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Commons Chamber

Volume 734: debated on Wednesday 14 June 2023

House of Commons

Wednesday 14 June 2023

The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Business before Questions

New Writs


That the Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a New Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the County Constituency of Selby and Ainsty in the room of Nigel Adams, who since his election for the said County Constituency has been appointed to the Office of Steward and Bailiff of His Majesty’s Manor of Northstead in the County of York.—(Simon Hart.)


That the Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a New Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough Constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in the room of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who since his election for the said Borough Constituency has been appointed to the Office of Steward and Bailiff of His Majesty’s Three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham in the County of Buckingham.—(Simon Hart.)

Oral Answers to Questions

Science, Innovation and Technology

The Secretary of State was asked—

Technology Sector: Skills Shortages

1. What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to help tackle skills shortages in the technology sector. (905382)

We know that digital skills are a vital building block for developing the workforce of the future, so we are working across Government with educators and employers to grow the pipeline of individuals entering the digital sector. Steps that we have taken include the launch of the Government and industry Digital Skills Council, the introduction of artificial intelligence and data science conversion courses with the Department for Education and the creation of new visa routes with the Home Office to attract international tech talent. We worked with the Department for Education on the launch of skills bootcamps in England and the Government will be investing up to £150 million in the programme, with free, flexible courses lasting up to 16 weeks in subjects such as software engineering, with a guaranteed job interview at the end.

In contrast to what the Minister says, more than £600 million of apprenticeship levy funding has been returned to the Treasury in the last year alone, enough to have funded more than 60,000 new apprenticeships. Labour will reform the system to create a growth and skills levy that can be used on a much wider range of training that businesses say they need. Will the Government address the chronic shortage of skills, match Labour’s ambition and give tech businesses what they need to thrive?

I gave a long answer the first time, so I can give a shorter one this time. We are already acting in that space. On the apprenticeship levy, we always work with employers and supply chains throughout this country to ensure it works as effectively as possible for what businesses need.

The submarine programme in Barrow will deliver thousands of jobs and generations of work, but we are struggling to grow our own. We have Furness STEM and UlverSTEM, which do good work, but this is an international endeavour with AUKUS and a national endeavour with Dreadnought. What discussions has the Minister had across Government about how we lean in to that skills challenge?

My hon. Friend is right to champion Barrow’s industry. We talk regularly with the Department for Education, colleagues from the Department for Work and Pensions, tech sectors and academia to ensure we get it right. We must remember that domestic and international talent are so important in this space.

Regional Innovation

To support innovation across the whole of the UK, a central pillar of our innovation nation mission, the UK Government are investing £52 billion in public research and development over these next three years. We have made a groundbreaking commitment in the levelling up White Paper to increase the percentage of Government R&D outside of the greater south-east, which is, of course, home to some of our historic research institutes, by 40%. We have an active programme—through the Catapults, the innovation accelerators and cluster support—all around the UK to that end.

Innovation is in the DNA of the businesses in my constituency, including Surespan, a leading manufacturer of roof access hatches, and Phoenix Tooling and Development—after all, our region was the birthplace of the industrial revolution. I support the Government’s levelling-up mission, but will the Minister bring forward individual regional targets for rebalancing research and development funding, as recommended by a House of Lords Committee report?

Let me first pay tribute to Surespan and Phoenix. Two weeks ago, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I were in Coventry in the west midlands with the Chancellor, and I have been working closely with Mayor Andy Street on his excellent programmes. We have an advanced manufacturing Catapult in the west midlands. Coventry and Warwick are rapidly becoming world-recognised centres in a whole raft of materials and in robotics. We are working on the Birmingham innovation district, and we have put one of our three innovation accelerators—£30 million—into the west midlands. My right hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton) makes an important point, though, about regional R&D clusters; that is public and private sector money. We will set out this autumn our digital cluster map showing all the private and public funding, and how we intend to increase it by region.

The Government recently launched a call for space infrastructure projects, and West Lindsey District Council has proposed plans to work with the Satellite Applications Catapult, which the Minister mentioned, at RAF Scampton, as part of a £300 million levelling-up deal. What is the logic of one part of Government talking about levelling up and innovation and another part talking about putting a migrant camp in the middle of it, preventing all that infrastructure?

My right hon. Friend will appreciate that, as the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, I cannot comment on Home Office plans to deal with refugees, but I can pay tribute to the work of Scampton Holdings Ltd and the very innovative proposal for the regeneration of that site with a whole raft of facilities, including in innovation support. I very much look forward to coming up in due course, once the refugee issue is sorted, to support him in taking that forward.

Metro Mayors have an important role to play in driving innovation in the regions. Can the Minister give an assurance that he will work closely with them?

Yes, I am absolutely delighted to do so. The Metro Mayors are key parts of our innovation ecosystem, and the three innovation accelerators that have we put in place are fundamentally co-created and led from the bottom up in Glasgow, Manchester and the west midlands. I am actively reaching out to work with the Metro Mayors, as well as with devolved Science Ministers, on extending our science investment to unify all regions of this country and strengthen those urban economies.

But the problem is that in my constituency in the Yorkshire coalfield, there are 20 times fewer people employed in science and technology innovation than in Cambridge. We can be proud of what Cambridge has achieved, but why should areas such as mine be so left behind? There is no economic reason why the golden triangle between Greater London, Cambridge and Oxford should be preferred over the rest of the country, so is it pure politics?

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman could not be more wrong; it is quite the opposite. The truth is that the Oxford-Cambridge-London triangle is golden for a reason: it is home to two of the world’s top three universities and five of top 15. Our central mission is to ensure that we grow an R&D economy all around the country that nurtures and invests in research, including a fantastic cluster in Yorkshire: the Yorkshire bioeconomy, advanced manufacturing in Sheffield, and Doncaster. We are investing in all that, but one does not create the Oxford-Cambridge triangle overnight; it requires us to invest with local leaders, as they are doing across the north-east in County Durham and Northumbria, in the innovative companies of tomorrow. This is a historic moment for the former coalfields.

I declare an interest as the chair of the all-party group on photonics and quantum. The Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics at the University of Strathclyde has played a leading role in the industrial strategy challenge fund, collaborating with more companies and projects than any other organisation, and it has been praised as a key strength in the national quantum strategy. The centre is supported by the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise, but despite its being established at the UK Government’s invitation, the UK Government have provided no core funding. What discussion has the Minister had with Treasury colleagues on providing that core funding to a vital part of the quantum technology landscape?

I have to say, that is a bit rich given that the incredible strength of Scottish science and research is built largely on long-term UK block funding across life sciences and other areas. As I said, I have just been in Glasgow, where we put one of our three innovation accelerators. That has been transformational, particularly in quantum, where we have set out our plans for the £2.5 billion quantum strategy. It is just not fair or true to say that the UK Government are not investing in the Glasgow cluster; we are, and it is transformational.

Broadband: Social Tariffs

The Government recognise that this is a difficult time for families across the country who may be struggling with their bills. Social tariffs are already offered by 21 broadband providers, covering 99% of the UK. We continue to urge the providers that do not yet do so to bring forward offers to support low-income households.

My North Shropshire constituents eagerly anticipate the roll-out of Project Gigabit, for which a contract has been awarded, but obviously not everybody in a rural area is well off, and broadband is an essential part of daily life. Will the Minister explain what steps he will take to ensure that that provider will offer social tariffs to my constituents?

As I say, the vast majority of providers offer social tariffs already. I am not sure what the broadband provider the hon. Lady refers to will be, but we will certainly look at that. We will also do our best to encourage take-up, because while that has increased fourfold since January 2022, we recognise that a lot of people who are eligible have not yet taken advantage of these schemes.

Oh, thank you, Mr Speaker.

But this is not just about social tariffs, is it? It is also about when the whole broadband system goes down. Recently there was a break in the broadband circuits in Lichfield and no offer was made to any subscribers for any form of compensation. What is my right hon. Friend’s view on that?

There are schemes that will ensure that if there is a lengthy take-out of provision, compensation will be available. I am very happy to look at the specific example of what happened in my hon. Friend’s constituency and to advise customers there what is available to them.

Artificial Intelligence Regulation

Our White Paper was clear that we will regulate AI through a flexible framework underpinned by five important principles. That proportionate and adaptable approach has been welcomed by British business and will include new risk monitoring functions to ensure that the UK leads the world in AI safety, as well as anticipating the introduction of a statutory duty on regulators in time. We would welcome hon. Members’ views on that consultation.

In terms of risk, I am sure that the Minister will be concerned that Snapchat’s My AI chatbot recently encouraged a journalist who was posing as a 13-year-old girl to meet up with a 35-year-old man, suggesting ways to hide the meeting from parents, gave tips on hiding bruises from social workers and gave sex tips to a supposedly 13-year-old boy who was proposing to meet an older woman. What specifically are the Government doing to beef up online safety regulation to protect children from the emerging risk of AI?

I am concerned to hear the examples that the hon. Member gives. That is exactly why this House and the other place have spent considerable time going over the provisions in the Online Safety Bill, which goes to the heart of the issues that he raises and includes AI in its scope.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that when it comes to AI regulation, two things are important? The first is that there is a significant international dimension, and I congratulate her and the Prime Minister on what they have already achieved in setting out this country’s stall to be a global leader in AI regulation. Secondly, does she agree that the lesson to be learned from the Online Safety Bill, which she mentioned, is that we must regulate swiftly, rather than waiting for the technology to develop and attempting to retrofit the regulation on to the technology?

I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend’s contribution—he knows a great deal about these matters. First, I acknowledge his welcome for the approach we will be taking internationally. It is exactly right that the UK can and should lead in this space, as the Prime Minister has set out, and that is what we will do with our global summit on AI safety. Secondly, on his point about the Online Safety Bill, I can understand his argument, but in this context I would draw the House’s attention to the distinction between regulation and legislation. We intend to use our existing and established regulators to make sure that we have a flexible and adaptable approach to AI.

The rapid growth of AI has the potential to revolutionise the economy and our public services, but with no industrial strategy to speak of and their White Paper already out of date, this Government are behind the curve and risk leaving our workforces behind as AI becomes more prevalent. Exactly what is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that nobody is left behind, and that workers are trained in the digital skills needed to gain high-quality jobs that harness AI’s potential and opportunities?

I think the hon. Lady is on the wrong track here. I must say that I have not seen any substance to Labour’s approach in this field either, which perhaps will not come as a surprise—no doubt it will be covered more in 10 minutes’ time. What I would say is that we are taking the approach of ensuring that we do have the skills of the future: for example, we are investing £30 million in conversion courses to enable people from disadvantaged backgrounds to come into AI, so that they can be part of the technologies of the future, and there is a great deal more besides.

Brexit: Science and Technology Sector

5. What assessment she has made of the potential impact of the UK's departure from the EU on the science and technology sector. (905386)

Over the past six or seven years since 2016, this country has seen extraordinary growth in investment in our science and technology sector. Members do not need to take it from me: they can take it from those who track the investment. The UK has nearly 20 times more venture capital than its level of funding in 2011, and I am delighted to say that a majority of that—the fastest growth—is around the country. The east midlands and Northern Ireland have seen the sharpest increases in investment in the past four years, with growth in the east midlands topping at 300%. Something extraordinary is going on in this economy, and far from using Brexit as an opportunity to talk the country down, we intend to use it as an opportunity to lead in the smart regulation of the economies and sectors of tomorrow.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but the UK Government are pushing for a discount on membership in the Horizon programme, arguing that UK researchers have been disadvantaged by two years outside that programme. Does that not amount to the Conservative party openly admitting that cutting the UK off from Europe was damaging, and that we must return as a matter of urgency to European projects such as Horizon?

To be very clear, we negotiated membership of Horizon, Copernicus and Euratom specifically in our Brexit deal—it was the EU that held us out. Secondly, while we have been waiting, we have deployed over £1 billion of extra funding here in the UK to support our sector, and now that the Prime Minister has secured the Windsor framework, the negotiations are actively going on. I know that the Secretary of State will want to say something about that later. We intend to collaborate deeply with Europe and use our regulatory freedoms in the new sectors of tomorrow.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is as important to the EU as it is to the UK to have good science co-operation, and that the benefits of our wonderful companies such as Johnson Matthey in Royston and the big companies we have in Stevenage demonstrate the importance of international co-operation in business? That should happen in universities as well. It is for the EU as well as us.

My right hon. and learned Friend makes an important point. One of the attractions of Horizon is that we get back most of what we put in, and it funds research collaborations across our system, but the negotiations are important. We have been out of the system for two years; we need to get a fair deal, as the Prime Minister has made clear, and to make sure that the UK is not paying for stuff that it has not been able to access over the past two and a half years. I am sure that His Majesty’s Treasury is well equipped to have that negotiation on our behalf.

It is now 127 weeks of uncertainty, delay and broken promises since the Conservatives took us out of the world’s biggest and most prestigious science fund, Horizon Europe. Our scientists, universities and businesses have paid the price in lost jobs and investment, so will the Minister confirm or deny the reports that negotiations to rejoin Horizon have stalled because his Government are pushing for a reduced fee to reflect what they believe is a lasting reduction in grants won by UK scientists? If they have permanently damaged our success rate, should the Minister not be trying to fix that, rather than claim a discount?

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave a few moments ago. We have negotiated access to Horizon—it was the EU that kept us out. The Prime Minister has unblocked that through the Windsor framework. We have invested substantially through the funding guarantee for all Horizon programmes and through £850 million-odd of additional UK expenditure. We have also increased UK research and development to record levels. We will be at £52 billion by the end of this three years. There is no cutting of UK R&D as a result of this issue. We are actively negotiating to make sure that we get a good deal.

Topical Questions

I have been playing an active part in London Tech Week talking to Britain’s boldest businesses. We have launched our £1 billion strategy to support our semiconductor sector. We have launched our cutting-edge life sciences sector package. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell) who we recently appointed as our rural connectivity champion. May I also update the House in relation to our international leadership that I have been chairing the global forum on technology at the OECD?

Copyright protections are fundamental to the success of the UK’s world-leading creative industries. However, creatives are routinely seeing their content being used to train artificial intelligence platforms without giving their permission and without receiving payment. Does the Secretary of State believe that AI developers’ ingestion of creative content that is protected by copyright without obtaining a licence is infringement under UK law?

The hon. Lady raises an important matter, on which my Department and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are working closely together. Can I draw her attention to information that I know my right hon. and learned Friend the Culture Secretary will be bringing forward shortly? I reassure the hon. Lady that intellectual property is at the heart of our approach to support the creative industries in this country.

T7. The data Bill’s smart data clauses give us a chance to duplicate Britain’s global lead in open banking in other sectors of the economy, too, but developers cannot start work until they know which sectors will be enabled and in what order. Will my right hon. Friend release an implementation timetable immediately, showing which industries will introduce what and when, to unlock the tidal wave of investment that is waiting to get started and so that we do not get leapfrogged by international rivals? (905403)

First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he has done to promote the use of smart data across the economy. The Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business, my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) is working with Departments, regulators and industry to agree common principles for future smart data schemes in different sectors. Individual Departments will set out when and how they will use the powers, following appropriate consultation and impact assessments.

Does the Secretary of State agree with the Prime Minister that her AI White Paper is now defunct? Also, the data Bill does not even mention AI. The Online Safety Bill is hardly an advert for speedy action and the semiconductor strategy was slammed by an expert as “quite frankly flaccid”. Does she accept that to show international leadership, the Government need to get their act together at home?

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out this week at London Tech Week, we will be leading at home and overseas and leading change in our public services. That is the right approach. It is pro-innovation. We will capture those benefits for British businesses and British citizens, and I think that the Opposition could do an awful lot better than what they have just presented.

On 30 December 2020, during the pandemic, the then Prime Minister met the vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford and promised £150 million in funding for the university’s pandemic sciences institute. In evidence to the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee this morning, the institute’s director Sir Peter Horby said that not a penny of that money has been received. Will the Secretary of State meet me to see how we can unblock that so that this vital work continues?

T3. This London Tech Week, I pay tribute to King’s Maths School in my constituency, which provides tutoring for 16 to 19-year-olds. The Government promised £300 million for mathematical research in 2020, but now, despite that, they are abandoning the commitment. When does the Minister expect Britain to stay competitive and when can the Government guarantee that funding? (905399)

As the Prime Minister has made clear, we are putting maths at the heart of our curriculum. I am ensuring that maths is properly funded to our research ecosystem. I will happily meet the hon. Member and talk to her about it.

Britain is rightly regarded as a technological and science superpower, but the foundations of our science and technology are technicians and their work and contribution. What more can my hon. Friend do to give them more recognition, more status and, even, more funding to carry on the work they do?

My hon. Friend has a formidable reputation himself in championing, and from having worked in, that area. We are increasing investment in further education and skills by £3.8 billion over the course of this Parliament, because we need technicians to access high-quality training.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


I know the whole House will want to thank the emergency services for their ongoing response to the shocking incident in Nottingham yesterday. Our thoughts are with those injured and with the families of those who lost their lives. Today is also the sixth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire. We remember the 72 people who lost their lives, and remain as committed as ever to ensuring that such a tragedy can never happen again.

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.

May I associate myself with the words of the Prime Minister? Our hearts are with the city of Nottingham. We also remember the 72 people killed at Grenfell and support those still fighting for justice and safe homes.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in January food prices were rising at 16.8% a year. The most recent figures show food prices rising by a whopping 19.1%, making a mockery of the Prime Minister’s pledge to halve inflation. Does he honestly think that people will not notice?

Of course, I acknowledge that the cost of living is rising for families, and that is why my first priority at the beginning of the year is to halve inflation. I am pleased to say that inflation is now falling, and in the latest estimates we remain on track. With regard to food prices, we are not alone in experiencing high food price inflation, like many other countries in Europe. That is why the Chancellor has already spoken to the Competition and Markets Authority, which is looking at the grocery industry. We continue to support families with the cost of living, notably by paying half their energy bills.

Q4. It is a fact that Labour has never left government with unemployment lower than when it came in. Figures released yesterday show that there are now 4 million more people in work than when Labour was last in power. Does the Prime Minister agree that the security of a good job will always be better than Labour’s dependency culture? (905408)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to point out Labour’s poor record on jobs. Yesterday’s figures showed that the UK economy is resilient, with the number of people in employment now at a record level. We are by no means complacent, but the inactivity rate continues to fall and the unemployment rate remains at historically low levels. That is a Conservative Government delivering for our country.

I join with the Prime Minister in his comments about the terrible attack in Nottingham yesterday, and in tribute to the work of our emergency services. The thoughts of the whole House are with the victims and the people of that great city. I also join him in remembering the 72 people who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire. The victims and their families are always in our hearts, but six years on, the justice they are fighting for is long overdue.

All across the country, people are worried about their bills, the price of the weekly shop and the spiralling mortgage rates, so why has the Tory party spent this last week arguing over which of them gets a peerage?

My points on this are very clear. In line with a long-established convention of previous Prime Ministers having the ability to submit honours, I followed a process to the letter, in convention with long-standing process. It is, by the way, a long-standing convention that Prime Ministers on both sides of this House have followed in the same way that I did.

The truth is that for all his tough talk after the event, the Prime Minister did sign off the honours list. That means that those who threw a Downing Street party the night before the late Queen sat alone at her husband’s funeral will now receive awards from the King. If the Prime Minister is so tough, why didn’t he block it?

As I said, I and the Government followed due process and convention. Prime Ministers of both parties have always upheld the convention of non-interference on political honours. My predecessors may not have agreed with Labour’s choices of Tom Watson or Shami Chakrabarti, but the same precedent stood then as it does now. I would expect a knight like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to understand that.

Order. I think we will have more if we carry on—it will be outside rather than in here. I call Keir Starmer.

Honours should be for public service, not Tory cronies. Is it not the case that the Prime Minister was too weak to block Johnson’s list? That also means that those who spent their time helping to cover up Johnson’s lawbreaking are rewarded by becoming lawmakers for the rest of their lives. Is his message to the British public, “If you don’t like it, tough”?

It is right that we use the honours system to recognise people—almost 2,000 a year—from members of the England Lionesses to the first Asian police officer in Greater Manchester. The right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about putting people in the House of Lords, so perhaps he could explain why he put forward for a peerage the former Labour MP Tom Watson, who spread vicious conspiracy theories that were totally and utterly untrue, damaged public discourse, and inflicted misery on innocent people.

Order. The Prime Minister should not criticise other Members, and he is not responsible for the other parties. The Prime Minister is answering, not asking, the questions—[Interruption.] Order. Does somebody want to challenge my decision?

I call Keir Starmer.

The truth is that the country is paying the price of this endless cycle of chaos and distraction. The Tory economic crash means that millions of mortgage holders will pay thousands of pounds more next year, and the blame lies squarely at the door of a Government who are more focused on the internal wars of the Tory party than the needs of the country. Does the Prime Minister not think that those responsible should hang their heads in shame?

As I said right at the beginning of the session, our No.1 economic priority is to reduce inflation so that we can restrain the increase in interest rates. One thing we know we need to do is to reduce our borrowing and debt. That is how we will bring interest and mortgage rates down. Last week what did we see? Labour confusion. The shadow Chancellor attempted to water down Labour’s plans to borrow £28 billion more a year, and she was promptly overruled by the shadow Energy Secretary, the former Leader of the Labour party, who said that Labour was “100% not abandoning” its pledge. It really looks like Labour’s offer never changes. It is uncontrolled borrowing and more “Chaos with Ed Miliband.”

There is only one party that broke the economy: they are sitting opposite. They cannot fix the problems facing the country because they never take responsibility for the damage they have done. It is not just Johnson but the Prime Minister’s immediate predecessor who hopes to reward those who made her reign such a rip-roaring success. On her honours list are the masterminds of that kamikaze Budget and the economic extremists of the Institute of Economic Affairs—those whose disastrous ideas crashed the economy and left the country to pick up the pieces. Will the Prime Minister block that honours list, or will he buckle to her as well?

If you want disastrous economic ideas, all you have to do is Labour’s economic policy on energy. It is an energy policy that seeks to ban all new British oil and gas drilling, jeopardising 200,000 jobs and our energy security at a time of international conflict. Despots like Putin are the only people who will welcome such a policy. The Leader of the Opposition’s predecessor once said that he wanted British jobs for British workers—his policy is British jobs for Russian workers.

If the Prime Minister spent as much time focused on the economy, the NHS and the asylum system as he does haggling with his predecessors about who gets honours, the country would be in a far better state, but once again he has lost control, and once again it is working people paying the price. If he disagrees with that, why not put it to the test: end the boasting, the excuses and Tory chaos and see if he can finally find somebody—anybody, anywhere—to vote for him, and call a general election now?

The Leader of the Opposition talked about asylum. Just this week, it was the Labour party that voted against plans to tackle illegal migration. Just this week, it was the Labour party that voted against plans to tackle disruptive protests by its eco-zealot funders. We are getting on and delivering for the country. We are delivering record employment and the fastest wage growth in years. It is clear that only the Conservatives are going to deliver for the people of Britain.

Q5.   Crime is down significantly and falling, and police officer numbers are at an all-time high, but the police funding formula remains elderly and out of date. It penalises counties such as mine, Hampshire, to the tune of many millions of pounds. Previous Administrations made the commitment that a new police funding formula would have been in place by the general election. May I invite the Prime Minister to make the same commitment, please? (905409)

We recognise that the current police funding formula no longer accurately reflects demands on policing. That is why a review is carefully considering local factors for each police force. Our priority is to deliver a robust, future-proofed funding formula, but it is important that we take the time to get that right. I know that the Home Office will continue to keep the House updated on our progress.

I echo the sentiments of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in relation to the terrible incident in Nottingham. Our thoughts are also with all those still reeling from the tragedy at Grenfell all these years later.

During the Prime Minister’s ill-fated leadership bid late last summer, he warned of the perils of mortgage rate rises. He stated:

“It’s going to tip millions of people into misery and it’s going to mean we have absolutely no chance of winning the next election”.

Given that mortgage rates continue to rise, does he still agree with his own electoral analysis?

Which is absolutely why our economic policy sets reducing inflation as our No. 1 priority. By the way, interest rates have also risen in pretty much every developed economy around the world; more so in places like America and New Zealand and similarly in other countries like Australia. But in order to reduce inflation, it is important to have control over borrowing, which is why, unlike the SNP, we are disciplined with regard to the public finances.

Those are the issues that we should be focused on. I saw that yesterday the SNP had a meeting to discuss its future, but the only thing it managed to decide was that it should send Nicola Sturgeon some flowers. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us: did he sign the card?

Respectfully, I think the Prime Minister needs to grow up.

There is an elephant in this here Chamber when it comes to the dire economic circumstances facing the UK, and that is Brexit. Those on the Tory Benches do not want to accept it, and the Labour party does not want to talk about it, but whether it is on food prices, energy prices or indeed mortgage prices, households in Scotland are being shafted by Brexit. Will the Prime Minister apologise for the cycle of misery that Westminster has caused?

While the hon. Gentleman’s party leader calls Nicola Sturgeon the most impressive politician in Europe, we are getting on with delivering for the people of Scotland: paying half of their energy bills, making sure pensions rise, making sure there is direct support with the cost of living for those who need it, and, crucially, ensuring that we secure over 200,000 jobs by supporting Scotland’s North sea oil and gas industry—something opposed by his party.

Q7. Lincoln will soon benefit from £20 million of levelling-up funding to deliver a traffic bridge over the railway to stop the city being permanently gridlocked by the Labour city council’s huge western growth corridor housing development. This is truly levelling up for areas of the north in action. Will my right hon. Friend affirm his commitment, for my Lincoln constituents and businesses, that he and his Government will continue to help level up Lincoln and other areas in the north of our great country? (905411)

My hon. Friend is a fantastic advocate for his constituents. I am glad that he and City of Lincoln Council were successful in their £20 million levelling-up fund bid. The scheme will see two new bridges built across the railway line, improving access and reducing congestion. I very much look forward to seeing the plans progress. He and I share an ambition to make sure we level up not just in Lincoln but across the country.

The Leader of the Opposition recently ventured out of London, visiting my constituency to deliver a one nation British Labour vision of Scotland. However, he neglected to mention that he intends to continue London’s plunder of Scotland’s vast energy wealth, just like the Tories; continue the economic vandalism of Brexit, just like the Tories; and deny Scotland’s right to self-determination, just like the Tories. Perhaps the Prime Minister can tell me which London party leader is the greatest threat to Scottish democracy: the Tory to my right or the Tory to my left.

Mr Speaker, I apologise, because I did not hear fully the hon. Gentleman’s question, but from what I could gather, I think he probably agrees with me that the Leader of the Opposition is not the right person to lead our country.

Q9. At a time when so many people are really worried about the cost of living, does the Prime Minister agree that it is completely wrong for Labour to be introducing new ultra low emission zone charges on driving in the London suburbs? (905413)

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this important issue. While we are getting on providing significant support to families with the cost of living, the Labour Mayor of London, to whom transport is devolved, is busily putting it up, imposing the ULEZ charge against the overwhelming views of residents and businesses. It is disappointing that he is not listening to the British public and the public in outer London, but what is more, his plan to raise costs on working families is totally backed by the Leader of the Opposition.

Q2. Prime Minister, new data from the End Child Poverty coalition and Loughborough University shows that your Government’s austerity measures have plunged 4.2 million children into poverty, 70% of them in working households. In Liverpool, Riverside, 42% are living in poverty—that is up 7% since 2015. Will the Prime Minister commit to scrapping the cruel and ineffectual two-child limit, lift 250,000 children out of poverty and meet anti-poverty organisations? (905406)

I gently point out to the hon. Lady that there are, in fact, 400,000 fewer children in absolute poverty than in 2010. We know that work is the best route out of poverty for families, so with employment at record levels, as we saw yesterday, I am pleased that there are now over 600,000 fewer children in workless households than in 2010. The specific policy she raises actually ensures fairness by asking families on benefits to make the same financial decisions as families supporting themselves solely through work.

Q12. Earlier this week, the all-party parliamentary group on coalfield communities published its report, “Next Steps in Levelling Up the Former Coalfields”, which I know the Prime Minister has received a copy of in his inbox. As a proud MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, I am delighted with the funding we have had from the Government through the future high streets fund and the town deal, but there is always more to do. Will he commit to reading our report, carefully considering our recommendations and working out what more we can do to level up coalfield communities across the whole United Kingdom? (905416)

I very much welcome the work of the APPG on coalfield communities and, indeed, the breadth and ambition of its policy contributions. We are committed to levelling up the UK by spreading opportunity more equally across the country and by investing in and empowering places that need it the most, including coalfield communities. I look forward to discussing this with my hon. Friend and to hearing from him further.

Q3. A vulnerable constituent of mine whose finances are held in trust was wrongly billed £4,000 by two energy companies that now no longer exist as a result of the energy market crisis. Energy is one of the most basic services, but there is no charter of rights for consumers. This has still not been resolved. Does the Prime Minister agree that we need such a charter? (905407)

I will happily ensure that the appropriate Minister writes to the hon. Lady with a specific response on her constituent, so that we can try to resolve that issue.

Q15. Recently, the independent regulator of social housing issued a notice against Birmingham City Council for the state of its social housing, with 23,000 homes not meeting the decent homes standard, more than 17,000 not receiving asbestos checks, more than 15,000 not having electrical safety checks and more than 1,000 not having fire risk assessments. Refreshingly, honestly and astonishingly, a leaked Labour memo put the blame at the heart of the Labour group in Birmingham. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is time for serious intervention in Birmingham to ensure that people have decent homes to live in? (905419)

The failings identified in Birmingham are wholly unacceptable. The regulator of social housing has made it clear that Birmingham must take immediate action to address those issues, and it will be monitoring the council’s progress closely. I understand that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has requested a meeting with Birmingham City Council and will be holding it to account.

Q6. Ilke Homes built thousands of modular houses every year in its factory near Leeds. Many of them are completely carbon zero, meaning no bills at all for residents. However, today it is facing the prospect of collapse, putting 4,200 future homes and 1,500 current jobs at risk. Given that the Home Builders Federation says that new housing units could drop to just 120,000 next year, does the Prime Minister now accept that his Government’s scrapping of housing targets was the wrong decision? (905410)

It would not be right for me to comment on the circumstances of any individual company, but I make absolutely no apology for respecting what local communities want in their local areas. While the Labour party may want to ride roughshod over the views of local communities, impose top-down housing targets and carpet over the green belt, that is not something that this Government will do.

As we speak, the Royal Air Force is operating the Hercules farewell flypast over all parts of the UK. For more than 107 years, my constituents at 47 Squadron have defended our country, including by operating the legendary Hercules for more than 50 years. As this amazing squadron stands down, will my right hon. Friend join the whole House in paying tribute to its remarkable record of service? They are all men and women who have made their country proud.

I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to 47 Squadron. Its association with the Hercules now stretches to 45 years. Although its vital work at the heart of defence has often been unheralded, this squadron has served with professionalism and distinction throughout. I think that the whole House will join me in saying that the personnel and crews can be rightly proud, and they have our full thanks.

Q8.   My constituent Sarah has been let down by this Government. Her elderly father, a veteran living with cancer, has developed a serious heart problem and his next appointment was scheduled for November. In a cost of living crisis, my constituent paid for private care, as he cannot wait five months for an appointment. He has now been diagnosed with heart failure.This is the reality of Tory Britain: elderly and sick patients neglected and turned away. The Conservatives have broken the NHS and they have broken Britain. The British public deserve so much better. Only the Labour party can deliver that, so when will the Prime Minister call a general election? (905412)

I am very sorry to hear about Sarah’s father, and I hope that he speedily gets all the treatment he needs.

We are investing record sums in the NHS, and there are also more doctors, more nurses, more diagnostic scans to identify cancers earlier and elective surgical hubs to get the wait lists down. We are starting to see progress, having practically eliminated 18-month waits, but there is more work to do. I am pleased that the NHS is fully supporting our plan and getting on with delivering it for people.

I thank the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care for the recent announcement that Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust can proceed with plans to improve and upgrade St Helier and build a brand-new hospital in Sutton. The NHS trust is further along than other trusts in the cohort, so can the Prime Minister assure me that when the trust is ready to go, the Treasury and the Government will be ready to give it the green light?

I thank my hon. Friend for all his campaigning and focus on this issue for his constituents. We remain committed to the new hospital scheme for Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust. It will deliver brand-new, state-of-the-art facilities as part of our hospital programme. I know that the Department is working closely with the trust to make sure that we can progress work as soon as possible, and we expect the new hospital to be delivered by 2030.

Q10.   Throughout the war in Ukraine, the largest mobile operator, Kyivstar, has kept its services operating at 93% and it is investing millions in Ukraine’s recovery. Will the Prime Minister use next week’s Ukraine recovery conference to bring together Governments and businesses to invest in Ukraine’s telecoms recovery, and ensure that the people of Ukraine are kept connected with their loved ones throughout the war? (905414)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his thoughtful and powerful question. He is right about the aim of next week’s Ukraine recovery conference summit, which we are proud to be hosting. Indeed, the theme of that summit is how to bring in private capital to help rebuild Ukraine after the devasting war. I join him in paying tribute to all those companies who are providing essential services to the people of Ukraine, in the face of the onslaught they are seeing. They deserve our absolute admiration and support.

Last week, we acknowledged and celebrated carers, of which there are thousands across beautiful Hastings and Rye. Will the Prime Minister join me in thanking them all for their priceless value, and congratulate Hastings Voluntary Action and the Isabel Blackman Centre on receiving carers awards for their support for unpaid carers in our community, and the outstanding Care Quality Commission-rated Radfield Home Care in Hastings on winning a national award?

I join my hon. Friend in congratulating carers in her constituency on all their awards. I am incredibly proud of our health and care staff across the country, and recognise their extraordinary commitment. I pay tribute to unpaid carers and young carers for all they are doing in Hastings and across our nation.

Q11. Funding to bring desperately needed in-patient mental health services to Bedford is sitting in the bank account of our local mental health trust, not to be touched because of the Government’s ridiculous capital spending limits. Will the Prime Minister meet with East London NHS Foundation Trust, apply some common sense and find a way to release the cash to get this mental health unit fixed, so that my constituents do not have to travel miles to access services? (905415)

We are investing record sums in NHS capital; I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are putting more money into mental health services and taking more action than any previous Government. At the heart of the NHS long-term plan is the largest expansion of mental health services in a generation. I will ensure that the appropriate Minister writes to him with an update on the conversations with his trust about its local capital plan.

What assessment has the Prime Minister made of the eurozone being in recession and the UK economy experiencing growth?

As we have seen recently, it is not just the Office for Budget Responsibility but the OECD, the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund that have all upgraded the growth forecasts for the UK economy. While the Opposition may want to talk that down, it is the Conservatives that are delivering.

Q13.   Some 39 women have died violently in Northern Ireland since 2017. The police are called to a domestic violence incident every 16 minutes and ours is now one of the most dangerous regions in Europe to be a woman. Stormont officials have consulted on a strategy to tackle violence against women, but there are no Ministers to take it forward. The outstanding Women’s Aid Federation learned last month that its core funding is being taken away. In the demoralising absence of a Government, will the Prime Minister work with me and others to ensure that strategy is enacted and funded, so that we can tackle the cultures and behaviours that are having such a devastating impact on women in Northern Ireland? (905417)

I join the hon. Lady in saying that it is absolutely right that we do everything possible to stamp out violence against women and girls. That is why the Government passed the landmark Domestic Abuse Act 2021, set up a 24/7 victims line and quadrupled funding for victim support. She is also right to highlight that the people of Northern Ireland are not getting the local government that they need and deserve. I want to see that as much as she does, and I will continue to work hard to bring it about.

One of the socialist landmines that the Prime Minister has inherited from the former Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip— I am sure the Prime Minister remembers him: he is the one who said that we should be more Conservative; if only he had had a majority of 80 and been Prime Minister, he might have been able to do something about it—is the banning of “buy one, get one free” and other special offers on products that the Department of Health and Social Care thought were unhealthy. At the best of times that is an idiotic triumph of the nanny state, but during a cost of living crisis it is utterly bonkers. Will the Prime Minister intervene, pursue a more Conservative agenda—as the former Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip would want him to—and scrap this ridiculous policy?

I thank my hon. Friend, who has long highlighted this policy. As he knows, after I took office, given the concerns that he and others had raised about the impact on the cost of living of this policy, we postponed its introduction. No final decisions have been made, but I will continue to take what he says very seriously in all our deliberations.

Q14.   Those at Citizens Advice Cymru have told me of the soaring numbers of people coming to see them who are struggling to afford housing. Last year, the monthly cost of a new mortgage on an average semi-detached house rose by 61%, and most fixed-rate mortgages that are ending in the current 12-month period were set at interest rates below 2%, so the crisis will worsen for both homeowners and renters. What advice does the Prime Minister have for my constituents who are suffering the consequences of Tory economic chaos? Should they cut back on food, switch off the gas and electricity, or get further into Tory-fuelled, expensive debt? (905418)

Our No. 1 priority is to halve inflation so that we can reduce the upward pressure on interest rates. The hon. Gentleman’s constituents should know that what would make that task absolutely worse is his party’s plans for tens of billions of pounds of unfunded borrowing, which would just exacerbate the situation. What I will say, however, is that homeowners who are worried can ask for help through the support for mortgage interest scheme, which has recently been adjusted. That support is available to them. And my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has spoken to the Financial Conduct Authority to ensure that banks treat all those in difficulty with the fairness and compassion that they need.

Last week I was pleased to deliver my report on the opportunities provided by deep geothermal energy, and I look forward to my visit next week to the opening of the Eden project’s deep geothermal plant, championed by my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double). Will the Prime Minister join me in meeting Members who want to emulate my hon. Friend by enjoying the benefits of a deep geothermal plant in their own constituencies?

I thank my hon. Friend for his work on that report: I know that he is rightly passionate about this area. The Government support the development of geothermal projects in the UK, provided that it can be done at an acceptable cost to consumers and in an environmentally friendly manner, and I will ensure that he gets a meeting with the relevant Minister to discuss his report and ideas further.

Nottingham is devastated by the senseless attacks that took place on our streets yesterday. The thoughts and prayers of the whole city are with the family and friends of those who were killed, and with those who were injured. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see the pictures of Barnaby and Grace, the University of Nottingham students whose young lives, so full of potential, have been tragically cut short. As ever, we thank the emergency services, who acted quickly and courageously to save lives. Will the Prime Minister ensure that his Government provide the police, the universities and others in our city with everything they need to support our constituents following these horrendous events?

Like the rest of the country, I have been moved by the heartbreaking tributes from their loved ones. This is an extraordinarily difficult time and every parent’s worst nightmare. The hearts of the whole country are with the families and all those who have lost their lives. The hon. Lady will, I am sure, understand that I cannot comment further at this stage, given that there is an ongoing situation, but the Home Secretary will be making a statement after Prime Minister’s questions.

My constituents in Ickenham and South Harefield benefit enormously from the work of the police based in the nearby Uxbridge police station, which remains open only because of the campaign by the Conservative-led council to stop the Mayor of London closing it down. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as we invest in more police, those police need good local police stations to work from?

My hon. Friend puts the point very well. Whether it is campaigning to keep open their local police station or opposing the ULEZ charge that would put up costs for hard-working families, it is the Conservatives in Uxbridge who are delivering for their community.

Nottingham Incident

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the horrific events in Nottingham.

Nottinghamshire police have confirmed that a 31-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder after three people were killed in Nottingham city centre early on Tuesday morning. The same individual is suspected of stealing a van and then running over another three people who are now being treated for their injuries, one of whom remains in critical condition. We know that a knife has been used in these attacks. Two of the victims were students at Nottingham University. The third victim was the owner of the van that the police suspect was stolen and used to run down those pedestrians.

I know that the whole House will join me in expressing our sorrow and that our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families, friends and all those affected. All of us extend the hand of friendship to the people of Nottingham. I am of course being kept fully informed by law enforcement on the ground and receiving regular updates.

The House will appreciate the critical importance of following due process at all times. It is completely natural to seek answers immediately when something terrible happens, but it is also vital that those answers are wholly accurate. Speculating out loud is never helpful and runs the risk of being counterproductive. The police have asked for patience while inquiries continue.

I can tell the House that the police are working flat out to establish the full facts and provide support to everyone affected. They are currently keeping an open mind as to the motives behind these attacks, but I can confirm that Nottinghamshire police are being assisted in their inquiries by counter-terror police, although this does not mean that it is currently being treated as a terrorist attack. I am grateful to all our emergency services for being on the scene and dealing in a professional manner with a deeply distressing situation; we all owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

At awful moments like these, it is vital that we come together as a country and I have no doubt that we will. The city of Nottingham and all its people are at the forefront of all our minds, and every resource of the state is at their disposal. I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and for advance sight of it. I join her and the whole House in expressing our deep sorrow and shock at this truly awful attack.

The families of those who have been killed have expressed their tributes to their lost loved ones, and I join them in paying tribute to Barnaby Webber and Grace Kumar, two young, talented students who had hugely promising futures ahead of them. We have seen the tributes from their heartbroken families and from the local and national sports clubs they played for. We also pay tribute to Ian Coates, a school caretaker. We have also seen the tributes from his family and from the school he worked for, which said he, “always went the extra mile.” Our condolences, thoughts and prayers go to their families, their loved ones, their friends and their colleagues.

Our thoughts and best wishes also go to the three other people who have been injured in the same terrible attack and to their families, who will be so deeply distressed at what has happened, worrying for their loved ones. We stand in solidarity with the people of Nottingham and the University of Nottingham, where the two young people were studying. They are all so shocked and devastated at what has happened, but also so determined to come together in the face of tragedy. People who gathered at the vigil last night heard the sober words and tributes from the council leader, local MPs and local faith and community leaders. Everyone will particularly join in thanks to the emergency services that have had to respond to this awful attack, saving lives and keeping people safe.

As the Home Secretary said, an individual has been arrested and this is still a major, ongoing investigation. It is not appropriate for us to speculate or say anything that would interfere in that investigation, but I welcome the involvement of counter-terror police at an early stage of this investigation. That does nothing to pre-empt any conclusion about the potential motive behind this attack, but I have previously raised the importance of having CT police expertise involved at an early stage while motives and circumstances are investigated, rather than being brought in at a much later stage, once relevant material has been gathered.

Can the Home Secretary confirm it is a sensible approach for the expertise and assistance of counter-terror police to be drawn on at an early stage, even before any conclusion has been reached? Can she tell us whether she has been given any timetable for updates on the issue? She will know there are wider concerns about the need for properly co-ordinated and appropriate sensitive support for the victims of major incidents, including terror attacks. Can she set out what support is available for the families and friends of those affected, and for the emergency services and people in Nottingham?

Doubtless there will be countless more questions from the community and Parliament once more is known about this dreadful attack but, for now, we send our support to Nottinghamshire police and their investigation. All our thoughts and solidarity go to those who have lost loved ones and to the people of Nottingham at this difficult time.

I thank the right hon. Lady for her comments and for the sentiment with which she makes them. Nottinghamshire police are leading the investigation, which is at a very early stage. They have carried out a number of searches and inquiries across the city, and they will continue to gather evidence over the coming days. Police and other agencies are working flat out to establish the full facts and to provide support to everyone affected. As I said, the police have asked for time, space and patience while those inquiries continue. I am being kept regularly updated by the police and agencies on the ground.

The families of all the victims have been informed and are being supported by specialist police officers. As there are casualties and three fatalities, there is a real need for emergency care for those families, as would be imagined, and specialist support is being put on for those directly affected. I echo the sentiment of the House, as expressed by the Prime Minister: we are all saddened and shocked, and our hearts are with those affected: the victims, their families, friends and communities, and the city of Nottingham.

When a despicable incident of this sort occurs, be it at the gates of Parliament or on the streets of a university town, the community looks to the security agencies to be able to investigate and establish the motives for the attack, the background of the attack and whether any other people were involved. Does the Home Secretary agree that it is therefore both important and understandable that the intelligence community has the capacity to investigate people’s online life and the high-tech companies that provide these communications services have a duty, both morally and legally, to co-operate with the security community, so that horrible episodes such as this can be fully investigated and the findings established?

My right hon. Friend makes some very pertinent observations. The emergency services work together to respond to suspected terrorist attacks, through the joint emergency services interoperability principles—JESIP—which are designed to improve joint working among all the emergency services. The JESIP doctrine complements the single-service and specialist multi-agency guidance. When a particular attack has an online element, which he refers to, we will enact our crisis response protocol, an element of practice that has been designed to deal with situations of that character.

I thank the Home Secretary for advance sight of her statement. On behalf of the SNP, may I extend our condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Barnaby Webber, Grace Kumar and Ian Coates? Our thoughts are also with those injured and the people of Nottingham more widely. I would also like to express our thanks to all the emergency services and those providing ongoing support to those affected at this time. What more is being done to provide reassurance to all parts of the community in Nottingham and to prevent the spreading of speculation, which she mentioned in her statement? I appreciate that things are at a very early stage, but what process will she put in place to ensure that all lessons are learned from this shocking incident so that it cannot happen again?

Nottinghamshire police, working with local authorities and agencies, are working intensively to ensure not only that the investigation work is carried out effectively, but that those directly affected by this terrible incident are getting all the support they are entitled to.

Yesterday’s horrific attacks in Nottingham city have devastated our county. Three innocent lives have been lost, and I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the families of those who have died and my thoughts to those who are injured. I thank the emergency services for the work they have done. The town of Beeston in my constituency has a large student population. They and many members of the public will be feeling shaken and afraid. I ask the Secretary of State for reassurances that all will be done to support the families, our student population and our communities at this very difficult time.

It is particularly galling that a vibrant, youthful university community will be so tragically affected by this tragic incident. The university is supporting the students’ family and friends, as well as staff and the student body. It is working closely with the authorities on the ongoing investigation into the incident. The Secretary of State for Education has been in touch with the vice-chancellor of the university to offer any support that might be needed from the Department for Education.

I thank the Home Secretary for making this statement today and for the information that she has been able to pass on to the House. I look forward to further updates in the coming weeks. I also extend my thoughts and prayers to all those who were killed and injured, and their families and friends. Of course, we all recognise the vital role of the emergency services in dealing with these very fast-moving incidents. Can the Home Secretary say whether she has identified any additional support that Nottinghamshire police need at this time?

I am in personal and regular contact with the chief constable of Nottinghamshire police, and I have made that offer very clear to her. We stand ready here at the Home Office to help in whatever way she requests, but, to date, this operation is being led very effectively by the chief constable and her team in Nottinghamshire.

As a proud Nottinghamian, I have to say that it has been a very difficult couple of days for us all, particularly for those who represent people in the areas affected. Will the Home Secretary join me in praising the emergency services for the work they have done and for reacting so quickly? Will she also praise not just the whole community of Nottingham, but our students and our universities, and join with us as a House to do everything that we can to support them going forward?

My hon. Friend speaks for his constituents and the people of Nottinghamshire when he sets out our thanks, admiration and gratitude for those on the frontline and in the emergency services who are responding right now to the tragic consequences of this terrible incident. They are heroes and we must thank them day after day for their fantastic work.

I send my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of yesterday’s attacks and wish a full recovery to those injured. I also thank those in the emergency services who have been working tirelessly in responding to this tragic incident, including the first responders who battled to save lives at the scene. Nottingham is devastated by the deaths of three residents of our city: Grace Kumar, Barnaby Webber and Ian Coates. It was incredibly moving to join the vigil yesterday at St Peter’s church where hundreds of people came together in grief. Among them were many students who lost two much-loved members of their community. Will the Home Secretary join me in paying tribute to the people of Nottingham and to their unity and resilience at this painful time?

The hon. Lady speaks with passion and care for her constituents and I echo the sentiment that she has expressed. The people of Nottingham will be shaken beyond belief over the events of the past few days. We are with them as a nation. We stand by them and with them, and we will support them in all ways that they need.

Nottingham is a great city with a proud history and a bright future, so to see that these crimes have unfolded across my home city has been deeply upsetting. I am sure the whole House will join me in sending the deepest condolences to the victims, their families and friends and the injured. I thank the police and the emergency services for the work that they have done and will continue to do. As we begin to take stock and to cope with what has happened, I know that support is available for those who have been affected from Nottinghamshire Victim CARE service, for example. Will the Home Secretary join me in encouraging those who have been affected in any way to seek the support that they need as we begin to take stock and to begin that slow process of recovery from this dreadful incident?

There has been a magnificent response from the local authorities and the local emergency services. There is a wide range of extensive support on offer for the families and those who are affected by the incident. Those who are affected should not hesitate to get in touch with the local authorities to seek that support.

Everyone in Nottingham was shocked by yesterday’s senseless attacks. Barnaby and Grace were just walking home after a night out. Ian appears to have been on his way to work. Today, many people in our community are feeling incredibly frightened, fearful even to walk down their own street. Will the Home Secretary give a commitment to our city that she will ensure that Nottinghamshire police have the resources they need not only to keep our city safe, but to provide all our residents with the reassurance that they need to live their lives without fear today and in the weeks and months ahead?

I thank the hon. Lady for her words. She is absolutely right: the people of Nottingham will feel grief, fear and profoundly disturbed by what has happened in their homes, their places of work and where they come from. It will affect people in many, many ways. We want to keep them safe. That is my job. That is the police’s job. That is why the police are working intensively right now not only to secure the environment, but to make sure that an investigation is conducted effectively. We need to support them in their work.

I speak as a man who has lived in Nottinghamshire all his life. Nottingham is a beautiful city with wonderful people. I doubt that the people of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire will ever come to terms with this vile and cruel act. The public want answers, but, more importantly, they need to know that they are safe on the streets of Nottinghamshire. What reassurances can the Home Secretary give to the people of Ashfield, the whole of Nottinghamshire and Nottingham city especially that they are safe and that the police are getting all the resources that they need?

People can feel safe in Nottingham going forward. I know that that is difficult for many people to feel in the immediate aftermath of a terrible incident of the type that we have just seen. They must know that the police are working flat out to get to the bottom of this. Ultimately, we all want justice. We are also backing the police and all the other professionals to ensure that they can do their operational work as effectively as possible.

Our community has been shaken by these devastating events. Yesterday, we stood together at a vigil in St Peter’s church. It was a sad and poignant act of reflection for the loss and pain that our city is feeling. Our city’s thoughts are with those who have lost their lives, their loved ones and those who have been injured, and our gratitude is with our emergency services.

Nottingham is a beautiful and vibrant city. We are a diverse community where people of every culture and background live together peacefully. That cohesion will be more important than ever. We will need our partnerships that characterise that cohesion to come together—the faith community, civil society, academic institutions that have been so rocked by the loss of members of their family, our statutory services and the public more widely. Will the Home Secretary commit her Department’s support to these important efforts?

I say simply, yes. The hon. Gentleman speaks with devotion and care for his residents and constituents. Frankly, there are no words to describe the pain and anguish that people in Nottingham are feeling right now. But, exactly as he says, communities, faith groups and professionals coming together to support one another in a spirit of recovery and unity is the way that we will rebuild from this.

Many Erewash residents work and socialise in Nottingham. In fact, just last Friday I drove to Nottingham along the Ilkeston Road, where two young people who had such bright futures ahead of them sadly lost their lives. I know the area very well. I know, too, that Erewash residents will want to extend their thoughts and prayers to everybody affected—the victims and their families and also the wider population of Nottingham. What more can be done to support the people who are perhaps hidden victims, who will not necessarily come forward for support—so perhaps not the students or the ones who were there at the time, but those who are now fearful to go out, to go to work or to go into the city centre? Will my right hon. and learned Friend look at ways to extend that support out of the community, and to make that support very visual and accessible as well?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. There will be hidden victims and those in the shadows, so to speak, who will be profoundly affected by what has happened. It is important that they come out of the shadows and seek support—and it is there: the local authority is working intensively to ensure that the right support is provided for people, the medical services are there if people need extra care and of course the law enforcement services are working intensively to ensure a good and effective police investigation.

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement. On behalf of my party, the Liberal Democrats, I want to pass on our deepest condolences to everyone affected by this horrific incident, our thanks to all the emergency services and, most especially, our thoughts and prayers to the families who have lost precious loved ones. When you send your child off to university, it is with hope, pride and excitement for the future. That it should have ended this way for the Webber and Kumar families is horrific, and our thoughts are with them. As the Home Secretary says, it is too early for speculation, but can she reassure the House that, when we know what was at the root of this incident, we will learn every lesson possible from it and ensure that the families feel that justice has been done for them?

I am personally very moved listening to the hon. Lady. What those families must be feeling, going through and experiencing right now is unimaginable for most of us; it is the nightmare that every parent dreads. We need to allow the police to complete their investigation, but, subject to what they unearth and put forward, yes, of course, every victim of crime wants to see justice done. That is ultimately what the rule of law is about.

I align myself completely with everything that has been said about the people of Nottingham and the difficulties they are going through now, but Grace O’Malley-Kumar, one of the two student victims, was resident in Woodford. I remember she had been part of Woodford Wells cricket and hockey club—and she was a star: England under-16s, England under-18s, and destined for a great future. It is very important to remember that not only are the communities in Nottingham and the families affected, but all those people who got to know her and had high hopes for her will have had those dashed as well. Can we make sure there is a degree of outreach to all those people who worked with her and helped her to grow? The terrible devastation of this terrible act is not just a lost life, but a lost future that might have changed other lives for the better.

My right hon. Friend puts it powerfully. The ripple effects of this tragedy will be felt far and wide, and it will take considerable time for many people to recover and move on with their lives. This is a tragedy of an enormity that the people of Nottingham have not seen, but it is also a tragedy for many other groups and communities around the country.

I thank the Home Secretary very much for her statement and her clear compassion for those who grieve today. It is heartbreaking to hear of the tragedy and the cruel, vicious, devastating deaths of two young aspiring students and a man in his 50s. On behalf of the Democratic Unionist party and myself, I send our sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of all the victims and to the good people of Nottingham. Fear stalks the streets of the United Kingdom, so will the Home Secretary ensure that any details relating to the motivation behind the attack will be revealed to the general public, so that future predators and murderers can be identified and swift action can be taken to preserve life?

Decisions such as that are for the police. Once they establish the facts, if and when they bring charges and if there is an ensuing prosecution, the facts will be aired in the proper course of justice.

Nottingham is usually thought of as a vibrant city, full of joy and excitement, and it is close to my own constituency. On behalf of the people of Loughborough, I offer my heartfelt condolences to the city, to the families, to the Nottingham Members of Parliament and to everyone who has been involved in or impacted by this shocking and senseless act. Will the Home Secretary join me in underlining the fact that the whole House is united in condemnation of what has happened?

Absolutely. This tragedy, this despicable act, cannot be condoned but must be condemned in the strongest possible way, and I think on that this House is united.

I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, which shows that I am a member of the board of Essex Cricket, based in my Chelmsford constituency. Grace O’Malley-Kumar played cricket for Essex from the under-11s to the under-15s and was highly talented with bat and ball. She captained the team. She was a massive talent, a respected captain and an awesome teammate. The club is devastated. I know Barnaby Webber was also a very keen and talented sportsman with a great future. I am sure that there are people all over the country who played at the England level with Grace and played cricket with Barnaby and who will miss them so deeply. As well as sending our condolences and our love to their families and friends at university, please can we also remember all those young people who shared their love of sport?

My right hon. Friend speaks very powerfully on behalf of those affected at the cricket club. All I will say is that she mentioned the word love, and she is right: we are sending our love to the families, the friends and all those people who knew the victims.

Obviously at this time we all express our condolences to the families, friends and everyone who knew the victims of this terrible tragedy. It would not be right for any of us to speculate on the motives or rationale for such a dreadful attack, but one clear issue that will be of concern to the people of Nottingham and beyond is whether they are safe now. Did this individual act alone, or in concert with others who will then represent a threat to other people? Will the Home Secretary give an assurance to this House that, as soon as the police are able to inform the House of the position, she will relay that widely? Will she also, once the investigations are complete, update the House on the reasons and rationale for this attack and what the history of the individual may have been?

Nottinghamshire police are doing a good job of regularly updating the public and have already made several public statements as the investigation progresses. I do not want to look behind that or undermine that process. I must allow them to carry out their investigations in the fullest and safest way possible. We would not expect anything less of our police.

On behalf of everybody in the new city of Southend, I want to pay tribute to all those who are senselessly murdered and offer our sincere condolences to the victims’ families and friends. I hear that we must not jump to conclusions, but we do know that a knife was used in these attacks, and I know that tackling knife crime is one of the Home Secretary’s top priorities, which is why she has recently been consulting on reforming our knife laws. Will she use this opportunity to underline that commitment, and possibly to give an update on the consultation and when it might be published and implemented?

My hon. Friend speaks with considerable power in expressing her condolences towards those affected by this tragic incident. The Government have made £130 million available this year to tackle serious violence, including murder and knife crime. We have increased powers in particular pieces of legislation. Fundamentally, however, this is about a tragedy, and we must keep working relentlessly to ensure that incidents such as this do not happen again. That is what we are working to do at the Home Office.

I think the House is always its best when it comes together, and it has certainly come together today. We all pay our respects to those who have died and all our thoughts are with the victims, the families and those people who have suffered in the city of Nottingham.

Point of Order

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Has the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport indicated that they are to come before the House to announce their intention to discuss with the director general of the BBC the fact that licence-fee payers are to pay all costs and compensation for a series of recent tribunal cases, particularly those involving two female former BBC employees in Northern Ireland? There has to be accountability—

Let me help the hon. Gentleman. I have got the gist of what he is asking, and the answer is no.

Healthy Start Scheme (Take-Up) (No. 2)

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State to ensure that families eligible for the Healthy Start Scheme are registered to receive it; to confer certain powers on government departments and agencies and public bodies for that purpose; to provide for an opt-out where the family wishes; and for connected purposes.

I am sure that we can all agree, across the House, that every single child deserves the best start in life, and that in those very early years, a nutritious diet is essential for growth and development. That is why the last Labour Government introduced the Healthy Start scheme, which provides financial assistance in the form of a prepaid card to under-18s who are pregnant, and families with young children claiming certain benefits, to help with the ever-increasing costs of fruit, vegetables, formula milk and vitamins. The scheme is available in pregnancy and until the child’s fourth birthday. Yet the scheme is beset with problems—problems caused by this Government that can easily be fixed by this Government. That is what my Bill would do by offering the Government a simple cost-neutral solution so that no baby or infant goes without.

As I present the Bill, there will be mothers and fathers who, instead of excitedly preparing for their newborn or enjoying those early years with their little ones, are worried and distressed about how they will provide for them. The all-party parliamentary group on the child of the north, which I co-chair with my friend, the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson), heard in evidence that children in the north are more likely to die before reaching their first birthday. Desperate mothers are seeking abortions because they simply do not know how they will feed their babies. It has been widely reported that some parents have, in desperation, resorted to theft of baby milk and formula, or are watering it down. The fact that that is happening in a country as rich as ours should not only shame those on the Government Benches, but spur them into action to help those in need.

Healthy Start take-up is low. The Government’s 75% target has been achieved only in two of England’s 553 constituencies. The comparative scheme in Scotland has reached 88%. In some areas, the take-up is as low as 50%. Sustain estimates that that amounts to approximately 200,000 babies, infants and pregnant women missing out, leaving £53 million unclaimed. The past 13 years have seen the cruelty of austerity, inaction on low-paid and insecure work, the dismantling of the welfare state and the decimation of vital public support services, and have led to disgraceful and avoidable levels of child poverty. Food inflation is now above 19%, so food banks, baby banks, faith groups and charities have become embedded parts of our welfare state, including the Key to Life food bank in my constituency, which reports a 300% increase in demand coupled with a decrease in donations. It is highly unlikely therefore that that £53 million is unclaimed because people do not need it.

There is a very clear need for the scheme, but, as I have been told time and again, awareness is low among the public and professionals. That is why, in 2021, the national food strategy recommended that the Government implement a communications plan related to Healthy Start. But they did not. Instead, each time they are asked, they repeat:

“The NHS Business Services Authority is committed to increasing uptake of the scheme”.

I politely remind the Government that a commitment is not a plan, and that they are the ones who are responsible for this.

In 2021, I and others raised concerns about plans to fully digitalise the scheme by 2022, so that paper applications and vouchers would no longer be accepted. Some years back, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty investigated the growing deprivation in the UK, and warned the Government:

“The British welfare state is gradually disappearing behind a webpage and an algorithm, with significant implications for those living in poverty”,

and that, by assuming that all claimants had the digital skills needed to complete the form, the Government had “built a digital barrier”. Sadly, they ignored his entire report and ploughed ahead. The result for Healthy Start was that more than 34,000 people who were previously in receipt of the vouchers are no longer receiving them.

The NHSBSA then admitted to technical issues meaning that applications were being declined, resulting in parents and pregnant women struggling to get through to the helpline and having their payment cards rejected. As it stands, the applications routes are overly complex and varied. When an application is made online, an automated message claims that a response will be given within two days. That rarely happens. Some mothers report that they have never heard back, and, after multiple attempts, have given up.

The Healthy Start phone number provided is not freephone and is fully automated. There is no option for callers to speak to anyone unless they need an interpreter or have inquiries relating to their card. The absurdity of an automated system asking if callers have problems with cards they do not yet have is not lost on anyone in this Chamber. Worse still, if the application is refused, it does not state why, and the parent is directed to the phone line, where, again, they cannot speak to anyone. Research by Manchester Central food bank highlights that those on legacy benefits or with no recourse to public funds have to apply via paper or telephone, but that is completely at odds with the Healthy Start phone line and website, which state that applications must always be done online. That confusion is totally unnecessary.

Repeated questions to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care about funding for the scheme and future take-up have been equally frustrating. The Government refuse to say how much money they allocate to the scheme each year. They claim that it is allocated on a forecast of take-up, but will not say what the forecast is. A cynic would conclude that if the Government forecast low uptake, it is against their interests to do anything they can to boost it, as they will not have budgeted for it. Or, if they are forecasting higher uptake but are not reaching it, millions of pounds that could be spent on feeding children is being spent elsewhere. Either way, once again, hungry babies and children are losing out.

All I am asking is for the Government to change to from an opt-in system to an opt-out one. Automatic enrolment is possible. The Government know who is eligible and claim that they have the funds. Automatic enrolment would increase take-up, ensuring that the millions of pounds sat in the Treasury, allocated to those mothers and babies, is exactly where it should be.

I thank in particular my friend the former Member for Stretford and Urmston, who first proposed this Bill and has always championed children’s welfare, as well as Feeding Britain, which has supported the Bill from the outset. They, along with many other well-respected organisations and MPs across this House, are urging the Government to back this Bill, because we believe in a healthy start for all.

I know that the Bill is not a panacea. I know that the scheme’s value does not cover even the cost of the cheapest tub of infant formula, and that, unless we have a change of Government, life will continue to be a struggle for so many. But in the interim, I will, as I have always done in my time in this House, try anything that the Government might accept to make the daily grind and struggle for parents and children who are going hungry a little less agonising.

Finally, I thank all the parents who have shared with me their stories and their pain. They should always be at the forefront of our minds, because nobody should feel such desperation and hopelessness that they can see no way other than stealing to feed their little baby or seeking to terminate their pregnancy. The fact that they do should be to the absolute and utter shame of this Government.

Question put and agreed to.


That Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck, Paul Maynard, Sir Stephen Timms, Tim Loughton, Ian Byrne, Derek Twigg, Kim Johnson, Dr Dan Poulter, Ben Lake, Barbara Keeley, Debbie Abrahams and Rachael Maskell present the Bill.

Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 November, and to be printed (Bill 324).

Business of the House (Today)


That, at today’s sitting, notwithstanding paragraph (2)(c)(i) of Standing Order No. 14 (Arrangement of public business), business in the name of Dr Philippa Whitford may be entered upon at any hour and may be proceeded with, though opposed, for three hours; proceedings shall then lapse if not previously disposed of; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.—(Mike Wood.)

Opposition Day

[10th Allotted Day, Second Part]

Cost of Living and Brexit

I beg to move,

That this House agrees that increases in the cost of living are having a detrimental impact on businesses and families across Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom; notes that the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union has played a significant role in driving those increases; further notes that the devolved administrations do not possess the full financial powers required to effectively mitigate the increases in the cost of living in the devolved nations; accepts that finding solutions to the cost of living crisis deserves dedicated parliamentary time to investigate all matters relating to increases in prices and of the contribution of exiting the European Union and of Westminster economic policy to those increases; and resolves that the following shall be a Standing Order of the House:

Cost of Living Committee

1. There shall be a select committee, to be called the Cost of Living Committee, to examine the causes of and possible solutions to matters related to the cost of living in the United Kingdom, the consequences of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and the cost of living, how the effect of changes in the cost of living affects the economy, and other connected matters.

2. The committee shall be chaired by a Member from the second largest Opposition Party and shall additionally consist of 22 Members from the Government party and 22 Members from opposition parties, drawn from the following Committees


Number of Members

Business and Trade


Energy and Net Zero


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


Health and Social Care


Home Affairs


Levelling Up, Housing and Communities


Northern Ireland Affairs


Scottish Affairs






Welsh Affairs


Women and Equalities


Work and Pensions


3. The committee shall have power—

a. to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, and to report from time to time; and

b. to appoint specialist advisers to supply information which is not readily available or to elucidate matters of complexity within the committee’s order of reference.

4. Unless the House otherwise orders, each Member nominated to the committee shall continue to be a member of it for the remainder of the Parliament.

5. The committee shall have power to appoint a sub-committee, which shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, and to report to the committee from time to time.

6. The committee shall have power to report from time to time the evidence taken before the sub-committee.

7. The committee shall have power to order the attendance of any Member before the committee and to require that specific documents or records in the possession of a Member relating to its inquiries be laid before the committee or any sub-committee.

8. The quorum of the sub-committee shall be eleven.

The cost of living crisis is the No. 1 issue for most of our constituents: how to keep a roof over their head with the rising cost of mortgages or rent; how to put food on the table when food inflation in the UK is the highest in Europe; how to pay energy bills that double in just a year; and how to cope with overall inflation, which is far outstripping wage growth. It therefore deserves serious focus by this Parliament to find solutions. The Government are already patting themselves on the back that inflation has eased from 10.1% to 7.8%. Of course, that does not mean that prices are falling, just that they are increasing at a slightly slower rate.

There is no question but that the covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine have contributed to the current crisis—particularly through the latter’s impact on global energy prices—but the UK is the only G7 country not to have recovered to pre-pandemic economic health, and consumers in the UK have faced the biggest energy price rises in Europe.

Despite the current easing of the inflation rate, it is still higher than in the OECD, the EU and the US. So why does the UK have the highest inflation and the poorest growth projections among similar economies? It is simple—the disaster that dare not speak its name: Brexit. As we approach the seventh anniversary of the referendum, one of its key architects may have just left the stage, but Brexit’s disastrous legacy will impact people across the nations of the UK for years to come.

I know as a doctor that the first step for someone in dealing with any problem is to admit that they have one, but both the Government and the Labour party appear to be in complete denial about the contribution of Brexit to the cost of living crisis.

The Labour party is keen to regain seats in Scotland from the Scottish National party. We obviously hope they do not, but why does my hon. Friend think the Labour party is ignoring the impact of Brexit even in Scotland, when the overwhelming position of the Scots is that they want to remain in the European Union?

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for her contribution. It is quite clear: we saw the discomfort of the Labour party on Brexit for quite a number of years, because its approach to Brexit had flip-flopped backwards and forwards, so it simply avoids the topic.

Until recently, people would think that there had been an omertà in the mainstream media when discussing the UK’s poor economic performance. Despite previously campaigning against Brexit, the Labour leader, the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), is now clear that he will not consider rejoining the EU, the customs union or the single market, yet he claims that he can somehow reduce the trade friction that has cut exports by 15% and cost 4% of GDP.

Just as Brexiteers claim the problem is just that Brexit is not Brexity enough, we now have Labour claiming that they will “make Brexit work”. It cannot work, but if the Labour leader wants to reduce some of the damage of Brexit, he should support the idea of a Committee to identify proposals that could be put to the EU prior to the review of the trade and co-operation agreement in 2026. Otherwise, what is the plan—close his eyes, click his red heels together and make a wish? Talk about not reading the room.

Just as polls show that a majority across the UK recognise that Brexit is a mess and would support rejoining the EU, the supposed official Opposition have lashed themselves to the mast of the floundering Tory Brexit ship. I am not quite sure why they are called the official Opposition when they do not seem to do much opposing and just go along with the policies of this Tory Government, whether that is on Brexit, immigration, outsourcing the NHS in England to private companies or denying the right of the Scottish people to choose their own future.

Labour may have abandoned almost all its previous pledges, and does not offer much real change after the next election, but the politicians who have caused the current damage to the UK economy are those with their bahookies squarely planted on the Government Benches. Tory austerity may initially have made the Treasury balance sheet look better, but 13 years of benefit cuts and public sector pay freezes have sucked money out of local economies, leading to dead high streets and rising poverty, particularly among children, pensioners and disabled people.

Austerity also meant that health and care services were already struggling when covid hit, and the workforce shortages that hamper all four UK health services have been exacerbated by the loss of freedom of movement, meaning that they are all struggling to catch up on the backlog.

The cost of energy is a major contributor to the cost of living crisis, but while global energy prices have risen due to the Ukraine war, the problem has been exacerbated by the Tories’ policy over decades. It was their poster girl, Mrs Thatcher, who put the profits of oil, gas and electricity into private hands. That has left the UK fully exposed to global price rises, despite the UK and Scotland’s energy potential. We are unlike France, with its nationalised power supplier, which has been able limit price increases to 4%. The UK has been unable to do that.

While the energy support payments were welcome, they had a limited impact on energy bills, which had doubled in a year. The UK Government did not follow other European countries such as Germany, Spain, Ireland or the Netherlands in substantially cutting VAT on energy bills, even though rising prices means that such a VAT cut could have been revenue-neutral.

Brexiteers actually promised cheaper food—it is hard to believe—but that has turned out to be a complete crock, with food inflation in the UK at more than 19%, the highest in Europe. The costs of basic foods and supermarket brands are rising even faster, meaning that those on lower incomes face a dramatic surge in food costs, with more people resorting to food banks or missing meals. Almost 30% of the UK’s food comes from the EU, so there will be another surge in food prices next winter when the UK introduces full customs checks on foodstuffs being imported from the EU.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is also an absolute scandal that during a cost of living crisis, when we are seeing prices such as those she described, we have produce going to waste in Scotland because we do not have enough people to actually pick the fruit and veg?

I thank my hon. Friend for that point. While soft fruit is a particular issue in Scotland, this is an issue right across the UK because of the lack of European staff in harvesting. As my hon. Friend says, the sector is seeing food rotting. We are also seeing this issue in other sectors; there is hardly a sector that is not struggling for workforce.

With regard to the checks on incoming foodstuffs from the EU, the former ill-named Brexit Opportunities Minister, the right hon. Member for North East Somerset (Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg), delayed the checks for the fourth time last year. At the time, he suggested that they would cost £1 billion, and described them as an “act of self-harm”—duh! I could have told him that in 2016. On top of that, the now-infamous mini-Budget that tanked the pound and the stock market while the then Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng), was still on his feet, sent mortgage costs spiralling. The relentless rise in interest rates in response to inflation is making home ownership unattainable for young families, as well as pushing up rents.

My hon. Friend has rightly pointed to the disastrous mini-Budget that was imposed on us by our previous Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss). Does the leader of the Scottish Conservative party group in the Scottish Parliament, the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross), who initially demanded that the Scottish Government implement those disastrous policies, and now demands that they spend billions of pounds to mitigate their effects, have any credibility?

It would be a more appropriate response by the Scottish Conservatives to get down on their knees in the Holyrood Chamber and apologise for the abuse they gave the Scottish Government for not following such crazy policies.

I had the honour to be a Member of the Scottish Parliament for some 12 years, and the Minister served in the Scottish Parliament. I know a good deal about the committee system; indeed, I chaired one. Members of the Scottish Parliament who were not members of a committee could come and speak at it—it was almost never not allowed.

I am not a member of any Committee in this place. Given the size of my party, only three of our Members are on Committees. Due to the structure of the proposed Committee, the door would be locked against me applying for a place on it. I feel disenfranchised, and I do not see why my constituents should not be given the chance for their representative to have a voice. I cannot vote for the structure of the Committee as it stands—it is very sloppy work.

That is incorrect: there will be Members from the three devolved nations. It will be—as described—a large Committee, which might provide a place for the hon. Member or one of his colleagues from a devolved nation. It is nonsense—there is no exclusion.

Will my hon. Friend might lend me her Order Paper? The one I have might be out of date, but it does not show an amendment from the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone), or his party, to change the composition of that Committee. Am I reading the Order Paper wrong, or is the hon. Gentleman perhaps a little bit out of touch?

I do not think my hon. Friend is reading the Order Paper wrong.

The combination of rising energy, food and housing costs, on top of years of benefit cuts and stagnant wages, means that, for many families, the sums simply do not add up. The Scottish Government are trying to use their now very limited powers of devolution to mitigate the crisis, particularly for those on the lowest incomes. However, the Scottish budget for the day-to-day running of services is less in real terms than it was in 2010, with no uplift for inflation and—as we all know—no significant borrowing powers. Despite that, the Scottish Government have provided additional funding for the fuel insecurity fund and the Scottish welfare fund. Low-income families are now supported through five childhood grants, including the Scottish child payment, which together provide £10,000 of support during the early years and will provide over £20,000 by the age of 16.

Does the hon. Member agree that the way to improve the situation for everyone, not just in the devolved nations but throughout the United Kingdom, is for those who are elected to the Scottish Parliament to work hand in glove with those of us who are elected to this Chamber, and particularly with the other Government for Scotland in the United Kingdom? Rather than set up another cumbersome Committee, which is a process, would it not be better to work together for the benefit of everyone in the United Kingdom?

The hon. Lady knows well that on issues such as trade deals and Brexit, we see very little genuine consultation between the Government here and the devolved Government. She is also well aware of how devolution is being rolled back and hollowed out, with legislation that has been passed blocked and undermined.

No, I am sorry. I have just given way to the hon. Lady.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies’ analysis of the Scottish tax and benefit system showed that it was more progressive, with almost 30% of low-income families £2,000 a year better off in Scotland, but Scotland aspires to something more radical than just mitigating Westminster austerity such as the two-child limit or the six-year benefit freeze. Our vision is to be a fairer, greener nation. The Scottish Government founded the Wellbeing Economy Governments Group in 2018 with Iceland and New Zealand, and Finland and Wales joined later. A wellbeing economy does not just focus on GDP, which includes the profits of damaging sectors such as the tobacco industry, but invests in the physical and mental health and social, economic and environmental wellbeing of every citizen. It is a holistic approach that recognises that our society and economy depend on the success of every individual, every family and every community.

Therefore, in addition to the targeted anti-poverty measures, the Scottish Government invest in the wellbeing of all those living in Scotland, from the baby box that welcomes the birth of a child and university tuition that allows our young people to reach their full potential to the free personal care that allows older people to stay in their own home for as long as possible. However, with the tightening limitations of devolution, the Scottish Government do not have the power over their own economy or the control of taxation and social security that are required to deliver the wellbeing economy we aspire to. We all know that we need a different type of economy by the end of this decade, or we will leave our grandchildren to face climate collapse. The pandemic brought everything to a standstill, which gave us a unique opportunity to decide what kind of economy and society we wanted to rebuild.

Before my hon. Friend goes on to talk about the kind of economy we want to see, will she make the observation that in an important debate on the cost of living and its evil twin Brexit, on the day after an urgent question on the Tories’ mortgage crisis, we have one Tory Back Bencher and two Labour Back Benchers in the Chamber? Does that not tell the Scottish people everything they need to know about how little Unionism really cares for ordinary people?

The proposal for this economy, as I said at the beginning of my speech, is not just for the people of Scotland: it is for the people of the four nations of the UK. The review of the TCA will come up in 2026, and while it is not possible to make Brexit work, it is possible to mitigate some of its worst effects. For that, though, we need to understand what Brexit is doing to the UK’s society and economy and have proposals that we can bring to the EU to ask for change.

Unfortunately, the opportunity to change to a different economy and society has not been taken. We already see poverty and inequality rising, and the climate emergency being pushed off the action list—including by Labour, which has just U-turned on its pledge to invest £28 billion in the transition to a green economy. Unfortunately, the climate crisis cannot wait. Scotland is blessed with extensive green energy potential, from wind and tidal power to green hydrogen and pump storage hydro. The current Government have failed to support Scotland’s green energy potential, and sadly there is now little reason to expect much change under Labour, either.

My hon. Friend talks about Scotland’s energy opportunities, and green hydrogen is indeed one of the key ones. Does she agree that it is perhaps illuminating that the Foreign Secretary himself does not even know about those opportunities, nor has he taken the opportunity to engage with the US on its Inflation Reduction Act regarding the supply pipeline for green hydrogen? Does she think that is absolutely indicative of the relationship of the Government of this place with the needs of the Scottish people?

I sit on the Scottish Affairs Committee: we have done an inquiry into hydrogen, and we have also covered some of the other issues around green energy. It has been clear from the UK Minister that the UK Government do not support the Scottish vision of being able to export green hydrogen. We know that Germany is desperate for green hydrogen, particularly in the Ruhr area in Nordrhein-Westfalen, because it is crucial for heavy industry, but the UK Government are not interested, so Scotland’s potential for such a lucrative export will be held back.

The hon. Member has raised an issue that we have discussed at some length in the Scottish Affairs Committee: the future of hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and suchlike. However, given that energy policy and international trade are both reserved functions, does she believe that it is appropriate for Scottish Government Ministers and officials to be having direct discussions with federal German Government Ministers and officials on that matter?

Obviously we are just continuing the Scottish Affairs Committee diatribe from Monday, but the job of the Scottish Government, Scottish Ministers, MSPs and Scottish Members here is to promote Scotland in the world and to attract as much business and investment into Scotland as possible. Because of that, and because of the efforts of Scottish Ministers and MSPs, Scotland is second only to London in foreign direct investment, and that is how we intend to keep it.

To summarise, the key reason to have independence is for the powers that enable us to tackle problems. Independence does not sprinkle fairy dust, but it would give us the levers to tackle poverty, for instance. It would also enable us to invest in our incredible natural resources for the benefit of all our citizens. Most importantly, independence would enable us to be in control of our own future. Being independent would mean that we would never again have a disaster like Brexit forced on us against our will. Those living in Scotland would get to choose their own Governments and therefore drive decisions about our future. With more than 70% of Scots supporting membership of the EU, I have no doubt that our most prosperous future is as a modern, independent European country, just like many of our successful neighbours.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak in the debate this afternoon. Cost of living increases are impacting households and businesses right across the country. It is right that this Parliament should be concerned about how we mitigate those impacts to ensure that the people of Scotland thrive. However, a debate that starts from the unfounded position that the UK’s exit from the European Union is to blame for any and all woes is not the best use of this House’s time. Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine coupled with the economic aftershocks of covid have caused huge disruptions to the global economy. No country is immune from that. However, we are benefiting from the swift action taken by this United Kingdom Government to mitigate the worst of those impacts. [Interruption.] I will make some progress if I may.

Announcements made at the spring Budget 2023—[Interruption.] Madam Deputy Speaker, this is a serious subject, but SNP Members laugh and shout down the Government’s representative as we try to respond to some of the points that they have made.

I will make some progress. Rather than shouting and laughing, I encourage SNP Members to listen to the points I am making. We are benefiting from the swift action that this United Kingdom Government are taking to mitigate the worst of these impacts. Announcements made at the spring Budget 2023 bring the UK Government’s total cost of living support to £94 billion over the current and next financial year, averaging at more than £3,300 per UK household. Those interventions will not only help ease some of the pressures on those most in need, but stimulate the economy and contribute to our long-term recovery from these unprecedented global challenges that we have faced in the past few years.

As has been said in the House previously, Government Members would warmly welcome a serious debate on ways to build on those foundations and to improve Scotland’s economy, because Scotland’s economic growth has lagged behind that of the UK during the SNP’s time in Holyrood.