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Volume 718: debated on Wednesday 13 July 2022

Order. [Interruption.] Shut up a minute. [Interruption.] Order! I say to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Kenny MacAskill) that I will not tolerate such behaviour. If you want to go out, go out now, but if you stand up again, I will order you out. Make your mind up. Either shut up or get out. [Interruption.] I warned the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] Shut up a minute. [Interruption.] Two at once! [Interruption.] Order! Sit down.

I now warn the hon. Members for East Lothian and for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Neale Hanvey) that if they persist in refusing to comply with my order to withdraw, I shall be compelled to name both of them, which may lead to their being suspended from the House. [Interruption.] Order. I am now naming you, Neale Hanvey and Kenny MacAskill, and I ask you to leave the Chamber. Serjeant, deal with them. Out—now. Serjeant at Arms, escort them out. Take them out. Serjeant, get them out!

Now then, let us just see if we can—[Interruption.] Mr Costa, you do not want to want to escort them to the Tea Room, do you? I suggest not. I think you are better behaved than that.

The Speaker directed Neale Hanvey and Kenny MacAskill to withdraw from the House, and the Members withdrew accordingly.

From tomorrow, the first instalment of the cost of living payment will start landing in the bank accounts of 8 million households across the country. This is a much-needed £326 cash boost for families, which forms part of the £1,200 in direct support that we are giving the most vulnerable households this year.

I am sure the whole House was appalled and saddened, as I was, to hear about the despicable attack on Shinzo Abe. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones, and with the people of Japan, at this dark and sad time.

This week we remember the genocide in Srebrenica and the victims of those appalling events. We must learn the lessons of history, and do all in our power to prevent such a thing from happening again. We will continue to combat war crime deniers, both in Bosnia and Herzegovina and elsewhere.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

I thank the Prime Minister for his personal interest in Aberconwy. Whether he has been eating ice cream on the pier in Llandudno, sampling Welsh Penderyn whisky or standing in the granite quarry in Penmaenmawr, he has seen why people love this constituency. He has also heard from them their gratitude for the vaccine and furlough programmes that this UK Government delivered. Will my right hon. Friend now support our plan to level up Aberconwy and our bid for almost £20 million of funding to invest in community and cultural programmes, and give us the opportunity to match our potential?

I thank my hon. Friend; he is a great champion for Aberconwy. I much enjoyed the Penderyn whisky that we sampled together, although I ignored the Revolver, as some of you may have noticed. We are committed to uniting and levelling up the UK, and as for the second round of the levelling up fund announcements, it will be coming this autumn.

I join the Prime Minister in his comments about the former Prime Minister of Japan—a deeply shocking moment—and of course in his comments about genocide.

May I welcome the new Cabinet to their places? We have a new Chancellor who accepted a job from the Prime Minister on Wednesday afternoon and then told him to quit on Thursday morning, a new Northern Ireland Secretary who once asked if you needed a passport to get to Derry, and a new Education Secretary whose junior Ministers have literally been giving the middle finger to the public. It is truly the country’s loss that they will only be in post for a few weeks.

The Prime Minister must be feeling demob happy since he was pushed out of office. Finally he can throw off the shackles, say what he really thinks and forget about following the rules! So does he agree that it is time to scrap the absurd non-dom status that allows the super-rich to dodge tax in this country?

It is perfectly true that I am grateful for the ability to speak my mind, which I never really lost, but what I am focusing on is continuing the government of the country. As I have just said, from tomorrow £326 is arriving—[Interruption.] Never mind non-doms. Doms or non-doms, I don’t mind. From tomorrow £326 is arriving in the bank accounts of 8 million vulnerable people. And how can we do that? Because we took the decisions to get the strong economy that we currently have, which I am afraid were resisted by—[Interruption.] Growth in May was at 0.5%, which the Opposition were not expecting. As I have said before, 620,000 more people are in payroll employment than before the pandemic began, and one of the consolations of leaving office at this particular time is that vacancies are at an all-time high.

Cut him some slack—faced with an uncertain future and a mortgage-sized decorator’s bill for what will soon be somebody else’s flat, I am not surprised the Prime Minister is careful not to upset any future employers. So here is an even simpler one: does he agree that offshore schemes can pose a risk because some people use them to avoid tax that they owe here?

I am proud of the investment this country attracts from around the world. The right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about people from offshore investing in the UK, and I am absolutely thrilled to see we have had £12 billion of tech investment alone coming in over the last couple of months. It is possible that he is referring not to me but to some of the eight brilliant candidates who are currently vying for my job. Let me just tell him that any one of them would wipe the floor—[Interruption.]

Order. The furniture has to be repaired. One Member has already had a bill, and I am sure he does not want another.

Any one of the eight candidates would wipe the floor with Captain Crasheroony Snoozefest. In a few weeks’ time, that is exactly what they will do. They will unite around the winner and do just that.

The Prime Minister has been saying all week that he wants revenge on those who have wronged him. Here is an idea: if he really wants to hit them where it hurts, he should tighten the rules on tax avoidance. At the very least, does he agree that anyone running to be Prime Minister should declare where they and their family have been domiciled for tax purposes, and whether they have ever been a beneficiary of an offshore tax scheme?

To the best of my knowledge, everybody in this Parliament and everybody in this House pays their full whack of tax in this country. Members across the House should cease this constant vilification of each other. I think people pay their fair share of taxes, and quite right.

Thanks to the tax yield we have had, we are able to support the people of this country in the way we are. We have been able to increase universal credit by £1,000, and from tomorrow we are putting £326 into the bank accounts of those who need it most. Thanks to the policies we have pursued, as I have just told the House, we have unemployment at or near record lows. That is what counts.

The Opposition are very happy to see people languish on benefits. We believe in getting people into good jobs, and I am looking for one.

I am not sure the Prime Minister has been keeping up with what has happened in the last few days. Over the weekend, the candidates to replace him have promised £330 billion in giveaways, which is roughly double the annual budget of the NHS. Sadly, they have not found time to explain how they are paying for it, even though one of them is the Chancellor and another was Chancellor until a week ago. They all backed 15 tax rises, and now they are acting as if they have just arrived from the moon and saying it should never have happened.

Does the Prime Minister agree that, rather than desperately rewriting history, they should at least explain exactly where they are getting all this cash from?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is completely wrong. I have been listening very carefully, and all the commitments I have heard are very clear. Whoever is elected will continue to put more police out on the street, exactly as we promised. There are already 13,576 more police, and it will go up to 20,000. The Opposition always complain about this, but whoever takes over will build the 40 new hospitals. [Interruption.] They do not like it because they voted against the funding that makes it possible. During the time for which the Leader of the Opposition has been in office, they have made extra public spending commitments worth £94 billion, which would be thousands of pounds of extra taxation for every family in the country. That is the difference between them and us.

Order. Mr Holden, I think that is the last time I hear from you today, otherwise you might be able to buy a couple of other people a cup of tea.

To be fair to the new Chancellor, he has at least attempted to spell it out. He has promised tens of billions in tax cuts and confirmed that he would cut the NHS, the police and school budgets by 20% to fund it. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon and Gibraltar is complaining, but he said it on TV. And yesterday he said:

“It is simply not right that families are seeing their bills skyrocket and we do nothing.”

Was the Chancellor speaking on behalf of the Government when he promised huge spending cuts and when he said they are doing nothing on the cost of living crisis?

This is really pitiful stuff from the party that voted against the £39 billion, which is necessary to pay for those 50,000 nurses—who we are recruiting and will recruit by 2024—and which is necessary to pay for those hospitals, those doctors, those scans and that treatment. Labour Members do not have a leg to stand on. I can tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman something else: the reason we have growth at 0.5% in May is that we took the tough decisions to come out of lockdown on 19 July last year, which he said was “reckless”. Never forget that he said it was reckless. Without that, our economy would not be strong enough now to make the payments that we are making to our fantastic NHS, and they know it.

I really am going to miss this weekly nonsense from the right hon. Gentleman. Let us move on from his current Chancellor to his former Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak). Last week, he resigned, accusing the Prime Minister of not conducting government “properly”, “competently” or “seriously”. He suggested that the Prime Minister is not prepared to work hard or take difficult decisions, and implied that the Prime Minister cannot tell the public the truth. Yesterday, he claimed that his big plan is to “rebuild” the economy. Even the Prime Minister must be impressed by that Johnsonian brass-neckery. Can the Prime Minister think of any jobs that his former Chancellor may have had that mean he bears some responsibility for an economy that he now claims is broken?

I think everybody who has played a part in the last three years has done a remarkable job in helping this country through very difficult times. I just want to say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the next leader of my party may be elected by acclamation, so it is possible that this will be our last confrontation over this Dispatch Box. [Interruption.] It is possible. So I want to thank him for the style in which he has conducted himself. It would be fair to say that he has been considerably less lethal than many other Members of this House, Mr Speaker, and I will tell you why that is. He has not come up—[Interruption.]

Order. I just say to Members at this end of the Labour Front Bench that I expect better behaviour, and I am certainly going to get it.

As I was saying, there is a reason for that: over three years, in spite of every opportunity, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has never really come up with an idea, a plan or a vision for this country. At the end of three years, we got Brexit done, which he voted against 48 times; we delivered the first vaccine in the world and rolled it out faster than any other European country, which would never have been possible if we had listened to him; and we played a decisive role in helping to protect the people of Ukraine from the brutal invasion by Vladimir Putin—it helped to save Ukraine.

I am proud to say that we are continuing, and every one of the eight candidates will continue, with the biggest ever programme of infrastructure, skills and technology across this country, to level up in a way that will benefit the constituents of every Member of this House. It is perfectly true that I leave not at a time of my choosing—[Interruption.] That is absolutely true. But I am proud of the fantastic teamwork that has been involved in all of those projects, both nationally and internationally. I am also proud of the leadership that I have given. [Interruption.] I will be leaving, soon, with my head held high.

Q2. The convicted double child rapist and murderer Colin Pitchfork was granted parole last year by the independent Parole Board in the face of enormous opposition from whistleblowers and my South Leicestershire constituents. Only two months after he was released, he was recalled to prison for having breached his licence conditions. He has another Parole Board hearing scheduled for September.The Prime Minister and I have communicated about this matter on numerous occasions, and he has assured me that he would do everything in his power to deal with this situation. Will he confirm before he leaves office that his Government will make all the necessary submissions that they can lawfully make to the independent Parole Board to make sure that this dangerous man is kept behind bars? (901099)

I thank my hon. Friend for his campaign. Our thoughts are of course with the friends and family of Pitchfork’s victims, Lynda and Dawn. The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab), will be submitting his views on the Pitchfork case to the Parole Board before Pitchfork’s hearing. As the House will know, a root-and-branch review of the parole system is currently under way, and that includes plans for greater ministerial oversight for the most serious offenders. We will bring that forward as soon as parliamentary time allows.

I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister on the murder of Shinzo Abe—a dreadful event that took place last weekend.

I thank you, Mr Speaker, for last night hosting the charity Remembering Srebrenica. We should all take time this week, on the 27th anniversary of the genocide that took place there, to think of the circumstances, and the shame that we were not able to step in and stop the murder of so many innocent boys and men, and the rape of so many women. We must learn the lessons from that—of course, at this time we think very much of those in Ukraine who are facing a war criminal—and make sure that those responsible are ultimately held to account for crimes against humanity.

The Tory leadership contest is quickly descending into a toxic race to the right, and it is clear that whoever wins that race, Scotland loses. The former Chancellor has pledged to govern like Margaret Thatcher; the current Chancellor is threatening 20% cuts to the NHS and public services; and they are all trying to outdo each other on an extreme Brexit that will cost the economy billions. Is the real reason the Prime Minister will not endorse any of these awful candidates that whoever becomes the next Tory leader will make Genghis Khan look like a moderate?

I feel a real twinge that this may be virtually the last time that I will have the opportunity to answer a question from the right hon. Gentleman— whether it is because he is going or because I am going, I do not know. All I would say to him is that the next leader of my party will want to ensure that we do everything we can to work with the Scottish Government—in the way that I have been able to do, and am proud to have done, over the last few years—to protect and secure our Union. My strong view, having listened to the right hon. Gentleman carefully for years and years, is that we are much, much better together.

I can say with all sincerity that I hope that whoever is the next Tory leader will be as popular in Scotland as the Prime Minister has been.

For people in Scotland, Westminster has never looked so out of touch. We have right-wing Tory contenders prioritising tax cuts for the rich, and a zombie UK Government failing to tackle the cost of living crisis. While the Tories are busy tearing lumps out of each other, MoneySavingExpert’s Martin Lewis has warned that the energy price cap could rise by a sickening 65% in October—to £3,244 a year. After a decade of Tory cuts and Brexit price rises, that will mean that many families simply cannot afford to put food on the table and heat their homes. Scotland literally cannot afford the cost of living with Westminster. Does the Prime Minister not get that people in Scotland do not just want rid of him—they want rid of the whole rotten Westminster system?

What is actually happening in this country is that we are using the fiscal firepower that we have built up to cut taxes for working people and cut taxes for those on low incomes—we saw that last week with an average tax cut on national insurance of £330. We are increasing support for those vulnerable households, with another £326 going in from tomorrow. It is thanks to our Union that we were able to deliver the furlough scheme, which helped the entire country, and to make the massive transfers that boost the whole of the UK economy. The last thing that the people of Scotland need now is more constitutional wrangling when we need to fix the economy.

Q5.   After securing almost £14 million in my towns fund bid for Cheadle, I was delighted last week to get the green light for our new Cheadle rail station and £4 million for our state of the art eco-business park. I have had tremendous support from the Cheadle towns fund board and local community, who understand how important it is to have connected towns and villages, bringing investment and high-tech jobs to our area. I am ambitious for Cheadle and I want to secure the redoubling of the Mid-Cheshire line and the extension of Metrolink through my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend join me in thanking the towns fund board and station working group for their support and agree with me that improving connectivity is key to economic growth and the future of our levelling-up agenda? (901102)

It is thanks to the massive exertions of this Government in levelling up, with the £650 billion investment in infrastructure, that we have a new railway station in Cheadle. I know that the bids that my hon. Friend has just mentioned are now being actively studied by those at the Department for Transport, and she should feed in more to them.

In a recent opinion poll, conducted by LucidTalk for Queen’s University, only 5% of the people of Northern Ireland expressed any trust whatsoever in this Government. As the Prime Minister prepares to leave office shortly, will he apologise for his legacy in Northern Ireland, where power sharing has collapsed, the Good Friday agreement has been undermined, an unwanted protocol Bill has been imposed on the people and businesses of Northern Ireland, and Anglo-Irish relations are in their worst state for 40 years?

Well, no, Mr Speaker. What we have—and I know that every single one of the candidates will want to deliver this—is a Bill to fix the problem of the protocol. I accept that there is a problem, and I hope that the whole House will support the Bill.

Q6.   As this is probably the last time that I will get to address this Prime Minister at the Dispatch Box, may I say on behalf of the people of Redcar and Cleveland how grateful we are for the support that he has given us and for delivering on the will of 17.4 million people in taking us out of the EU? Is he as optimistic as I am about our future as a free and independent nation? (901103)

I say to my hon. Friend that, if anything, I am even more optimistic. I have only one anxiety. We all know that there are people around the world who hope that this will be the end of Brexit. [Interruption.] I can see them all! Look at them! Did my hon. Friend notice those on the Labour Front Bench? That is them. They are wrong, Mr Speaker, and we will show that they are wrong.

Q3. If the UK truly is a voluntary Union of equal nations, there must be a democratic way for any of those member nations to withdraw from it. Does the Prime Minister think that the role of the UK Government is to decide whether to respect the mandate given by the people of Scotland to their Government and endorsed by their Parliament? (901100)

As I continually advise the members of the Scottish National party—or nationalist party, I should say—they should look at what is happening to educational standards in Scotland, which they are responsible for, instead of endlessly asking for a repeat of a constitutional event that we had in 2014. We had a vote, and they lost.

Q7. The Prime Minister knows how proud we are of our industrial heritage in the north of England and what it means for our future. Last Friday, it was a joy to be on the banks of the Ribble with the friends of the Old Tram Bridge—a group who are asking for this historic piece of industrial architecture that crosses the Ribble to be reopened, both for utility and because we are bloody proud of it. Does the Prime Minister share my hope that Preston City Council will include the plans to get the bridge reopened as part of its levelling-up fund bid? (901104)

It is possibly fair to say that I am responsible for building more river crossings and bridges than anybody else in this House, including the Suggitts Lane crossing, which I delivered for my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers). At this stage in my political career, I could not in all honesty promise that I will deliver this bridge, but my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher) has eight people to whom she can direct that request right now, and she is in a strong bargaining position.

Q4. Diolch yn fawr iawn, Lefarydd. Child poverty has increased in every part of Wales in the past seven years under Tory cuts to public services and malign welfare policies. In the communities I represent, 37% of children are now growing up in poverty. The Prime Minister has one last chance to make a real difference to those children’s lives before he leaves office. Will he scrap the two-child limit and reinstate the £20 uplift for all families entitled to welfare? (901101)

Of course the Labour Government in Wales is responsible for schools, but what we have been doing is not only increasing the living wage by £1,000 and providing the £37 billion-worth of financial support that I mentioned, but helping councils with a £1.5 billion household support fund to get families such as those the right hon. Lady mentions through the tough times. We will come out very strongly the other side.