The Prime Minister was asked—
The UK will continue to work to end the bloodshed in Sudan and to support a democratic Government. We have begun a large-scale evacuation of British nationals, and I pay tribute to all those carrying out this complex operation.
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.
Yesterday, the Opposition grabbed a crude headline about teaching boys to have respect for women—an important issue, as I am sure the Prime Minister will agree—but given that the Leader of the Opposition apparently does not know what a woman is, that he will not stand up to defend women in his own party who voice views on women’s rights and that, according to his own Front Bench, he failed to prosecute rapists when he was Director of Public Prosecutions, does my right hon. Friend think the Labour party is in any position to teach anyone about respect for women? And is irony dead?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Leader of the Opposition’s record on women is questionable at best. Before Labour starts preaching about this issue, it should work out the answer to one very simple question. I am certain what a woman is. Is he?
I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the brave British personnel involved in the evacuation effort from Sudan. The Government must do everything in their power to urgently evacuate UK nationals still trapped in Sudan.
Yesterday, George Osborne said that the Tory party’s handling of the economy makes them “vandals”. He is right, isn’t he?
While we are in the business of quoting former Chancellors and shadow Chancellors, I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition saw yesterday’s remarks by a former Labour shadow Chancellor, who said that our country has faced four once-in-a-century shocks or threats to our economy, and that the fact we have come through that is “a triumph”.
The former Chancellor not only said that they are a bunch of Tory vandals but that the country has faced a “self-induced financial crisis”. That is those vandals. They like to pretend it was all just one week of madness last autumn, but the truth is that it has been 13 years of failure. Real wages—the money in people’s pockets—have fallen by £1,600 per household, and the Prime Minister’s response was to impose 24 Tory tax rises in three years. How on earth does he think his low-growth, high-tax economy is working for working people?
Because of the action we have taken on the national living wage, which is at record levels, on pensions, on universal credit and on yesterday’s generous cost of living payments, almost 8 million households are receiving direct support from this Conservative Government. We are supporting working people. Just this week, in the other place, we have seen the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s party side with protesters and picketers. He should try backing working people.
Because of the actions we have taken—[Interruption.] Well, let us just go over it. A single mother working full time on the national living wage this year will get £1,300 more support from this Government. A working couple on a low income with two children will get £1,800. That is what delivering for working Britain looks like. But if the right hon. and learned Gentleman has any actual ideas for the economy, he should say so, because all I hear from the party opposite is more spending, more borrowing, higher inflation and higher interest rates. It is the same old Labour party.
This is Mr 24 Tax Rises; I have never heard anything so out of touch as the answer that he has just given. It is not just about his refusal to take any responsibility for the damage the Conservatives have done through the crashed economy and the hit to living standards; it is also that he refuses to take the action that is needed. He could stop the handouts he is giving to oil and gas giants. He could scrap his beloved non-dom status. He could put that money back in the hands of working people and get the NHS back on its feet. That is what a Labour Government would do. Why doesn’t he do it?
The record is clear. Look at it right now: record numbers of people in work, inequality lower, the number of people in poverty lower, and the lowest numbers on record for those in low pay.[Official Report, 27 April 2023, Vol. 731, c. 8MC.] The right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about this non-dom thing. I think he has already spent the money that he claims he would raise on five different things, because it is the same old Labour party: they are always running out of other people’s money. [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister calls it “this non-dom thing”. Let us be honest about what his refusal to scrap the non-dom status means. It means that at every possible opportunity he has voted to put taxes up on working people, while at the same time taking every possible opportunity to protect a tax avoidance scheme that helps his own finances. Why is the Prime Minister telling people across the country that their taxes must go up so that his can stay low?
The facts are these: the very wealthiest pay more tax and the poorest pay less tax today than they did in any year under the last Labour Government, and we have also boosted the national living wage, universal credit and pensions. Let us look at the rank hypocrisy of it. As we saw last week, when it comes to the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s own special pension scheme—I said it last week, but I will say it again—it is literally one law for him and a tax rise for everybody else.
Here is the difference: I would scrap the Prime Minister’s pension giveaway whether it affected me or not. He refuses to scrap the non-dom status that benefits him and his family. I can see why he is attracted to “this non-dom thing”. This Prime Minister is so removed from the country that he boasted that he did not know a single working-class person, so insulated from reality that he proudly told a Tory garden party how he had moved money from poorer areas and handed it to rich ones, and so out of touch that he looks at a petrol pump and a debit card like they have just arrived from Mars. Is it any wonder that he smiles his way through the cost of living crisis while putting other people’s taxes up? Is it any wonder that he doesn’t have a clue how food prices are hammering families across the country? And is it any wonder that under him people are paying more and more, and getting less and less?
Let us look at what has happened just this week to see where Labour Members have put themselves. On Monday, in the other place, they decided to side with extremist protesters. Just yesterday, they sided with polluters—[Interruption.] And tonight, we will see them siding with the people smugglers. Meanwhile, we are in the business of sending back the 1,000 illegal migrants from Albania, we delivered cost of living payments to millions of households just yesterday, and today we have announced that we have put 20,000 more police officers on the street. We are siding with the British people, Mr Speaker. That is what a Conservative Government do.
I commend my hon. Friend for his campaigning on this issue. I know that there have been a number of proposals for road improvements in his area. He will know that it is for the local highway authority to develop those plans, but I know that a meeting is planned in June to move proposals forward and that he will take his energy and enthusiasm for his campaign to that meeting. I wish him well.
As I outlined earlier, our priority in Sudan first and foremost was to evacuate our diplomats and their families, and I am pleased to say that we were one of the first countries to be able to do so. Since yesterday, we have been conducting a large-scale evacuation of British nationals. We have some of the largest numbers of British nationals on the ground and, rightly, as I am sure the whole House will agree, it is reasonable, legal and fair to prioritise the most vulnerable families, particularly those with elderly people, people with medical conditions and children. That is what we are in the process of doing, and I pay tribute to all those who are making it possible.
To be clear, and I think everyone in the House is aware of this, children in Sudan are already dying. Whether it is a Tory slogan to stop the boats or a Labour slogan to stop small boats, we need more humanity in this debate, rather than the race to the bottom that we see here today. Now that the Prime Minister has confirmed that there is no safe and legal route, will he confirm that it would therefore be his Government’s intention to detain and deport a child refugee who flees Sudan and comes to the United Kingdom?
In fact, because of the efforts of our aid teams, we have invested almost £250 million in humanitarian support in Sudan over the past five years. The hon. Gentleman always does this, but this country has a proud record of compassionately supporting those who need our assistance. Just over the past few years, we have welcomed almost half a million vulnerable people to our country, including many children. We want to make sure that we continue with that compassion, which is why it is precisely right that we make sure that our system is not exploited by those coming here illegally, and that is what our Bill will deliver.
My hon. Friend is right to point out the hypocrisy of the local Liberal Democrats on that and to highlight the issue locally. The new infrastructure levy gives local areas the power to deliver the local infrastructure that he supports and wants for his area. He is also absolutely right to point out the importance of a local plan. Having a local plan is precisely what gives communities the power to ensure that development in their area happens the way they want it to, and the council is failing in its duty to do that for its communities by not putting forward the local plan.
Incredibly, any traveller wanting to go by train from north to south Wales has to go via England. Linking Wales north to south would cost £2 billion. The Prime Minister talks about running away with other people’s money, but his Government are depriving Wales to the tune of £6 billion by ruling that north-south England rail links such as HS2 somehow benefit Wales. Will he plead guilty to the great Welsh train robbery?
The right hon. Lady knows how transport matters are handled in Wales. We always want to work co-operatively with the Welsh Government to see where we can deliver jointly for people in Wales. We are actually investing record sums in communities up and down Wales through the levelling-up fund and the community ownership fund. We are happy to continue those conversations and many of those are transport projects. Hopefully, she will join me in saying that what the people of Wales do not need is the Labour Welsh Government’s plan to ban all building of new roads.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. I of course recognise the valuable work that all colleges do in meeting local skills needs, and very much welcome local community groups working together to address gaps, as her local area is doing. My understanding is that my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary is in discussions with the college, and I know that my hon. Friend will continue making representations to her.
I am incredibly sorry to hear about the tragic loss of Ian’s daughter. Of course we should do everything we can to improve road safety. I know that at the moment we are doing an enormous amount, and the statistics show that it is improving, but we are always happy to look at where we can do more, and I know that the Transport Secretary will look into the suggestions the hon. Gentleman raises.
The hon. Gentleman raises exactly why we need to take action, because it is not right that our local hotels in all our communities are being used to such a degree to house illegal asylum seekers, not least because it is costing the British taxpayer something like £5.5 million or £6 million a day. We want to put an end to that, which is why we are bringing forward legislation that will enable us to swiftly detain and send back those who should not be here. But I will make sure that he gets a meeting with the Immigration Minister as he needs.
As I have said previously, we absolutely do not want anyone to have to rely on a food bank but, while there are people who do use them, I am very grateful to all those who volunteer their time to make sure they are provided in their local communities. We have put substantial provision in place, not least the infant free school meals and broader free school meals, which are helping almost 2 million children, but also, last year, the investment in the holiday activity and food programme, which provides not just food but activities outside term time. We will continue to do everything we can to help those in low pay, which is why we are raising the national living wage to record levels, and I am pleased to say that the number of those living in poverty today is 2 million lower than when we first came into office.
I commend my hon. Friend for her work in this area. I absolutely recognise the concern that she raises, both on the environmental impact of disposable vapes and on their appeal to children. The Department of Health and Social Care has announced a call for evidence to look at reducing youth vaping, including on vape appearance, flavours and marketing. We have also been clear that all electrical waste should be disposed of properly, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is looking actively at what changes in legislation might be needed to ensure that the vaping sector foots the bill for the collection and treatment of its used products.
I am not aware of the specific allegations that the hon. Lady brings to light, but in general we should treat everybody with respect, understanding and compassion, and people should be allowed to gather and associate freely, within the bounds of the law. But, as we have said, it is important that the material that children are exposed to in classrooms is sensitive and age-appropriate, and that is why we are currently reviewing the relationships, sex and health education guidance.
I join my hon. Friend in his comments. Coincidentally, one of the first gifts that I gave President Zelensky was an old copy of “Henry V”, so my hon. Friend’s comments are well made. We are training and arming the Ukrainian forces with the equipment that they need to push back Russian forces. I know that the whole House will join me in saying that the people of Ukraine’s incredible strength and inspiring bravery will ultimately defeat tyranny.
No, what I think our focus should now be on doing, while of course understanding our history in all its parts and not running away from it, is making sure that we have a society that is inclusive and tolerant of people from all backgrounds. That is something that we on the Government Benches are committed to doing and will continue to deliver, but trying to unpick our history is not the right way forward and is not something we will focus our energies on.
It is vital that people can access the NHS services they need, and particularly emergency care, which is why we are investing an extra £1 billion of dedicated funding to support urgent and emergency care services. My hon. Friend will know that specific provision is a matter for local NHS commissioners and providers, because plans for those things need to be developed locally and take into account the expanding needs of local populations. I know that my hon. Friend will continue to engage with his local NHS trust to ensure that the views of his constituents and communities are well known and adequately provided for.
We are doing an enormous amount to support those who most need our help with the cost of living and some of the pressures that they face on energy bills in particular. That is why we made the decision to tax the windfall profits of energy companies and use that money to help pay around half a typical family’s energy bills. That support is worth £1,500 and applies across the United Kingdom. On top of that, direct payments are going to the most vulnerable families in our society. Just yesterday the first of three payments went out, and that £300 went to one in three households, including many in Scotland. That is our Conservative Government delivering for the people of Scotland and making sure that they have the help they need to manage some of the pressures they are facing.
In Yorkshire, we say that a person should be judged by the company they keep. What is the Prime Minister’s view of an individual who can not only bear to spend more than 10 minutes in the presence of Vladimir Putin but refers to him as a “dear friend”?
I think our views on President Putin are well known. His illegal war in Ukraine has caused untold misery for many people. It has caused a humanitarian crisis and is still ongoing, in defiance of international condemnation and sanction. We will do everything we can to bring those responsible for war crimes to justice, continue to support Ukraine militarily, and make sure that we can support Ukrainians all the way to victory. I know the whole House is united in wanting that outcome.
There is rare agreement between the right hon. Gentleman and myself: I am a wholehearted champion of and believer in the role that community pharmacies can play. We want to make sure that they can do everything they can to ease some of the pressures in primary care. We are actively talking to the sector about that and will always continue to do everything we can to support community pharmacies. I know at first hand how respected they are in their communities, and I think they can do more for us over time.
After a 15-year break, Wrexham association football club is back in the English football league. Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating everyone at the club, including the loyal supporters and the owners, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, and does he agree that Wrexham is no longer a neglected place but is quickly becoming a jewel in the crown of the United Kingdom?
I join my hon. Friend in congratulating everyone at Wrexham, from the owners to the players, the supporters and everyone in the community. It has been an incredible ride; we have all enjoyed watching them, and we wish them every future success. I join her in saying that they are indeed a jewel in the crown, and she deserves enormous credit for championing them in this place.
When formal complaints were made, I rightly initiated an independent investigation, and as soon as it reported, action was taken. That is the right thing to do—to follow due process, and then let the process play out—but I do think it is somewhat odd to be getting lectures on values right now from the SNP.