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Volume 615: debated on Wednesday 12 October 2016

Q4. Despite several rounds of European regional development funding, the Cornish economy continues to lag about 30% behind the UK average. Does the Prime Minister agree that Brexit provides us with the opportunity to develop our own economic programme, which will be less bureaucratic and more effectively targeted and will offer better value for money for the taxpayer, and will she confirm that her Government will continue to invest in the poorer regions of our country, such as Cornwall, once we leave the EU? (906457)

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. What I said at our party conference, and have been saying since I became Prime Minister, is that we want an economy that works for everyone; that means for every part of our country, including areas such as Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. We have already negotiated a devolution deal with Cornwall, which was signed in 2015; that demonstrates that we recognise the challenges that Cornwall faces. We are open to further discussions on ways in which we can improve Cornwall’s economy for the future.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance has found that there are

“a number of areas of concern”

regarding political discourse and hate speech in the UK, as well as violent racial and religious attacks. Police statistics show a sharp rise in Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and xenophobic assaults over the past year. Does the Prime Minister agree that all mainstream Governments and mainstream political parties should do everything they can to oppose xenophobia and racism?

I have been very clear from this Dispatch Box on a number of occasions that there is absolutely no place in our society for racism or hate crime. It is right that the police investigate allegations of hate crime where they occur. I am pleased to say that as Home Secretary I was able to bring in arrangements that improved the recording of hate crime. We also improved the requirement on police specifically to record hate crime relating to faith, so that we can see when Islamophobia is taking place, as well as anti-Semitism and other types of hate crime. There is no place for such crime in our society. With one voice, from across this Chamber, we should make that absolutely clear, and give our police every support in dealing with it.

I remind the Prime Minister that when she was Home Secretary she put advertising vans on the streets of this country telling foreigners to go home. At her party conference we heard that her party wishes to register foreigners working in the UK. The crackdown and the rhetoric against foreigners from this Government have led to even UKIP—UKIP—saying that things have gone too far. Across the length and breadth of this land people are totally disgusted by the xenophobic language of her Government. Will she now confirm that her Government’s intention is still to go ahead with the registration of foreign workers, but that we apparently should not worry, because her Government will keep it secret?

May I say very gently to the right hon. Gentleman that I answered two questions on that earlier? I suggest he should have listened to the answers I gave then.

Q5. We have empowered local doctors to take real leadership over important reconfiguration proposals. In Shropshire, 300 doctors, surgeons and clinicians have been working on a vital reconfiguration of A&E services in Shropshire and in Wales. When they make their decision on that later this month, it is very important that the Government back them and provide the capital funding required for this vital change to enhance patient safety. (906458)

My hon. Friend raises an important point. The configuration of services in his constituency and others is obviously a significant issue across the House. I am pleased to say that we are now seeing more people being treated in A&E. We will look at the proposals. The point about how this is being done is that local people should be able to have their voice heard and the decisions taken should reflect the needs in a particular local area. We all want to see that. A&E services are vital, and I pay tribute to all those who work in A&E in hospitals across the country.

Q2. The Public Accounts Committee and the Comptroller and Auditor General have both warned that the NHS budget is not sustainable. When will the Prime Minister’s Government wake up to the reality of growing demand, avoid the political rhetoric and set a sustainable NHS budget for this year and the future? (906455)

The Government took a very simple approach. We asked the NHS itself to propose its five-year plan for the NHS. We asked it how much money it required. It said £8 billion; we are giving it £10 billion, which is more than the NHS said. Funding in the NHS is at record levels. The only place where money for the NHS is being cut is under a Labour Administration in Wales.

Q7. A young man with Asperger’s syndrome awaits extradition to the United States to face charges of computer hacking, and is then likely to kill himself. It sounds familiar, but he is not Gary McKinnon, who was saved by the Prime Minister, but Lauri Love, who faces in effect a death sentence. When the Prime Minister introduced the forum bar to, in her words, “provide greater safeguards for individuals”,surely she expected it to protect the vulnerable like Gary McKinnon, like Lauri Love? (906460)

My hon. Friend campaigned long and hard for Gary McKinnon, and I obviously took that decision. At that time, it was for the Home Secretary to decide whether there was a human rights case for an individual not to be extradited. We subsequently changed the legal position on that, so this is now a matter for the courts. There are certain parameters that the courts look at in terms of the extradition decision, and that is then passed to the Home Secretary, but it is for the courts to determine the human rights aspects of any case that comes forward. It was right to introduce the forum bar to ensure that challenge on whether cases should be heard here, but the legal process is very clear, and the Home Secretary is part of it.

Q6. What does the Prime Minister say to British steelworkers who have lost their jobs or whose jobs are threatened, given the news that French steel is to be used for the new replacement Trident submarines? Is that what she means by being a party of the workers? (906459)

We recognise the concerns of British steelworkers. That is why the Government have worked, under both my predecessor and me, to ensure that we do what we can to promote, encourage and retain a steel industry here in the United Kingdom. A number of measures have been taken. If the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber earlier for Scottish questions, he will have heard my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland setting them out.

Q8. Doctors and nurses at Kettering general hospital are treating a record number of patients with increasingly world-class treatments, yet despite being located in an area of rapid population and housing growth, owing to an historical anomaly the local clinical commissioning groups are among the most relatively underfunded in the whole country. What can my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister do to help address the situation? (906461)

As my hon. Friend says, we want to ensure that patients experience the same high-quality care regardless of where they live and wherever they are. That is why, as I understand it, the funding for my hon. Friend’s local clinical commissioning group is being corrected to reflect more accurately the local health need. An investment of more than £757 million will be going into his local area, which shows the Government’s intention to ensure that we see a health service that is working for everyone across the country, but we can do that only with the economy to back up the NHS.

Q10. The Prime Minister will be aware that the soft border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic was vital in boosting the economy of Northern Ireland. Does she understand the confusion that has set in, and that many of us feel? On the one hand, the Government define their intention tightly to control the free movement of people and labour, yet on the other they assure us that that border between Northern Ireland and the Republic will continue to be open. Does she see the contradiction for many of those directly affected, and whose jobs are affected? (906463)

I have been clear, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been clear, and the Taoiseach has also said that, on both sides of the border, we do not want to see a return to the borders of the past. It is worth reminding the House that the common travel area has been in place since the 1920s, so it was there well before we were both members of the European Union. We are working with the Government of the Republic, and I have had discussions on this with the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. We want to ensure that we do not see a return to the borders of the past.

Q9. Thanks to the Government’s growth deal, the £32 million transformation of Brierfield Mill in my constituency gets under way this week, giving a new lease of life to the largest redundant mill complex in Lancashire. May I thank the Prime Minister for her support and commend Pendle’s other bits in the latest round of the growth deal as a great way to build a country that works for everyone? (906462)

I commend my hon. Friend for taking his opportunity to support the bids from Pendle. He is absolutely right that the money put in has enabled growth in local projects like Brierfield Mill to be unlocked. We have seen £250 million committed to the Lancashire local enterprise partnership, £2.8 billion to the northern powerhouse through the local growth fund, and the latest round of funding is worth up to £1.8 billion, with good bids coming in from local LEPs. We are assessing the proposals, including those from Pendle. They will be looked at with the seriousness my hon. Friend would expect.

Q11. This is the first Christmas that Hayley Aldirmaz of Pwllheli will not see her husband Hasan. They have been together for 10 years and married for over four, with two young children. It is evident that they are in a long-term relationship, but Hayley’s Turkish husband was refused a spouse visa in 2012 because she earns less than the Home Office threshold of £18,600. Last year, half the full-time workers of Dwyfor Meirionnydd earned only £293 a week or less. This, I might say, compares with the Prime Minister’s own constituency, where the median salary was £571, or almost £30,000 a year. Can the Prime Minister explain why living in Dwyfor Meirionnydd means Hayley has less chance of a proper family life, and will she please help to unite the family this Christmas? (906464)

I will not comment on the individual case. I know that the hon. Lady sent me the details of this specific case in writing. I will make sure that she gets a full reply from the Immigration Minister. On the broader issue she raises about the income threshold for those wishing to join a partner here in the United Kingdom, the Government asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee to advise on the level of the income threshold. The committee suggested a range of figures and we actually took the lowest figure, £18,600, in that range. It recommended that figure because it is the level at which a British family generally ceases to be able to access income-related benefits, and is able to support themselves and integrate into society. We believe it is important that people coming here are able to support themselves.

Q12. My constituents were delighted to learn this week that Gainsborough’s House, a unique museum and art gallery based in the very building where Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, is to receive almost £5 million of National Lottery funding to become a national cultural attraction. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the director Mark Bills and his team on their success, and does she agree that if in Suffolk we are bold and positive and go for devolution, we can look forward to much more of this sort of transformative investment in the years to come? (906465)

I join my hon. Friend in commending all those who have been involved in the bid at Gainsborough’s House. Many people will enjoy visiting Gainsborough’s House in the future as a result of the work that will be able to be done. I know the importance of the Heritage Lottery Fund. It supported the excellent Stanley Spencer gallery in my own constituency, so I have seen the impact it can have. He is absolutely right. The point about devolution deals is people coming together with that ambition for their local area to generate the transformative investment he talks about. Suffolk is looking at the sort of deal it might wish to have locally.

Q14. With Russian and Assad regime war planes bombing civilians in Aleppo at an unprecedented rate, will the Prime Minister join France in calling for those responsible for these war crimes to be referred to the International Criminal Court? Will she re-examine, with allies, the feasibility of a no-fly zone to protect the Syrian people before it is too late? (906467)

We are very clear that it is for the courts to decide where a war crime is being committed. We co-sponsored a UN Security Council resolution in May 2014 to refer those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, regardless of affiliation, to the International Criminal Court. Of course, that was vetoed by Russia and China. On the issue of a no-fly zone, this has been addressed. People have looked at this over a number of years. The scenes we see of the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent civilians are absolutely appalling. We want to see an end to that, but there are many questions about a no-fly zone. Who is it there to protect? Would it lead to Assad bombing people in the expectation that they would then move to that zone? How would a safe area actually be enforced there? Who would do that enforcement? There are many questions that need to be looked at in those sorts of issues. What we all know is that the only real solution for peace and stability in Syria is political transition, and it is time Russia accepted that: that the future of Syria is a political transition to a stable Syria, free of Assad.

Q13. At Middlewich High School in my constituency, the most vulnerable pupils and their families are impressively supported, pursuant to the school’s motto of “Achievement for All”. Will the Prime Minister confirm that under her plans for education, and in a country that works for everyone, parents can be assured that there will be the right school place for their child, whatever their ability? (906466)

I thank my hon. Friend for the example she has given of the work that is taking place in her constituency. The whole aim of the Government’s education policy is to increase the number of good school places, so parents can have the confidence that their child will have a good school place and they will have the school place that is right for them. That is why we want to see universities more involved in schools, more faith schools being opened up and the independent sector helping the state sector where that is sensible and its expertise can help. And yes, we do want to lift the ban that currently says that one type of good new school cannot be opened. It is illegal to open a new good school that is a selective school. We want to remove that ban so that pupils of all abilities get the opportunity.

The Prime Minister appears to have made a choice, and that choice is to side with the protectionists and nationalists who have taken over her party, as surely as Momentum has taken over the Labour party. She has chosen a hard Brexit that was never on anybody’s ballot paper and she has chosen to turn her back on British business in the process. As a result, petrol and food retailers have warned of huge price rises at the pumps and on the supermarket shelves in the coming days. When will she put the interests of hard-working British people ahead of an extremist protectionism that absolutely nobody voted for?

The hon. Gentleman asks about who we are siding with. I will tell him who this Government are siding with. We are siding with the British people, who voted to leave the European Union. It is high time the hon. Gentleman listened to the vote of the British people and accepted that that is exactly what we are going to do.

Q15. Does the Prime Minister share my sadness that the majority of Banbury’s babies cannot currently be delivered, as I was, in the Horton general hospital? Will she join me in using any influence and putting any pressure we can on the trust to encourage it to recruit the obstetricians we need to reopen our much valued unit? (906468)

I can say that I believe every effort is being made to fill the vacant obstetrics posts at the Horton general hospital. I understand that those mothers who are having a midwife-led delivery are still able to go to the Horton general hospital, but others have to go to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford. Maternity services are important to people and I believe the trust is actively looking to ensure it can fill those posts. What matters is a safe maternity service for mother and baby.

Many people across the House will be reassured that the Government accepted the amendment to the Opposition motion to be debated later this afternoon that guarantees that this House is able properly to scrutinise the plan for leaving the European Union before article 50 is invoked. Can she tell us: will that scrutiny involve a vote?

I have to say to the hon. Lady that the idea that Parliament was somehow not going to be able to discuss, debate or question issues around Brexit is, frankly, completely wrong. Let me provide her with some examples. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has already made two statements—and I believe four hours of questions followed from those. A new Select Committee has been set up, which crucially includes representatives from all parts of the United Kingdom to look at these issues. Only just over a week ago, I announced that there will be a great repeal Bill in the next Session to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. Parliament will thus have every opportunity to debate this issue.

Every year in the UK, 3,500 babies are still-born, and I commend the Government for setting the target of a 20% reduction by the end of this Parliament and a 50% reduction by 2030. Does the Prime Minister agree that in Baby Loss Awareness Week we must do all we can to provide the best quality bereavement care for those parents who sadly lose a baby?

I think my hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I am pleased to say that the Health Secretary will attend the Baby Loss Awareness Week reception, which will be held in Parliament immediately after today’s Prime Minister’s Questions. I encourage other Members to attend it, too. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the loss of a baby must be absolutely devastating; I am aware that some people sitting in this Chamber have been through that tragedy in their lives. What is absolutely essential is that the best possible bereavement care be given to parents at this tragic moment in their lives when they are at their most vulnerable. That is why we have provided money to introduce dedicated bereavement rooms at 40 hospitals, as well as investing more in improving birthing facilities, which are also important. Care and counsel for people who have lost a baby is essential; I think we all accept that.

On 2 July, the Home Office was given details of the 178 children who are still stuck in the Calais refugee camp, but who had a legal right to be here in the UK with their families to keep them safe and protected. Given the delays in acting, what responsibility does the Prime Minister think this Government have to the 18 of those children who have now gone missing?

Far from not acting, this Government have been working with the French Government on dealing with those who are in the camps. We have put extra resource into speeding up the process of dealing with the claims of the unaccompanied children, making that process faster and quicker, with more children coming here as a result. That is alongside all the other work we are doing in relation to refugees and unaccompanied minors. Crucially, of course, we are also working to ensure that we deal with the traffickers and the smugglers who are often in the camps; we need to make sure that they do not have access to children in the future. We have speeded up the process and more children are coming here as a result.

Tomorrow is secondary breast cancer awareness day, and I would like to ask the Prime Minister to join me in wishing these men and women well. Currently, only a third of NHS trusts collect the data in this area. Does my right hon. Friend agree that better data collection can inform diagnosis, treatment and the use of NHS resources across the piece and give better outcomes for all patients?

I entirely accept my hon. Friend’s point that better information provides greater opportunity to address these issues. I join her in commending and wishing well all those—as she says, both men and women—who have suffered from breast cancer and who have come through that, as I know my hon. Friend has. Other Members and so many people across the country are in the same position; it is important that they receive the right care so that they can come through that and see a bright future.

Last night, a huge number of MPs presented in this House WASPI—Women Against State Pension Inequality—petitions from towns up and down the country, so will the Prime Minister now commit to overturning those mistaken arrangements of 2011 and provide justice and transitional arrangements for WASPI women?

The hon. Lady should know that transitional arrangements are already in place. We did make changes. We committed £1 billion to lessen the impact of the state pension age changes on those who were affected, so that no one would experience a change of more than 18 months. In fact, 81% of women’s state pension ages will increase by no more than 12 months, compared to the previous timetable.

The Department for Work and Pensions informed people of the change in the state pension age after the changes that were made in 2011. Moreover, in the future women will gain from the new pension arrangements that are being introduced. Women’s pensions are a long-standing issue, but there will be better pension arrangements for them in the future because of the changes that the Government have made.

I gather that the Prime Minister made Chancellor Merkel a gift of Wainwright’s “Coast to Coast Walk”, which describes the fabulous walk that runs through my constituency. Is she aware that the “coast to coast” is not, in fact, an official national trail, and will she meet me to discuss my campaign to give this national treasure its deserved national status?

As my hon. Friend knows, I enjoy walking as well. There are some fantastic walks across the United Kingdom. I have not yet done the “coast to coast” myself, however; there is not much time for me to do it at the moment.

My hon. Friend probably knows that the decision about the designation of the “coast to coast” is more appropriately one for Natural England, and I am sure that he will do all he can to lobby Natural England on the issue.