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Volume 747: debated on Wednesday 20 March 2024

Q7. Bedford renal unit is closed until further notice while investigations into the water treatment unit are carried out. This is a major incident for the nearly 100 patients in Bedford whose lives are now severely disrupted by the need to travel around 50 miles up to four times a week to access lifesaving kidney dialysis. Will the Prime Minister commit all the necessary resources needed by East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust renal services to urgently fix this major issue? (902144)

I am sorry to hear about that specific issue in the renal unit. The hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not being familiar with the details, but I will make sure that the Department looks into it and that the NHS is provided with all the support that it needs to rectify the situation.

Q11. Tomorrow is World Down Syndrome Day. We have made huge innovative strides in this country, with the unanimous passing in this House of the Down Syndrome Act 2022 and initiatives such as yours, Mr Speaker, to provide work placements here in the Palace of Westminster for people with Down syndrome. However, there is an outstanding issue that we must deal with. The time limit on abortion in the UK is 24 weeks’ gestation, but due to an anomaly in the law, for Down syndrome it is 40 weeks —up to full term—which many Members may not understand. With cross-party support I will table an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill to equalise the time limit in line with our disability and equality legislation. Surely, in the 21st century we cannot accept that people with Down syndrome are second-class citizens in our country. Will the Prime Minister support the change? (902148)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his dedicated work to pass the Down Syndrome Act. I thank him also for highlighting World Down Syndrome Day, and we will host a reception in No. 10 to mark the occasion. As he knows, when the grounds for abortion were amended, Parliament agreed that doctors were best placed to make those difficult decisions with women and their families. He also knows that it is a long-standing convention that it is for Parliament to decide whether to make any changes to the law on abortion. These issues have always been treated as an individual matter of conscience.

Q10. Some of my Livingston constituents in Broxburn and Craigshill have the misfortune of living in houses built with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete. Many cannot get insurance or mortgages, and one constituent told me very emotionally that he cannot even afford a survey. Will the Prime Minister arrange for his Ministers to meet me to discuss how his Government can fund local authorities and devolved Governments—which did not even exist when these houses were built—and give the support that was promised? We need action now. (902147)

I will happily look into the issues that the hon. Lady raises, but in the first instance I am sure that that would be a question for the SNP Government in Scotland to answer, to ensure that they are providing for their constituents. We have a strong track record of investing in local communities right across Scotland with our levelling-up funding and investment partnerships. She will know that housing is a devolved area, but I will happily look into the issue.

Q13. The Prime Minister should be aware that the people of Romford are appalled by the catastrophic reign of the current Mayor of London. Does he agree that traditional boroughs such as Havering should have more independence from City Hall? In the meantime, to save London, should we not sack Sadiq and elect Susan Hall as the next Mayor of our capital? (902150)

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for his championing of his area and for his passion to preserve its character. Although there are no current plans to redraw the boundaries, I understand his desire, especially with London being run by the Labour Mayor. With nightlife decimated, crime increasing and the Mayor raising taxes on hard-working people by more than 8%, London can certainly do better. The only way for pride to be restored in London is with Susan Hall as its new Mayor.

Q12. Sunday was the second anniversary of P&O Ferries’ illegal sacking of 786 British seafarers. Despite what Ministers have said, P&O has faced no sanction, and this Government’s new code of practice on fire and rehire would not stop it happening again. This Parliament will be the worst on record for living standards, and real wages are still worth less than in 2008. After 14 years, why have this Government failed to deliver a better deal for workers across Britain? (902149)

As the Chancellor recently pointed out, living standards are £1,700 higher in real terms than in 2010. If the hon. Gentleman wants to protect working people in this country, perhaps he should have a chat with his shadow Chancellor about her plans to impose £28 billion of tax rises on everyone in our country.

15. After decades of a Labour MP, Wrexham was known as “spice town”. But not any more: in the last four years, we have become a city with a £160 million investment zone, £20 million from the towns fund and £23 million from the shared prosperity fund. We are soon to have the largest trading estate in Europe, with more jobs than jobseekers. We have secured the future of Hightown Barracks and Hollywood has boosted our football club! Does the Prime Minister agree that it is this Conservative MP and this Conservative Government who are delivering for Wrexham? [Hon. Members: “More!”] (902152)

My hon. Friend has been an excellent campaigner for Wrexham, putting it on the map after years of decline under the Labour party. It is the heart of one of Wales’s investment zones, with our plan for towns helping to regenerate the local high street and improve public safety. I can tell my hon. Friend that with a great campaigner like herself, the next five years will only look brighter for Wrexham.

14. Last week, the Prime Minister rightly called Conservative party donor Frank Hester’s comments about my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) racist. It has since emerged that Mr Hester has made comments that a group of Indian members of staff should“Climb on the roof, like on the roof of the train” and made reference to “Asian corner”. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that those comments are racist— yes or no? (902151)

I addressed this last week, and the Minister for Women and Equalities addressed it just half an hour ago.

Mr Speaker, you and the Prime Minister will be welcome in the Arun district of my constituency, where developers are trying to build over every vineyard, horticultural nursery and piece of agricultural land. Will he point out that the last place to build homes is prime agricultural land, especially in an area where developers have enough permissions to meet the council’s targets for the next five years?

My hon. Friend is right that sustainable development must be at the heart of our planning system. That is why we are committed to meeting the housing needs of our communities by building the right homes in the right places, making sure that everyone makes best use of brownfield land, conserving our countryside. That is also the point he makes, which is important. I have been crystal clear: we must protect agricultural land. Food security is incredibly important and we need our farmers to produce more Great British food.

We know the Prime Minister has received advice about the legality of the Israel-Gaza war, that he has had time to consider it, and that Governments can and do publish such advice. Will he tell the House what steps he is taking to act on that advice in reviewing UK arms sales, in supporting the proceedings of the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court, and in exercising the UK’s vote at the UN Security Council?

We continue to call for Israel to respect international humanitarian law and for civilians to be protected. Too many civilians have been killed and we want Israel to take greater care to limit its operations to military targets. Those are points that both I and the Foreign Secretary have made repeatedly to Prime Minister Netanyahu. We have previously assessed that Israel is committed and capable of complying with international humanitarian law, and of course we always keep that under review.

The Prime Minister will be aware of plans by National Grid to build a network of 50-metre-high pylons through much of rural Lincolnshire. This is causing much consternation, particularly in rural villages. Can my right hon. Friend assure my residents that when Ministers finally consider the consultations that come forward from National Grid, they will give sympathetic consideration to putting some of the sections underground?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the concerns of his constituents. He will recognise the balance we need to strike by making sure that we give our country the energy security it needs but doing it in a way that is respectful of the impact on local communities. I will make sure that Ministers take into account the concerns he raised and that all the views of local constituents are taken into account.

Given that the Prime Minister’s and his Government’s days are numbered and that they will soon be in opposition, will he use the small amount of time available to him to join 138 United Nations member states in recognising the state of Palestine?

Our position has been consistently clear. We will recognise the state of Palestine when it makes the most beneficial sense for the overall peace process. Of course we are committed to an ultimate two-state solution, but in the here and now what we are calling for is an immediate, sustained humanitarian pause that would allow for the safe release of hostages, including British nationals, and would allow more aid to reach Gaza. We urge all sides to seize the opportunity, and continue negotiations to reach an agreement as soon as possible.