Today marks the 69th anniversary of the NHS, and last week saw the 80th anniversary of the 999 service. I know that Members on both sides of the House will join me in paying tribute to the incredibly dedicated men and women who work tirelessly to save and improve lives day in, day out.
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. Later this week I will attend a meeting of the G20, where I will discuss the global economy, counter-terrorism and sustainable development with my fellow leaders.
Her face smashed with an iPad, her body beaten, and forced to abort a baby girl: that is only some of the domestic abuse that my constituent Lola Ilesanmi has suffered from her estranged husband because she has refused to allow the genital mutilation of her daughter. Lola is educated, has a mortgage, and had a good job with Royal Bank of Scotland until the Home Office revoked her right to work. I have been writing to the Home Office since March, and have got nowhere. Will the Prime Minister now intervene to prevent the family from being deported, and to prevent that three-year-old girl from being subjected to genital mutilation?
The Home Secretary has obviously heard the case that the hon. Lady describes. The issue of female genital mutilation is one on which I think all of us, throughout the House, are agreed. It is an abhorrent activity; it should not be taking place. Great efforts have been made in recent years in strengthening the law on female genital mutilation, getting information out about the issue, and trying to support people in communities where FGM is practised. The message must go out from the House today that we will not accept FGM in this country.
Q2. In the last few days Iraqi security forces, assisted by coalition airstrikes, have made significant progress in eradicating ISIL fighters from Mosul. That is a significant step forward in the military conflict against ISIL in Iraq, but does the Prime Minister agree that the United Kingdom and the United States, in a broad international alliance, need to work with the Iraqi Government to ensure that there is reconstruction in places such as Mosul, and also to ensure that they are sufficiently strong to withstand the poisonous ideology of ISIL as we seek to defeat it? (900218)
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: in order to keep the streets of Britain safe, we must continue to attack Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and the UK is playing its part as one of the 71 members of the coalition. The RAF has conducted over 1,400 strikes, and over 500 British soldiers are on the ground providing further assistance, but he makes the very important point that it is not just about the military action that takes place; it is about how we ensure there is sustainable reconstruction and rebuilding afterwards. Our troops have helped to train over 55,000 Iraqi security forces personnel, and we are providing more than £169.5 million in humanitarian aid and a further £30 million to help Iraq to stabilise these liberated areas. Together, we must also work not just in Iraq but internationally to ensure that the hateful ideology of extremism is not able to poison the minds of people.
May I start by wishing everyone a very happy Pride month, especially those taking part in the Pride march this Saturday and similar marches around the country? We should also be aware that a survey taken by Pride in London found that half of LGBT people in London had experienced hate crime in the past 12 months.
I join the Prime Minister in wishing the NHS a very happy birthday, but I was hoping that she was going to say a bit more about NHS staff and their pay during her birthday greetings, because after a week of flip-flopping and floundering, we thought we had some clarity from Downing Street at last. On Monday, the announcement was that the public sector pay cap at 1% remains, and a rare moment of agreement between Nos. 10 and 11 was seen, but yesterday we heard news that firefighters will be offered 2% this year and 3% next year, so can the Prime Minister confirm whether the public sector pay cap will remain for all other public servants until 2020?
First, may I join the right hon. Gentleman in wishing everybody who is going to take part in Pride London on Saturday an excellent day? I am sure it will be a very good occasion, as it always has been. May I also say that I and all Members of this House value the incredibly important work done by our public sector workers, including—[Interruption]—yes, including those in the national health service and others?
I understand why people feel strongly about the issue of their pay, but perhaps I can just set out—[Interruption.] For the information of the House, perhaps I can just set out what the current position is. Three public sector pay review bodies reported in March—they covered doctors and dentists, NHS staff including nurses, and the armed forces—and the Government accepted the recommendations of all three. The firefighters’ award is not determined by the Government—it is determined by the employers—and is not subject to a pay review body. There are outstanding pay review body reports that cover teachers, prison officers, police officers and those on senior salaries. The Government will consider those reports very carefully and respond to them, but while we do that, we will always recognise that we must ensure that we take decisions with regard to the need to live within our means. The right hon. Gentleman and I both value public sector workers and our public services; the difference is that I know we have to pay for them.
The public sector pay cap causes real shortages in nursing, teaching and many other professions, as well as real hardship. I had a letter last week from a teacher called David—[Interruption.] It’s all right: he is a teacher; he is doing a good job—all right? He says:
“I have been teaching for 10 years. I have seen my workload increase. I have seen more people leave the profession than start, and no form of pay increase in seven years. The only thing holding the education system together is the dedication to struggle on for the students and staff.”
He goes on to say that that dedication is “starting to run out”. I say to the Prime Minister that what we are doing through this pay cap is recklessly exploiting the good will of public servants like David. They need a pay rise.
The Leader of the Opposition refers to the number of nurses and teachers working in the public sector. Of course we now have more nurses in our hospitals than we had in 2010, and we have more teachers in our schools. But let me remind the right hon. Gentleman why it has been necessary for us to exercise restraint in public spending, including by capping public sector pay. It is because we inherited the biggest deficit in our peacetime history. We have acted—[Interruption.]
We acted to bring the deficit down by a quarter and then a half, and it is now down by three quarters. At the same time, we have seen the economy grow and record levels of people in employment. Our policy on public sector pay has always recognised that we need to balance the need to be fair to public sector workers, to protect jobs in the public sector, and to be fair to those who pay for it. That is the balance that we need to strike, and we continue to assess that balance.
We have had seven years of tax cuts for the richest and tax breaks for the biggest corporations. Last year, there was a net loss of 1,700 nurses and midwives to the NHS, and in the first two months of this year alone, 3,264 have left the profession altogether—not a great birthday present for the NHS, is it? Last week, the Chancellor said:
“We all value our public services and the people who provide them to us.”—[Official Report, 29 June 2017; Vol. 626, c. 797.]
He went on to laud his own economic record by saying that we had a “fundamentally robust economy”. The Prime Minister found £1 billion to keep her own job; why cannot she find the same amount of money to keep nurses and teachers in their jobs? After all, they serve all of us.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the number of nurses. In fact, I think he was talking about the number of nurses who are registered in the United Kingdom. There are about 600,000 nurses registered in the United Kingdom; about half of them—300,000—work in the NHS in England. Contrary to what he says, we have 13,000 more nurses working in the NHS today compared with 2010. I understand that it has been hard for people who have been working hard and making sacrifices over the years as we have been dealing with Labour’s mismanagement of the economy, but let me remind the right hon. Gentleman of what happens when you do not deal with the deficit. This is not a theoretical issue. Let us look at those countries that failed to deal with it. In Greece, where they have not dealt with the deficit—[Interruption.] What did we see with that failure to deal with the deficit? Spending on the health service cut by 36%. That does not help nurses or patients.
I hope that the Prime Minister is proud of her record of controlling public sector pay to the extent that hard-working nurses have had to access food banks in order to survive, and of frozen wages for teaching assistants, paramedics and council workers. But this is not just in the public sector. Across the economy, wages are rising by 2.1% while inflation is at nearly 3%. Six million workers already earn less than the living wage. What does the Prime Minister think that that tells us about seven years of a Conservative Government and what they have done to the living standards of those people on whom we all rely to get our public services and our health services delivered to us?
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what has happened over the past seven years. We have seen record numbers of people in employment—nearly 3 million more people in work. We have seen the introduction of the national living wage—never done by Labour, but introduced by a Conservative Government. We have seen 4 million people taken out of paying income tax altogether and a cut in income tax and a change in the personal allowance that is the equivalent of £1,000 a year to basic rate taxpayers, including nurses. That is a record of good management of the economy—you only get that with the Conservatives.
Order. We have plenty of time. I am quite happy to run on for some considerable period of time. People who are making excessive noise should try to calm themselves and perhaps just give a moment’s thought to whether they would like to be viewed by their constituents shrieking their heads off. It is very downmarket.
There is a low-pay epidemic in this country, and it has a terrible effect on young people. Those in their 20s will earn £12,500 a year less than the generation before. They are the first generation to be worse off than the last. They are less likely to be able to buy their own home, more likely to be saddled with debt, and more likely to be insecure, low-paid work. Except for more misery, what do the Prime Minister and her Government actually offer the young people of this country?
To echo the words of my colleagues, we offer young people more jobs, more homes, and the opportunity to own their own home. Let me just tell the right hon. Gentleman what is not fair: it is not fair to refuse to take tough decisions and to load debts on to our children and grandchildren; it is not fair to bankrupt our economy, because that leads to people losing their jobs and their homes; and it is not fair to go out and tell people that they can have all the public spending they want without paying for it. Labour’s way leads to fewer jobs, higher prices and more taxes. Labour’s way means that everyone pays the price of Labour.
When Tories talk of tough choices, we know who suffers: the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Young people employed on zero-hours contracts are more likely to have worse mental and physical health. Students who have worked hard at university graduate with £57,000 of debt that will stay with them until they retire. Let me spell it out to the Prime Minister: this is the only country in which wages have not recovered since the global financial crash; more people are using food banks; 4 million children are living in poverty; there is record in-work poverty; young people see no prospect of owning their own home; and 6 million people are earning less than the living wage. The low-pay epidemic is a threat to our economic stability. Will the Prime Minister take some tough choices and instead of offering platitudes, offer some real help and real support to those in work and to young people, who deserve better and deserve to be given more optimism, rather than greater inequality?
We actually now see that the proportion of people in absolute poverty is at record lows. The right hon. Gentleman asks for help for those who are low paid, and I reiterate to him the help that we have given to people who are low paid: we introduced the mandatory national living wage—the lowest earners’ fastest pay rise in 20 years; we have cut taxes for basic-rate taxpayers and taken people out of paying income tax; and we are doing what is important for this country, which is ensuring that there are jobs and an economy providing those jobs for people, because the best route out of poverty is being in work. I know that he has taken to calling himself a “Government in waiting”. Well, we all know what that means: waiting to put up taxes; waiting to destroy jobs; and waiting to bankrupt our country. We will never let it happen.
Q4. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I know that the Prime Minister and her Ministers, and many other Members of this House, are committed to better mental health care for everyone. I am a founder of the Loughborough Wellbeing Project, and I recently visited the CAMHS––child and adolescent mental health services—eating disorder service in Leicester. As a result of this Government’s careful financial management, £1.4 billion more is going into mental health services. How can the Prime Minister ensure that that money is getting to frontline NHS services consistently? (900220)
First, let me commend my right hon. Friend on the work she has done in setting up the Loughborough Wellbeing Project, and I am happy to join her in paying tribute to the work of the eating disorders service in Leicester. As she says, it does incredibly important work, and we must do more to transform the mental health services that we provide for young people and mental health in general. That is why, as she says, we are putting more money into mental health, and our spending on mental health reached a record £11.6 billion last year. We do need to make sure that that funding gets through to frontline services. One example of that is the work we are doing to ensure that teachers and staff in schools are trained to better identify and better deal with mental health problems when they are present in children. I saw that when I visited Orchard School in Bristol last week, where excellent work is being done, really improving the quality of services for young people with mental health problems.
As we meet here today, the funeral is taking place at St Peter’s Free church in Dundee of the former leader of the Scottish National party and Member of Parliament for Dundee East from 1974 to 1987. I am sure the House would like to join me in commemorating the life and contribution to politics of the late, dearly missed friend and colleague Gordon Wilson.
The UK government have not announced any measures to address rising inflation and slowing wage growth, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies has described as “dreadful”. As workers face more than a decade of lost wage growth, and endure the worst period for pay in 70 years, does the Prime Minister think she is looking out for the “just about managing”?
First, may I say to the hon. Gentleman, as I did last week, that I am sure all Members of this House will wish to offer our condolences to the friends, family and colleagues of the late Gordon Wilson, and recognise the role he played in politics in the United Kingdom, including in this House.
I say to the hon. Gentleman, as I have said to the Leader of the Opposition, that what is important is that we ensure that we have an economy that is increasing the number of jobs, because the best route out of poverty is for people to be in work. That is what we are doing. We have seen nearly 3 million more jobs being created over recent years. That is important for people. We also help people by, for example, cutting taxes—that is exactly what we have done for people who are lower paid—and introducing the national living wage. Those are measures that are giving people real help.
Of course it is the forecast of a rise in in-work poverty that should concern us, in particular the likely increase of young people in poverty over the lifetime of this Parliament. Since the 2010 general election, the FTSE 100 has risen by 39.6%. Monetary policy, not least quantitative easing, has helped to drive up financial assets, while workers have paid the price for austerity. Workers will earn no more by 2021 than they did in 2008. Will the Prime Minister give workers a pay rise?
I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman, particularly with his background, would have recognised the role played by monetary policy, including quantitative easing, in ensuring that we have the jobs in the economy that are so important to people.
Q5. Will my right hon. Friend tell me what steps the Government are taking to drive value for money and efficiency in the aid budget, to ensure that that taxpayers’ money is used to promote global peace and security in the national interest? (900221)
I am proud that the Government are committed to honouring our international commitments on aid. That is important for this country, because that money is saving lives and building a more stable and prosperous world, and that is firmly in our UK national interest. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend is absolutely right that we need to make sure that the money we are spending is being spent properly and efficiently. I assure him that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development is driving value for money and efficiency in the aid budget, focusing on greater transparency, boosting payment by results, and driving value for money from DFID suppliers. In 2011, we set up an independent aid watchdog, together with stronger systems and controls in DFID. It is important not only that we are committed to that money, but that we make sure it is spent well.
Q3. My young constituent paid a £300 house-reservation fee to Pattinson estate agents, but the agents will not refund it after their landlord client withdrew from the contract because my constituent refused to pay 12 months’ rent in advance. She faces having to pay another agent non-refundable fees of £650 to secure a different property. When will the Prime Minister act to put an end to these rip-off fees and stop these agents capitalising on young people and others? (900219)
The hon. Gentleman should look at the Queen’s Speech, in which we referred to what we are doing in this area. We recognise these issues—[Interruption.] He says “When?”, but he will recognise that in this House we need to ensure that we get right any legislation that we introduce, so that it actually works. We recognise the problem and we are going to do something about it.
Q6. In 2008, I tried to amend the Animal Welfare Act to extend sentences for cruelty to animals from weeks to years. Will my right hon. Friend see what can be done to ensure that people who are wilfully cruel to animals are punished far more severely? (900222)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this issue. We all share a high regard for animal welfare and it is important to have in place strict laws to ensure that we deal properly with people who are not looking after animals. Anyone who is cruel to an animal or does not provide for its welfare needs may be banned from owning animals, given an unlimited fine or, as he says, sent to prison. My hon. Friend is right that sentencing is an issue, which is why the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs regularly holds discussions with the Ministry of Justice on sentencing policy for animal welfare offenders.
Q8. With the civil service reportedly having to explain in crayon to the Cabinet that there is no “have your cake and eat it” Brexit option, will the Prime Minister come clean and admit that she is prioritising her own absolutist red lines, not people’s jobs and wages? (900224)
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman and others will have heard the answer before: we want to negotiate the best possible deal for the United Kingdom that ensures we have a comprehensive free trade agreement, that we can continue to trade with our European partners, that we have a new deep and special partnership with the European Union, and that we are growing our economy. But it is not just about our relationship with the European Union; it is about the trade deals that we will do with countries around the rest of the world and it is about ensuring sound management from a Conservative Government.
Q7. Looe harbour commissioners have highlighted to me the valuable contribution that retired police sergeant—and now special constable—Russ Hall has made to maritime policing. Does my right hon. Friend believe that joined-up working with other agencies is essential and can make a positive contribution to beating crime in small harbours and helping to protect our borders? (900223)
I join my hon. Friend in recognising Special Constable Russ Hall’s contribution in her constituency. She makes an important point; indeed, when I was Home Secretary I brought together various agencies—the police, the Border Force and others—to look at how we deal with protecting our borders. That joined-up working can make a real and positive contribution. As she will know, what matters is not only how we do that but ensuring that we have an impact—and crime has fallen by a third since 2010, to a record low.
Q12. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for advising me about my blood pressure. When I go to the hospital to see my consultant on Monday, I am sure that he will give me the same advice. My blood pressure rises when I go into hospitals and see all those nurses who are overstretched, overworked and underpaid, and having to use food banks. The Prime Minister pays lip service to them and will not look at ending the public sector pay cap. I now make a plea to her; she should listen not to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, but to those nurses and do something about the public pay sector cap. (900228)
I set out my position in response to an earlier question by the Leader of the Opposition. People may not realise that there is not only the overall public sector pay increase, but, for many nurses, increments or progression pay as well. A typical band 5 nurse will receive 3.8% over and above the 1%.
Q9. It is a strong economy that powers this Government’s investment in the NHS and a strong economy that allows this Government to create 1,500 new medical school places and some new medical schools. Does the Prime Minister agree that Lincolnshire’s unique rurality and sparsity makes a compelling case for a new medical school in this great county? (900225)
My hon. Friend makes an important point, which is that we can pay for our public services only if we have that strong economy. That is absolutely the basis of it. As he said, we will train 1,500 new doctors every year to ensure that the NHS has enough doctors to continue providing that safe compassionate care that we all want to see. The Department of Health is currently looking at how to allocate these places, and will publish its consultation response shortly. It is also looking at the possibility of new and aspiring medical schools bidding for those places. I am sure that, as he has always been a champion for his constituents and his constituency, he will continue to make an excellent case for Lincolnshire.
Q14. On Saturday, the shadow Chancellor and I joined staff from Picturehouse Cinemas outside the Ritzy in Brixton who are striking because their employer refuses to pay the London living wage and has outrageously sacked their trade union representative. Will the Prime Minister join me in calling on Picturehouse Cinemas, which made a profit last year of more than £80 million, to pay its staff the London living wage and to reinstate the local reps immediately? (900230)
That is about a relationship between employers and their employees. Overall, what is of importance is that the Government are taking the right decisions to ensure that we are growing the economy and providing those jobs for people in the first place.
Q10. I thank the Prime Minister for taking time during the general election to come up to Banchory and campaign in my constituency where we did rather well. Does she agree that it is utterly shameful that the Scottish Government have, for the second year in a row, had to go pleading to the European Commission for an extension to the farm payment deadline? Is that not proof, if further proof were needed, that the Scottish National party is failing rural Scotland? (900226)
I welcome my hon. Friend to his place in this House. I very much enjoyed my visit to Banchory during the election campaign. What he says is absolutely right. Time and again in this Chamber, we hear the Scottish nationalists demanding more powers for Scotland, yet what do we see? We see that they are failing to deliver for the Scottish people with the powers that they already have. Yet again, Scottish schools are now outperformed in every category by schools in England, Northern Ireland, Estonia and Poland. Powers are kept in Edinburgh rather than being devolved to local people and, as he says, yet again we see farmers waiting months for their subsidy payments. The simple fact is that the SNP’s policies are not in the best interests of the people of Scotland.
Order. I say to the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald), who persists in gesticulating in an extremely eccentric manner, that he seems a little discombobulated from the world he inhabits, which is a very unhappy state of affairs that cannot long continue.
Q15. The Southern rail dispute is causing real damage to the economy of Eastbourne and the south-east. My constituents have had a dreadful time, with a shocking service provided—or not provided—over the past 18 months. This simply cannot go on. Will the Prime Minister enlighten me, my constituents and the House as to why the Department for Transport and the rail operator will not meet the unions at the same time and in the same room together to negotiate a deal? (900231)
I recognise the problems that have been experienced by Southern rail passengers—the matter has been raised by a number of colleagues in the House, including my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield), who raised it last week. I am very disappointed that ASLEF and the RMT have called more industrial action, which is completely unnecessary; all that it will do is cause more disruption and frustration for passengers. The recent independent Gibb report said that the main cause of widespread disruption on Southern rail has been union action, so I urge the unions to call off the strikes, work with the operator and deliver the services that passengers need.
Q11. Businesses across my constituency will be cock-a-hoop to hear that their calls for better broadband are being answered by the digital infrastructure investment fund, which will unlock about £1 billion for full fibre service and help them create jobs, particularly in rural areas. Does the Prime Minister agree that that is exactly the sort of infrastructure spend we need to get our Brexit ready? (900227)
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. This country is already a digital world leader, and we are committed to ensuring that we remain so. We already see 93% of the UK accessing superfast broadband, and we are on track to reach 95% by the end of the year, but we want to see more commercial investment in the gold-standard connectivity that full fibre provides, which is why we have launched the digital infrastructure investment fund. Companies across the UK, including in Brentwood and Ongar, will be able to apply for match funding for projects and see fibre delivered right to the doorstep. Yesterday we also announced 100% business rate relief for those businesses rolling out new fibre. This is important. We want to continue to be a world leader in digital, and the actions that the Government are taking will ensure that we will be.
Police officer numbers in Wales have dropped by 10% since the Prime Minister’s party came to power. If policing were devolved, as it is in Northern Ireland and Scotland, Welsh police forces would have extra funding worth £25 million at their disposal, which would more than replace those lost officers. What justification is there for refusing to devolve policing?
We have been around this discussion before. Let me address the central issue of what the hon. Lady is talking about, which is police budgets and the number of police officers. We have been protecting police budgets since 2015, as I believe is acknowledged across the House. We are also ensuring that the police have the capabilities they need to deal with new types of crime, by creating the national cybercrime unit and the National Crime Agency. Those are all important steps to ensure that the police can do their job of cutting crime, and crime is at a record low.
Q13. I thank the Prime Minister for introducing the trade, agriculture and fisheries Brexit Bills in the Queen’s Speech, which will be welcomed right across the west country. However, we are facing significant challenges with our rural post office network at the moment, with the transition from community branches to community village stores and community buildings. Some of those moves have been smooth and some have not. Will she take a look at that to see whether there is anything more the Government could do to help my constituents? (900229)
My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is right that we recognise the role that post offices play in rural communities, and not only in places such as Camelford and St Minver in his constituency, but in the constituencies of other hon. Members. We have invested more than £2 billion in the network up to 2018. The number of post offices is actually at its most stable for decades. But he is absolutely right. I urge the Post Office to make it as easy as possible for shops that want to take over postal services to be able to do so.
Some 2,400 people have died as a result of the NHS contaminated blood scandal—more than Hillsborough and all the other disasters over the previous few decades put together. On 25 April, the former right hon. Member for Leigh presented compelling evidence to Parliament of a criminal cover-up on an industrial scale, so will the Prime Minister now do the right thing and order a public inquiry for the whole United Kingdom?
The hon. Lady raises an important issue. I know that Members’ thoughts will be with all those who have been affected by this terrible tragedy of contaminated blood. Serious allegations have been made, and Ministers at the Department of Health will obviously look at information that has been brought to the House. If any hon. Member has any further information or evidence that they believe is important, it should go to Ministers so that they can properly investigate it. We are providing more compensation than any previous Government, and we committed £125 million extra funding last July for those affected by the contaminated blood tragedy. The Department of Health will look at any new evidence that is brought forward.
Rather than celebrating the NHS, the Labour party has rather shamelessly tried to weaponise it as a mere tool for political campaigning. Will the Prime Minister assure me that decisions on services such as the 999 service will be clinical decisions, not those of politicians who are trying to weaponise our public services?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is very important that decisions relating to services provided by the NHS are taken on a clinical basis by those who understand the needs and requirements of people in different areas. That is why we set up NHS England, which has a plan for developing services in the NHS over a five-year period. It is important that politicians allow clinicians and others in the NHS to make the decisions they need to.
I know that the House will be thinking of my constituents Connie Yates, Chris Gard and Charlie at this incredibly difficult time. It is clear that if Charlie remains in the UK no further treatment is available and life support will be switched off. There are differing views about the chances of the nucleoside bypass therapy, which other children—albeit with less severe forms of Charlie’s conditions—have benefited from. I understand that the chances of improvement for Charlie are low, but the doctors would be able to say within three months whether Charlie was responding and whether that change was clinically beneficial. If there is any room for discretion in the court rulings for Great Ormond Street to allow Charlie to leave and to transfer his care to doctors at Columbia University, and if he is sufficiently stable to receive treatment, would the Prime Minister do all she can to bring the appropriate people together to try to make this happen?
The hon. Lady is right to raise the concerns of her constituents in this matter. I am sure that the thoughts of all Members of the House are with the family and Charlie at this exceptionally difficult time. It is an unimaginable position for anybody to be in, and I fully understand and appreciate that any parent in these circumstances would want to do everything possible and explore every option for their seriously ill child. I also know that no doctor ever wants to be placed in the terrible position of having to make such heartbreaking decisions. The hon. Lady referred to the fact that we have that court process. I am confident that Great Ormond Street hospital has considered, and always will consider, any offers or new information that have come forward along with the wellbeing of a desperately ill child.
When the Prime Minister and I left our comprehensive schools to go to university, we entered a privileged elite. Will she confirm that as a result of tuition fees, introduced by Labour and improved by the coalition, more young people from working class and poor backgrounds are now going to university than ever before? Some people say that there are fewer. Are they right or are they wrong?
I am very happy to join my right hon. Friend in recognising that she and I left comprehensive schools and went to universities at a time when the number of people going to university was significantly lower than it is today. I am also grateful to her for reminding the House that, actually, it was the Labour party that said it would not introduce tuition fees and then, when it got into government, introduced tuition fees. Under the current system, we are seeing more young people than ever going to university, and crucially—to address the point she raised—disadvantaged 18-year-olds are 40% more likely to go to university now than they were in 2009.
The Prime Minister herself commissioned Bishop James Jones to report on the experience of the Hillsborough families. Given the painful evidence before us that parts of the state still do not know how to treat bereaved families or the survivors of catastrophe, will she now give me the date when she will publish Bishop Jones’s report?
I have not myself yet seen Bishop Jones’s full report. I am not able to give the hon. Lady a date when I will publish it, but she raises a very important point. The reason why I asked Bishop James Jones to undertake this work was precisely because I was concerned about the way in which the bereaved families at Hillsborough had been treated over far too many years, and obviously we have seen the result of the Crown Prosecution Service decisions last week. This is why we have committed in the Queen’s Speech to introducing an independent public advocate who will be able to act on behalf of bereaved families in cases of public disaster. It is important that they are able to have that support alongside them, because too many families have to fight over many years to get justice, as we have seen in Hillsborough. I want to ensure that they have help and support in doing that.
Given the Government’s record on freezing fuel duty, will the Prime Minister resist recent siren calls to raise it, because this hurts the lowest paid the most? Will she also do everything possible to make sure that when the international oil price falls, that price is properly reflected at the pumps so that we can have a Britain that works for every motorist?
May I first commend my right hon. Friend, who has been championing this issue for all the years that he has been in the House? The work that he has done as a great campaigner on this and, indeed, other issues has been recognised by the Government in changes the Government has made. As he knows, I am pleased that we have been able to do what we have done in relation to holding down fuel duty. I think he is trying to tempt me down a path which I will not go down, because, as he knows, decisions on these matters are taken at the time of fiscal events.