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Volume 737: debated on Wednesday 6 September 2023

I would like to start by congratulating Sarina Wiegman and the Lionesses on their fantastic performance at the World cup. We are all incredibly proud of them. I also know that the whole House will join me in sending condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Sergeant Graham Saville. It is testament to his bravery that he died in the line of duty, and a terrible reminder of the work that the police do every day to keep us safe.

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.

The Labour party used to claim that it represents working-class people, but Labour’s ultra low emission zone expansion to Greater London will now hammer millions of working people with bills of £12.50 per day, or £4,500 per year. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is unacceptable that Londoners and those in surrounding counties face this regressive and unacceptable tax, and will he do everything that he can to help working people?

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is disappointing that last week the Labour leader allowed the Labour Mayor to introduce ULEZ, charging hard-working people £12.50 every time they start their car, adding to the burden of the cost of living. All I can say is that while we focus on helping hard-working families, all the Labour leader does is punish them.

I join the Prime Minister in congratulating the Lionesses, and also in his comments about Sergeant Saville; I think we speak for the whole House when we speak on that subject.

I also extend the warmest welcome to my hon. Friend the new Labour Member for Selby and Ainsty (Keir Mather). He has already made history for the Labour party by overturning the largest Tory majority ever in a by-election. I also welcome the hon. Members for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Steve Tuckwell) and for Somerton and Frome (Sarah Dyke).

The roof of Singlewell Primary School in Gravesend collapsed in May 2018. Thankfully, it happened at the weekend and no children were injured. The concrete ceiling was deemed dangerous and liable to collapse, and everyone knew that the problem existed in other schools, yet the Prime Minister decided to halve the budget for school maintenance just a couple of years later. Does he agree with his Education Secretary that he should be thanked for doing a “good job”?

I know how concerned parents, children and teachers are, and I want to start by assuring them that the Government are doing everything that we can to fix this quickly, and minimise the disruption to children’s education. We make no apology for acting decisively in the face of new information.

Let me provide the House with an update on where we are. Of the 22,000 schools in England, the vast majority will not be affected. In fact, in two thirds of inspections of suspected schools, RAAC—reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete—is not actually present. To tackle the 1% of schools that have been affected so far, we are assigning each school a dedicated caseworker and providing extra funding to fix the problem. In the majority of cases, children will attend school as normal, and the mitigations take typically just days or weeks to complete. We will do everything we can to help parents, support teachers and get children back to normal school life as quickly as possible.

Wood Green Academy in Sandwell was on Labour’s building list in 2010. The Conservatives scrapped it, and now children there are in a crumbling school. The head of the National Audit Office accuses the Prime Minister of taking a “sticking plaster approach”. The NAO report says he cut £869 million. The person who ran the Department for Education says the Prime Minister is personally responsible. On Monday, he leapt to his own defence, saying it is “utterly wrong” to blame him—so why does literally everyone else say it is his fault?

The professional advice from the technical experts on RAAC has evolved over time. Indeed, it is something that successive Governments have dealt with, dating back to 1994. As new advice has come forward, the Government have rightly, decisively and swiftly acted in the face of that advice.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about school budgets and what I had done, but let me just walk him through the facts of what that spending review actually did, because he brought it up—[Interruption.] No, he brought it up, so presumably he would like to hear the facts. Funding for school maintenance and rebuilding will average £2.6 billion a year over this Parliament as a result of that spending review, representing a 20% increase on the years before. Indeed, far from cutting budgets as he alleges, the amount spent last year was the highest in a decade. That spending review maintained the school rebuilding programme, delivering 500 schools over a decade, a pace completely consistent with what had happened previously. It is worth pointing out that, during the parliamentary debates on that spending review, the Labour party, and he, did not raise the issue of RAAC one single time. Before he jumps on the next political bandwagon, he should get his facts straight.

Carmel College in Darlington was on Labour’s building list in 2010. The Conservatives scrapped it, and now children there are in a crumbling school. On the one hand, we have the Prime Minister saying it is nothing to do with him, and on the other hand we have the facts. There is a simple way to clear this up. Why does he not commit to publishing the requests from the Department for Education for the school rebuilding programme and what risks he was warned of before he turned them down?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has now brought up twice the Labour school rebuilding programme, so let us just look at the facts surrounding it, because we do know the truth about that programme. The NAO, which he has called on, reviewed that programme later on, and what did it find? It found that Labour’s school rebuilding programme excluded 80% of schools. Next, what did it find? It found that it was one third more expensive than it needed to be, needlessly wasting resources that have gone to schools. The worst bit—because now he is talking about the physical condition of schools—is that that programme allocated funds solely on the basis of ideology, with no regard whatsoever to the physical condition of schools. That is why the independent James review described the programme as “time consuming” and “expensive”—just like the Labour party.

Order. We do not want to start off with somebody leaving early, because that is what will happen.

Well, Mr Speaker, Conservative Members want more, so let me continue. Ferryhill School in County Durham was on Labour’s building list in 2010. The Government scrapped that, and now children there are in a crumbling school. The truth is that this crisis is the inevitable result of 13 years of cutting corners, botched jobs and sticking plaster politics. It is the sort of thing you expect from cowboy builders: saying that everyone else is wrong and everyone else is to blame, and protesting that they have done an effing good job even as the ceiling falls in. The difference is that in this case, the cowboys are running the country. Is the Prime Minister not ashamed that, after 13 years of Tory Government, children are cowering under steel supports stopping their classroom roof from falling in? [Interruption.]

Order. Seriously, calm down. I understand that this is the first session and people are excited to be back at school, but we expect better behaviour.

This is exactly the kind of political opportunism that we have come to expect from Captain Hindsight here. Before today, he has never once raised this issue with me across the Dispatch Box. It was not even worthy of a single—[Interruption.]

Order. The same applies to those on the Labour Benches. We will have a calmer Question Time going forward, because I want to hear the questions and the answers, just like your constituents.

Before today, the right hon. and learned Gentleman never once raised this issue with me in Parliament. It was not even worthy of a single mention in his so-called landmark speech on education this summer. If we had listened to him, our kids would have been off school and locked down for longer—it is as simple as that. He talks about 13 years; well, let us see what has happened. When we came into office, two thirds of schools were rated “good” and “outstanding”; now, it is 90%. We introduced the pupil premium to get more funding to the most disadvantaged pupils. Today, they are 75% more likely to go to university. And, as a result of our reforms, we now have the best readers in the western world. That is what 13 years of education reform gets you, all of which was opposed by the Labour party.

The Prime Minister claims to be a man of detail, but there have been 100 parliamentary questions from the Opposition on this issue, and an Opposition day motion. Let us continue: Holy Family Catholic School in Bradford was on the Labour building list in 2010. The Government scrapped that, and now children there too are in a crumbling school—[Interruption.]

Order. Mr Holden, I have heard enough. This is the last time; make up your mind. Either you go now or you are quiet for the remainder.

If you can believe it, Mr Speaker, in April this year, the Education Secretary signed a contract for refurbishment of her offices. It has her personal stamp of approval on it. It cost—I cannot quite believe this—£34 million. Can the Prime Minister explain to parents whose children are not at school this week why he thinks that a blank cheque for a Tory Minister’s office is better use of taxpayer’s money than stopping schools from collapsing?

What I say to parents is that, on the receipt of new information, we have acted decisively to ensure the safety of children and minimise disruption to education, as we have laid out and communicated extensively. That is the right thing to do. I also gently point out to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that, while the Department for Education started this process 18 months ago in spring of last year, as far as I can tell, Labour-run Wales still does not know which schools are affected.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman brought up funding, so again, let us look back to what happened in that spending review. In that spending review, I increased the Department for Education’s capital budget by 25% to a record £7 billion; it tripled the amount that we spend on children with special educational needs and disabilities; it improved the condition of the overlooked further education estate; and it set the course for per-pupil funding to be the highest ever. Crucially, it also invested £5 billion to help our pupils recover the lost learning from covid. He might remember that, because we wanted pupils learning; he wanted longer lockdowns.

I just do not think the Prime Minister gets how, “It’s all fine out there” is at odds with the lived experience of millions of working people across this country.

Let us go on—this is a long list. In 2010, at least six schools in Essex were on Labour’s building list; the Government scrapped them and now children there are in crumbling schools. The Prime Minister will not admit that the reason he cut budgets and ignored the warnings is quite simple: just as he thought his tax rises were for other families to pay, he thinks his school cuts are for other families to endure. Does that not tell us everything we need to know? He is happy to spend millions of taxpayers’ money sprucing up Tory offices, and billions to ensure that there is no VAT on Tory school fees, but he will not lift a finger when it comes to protecting other people’s schools, other people’s safety and other people’s children.

I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman comes here with prepared scripts, but he has not listened to a single fact, over six questions, about the record amounts of funding going into schools, or the incredible reforms to education impacting the most disadvantaged children in our society—a record that we are rightly proud of. Yes, we can name the schools: that is because we are reacting to information and publishing it so that we know where the issues are—something that we are still waiting for from the Welsh Government.

Of course the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants to score political points from something that we are dealing with in the right and responsible way, but I note that he has not mentioned a single other thing that has happened since we last met at the Dispatch Box. He talked about hard-working families across Britain, but what has happened to energy bills? Down. What has happened to inflation? Down. What has happened to small boat crossings? Down. And what has happened to economic growth? It has gone up. The right hon. and learned Gentleman tried time and again to talk down the British economy, but thankfully, people were not listening. His entire economic narrative has been demolished, and the Conservatives are getting on delivering for Britain. [Hon. Members: “More!”]

Q2. Against a backdrop of improving economic news, inflation falling, energy bills coming down and growth up, people in the west midlands are disappointed to see that Labour-run Birmingham City Council has gone bankrupt. As a Sandwell resident and a West Bromwich MP, I am no stranger to Labour incompetence. Does the Prime Minister agree that Labour have demonstrated yet again that they always run out of other people’s money? (906229)

My hon. Friend is exactly right. We started by hearing how Labour in London are charging hard-working people with ULEZ, and now we are hearing about how Labour in Birmingham are failing hard-working people, losing control of taxpayers’ money and driving their finances into the ground. They have bankrupted Birmingham; we cannot let them bankrupt Britain.

The public need no reminding that today marks a year since the Prime Minister’s predecessor, the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), took office. Upon her speedy departure, they will have thought that things were going to get better, but unemployment figures are higher, food prices are higher, mortgage rates are higher, and economic growth is stagnant. When is the Prime Minister going to get off his backside and do something about it?

What the hon. Gentleman failed to point out is the amount of times I have sat across the Dispatch Box from him and his colleagues and heard how somehow, we were a laggard when it came to growth. He did not take the opportunity to correct the record now that figures have been published, which demonstrate that in fact, we had the fastest recovery of any European economy after covid.

Mr Speaker, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Prime Minister thinks everything is all right, but let us look at his proposals for a winter cost of living package. On energy bills, his plan is to do nothing; on mortgage bills, his plan is to do nothing; and on food bills, his plan is to do nothing. When the Secretary of State for Education said earlier this week that everyone was doing nothing, she was referring to the Prime Minister, wasn’t she?

I think the hon. Gentleman is a little out of practice, because we have paid around half a typical family’s energy bills over the past year. That is support worth £1,500, benefiting families in Scotland. On mortgages, the Chancellor’s mortgage charter covers 90% of the mortgage market, and ensures that a typical mortgage holder can save hundreds of pounds a month on mortgage refinancing. On energy, thanks to the actions of this Government, we are supporting the hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Scottish oil and gas industry, securing this country’s energy supply, which he opposes. I will always do what is right for the people of Scotland, and it is time the SNP did the same.

Q6.   I was delighted when the Prime Minister said last year that, on his watch, we would “not lose swathes” of farmland to solar applications, instead rightly arguing for solar to be installed on rooftops, yet my constituency sees a constant flow of planning applications for solar farms and battery storage plants on food-producing land. Can I ask my right hon. Friend: when will his pledge become a reality? (906233)

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. Solar is one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation, so it is right that we try and see more of it across the country, but we do need to protect our most valuable agricultural land so that it can produce food for the nation and increase our food security. That is why, thanks to our changes, the planning system now sets this out explicitly with a clear preference for brownfield sites. Of course, we want to do more to encourage barn-top solar, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be updating the House with further information on that policy in due course.

Last week, the Prime Minister stated that he was “proud” of his furlough scheme. I wonder if he is equally proud of the £400 billion he put on the national debt and the inflation it has caused. Is he proud of the jobs lost, businesses closed and lives crushed due to the lockdowns? Is he proud of the increased NHS waiting lists, premature deaths and the 1 million young people now needing mental health support? Finally, is he proud of the excess deaths affecting every one of our constituencies that nobody wants to talk about, and will he give an undertaking to the British public—a solemn under-taking—that they will never be inflicted upon them again?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a formal inquiry regarding covid, which will examine all the decisions that were made, including lockdown, and the impacts of them. But with regard to the furlough scheme, I am proud that, at a time of extreme anxiety in the country, facing an unprecedented situation, this Government put their arms around the British public to ensure that we protected 10 million jobs. As the report from the Office for National Statistics showed last week, those actions, combined with all the other things we did to support the economy, ensured that we had the fastest recovery through the pandemic of any European nation.

Q7. As we are a nation of animal lovers, the Conservative Government’s record on animal welfare is a source of great pride, but, sadly, too many abuses remain—from pet theft, the smuggling of puppies and heavily pregnant dogs and dogs with their ears horrifically cropped to the illegal export of horses to Europe for slaughter. These issues are personal to me as a veterinary surgeon and to my constituents, especially animal theft and livestock worrying. Can the Prime Minister reassure the House that animal welfare is a key Government priority, and that he will bring forward the necessary legislation to tackle these issues as soon as possible? (906234)

May I thank my hon. Friend for both raising this issue and also his work and expertise in the area? I am proud that, thanks to the actions that previous Governments have taken on things like cat microchipping, the ivory ban and raising the maximum sentence for animal cruelty to five years, we are now the highest ranked G7 nation on World Animal Protection’s animal protection index, but we are determined to go even further and deliver on our manifesto commitments individually during the remainder of this Parliament.

Q3.   The Prime Minister has said he will lead a Government of honesty, accountability and integrity, so can he explain how he was found to have breached the code of conduct, this time for failing to declare his wife’s shares in a childcare agency that received a monetary boost from measures in his Budget? (906230)

If the hon. Lady reads the full transcript and the full findings, she will see a detailed explanation of what happened, which the commissioner described as a “minor and inadvertent” breach, given that at the time I was not aware of the policy that was being discussed with me, and corrected it later on and could have corrected it with slightly different language. She will also know that I am not the only person across these Dispatch Boxes that has had the same thing happen to them.

Q9. May I interest the Prime Minister in proposals from the commission for carbon competitiveness, which I chair, that would deliver net zero cheaply and without deindustrialising our economy? It would help British manufacturers facing imports from countries with lower energy costs, make our exports more competitive everywhere, and cut fuel duty at home. We have strong backing from Britain’s heavy industries, and cross-party support from the excellent hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), whose name is also on the Order Paper. Would the Prime Minister consider adding his name to our list of supporters as well? (906236)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and the commission for carbon competitiveness for the report that he has worked on and highlighted, and the Government are absolutely committed to putting in place the necessary policies for UK industry to decarbonise successfully. As he will be aware, the Government recently consulted on addressing carbon leakage in particular, with a range of potential options. We are in the process of considering those responses, and will issue a formal response in due course.

Q4. Every year, billions of wet wipes go out into our rivers and oceans, and clog up our sewers. I have been campaigning for years to ban plastic in wet wipes. The Government have finally promised to ban plastic in wet wipes, but that was five months ago and there has been nothing since then. Will the Prime Minister today finally give a date for when that ban will come into force and make a difference to our environment, or is this another broken promise from his zombie Government? (906231)

In the comprehensive “Plan for Water” that was published by the Environment Secretary in April, we confirmed our intention to ban wet wipes containing plastic, subject, as is legally proper, to a public consultation. That consultation will be launched in the coming months, in autumn this year, and I know Ministers will keep the House updated on progress.

Q12. I would like to offer some assistance on the small boats issue. Has my right hon. Friend considered the incongruity of the fact that a UK dinghy manufacturer trying to sell into the EU market would have to apply the CE marking, customs codes and could be stopped and checked, and a similar situation applies, perversely, with a simple thing like Great Britain to Northern Ireland trade? But none of that applies, seemingly, when huge, supersize, dangerous cut-and-shut dinghies are taken from Turkey, across the EU border into Bulgaria and Greece. Is my right hon. Friend as confused as I am by the EU’s double standards on that matter? (906239)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we must do all we can to stop the boats and tackle illegal migration. We know that the export of small boats across parts of the European continent is a vital element of the smuggling gangs’ tactics. That is why, specifically, we are stepping up joint operations with Turkey—I raised this with the President when we spoke—so that we can tackle organised immigration crime, and specifically disrupt the supply chain of boat parts that are used for these dangerous crossings. I will continue to keep him updated on our progress.

Q5.   Two years ago in Plymouth, we lost five people in the worst mass shooting the country has seen for a decade. The Government have finally consulted on firearms reform, but after pressure from shooting groups, even those sensible measures look like they could be watered down. Will the Prime Minister bow down to lobbyists from the shooting industry, or will he stand with the grieving families, and with those in Plymouth who want to see no tragedy like this ever happen again, with stronger gun laws? (906232)

I know how important this issue is to the hon. Gentleman, following the horrific shooting in his constituency, and my thoughts are with the family of all those who were killed. He will know that firearms are subject to stringent controls, and rightly so, but those controls are kept under constant review. For example, we have taken action to improve information sharing between GPs and the police, to ensure that people are not given access to firearms without their medical conditions being checked. There is statutory guidance that the chief officers of police have been improving, so that how people apply for firearms is assessed properly, including checks on social media. On the matter that the hon. Gentleman specifically raises, the Home Office is in the process of considering responses to that consultation, and will respond in due course.

Q13.   Later today, I am bringing forward a ten-minute rule Bill, to include the provision of automated external defibrillators in all new housing developments of 10 dwellings or more. Will my right hon. Friend support that provision, and ask his relevant Cabinet colleagues to engage with me to ensure that these life-saving pieces of equipment can become commonplace where they can have the most impact, close to people’s homes? (906240)

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of these lifesaving devices. That is why the national planning policy framework already expects planning policies and decisions to promote public safety, but it is also why recently the Government launched a million-pound fund that will place around 1,000 new defibrillators in communities across England to help improve equality of access to these lifesaving devices.

Q8. In 2019, the Outwood Academy Riverside free school application in Middlesbrough was approved, with its first year 7 intake arriving the following year. There have been further intakes every year since, but there is still no new building. I have had no response to my request for a meeting with the Secretary of State, but that original intake are destined to spend their entire secondary education in various temporary adapted premises. With pupils being shunted around old buildings, talk of levelling up and addressing the GCSE attainment gap rings hollow. Will the Prime Minister and his Education Secretary get off their derrières and sort this out? (906235)

I am happy to ensure that the hon. Gentleman gets an answer to his specific question on that school, but more generally I am proud of what the Government are doing in Teesside and Tees Valley to support education, not only with the recent announcement of new sixth forms, but also it is an education investment area receiving extra funding and resources. That is why we have seen standards in reading and maths increase considerably, and we are determined to keep going.

The Prime Minister is aware of how the RAAC issue has affected schools in Essex. We have a high number of schools that have been impacted. He has rightly said today that the Government are doing everything they can to get children back to school. I know there is a debate on this later today, but will he commit to fully funding both the capital and revenue costs associated with getting children back into school?

I hope he will commit to meeting the leader of Essex County Council, because it is pioneering some great reforms right now, where it is looking to support maintained schools as well as academy trusts. I think the Government could get some good insights into how we can get children back to school fast and look at the funding model.

First, I thank my right hon. Friend for her constructive engagement with the Department. I pay tribute to her school leaders and local authority for everything they are doing. I am happy to give her the reassurance, as the Chancellor has already said, that new funding will be provided to schools to deal with this issue. To ensure that we can get through this as quickly as possible for my right hon. Friend’s constituents and parents—and, indeed, everyone else’s—the Department for Education is in the process of increasing the number of dedicated caseworkers from 50 to 80. We have 35 project directors regionally on the ground to support, and we have more than doubled the number of survey firms, so that we can rapidly over the next few weeks fully assess all the relevant schools and have a mitigation plan in place.

Q10. Steel- workers in my constituency have watched in frustration as other Governments have pumped investment into decarbonisation while successive Tory Governments have sat on their hands. When will the Prime Minister finally conclude the talks with Tata Steel? Can he guarantee that level of investment will match what other European Governments are doing on decarbonisation? And will he guarantee that the conclusion will be based on serious engagement, comprehensively with the steel unions? (906237)

Steel is absolutely vital to the UK. This matter is of course of interest to the hon. Gentleman, but I have also discussed it extensively with my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Holly Mumby-Croft), and that is because the industry supports local jobs and economic growth. Conversations with specific companies, such as Tata, are ongoing, but they are understandably commercially sensitive. We share the ambition of securing a decarbonised, sustainable and competitive future for the industry in this country. In the meantime, we are supporting the sector with our energy-intensive industries exemption, which provides discounted energy bills. We also have the industrial energy transformation fund, which supports steel companies with their energy bills and the transition through capital to a greener future.

Two weeks ago the Government announced that the Bolsover School’s bid for a sixth form in my constituency has been successful. Across the country, some 52% of school leavers at 16 years old go on to a sixth form, but in Bolsover it is 23%, in Clowne it is 22%, and in Shirebrook it is 7%. Will the Prime Minister join me in thanking the Redhill Academy Trust, Matthew Hall, the headteacher of Bolsover School, and all those who have helped to bring a sixth form to Bolsover?

I congratulate Redhill and everyone involved with the successful bid for the new sixth form in Bolsover. I am delighted that the bid was successful. I know that my hon. Friend shares my desire to ensure a world-class education for every single one of our young people across the country, because that is the best way to provide them with the opportunity for a better life. The new programme of sixth forms will deliver that in his constituency and many others across the nation.

Q11. The north- east has been underfunded in terms of transport investment for decades. HS2, which was meant to be an economic development and connectivity lifeline, is now not coming anywhere near, the A1 Northumberland dualling decision has been delayed yet again, and our regional rail services are still running on outdated infrastructure and rolling stock.With all that in mind, will the Prime Minister commit the funding to reopen the Leamside line from Gateshead to County Durham to take pressure off the east coast main line and aid economic wellbeing and the movement of passengers and freight services in the north-east of England? Or is levelling-up just rhetoric? (906238)

Obviously, it would not be right for me to comment on specific projects, but to give the hon. Gentleman a sense of our commitment, what I can tell him is that in real terms since 2010 we have spent over a third more in central capital investment in northern transport every single year compared with Labour’s last six years in government. That is what we are doing for northern transportation. Specifically, when it comes to reopening and restoring railway lines, where was the first one that we did? From Ashington to Blyth.

I have a cheerful question that I know my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will find impossible to resist. He will be aware of the work that I have been doing with No. 10’s UK Ambassador for mental health, Dr Alex George, to establish early intervention mental health hubs across the country. We have got the pilot, which seems to be lost somewhere between the Treasury and the Department of Health—I know he will sort that problem out—but will he meet Dr Alex George and me to discuss it further? These hubs will make a massive difference in constituencies across the country. We all know the problems with child and adolescent mental health services and the perverse situation where children and young people have to get progressively worse before they get the treatment they need. I know that the Prime Minister will be very supportive of this one, Mr Speaker.

I know that my hon. Friend is rightly a passionate advocate for improving mental health support for young people, which is something I know we are doing, and I am proud of our record, particularly in increasing the number of mental health support teams who work with schools and expanding community services. I know that the Department of Health and Social Care is looking at the role that early support hubs might play in this plan, but I am happy to meet my hon. Friend personally to discuss how we can push this through.

Q14. We have heard far too much lately about ministerial posteriors and little about prosperity for the country. Even in these dying days of a lame-duck Government, will the Prime Minister stop prevaricating and subscribe to the Horizon programme for the sake of vital British science, innovation and cancer research? (906241)

This Government are investing record sums in British science and research and development, because we believe that is critical to a brighter economic future and spreading opportunity. Our priority and preference is to associate to Horizon, but we want to make sure that that is on terms that are right both for the British taxpayer and for British science and research. I can commit to the hon. Lady that we have been extensively involved in discussions. I hope to be able to conclude those successfully and, when we do, I hope she will be the first to stand up and congratulate the Government.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, but it also marks two years since the death of my constituent Sophie Fairall. She was only 10 years old. Every day in the UK, 10 young people will be diagnosed with cancer, and two of those will not survive. Those who do face a lifetime of side effects from treatments that are just not designed for small bodies. When will the Prime Minister publish a childhood cancer action plan?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. I extend my sympathies to her constituent’s family, as she raised. She is right to continue campaigning in this important area. I hope she will understand that I cannot pre-empt the specific contents of the strategy, but I can tell her that it will draw on previous work, including submissions from childhood cancer charities and stakeholders to our recent calls for evidence. Of course, we want to hear from them to highlight and get a sense of the issues that she specifically raised, but I will ensure that we write to her to give her a sense of the timing.

Q15. Every year the SNP Scottish Government mitigate against the cruellest of Westminster policies by spending £84 million on supporting hard-working families against the brutal bedroom tax and over £6.2 million on covering the two-child benefit cap. Astonishingly, we have learned over the summer that the Leader of the Opposition is an enthusiastic supporter of these Tory cruel welfare policies, with U-turn after U-turn from the Labour party. Given that the Tories and Labour are two cheeks of the same arse—[Hon. Members: “Oh!]—offering no change, no vision and no hope, does the Prime Minister agree that the only way Scottish voters can rid themselves— (906242)

Order. I am not going to have us both stand up; one of us is going to give way, and it will not be me. Let us think about language. Let us be more temperate and make sure that the pride of this Parliament shines through—that certainly will not be by using such language.

I am happy to change the offending word to “bottom”. Given that the Tories and Labour are two cheeks of the same bottom, offering no change, no vision and no hope, does the Prime Minister agree that the only way for Scottish voters to rid themselves of these heinous policies is to vote for the SNP to leave Westminster forever?

Obviously not. I think the thrust of that question was directed at the Leader of the Opposition rather than me, and I would not want to get in the middle of that. What I can say is that we want to ensure a welfare system that is compassionate and looks after the most vulnerable in our society, while supporting into work those who can do so, because that is also fair for everyone else and British taxpayers. I believe that is a system that we are achieving. Right now, we are providing people in Scotland with thousands of pounds of support to help with energy bills and everything else, and we will continue to do so.