speak today about Jack, who I am proud to call my friend and colleague in this place. He was my parliamentary neighbour, as his constituency inside Birmingham city ran alongside the royal town of Sutton Coldfield, and there were many mutual issues affecting our constituents, on which we worked seamlessly, constructively and enjoyably together.

Jack’s arrival in Birmingham was somewhat unexpected, not least because those of us keenly watching the outcome of the selection contest had been advised that this was an all-women shortlist, but we quickly established a rapport. The thing I learnt early on about Jack was that he was a brilliant negotiator. Faced with a brick wall, his instinct was not to pound his way through it, but to skilfully manoeuvre around it wherever possible. And he was ineffably charming and patient. He had a considerable knack locally of bringing people of different persuasions to common positions. He did it at times of great anxiety in the automotive industry in the west midlands with Caroline Spelman, our former colleague from Meriden, with West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and, most recently, with me working on Afghans coming to Birmingham from Kabul.

All of which leads me, finally, to a story about Jack’s negotiating powers and—forgive me for name dropping, Mr Speaker—about his relationship with the Marquis of Salisbury, a former colleague in this place, Conservative Minister and Member for South Dorset, Robert Cranbourne. When his lordship was a Defence Minister, he held regular meetings with the unions in Whitehall. These meetings sometimes ran for four hours and meaningful results were slow in being achieved, but during particularly drawn-out moments the Marquis, as he is now, would catch the eye of the then senior trade union negotiator, as he then was, Jack Dromey. After one such meeting, his lordship rang up Jack to suggest that it would perhaps be better if they sorted out the business beforehand, possibly over lunch, and, to Robert’s relief, Jack willingly agreed. “Where should we go?” asked Jack, to which the Marquis replied, “I wonder if you might like to come to White’s, my club in St. James’s,” to which Jack replied, “Ah, I’ve always wanted to go there.”

And so affairs of state and the Ministry of Defence were congenially sorted out by these two distinguished public servants. On the first occasion, as various chiselled-featured members of the British establishment walked through the club’s hallowed portals, Jack drank orange juice, but on the final occasion, after a particularly successful negotiation had been concluded, glasses of vintage port were consumed. As he stepped out on to the street, Jack thanked his lordship for his kind hospitality, and as he left said over his shoulder, “By the way, please don’t tell Harriet where we’ve been. And especially do not mention the vintage port!” [Laughter.] For the avoidance of doubt, Mr Speaker, I can of course confirm that this was a workplace event. [Laughter.]

As we remember an adopted son of Birmingham taken from us far, far too soon, let us remember the words of Harry, Jack and Harriet’s son, who with both sadness and pride spoke of the quality, but not alas the quantity, of the years they all had together.

To the tributes already paid, I add the profound sympathies of both myself and all the Liberal Democrats who sit on these Benches. As a relatively new Member of the Commons, I confess that I did not know Jack that well, but what I did know I really, really liked.

I first met him in a mindfulness meditation class, which he, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and I attended with other MPs as we sought to find some calm in the storm of the 2017 to 2019 Parliament. I dare say that it was, at times, hilariously awkward. I remember Jack taking those classes with great humour. He oozed wisdom and kindness, and I think it was that shared experience that meant that, when we caught each other’s eye while passing each other in the Lobby, he would ask how I was, and he really meant it. Since his passing, I have learned that that kind man, whom I liked so much, had a similar effect on pretty much everyone he met. The tributes today are proof of how respected he was across the political spectrum. While a trade union man through and through, he was a pragmatist. He would work with anyone who could deliver his aims and shared his values.

Part of Jack’s appeal and great strength was that he was so obviously driven by his values and by a deep desire to help people. Quite simply, Jack Dromey was one of the good guys. I think it says it all that he worked to the last. In that final debate on Afghanistan, he urged Parliament and the Government to take a more compassionate approach to those in the world who need us the most and said:

“Our country has a proud history of providing a safe haven to those fleeing persecution.”

He also spoke of our country’s most fundamental values

“of decency, honesty and fairness.”—[Official Report, 6 January 2022; Vol. 706, c. 129WH.]

Jack embodied those values.

To the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham, to their children, Harry, Joe and Amy, and to the whole family, there are no words, but I hope that from today’s tributes they can take some comfort in knowing the impact that Jack had and how he affected not just this House but the whole country.

Jack made a big impression as soon as he was elected to this place in 2010 and was appointed to the Front Bench straight away. I was a rookie Minister and he was my shadow. It was a forbidding prospect because Jack came with such a reputation, as the Leader of the Opposition attested, as one of the big trade union leaders of his day, used to rallying mass meetings and getting his own way. It was with a little trepidation that I committed myself to going head-to-head with him for many weeks in Committee for what became the Localism Act 2011.

However, I was quickly to discover that Jack’s success was based, as evidenced today, on his charm, persuasion and forensic mind. He had a tremendous impact as we spent those many weeks together. In fact, so persuasive was Jack’s oratory and work in Committee that, much to the Whip’s consternation, he incited my first rebellion—as the Minister taking the Bill through Committee! [Laughter.] His remarks were so persuasive that I could find no argument against his amendment and declared that I would accept it, and we did, despite the fact, as former and current Ministers will know, that my speaking notes had “RESIST” in bold type. It is objective to say that Jack’s powers were simply, literally, irresistible.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) attested to Jack’s brilliant work in forging alliances irrespective of party. He mentioned the work that Jack did with our former right hon. Friend Dame Caroline Spelman, his constituency neighbour. They stood up in particular for manufacturing industry interests that created jobs in their constituencies and across the west midlands. That joint work was vital during turbulent times; when investment decisions were being considered, showing the unity of purpose of the local MPs projected nationally was very important.

Jack’s lifetime of knowledge, experience and passion for manufacturing industry made him an authority, carrying universal respect and the confidence of employers creating jobs. I was therefore honoured when Jack asked me, after Caroline stepped down at the last election, to continue that partnership with him. We met regularly with businesses and trade union leaders, not only in his beloved automotive sector, but in aerospace, chemicals, life sciences and food and drink. He is greatly missed by the leaders of those sectors.

Ministers from the Front Bench and my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman), as well as the Prime Minister, have attested to what an effective advocate Jack was. He achieved what he did through kindness, enthusiasm, optimism and encouragement, but not without drawing on his trade union skills of organisation and tenacity. His achievements and how he won them made him respected across this House and across the country. He represents, as does the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), the very best of this House.

I will start by saying how great it is to see the Mother of the House, our inspiration, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), in the Chamber today, and her family. I knew Jack for years and years; I could probably speak for the next two hours about all the campaigns we worked on together, first as Transport and General Workers Union officers and then as MPs elected to Parliament at the same time.

There are a couple of campaigns that I will talk about particularly. The first, which many people in this Chamber will remember, was when Kraft took over Cadbury. Seven factories were taken over by Kraft, and Jack led the trade union campaign to protect their jobs—a very successful campaign, by the way. As part of that campaign, which I got involved in at Jack’s behest, we went to see the then Business Secretary, Peter Mandelson.

Before the meeting—this is just the sort of thing Jack would do—he discovered that Peter’s favourite chocolate was fruit and nut, so we got a cardboard box roughly the size of Westminster Abbey and filled it with Cadburys Dairy Milk Fruit & Nut before having a very constructive and successful meeting—I wonder why it was so constructive and successful? I must add that I remember saying to Jack before we went in, “Jack, Peter’s quite a lean sort of bloke. He obviously looks after himself. Do you think some of that chocolate might be surplus to requirement?” So by the time we got into the meeting the box was a bit lighter than had originally been the case.

The second campaign, which again was successful—even more successful, actually—was one that is largely forgotten now, involving S&A Foods. I ask hon. Members to bear in mind the name, because that will be important. S&A Foods was a big agricultural combine, largely producing strawberries, about 30% of the British strawberry market. Its workers were largely migrants and very badly exploited. It was a big workforce: I am talking 4,000 to 5,000 people working on the land in the west country picking strawberries, but just for three months a year, and being very badly treated.

Jack got involved in that campaign and, as he always did, threw everything at it. He worked his heart out on getting recognition, getting better terms and conditions and improving the lives of those thousands of people working on the land. That became quite a big deal at the time, and I remember Jack and I going to a meeting of Transport and General Workers Union members and officers afterwards.

Jack always had about 50 things going on in his brain at the same time—that was just the way he was—so as he rose to speak to the members, he was not really concentrating on his words. He opened his speech by saying, “Right, what I want to talk to you about now is S&M”, and I could see the faces of all these pretty traditional—for those who knew the T&G—trade unionists faces dropping, going, “What!”. I was nudging Jack, saying, “Jack, it’s S&A, not S&M—that’s something entirely different.” I think.

As I said at the beginning, I could talk at great length about all the campaigns I did together with Jack. He was always an inspiration. He always led from the front, and he was very largely successful. He was one of the most successful trade union officers industrially in the past 50 or 60 years, or something like that, and often in difficult conditions. Jack had one overriding aim, and that was to improve the conditions and the lives of the people he and we represented. In that, I think he was successful, and in that, I think he left the world better than he found it.

I do not remember the first time I met Jack, but that is probably because when I did, I walked away feeling like I had known him forever. He was gentle, sweet and naturally mindful—by which I mean that, unlike some colleagues, his eyes were not darting around to see if there was someone more interesting or important to speak to. If you had his attention, you held his attention.

To me, he was always so kind. He never defined me by my politics or my football team, but as a person. He always asked about my family and, whenever we had a conversation about my son Freddie, he would regale me with tales and the occasional picture of his grandchildren, accompanied by a beaming smile and sparkling eyes. His adoration of his family was clear to see.

Jack was exceptionally polite. Like a child who can spot an ice cream shop from a mile away, Jack it seems could spot a colleague who needed a confidence boost. He always had a word of praise for anyone downhearted about their performance in this place—a cheeky, “Well done”, a smile as he sat down, a kind tribute in his own comments. He was quite simply a lovely colleague.

I am sure he was prone to arguing with the sat-nav or left his shoes in a perilously dangerous place, but from the outside he looked like a pretty perfect husband, one who loyally and lovingly supported his wife at a time when Parliament was even more challenging for women that it is today. I hope that most of us think that we have a Jack at home, but I still reckon that he could have made a fortune giving consultancy on how to be the long-suffering but supportive male other half. This House has lost someone special, but my heart does not break for us; it breaks for the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and his three children and grandchildren. As I sit down, I remember his warmth and gentleness. I send my love to them today.

It is a pleasure to add a contribution from my party. I apologise that my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson) was unable to be here. He lost his brother last week and the funeral was yesterday, so I will make some comments on behalf of my party.

I came to this House in 2010. I had some relationships and experience in the council and the Assembly, but I knew that this was a bigger place, with more MPs and more people. I looked about, to know who to watch to learn the ropes and the trade. In my opinion, Jack Dromey was one of the people to look at, because, whenever he spoke, had I been going to leave the Chamber, I would sit down. I wanted to hear what he was going to say. That was the sort of gentleman he was.

My last engagement with Jack Dromey was in Westminster Hall—that will be a surprise to people that I was in Westminster Hall, but I was. On that day, Jack Dromey was there as a shadow spokesperson to speak on the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme. We had a good debate and a good response from the Minister. Afterwards, as I always do, and others do, I thanked Jack Dromey for his significant contribution on a subject that he loved and wanted to add to, and he thanked me in his turn. The Backbench Business Committee had given us the privilege of a debate, but Jack Dromey thanked me for at least requesting it. It is hard to believe that that was on 6 January. Less than 18 hours later, I got a message from the girl in my office to tell me that Jack had passed away. I said, “You’ve got it wrong. I saw him yesterday. That just cannot be right.” Unfortunately, it was right.

Jack Dromey was a man of strong principles, with a devotion to service. His legacy is of a fighting spirit and relentless optimism, and it is one to which each of us on these Benches can and should aspire. Jack, I feel, was a master of all campaigns. If he was campaigning for something, be on his side, because that was the winning side. All of us, both on this side of the House and across the Floor, are the poorer for his absence.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family—with Harriet, our friend and colleague, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), and the children—as they face the coming days without this wonderful man, so suddenly taken from us all, but they will have fantastic memories.

I am sure that you will agree, Mr Speaker, that the message that must go to his family today is that they are not alone with their grief and that this House and this great family of MPs and staff are united behind them.

No one could have failed to be moved on Monday by the incredible tributes to Jack from his three children, Harry, Joe and Amy. All of us know the pride that Jack had in his family, but we felt it, too, on Monday, and also their pride in him.

Jack had that wonderful way of making you feel that everything was going to be alright. It did not matter what scrapes he had got you into, it was all going to be okay. I was lucky to work with Jack on so many campaigns. He was just so formidable on so many different things. If we despaired, he always had some good new idea to pick us up, and then he would be off running with it and we would be racing to catch him up. If we got too highfalutin, he would remind us what they were saying in the Dog and Duck. If we faltered, as all of us do from time to time, he would be there to tell us that we were brilliant and not to lose faith.

Jack was a fabulous feminist. We all saw the support that he gave to Harriet over so many decades. We heard from Amy, Jack’s daughter, on Monday that true feminism at home meant also making sure that Harriet never had to learn how to use a washing machine. I have to say that I was so proud when I heard that. I have known Harriet and Jack since I was in my 20s, and have avoided, wherever possible, using the washing machine at home, and have resolutely refused to learn to cook. I must tell Amy that she got me into a bit of trouble on Monday, because Ed, who was sitting next to me, turned and glowered at me and said, “So, it was all Jack and Harriet’s fault.” I just said that I had learned from the very best.

Jack did not just support Harriet; he supported so many of us as women parliamentarians and women in the trade union movement. One woman trade unionist told me that, many years ago, Jack had encouraged her when she was a young mum to put herself forward in the trade union movement. That would have been pioneering enough at that time, but what he also did when he spied her husband standing at the back holding their child was to find him and tell him what an incredibly important and noble job he was doing in supporting her, too.

Jack also had that amazing special ability to bring people together at a time when politics can feel so divided. We heard how, when he died, he had tributes from the five biggest manufacturing groups in Britain and also the five biggest trade unions, which is a unique reflection of the industrial alliance that he had worked so hard to bring together. In the Labour movement, he not only straddled the left-right divide, but had strong roots in both our liberal and our communitarian traditions. Unusually, his politics and values throughout his life bound together that fierce support for equality, feminism, anti-racism and individual rights, with those deep roots in community, solidarity, family and faith in the dignity of work. He brought that all together. We need more Jacks.

I was with Jack the afternoon before he died. Every conversation that I had with him that day was just pure Jack. I doubted something that I had done, but he said that it was brilliant—I am sure it was not. We talked about Christmas, and he said how wonderful his grandchildren were. He then went on to speak in a debate in Parliament and make a passionate and patriotic case for the Government to do the right thing by vulnerable Afghan refugees. As a last act in Parliament, it was entirely fitting and a demonstration of his persistent decency and solidarity.

Most of all, Jack was an optimist. He loved life and he loved people. He made lives better because he believed that things could be better. So many of us have learned so much from Jack that we will make sure that that legacy carries on.

Jack Dromey was my mentor, my teacher, my political partner and my friend for almost a decade and a half in Birmingham. Like for many of us here today he was like a father to me; indeed, he was at school with my dad, at Cardinal Vaughan in west London, part of that extraordinary generation of second-generation Irish kids: sharp, chippy, pushing, determined to make a contribution to social justice.

It didn’t always start smoothly: my godfather, Spud Murphy, then a prefect at Cardinal Vaughan, used to talk to me fondly about having to give Jack a clip round the ear for smoking behind the bike sheds at school. But Jack was not a rebel without a cause: his cause was social justice, and he fought for it his entire life. His glorious life was one long crusade for the underdog; he fought for them whenever and wherever he found them. His campaigns in Birmingham are innumerable: he fought for more police numbers, he fought for covid families, he fought for the food bank, he fought for Erdington High Street, he fought for manufacturing jobs, he fought for the factory at GKN—and this was all just in the last week of his life.

As you will know, Mr Speaker, Jack brought a particular approach to all his campaigns. It generally started with a very, very long list of bullet points, and Jack would start off by saying, “Just three points”, and we would tease him as he got to, “And seventeenthly”, but he brought to every single one of his campaigns what he used to fondly say was a certain “je ne sais quoi”. He made sure that at the core of every single one of his campaigns were the stories, because we have all been educated in the legend of Joe and Josephine Soap in the Dog and Duck in Erdington. He also brought to all his campaigns not just the art of coalition building but incredible calm, along with persistence. He used to very proudly say that his nickname in the union was “Never snap, never flap Jack”, and he reminded me of that very often as I was losing my rag over the last year and a half.

On the last day of Jack’s life we were working together on a book about the future of our great region, the heart of Britain, and as ever he brought to that an extraordinary optimism. He put the green industrial revolution at the core of what he wrote, and this is what he wrote:

“I am passionate in my belief that change is possible. However, as my experience as an MP for a constituency with high levels of inequality and poverty, it is crucial that any change is not just ambitious in the objective of dealing with climate change, but radical in creating opportunity for all. There is much to do and little time to achieve it before it’s too late.”

I say to the Mother of the House, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), and the family watching today, like you we have all struggled with the shock of loss. I myself have found comfort in the words not of an Irish poet but of a Greek, who wrote centuries ago:

“Even in our sleep, pain…falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

The wisdom we draw from Jack Dromey’s life is very simple: we should all try to be more Jack. Our community, our country, and this House of Commons will be a damn sight better for that.

It is a pleasure to follow my colleague and friend from Birmingham, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne), and what I want to say is going to be all about Birmingham. Jack did not sound like me. He was not groomed as I was, just as a child loves their parents no matter what, to love Birmingham, because it was given to me at birth. Jack did not have that, and he loved it way more than me. He would talk about Birmingham in terms that made it unrecognisable to me. I love the place, don’t get me wrong, but Castle Vale, while I love it, is not a place of great beauty. The Aston expressway is not a thing to behold, yet when Jack talked about Birmingham and Brummies, he felt so much as if he was from the tradition of the place of my birth. I think much of that is to do with his Irish ancestry, which so many of us in Birmingham have, but there could be no greater advocate for the city of Birmingham.

I know that many people want to speak, so I will touch slightly not only on Jack being an honorary Brummie—not even “honorary”, Jack Dromey was a Brummie through and through, without question—but on him being an honorary sister. The first time I ever spoke in this building, it was Jack Dromey who sat next to me. He put his arms around me afterwards and said, “I am so proud of you. I am so proud to see you here”—mainly because I was a girl from Birmingham and he loved Birmingham. The last time I ever sat in this place with him was just a week before he died, and we had just been put on the same team together, the shadow Home Affairs team. He said to me, as I sat down from asking a question of the Home Secretary, “It is so delightful to be completely outsmarted and outflanked by brilliant women.” That came as no surprise to me. I say to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), all her family and her children that Birmingham will truly miss Jack Dromey. All the love of a sometimes not very beautiful place is with you and your family.

Jack and I were both elected in the 2010 general election, and he was my constituency neighbour, but because he was selected relatively late to be our candidate in Birmingham, Erdington, we did not get to meet until we were both newly elected Birmingham Members of Parliament.

I remember in those early weeks lugging around a massive rucksack that basically had a mobile office in it, having no idea of the lobbying required to get ahead in the race for an office in this place. Jack came over to me—we had only spoken a couple of times at this point—and told me that he had secured a whole suite of offices in Portcullis House. On hearing that, I was immediately insanely jealous, but he went on to ask whether I wanted to share them with him. Of course, I went from insane jealousy to all but falling at the man’s feet with gratitude. He laughed and said he simply had to rescue me from my flipping bag, because it was practically the same size as me, and he could bear it no longer. That set the tone for our friendship—lots of gentle mickey-taking and loads of laughter.

I was always struck by how ready Jack was—we have heard so much about this today—with his praise and encouragement. It is something that his children spoke so movingly about at his funeral. Jack would always stop you, text you or drop you a note to say he had seen you make a speech or give a TV interview—whatever it might be—and that it was “first-class, absolutely brilliant, the best of Labour.” He never hedged his bets when it came to praise, did Jack, but he really believed in generous and uncomplicated affirmation not just of his loved ones, but of his friends and colleagues. The sincerity meant it always mattered to the person on the receiving end. It always made a difference.

Not every conversation with Jack was quick. He would stop you to talk about the famous “three or four quick things,” but I soon clocked that the correct number was calculated by taking the number of things Jack said he wanted to talk about, multiplying it by two and adding three. It seemed to work every time, and Jack always got a promise out of you, or maybe more than one promise, to attend a meeting, to look into something or to join one of his campaigns.

In one of our more recent conversations, he told me he wanted to talk about campaigning—four quick things were actually 11—and at the end I laughed and said, “Jack, mate, how is it that your four quick things have now led to 10 absolutely urgent, immediate priorities for my to-do list?” I soon regretted admitting those 10 priorities, because he then laughed wholeheartedly and said, “That’s the target from now on, Shabana: 10 things to be added to the to-do list.”

It is difficult to believe that a man so full of energy, positivity and generosity is gone. He leaves an immense legacy, not just as a titan of the labour movement but as a thoroughly decent, good man. Jack Dromey was first class, he was absolutely brilliant and he was the best of Labour.

It goes without saying that the loss of Jack has shocked us all, and our hearts go out to Harriet and her family.

Jack was, as we have heard, respected across this House. He was an extremely generous person, often giving praise to his colleagues and associates whether they wanted it or not. I am privileged to chair the Tribune group of Labour MPs, of which Jack was an enthusiastic member. On many occasions, he would stop me somewhere en route as he rushed off to a meeting to tell me what a wonderful job I was doing of organising the Tribune group. On one occasion, when he was particularly effusive with his praise, I stopped him and said, “Jack, not even my mother would believe what you are saying.” He just carried on undeterred, thinking his message had not got across.

No matter how much he was over the top with his praise, he always left you feeling better after speaking to him. He felt the Tribune group had a lot to offer the party, and we met regularly to discuss the issues of the day. Jack would always keep the discussion well grounded and to the point. When we were losing sight of the bigger picture, he would intervene, “Just a few quick points, may I, chair?” He would then set out his opinion, always carefully thought through, with an anecdote here and a shaggy-dog story there—sometimes long and sometimes short, depending on the audience—and always with a twinkle in his eye. He would then bring us back to the point, with the apocryphal question, “What do Joe and Josephine Soap in the Dog and Duck think?” I heard about Joe and Josephine so many times that I feel I have been to the Dog and Duck. I actually got to the point where I googled it, and there is no Dog and Duck in Birmingham. We will miss him in those discussions and, above all, we will miss his dynamism and enthusiasm, which spurred us on; and I will miss his encouragement in keeping the Tribune group going.

We are both proud long-term members of the Transport and General Workers Union. He had been a high-ranking official, becoming deputy general secretary, and I was a lowly lay member of the transport section. We got to know each other when he came to this place, and we found we had a number of mutual acquaintances from the trade union, mainly because my region—the London region—was very influential in the union, and my branch, the cab section, was very influential in London.

Many of the people in my branch were on the broad left of the trade union, and Jack back then was a member of the broad left. There is no questioning Jack’s left-wing credentials. He built a long reputation on the campaigns he fought and won as a trade union official. His determination to stand up for social justice was legendary even then, over 30 years ago, and he continued this struggle in his parliamentary career.

The negotiating skills he honed as a trade union leader enabled him to forge alliances across the divide in this place and to get things done for the people of his adopted Erdington. In my opinion, there will always be a bit of London that is Erdington, and that is Jack’s legacy for them. Jack’s indefatigable campaigning on behalf of the trade union and labour movements touched six decades. He changed the lives of countless people who will never know what he did for them.

One last thing we had in common is that 16 months ago I became a granddad. Nothing made Jack smile more than when we talked about the unalloyed joy of being a granddad. It is probably those chats that I will remember most when I think of Jack. So Jack, if out there, in a parallel universe, there is a Dog and Duck with Joe and Josephine in it, perhaps sometime in the future—not too soon—we will sit down with a pint and find out finally what they actually think. It was an honour and a delight to have known you.

Thank you for squeezing me in, Mr Speaker.

I had known Jack for about 12 years, since he was first selected to stand in Birmingham, Erdington, and I am still a councillor in Kingstanding in his constituency. I have to confess that Jack and I did not always see eye to eye on every issue. I think the first time we met was on Aylesbury Crescent in Kingstanding, where we did not exactly meet on equal terms; we actually had a few coarse words. But whenever I or anyone had a debate with Jack, including in public meetings, we would always get the wink and nod after the little dig or political point, and I respected that enormously.

I last saw Jack at Penny Holbrook’s funeral, about a week and a half before he passed away. My heart goes out to everybody in the Erdington constituency Labour party, because they have had a terrible year, with so many people sadly passing away. Within five minutes, Jack and I were talking about MG Rover. He said, “I remember one particular day”, and I looked at him and said, “Of course you were involved with MG Rover. Why wouldn’t you have been?” We had a long conversation about it. I think he was talking about the situation in 2000 or 2001, when he said, “We went into a meeting with the Phoenix Four”—they thought that the success and the campaign had been won—“I have no shame in telling you that I cried in that room that day”. That is because the issue meant so much to him, because of the thousands of workers at the site and what the company meant to the community.

Then, of course, Jack went on to talk about his grandchildren, as he was playing with another small child at the funeral. He was having a good laugh about the height jokes that his son Joe made to him all the time. We left on good terms that day.

Jack had a very good sense of humour. We have a WhatsApp group for all Birmingham MPs, who will remember that just a few weeks ago—Jack being Jack—he tried to organise something that could have politically shown up me and my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) on a police debate. My right hon. Friend and I have never been so quiet in a WhatsApp group before: because Jack had got the wrong WhatsApp group! He had accidentally got the all-party one, rather than the Labour one. The argument on tactics started between the other MPs, when all of a sudden someone noticed that my right hon. Friend and I were in the group. I saw Jack the next day and he came up to me with a big, beaming smile. I will not repeat what he said because there were a lot of expletives, although it was something along the lines of, “I’m a bit of an idiot, aren’t I?”, but he smiled and joked about it.

Jack was a good man who fought passionately for the city that is my home. Many of us will him terribly.

I am very concerned about leaving enough time for the Mother of the House, who is going to sum up at the end. Can we please be brief because there is a lot of business ahead and the family are waiting?

I rise as vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Ireland and the Irish in Britain. My hon. Friend the Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn), who chairs the group, apologises that he is not here; he is at a funeral today.

Jack was a valued and prominent member of the Ireland and the Irish in Britain group—the community from which he came. Shortly after my arrival here in 2015, he welcomed me not only as a new MP, but as a fellow child of Ireland’s 33rd and, frankly, finest county: county London. “Where are your parents from?”, he asked. “Mine are from Cork and Tipperary”, he proudly did say. His father was a labourer, his mother a nurse—the people who came here to rebuild England. Their work and experience underpinned and drove his politics and dedication to public service. In the trade union movement, he always saw the parallels between his own parents’ struggles and those of newer migrant communities, and he built links with those new migrant communities—most recently with the Polish community at an event at the London Irish Centre.

Jack’s support for the Gaelic Athletic Association in Birmingham and across Britain was a significant part of his involvement with the community. It is no surprise, given that his grandfather, Jack Doherty, was a hurler who played for Tipperary in several All-Ireland finals in the early 20th century. It was a very proud moment for him to take part in the St Patrick’s day parade in Birmingham—which had not taken place for decades because of the pub bombings—alongside the Erin Go Bragh GAA Club, based in his Erdington constituency. Just last year, engaging in the cross-party work of which we have heard so much today, he worked with colleagues on both sides of the House to save Páirc na hÉireann, the home of Gaelic games in Britain ensuring that a generation of children in the west midlands can continue to enjoy Irish culture and sport.

Jack’s son Joe described at Jack’s funeral how he had beamed when visiting the construction centre named after him, imagining his own dad—newly arrived on these shores—knowing what would become of his son. Jack was so proud, as many of us were, when there was an event here in Parliament to honour him and other sons and daughters of that generation of Irish construction workers who had helped to build Britain. He was one of a relatively small band of us MPs who are as proud of the people we came from as we are of the people we represent now, being both British and Irish. Jack also had a strong sense of justice. In the week when we mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, his involvement in the pursuit of democratic, peaceful politics on the island of Ireland and good relations between our two countries was recognised by the Irish Government and by the Irish ambassador to the UK, Adrian O’Neill, who attended Jack’s funeral on Monday.

Being Irish was very important to Jack, and Jack was very important to Ireland and the Irish community in Britain. We will miss him. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

I first met Jack during the Longbridge dispute, when we, as Members of Parliament, were getting together to do our best to save that huge industry in Birmingham. Unfortunately we all know what the result of that was, but Jack always tried his best. I met him next when we had an issue with the HP Sauce company, which was pulling out of Birmingham and going to Denmark. I joined him when he said, “I am going to lead this campaign on behalf of the trade unions.” We had a couple of conversations and meetings and decided to organise a rally. We all walked through Aston for about a mile and a half to the factory, and spoke to the workers there. Eventually, as a result of Jack’s tenacity, we managed to secure better terms and conditions for the people who had been expecting to lose their jobs.

That is what Jack was about. He was a great man, and from that day onwards I realised that he was someone whom I wanted to know better and become closer to. So when my friend and his predecessor as the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Erdington, Siôn Simon, decided that he was going to move on, one of the first things I did was speak to Jack. On Friday evenings Jack was usually with his family, but one Friday evening Siôn and I met at a curry house where he and I and a couple of other friends tended to go to transact business, and I said, “Siôn, if you are leaving, perhaps we should speak to Jack Dromey, because he is a great guy, and we want someone like him who understands a community like Erdington which contains industries and a huge number of working people.”

When I called Jack he was in Ireland, listening to a recital being given by his daughter Amy. He texted me saying, “Can we speak tomorrow? I am at this recital, and I can’t talk to you now.” He contacted me the next day. The local Labour party then went through the necessary procedure, and selected him because it believed that he was the right person.

Jack was always at the forefront. Recently when a young lad, Dea-John Reid, was stabbed to death, Jack and I, along with our hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill), turned up and spoke to representatives of the black churches and the community. I hope that our action has prevented any further uprisings.

Jack was always there. He was always there for the community, and he was always there for me. When I became frustrated by local authority issues, the following day he would either call me or come and see me in Portcullis House and try to explain how I could make progress.

Let me end by sending my condolences to the Mother of the House, to Joe and to Amy, and by changing an adage around: behind every strong woman there is a strong man. May Jack rest in peace.

I want to pay a very short tribute,

because we have heard so much from both sides of the House that encompasses so accurately Jack’s many qualities. When he came to the House, he was fully formed as a political activist and one of the greatest trade unionists of his generation. He had the abilities to ensure that social justice was advanced. He never gave up, and he was optimistic. He loved and was proud of his wife—he was a feminist before many of us knew what that word meant—and was unashamed to be Mr Harriet Harman. He was a very rare, very talented, very kind and gentle man who was the best of the Labour and trade union movement. We will all miss him terribly.

Condolences, obviously, to the Mother of the House and to his fantastic children, who are in the Gallery. As someone who was fortunate to benefit from Labour party romance, I always looked up to Harriet and Jack’s law centre romance as something that I should follow.

Jack Dromey has been in my life for a very long time. I was a candidate in Taunton—an eminently winnable seat for Labour—and because I was from the Transport and General Workers Union as well as a Co-operative, this young man suddenly pitched up for a day to help me, so we have known each other since 1974. He was really suspicious of me at first—there I was, a university academic standing as the Labour candidate—but he found out that I had served an apprenticeship at the ICI paint factory in Slough and we became great friends. Ever since that day, we worked together—we started the all-party parliamentary manufacturing group—and did wonderful campaigns together. He was not just a colleague or a comrade; he was a mate.

When you are serious about politics, you come here on a Thursday morning, to make the Leader of the House’s life a misery, and Jack was a member of that club. I still see him there. Jack was so warm and generous, and he had a way of worming things out of you. He had a big family, and I have four children and 12 grandchildren. We used to compete, and I know more about his family than you could ever believe because he would tell me. He would ask of my family, “How are you getting on? What stage are you at?” but I bored him because everything he had to say was more exciting than what we were doing.

The fact about Jack was his passion. As Chair of the Education and Skills Committee and then the Children, Schools and Families Committee, I have always been passionate about children’s issues, and he was passionate about families and children. He once said to me, “Barry, if you are a Member of Parliament and you care about the job, you cannot bear to think of a child in your constituency going to bed tonight with nothing in their tummy.” He was compassionate, he was funny and he was wise. I was with him and John Smith one night when we raised a glass of champagne and said, “Nothing but the best is good enough for the workers.” Jack, we love you, miss you and will work to be even better than we are because of you.

I first met Jack when I was a young researcher working for the then MP Oona King and he was at the Transport and General Workers Union. She had secured a private Member’s Bill to ensure that cowboy contractors did not do shoddy work in council homes or treat their staff badly, but she was double-booked for a meeting with senior officials—that was not uncommon for her—and I was terrified, because she said that I had to sit in and work out what the Bill should contain. She said, “Don’t worry—Jack Dromey will be there. Let him do the talking,” and of course what happened was that Jack mobilised the business community and trade unions and got the Government to support our Bill. Despite its not getting through, the Government supported the measures, and Oona, Jack and others managed to change many thousands of people’s lives by improving the work done in council homes. That legacy continues up and down the country, including in my constituency. I often look at those blocks of flats and think, “If Jack and others hadn’t done that work, people’s lives would have been much worse.”

When I arrived in Parliament, Jack was always there, as others have said, providing constant encouragement. Even when I was going through very tumultuous times in my constituency and in managing the politics there, he would have very encouraging words, constantly giving me confidence and constantly supporting me whenever I needed it.

In his last speech in Westminster Hall, which I had the privilege of chairing, he said that

“the bravery of our service personnel and Government officials who stayed on the ground in Kabul, at great personal risk during Operation Pitting, represented the very best of Britain.”—[Official Report, 6 January 2022; Vol. 706, c. 129WH.]

He told the Government how important it was to act to protect Afghani people for what they did.

Jack represented the best of British—the best of our country—and he is greatly missed by all of us. He was family to me, and I know to all of us across this House and in his constituency. My thoughts are with the Mother of the House and the family. Jack will be greatly missed, but he will always live in our memories and in what we go on to do. That is his legacy.

Jack Dromey had a fierce heart for justice, and combined with his inherent kindness and decency, he was able to achieve so much for so many, and we have heard much about that today.

First, I want to pay tribute to Jack on behalf of my constituents. When Jack was not in Birmingham, Erdington, his home was in Dulwich and West Norwood. He and the Mother of the House are familiar figures in our community, valued and faithful supporters of our local independent businesses, kind and generous neighbours, and friends to so many. A few weeks before Christmas, I spotted from my car the lovely scene of a pair of grandparents taking a grandchild for a walk, before realising some moments later that this was Jack and the Mother of the House. Since Jack’s untimely death, so many of my constituents have expressed their shock and sorrow, and have told me how much they will miss Jack.

Secondly, and briefly, I want to pay tribute to Jack as a tireless champion of early years education, and maintained nursery schools in particular. Jack understood the transformative impact that high-quality early years education can have on reducing inequality and disadvantage, and he understood that every child, no matter their background, deserved the best. As the recently appointed shadow Minister for children and early years, I have spent the last few weeks meeting people who work with small children, and so many have mentioned Jack’s powerful advocacy for their profession and how much he will be missed.

Jack was a friend to all of us, especially to colleagues with less experience, to whom he offered support, a listening ear and, always, wise counsel. Jack is irreplaceable, most of all to his family and to the Mother of the House, for whom there is so much love in my constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood and across the wider Lambeth and Southwark Labour family.

I think we all thought that Jack would always be here because the whole of his life was devoted to being there for others—the workers he represented, the constituents he was so proud to serve and the family he loved. I simply want to say that it was such a privilege to be at his funeral on Monday. As we have heard, his children spoke so beautifully about their father, with so much love and joy, and I am absolutely certain that he was looking down on them from on high, bursting with pride. Amid the laughter and the smiles, and the tears and the stories, there was a moment in the service when a shaft of sunlight came through the window and illuminated the nave, and I like to think that it was illuminating also the essential truth about Jack’s life. Although it was cut short, he used every single day that he had in trying to build a better world—oh, what an example for the rest of us to follow!

I am now going to bring in the Mother of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman). May I just say, Harriet, that this shows how the House can be at its best, and that it is at its best because of the love for you, Jack and your family?

Thank you, Mr Speaker. On behalf of myself and my family, I warmly thank all hon. Members who have spoken today. I say to everyone from all the around the country who has sent us cards, emails, texts, tweets, and who have posted on Facebook, that the memories they have shared with us, and the respect that they have shown for Jack, have given so much comfort to me and his beloved family as we face the total shock of his sudden death from heart failure just three weeks ago.

Jack hated inequality and oppression, and his life’s work was a steadfast focus on supporting those who were fighting against it. His roots in the Irish working-class immigrant community, his solidarity with black and Asian people fighting against inequality, and his respect for middle-class people who, though not suffering hardship themselves, wanted to work to end it for others, made him the polar opposite of the culture wars and the living embodiment of the coalition that is the Labour party. He spoke up for people and they heard him, and that made them stronger, whether they were those he worked with or those he had never met.

Much has rightly been said about Jack’s support for me in my work. It was phenomenal and it was unswerving. But it was not just because I was his wife; it was a matter of principle. Jack believed that men should support and respect women, and he detested men who he saw holding their wives back in their own self-interest.

For all of us who received it, Jack’s support was a super-power. It made us all walk taller; it made us all feel stronger. We will so miss him. I thank you, Mr Speaker, for your tribute, for your kindness to me and to his family, and for allowing us this time today to pay tribute to Jack.

IOPC Report on Metropolitan Police Officers' Conduct: Charing Cross Police Station

(Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary if she will make a statement on the Independent Office for Police Conduct report on police officers’ conduct at Charing Cross police station.

As the House is aware, the Independent Office for Police Conduct yesterday published the findings of an investigation into bullying and discrimination at Charing Cross police station between 2016 and 2018. The report makes extremely disturbing reading. It describes abhorrent behaviour and misogynistic, racist and homophobic communications between officers, which appear to have become commonplace. On a personal note, as someone who knows the Met well, I cannot begin to describe my horror at the revelations in the report.

It is right that individuals found to have committed gross misconduct have been dismissed and cannot re-join policing. However, this is obviously about more than individuals; it is about how a toxic culture can develop and fester in parts of a police force—a culture that is allowed to go unchallenged until a brave officer blows the whistle or a message is discovered on an officer’s phone. These events have a corrosive impact on public trust in policing and undermine the work of the thousands of diligent and brave police officers who keep us safe every day. I am grateful for the work of the IOPC in investigating these allegations, and I expect the Metropolitan Police Service and the Mayor of London to implement the report’s recommendations as soon as practically possible.

We are also taking action to address these issues. The Home Secretary has established the Angiolini inquiry, which has now started, and Dame Elish is examining the career of Sarah Everard’s killer. While focused on that case, she will be considering whether the culture in the places where Sarah’s murderer worked meant that alarm bells did not ring earlier. In the second part of her inquiry, we expect a light to be shone on wider policing, including on those cultural issues.

In addition, at the Home Secretary’s request, Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire rescue services is currently inspecting forces across England and Wales to judge their vetting and counter-corruption capabilities. As part of this, we have specifically asked it to look at how forces are ensuring that misogyny and sexism are identified are dealt with in the workplace. We are also working closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to ensure professional standards on social media use for all police officers.

Being a police officer is an honour, conferring special status on those who serve. The findings of the IOPC’s report are shaming for those who have abused that honour and for the Metropolitan police. Standards must be raised. The precious bond of trust between the public and the police depends upon it.

As a London MP, there are few opportunities to seek answers on the performance of the Metropolitan police, so I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question.

The publication of the report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct joins the list of misdemeanours that have occurred in the Met in recent years. The IOPC opened its investigation in March 2018 following claims that an officer had sex with a drunk person at a police station. This is, in itself, a criminal offence, and it is even more shocking following the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer less than a year ago. The report says that officers searched social media with the intention of having sex with people they have made contact with through being a victim of crime. This is an egregious breach of trust with the public and must be addressed immediately. Officers were found to have sent messages to a female on a shared group chat saying:

“I would happily rape you…if I was single I would happily chloroform you.”

Other officers gleefully boasted about their behaviour by sending messages including:

“You ever slapped your missus? It makes them love you more. Seriously since I did that she won’t leave me alone…Knock a bird about and she will love you. Human nature.”

It surely is not.

The investigation uncovered evidence in relation to bullying, violence towards women, perverting the course of justice, discriminatory language and other inappropriate behaviours. The range and severity of these messages demonstrates that they are not humorous comments but evidence of a sinister and obnoxious culture that has pervaded the very organisation and individuals who are supposed to uphold the law. Worst of all, it tarnishes the reputations of all the decent, hard-working employees of the MPS.

Where is the Mayor of London in all this? Recently we heard his comments on the cost of living, accusations about the Prime Minister, Brexit, levelling up and drug decriminalisation—on everything except what he is responsible for, the policing of London. While more young people are murdered on the streets of London and police officers commit crimes, we need leadership on keeping Londoners safe, and that is not happening.

Will the Minister, first, look at the Sexual Offences Act 2003 with a view to changing the law so that any person, of any age, who is in a position of trust with any other persons, regardless of their age, commits a criminal offence if they seek to involve the other person in sexual activity? Secondly, will he expand and speed up Baroness Casey’s review of the Metropolitan police’s culture and standards to take into account behaviours outside the realm of the workplace so that proper background checks are made on the appointment of MPS staff in all departments, including the MO7 taskforce? Finally, will he seek the establishment of a confidential complaints system in the MPS so that whistleblowers, particularly women, can raise their concerns without being subjected to campaigns of threats, intimidation, coercion and abuse by others?

Confidence in the MPS is incredibly low following a number of abuses. If the public decide they no longer have confidence in those who police them, then that really would be a crime.

I share my hon. Friend’s horror at some of the messages that have been published, which really are abhorrent. As I understand it, the unit that is being investigated has since been disbanded, and quite rightly so, with disciplinary action following.

With regard to my hon. Friend’s specific requests, on the offence, I am certainly happy to look at that suggestion and explore it further as a possibility. On the Casey review, he is quite right that Dame Louise Casey has been appointed by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to examine cultural issues within the force.

Obviously, that started with the appalling killing of Sarah Everard and the consequences thereof, but I am sure, knowing Dame Louise as I do, that she will be looking closely at all these issues as they unfold, sadly, on an almost weekly basis in the newspapers. I have asked today for a meeting with her so that I can understand exactly where her inquiry is going and establish for myself that it will fit neatly with the work we are doing, through the inspectorate and through the Angiolini inquiry, into wider issues of culture in the Met and elsewhere in policing. On the establishment of whistle-blowing systems, one of our specific requests of the inspectorate as it looks at all the police forces across the UK is that it make sures that adequate whistleblowing facilities are in place—or that the process is there—that will allow officers who want to call out bad behaviour to do so with confidence. Again, it is worth saying that although it is possible to put in place processes, practices, manuals and training, and we can do our best to train police officers and to instil in them the right values—that has never been more important than now, as we are having such a huge influx of new, young police officers waiting to be filled with the right kind of values—this still does point to a culture of leadership making it clear that such behaviour is not to be tolerated, and projecting confidence on officers to step forward and call out bad behaviour and this kind of communication. Whatever the processes we put in place, unless the wider leadership of UK policing is able to project that confidence, I think we will fail in our mission.

May I associate myself with the comments from the Minister, particularly his thanks to the IOPC for the report? The behaviour outlined in the report is truly appalling. As a woman and a mother, I found it chilling. Such shameful behaviour undermines policing and threatens public trust. The Metropolitan police must accept and urgently implement the IOPC’s 15 recommendations.

Sadly, this is not just an issue in London; there have been disgraceful cases involving misogyny or racism among officers in Sussex, Hampshire, Leicestershire and Scotland. Ministers will know about these—we have been aware of them for some years. It is not good enough to leave police forces to solve these problems, or to wait until all the different reviews are completed. We need action now from the Government to tackle discrimination and prejudice within policing, and to help rebuild confidence.

Police training needs overhauling now, so that police officers get ongoing training throughout their careers, including on anti-racism and on tackling violence against women and girls. Action is needed now on the wholly inappropriate use of social media to perpetuate prejudice or bullying. What are the Government doing now to make sure that that happens? Action is needed now to tackle racism within the police force, but the National Police Chiefs’ Council action plan on race is 18 months overdue. Why is the Home Office not making sure that this happens sooner?

The Home Office inquiry after the murder of Sarah Everard is still non-statutory, meaning that it still does not have the full range of powers. Will the Minister listen to Labour’s calls and place it on a statutory footing? If the Government want to show that they believe in tackling misogyny, at a time when the rape charge rate has fallen to a record low of 1.3%, will the Minister finally commit now to making tackling violence against women a strategic policing requirement?

Confidence in the police is absolutely fundamental—to protecting victims, catching criminals and keeping our communities safe. We all want the police to be the best that they can be—victims deserve it, the public deserve it and all good police officers deserve it. We need a plan from the Government to make sure that that happens. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner must now spend every minute of her remaining time working to make the Met the best that it can be. That means tackling serious violence, and violence against women and girls, and getting prosecution rates up, but it also means a relentless focus on raising standards. Nothing less will do.

I recognise that the hon. Lady’s job is to challenge the Government to do ever better, and I welcome her doing so, but I hope she will bring the same forensic challenge to the Mayor of London. Having done the job of deputy Mayor for policing and crime, I would certainly have taken responsibility for driving such changes forward from City Hall. Indeed, we faced similar problems between 2008 and 2012, established our own race and faith inquiry and drove through some of the very difficult reforms that were required a decade ago. I hope she will speak to her party colleague in City Hall and press him also to bring action.

While the hon. Lady is right to urge us into ever-greater action on these matters, I know she recognises that there is plenty of work already ongoing. We are, for example, working closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council as part of the new national working group on inappropriate social media use by police officers, working out what more we can do to drive that down. I recently met the chair of the scrutiny panel for the NPCC race and equality plan, and I am confident she will be able to bring impetus, momentum and scrutiny to the work it is doing.

We have not made the Angiolini inquiry statutory, because we want to get on with it. We need speed if we are to solve some of these problems fast and maintain confidence in UK policing. If we find, in discussion with Dame Elish, that the statutory basis is required, we will consider that. For the moment, we want to get on with it fast and, as I say, the work has already started. We do not believe, given the way the police regulations are drawn, that Dame Elish will face any obstacle in obtaining the evidence she needs from those forces involved in stage 1 of the inquiry, but if obstacles are put in her way, we are committed to trying to remove them for her. We are examining the strategic policing requirement at the moment and will make announcements about what is or is not included in it in the months to come.

Words cannot really cover how I felt when I read the IOPC report; that anybody could think that using such language is acceptable, let alone police officers—and police officers based in my constituency, in a police station just up the road. I will be meeting the borough commander for Westminster tomorrow to discuss the report and how he and his colleagues plan to bring its recommendations to pass. I also welcome the review by Dame Louise Casey; I have worked with her for many years and I know she will leave no stone unturned when it comes to looking at the culture of the Metropolitan Police.

Does my right hon. Friend agree, however, that although it is clear there are rogue police officers in the Metropolitan Police and other police services, there are thousands and thousands of dedicated and hardworking police officers up and down the country who are equally disgusted? Will he join me in thanking them for their service?

I share my hon. Friend’s disgust at these events. As a former Westminster councillor and the London Assembly member for the area that includes Charing Cross police station, and having visited the police station to see its work in policing one of the most diverse, sensitive and difficult parts of the country and the capital, I find it shocking to see such evidence. I agree that that disgust and fury will be shared by the thousands of police officers across the United Kingdom who do extraordinary things every day to keep us safe. It will be shared not least, given the nature of the messages, by the ever increasing numbers of female and black and minority ethnic officers—the numbers in UK policing are now at an all-time high in both categories—who are doing their best to help us all in changing the face of British policing.

This report is truly shocking. One key issue is the screening out of unsuitable applicants right at the start. I want to ask about current recruitment and vetting, as so many officers are now being employed. Does the Minister believe that the use of solely online recruitment, assessment, checks and offers is appropriate? That is happening in several forces, where there are no face-to-face interviews. One recruit said that the first time he had a face-to-face interview was when he was being measured for his uniform. I will just quote what Karen Ingala-Smith of the anti-violence charity Nia said, referring to Sarah Everard’s killer:

“Couzens was at least the 15th serving or former officer to have killed a woman. Now is the time for more rigorous checks, not fast-track online selection processes”.

As I am sure the Chair of the Select Committee will recognise, the advent of the pandemic meant that we had to find innovative ways to continue with our recruitment process. We are obviously reviewing them as we emerge from the pandemic, to ensure that we get them exactly right. As I explained earlier and as I am sure the right hon. Lady knows, we have commissioned a general inquiry across UK policing to look at vetting procedures to make sure that the police across the UK have consistency—because each force is responsible for its own vetting—and that that net is drawn as sharply as we possibly can to ensure that we get the right people into policing.

Critically, however, it is important that we monitor carefully how those new young police officers coming through feel and what they are being exposed to, and give them the confidence to know that where there is bad behaviour, they are able to call it out without detriment to themselves. There is not just one piece of the jigsaw; an entire machine needs to be built to ensure integrity in all police officers—to build confidence among the British people that the right people are getting into policing, that they are being maintained in policing and that, where things go wrong, corrective action can be taken quickly.

The racism, misogyny and bullying uncovered by the report are damning, but I do not believe that it is reflective of the vast majority of our police forces, as my right hon. Friend just said. We owe it to those officers to root out this behaviour. The IOPC started its investigations four years ago, and similar investigations in Hampshire—as the Minister will know, as my near neighbour—took three years. What is my right hon. Friend doing to ensure that investigations are completed in a more reasonable timeframe, and that anonymity is not used to hide those who are involved in such heinous behaviours?

My right hon. Friend is quite right that we need to ensure that inquiries are speeded up as much as possible. I hope that she will remember that, a year or so ago, we introduced reforms to the way in which the IOPC operates to push it to ever greater alacrity in its inquiries. Now, in the case of an inquiry going over 12 months, it is required to write a letter to the appropriate authority—whether that is the police and crime commissioner or me—to explain why. Often, the delay is the fault not necessarily of the IOPC, but of inquests, criminal inquiries or correspondence providing information that extends the timeframe. However, we need to know why.

As far as transparency and anonymity are concerned, I have written recently to all legally qualified chairs of disciplinary panels to say that there should be a stringent examination of whether those hearings need to be held in private or in public. It is absolutely vital for trust in policing that the British people not only know that justice is being done in a disciplinary process, but can see it too.

Order. I want to try to get everyone in but, as colleagues are aware, we have another statement and then further business, so I request that questions are short and to the point, which will enable the Minister to be short and to the point as well.

In the last year alone, Cressida Dick was forced to make two public apologies for corruption and cover-up, in the Daniel Morgan murder case and—although she never apologised—for the atrocious mishandling of the vigil for Sarah Everard. We have seen the Met accused of institutional corruption, misogyny, racism and, following the Stephen Port killings, homophobia, not to mention the handling of the partygate fiasco. Now we have this damning report on the Charing Cross police station by the Independent Office for Police Conduct. This lack of leadership and the culture of cover-up are letting down honourable rank-and-file police officers, so why did the Home Secretary think that it was remotely acceptable recently to extend Cressida Dick’s term, as opposed to demanding her resignation?

Two of the matters that the hon. Lady refers to are still under investigation by Her Majesty’s inspectorate and I hope that that will conclude shortly. It is worth pointing out that this incident was discovered shortly after the commissioner became commissioner and the unit was disbanded shortly thereafter on her watch. The reason that her contract was extended is that we thought she was the best person for the job.

As someone who represents a central London constituency, I am shocked and horrified by these revelations and the toxic culture that it represents in some parts of the Metropolitan police. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that he will bring up these concerns with the Mayor of London, because the Mayor needs to take responsibility for sorting out the culture of the Metropolitan police?

As somebody who, as I said, served in City Hall as deputy mayor for policing, I can tell the House that the intention of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which created the mayoralty and put the police authority and then the Metropolitan police under the control of the Mayor of London, was to ensure that the forensic examination of Met performance and internal processes could be done as close to the frontline as possible and that the Mayor should be in the driving seat.

As one of the two Members of Parliament for Westminster, I have always greatly valued and supported the work of our local police, and I think that our good and decent police officers will also be appalled by what they have seen in the past few days. They know what we know—that policing a young, modern, diverse city such as Westminster and London is founded on trust. That trust will also be reflected by having a police service that reflects London, so will the Minister tell us what immediate steps he is taking to review the progress, which has faltered over recent years, in ensuring that London’s police service is as diverse in all its forms as the city that it polices?

Hon. Members will have seen that, as part of our uplift programme not just in London, but elsewhere, we are specifically pushing to increase diversity both in terms of gender and race within policing. That is important nowhere more than in London and we have been working closely with the Metropolitan police to maximise the possibility of not only people from a BME background, but women joining the police force.

The Minister will be aware that I have spoken about the issue of the Met police on a number of occasions. I am very proud to represent Vauxhall in south London. It is a diverse constituency where, if I am honest, sometimes the relationship between the community and the police can be fractious. We have a number of great community leaders who are willing to work and build the trust between the police and the community. However, reports such as this just blow that confidence out. How can I reassure my diverse community—my diverse community of young black children, of LGBT people, of women who feel let down by the police—that they can have confidence and trust in the police? How will the Minister address the issues relating to the fact that, when we come to summer, we will see our police out on the streets and the young who are fearful of the police will not trust them, women who want to go out across Vauxhall at night will be scared to approach the police, and our LGBT people who want to go out and enjoy themselves will not want to come forward to the police? How is he going to address that culture now?

Having wrestled with these issues in the past, I completely agree with the hon. Lady that it is totally critical that there is a strong bond of trust with communities who have perhaps had a fractious relationship with the police. I think that the best thing that they can do is decide to be the change themselves, and I urge all communities in London and elsewhere to put forward their brightest and best to be police officers.

Cutting 21,000 police officers since 2010 has led to the rush to recruit officers to backfill those gaps, and the vetting of those officers is crucial. Does the Minister think that recruiting people purely through interviews online and doing that vetting purely online is suitable, given that the police are such a customer-facing, hands-on—sometimes literally— service with the public?

It is worth pointing out that, while the assessment process was online, once those police officers enter training, it is not accepted that they will necessarily be attested at the end. They are constantly assessed throughout their training on whether or not they are suitable. We continue to monitor their performance not just through training and in the immediate months after their acquisition, but thereafter. Having said that, we have to be slightly careful to bear in mind that, of the 11,000-odd who have stepped forward to be police officers, the vast majority of them are bright, smart, well-meaning and well-motivated people with the right kind of values to be police officers, and we have high hopes for them in the future.

The report was chilling. What worried me most was that the horrific cases were referred to the IOPC in 2018, yet the concerns about sexist discrimination and sexual harassment in the London Metropolitan police were not addressed by the time of the horrific murders of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, and Sarah Everard, who has been mentioned a few times. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi), I have had young women in my constituency writing to me and saying that they do not feel safe walking around at night in my constituency. As someone who had a bad experience with the police before I became an MP, I ask the Minister to set out some tangible steps the Government are taking to ensure that the misogyny in the force is tackled and that they are actually doing a proper job, so I can reassure my young constituents that they are safe to walk around in Hampstead and Kilburn.

As I explained earlier, we are engaging at all levels with the various actions plans that are in place to try to bring change in policing. And, of course, we are injecting a much more diverse shot of energy and personnel into policing through the uplift programme. However, it is—I am not making a political point—primarily the job of the Mayor of London to hold the commissioner to account on these issues. We are sending in the inspectors not just to London but to every force to look at their vetting and anti-corruption processes to make sure they are functioning well, but with a particular emphasis on the ability internally to call out exactly this kind of behaviour. It appears that this incident came to light after phones were brought in to be checked after a previous incident—this was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Dr Offord)—and they were discovered almost accidentally. We have to ask why. Why were there not police officers calling out that behaviour? That is what we are sending in the inspectors to have a look at.

The Minister will understand that this case, among other things, will reinforce the profound concern about the level of violence towards women and the lack of accountability for men who are responsible for that violence. As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones) alluded to in her remarks, the Government have so far refused to make violence against women and girls a strategic policing priority. Given the seriousness of this latest report, the fact that it is not an isolated case and the clear need for cultural change across the Metropolitan police, will the Minister stop procrastinating and bring that in?

We have not refused at all. We have said we will consider it, along with all the other horrendous crimes that, sadly, teem around this country and which we have to deal with. As I say, we will publish our findings on the strategic policing requirement shortly.

I am the only female former police officer currently serving in this place. Although I served with dedicated officers, I would be lying if I said that I did not recognise an element of the culture from my own service over 28 years ago. Training is absolutely vital. Post the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, all police officers and staff across the UK attended three days of diversity training. It was a big undertaking, but it visibly demonstrated to the public that we were taking this seriously. What steps is the Minister taking and what conversations is he having with the College of Policing for something similar?

The hon. Lady speaks with knowledge and she is exactly right. We are in intensive conversation with the College of Policing, which, as I hope she knows, is under new leadership, to ensure that we get the package of training exactly right, and, specifically, that the training catches up with modern phenomena, which perhaps it has been a little slow to do, such as social media.

The findings of this report were deeply shocking, but if we look just at this last year, we have seen that the Metropolitan police have deep-rooted structural problems, from racism to bullying to misogyny. Currently, we have a commissioner in the job that I do not believe is fit for purpose. Does the Minister agree that, to really tackle the broken culture in the Metropolitan police, we also need to change the commissioner?

I recognise that media coverage has the tendency to compress time. It is worth pointing out that the issue came to light in 2017 and the unit was disbanded in 2018. Charing Cross police station was merged into a wider borough operational command under new leadership, which is committed to driving out this kind of appalling behaviour. Whether that culture persists, and the vigour with which the Met is pursuing it, will be revealed, we hope, by both the Angiolini inquiry and the work of Dame Louise Casey. I urge the hon. Lady to wait for those conclusions.

This cultural problem does not just apply to Charing Cross, or even, as my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones) said, to the Met. It also does not just apply to middle-ranking and junior officers. As a councillor and now a Member of this House, I worked with Chief Superintendent Paul Martin and Chief Inspector Ricky Kandohla, who were both found guilty last week of gross misconduct and dismissed without notice for a series of offences. The chief superintendent led the three-borough basic command unit and was found to have committed bullying and discriminatory conduct towards a female police officer, misuse of a bank card, and impropriety over a promotion. Will the Minister assure the House that any reviews will address the cultures within our police forces right to the top of senior levels?

The report not only makes for incredibly uncomfortable and difficult reading, but destroys public confidence. This is not just about the Met. Alongside the Government’s failure in the criminal justice system, where victims are let down and rape prosecutions have fallen to just 1.3%, how can the Minister expect victims of serious sexual assault and rape across the country to come forward? What will he do about that?