This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
On Monday, children and parents at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Chiswick told me of their concerns about air pollution affecting children’s health. This morning, the High Court ruled that the Government’s air quality plan is unlawful. What does the Prime Minister feel is worse: losing for the third time in the High Court, or 40,000 unnecessary deaths and the impact on children’s health of the UK’s unsustainable air quality?
The issue the hon. Lady has raised about air quality is important, and that is why we have been taking action to improve air quality. I say to her that I do not think that the way she has described the Court’s decision this morning properly reflects the Court’s decision. Let me just explain to the House that we welcome the fact that the Court dismissed the complaint relating to five cities with major air quality problems and found that we are taking appropriate action. It agreed that the modelling we used to support the 2017 air quality plan is sound. It has asked us to go further in areas with less severe air quality problems where we thought a pragmatic approach was appropriate; we will now formalise that. But actually, on two of the three counts, the Court found in the Government’s favour.
My hon. Friend raises an important issue, and he is right to speak up for his constituents in relation to this matter. He is also right, because this Government have been keen to ensure that police are out there, not in back-office jobs. More money is going to policing—[Interruption.]
Order. Please, the questions and answers must be heard, and I make no apology for repeating that the discussions here at Prime Minister’s questions should bear some resemblance to what the House is saying in relation to culture. We have recently had a report on harassment. Let us try to behave properly in these sessions. That means listening to the answers and listening to the questions. Both sides of the House have got to try to wake up to the reality that huge numbers of people outside this place—I could not care less about the Press Gallery—disapprove of this sort of behaviour. On both sides, stop it.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The funding settlement for next year provides extra money for policing, which means that West Midlands police will receive an increase of £9.5 million. Of course, as my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes) says, it is up to the West Midlands police and crime commissioner—a Labour commissioner—to decide how he spends that money, but I know that police forces can be more effective and productive, and I am sure my hon. Friend will make his case very strongly to the Labour commissioner.
Yesterday the Brexit Secretary assured the country that Brexit will not plunge Britain
“into a Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction.”
Does the Prime Minister not feel that the Brexit Secretary could set the bar just a little bit higher?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we are very clear that we are going to ensure that, when we leave the European Union, we are able to take back control of our borders, our money and our laws. The only fiction in relation to Brexit and the European Union is the Labour party’s Front Bench, who cannot even agree with themselves on what their policy is.
One of the Prime Minister’s former Brexit Ministers in the other place warned her that Britain will be walking a “gangplank into thin air” if she does not decide what she actually wants on leaving the European Union.
In his speech, the Brexit Secretary also said that fears about a deregulatory “race to the bottom” were “based on nothing”. Why, then, did his own Department’s exit analysis state that there could be opportunities for Britain in deregulating areas such as environment and employment law?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about what we actually want to achieve when we leave the European Union. I will tell him what we want to achieve: we want to ensure that this is a country that can negotiate free trade deals around the rest of the world; we want to ensure that we have a good trade agreement with the European Union, and that is what we will be starting to negotiate; and we want to ensure that we have a good security partnership with the European Union, as I set out in detail in my speech in Munich last week. But we also want to ensure that this country takes the opportunities that will be open to us outside the European Union to boost our economy and to ensure that we develop the economy of the future and jobs for the future—more high-paid, high-skilled jobs for the people in this country. We are putting the people first.
In December, the Foreign Secretary and the Environment Secretary were briefing that the working time directive would be scrapped. The CBI and the unions are very clear that they are not looking for a bonfire of regulations—quite the opposite. The only party that wants to scrap workers’ regulations and protections is the party opposite.
In her Lancaster House speech a year ago, the Prime Minister clearly stated:
“I also want tariff-free trade with Europe”.
Now, a year on, she has downgraded that aim to “as tariff-free as possible”. Businesses and workers want tariff-free access to protect jobs, so why have the Government abandoned that for “as tariff-free as possible”?
I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that the Government have not abandoned their negotiating position in relation to this; we will be ensuring that we get that good, comprehensive trade agreement—new economic partnership—with the European Union. He also mentions workers’ rights. I have been clear since I became Prime Minister that this Government will not only protect workers’ rights, but enhance them. Let us just look at the Conservatives’ record in government. Which Government took action on zero-hours contracts? It was a Conservative Government, not Labour. Which Government got Matthew Taylor to report on the new economy, so that we ensure workers get the highest rights? It was a Conservative Government, not Labour. Which Government are ensuring that workers’ voices are heard on the boards of companies? It is a Conservative Government, not Labour.
I do not know whether the Prime Minister has had a chance to read The Daily Telegraph today, but 62 of her Back Benchers want a bonfire of regulations and to destroy workers’ rights in this country. When the Government’s EU exit analysis was published, the Brexit Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), said:
“It does not consider our desired outcome”—[Official Report, 31 January 2018; Vol. 635, c. 835.]
Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity now to tell the House and the country: what is the Government’s desired outcome?
I am very happy to: a bespoke economic partnership.
Okay. So, given that the Prime Minister ruled out any form of customs union post-Brexit, can she explain how she expects then to avoid a hard border with Northern Ireland?
The right hon. Gentleman and others have asked this question previously. I have already pointed out in this Chamber that the Government published papers last summer that showed how we can deliver exactly that—no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and a bespoke economic partnership with the European Union.
The Foreign Secretary recently made a speech about Brexit and found time to mention carrots, spam, V-signs, stag parties and a plague of boils. There was not one mention of Northern Ireland in his speech. We are halfway through—[Interruption.]
The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (David Morris) must calm himself. It is not good for your health. It is only Wednesday, man—you have the rest of the week to get through. I am trying to help you. You should appreciate my kindness.
We are halfway through the six speeches we were told would set out the Government’s negotiating position. So far, all we have had is waffle and empty rhetoric. Businesses need to know. People want to know. Even the Prime Minister’s Back Benchers are demanding to know, but it is not clear from today’s exchanges. This Government are not on the road to Brexit—they are on the road to nowhere.
I think I have mentioned to the right hon. Gentleman before that his job is actually to ask a question, but I am perfectly happy to respond to the points he made. He said that we have not set out any detail. May I suggest to him that he needs to think very carefully about the security partnership that we want with the European Union when we have left? I set out in my speech in Munich last week exactly what we want that security partnership to cover, because we believe in ensuring that we are maintaining the security and safety of people here in the UK, but also in Europe. We are unconditionally committed to the safety and security of Europe. But may I congratulate him, because normally he stands up every week and asks me to sign a blank cheque? I know he likes Czechs, but really that is terribly depressing.
My hon. Friend has raised a very important point. It is absolutely crucial—of course we want to ensure this—that people who are driving are actually fit to drive. I know that the sympathies of not just my hon. Friend but the whole House will be with Evelyn’s family and friends. The current driving licence system is designed to balance road safety with the needs of the individual. All drivers must inform the DVLA if they have a medical condition that might affect their driving and should discuss any of their concerns with their own medical professionals. We take this issue very seriously and are committed to ensuring that those who are granted a driving licence are fit to drive.
At least 194 people have been killed in the past 48 hours in Eastern Ghouta. Will the Prime Minister tell the House what discussions her Government have had with UN colleagues since Sunday on the enforcement of the existing UN resolutions that call for an end to sieges of civilian areas and attacks on civilians?
The right hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. We are appalled by the escalation of air strikes in Eastern Ghouta and deeply concerned by reports of the ongoing deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, in blatant violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. We, as the United Kingdom Government, certainly call on the regime and its backers to cease this campaign of violence. They should respect international humanitarian law, protect civilians, and allow rapid and unfettered humanitarian access. There is concern that something like 700 people who need medical evacuation are being refused that evacuation by the regime. We will continue to work with the UN and the UN Geneva-led process. The UN envoy has our full support for his work to try to bring an end to this by finding a political solution for Syria.
I thank the Prime Minister for that answer. The bombing is relentless. Doctors on the ground are treating pregnant women and babies who have lost limbs. It is estimated that well over 100 children have been killed since Sunday. The UN has issued desperate pleas calling for political intervention. It has stated:
“No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones”.
Will the Prime Minister show leadership and join me in calling for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to address the horrific genocide that is unfolding in Syria?
The United Nations has called on Governments around the world to call out the action that has been taken and to be ready to stand up against that action. That is exactly what this Government are doing. We will talk to our UN colleagues to ensure that the best possible approach can be taken in relation to these issues, but it is not just about the Syrian Government; it is about the backers of the Syrian Government as well. We call on all their backers, including Russia, to ensure that the violence stops, and that those people who are need of help are given that help.
I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that the competition will be open and fair. I cannot comment on individual bids, but I am sure that he will make his voice heard. It is right that from autumn 2019 we will issue new blue and gold passports, which have always been the UK’s colours of choice for our passports. It is absolutely right that after we leave the European Union, we return to deciding the colour of passports that we want, not that the European Union wants.
Our thoughts are with Claire following the terrible tragedy that she has been through. We recognise that we need to provide support for the victims of domestic violence. As the hon. Lady suggested in her question, there are many aspects to this issue. Before my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary brings forward legislation, she will be issuing a consultation, because we want to ensure that we listen to all those who have been affected so that we deal with all aspects of this particular issue. The Government are committed to working not only to support the victims of domestic violence, but to ensure that we end violence against women and girls.
I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating those many carers who are looking after people with dementia, and also volunteers who provide services for people with dementia and their carers. We are working with partners across the health system to ensure that more people with dementia than ever before receive a diagnosis, as well as to raise awareness, to ensure that people get an earlier diagnosis, and to provide the care and support that is needed. I am also pleased to say that there are now 2.3 million dementia friends across the country, and that we are doubling spending on dementia research. I will also ensure that members of the Cabinet are given the dementia friends training.
It is good to see the hon. Lady back in the House.
As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes), we are providing extra funding for police forces—[Hon. Members: “No, you’re not.”] It is no good Labour Members shaking their heads and saying that, because we are providing extra funding for police forces, and it is of course up to police and crime commissioners to decide how that money is spent.
I am happy to welcome—as I am sure that you are, Mr Speaker—the fact that we have been joined in the Public Gallery by a delegation of French Members of Parliament.
My hon. Friend raises a very important point about EU citizens living in the United Kingdom. They have made a huge contribution to our country, which is why we want them and their families to stay. I am absolutely clear that EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay. On the process of applying for settled status, I can assure him that it will not cost more than that of a British passport. EU citizens will have a period of two years in which to apply. The system will be a digital, streamlined and user-friendly, and will ensure that the process is as simple and easy for people as possible.
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. As he may know, there are two ways in which those rehabilitation services will be commissioned. NHS England commissions specialised neurological rehabilitation centres for complex brain injury, and it does so at a national level. More routine rehabilitation is commissioned locally, although NHS England sets guidelines for commissioners to support delivery, including for brain injury. The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, and I will ask the Health Secretary to respond to him and the specific question that he asks.
May I tell the Prime Minister how welcome the Policing Minister’s response to yesterday’s urgent question was, as he said that he would help Alfie Dingley to find a way through regulations to access the medicinal cannabis that he needs? Will the Prime Minister ensure not only that the Minister’s words go beyond the popular view of, “I’m from the Government; I’m here to help,” but that we join the majority of states of the European Union and the United States, as well as British public opinion and all colleagues who raised questions yesterday, so that we give British citizens the earliest possible access to the potential benefits of medicines derived from cannabis through a proper evidence-based process? Will she ensure that the United Kingdom is on the front foot in licensing all medical investigations that need to be done to get us these benefits?
I know that the sympathies of Members across the House are with Alfie and his family as he undergoes treatment. We recognise that people with chronic pain and debilitating illnesses will always look to alleviate their symptoms, but if we are going to permit medicines to be used, we first need to ensure that they have been through the most rigorous testing and that we apply the most rigorous standards. We believe that cannabis should be subjected to the same regulations that apply to all medicines in the United Kingdom.
Order. Forgive me; I was struggling to hear. Just before I ask the Prime Minister to respond, I need an assurance from the hon. Gentleman that he is not suggesting that the presence of a Member of Parliament was bought. If he is suggesting that, it is straightforwardly out of order. Is that what the hon. Gentleman is saying?
Mr Speaker, I was referring to a story that was in the newspapers.
I am afraid that that is not good enough. Forgive me—I have to make instant judgments. If the Prime Minister wishes to issue some sort of response, she is free to do so, but she is under no obligation. No? Then I call Andrew Bridgen.
Twice in the last four weeks, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has had cause to write to the Labour party regarding breaches of equality law. Does the Prime Minister agree that equality law must be applied equally, and that it exists to protect all groups equally?
I am happy to agree with my hon. Friend on that point. I was in opposition when the Equality Act 2010 went through Parliament, and we supported that Act. It is there to ensure—exactly as he says—that people are treated equally.
Order. Let us just be absolutely clear about this. This question, like every question, will be heard. The hon. Lady will not be shouted down and that is the end of the matter, so if some foolish person is seeking to do so, examine your behaviour and stop it.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
The CEO of the Nuclear Industry Association points out that if medical isotopes that are used to treat cancer are delayed in reaching the UK, they could be deemed useless on arrival because of their short half-life. Will the Prime Minister explain how she plans to prevent delays to cancer treatment that would be caused by her pursuit of a hard Brexit?
The hon. Lady is wrong on two counts. First, we are pursuing a Brexit that will enable us to have an economic partnership that sees freedom of trade across the borders with the European Union. But it is also the case, as we have made clear previously, that the availability of medical radioisotopes will not be impacted by the UK’s exit from Euratom. The import or export of these radioisotopes is not subject to any Euratom licensing requirements, so our ability to import medical isotopes from Europe and the rest of the world will not be affected by our withdrawal from Euratom.
May I thank the Prime Minister for taking a personal interest by meeting myself and other colleagues from across the House to discuss getting justice for the Primodos victims? These people went to their GPs in good faith and were given a drug that resulted in the loss of babies’ lives, abortions and the birth of disfigured young people. Does the Prime Minister have any good news for the victims of Primodos so that we can put an end to this terrible situation?
I was very pleased to meet my right hon. Friend and, indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies) to discuss this issue. I recognise that the lives of many individuals have been affected by this. There are very powerful stories of these individuals. I know this has been a concern across the whole House. The concerns raised by campaign groups about not just Primodos, but issues such as vaginal mesh and sodium valproate, have highlighted that there is an issue with our regulatory and healthcare system, and we are determined to address it. I have been clear that we need to do better. I was very struck by the powerful stories I heard. We need to see a faster, more understanding response when patients raise concerns. If my right hon. Friend can be a little patient, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will be making a statement to the House this afternoon to set out his plans for a review of these issues.
Over the years, under both Labour and Conservative Governments, building regulations and enforcement have obviously been looked at, and the arrangements in relation to enforcement were in fact changed by the last Labour Government. What we did immediately following the appalling fire at Grenfell Tower was to ensure that all those involved—local authorities and others—worked with their fire authorities to inspect towers and look at the cladding. There are issues about not just the cladding, because this is also about how it is affixed to buildings. Action was taken by local fire authorities in the areas where they thought that was necessary, which was why in Camden, for example, people had to leave their tower block while action was taken. My right hon. Friend the Housing Secretary has put in place a review of the regulations. It was urgently put in place, and action is being taken as a result of that review.
Yesterday, after months of ignoring evidence from a wide range of stakeholders, the SNP agreed to pause its plans to merge British Transport police into Police Scotland. Does the Prime Minister agree that, during that pause, the Scottish Government must look at all options for the future of BTP when it is devolved from this Parliament, to ensure that we get the best possible deal, rather than the failed integration plans that are already struggling in Scotland?
That is of course an important point. We as the UK Government are committed to delivering the Smith commission in full. As part of that, we are devolving powers over the British Transport police to the Scottish Government, but the No. 1 priority must be the safety of the public as they travel, so we will work with the Scottish Government to make sure there is a smooth transfer of the British Transport police to their responsibility. Whether or not the British Transport police is merged with Police Scotland is, of course, a matter for the Scottish Government.
Order. Mr Wishart, calm yourself. You are supposed to be setting an example to some of your colleagues. You aspire to be a statesman, one century or another.
Mr Speaker, I am tempted to say that the hon. Gentleman is a right example, but there we are.
It is a matter for the Scottish Government as to what they choose to do, but I urge them to ensure they are putting the safety and security of people who are travelling first when they make that decision.
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right to ask me questions about things for which I am responsible, and I have the right, as I did previously, to comment on issues that we are taking up with the Scottish Government.
I say to the hon. Gentleman that I will be the judge of what is in order, and he will accept the ruling. The Prime Minister was in order, and that is again the end of it. Somebody has to decide, and I have done so.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. What we are doing in relation to jobcentre services is ensuring that there will be no decrease in the level of services that jobcentres offer people in Scotland. In fact, we are going to increase the number of work coaches across the country, to provide more support to the people who need it. Those plans are designed to retain the skills and experience of the DWP workforce across the country and to ensure that we not just protect but enhance the service offered to people.
Will the Prime Minister tell the international aid sector that, despite the abuses that have come to light recently, this Government are committed to helping the most vulnerable and poorest people around the world, but the sector really does need to get its act in order?
This Government maintain their commitment to helping the most vulnerable people around the world, and we maintain our commitment to our international development budget, but we want to work with organisations that meet the high standards that we expect. The behaviour of Oxfam staff in Haiti was quite frankly horrific and far below those standards.
I am pleased to say that my right hon. Friend the International Development Secretary has taken immediate action by demanding assurances from all our charitable partners here and abroad about their safeguarding and protection policies by the end of the month. Next month, DFID and the Charity Commission will hold an urgent safeguarding summit, where they will bring together UK international development charities with regulators and experts, to look at the possibility of an accreditation scheme that can be used for aid workers and taken into the international arena later in the year. It is absolutely crucial that we continue our support through aid for those who are most vulnerable, but they also deserve to be treated with the same high standards that we would expect to be treated ourselves.
I say to the hon. Lady that I am not going to comment on the individual case. The Home Office looks at the circumstances of individuals. There are rules—immigration rules—in place and the Home Office will make decisions accordingly.
The whole House will be well aware of the excellent work done by the Holocaust Educational Trust, particularly the brilliant Lessons from Auschwitz project. However, at the moment, the Polish constitutional court is considering a draft law that would make it illegal to refer to “Polish death camps” and to the role of Polish citizens during the holocaust. Will my right hon. Friend take this up with her counterpart in Poland to ensure that families of victims and survivors’ words are heard—that history cannot be rewritten?
I say to my hon. Friend that I understand the Government have already raised this issue with the Poles. What we should be doing is ensuring that nobody forgets the holocaust—nobody forgets the horrific inhumanity to man that was shown through the actions taken by the Nazis in the holocaust. The Holocaust Educational Trust does very important work. The education centre and memorial that is going to be placed here at Westminster will be a long-standing memorial to people, and will also do the important job of educating people about the past to ensure that we never see such horrific crimes being committed again.
I say to the hon. Gentleman that a lot of work has been done on what proceeds of crime can be spent on. He will have noted that the Home Secretary has heard the question he has raised, and I will ensure that the particular issue he has raised is looked into.
Three months ago, I raised the case of a constituent distressed by the relationship between his 17-year-old daughter and her much older driving instructor. This week, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency announced that a consensual sexual relationship between an approved driving instructor and a 16 or 17-year-old pupil would now be considered an exploitation of their position of trust, and any instructor involved will likely be struck off the approved driving instructor register. May I thank the Prime Minister for her response, and the DVSA for its action? Does she agree that this sets a strong example, and will she ask the Department for Education to consider adding driving instructors and other coaches to its list of those formally covered in law by a position of trust?
May I thank my hon. Friend for raising what was an appalling case? But from that, as he said, has come a change in attitude from the DVLA, which I hope will be of benefit to others who could have been put in that very difficult and appalling situation. I will certainly ask the Department for Education to look at the point he has raised.
In Sheffield, the council’s £11.1 million projected current overspend on children’s services is the highest in Yorkshire and the Humber and the second highest in England. This is clearly in correlation with the £350 million of cuts since 2010. What does the Prime Minister say to children who need these vital council services, but may not be able to access them because the Tories continue to cut council budgets so savagely?
As I pointed out earlier in response to other questions, we are ensuring, as we have done over the settlement period, that local authorities do have more money to deal with some of the particularly difficult issues that they have to deal with at a local level. We do want to see and ensure that children are given the best possible start in life, but it is completely wrong to suggest that decisions taken at local level are all the responsibility of this Government.
It is clear from academics, dog behaviourists, charities and trainers that electrocuting dogs does not help to train them, but risks creating more detrimental long-term consequences for their welfare. I thank all colleagues who came along to my event yesterday to sign up to the pledge to ban shock collars. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as dogs are man’s best friend, it is time we showed some of that loyalty and friendship in return by banning the use, distribution and sale of these barbaric devices?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that issue. I know he has been campaigning long and hard on it. We made it clear in the updated statutory code of practice for the welfare of dogs that positive training should be used and that any training that involves pain, injury or distress would breach the Animal Welfare Act 2006. I understand that my hon. Friend will be meeting the Environment Secretary to discuss the matter further.
The deputy president of the National Farmers Union said that losing full access to the European single market could be absolutely disastrous for British agriculture. Does the Prime Minister agree with her?
My position remains exactly as it has always been. We are going to negotiate a new economic partnership with the European Union. I assure the hon. Lady that the interests of agriculture will be one of the considerations we take into account when we make sure that we are still able to have a good trade arrangement with the European Union, as well as improved trade arrangements with the rest of the world.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It relates to Prime Minister’s questions.
I will give the hon. Lady the benefit of the doubt. Points of order are supposed to come after statements. She says it appertains to the exchanges we have just had. I hope it does and that it is not just a prolongation of the argument. Let us hear it.
Thank you so much, Mr Speaker. My question to the Prime Minister referred to the ruling of the High Court today. In the ruling handed down in the High Court this morning, Mr Justice Garnham declared the Government’s failure to require action from 45 local authorities with illegal levels of air pollution in their area to be unlawful. In her response, the Prime Minister—
Order. Forgive me, but the words that immediately spring to mind in this context are “second bite of the cherry”. I am afraid a Member is entitled only to one bite of the cherry. If the hon. Lady feels very aggrieved, she can always write to me about the matter. I am not sure I should exhort her to do so—doubtless a missive will be winging its way to me ere long—but I do not think we can detain the Chamber now. The hon. Lady had a good bash earlier and we will leave it there for the moment.