Skip to main content

Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 712: debated on Wednesday 20 April 2022


The President of COP26 was asked—

Domestic Solar Energy

1. What assessment he has made of the potential contribution of domestic solar energy generation to meeting COP26 commitments. (906484)

Solar is a UK success story, with more than 99% of the UK solar PV capacity deployed since May 2010 totalling almost 14 GW, which is enough to power more than 3 million homes. As the Government’s British energy security strategy sets out, we want to see a fivefold increase in deployment by 2035.

The Government’s British energy security strategy sets out a very ambitious aim to grow solar capacity by five times as much by 2035, yet Xinjiang produces about 45% of the world’s supply of the key components used in solar panel polysilicon. Despite raising that issue countless times, my calls have languished, as the Government continue to import goods that use forced Uyghur labour. Will the Minister set out what steps he is taking to ensure that the expansion of solar capacity in the UK is not tainted by the ongoing Uyghur genocide?

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. The Government are deeply concerned about the reports of forced labour and the impact on the global solar panel supply chain. He will know that the Government announced robust measures last year to ensure that no UK organisations are complicit in that, and those measures are now being realised. They include strengthening the overseas business risk guidance and introducing financial penalties under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. He will also know that the UK’s main solar industry trade association, Solar Energy UK, is leading the industry’s response through a whole range of measures.

I yield to no one in my determination to see us reach net zero by 2050, but does the Secretary of State not agree that the right place for solar is on buildings, including domestic buildings across the nation, as the question from the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan) suggests? We do not want hundreds of acres of prime agricultural land to be threatened, as is happening in Wiltshire, by vast and unplanned solar farms that people simply do not want to see, particularly post-Ukraine.

Of course, we want an expansion of renewables across the country, but I point my hon. Friend to the energy security strategy, which sets out our plan to ensure more rooftop solar, not just on commercial buildings but on public sector property.

The COP26 President acknowledges the tremendous contribution that solar has made and can make to the achievement of our net zero goals. I am sure that he also acknowledges that it is now one of the renewables that is cheapest and most quickly installed, so why are the Government ignoring its future development, having devastated the industry a few years back by precipitously withdrawing all support for development, and doing nothing to ease the penal planning restrictions on both domestic and ground-mounted solar installations? He says merely that he expects installations to increase fivefold by 2035, but without providing any support to allow that expectation to become a reality. Is it not time that the Government took seriously the contribution that solar can make to net zero targets?

I respectfully disagree with the shadow Minister; the Government are doing an enormous amount on this issue. In the latest contracts for difference auction process, solar is back in. We have already removed VAT on solar panels to allow installations on residential accommodation. If he looks at the detail set out in the energy security strategy, he will see that there will be a big focus on solar, wind and, of course, nuclear.

Glasgow Climate Pact: Businesses

COP26 was one of the first such conferences to have a significant private sector presence, as well as key corporate commitments to tackling climate change. For example, more than 7,000 international companies have signed up to the Race to Zero campaign, committing them to reach net zero by 2050 at the latest.

According to the Met Office, my beautiful Eastbourne constituency has held the record for sunshine hours recorded in a month since 1911. Arguably, we should be leading the nation in harnessing solar power. On my right hon. Friend’s earlier point, we do not have land readily available locally, but we have acres of rooftops, courtesy of three commercial and retail parks. What work is he doing, including with other Departments, to promote feasibility studies to identify untapped potential for solar generation and to promote financial incentives so that local businesses in my town can play their part in tackling climate change?

My hon. Friend raises an important point, and her beautiful constituency is well worth a visit. She makes a vital point about rooftop solar, and she will know from the energy security strategy that our plan for rooftop solar is to radically simplify planning processes, with a consultation on relevant permitted development rights, to help support the deployment of rooftop solar on commercial premises. We will also consider the best way to make use of public sector roofs.

Local energy companies are often well placed to support small and medium-sized enterprises with the transition to net zero. Local authorities, with their insight into local opportunities for things such as solar, are best placed to help with that. What assessment has the COP26 President made of the opportunities that that model may afford?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the role of local energy companies in helping the transition to net zero through the provision of renewable energy. Close to my constituency we have Reading Hydro, a community-financed, built and operated hydro plant that supplies renewable electricity to local businesses. The Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change and I would be happy to meet him to discuss this matter further.

Is it not the truth that business has learned that this Government are entirely inconsistent from one day to the next? The COP26 President talks about solar, but only a few years ago the Government cut feed-in tariffs, which decimated the industry. Business really needs to know that the Government have a strategic plan, such as the Labour party’s green new deal, so that it can make long-term investments and know that the Government will say tomorrow what they are saying today.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that we have published a net zero strategy that clearly sets out our long-term plans for creating hundreds of thousands of extra jobs. Green jobs get many billions of pounds-worth of private investment. One of the reasons we are not reliant on Russian hydrocarbons is that over the past 10 years we have built the second biggest offshore wind sector in the world, and we want to quadruple the size of that sector.

The only net zero that really matters is the one for planet Earth as a whole, so does the COP26 President agree that there is real potential for shooting ourselves in the foot on energy-intensive industries in this country? I am thinking about James Cropper, the paper manufacturer in my constituency that makes the paper for poppies and Hansard, and paper with medical and military applications. If we tax it too much, or if we allow its bills to be so high that it goes out of business, all we will do is export its carbon emissions to other countries. Will he talk to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy about help for our energy-intensive industries in the long run?

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Government are providing support to help energy-intensive industries decarbonise. Through the COP26 process, the breakthrough agenda is working globally to see how we can decarbonise some of the most difficult sectors. There is a global plan as well as a domestic plan.

Will the COP26 President work with the agriculture sector on pursuing his COP26 goals? We have some of the most sustainable farming practices anywhere in the world, and many farmers and growers want to go further in playing their part in protecting nature and safeguarding the climate.

My right hon. Friend raises an important point. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and his Ministers are, of course, working on that. Again, at an international level, we are looking to start an agriculture breakthrough, so that we have a global focus on this issue.

Facebook promoted ads containing outright climate falsehoods and scepticism during COP26, and it is reported that fossil fuel companies and lobbying groups spent an estimated $574,000 on Facebook ads during the summit, resulting in more than 22 million impressions. Many of these ads were directly aimed at undermining efforts to achieve climate progress. Does the COP26 President agree that the best way such businesses can help in the fight against climate change is to put the planet before their profits and come down hard on the climate naysayers? What action has he been taking to address that?

At COP26, probably for the first time at a COP, we saw the business community coming together in force to make commitments on tackling climate change. The business community is, of course, determined to deliver on these commitments. I will happily write to the hon. Lady separately on the specific issue she raises.

Tackling Climate Change

12. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the Glasgow climate pact on tackling climate change. (906496)

Countries made significant commitments at COP26 on emissions reductions; finance and support for developing nations; and adaptation, loss and damage. We are continuing to press countries to deliver on their promises. Together with the COP27 presidency of Egypt, I will next month be co-chairing a meeting of a representative group of Ministers from around the world, hosted by the Danish Government, to take stock of progress on the delivery of the Glasgow climate pact.

I thank my right hon. Friend for coming to Winchester earlier this month for my “ask the Minister” session, which was attended by hundreds of my constituents and children from many schools across the patch, including Peter Symonds College, and for answering their questions so elegantly and openly. I am sure he would agree that the young people from those schools were so positive and care so much, that they asked searching questions, as they should, and that they are very optimistic about this presidency and the whole agenda. What more can we do to empower them to push forward this agenda during our presidency year?

I very much enjoyed my visit to Winchester and I commend my hon. Friend for all the work he does in his local community. We had some excellent questions from the very many young people at the event and they were positive in their outlook. In the planning for COP26, and in the country visits I continue to make, listening to the views of young people has been invaluable. That is why in the Glasgow climate pact we have urged countries actively to involve young people in climate change processes.

As the Minister knows, the UK accounts for only 1% of global carbon dioxide emissions, yet the steps we are taking to combat climate change will cost businesses and the Government untold billions. Does he agree that while the UK does what is perceived to be the right thing, it is highly likely that other nations will miss climate targets and that the enormous expense and impact on our own economic competitiveness will all be in vain?

Tackling climate change is the right thing to do and it is also economically the smart thing to do. That is why at COP26 we had $130 trillion of private sector money signed up to net zero. It is why our presidency has managed to persuade 90% of global GDP to sign up to net zero. It is why our net zero strategy talks about many hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of inward investments. My hon. Friend talks about costs, but I just say to him: look at what the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates as the unmitigated cost of climate change. We are talking about almost 300% debt to GDP by the end of this century. I know that he is a fiscally responsible Conservative, as I am, and he would not want to burden future generations with that level of debt.

The Minister will of course know that one reason why Britain’s emissions are so low now is that we have exported most of our filthy, polluting manufacturing industries to poorer nations of the world, so those countries are being polluted in order to provide for our lifestyle. It is almost nine years since world leaders agreed to establish a climate change impacts loss and damage mechanism. Last year, the Scottish Government led the world in committing millions of pounds to that mechanism. When do the UK Government intend to follow Scotland’s lead?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, at COP26 we agreed the Glasgow dialogue on loss and damage. That was the first time we had significant text in the cover decision on this issue. That work is going forward, as is work on the operationalisation of the Santiago network.

Of course as we urgently seek to combat climate change it is vital that we do so in a just and fair way, particularly for communities in the north-east of Scotland. Bearing that in mind, does the Minister agree that his Government should do three things: fund the Acorn carbon capture and underground storage project; match fund the Scottish Government’s £500 million just transition fund; and finally, eventually, reform the TNUoS—the transmission network use of system—charging scandal that is happening at this moment in time?

The hon. Gentleman has eloquently raised a number of domestic policy issues and I know that the Energy Minister would be happy to write to him on all of them.

The recent climate assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was deeply worrying, saying that current global policies will lead to warming of more than 3°, but it also offered hope in the dramatic fall in the price of renewables, which means they are now the right choice for cheap energy and to tackle the climate crisis. Given that onshore wind is the cheapest, cleanest, quickest form of power to deliver and is also supported by a large majority of the public in the UK, will the COP26 President explain why the Government persist—including in their recent strategy—with planning policies that in effect block onshore wind in England?

I certainly agree that we need to do more in terms of renewables, which is what the energy security strategy is all about. We already have 14 GW deployed throughout the country and there is another 5.8 GW in the pipeline. On future developments, we have said that we want to work in partnership with supportive communities that will host new onshore wind farms, and in return they will enjoy such benefits as local energy discounts.

The COP26 President knows that the Prime Minister caved in to those who wanted to block onshore wind—and I think the Minister for Energy knows it too.

Let us try another. To tackle the cost of living crisis and the climate emergency, energy efficiency measures are a no-brainer, but the Chancellor steadfastly refused to offer a penny more for energy efficiency in the recent strategy, meaning higher bills for people and more people in fuel poverty. The COP26 President is responsible for holding Departments to account for net zero; is it not time for him to wield some presidential power, knock heads together and sort this problem out?

The cost of living is an issue facing many families in all our constituencies throughout the country, which is why the Government have put forward more than £9 billion-worth of support in respect of the cost of living. On energy efficiency specifically, the right hon. Gentleman knows that we are investing more than £6.6 billion over this Parliament to improve energy efficiency and decarbonise heat. That will of course lead to lower bills, particularly for those most in need.

Forest and Woodland Conservation

4. What steps he has taken to conserve forests and woodlands to deliver on the leader’s declaration on forests and land use agreed at COP26. (906487)

The forests declaration is an unprecedented commitment from 141 countries, covering 90% of global forests, to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. It is underpinned by $16 billion of public and private finance, by sustainable trade and by support for indigenous people’s rights. We are working closely with the declaration’s endorsers to implement it.

I thank the Minister for recently visiting my constituency. She will know that North Norfolk is blanketed with ancient forests and woodlands. It is very encouraging that woodland coverage is increasing across the UK and that the Government are committed to preventing the loss of forest. Will the Minister update the House on what progress she is making to increase levels of woodland wildlife as well?

It was a pleasure to visit my hon. Friend’s wonderful constituency and great, as ever, to hear about the precious ancient woodland in North Norfolk. We are acting on the need to increase wildlife in Britain in many ways: through the Environment Act 2021, the Government have committed to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030; we are using the nature for climate fund to accelerate tree planting that improves biodiversity; and we are increasing funding to bring woodlands into active management, which is fundamental to the enhancement and conservation of wildlife.

We know that deforestation is causing huge issues for indigenous people around the world. What more can the Government do to put pressure on Governments worldwide, and particularly in Brazil, to prevent deforestation from being carried out by companies that operate here in the UK?

The hon. Lady raises a vital point of which we are fully aware, which is why 141 countries signed that commitment in Glasgow to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation. The Government introduced a “due diligence” clause in the Environment Act, so we are making our businesses look at the sustainability of their forest products. We are leading by example, but we have a great deal more work to do around the globe to stop deforestation.

Topical Questions

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was published this month, makes it clear that the window to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5° is closing alarmingly fast. We need to make faster progress, so the UK continues to urge all Governments, but particularly those in the G20, to honour the promises that were made in the Glasgow climate pact. We are also working to get finance flowing to climate action. Last month, I co-chaired a meeting of G7 Ministers, multilateral development banks and the private sector on the expansion of just energy transition partnerships to support developing nations. Today, I will travel to the World Bank spring meetings to drive that work forward.

What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that rising international gas prices do not push back up the use of coal?

At COP26, all countries agreed to phase down the use of coal domestically, and we will continue to urge them to deliver on that commitment. As a result of the current energy security and pricing issues, I do believe that we will see an acceleration of renewables and clean energy capacity globally.

T2. To keep the hope of 1.5° alive, 28 billion tonnes of emissions need to be taken out by 2030. What steps is the right hon. Gentleman taking to advance green new deals such as the BioYorkshire project so that they can get on and bring that new technology forward? (906535)

As the hon. Lady will know, the Government are providing a significant amount of investment in new technologies, and, as I referenced in an earlier response, the contracts for difference auction process is one very good way of doing that.

T4. Brazil announced strong environmental commitments at COP26 that exceeded expectations. My own visit to Brazil after COP26 reconfirmed that Brazil is experiencing an economy-wide shift towards lower carbon emissions. Will the COP26 President provide this House with his own observations following his own recent visit, and does he agree that Brazil also has much to offer the rest of the world in terms of renewable energy, especially where ethanol-based technologies are concerned? (906537)

I commend my hon. Friend for his work as the UK’s trade envoy to Brazil; he is doing a brilliant job. During my recent visit, I encouraged the Government to formally submit their 2030 emission-reduction targets of 50% under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and they have done that now. We also discussed Brazil’s plan for a significant expansion of renewables, and I offered to share the UK’s experience on expanding our own offshore wind sector.

T3. This month, a set of floating wind projects under Cerulean Winds, worth a potential £10 billion, was announced alongside a memorandum of understanding with wind turbine manufacturer, Lamprell. Unfortunately, most of the fabrication work for these projects seems destined to be carried out in the United Arab Emirates. Does the Minister agree with me, the GMB union and other manufacturing unions that we must do better in building back better and greener and providing UK-based manufacturing jobs? (906536)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. Floating offshore wind is a key part of the energy security strategy announced by the Prime Minister last week with a 5 GW target ambition by 2030. On securing and improving the UK supply chain, floating offshore wind is still a relatively nascent technology, but I will make sure that I take the point that he raises to the supply chain taskforce.

T6. As the Foreign Secretary writes her international development strategy, what conversations is the COP26 President having about the importance of international climate finance for the very poorest countries in the world? (906539)

My hon. Friend raises an important point. We need to make sure that we honour the $100 billion pledge, but, as I said earlier, we are also working with countries to ensure that they have funding for clean energy transition, and I am off to the World Bank meetings shortly to take that work forward.

T8. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in order to achieve net zero by 2050, we need to transition from North sea oil and gas, but very importantly, this is a transition and not an extinction, as many parties opposite are calling for? (906541)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is vital that we have a North sea transition; that is the purpose of the Government’s North sea transition deal and that is what we are delivering on with the sector. Some Opposition parties want to see an extinction. That would not be in the nation’s interest and would only lead to a rise in imported hydrocarbons, which is also not in our interests at this time.

Does the Minister realise he is guilty of being too nice? We do not just need, “Where’s the plan, Stan?”; we need, “Where’s the money, honey?” Why does he not get into No. 11, shake the Chancellor of the Exchequer until his teeth rattle, and get the money that he should be putting into environmental concerns and saving our planet?

Since March 2021 and through the 2021 Budget and spending review, the Government have committed a total of £30 billion of domestic investment for the green industrial revolution. Not only that, but we are ensuring that many tens of billions of pounds of private investment flows into green transition.

Is extraction of fossil fuels from new oil and gas fields consistent with meeting our climate change commitments during the transition?

As I have said, we want to see a managed transition. That is not going to happen overnight. My right hon. Friend will also know that we have set out in our domestic energy security strategy that future licensing rounds will have to be compatible with the climate compatibility checkpoint, which will be set out shortly.

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

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


I know the whole House will want to join me in wishing Her Majesty the Queen a very happy birthday for tomorrow. This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today. I will then be travelling to India to deepen the strategic trade, defence and people-to-people ties between our two countries, building on India’s involvement in the Carbis Bay G7 summit. I will be seeing Prime Minister Modi in Delhi, meeting Indian businesspeople investing in the UK and visiting British investments in India.

Challenges with rural transport remain some of the greatest obstacles facing people in Penrith and The Border. I was pleased last year that, on top of the Government’s £3 billion national bus strategy to help areas such as Cumbria, Cumbria County Council received an additional £1.5 million to enhance provision as part of the rural mobility fund. I am sure my right hon. Friend can imagine my disappointment this month, however, when Cumbria was allocated no funding from the latest tranche of bus funding. Can the Prime Minister reassure my constituents that Cumbria can look forward to future funding schemes to improve our vital rural bus services?

I thank my hon. Friend. He is a great champion for rural Cumbria and for bus services. He is right that Cumbria got another £1.5 million for buses. We want to put more into buses—I believe in them passionately myself—and I will ensure he has a meeting with the relevant Minister.

I join the Prime Minister in wishing Her Majesty a happy birthday.

Why did the Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton have to resign from her job?

I bitterly regret Allegra’s resignation. I think it was very sad. She did an outstanding job, particularly since she was the one who coined the expression “Coal, cars, cash and trees”, which enabled the UK to deliver a fantastic COP26 summit last year.

Allegra Stratton laughed at breaking the rules. She resigned. The Prime Minister then claimed he was “furious” at her behaviour and accepted her resignation. Professor Neil Ferguson broke the rules. He also resigned. The Prime Minister said that was the right thing to do. The former Health Secretary, the right hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock), broke the rules. He too resigned. The Prime Minister tried to claim that he sacked him. Why does the Prime Minister think everybody else’s actions have consequences except his own?

I feel the right hon. and learned Gentleman is in some kind of “Doctor Who” time warp. We had this conversation yesterday, and I explained why I bitterly regret receiving an FPN and I apologised to the House. He asks about the actions for which I take responsibility, and I will tell him: we are going to get on with delivering for the British people, making sure that we power out of the problems that covid has left us, with more people in work than there were before the pandemic, fixing our energy problems, and leading the world in standing up to the aggression of Vladimir Putin. Those are all subjects about which I think he could reasonably ask questions now.

These are strange answers from a man who yesterday claimed to be making a humble apology. Does the Prime Minister actually accept that he broke the law?

Yes, Mr Speaker, I have been absolutely clear that I humbly accept what the police have said. I have paid the fixed penalty notice. What I think the country, and the whole House, would really rather do is get on with the things for which we were elected and deliver on our promises to the British people. [Interruption.] You could not have clearer evidence of the intellectual bankruptcy of Labour. [Interruption.]They have no plans for energy, they have no plans for social care—

Order. Prime Minister, sit down. I want to hear what you have got to say, but I cannot hear when you talk in that way. I am here in the Chair: please, if you can help me.

The state of it—the party of Peel and Churchill reduced to shouting and screaming in defence of this lawbreaker. [Interruption.]

Order. Now then, that is the last time. That Peroni that was just asked about—the hon. Member might have to go and take it. I do not want to hear any more, or else they will be drinking it.

Yesterday’s apology lasted for as long as the Prime Minister thought necessary to be clipped for the news. But once the cameras were off, the Prime Minister went to see his Back Benchers and he was back to blaming everyone else. He even said that the Archbishop of Canterbury had not been critical enough of Putin. In fact, the archbishop called Putin’s war

“an act of great evil”,

and the Church of England has led the way in providing refuge to those fleeing. Would the Prime Minister like to take this opportunity to apologise for slandering the archbishop and the Church of England?

I was slightly taken aback for the Government to be criticised over the policy that we have devised to end the deaths at sea in the channel as a result of cruel criminal gangs. I was surprised that we were attacked for that. Actually, do you know who proposed that policy first of all, in 2004? It was David Blunkett—[Interruption.] Yes it was, as the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) will remember. He said that it was a 21st-century solution to the problems of illegal asylum seeking and immigration. The Leader of the Opposition should stick with that. He is a Corbynista in a smart Islington suit—that is the truth.

I think the Prime Minister will find that Mr Corbyn does not have the Whip. I think that is a no, then. It is pathetic. He never takes responsibility for his words or actions. [Interruption.] Conservative Members were all there.

The Prime Minister also accused the BBC of not being critical enough of Putin. Would the Prime Minister have the guts to say that to the faces of Clive Myrie, Lyse Doucet and Steve Rosenberg, who have all risked their lives day in, day out on the frontline in Russia and Ukraine uncovering Putin’s barbarism?

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants to join the Conservative party and come and listen to the meetings of the Conservative party, he is welcome to do it, but, as I say, I think he is a Corbynista in an Islington suit. I said nothing of the kind. I have the highest admiration, as a journalist and a former journalist, for what journalists do. I think they do an outstanding job. I think he should withdraw what he just said, because it has absolutely no basis or foundation in truth.

That is how the right hon. Gentleman operates: a mealy-mouthed apology when the cameras roll; a vicious attack on those who tell the truth as soon as the cameras are off. He slanders decent people in a private room and lets the slander spread, without the backbone to repeat it in public. How can the Prime Minister claim to be a patriot, when he deliberately attacks and degrades the institutions of our great country?

Order. Prime Minister, just a second. I want to hear the Prime Minister’s answers. I expect it both ways.

It is an indication of the depths to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is willing to sink that he accuses me—[Interruption.] He accuses me of traducing journalists. What he says is completely without any foundation whatever. I did not attack the BBC last night for their coverage of Ukraine. He must be out of his tiny mind. I said no such thing, and there are people behind me who will testify to that. He is completely wrong. That is the limit of his willingness to ask sensible questions today.

This Government are getting on with the serious problems that require attention, such as fixing our energy supply issues and, by the way, undoing the damage of the Labour Government, who did not invest in nuclear power for 13 years, with a nuclear power station every year. We are standing up to Putin, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have elected a Putin apologist—that is what he wanted to do, and he campaigned to do that. We are fixing our economy, with record numbers of people now in work, productivity back above what it was, and over half a million more people on the payroll than there were before the pandemic began. That is as a result of the decisions—the tough calls—that this Government have made. We get on with the job, while they flip-flop around like flounders on the beach.

Q2. Founded in Hitchin by an inspirational man called Richard Lucas, the Govox mental wellbeing platform was started in 2018, following the sad loss of local young men to suicide. Since then, working with brilliant partners such as NHSX, King’s College London and others, the technology platform and support services have grown to support the mental wellbeing and mental health of over 40,000 young people in more than 10 countries. Today, Govox is launching its campaign to offer its services free to over 1,000 state secondary schools. Will the Prime Minister welcome this initiative and perhaps go to Hitchin and meet the people from Govox? Secondly, will he set out what more we can do to help young people and young men with the problems of mental health and wellbeing? (906435)

I thank my hon. Friend. I am very pleased to hear about the work that Govox is doing to support mental health and wellbeing, and we are putting more money into mental healthcare support—an extra £2.3 billion a year in the next financial year, which of course we can supply thanks to the decisions taken by this Government, which the Labour party opposed.

May I join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in wishing Her Majesty the Queen best wishes for her birthday tomorrow?

Last night, the Prime Minister may have convinced his Back Benchers and his spineless Scottish Tories to keep him in place for another few weeks, but the public are not so easily fooled. Eighty-two per cent. of people in Scotland said that they believed the Prime Minister lied to this Parliament, and to the public, about his law-breaking covid parties. Are they right, or should they not believe their lying eyes?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. We had a long conversation about this yesterday. I understand the point of his question, but we are going to get on with the job of delivering for the people of the whole United Kingdom.

If the Prime Minister wants to get on, he should be offering his resignation to the Queen before her birthday. No Government can be led by a Prime Minister who is in a constant state of crisis to save his own skin. What is worse, the UK Government are now led by a tag team of scandal—a Prime Minister who cannot be trusted with the truth and a Chancellor who cannot be trusted with his taxes. Everyone knows that this Prime Minister is on borrowed time until the Tory Back Benchers count the cost of their council election defeat. In the meantime, families are counting the cost of a Tory-made cost of living crisis every day. After yesterday’s farce, is it not finally time for him to accept that neither his party nor the public can afford to keep him around as Prime Minister for one minute longer?

If that were true, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman would be calling for my resignation. We are going to get on with the job in hand, and that is to deliver for the people of this country. By the way, he has not answered the point I made yesterday, which is that I think it is incredible that at a time when we need to stand up to aggression from Vladimir Putin, it is still the policy of the Scottish nationalist party to get rid of this country’s unilateral defence.

Kettering General Hospital Redevelopment

Q3. If he will ensure that the NHS new hospital programme team (a) provide feedback to the local NHS trust on the strategic outline case for the redevelopment of Kettering General Hospital so that the subsequent outline business case can be submitted in July 2022 and (b) enable the drawdown of the £46 million of funding awarded in October 2019. (906436)

I thank my hon. Friend, who is an excellent champion for Kettering. We are fully committed to the delivery of the new hospital for Kettering. The release of funding will be subject to the usual business case assessment process.

The redevelopment of Kettering General Hospital is the No. 1 local priority for residents in Kettering and across north Northamptonshire. Will my right hon. Friend please be kind enough to facilitate a meeting with the Health Secretary for the three local Members—myself and my hon. Friends the Members for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and for Corby (Tom Pursglove)—together with the hospital chief executive so that we can trigger the start of the drawdown of the initial £46 million of funding?

Yes; my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary has told me that he has met those individuals before and he is happy to meet them again.

Plaid Cymru has been calling for 15 years for a law to ban politicians from being wilfully misleading. New polling by Compassion in Politics shows that 73% of people support such a law. Will the Prime Minister support a lying in politics Bill?

It is well known that the rules of this House demand that we tell the truth in this House, and that is what we all try to do.


Q10. Prime Minister’s questions is a wonderful opportunity for a constituency MP like me to ask the Prime Minister for a new hospital for Doncaster, and to ask for Doncaster to be the home of the Great British Rail headquarters. Sadly, there is a more pressing issue, and that is that men are dying so much younger than they should be. Will the Prime Minister meet me to discuss the merits of having a Minister for men, and the benefits of a men’s health strategy? That way, the next time I am fortunate enough to get a PMQ, I can lobby the Prime Minister for a new hospital for Doncaster, and for Doncaster to be the home of the Great British Rail headquarters. (906443)

I thank my hon. Friend for his work in this area, and we are determined to tackle all the health conditions that he describes and cares about, particularly mental health and suicide prevention. I note his plea for a new hospital, and I know it is shared by many of my hon. and right hon. Friends. This Government are funding that and making it possible, thanks to the decisions we have taken allowing our economy to grow, which would not have been possible if we had listened to the Opposition.

Q4. In the Labour party, we believe not only that law breakers cannot be law makers, but that tax raisers should be taxpayers. When people in powerful positions pick and choose where they pay their taxes, it is an insult to everyone else who does not have that luxury. May I ask the Prime Minister how many members of his Cabinet have ever been involved in a tax avoidance scheme? (906437)

What we try to do in this Government is cut taxes for the whole country, and I am proud to say that what the Chancellor did in the recent spring statement, by lifting the threshold for national insurance contributions, was to have a tax cut of about £330 for most people in this country. That is a fantastic thing.

Q12.   Mr Speaker, if you live in north Wales and want to watch international sport, you will have to travel four hours to Cardiff or Swansea. The Wrexham Racecourse, with its historic Kop stand, is home to Wembley-bound Wrexham football club. It is the oldest international stadium in the world, and forms part of our levelling-up fund bid. Does the Prime Minister agree that round 2 of the levelling-up fund offers an excellent opportunity to level up access to sport? (906446)

There could be no better campaigner for Wrexham and for the interests of Wrexham sport. I will do what I can, but my hon. Friend will know that £121 million from the first round of the levelling-up fund was awarded to Wales, and I am sure that Wrexham has every chance of success in the future.

Q5. The Prime Minister has been asked about the sodium valproate scandal previously, but Shaun Lintern at The Sunday Times this weekend revealed that campaigners were blacklisted, including my constituent Emma Murphy, who is here in the Gallery today. Advice from the Cumberlege report has been ignored, warnings are still not on medication as of a couple of weeks ago and a redress scheme is still not forthcoming. Will the Prime Minister meet me and campaigners such as Emma to discuss what can be done to right this incredible wrong? (906438)

I thank the hon. Member very much for raising the point. I understand that we have had a review already of the issue, but I will make sure that he has a proper meeting or that he and the campaigners he mentions have a proper meeting with the relevant Minister in the Health Department.

My constituent Aiden Aslin has served in the Ukrainian armed forces for four years. Last week, he was captured by the Russian army in Mariupol. Yesterday, a video emerged of my constituent handcuffed, physically injured and being interviewed under duress for propaganda purposes. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is a flagrant breach of the Geneva convention, that treating any prisoner of war in that manner is illegal, that the interviewer—Graham Phillips—is in danger of prosecution for war crimes and that any online platform such as YouTube that hosts propaganda videos of that kind should take them down immediately?

I thank my right hon. Friend very much, and I think everybody will want to urge the Russian state to treat his constituent humanely and compassionately, because in my view, although we do not encourage people going to that theatre of conflict—in fact, we actively dissuade them from doing so—I understand that he had been serving in the Ukrainian forces for some time, and his situation is very different from that of a mercenary. I hope that he is treated with care and compassion. I thoroughly echo the sentiments that my right hon. Friend has expressed about those who broadcast propaganda messages.

Q6. This Conservative Government are raising taxes on working people in the middle of a cost of living crisis. May I press the Prime Minister on whether he agrees that it would add insult to injury if his Chancellor or any other Government Ministers were to benefit from overseas tax havens in their personal tax affairs? (906439)

Good point, Mr Speaker, but we are responsible for cutting taxes for everybody, which is what we are actually doing.

Newcastle-under-Lyme is receiving over £50 million of Government investment into our high street and the high street of Kidsgrove in the neighbouring constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis), but it is all being overshadowed by the ongoing environmental disaster at Walleys Quarry. In January, the operator was hit with three category 1 breaches by the Environment Agency. My constituents are utterly sick of it, and it has been going on for far too long, Prime Minister. We need to see tougher enforcement and we need to see the permit taken away. What hope can he give my constituents? How can we stop the stink?

My hon. Friend has raised this issue before and I know how infuriating it is for his constituents. That is why the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has now ordered action against the site operator, and I can tell my hon. Friend that permanent capping will begin on site next month, which will improve things for thousands of residents in his constituency. If it is necessary to take further action to remove those malodorous vapours, we will do so.

Q7. With details of the Sue Gray report trickling out, a flood of photos of partygate yet to be released and any number of fixed penalty notices liable to be leaked, this is a Prime Minister who is not fit to run a bath never mind this country. It is time for him to stop this ridiculous charade that he believes no rules were broken. Will he commit to making public every fixed penalty notice he receives; will he publish the party photos taken by the official photographer; and will he ensure that Sue Gray’s report is published at the earliest opportunity? We have a right to know the truth. (906440)

On my own fixed penalty notice, I have been transparent with the House—and will be—and I have apologised. On the rest of it, I really think, as I have said before, that the House should wait for the conclusion of the investigation when Sue Gray finally reports.

Long ago in a far off place, thousands of British servicemen sailed into what was for them the unknown as they witnessed the early tests of nuclear weapons. They have lived with the consequences of that service to our nation ever since. Following a question to the Prime Minister from the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey), he agreed to meet us and those veterans. Will he now assure the House that he will take personal charge of the decision on whether to grant the remaining servicemen—for there are few left—the service medal they so richly deserve?

I thank my right hon. Friend very much for campaigning on this issue, which I know attracts support across the House. I will certainly take personal charge of the matter and make sure that the veterans receive the recognition they deserve.

Q8. My constituents across Blaydon knew the rules and stuck to them, nurses and teachers included—no after-work drinks for them. The Prime Minister set the rules. Night after night, he was on national television to exhort us to stick to the rules for everyone’s sake, but he continues to say that he does not think he broke any rules. My constituents are angry that while they stuck to the law, the Prime Minister broke it. Trust in his Government is broken: when will he go? (906441)

I understand the feelings of the hon. Lady’s constituents and I continue to express my apologies for the FPN that I received, but the Government will get on with tackling the issues that face this country and delivering for the British people. That is my priority.

Like many others across the country, one of my constituents has been helping directly with the humanitarian effort in Ukraine and the region. He received the most troubling message from a resident of the city of Kherson only days ago, which said that

“there are no green corridors for evacuation. People are trying to flee the city at their own risk, under fire. The Russians are living in our homes, they are plotting terror, robbing, harassing, kidnapping and killing our people, doing whatever they want.”

What more can my right hon. Friend and the international community do to ensure that Putin and those who do his bidding are brought to justice for their crimes?

My right hon. and learned Friend makes an incredibly important point. The savagery that the Russians are unleashing on Ukraine knows no limits and is clearly authorised from the very top. He asks what more we can do. What we need to do is make it clear to serving officers in the Russian forces that if we can proceed with the international criminal prosecutions that we want to see, they will eventually face justice in the way that those who participated in massacres in Bosnia faced justice in the past. I hope that that will have a chilling effect on their current appalling conduct.

Q9. Every week, examples emerge of Government waste during covid, and last year the former Health Secretary told me that there had been no profiteering and no cronyism. Does the Prime Minister still agree with him? (906442)

I am sad to say that I think a lot of people made money out of covid in a way that perhaps they should not have done. We deplore that and we are trying to recoup as much as we possibly can, but I remind the hon. Gentleman of the constant clamour from the Opposition and from the country for us to equip our country with PPE and medicines as fast as possible, and that we did.

Will the Prime Minister join me in thanking the brilliant staff and volunteers at Watford General Hospital for their tireless work for our community over many years? Does he agree that we should get started as soon as possible on the ambitious plans put forward by West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust as part of the new hospital programme to transform healthcare across our whole community, so that staff and patients can access world-class health services and facilities fit for the 21st century? I will add, if I may, that these ambitious plans are truly shovel-ready, and I will gladly go and buy a shovel today to get started.

My hon. Friend is a fantastic champion for Watford. I know, because I have been to see him several times, that he has been campaigning to get this hospital in Watford ever since he was triumphantly elected, and he is going to be successful, because there will be a new hospital scheme in his local area as part of our plan to deliver 48 new hospitals in this country by 2030.

Q11. The Prime Minister’s fundamental political problem at the moment is not about parties, or fixed penalty notices, or cake. It is about the lack of trust, integrity and credibility at the heart of Government, which he himself now personifies. When is the Prime Minister going to realise that people do not want to hear any more glib, half-hearted non-apologies, or hear him witter on about getting on with the job? They just want this Pinocchio Prime Minister to pack his bags and go. (906444)

Sorry, Mr Speaker. When are the Scottish people going to hear an ounce of sense from the Scottish nationalist—

Order. Prime Minister, we cannot both stand up at the same time. I am trying to be helpful. We have got to be more moderate in the type of language used. “Pinocchio” is not acceptable. I am sure the hon. Member wishes to withdraw it quickly.

Sorry, Mr Speaker, but I do not know what the question is, because the hon. Gentleman has withdrawn it. The answer is that we are going to get on with the job, and it would be nice to hear an ounce of sense from the Scottish nationalist party, or see some competent government.

The London Borough of Barnet is surrounded by Labour councils, all of which have higher council tax and have abandoned weekly bin collections. Will the Prime Minister urge everyone to come out on 5 May and vote Conservative in order to keep council tax lower than Labour would and to protect our weekly bin collections?

Quite right—Conservative councils fix four times more potholes, recycle twice as much, and charge less.

Q13.   The ministerial code states that Ministers have a “duty…to comply with the law and to protect the integrity of public life.”The Prime Minister has broken the law and repeatedly shown contempt for the British public. Conservative MPs seem content to decry the principles of honesty and integrity, as they unashamedly defend him. The public want him gone. We want him gone. When will he do the right thing and resign? (906447)

I know why they want me gone. It is because we are going to get on and show that this Conservative Government are going to deliver for the British people—fixing our cost of living issues, making sure that we solve our long-term energy problems, and delivering everything we promised—and they have absolutely no plan. That is the difference.

On the Conservative Benches, we were elected to make the most of our Brexit freedoms—[Interruption.] They don’t like it, Mr Speaker, they don’t like it. That includes tackling illegal immigration, securing our borders and cracking down on the evil people-smuggling trade. Does my right hon. Friend agree that our groundbreaking partnership with Rwanda will do just that?

It is a part of the solution. It is something that, as I said just now, was advocated in 2004 by the then Home Secretary David Blunkett, a Blairite Home Secretary. It is now attacked in the most ludicrous terms by the current Labour Opposition, who are obviously, as I just said, Corbynistas in Islington suits.

Q14. I wonder what the Prime Minister makes of this quote:“When a regime has been in power too long, when it has fatally exhausted the patience of the people, and when oblivion finally beckons…across the world you can rely on leaders of that regime to act solely in the interests of self-preservation, and not in the interests of the electorate”.His words, Mr Speaker: The Daily Telegraph, 28 February 2011. Does he still agree: yes or no? (906448)

All I can say is that I am delighted that the hon. Lady is a reader of The Daily Telegraph. What she needs to do is keep going to the end of the article. That is my advice to her.