My Lords, before I repeat my right honourable friend the Prime Minister’s Statement, I take a moment to thank a close friend and colleague. Noble Lords will know that my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach, the Chief Whip, has decided to step down from the Front Bench. After serving continuously since 2006, first in opposition then in government, including nearly five years as Chief Whip, I think—I have some sympathy over this—he rightly felt it was time to get his life back. Speaking personally, I should say that the Chief Whip has always been a rock to me, a source of good humour, advice and positivity, and I am sure noble Lords across the House will agree with me that his consensual but determined leadership has been invaluable in steering this House through challenging and eventful times. On behalf of my Front-Bench colleagues, the Conservative Party and the whole House, I wish him all the best for the next chapter of his life with Lady Taylor and the rest of his family.
While I am paying tribute, many noble Lords will also want to take a moment to thank Mr Dave Evans, who retires today. Mr Evans joined the House in 1996, becoming a senior doorkeeper in 2003 and second principal doorkeeper in 2005. He will be greatly missed by the team and noble Lords alike. I wish him a happy retirement and hope he enjoys his relocation to Gainsborough and an extended holiday in the autumn to New Zealand.
The Statement is as follows:
“Mr Speaker, with permission I will make a Statement on the mission of this new Conservative Government.
Before I begin, I am sure the whole House will join me in paying tribute to my right honourable friend the Member for Maidenhead for all that she has given to the service of our nation. From fighting modern slavery to tackling the problems of mental ill health, she has a great legacy on which we shall all be proud to build.
Our mission is to deliver Brexit on 31 October for the purpose of uniting and re-energising our great United Kingdom and making this country the greatest place on earth. When I say ‘the greatest place on earth’, I am conscious that some may accuse me of hyperbole, but it is useful to imagine the trajectory on which we could now be embarked. By 2050, it is more than possible that the United Kingdom will be the greatest and most prosperous economy in Europe, at the centre of a new network of trade deals that we have pioneered. With the road and rail investments we are making and propose to make now and the investment in broadband and 5G, our country will boast the most formidable transport and technological connectivity on the planet. By unleashing the productive power of the whole United Kingdom—not just London and the south-east but every corner of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—we will have closed for ever the productivity gap and seen to it that no town is left behind ever again and no community ever forgotten.
Our children and grandchildren will be living longer, happier and healthier lives. our kingdom in 2050—thanks to the initiative of the previous Prime Minister—will no longer make any contribution whatever to the destruction of our precious planet brought about by carbon emissions, because we will have led the world in delivering that net zero target. We will be the home of electric vehicles—cars and even planes—powered by British-made battery technology being developed right here, right now. We will have the free ports to revitalise our coastal communities, a bioscience sector liberated from anti-genetic modification rules, blight-resistant crops that will feed the world and the satellite and earth observation systems that are the envy of the world.
We will be the seedbed for the most exciting and dynamic business investments on the planet because our constitutional settlement, our United Kingdom, will be firm; it will be secure; our union of nations beyond question; our democracy robust; our future clean, green, prosperous, united, confident and ambitious. That is the prize, and that is the responsibility that falls on all of us to fulfil.
To do so, we must take some immediate steps. The first is to restore trust in our democracy and fulfil the repeated promises of Parliament to the people by coming out of the European Union and doing so on 31 October. I and all Ministers in this Government are committed to leaving on this date, whatever the circumstances. To do otherwise would cause a catastrophic loss of confidence in our political system. It would leave the British people wondering whether their politicians could ever be trusted again to follow a clear democratic instruction.
I would prefer us to leave the EU with a deal; I would much prefer it. I believe that it is still possible, even at this late stage, and I will work flat out to make it happen, but certain things need to be clear. The withdrawal agreement negotiated by my predecessor has been rejected three times by this House. Its terms are unacceptable to this Parliament and to this country. No country that values its independence, and indeed its self-respect, could agree to a treaty which signed away our economic independence and self-government, as this backstop does. A time limit is not enough. If an agreement is to be reached, it must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop.
For our part, we are ready to negotiate, in good faith, an alternative, with provisions to ensure that the Irish border issues are dealt with where they should always have been: in the negotiations on the future agreement between the UK and the EU. I do not accept the argument that says that these issues can be solved only by all or part of the UK remaining in the customs union or in the single market. The evidence is that other arrangements are perfectly possible, and are also perfectly compatible with the Belfast or Good Friday agreement, to which we are, of course, steadfastly committed. I, my team and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union are ready to meet and to talk on this basis to the Commission or other EU colleagues whenever and wherever they are ready to do so.
For our part, we will throw ourselves into these negotiations with the greatest energy and determination and in the spirit of friendship. I hope that the EU will be equally ready and will rethink its current refusal to make any changes to the withdrawal agreement. If it does not, we will of course have to leave the EU without an agreement under Article 50. The UK is better prepared for that situation than many believe, but we are not yet as ready as we should be.
In the 98 days that remain to us, we must turbo-charge our preparations to make sure that there is as little disruption as possible to our national life, and I believe that is possible with the kind of national effort that the British people have made before and will make again. In these circumstances, we would of course have available the £39 billion in the withdrawal agreement to help to deal with any consequences. I have today instructed the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to make these preparations his top priority. I have asked the Cabinet Secretary to mobilise the Civil Service to deliver this outcome, should it become necessary. The Chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available—£4.2 billion has already been allocated.
I will also ensure that preparing to leave the EU without an agreement under Article 50 is not just about seeking to mitigate the challenges, but about grasping the opportunities. This is not just about technical preparations, vital though they are; it is about having a clear economic strategy for the UK in all scenarios—something that the Conservative Party has always led the way on—and about producing policies which will boost the competitiveness and productivity of our economy when we are free of EU regulations.
Indeed, we will begin right away on working to change the tax rules to provide extra incentives to invest in capital and research. We now will be accelerating the talks on those free trade deals, and we will prepare an economic package to boost British business and lengthen this country’s lead, which seems so bitterly resented on the Benches opposite, as the number one destination in this continent for overseas investment—a status that is made possible, at least partly, by the diversity of the talent and skills of our workforce.
I want therefore to repeat unequivocally our guarantee to the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us. I thank them for their contribution to our society and for their patience. I can assure them that under this Government they will have the absolute certainty of the right to live and remain.
I want to end by making clear my absolute commitment to the 31 October date for our exit. Our national participation in the European Union is coming to an end, and that reality needs to be recognised by all parties. Indeed, today there are very many brilliant UK officials trapped in meeting after meeting in Brussels and Luxembourg, when their talents could be better deployed in preparing to pioneer new free trade deals or promoting a truly global Britain. I want to start unshackling our officials to undertake this new mission right away, so we will not nominate a UK Commissioner for the new Commission taking office on 1 November—under any circumstances—although clearly this is not intended to stop the EU appointing a new Commission.
Today is the first day of a new approach, which will end with our exit from the EU on 31 October. Then I hope we can have a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, as friends and partners, in facing the challenges that lie ahead. I believe that is possible, and this Government will work to make it so. But we are not going to wait until 31 October to begin building the broader and bolder future that I have described; we are going to start right away by providing vital funding for our front-line public services to deliver better healthcare, better education and more police on the streets.
I am committed to making sure that the NHS receives the funds it deserves—that were promised by the last Government in June 2018—and that these funds go to front-line services as soon as possible. This will include urgent funding for 20 hospital upgrades and for winter readiness. I have asked officials to provide policy proposals for drastically reducing waiting times for GP appointments.
To address the rise of violent crime in our country, I have announced that there will be 20,000 extra police keeping us safe over the next three years, and I have asked my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to ensure that this is treated as an absolute priority. We will give greater powers—powers resisted, by the way, by the party opposite—for the police to use stop and search to help tackle violent crime. I have also tasked officials to draw up proposals to ensure that in future those found guilty of the most serious sexual and violent offences are required to serve a custodial sentence that truly reflects the severity of their offence and policy measures that will see a reduction in the number of prolific offenders.
On education, I have listened to the concerns of many of my colleagues around the House and we will increase the minimum level of per pupil funding in primary and secondary schools and return education funding to previous levels by the end of this Parliament.
We are committed to levelling up across every nation and region of the UK, providing support to towns and cities and closing the opportunity gap in our society. We will announce investment in vital infrastructure, full fibre rollout, transport and housing that can improve the quality of people’s lives, fuel economic growth and provide opportunity.
Finally, we will also ensure that we will continue to attract the best and brightest talent from around the world. No one believes more strongly than I do in the benefits of migration to our country, but I am clear that our immigration system needs to change. For years, politicians have promised the public an Australian-style points-based system, and today I will actually deliver on those promises: I will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to conduct a review of that system as the first step in a radical rewriting of our immigration system. I am convinced that we can produce a system that the British public can have confidence in.
Over these past few years, too many people in this country feel they have been told repeatedly and relentlessly what we cannot do. Since I was a child, I remember respectable authorities asserting that our time as a nation has passed, that we should be content with mediocrity and managed decline, and time and again, by their powers to innovate and adapt, the British people have proved the doubters wrong. I believe that, at this pivotal moment in our national story, we are going to prove the doubters wrong again—not just with positive thinking and a can-do attitude, important though they are, but with the help and the encouragement of a Government and a Cabinet who are bursting with ideas, ready to create change, determined to implement the policies we need to succeed as a nation: the greatest place to live; the greatest place to bring up a family; the greatest place to send your kids to school; the greatest place to set up a business or to invest; the best transport, the cleanest environment; the best healthcare and the most compassionate approach to the care of elderly people.
That is the mission of the Cabinet I have appointed, and that is the purpose of the Government I am leading. And that is why I believe that if we bend our sinews to the task now, there is every chance that in 2050, when I fully intend to be around, although not necessarily in this job, we will have achieved this and we will be able to look back on this period as the beginning of a new golden age for our United Kingdom. I commend this future to the House just as much as I commend this Statement”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating today’s Statement. I concur with her words about the Chief Whip. It feels as if he is having a daily testimonial at the moment, to which he is fully entitled, and he should enjoy it. I regard him as a genuine friend in the House. I have been his shadow in different jobs since I joined your Lordships’ House in 2010. I look forward to his contributions from the Back Benches and will still regard him as a friend in this House.
Dave Evans is also retiring today. His 24 years’ service to this House is a great achievement and shows true public service. I gather there are drinks on the Terrace for those who want to buy him a drink later today. The noble Baroness spoke about Theresa May as Prime Minister. She has had a tough time as Prime Minister, and I suspect she will show more loyalty from the Back Benches to her successor than she received. I am pleased to see the noble Baroness is still in her role, although I have more trepidation about some of her colleagues in the Cabinet. As I heard the announcements being made last night and today, it brought to mind one of my favourite TV programmes, “Yes, Prime Minister” because I could hear Sir Humphrey saying, “That’s very courageous, Prime Minister”. This is the noble Baroness’s first experience of repeating a Statement in the style of her new boss. She might have to work on the hand gestures.
In the first days on the job for any Prime Minister, bluster and bravado must meet reality. The new Prime Minister tells us he is presenting his blueprint for our country. I welcome his apparent change in tone on the value of public services, but he has to realise that despite the hyperbole in the Statement—that is what it is—the threat of no-deal Brexit creates enormous uncertainty. There is no clear plan about how we would cope with the risks to communities, families and British businesses or, indeed, the risk to the union. The Prime Minister says in the Statement that he will put the future of our union “beyond doubt”. It takes more than just words. Noble Lords are aware that there is a very real fear that the impact, particularly the economic impact which will be heavily felt, of no deal on Scotland will lead to further attempts to break up the union that we greatly value. On Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister said that there are possible arrangements for the Irish border that are compatible with the Good Friday agreement. Can the noble Baroness tell us what they are? What does his commitment to the Good Friday agreement look like in the event of no deal?
On public services, a key part of the Prime Minister’s speech was about the apparently bright—I think he described it as broader and bolder—future of the UK, which appears to involve reversing large swathes of Conservative policy that he was previously in favour of. I am all for reversing Conservative Party policies. The Prime Minister has promised 20,000 new police officers, yet he was part of the Government who cut 21,000 police officers and as a result we have seen an increase in violent crime on our streets. I know the noble Baroness has a particular interest in education. She will know that our schools are struggling to cover basic costs. Some have even been forced into a four-day week. That was inevitable given that there has been an 8% cut in per-pupil funding since 2010. Education funding should not be regarded as an electoral convenience. Can the noble Baroness give assurances today that areas of greatest need will see their funding increased rather than reduced? We are also promised an increase in funding for our health service. Can she confirm that, as previously promised by the Prime Minister, it will add up to no less than £350 million extra a week? I saw it on the bus, so it must be true.
Over the years, many have laughed, some with, some at, Boris Johnson in his various guises. We can all enjoy slapstick buffoonery, whether it means dangling from a zipwire or falling over in a dirty pond. There is always space for a genial comedian, but that is not the role of the Prime Minister. Gaffes may appear endearing when you are an MP on the Back Benches, but in a Prime Minister they are potentially very dangerous. So, as he will have realised—I make special reference to Mrs Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe—words must be chosen with great care, for every word of a Prime Minister is a word on behalf of our country. They will be pored over and analysed, and they can, as we saw when he was Foreign Secretary, have great consequences.
Our country is now more divided than ever before. While the new Prime Minister obviously wants to carve out his own style, his duty has to be to try to heal the wounds. If there is to be a vision for our country, it has to be about confidence about our place in the world, being outward looking and being optimistic for the future. That cannot wait until 2050, as outlined in the Statement. Last year, we celebrated the centenary of some women gaining the vote. I remind the noble Baroness and your Lordships’ House of the suffragettes’ wise motto: “Deeds not Words”. It is on our deeds that we are judged, not our words. It may come as a shock to Boris Johnson that that applies to him too. In the announcements made so far, it appears that the new Prime Minister is telling us that he rejects austerity and is heralding significant increases in public spending. What he has not told us is where the money is coming from and how we pay for and cope with the disaster of a no-deal Brexit. The true test will be delivery.
My Lords, I shall begin with a number of congratulations. I congratulate Mr Evans on his retirement. The good news for Members of your Lordships’ House is that, on the basis that Parliament is at some point prorogued and we have another Queen’s Speech, he will reappear in his position as one of the Yeomen of the Guard. He cuts an even more impressive figure in that role than he does in his attendant’s garb here. He has been a huge source of help to Members, not least to new Members, and he will be much missed.
I said my congratulations to the Chief Whip on his retirement yesterday, and I would be very happy to do so again today—but I do not want it to go to his head, so I shall not.
The noble Baroness, Lady Evans, deserves congratulations on being part of a successful minority—she has not been culled. I for one will be delighted to carry on working with her on a range of issues, not least harassment, where she has taken a very firm lead and I and other members of the commission have enjoyed agreeing with her.
There are two reasons for congratulating the Prime Minister. The first is, obviously, on getting elected and becoming Prime Minister in the first place, and the second is on showing the kind of consistency that one wants, in principle, from people. There were some who thought that, on becoming Prime Minister, he would stop inhabiting a fantasy world and would start behaving in a responsible manner and discussing issues with a semblance of reality. That hope has been dashed, and the Prime Minister is showing a degree of consistency in inhabiting his world of fantasy that is truly remarkable.
It began yesterday. He said about Brexit—and, in particular, a no-deal Brexit—that,
“the ports will be ready and the banks will be ready and the factories will be ready and business will be ready and the hospitals will be ready and our amazing food and farming sector will be ready”.
I now have the great pleasure and privilege of living in a rural area. I spent part of last Sunday talking to farmers and food processors about their view of Brexit, bearing in mind that if you produce lamb at the moment you will face a 40% tariff on 1 November. Their view is that the thing for which they are getting ready is bankruptcy, because there is no way that they can survive on their current business model the day after we leave the EU. Is that what the right honourable gentleman has in mind when he talks about them being ready? And, frankly, the same sort of readiness applies to the other sectors that he mentioned.
Even leaving aside that extraordinary Panglossian view of what life is likely to be like in 2050, there are a number of other areas in his Statement today where he exhibits the kind of fantasy that, in fairness, he has been promoting for a long time. The first relates to the Northern Ireland border. As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, said, his views about being able to leave the EU, particularly without a deal, and having no problems at the Northern Ireland border are fantasy. He has said that under no circumstances will there be any checks on the Northern Ireland border. In the Statement he says:
“The evidence is that other arrangements are perfectly possible”.
The truth is that the evidence is that no other arrangements are evenly vaguely possible. So he is very good at asserting things, but their relationship to truth is something that he often struggles with.
The next fantasy is that we will,
“have available the £39 billion in the withdrawal agreement to help deal with any consequences”,
of no deal. One should bear in mind that there will be no deal immediately, but we will have great relations with the EU. We will have a great new arrangement, albeit without a deal on 31 October. Does anybody believe that a British Government will renege on paying a penny to the EU after 31 October? If they did, how would they survive? The Governor of the Bank of England correctly described our position as being reliant on the “kindness of strangers”. We have a massive balance of payments deficit, which will not go away, Brexit or no Brexit. So we need people to trust us so that they will lend us the money to survive. If that fantasy were pursued, our position would be even worse than would otherwise be the case.
Moving on, he says:
“Finally, we will also ensure that we continue to attract the brightest and best talent from around the world”.
As I have said before, the definition of brightest and best does not extend to many of the brightest and best in a whole raft of sectors, such as the brightest and best care workers, agricultural workers, lab technicians, health service workers and hospitality staff. He talks about an Australian points system. We already have a points system for immigration. In what respect will giving it an Australian accent suddenly change the way it operates and deal with the “brightest and best” problem for the rest of the economy?
Fantasies such as these are not a sound basis for government. It is not surprising that there are, in the Prime Minister’s words, some doubters, doomsters and gloomsters who believe that this reckless Government will be bad for the whole country, and that you will not find any group or organisation that will go from strength to strength under Boris. However, they are wrong. Excluding the old Etonians and extreme Brexiteers, there is one group that is already benefiting from Brexit and will continue to benefit as long as Boris Johnson remains in office. The rest of the country is in for a very hard time—but the Liberal Democrats are on the rise.
I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their comments. I start by saying that the focus and aim are on getting a deal, and we believe that that is still possible. That has been very clear from the Statement. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he is very keen to engage as quickly as possible with the EU, along with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, to see whether we can break the current deadlock. We have to remember that the current agreement has been rejected by the House of Commons three times. We need to address that and we hope that we will be able to do so. However, because we have not been able to get the withdrawal agreement through, we are having to focus on no-deal plans.
We have made a lot of preparations but the Statement reflects, as the noble Lord said, that we need to do more. That is why there will be a renewed focus and co-ordination through the Cabinet Office to make sure that we build on the preparations that we have already made. As I said, £4.2 billion has already been spent on preparations for all EU exit scenarios, and more funding will be made available if required. There is also a plan to start a new communications campaign to ensure that people are prepared. That will be on top of the 750 communications on no deal that we have published since August 2018. Noble Lords will know, for instance, that we have reached trade agreements with partners worth around £70 billion of current trade and we have an agreement in principle with South Korea that represents another £15 billion.
The noble Baroness and the noble Lord also talked about Northern Ireland. As has been made very clear, we are steadfastly committed to the Belfast agreement. They will be aware that exploration of alternative arrangements had already been accepted by the EU and was within the withdrawal agreement. Work is beginning on that and groups have been set up. There are various arrangements, including trusted trader schemes and electronic pre-registering, that can be looked at and brought together to help ensure that we never have to use the backstop. We can look at developing this technology to ensure that our commitments to Northern Ireland are kept.
The noble Baroness talked about some of the domestic issues and she is absolutely right. I myself am particularly interested in education. We will ensure that our education system enjoys real-terms increases, meaning that the budget will, over the course of this Parliament, increase by £4.6 billion a year. We have announced that we will up the levels of per-pupil funding in primary and secondary schools. We will make sure that the minimum primary school level of funding goes up to £4,000 and that the secondary school level goes up to £5,000.
The noble Lord asked about the Australian immigration system. The Prime Minister has asked the Migration Advisory Committee to make sure that we can learn what works best in the system and what lessons we can copy for our new system. It is not about committing to copy the Australian system wholesale; it is about learning from best practice and what works well.
Finally, the noble Baroness rightly raised the extremely concerning situation of Mrs Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. We are very concerned about her welfare. We are in regular contact with her family and our embassy in Tehran continues to request consular access. Whatever disagreements we have with Iran, an innocent woman must not be a victim, and we will continue to work to ensure that she can come home.
My Lords, I am glad to join with all others in the kind remarks about the Chief Whip. He has been a tower of strength and reassurance in somewhat uncertain times. I am sorry that he is going, and I thank him very much.
I applaud the ambitious tone of the Statement, with talk of a new golden age. Perhaps this is something we all need to cheer us up. Perhaps I may add, in disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Newby, that there is massive evidence that other arrangements for the border can be designed. My desk is piled with huge volumes and if he wants some more bedtime reading, I will transfer them to his desk so that he can read them during the recess. There are many other ways of tackling that issue.
Perhaps I may suggest that our particular role here in your Lordships’ House will be to remind the policymakers and the people who put together the thoughts behind this Statement that huge changes are going on in the wider world. There are forces at work that will override almost anything that we do ourselves and shape our fate decisively. Global economic growth is one, massive migration is another, the total dependence on investment is a third, the rise of China is a fourth, the arms race is a fifth, and there are many others. It is perhaps a pity that the Statement did not quite reflect that, sadly, not everything is within our control and there are great global changes that we must now address with huge vigour. That said, I see where the ambition is pointing; we on our side should do our best to support it through difficult and treacherous times, not least given the lack of a majority in the other place. But there is the wider world and, in the end, these bigger forces are the ones that will shape our lives, our future and our survival.
I thank my noble friend for his comments. He is, of course, absolutely right and that is why we want to move on to the next stage of developing our future relationship with the European Union and start looking at all the other things we can do as a global Britain once we have sorted out leaving the European Union.
My Lords, I too pay tribute to the noble Lord the Chief Whip. He was very kind to Opposition Members when they joined the House, and it is sad to see him go.
My question, to which I want a serious answer, is this: what do the new Government see as the role of expert evidence when they are at the point of making serious policy decisions about the future of the country? This is a question about no deal. We know that the IMF regards no deal as the second biggest risk to the world economy in the coming year. We know that the Office for Budget Responsibility says that the budget deficit consequences of no deal would be extremely serious: £30 billion upwards of extra deficit. We know what the Bank of England says about the short and medium-term costs to economic growth. So, this is a very serious question, not one of party politics. Mrs May took notice of these experts and that is why she was determined that there would not be no deal. What notice do Mr Boris Johnson and his team of sycophants take of expertise?
I say to the noble Lord that we want to leave with a deal and that is what we will aim to do. That is why we want to sit down and talk to the Commission and EU leaders as quickly as possible to try to break the current impasse. But while the situation might be distressing, the House of Commons has rejected the withdrawal agreement three times. We need to ensure that we get a deal that we can get through Parliament; that will be the focus. But we will be legally leaving the EU on 31 October and any responsible Government have to prepare for that. That is why we are ramping up our preparations and taking a new co-ordinated approach, and why we will be building on the progress we have already made.
We have already signed bilateral voting rights agreements with Spain and Portugal, published—as I mentioned previously—750 pieces of communication around no deal and secured air services agreements. We will work hard to ensure that we are as prepared as we can be for no deal but, I repeat, we want to get a deal and that is what we will be trying to do. We will be talking to the EU to see if we can resolve the issues that have meant that the House of Commons has not been able to agree the withdrawal agreement that has been put to it three times.
I am grateful to the Minister for repeating what appeared to be the Prime Minister’s, or the Conservative Party’s, election manifesto—whenever the election comes. There were so many priorities that it was difficult to see any priority. But one issue that came out, as my noble friend Lord Newby pointed out, is that of a points-based immigration system. The Prime Minister indicated that he already has the Home Secretary on board and is seeking further consultation. Do we not need an immigration Bill—alongside agriculture, fisheries, trade and a whole raft of other Bills—if we are to leave the European Union? Where are they? Are they not among the priorities?
We have passed a number of Bills, as the noble Baroness will be aware. We have passed over 560 statutory instruments and will, of course, be bringing Bills in other areas forward and through. On immigration, as I said, the Prime Minister has asked the Migration Advisory Committee to undertake a study. All this will feed in as we begin to develop the scheme. She will also be aware that we have begun registering people for the settlement scheme and over 1 million citizens have already taken that up.
My Lords, I add my words to the tributes to my noble friend the Chief Whip, who I have known for some 60 years; we are fellow sons of Lincolnshire. I congratulate my noble friend the Leader of the House on her reappointment and wish her every success. I am also delighted to see the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, sitting in her rightful place.
Like everyone in your Lordships’ House, I am delighted about the announcement on EU nationals and want to see that enacted as quickly as possible, but I am concerned by what the Statement said about the £39 billion. I devoutly wish for a deal but, whatever the outcome, there will be a very significant sum outstanding for our membership dues over a period of many years. We must not lose our reputation as a nation that always keeps its word, and as an exemplary nation when it comes to satisfying the debts we owe. Can the Leader of the House give an assurance that we will not forfeit that reputation?
I am very happy to reassure my noble friend that we are a country that abides by our international obligations and will continue to do so.
My Lords, it is not often that one gets the promise of Arcadia and Utopia in the same Statement. Is it the Government’s position that, in seeking to open any negotiation with the European Union, they will do so in the expectation that it will not seek concessions from our side of the argument?
We will be in negotiations with the European Union, which means, of course, that two sides will be involved and looking for what they want—but both sides want a deal. We want a constructive, strong relationship with the EU going forward; they want that, and we want that. That is why we are very keen to begin discussions with both the Commission and EU leaders to try to get over the current impasse because at the moment, we do not have a withdrawal agreement that we can get through the House of Commons.
My Lords, there was no mention of industrial strategy in the Statement. Given the two new incumbents of the Treasury and their stated views on, and opposition to, industrial strategy, would it be fair to assume that it is no longer government policy?
No, we are committed to continuing to improve our economic situation to support businesses. For instance, we want to liberate our bioscience sector, we are committed to ensuring growth around the country and we remain committed to our strategy.
My Lords, I welcome the repetition of the Statement. We on these Benches wish to express our thanks to the Chief Whip, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and to Mr Evans. We tend to turn over numbers rather more regularly than your Lordships and have always been very well welcomed. We are deeply grateful and will miss them both very much indeed. I say that on behalf of all Members of these Benches—including the ones in disguise.
To move away from Brexit for a moment, the Statement talks powerfully about ambitions for education, tackling crime, social care and health, and about increasing funding for them very significantly. All that will of course be most welcome—if it comes. The issue, though, is that money does not do it all. In all those areas, the impact of households and families in their many diverse forms today is crucial. Social care is best handled—most effectively and affectionately—from within the home. Education within the home is absolutely critical. The challenges of crime, particularly in relation to probation and the release of prisoners, are best met within a stable home and household environment.
There are many different types of households and homes but, as we heard in Oral Questions this morning, significant obstacles remain to families and households supporting and caring for people in the most effective and flexible way and with the least cost to government. Will the Government be looking at these invisible barriers that affect the areas on which they wish to deliver with so much money and so much passion?
I thank the most reverend Primate for his comments. He is right that there are things that the Government can visibly do, but there is also support and there are things on the ground that we need to help develop, and that will certainly be part of our plans. The new Prime Minister has set out his vision covering domestic policy. I am delighted that I was not asked a question on Brexit because we want to look at how we can improve quality of life for people across our country and to focus on our future. That is why he is particularly focused on, and has highlighted, the fact that he wants to protect older people from the fear of having to sell their home to pay for care. I hope noble Lords will be pleased to hear that we will be publishing proposals in this area soon, because it is one of those areas that will make a significant difference to families across the country and to people’s lives, and it is something that we really must grapple with.
My Lords, if money is now to be abundant, and if the new Prime Minister and his Ministers genuinely seek to build a more just and humane society, why is there no mention in the Statement of the Government’s intention to remedy the grave failures in recent years in terms of access to justice? Perhaps, in this new fiscal climate, there is now an opportunity to restore the cuts in legal aid that should never have been made and to create more decent conditions in our prisons. If the Government really intend to pursue the liberal and just policies that they proclaim, I hope they will include those among their intentions.
I am afraid it is slightly above my pay grade to add further priorities to the Prime Minister’s list, but obviously we have a new Secretary of State for Justice and I am sure he will be very interested in the comments that the noble Lord has made. I am sure there will be lots of new thinking going on within the department in order to tackle some of the issues that he has raised.
My Lords, I particularly welcome in the Statement the commitment to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland. Is my noble friend aware that that agreement is underpinned by the devolved institutions, which have been suspended for some two and a half years? Is she also aware that tomorrow marks 100 days since the murder of Lyra McKee in Derry in Northern Ireland, which was a terrorist act? Is she further aware that in the aftermath of that the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, and the leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, attended the funeral, along with the President of Ireland, the Taoiseach and the leaders of all the major parties, and reaffirmed their commitment to get those institutions up and running? Will she reaffirm the Government’s commitment to, first, peace on the island of Ireland as a number one priority and, secondly, ensuring that those vital institutions are restored to full working order for the people of Northern Ireland?
I thank my noble friend. I am happy to reaffirm our absolute commitment to and focus on attempting to get devolved government back up and running in Northern Ireland. As we discussed at length last week, it is not an acceptable situation for the people of Northern Ireland. We will do all that we can to bring the parties back together because we need to get devolved government back up so that the people of Northern Ireland can move forward and have the proper, good governance of their region and their country that they deserve.
My Lords, how does the Leader of the House understand the concept of positive thinking? I am not entirely sure where the Government have got the concept from. I spent three and a half years in the United States and I well remember the extent to which the Pentecostal movement there uses the power of positive thinking as a faith-based good-news gospel. Indeed, President Trump was taken as a boy by his father to the church in Manhattan where the author of The Power of Positive Thinking was the minister. Do the Government link up with that movement in the US? Are we going to find Ministers in our Government promoting this sort of good-news gospel in Britain, or is the concept of positive thinking—a rather Trumpian concept, I have to say—going to hang there without the Protestant fundamentalism around which it was built?
That is a very interesting question and I thank the noble Lord. I can tell him that we are going to be marrying positive thinking with action to make sure that we can deliver the results that we want. That is what we will be doing with gusto from the Dispatch Box.
My Lords, I think something should be said from these Benches as a tribute to Dave Evans. From the point of view of someone my size, he is unusually impressive. Not only that, he has been extremely generous to the Cross-Benchers, particularly the many newcomers who have come here during his time. Strangely enough, I came to the House the same year that he did, albeit by a different route. It is perhaps rather fortunate that I will be staying on a little longer than him. On behalf of all of us on these Benches, I wish him a very happy retirement.
I paid my tribute to the Chief Whip yesterday but good things can be said again. One of the things that he taught me was the mysteries of the usual channels. Convenor is a strange position because it is not really part of the usual channels, but in some circumstances it is. The great thing about the Chief Whip was that he kept me fully informed of what the usual channels were up to, so that when I met the usual channels myself I was quite well informed and instructed as to what to do.
On the Statement, many noble Lords will remember that on three occasions I have reminisced about my time in a holding pattern above Aylesbury. I have the feeling, from the character of the Statement and the things that the Leader has repeated today, that perhaps the moment has come when the cabin crew have been told that it is 10 minutes to landing and we are being released from a holding pattern. Whether the landing is going to be a good one we have yet to discover, but at least I have the feeling that there is movement, which is something out of the Statement that is positive.
I would be grateful if the Leader said a bit more about Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I hope the Prime Minister will take time very early on to acquaint himself with the real feelings that there are in those places that their position is not being fully respected in the plans being made for Brexit. It would be greatly appreciated if he could visit those parts of our country very soon to reassure them on that point.
I am happy to reassure the noble and learned Lord that that is indeed a priority for the Prime Minister. In fact, he has decided also to call himself Minister for the Union to ensure that concerns and issues from all parts of the United Kingdom are taken into consideration in every policy announcement. He made it very clear during Cabinet this morning how committed he is to the union, and there are plans for him to travel around very soon.
I congratulate my noble friend on her reappointment. Her experience will be very useful in the coming months as we tackle the various bits of Brexit legislation. I share the warm words that have been said about both the Chief Whip and Mr Evans. They will be with us but they will be missed in their current roles.
I commend the Statement for the comment on business, the suggestion that there will be an economic package to boost business and, indeed, the promise to look at incentives to invest in capital and research. It is important that this is part of our agenda in the coming months and years, and I look forward to hearing more about the details.
I thank my noble friend. I assure her that this is something that the new Chancellor is absolutely committed to. We will be seeing further ideas and details of the proposals coming out very soon.