This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House I will have further such meetings later today.
Thousands of babies who are born each year are damaged for life by alcohol consumed in pregnancy. Patients affected by alcohol put immense pressure on the national health service, and alcohol is a primary factor in domestic violence and attacks on women. Does the Prime Minister recognise the seriousness of the country’s alcohol problems—the damage to lives and the billions in costs to the public purse—and will she instruct her Government now to address these problems effectively and as a matter of urgency?
I can certainly say to the hon. Gentleman that I recognise the problems that alcohol causes. He particularly referenced not just problems for pregnant women, but the part that alcohol often plays in domestic violence and abuse. That was why, when I was Home Secretary, we produced an alcohol strategy and worked on the issue of alcohol. The Government continue to recognise the importance of this issue and to work on it.
My hon. Friend makes two important points. First, I am very pleased to join him in paying tribute to the dedication and hard work of all those who work in our national health service. Secondly, he is right to point out that if somebody misses an appointment, that is a cost to the NHS. There are a number of ways in which this is being dealt with. Some hospitals send out text messages that not only remind people of their appointment, but tell them how much it costs if they miss it.
Yesterday the Prime Minister snubbed Parliament and snubbed the Brexit Committee’s recommendation to bring forward a White Paper, while at the same time describing the referendum as
“a vote to restore…our parliamentary democracy”.
This is about our jobs, living standards and future prosperity; why will it not be scrutinised by this House?
What I did yesterday was to set out a plan for a global Britain. I set out a plan that will put the divisions of last year behind us, and that shows a vision for a stronger, fairer, more united, more outward-looking, prosperous, tolerant, independent and truly global Britain. It was a vision that will shape a stronger future and build a better Britain.
Restoring parliamentary democracy while sidelining Parliament—it is not so much the Iron Lady as the Irony Lady.
Yesterday the Prime Minister finally provided some detail. May I urge her to stop her threats of a bargain basement Brexit—a low-pay tax haven on the shores of Europe? It would not necessarily damage the EU, but it would certainly damage this country, businesses, jobs and public services. She demeans herself, her office and our country’s standing by making such threats.
What I set out yesterday was a plan for a global Britain, bringing prosperity to this country and jobs to people, and spreading economic growth across the country. Yesterday we learned a little more of the right hon. Gentleman’s thinking on this issue. He said:
“She has said, ‘leave the single market,’ but at the same time says she wants to have access to the single market. I’m not quite sure how that’s going to go down in Europe. I think we have to have a deal that ensures we have access to the market.”
I’ve got a plan; he doesn’t have a clue.
The Prime Minister was the one who made the threat about slashing corporation tax. If we reduce corporation tax to the lowest common denominator, this country loses £120 billion in revenue. How, then, do we fund public services?
Last year the Prime Minister said that leaving the single market could make trade deals “considerably harder” and that
“while we could certainly negotiate our own trade agreements, there would be no guarantee that they would be on terms as good as those we enjoy now”,
but yesterday she offered us only vague guarantees. Does she now disagree with herself?
The right hon. Gentleman might also have noticed that when I spoke in the remain campaign, I said that if we voted to leave the European Union, the sky would not fall in. Look at what has happened to our economic situation since we voted to leave the European Union.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the future of the economy. I want us to be an outward-looking nation trading around the world, and bringing prosperity and jobs into the United Kingdom. The one thing that would be bad for the economy is the answers that the right hon. Gentleman has. He wants a cap on wages, no control on immigration and to borrow an extra £500 billion. That would not lead to prosperity; it would lead to no jobs, no wages and no skills.
The Chancellor said after the referendum that to lose single market access would be “catastrophic”. A few days later, the Health Secretary said:
“The first part of the plan must be clarity that we will remain in the single market”.
The Prime Minister said something about “frictionless” access to the single market and a bespoke customs union deal. Could she give us a little bit of certainty and clarity about this? Has she ruled out paying any kind of fee to achieve access to what she describes as a “frictionless” market?
Access to the single market was exactly what I was talking about yesterday in my speech. One of the key objectives is that we negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union that gives us the widest possible access for trading with, and operating within, the European Union.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about frictionless access. Actually, this was a separate point about frictionless borders in relation to the customs issue—a very important issue for us regarding the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Taoiseach and I, and all parties, are absolutely on a single page about this. We want to ensure that we have the best possible arrangement that does not lead to the borders of the past for Northern Ireland.
The question was: will we have to pay for access to the market or not? The Prime Minister has not given an answer to that.
Yesterday the Prime Minister set out a wish list on immigration, referring to skills shortages and high-skill migration. Does she now disagree with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who told an employers’ conference, “Don’t worry. You can still have cheap EU labour after we leave the European Union”?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about access. Yes, the whole point is that we will negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union that is about the best possible access for British business to operate in European Union member states and for European businesses to operate here in the United Kingdom. It is about sitting down and negotiating the best possible deal for the United Kingdom. That is what I am committed to, and it is what the Government are going to deliver.
My question was about how much we are going to have to pay to have access to the market—still no answer.
Yesterday the Prime Minister talked about the pressure put on public services by migration. May I just remind her—the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson) referred to this earlier—that at the moment there are 55,000 EU citizens working in our national health service, helping to treat all the people of this country? There are 80,000 care workers helping our—mainly elderly—people and there are 5,000 teachers educating our children. The real pressure on public services comes from a Government who slashed billions from the social care budget, who are cutting the schools budget, and who are closing A&E departments, walk-in centres and Sure Start centres. Instead of threatening to turn Britain into an offshore tax haven, let us welcome those who contribute to our public services and fund those public services properly so that we have the fully functioning NHS that we all need and deserve.
I made it clear yesterday that we value those who have come to the United Kingdom and contribute to our economy and society. There will still be people coming to the United Kingdom from the European Union when we leave the EU. The crucial issue is that it is this Government who will be making decisions about our immigration system for people from the European Union. Yet again, I say to the right hon. Gentleman that there is indeed a difference between us—it is very simple. When I look at the issue of Brexit—or, indeed, at any other issue, such as the national health service or social care—I consider the issue, I set out my plan and I stick to it. It is called leadership; he should try it sometime.
I join my hon. Friend in congratulating Lincoln City on their victory last night. I think it was a fitting tribute to Graham Taylor that they won that match.
My hon. Friend raises an important point. I have indeed highlighted the issue of particularly white working-class boys, who are the group in society least likely to go to university. We are committed to making sure that every child gets the opportunity to fulfil their potential. That is about ensuring that apprenticeships are as accessible as possible. I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that the proportion of apprenticeships started by males has increased this year to almost 50%, and also that universities expect to spend more than £800 million this year on improving access and success for disadvantaged students. We want everybody to achieve their potential, whatever their background and whatever their gender.
Shortly after the Prime Minister confirmed that she wants to take the UK out of the single European market, the Scottish Parliament voted by a large cross-party majority to remain in the single European market, just as a large majority of people in Scotland voted to remain in the European Union. The Prime Minister said that Scotland is an equal partner in the United Kingdom. Does she still believe this is true or is she just stringing the people of Scotland along?
I refer the right hon. Gentleman to my speech yesterday, in which I reiterated my commitment to work with the devolved Administrations to ensure their voice is heard and their interests are taken into account as we proceed along the path of negotiating our exit from the European Union. I specifically referenced the Scotland plan. I understand that the Welsh Government will be producing a plan for Wales for us to look at, too. The Scotland plan will, I believe, be considered tomorrow by the Joint Ministerial Committee on European negotiations. We will be looking at it seriously and working with the Scottish Government on the proposals they bring forward.
Scotland’s leading economic forecaster says that real wages will fall—[Interruption.] We have Tories jeering and cheering when the forecast for people’s income is that it is likely to drop by £2,000 and that 80,000 people may lose their jobs in Scotland as a result of the Prime Minister’s hard Tory Brexit plan. Does the Prime Minister believe that this is a price worth paying for her “Little Britain” Brexit?
I repeat what I said earlier: we will work to ensure we get the best possible deal in terms of access to the single market, and continue to co-operate in partnership with the remaining 27 member states of the European Union. The right hon. Gentleman once again talks about the possibility of a negative impact on Scotland if Scotland were not part of the single market. His party is dedicated to taking Scotland out of the single market by taking it out of the United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend raises an important issue. I am pleased to say that the Government have already taken some action on executive pay: giving shareholders the power to veto pay policies, forcing companies to disclose the pay of their board directors and introducing tough transparency measures for banks. I want to build on that, which is why we published a Green Paper on how to strengthen shareholders’ influence over executive pay and introduced greater transparency. I look forward to receiving representations from my hon. Friend on this issue.
The hon. Lady might recognise that the great repeal Bill will deal with a number of complex issues. At its heart will be the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972. As we look at the Bill and at negotiating our way out of the European Union, we will need to look at the whole issue of reserved matters and devolved matters, but there are many aspects—[Interruption.]
Order. Members of the Scottish National party, led by the right hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) on the Front Bench, who is supposed to be a statesmanlike figure, should demonstrate some calm and reserve while they are being answered by the Prime Minister.
The hon. Lady knows full well that if any part of proposed legislation brought before this House applies only to England, it will be subject to English votes for English laws.
May I congratulate the Prime Minister on her delivery yesterday of an historic, definitive, pragmatic, outward-looking speech that saw the pound rise to its highest level in two years and the FTSE up today? Does she agree that the strong and prosperous UK she has planned would be a nightmare for the Leader of the Opposition and the EU ruling class?
I agree with my hon. Friend. A strong and prosperous Britain is exactly what we want to build as we leave the EU. It is only a pity that the Labour party seems uninterested in doing that, but wants to do the exact opposite and bring this economy down.