This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
In the black country, in the west midlands, we are very proud of our long industrial heritage. We are also very proud of the recent revival in the fortunes of the black country, which is seeing new jobs and investment in the local economy. Does the Prime Minister agree that one way to create an economy that works for everyone is to devolve further powers and funds to the west midlands to drive investment, and to combine that with the strong leadership and vision that can only be provided by Andy Street, the Conservative candidate for the position of west midlands mayor?
My hon. Friend speaks up well for the black country, and I am pleased to echo his comments about economic growth in the west midlands. Since 2010, we have seen the creation of over 220,000 more jobs and 55,000 more new businesses in the region. However, he is right to say that the devolution deal is important. It is the biggest devolution deal that is being done for the west midlands. A crucial part of it is the election of a directly elected mayor, and I think that, given both his local knowledge and his business experience, Andy Street will drive economic growth.
Let me start by welcoming the child refugees who have arrived in Britain in the last few days. They are obviously deeply traumatised young people, and we should welcome, love and support them in the best way that we possibly can.
Irrespective of party, when Members go through health problems we reach out the hand of support, solidarity and friendship to them. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) for the message that he sent through social media this morning. It showed amazing humour and bravery. We wish him all the very best, and hope that he recovers fully.
There are now to be regular sessions of the Joint Ministerial Council to discuss Brexit, but it seems that the Prime Minister’s counterparts are already feeling the same sense of frustration as Members of the House of Commons. The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, has said that there is a “great deal of uncertainty”, but that it is clear that there must be “full and unfettered access” to the single market. Can the Prime Minister help the First Minister of Wales—and, indeed, the other devolved Administrations—by giving them some clarity?
Let me first—in response to the right hon. Gentleman’s opening comments—commend the Home Office for working so carefully and in the best interests of the child refugees so that they have the support that they need when they come to the United Kingdom. Let me also join the right hon. Gentleman in commending my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) for his willingness to be so open about his health problem. We wish him all the very best for the future, and for his place here in the House.
On the issue of clarity on the Government’s aims in relation to Brexit, I have been very clear and I will be clear again. There are those who talk about means and those who talk about ends; I am talking about ends. What we want to see is the best possible arrangement for trade with and operation within the single European market for businesses in goods and services here in the United Kingdom.
I thought for a moment the Prime Minister was going to say “Brexit means Brexit” again. [Interruption.] I am sure she will tell us one day what it actually means. The Mayor of London also added that this is causing “unnecessary uncertainty”.
It would also be very helpful if the Prime Minister provided some clarity over the Northern Ireland border. Will we continue membership of the customs union or are we going to see border checks introduced between Northern Ireland and the Republic?
The Leader of the Opposition tries to poke fun at the phrase “Brexit means Brexit”, but the whole point is this: on Brexit, it is this Government who are listening to the voice of the British people. “Brexit means Brexit” means we are coming out of the European Union. What the right hon. Gentleman is trying to do is frustrate the will of the British people by saying that Brexit means something completely different.
In relation to the Northern Irish border, a considerable amount of work was already taking place with the Irish Government to look at the issues around the common travel area, and that work is continuing. We have been very clear, the Government of the Republic of Ireland have been very clear, and the Northern Ireland Executive have been very clear that none of us wants to see a return to the borders of the past, and I simply remind the right hon. Gentleman that the common travel area has been in place since 1923, which was well before either of us joined the European Union.
On Monday the Prime Minister said that the customs union was “not a binary choice”. I cannot think that whether we have a border or do not have a border is anything other than a binary choice; there is no third way on that one. On Monday her friend the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) expressed concern about the automotive and aerospace industries, while the British Bankers Association said that its members’
“hands are quivering over the relocate button.”
Every day the Prime Minister dithers over this chaotic Brexit, employers delay investment and rumours circulate about relocation. This cannot carry on until March of next year; when is the Prime Minister going to come up with a plan?
The fact that the right hon. Gentleman seems to confuse a customs union with a border when they are actually two different issues shows— [Interruption]— why it is important that it is this party that is in government and dealing with these issues and not his.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the plan. I have been very clear that we want to trade freely—both trade with and operate within the single European market. I want this country to be a global leader in free trade; the Labour party is against free trade. I want to introduce control on free movement so that we have an end of free movement; the Labour party wants to continue with free movement. I want to deliver on the will of the British people; the right hon. Gentleman is trying to frustrate the will of the British people.
There was no answer on the border, which was what the question was about. On Monday the Prime Minister told the House:
“We have a plan, which is not to set out at every stage of the negotiations the details of those negotiations”.—[Official Report, 24 October 2016; Vol. 616, c. 31.]
I have been thinking about this for a couple of days, and—[Interruption.] I think when we are searching for the real meaning and the importance of the Prime Minister’s statement, we should consult the great philosophers. [Interruption.] The only one I could come up with—[Interruption.]
Mr Cleverly, calm yourself. You are imperilling your own health, man, which is a source of great concern to me.
The only one I could come up with was Baldrick, who said that his “cunning plan” was to have no plan. Brexit was apparently about taking back control, but the devolved Governments do not know the plan, businesses do not know the plan and Parliament does not know the plan. When will the Prime Minister abandon this shambolic Tory Brexit and develop a plan that delivers for the whole country?
I am interested that the right hon. Gentleman chose to support Baldrick. Of course, the actor who played Baldrick was a member of the Labour party, as I recall. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what we are going to deliver. We are going to deliver on the vote of the British people. We are going to deliver the best possible deal for trade in goods and services, both with and operationally in the European Union. And we are going to deliver an end to free movement. That is what the British people want and that is what this Government are going to deliver for them.
Three years ago, the United Kingdom backed Saudi Arabia for membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council. On 28 October, there will again be elections for the Human Rights Council. A UN panel has warned that Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen has violated international law. Amnesty International has stated that
“executions are on the increase…women are widely discriminated against…torture is common…and human rights organisations are banned”.
Will the Government again be backing the Saudi dictatorship for membership of that committee?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, where there are legitimate human rights concerns in relation to Saudi Arabia, we raise them. In relation to the action in the Yemen, we have been clear that we want the incidents that have been referred to properly investigated, and if there are lessons to be learned from them, we want the Saudi Arabians to learn those lessons. I reiterate a point that I have made in this House before: our relationship with Saudi Arabia is an important one. It is particularly important in relation to the security of this country, to counter-terrorism and to foiling the activities of those who wish to do harm to our citizens here in the UK.
Taher Qassim, a Yemeni man who lives in Liverpool, told me this week:
“Yemen is quickly becoming the forgotten crisis. If people aren’t being killed by bombs, it’s hunger that kills them. The UK needs to use its influence to help the people of Yemen”.
Bombs exported from Britain are being dropped on Yemeni children by Saudi pilots trained by Britain. If there are war crimes being committed, as the United Nations suggests, they must be investigated. Is it not about time that this Government suspended their arms sales to Saudi Arabia?
The issues are being investigated, and we have taken action. The right hon. Gentleman is right to refer to the humanitarian crisis in the Yemen, and this country is one of those at the forefront of ensuring that humanitarian aid is provided. That is a record of action of which I believe this country and this Government can be proud around the world. There was a cessation of hostilities in the Yemen over the weekend. It lasted 72 hours. As I said in the House on Monday, I spoke to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi at the weekend, and one of the issues we discussed was the importance of trying to find a political solution in Yemen and to see whether that cessation of hostilities could be continued. It has not been continued, but we are clear that the only solution that is going to work for the Yemen is to ensure that we have a political solution that will give stability to the Yemen.
My hon. Friend is right to speak up for his constituents. He is also right that there is no single model that will work in every part of the country. That is why it is important for local people to come together to determine what is right for them. My hon. Friend is trying to build a consensus in Dorset on the right way forward. It is right that local people are able to respond to the consultation and that their concerns are listened to.
The Scottish poppy appeal launches today for parliamentarians, so may I take this opportunity to praise all the fundraisers, volunteers and veterans involved? I am sure that colleagues in other parts of the House will commend the efforts to raise money for the poppy appeal in the rest of the United Kingdom.
One of the biggest humanitarian catastrophes of our time is in Syria, specifically Aleppo, where we expect the ceasefire to end shortly and an onslaught to begin. Will the Prime Minister tell us what efforts the UK is currently undertaking not only to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict, but to deal with those who are exacerbating the situation?
I join the right hon. Gentleman in commending and praising the work of all those across the United Kingdom who give their time and effort to raise money for the poppy appeal. It is important that we never forget those who have given of themselves for our safety and security through many conflicts. It is important that we recognise that and give generously to the poppy appeal across the country.
On Syria, it is important to approach the matter on a number of tracks. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been involved in discussions with the US Secretary of State, Senator Kerry, on such issues, looking for the way forward. I raised the issue of Russian action in Syria, in particular the bombing of Aleppo, at the EU Council at the end of last week, where it was on the agenda only because the UK had raised it. As a result of that discussion the EU agreed that, should the atrocities continue, we will look at all available options for taking action to put pressure on Russia in order to stop its indiscriminate bombing of innocent civilians.
I commend the Prime Minister for those endeavours, but it is widely expected that the onslaught on Aleppo will be unleashed by the Russian airpower that is aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov, currently steaming across the Mediterranean with its battle group. In recent years, more than 60 Russian naval vessels have refuelled and resupplied in Spanish ports, so will the Prime Minister join me and EU and NATO allies in unequivocally calling on Spain to refuse the refuelling?
The right hon. Gentleman refers to the passage of Russian naval ships. They are of course able to travel as they wish on the high seas—although they were accompanied by royal naval vessels when they went through the English channel. We have sadly seen that the Russians are already able to unleash attacks on innocent civilians in Syria. What matters is that we put pressure on Russia to do what everybody agrees is the only way that we are going to resolve the issue, which is to ensure that we have a political transition in Syria. That is where we should focus our attention.
I can confirm to my hon. Friend that the proposed deal will provide the west midlands with £1 billion over 30 years to spend on local projects that will drive economic growth. That is the important part of the deal and is why it is so important to have a mayor, Andy Street, who not only understands the local area but has business expertise to ensure that those economic projects are developed with the interests of the locality as the prime focus. The deal will deliver more jobs and economic prosperity across the west midlands. It is good for the west midlands and her constituents. It is good for the rest of the country as well.
The hon. Lady makes a very important point: the whole purpose of this inquiry was to be able to provide justice for those whose voices had not been heard for too long and who felt that people in positions of power and institutions of the state, and other organisations, had not heard their voice, and had not been prepared to listen to them and properly to investigate what had happened to them. It is important that victims and survivors have confidence in the inquiry. Of course, the inquiry is an independent inquiry and it is up to its chairman to work with survivors and victims, as I know the inquiry chairman has been doing. But I will ensure that the Home Secretary has heard the representations the hon. Lady has made, and we will take what she has said to us today away and consider it very carefully. We all want this inquiry to work properly, and to work in the interests of survivors and victims.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I know she has championed the armed forces covenant and is a great proponent of our veterans and the armed forces. It is absolutely right to say that everybody in this House owes a great debt of gratitude to our veterans and to those serving today in our armed forces for what they do to keep us safe and secure. That is why it is so important that the covenant is not just a responsibility for the Government, but a national responsibility; we should all be working to ensure that those who have served us, and served us well, do not face disadvantages. That is why we have been doing things such as putting money into a forces Help to Buy scheme to help them with houses—I believe the figure is £200 million. We must continue to do this, and I absolutely commit to ensuring that this is a Government who continue to support our veterans and the members of our armed forces.
First, I recognise and commend the hon. Gentleman for raising his personal experience of the terrible tragedy that can occur when mental health problems are not properly dealt with. He raises a very serious issue—it is a serious issue for everybody in this House—about how the NHS treats mental health. This is why we have established the concept of parity of esteem for mental health and physical health in the NHS, and why we are seeing record levels of funding. He raises the question of talking therapies, which are very effective, and we have been introducing waiting time standards in relation to them. However, I accept that there is more for us to do in this area to ensure that those with mental health problems are properly treated, and are properly given the care and attention they need. This is an issue not just for them, but for the whole of our society.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. The Chilcot report was an important task. Although it looked at and criticised the way in which information had been handled, it did not say that people had set out deliberately to mislead, and it is important to recognise that. It is important also that we learn the lessons from the Chilcot report, which is why the National Security Adviser is leading an exercise to do precisely that. This was a long time coming. It was a serious report. There is much in it, and we need to ensure that we do learn the lessons from it.
There is no reason to believe that the outcome of the referendum will do anything to undermine the absolute rock-solid commitment of this Government and the people of Northern Ireland to the settlement that was set out in the Belfast agreement. There is, and remains, strong support for the entirely peaceful future for Northern Ireland. That has been determined by democracy and consent. We remain committed to that and to work with others to ensure that entirely peaceful future.
I am delighted to hear of the commitment that GE has made to Stafford, but it is more than a commitment to Stafford; it is a commitment to the United Kingdom and to the future of our economy. I understand that the Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade has already met GE to discuss its interests in trade and what we can be doing to promote free trade. As I said earlier, I want the UK to be a global leader in free trade. We are listening to businesses around the country and to the importance that they place on free trade as we look at the negotiations for exiting the EU.
I recognise the point that the hon. Gentleman makes from the figures that we have seen recently, particularly the figures in relation to women and the use of alcohol. As Home Secretary, I was part of the development of the alcohol strategy that the Government produced a few years ago. I am pleased to say that, at that time, we were working well with industry to encourage it to ensure that it could take steps to impact on the drinking habits of the nation.
I seem to recall that I first met my hon. Friend when she was campaigning in relation to motorways. She is right that in order to support the rail infrastructure, we need to ensure that the right road infrastructure is in place. That is why we are investing £15 billion in the road investment strategy, which is about boosting local economies and further economic growth. I understand that Highways England is looking at the issues in the east midlands and at bringing forward significant new road enhancements around the expected site of the new east midlands HS2 station. Going forward it is looking at an audit of roads in the area. I trust that on this issue my hon. Friend will make her voice heard, and that of her constituents, as she has in the past.
I gave a serious answer to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner), which is that we have been looking at the whole issue of talking therapies, their availability and the waiting times for them. We do want to improve the options that people have for access to talking therapies, precisely because they have been shown to be so successful in so many cases. The Government are working on this and we will continue to work on it to provide, as we have said, that parity of esteem between mental health and physical health in the national health service.
I can absolutely give the commitment that we continue to support Crossrail 2. We are waiting to see a robust business case and a proper funding proposal for Crossrail 2. My right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary will in due course set out the timetable for that, but as a former Wimbledonian I can assure my hon. Friend that we are well aware of his interest in the Wimbledon to Waterloo aspects of the project, and that the needs of the local area are being taken into account.
The hon. Lady sets out her case and the issues that she has identified. I take the same view as this Government have taken since they came into power and previously, which is that the issue of Kashmir is a matter for India and Pakistan to deal with and sort out. The Foreign Secretary has heard her representations and I am sure will be interested in taking up those matters with her.
Several months ago I raised with the former Prime Minister at his last Prime Minister’s questions the issue of enhanced medical assistance for the Kurdish peshmerga. I then wrote to the new Prime Minister. Now, with the campaign to liberate Mosul under way, will my right hon. Friend agree to meet with me and representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government to discuss whether we can provide specialist medical facilities here in the UK—for instance, 10 beds for seriously wounded peshmerga—and to ensure that the forces on the ground are getting all the support they need? I understand that they are short of heavy weapons and basic infantry kit such as helmets and body armour.
My hon. Friend is right and I recognise that this is a matter that he has raised before. We have seen that the coalition activity that is taking place is having some impact, and is having an impact, as we wish it to, in relation to Daesh. There are no plans at present either to do what he suggested in his question or to provide a field hospital and field medical capabilities from the United Kingdom, but we continually review what we are doing in support of the coalition, and the training that we are providing for the peshmerga includes training in the provision of medical facilities.
Individuals are already being brought to the United Kingdom under the Dubs amendment, in addition to the resettlement scheme for vulnerable Syrians—the 20,000 who will be brought here over the course of this Parliament—and in addition to the 3,000 vulnerable people, children and others, who will be brought here from the middle east and north Africa. We are working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure that it is right for those individuals to come to the UK and that they have support when they get here. I remind the hon. Gentleman that this country is the second biggest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid in the Syrian region, and we are able to support and provide for more people in-region, which I think is absolutely the right thing to do.
Around Heathrow legal air quality limits are being breached, and over Twickenham noise pollution has increased, according to Heathrow data. Can the Prime Minister explain how a third runway can be delivered and comply with legal pollution requirements? Does she agree that, environmentally, Heathrow is not good enough and cannot possibly be both bigger and better?
The Government looked very closely at the issue of air quality and the environmental impact of all three schemes proposed by the Airports Commission. We took extra time, from the decision to increase airport capacity in the south-east, because we wanted to look particularly at the air quality issues. The evidence shows that air quality standards can be met, as required by all three schemes, including the north-west runway at Heathrow. My hon. Friend raises an issue that is actually about more than airports, because air quality is also about road transport. That is why we are looking to do more in relation to air quality. It is why, for example, I am pleased to see that we are at such a leading edge in the provision of electric vehicles.
The Prime Minister’s real plan for Brexit seems to be to pick winners: to cut a special deal for the City of London and let the bankers avoid the dire consequences of leaving the economic union. Wales has an exporting economy, with a £5 billion trade surplus last year, and 200,000 jobs dependent on trade with the European Union. It is a soft Brexit for her friends in the City, and a hard Brexit for everybody else. Will she cut a similar deal for Wales?
I will be cutting the best deal for the United Kingdom—all parts of it.
Every year, hundreds of people are diagnosed with, suffer and usually die prematurely from rare diseases such as cystic fibrosis and rare cancers, for which there has been no treatment, or for which the latest drugs are prohibitively expensive. This week sees the final report of our accelerated access review, which sets out a new model for the NHS to use its genetic and data leadership to get quicker access and discounted prices. Will the Prime Minister join me in welcoming the review, which is strongly supported by patients, charities and the life sciences sector, and in encouraging the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and NHS England to implement it speedily?
I certainly join my hon. Friend in welcoming the publication of the review. This is important in enabling patients to get quicker access to drugs and treatments. The United Kingdom has established a leading role in life sciences, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the role he has played in that. I know that the Department of Health will be looking very closely at the report’s specific recommendations, recognising that where we can take opportunities through the national health service to encourage the development of new drugs to benefit patients, we should do so.
The Prime Minister has just told us that record levels of spending are going into our mental health services. Her Health Secretary stood at that Dispatch Box on 9 December and told us that the proportion of funding going into mental health from every one of our clinical commissioning groups should be increasing. Why is it, then, that 57% of CCGs in our country are reducing the proportion of spend on mental health? It is yet another broken promise. When will we have real equality for mental health in our country?
The fact that I set out—that we are spending record levels in the NHS on mental health—is absolutely right, but I have said in response to a number of people who have questioned me on this that we recognise that there is more for us to do in mental health, and I would have thought that we should have cross-party support on doing just that.
Speaking outside 10 Downing Street on the day she became Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend said:
“If you suffer from mental health problems, there is not enough help to hand.”
I welcome her commitment to mental health, expressed on that day and in her responses today. What steps is she taking to make sure the bold ambitions of the Government’s five-year forward view for mental health are achieved?
I am pleased to say that, in fact, what we see—far from the impression that is given by some of the comments from Opposition Members—is that, since 2009-10, around 750,000 more people are accessing talking therapies and 1,400 more people are accessing mental health services every day, compared to 2010, so that is up by 40%. But my hon. Friend, who I know has a particular interest and a particular expertise in this area, is right that we need to do more, and that is why we are continuing to invest in mental health services and continuing to increase the standards that we provide.
Just 20 children are diagnosed with inoperable brain tumours as a result of tuberous sclerosis every year. Yet, despite earlier indications, NHS England turned treatment down for funding, despite it being affordable. Will the Prime Minister meet me, the Tuberous Sclerosis Association and families to discuss how we can get through this blockage and get the treatment that these children need?
I am very happy to look at the issue that the hon. Gentleman has raised and to look in detail at what can be done to take that forward.