The Secretary of State was asked—
CHOGM: Sustainable Development Goals
We will be working with our Commonwealth partners to ensure that we address the global goals by discussion and commitments across all the goals, but particularly those on prosperity, education and global health.
Goal 16 of the sustainable development goals includes a commitment to provide legal identity for all by 2030. Is the Secretary of State ashamed that her Government destroyed thousands of landing cards of those arriving from Commonwealth nations and are now trying to throw those people out?
I should thank the hon. Lady for affording me the opportunity to associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister yesterday. This has been an appalling episode taking place during CHOGM week, and she took the opportunity yesterday to apologise and to provide reassurances to Commonwealth partners as well as to people here. It is important to reiterate that anyone who answered Britain’s call all those years ago has the right to remain and call Britain home. The Home Office has, as the hon. Lady knows, put in place new measures to ensure that no one should have any concerns about the process.
In my speech last week, I reiterated that programmes on health are one of the best ways that we can use UK aid, providing a win for the developing world and also contributing to our own global health security. We have made some commitments on malaria during CHOGM, and there will be a malaria summit this evening.
Clearly, the Foreign Secretary, my hon. Friend the Minister for Africa and other Ministers, will be having bilaterals all week with Commonwealth Heads Government and with their Ministers when those Heads of Government are not attending.
Killer diseases such as malaria are a huge barrier to the attainment of the sustainable development goals. Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming today’s malaria summit, which will accelerate global action to tackle this deadly disease, and continue to back and thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?
The House need take it not from me, but can take it from Bill and Melinda Gates, that this nation has played a huge role. The British public should be immensely proud of the efforts that have been made to combat malaria. It is still a huge problem, particularly in Commonwealth countries, and we are determined to eradicate it.
The Prime Minister of Jamaica referred yesterday to climate change as an existential threat, and he was absolutely right to do so. Prior to CHOGM, we had been working with our Commonwealth partners to work up concrete proposals and commitments, and we have had many meetings this week, including one particularly focused on small island states, which are disproportionately affected by this issue.
I associate myself with what my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones) said. I must say that an apology from the Government is not good enough, because we need to look at the wider picture. The Government have threatened to deport the Windrush generation and have extended their hostile environment to Commonwealth citizens who are legally here. They are unable to provide data on how many have been wrongly detained or deported, and they have even destroyed their landing cards. Exactly what kind of signal does that send to our Commonwealth partners? I ask the Secretary of State to raise these issues with the former Home Secretary and tell her that this is not the global Britain that we want to build.
I thank the hon. Lady for those comments. Whatever the policy intent, it is quite wrong if it is not delivering the effect that it should in practice—if people are not reassured and cannot get the answers to basic questions, or if the process is moving so slowly that the person is denied access to healthcare, for example. I am pleased that the Home Office has now gripped this issue and is determined to put those wrongs right. The Prime Minister is providing that reassurance, not just in what she said in public yesterday but in in the bilaterals that she and I have had with members of the Commonwealth.
I thank the Secretary of State for her answer. Last week, she set out her new vision for UK aid, saying that it should act as a “shield” against migration. Does she really believe that the British public want to see our aid budget—meant for poverty reduction—being used to prop up her Prime Minister’s hostile environment?
The hon. Lady has misquoted me; I did not say that. Clearly, migration is a very positive thing. The migration that happened with the Windrush, for example, was hugely beneficial to Britain and, I hope, to those individuals, but other issues will be exacerbated if we do not create jobs and prosperity in Africa. I remind the hon. Lady and other Members that thousands of people have lost their lives in transit across the Mediterranean. We need to do more to alleviate poverty in Africa. People should not have to leave their homes, cross the sea via people traffickers and risk their lives in order to survive.
Yemen: Humanitarian Access
The UK has led the call for unhindered humanitarian and commercial access to Yemen, including through the UK co-ordinated Security Council statement of 15 March, the Secretary of State’s visit to Riyadh in December and lobbying from the Prime Minister. DFID is also providing expertise and funding to UN shipping inspectors to facilitate import flows into Yemen.
Cholera is currently a massive problem in Yemen, so getting medicines in is, of course, crucial. Hodeidah port is still only open on a month by month basis, so what is the Department doing to keep it permanently open?
I am conscious of both aspects on the hon. Gentleman’s question. Just the other week, on 3 April, I was in Geneva, where I co-hosted a discussion on cholera with Sir Mark Lowcock, the UN Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs. We had a roundtable of all the major agencies involved in dealing with the cholera outbreak, including the World Health Organisation and others. We are doing as much as we can to encourage preparation for dealing with that outbreak. Of course, we continue to work on ensuring that there is as much access as possible through any of the ports, although the hon. Gentleman is right that the lack of commercial shipping now coming into Hodeidah by choice is an extra burden.
Given the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, I welcome the role that the UK is playing in funding the global relief effort. Will the Minister confirm what more work his Department plans to do to ensure that we can get the aid to where it is needed within Yemen?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. On 3 April, DFID announced an additional £170 million for the new financial year in response to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. We work with all partners to ensure that there is greater access and a greater prospect of resolution of the conflict through the new UN special envoy Martin Griffiths.
I welcome the steps that the Department is taking to secure continued humanitarian access to Yemen, and urge Ministers to do the same in Syria in the light of recent events. Does the Minister foresee humanitarian grounds for military intervention in Yemen, as those were apparently the grounds for action in Syria? In any event, will he confirm—unequivocally and without exception—that none of the 0.7% aid budget, which is for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, will be used to fund military activities?
There is no prospect of United Kingdom military action in Yemen. The humanitarian efforts are going on at the same time as seeking to resolve the complex political difficulties there. I remind the House of the exceptional difficulties of access in the northern areas controlled by the Houthis.
The Minister’s Department assured the public at the start of March, following the Secretary of State’s trip to the region in December, that humanitarian access in Yemen had been restored. However, fuel imports are estimated to be just 30% of what is needed, with food imports at just 9%. Bombing of port areas also continues. Why did the Secretary of State sign a £100 million aid partnership with Saudi Arabia in March, without insisting on full, permanent aid access in Yemen?
In March, imports met 61% of monthly food needs and 60% of monthly fuel needs. While we recognise, of course, that the level of access is not as great as we would wish, we are working hard with coalition partners to make sure not only that there is increased access but that the issues concerning the smuggling of weapons into Yemen, which has been a principal cause of the restricted access, are being dealt with as well.
Women and Children’s Education
The UK is a major investor in education generally and in girls’ education specifically. Yesterday, the Prime Minister committed £212 million through the Girls’ Education Challenge to ensure that almost 1 million girls across the Commonwealth, including the most marginalised, can get the quality education they need to fulfil their potential.
I thank my hon. Friend for the work that she is doing in this important field. I join her in celebrating the Girls’ Education Challenge—the programme supported so strongly by her Department. Will she update the House on the future of this programme going forward?
My right hon. Friend is right to highlight the amazing work of the Girls’ Education Challenge, which is the world’s largest girls’ education programme. Yesterday’s announcement of £212 million will support 920,000 girls in Commonwealth countries and give 53,000 highly marginalised adolescent girls in Commonwealth countries the opportunity to have a second chance at learning.
Does the Minister agree that one thing that inhibits girls’ access to education is early motherhood? What steps are the Government taking to ensure excellent family planning and contraceptive services in developing countries?
We remain strongly committed to our family planning programme, under which we work in a variety of different ways, whether through provision of family planning services directly or advice to girls in schools, to try to ensure that girls are not getting pregnant during their education.
Sadly, parents in developing countries are sometimes persuaded to give up their children to orphanages on the promise of a good education. The charity Home for Good told me this morning that the Australian Parliament is looking at measures to tackle orphanage trafficking as part of its modern slavery legislation. Does DFID have any plans to amend our legislation similarly?
DFID’s policy on orphanages is not to fund those establishments. On my right hon. Friend’s point about whether UK legislation, which has led the world in tackling the terrible issue of trafficking, should be amended, we will certainly be discussing that with Home Office colleagues.
Does the Minister agree that one of the most disruptive things in a family’s education is when a member of that family is killed by the greatest epidemic of our times—unnecessary, preventable road deaths, which kill 1.3 million people a year on our planet?
I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his amazing work as a United Nations envoy on this important issue. It is important not only that children can go to school but that they can get to school safely. That is why DFID funds a range of different programmes to tackle the problem.
UK Aid Match Fund
So far, UK Aid Match has provided more than 100 grants benefiting more than 24 million people in 22 countries.
I thank the Secretary of State for that response. Will she outline how UK Aid Match funding is allocated to ensure that projects on the ground are receiving the dividends of the generous spirit of so many in the UK? What is being done to ensure that not a penny goes to militarily active groups in any way, shape or form?
UK Aid Match is a competitive process. We select the strongest appeals and projects, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that not a penny goes to military groups.
Does the Secretary of State agree that Aid Match is a vital method for building support for international development among the UK public, as it allows them a genuine say over where and how the aid budget is spent?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Some 89% of the public believe that helping developing nations is a good thing to do, and I know that they support the Aid Match programme.
Tackling modern slavery is a priority for DFID. We are expanding our work in developing countries through £40 million of new programming that will reach at least 500,000 people at risk of slavery. Today, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is announcing £3 million of new funding to tackle child exploitation in the Commonwealth.
Libya has become a hub for human traffickers who exploit migrants and refugees attempting to make their way to Europe. That has left thousands of women the victims of horrendous abuse. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Libyan Government of National Accord to bring traffickers to justice and to end that abuse?
As good fortune would have it, the recess took me to Libya, to Tripoli, where I met the Prime Minister, the Minister for Justice and the Minister for the Interior. We did indeed discuss the difficulties relating to trafficking that my hon. Friend mentions. We are supporting the Libyan Government with capacity building. We are also working on a £75 million programme to try to deter migrants from moving from sub-Saharan Africa where they might be at risk on that route. It remains an important issue for us and the Government of National Accord in Libya.
Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires British companies with a turnover of £36 million to make declarations of actions that they are taking to reduce modern-day slavery, yet by their own admission, the Government neither keep a record of companies that should make a declaration nor monitor those that have done. What action is the Minister taking with his Government colleagues to make sure that British companies are not unwittingly perpetuating modern-day slavery?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. We are setting up a new business hub to try to ensure that companies accept their obligations in that regard, and we will be working hard with them to make sure that they do.
Technology: Developing Countries
Our investments in technologies are saving and changing lives all over the world. Half of DFID’s £397 million annual research budget is focused on new technologies in developing countries in the health, agriculture, climate, clean energy, water, education and humanitarian response sectors.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to see at first hand how some of our aid budget has helped to develop technologies and engineer solutions that have changed people’s lives around the world. Can the Minister tell the House, however, whether any of the technologies that have been invented using our aid budget have been of direct benefit to people here in the UK?
I welcome the interest of the former Chair of the Science and Technology Committee in this important work and commend the Committee to hear from the team involved, because there are a range of different examples. Diseases know no boundaries, and the UK’s development of a test for TB is a good example.
Wales and Lesotho share the precious asset of water. Will the Minister support my initiative to bring together Welsh Water— the not-for-profit water company in Wales—and the Government of Lesotho to work on providing technological solutions to the problems that we share?
That is a wonderful example of the way in which Welsh Water and Lesotho water companies can work together to ensure that everyone has access to clean water.
We are running out of time—in a single sentence, Vicky Ford.
I know that my hon. Friend tried to give up plastic for Lent and saw what a challenge it is, which is why we were so delighted to announce over the weekend further funding for research that will help tackle the prevalence of plastic not only in developing countries but here at home.
In sub-Saharan Africa, one of the most comprehensive issues is the provision of clean water to many hundreds of thousands of people, and many small charities are doing that. Will the Minister work closely with them to ensure the provision of technology to develop that in future?
In paying tribute to the wonderful work that those small charities do around the world, I draw hon. Members’ attention to our small charities challenge fund, which is an open window through which they can bid for additional funding.
We were all appalled by the horrific attack in Douma, Syria, on 7 April. All indications are that this was a chemical weapons attack. We have not had to rely on hearsay to conclude that: UK medical and scientific experts have analysed open-source reports, images and video footage and concluded that the victims were exposed to a toxic element. This is corroborated by first-hand accounts from aid workers.
May I take the opportunity to welcome the Secretary of State’s speech last week outlining her vision for the future of international development policy? Will she update the House on the practical steps she is taking to make that vision a reality?
We need to ensure that UK aid is working doubly hard—better delivering on the global goals but also working in the UK’s national interest—and is not just spent well, but could not be spent better. Part of that will be delivered through a new cross-Government ministerial ODA meeting to ensure greater coherence and better spend of UK aid.
The hon. Gentleman is right—I have indeed visited the school and the village. The UK has made repeated representations on this particular possibility of demolition and I assure him that we will continue to do so as a matter of urgency.
I call Richard Graham. Where is the fella? He is not here, but he ought to be. What a shame.
We are well aware of this threat. We support the materials monitoring unit of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, which oversees the approval, entry and use of materials for reconstruction. We regularly audit spending to ensure that there is no diversion in the manner that my hon. Friend raised.
Ensuring that we have good access is critical to whatever work we do in Rakhine and our prime concern is to stop any initial violence. Our main effort to help the Rohingya is ensuring that we are as prepared as we can be for the cyclone season that is about to hit Cox’s Bazar.
We are proud to be a global leader in tackling malaria and we have committed £500 million a year until 2021 to that fight. We will work with global partners to spend that effectively. We particularly appreciate the efforts of Bill Gates and the foundation, and we thank him for his kind words this morning about the British Government’s contribution to that.
I call David Linden. [Interruption.]
I say to the hon. Gentleman: enjoy it while it lasts, man.
The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight that important issue. I can assure him that there are some 5,000 schools where the Girls’ Education Challenge is supporting many, many girls in their menstrual protection.
We are very proud to be a founding supporter of the Robert Carr civil society Networks Fund. So far, the United Kingdom has committed £9 million to it. We will make our decision on future investments to the fund later this year and I hope to attend the international convention on HIV/AIDS prevention in Amsterdam later this year.
Given the Government’s wretched treatment of the Windrush generation and the loss and destruction of paperwork, will the Secretary of State talk to her colleagues about introducing an amnesty?
That gives me the opportunity to reiterate what I said earlier. The Home Office has now stepped up its efforts to ensure that people are reassured. It has given further reassurances on precisely the point the hon. Gentleman raises. We all have to ensure, as constituency MPs and as members of the Government, that everyone has the information and support they need at this moment.
DeafKidz International, which is based in my constituency, does great work to protect deaf children around the world. What is DFID doing to redress the imbalance of services available to deaf children?
I praise the work of DeafKidz International, which has also received UK aid funding. We are doing many things. Through the Girls’ Education Challenge, we supported 46,000 girls with disabilities, including deaf girls, to access education.
It has never been more important to make the positive case for overseas aid. However, delivery of the global learning programme in schools ends in July. May we have an assurance that it will be replaced in time for September?
We are doing a refresh of some of those programmes. Clearly, programmes such as Connecting Classrooms will carry on and we are doing a refresh of the International Citizenship Service. We think these are important ways in which we can deliver on the global goals and help young people in our country to learn more about the rest of the world.
The Prime Minister was asked—
This week, the UK plays host to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. I know the whole House will want to join me in welcoming to London leaders from 52 countries, who collectively represent a third of the world’s population. Over the coming days, we will discuss a range of shared priorities, from oceans and cyber-security to continuing to tackle malaria and ensuring all children have access to 12 years of quality education. With 60% of the Commonwealth under the age of 30, the summit will have a particular focus on how we revitalise the organisation to ensure its continuing relevance, especially for young people.
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.
The whole House will be aware of the stories of people who came to this country from the Commonwealth more than 45 years ago—people who are facing the anxiety of being asked for documents they cannot provide to prove their right to reside in the country they call home. Will the Prime Minister update the House on what she and the Government are doing to provide reassurance in these cases?
My hon. Friend raises a very important issue, which I know has caused a great deal of concern and anxiety, so I would like to update the House.
People in the Windrush generation who came here from Commonwealth countries have built a life here; they have made a massive contribution to the country. These people are British. They are part of us. I want to be absolutely clear that we have no intention of asking anyone to leave who has the right to remain here. [Interruption.] For those who have mistakenly received letters challenging them, I want to apologise to them. I want to say sorry to anyone who has felt confusion or anxiety as a result of this.
I want to be clear with the House about how this has arisen. Those Commonwealth citizens—[Interruption.]
Order. The House must calm down. The Prime Minister is responding to the question. There will be a very full opportunity for questioning of the Prime Minister on this occasion, as there is on every occasion, but the questions must be heard and the answers must be heard.
Thank you. Let me update the House on how this has arisen. Those Commonwealth citizens who arrived before 1973 and were settled here have a right conferred by the Immigration Act 1971 to live in the UK. They were not required to take any action with the Home Office to document their status. The overwhelming majority already have the immigration documents they need, but there are some who, through no fault of their own, do not, and those are the people we are working hard to help now. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made clear that a new dedicated team is being set up to help these people evidence their right to be here and access services, and it will aim to resolve cases within two weeks, once the evidence has been put together.
Last month, I raised the case of Albert Thompson, a man who has lived and worked here for decades, paid his taxes, and yet been denied national health service treatment. The Prime Minister brushed it off. Will she say what she will now do to ensure that Mr Thompson gets the cancer treatment he urgently needs and is entitled to?
The right hon. Gentleman did indeed raise the case of Albert Thompson. It was not brushed off—[Hon. Members: “It was!”] No, the Home Office has been in contact with Mr Thompson’s representatives. First of all, I want to make one point very clear: no urgent treatment should be withheld by the NHS, regardless of ability or willingness to pay——[Hon. Members: “It was!”] No, I also want to make clear that as it happens, Mr Thompson is not part of the Windrush generation that I have just spoken about in answer to the first question. And finally, clinicians have been looking at Mr Thompson’s case and he will be receiving the treatment he needs.
On 20 March, the Prime Minister wrote to me stating,
“while I sympathise with Mr Thompson...we encourage him to make the appropriate application”
and provide evidence of “his settled status here.” Yesterday, we learnt that in 2010, the Home Office destroyed landing cards for a generation of Commonwealth citizens and so have told people, “We can’t find you in our system.” Did the Prime Minister, the then Home Secretary, sign off that decision?
No, the decision to destroy the landing cards was taken in 2009 under a Labour Government.
All the evidence—[Interruption.]
Order. I said the Prime Minister must be heard. The Leader of the Opposition must be heard, and he will be.
All the evidence suggests—[Interruption.]
Order. There was a lot of this yesterday—very noisy and extremely stupid barracking. It must stop now. That is the end of the matter. The public absolutely despise that type of behaviour, from wherever in the House it takes place. Cut it out and grow up!
I remind the Prime Minister that it was her Government who created “a really hostile environment” for immigrants and her Government who introduced the Immigration Act 2014.
We need absolute clarity on the question of the destruction of the landing cards. If she is trying to blame officials, I remind her that in 2004 she said she was
“sick and tired of Government Ministers…who simply blame other people when things go wrong.”
Does she stand by that advice?
The right hon. Gentleman asked me if the decision to destroy the landing cards—the decision—had been taken in my time as Home Secretary. The decision to destroy the landing cards was taken in 2009 when, as I seem to recall, a Labour Home Secretary was in position.
It was under a Tory Government, and she was Home Secretary at that time, and that is what is causing such pain and such stress to a whole generation. On Monday, the Home Secretary told the House:
“I am concerned that the Home Office has become too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual.”—[Official Report, 16 April 2018; Vol. 639, c. 28.]
Who does the Prime Minister think is to blame for that—the current Home Secretary or her predecessor?
The Home Office is a great Department of State that touches people’s lives every day in a whole variety of ways. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has been swift in responding to the unfortunate confusion and anxiety, for which we have apologised, that has arisen from the Windrush generation. The right hon. Gentleman referred earlier to action that we had taken as a Conservative Government to deal with illegal immigration. It is absolutely right that we ensure that people who access services that are paid for by taxpayers and relied on by people living in this country have the right to do so and that we take action against people here illegally. The Windrush generation are here legally—they have a right to be here; they are British. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to question the idea of taking action against illegal immigration, I suggest he has a conversation with the former shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), who in 2013 said:
“we need much stronger action from Government to bring illegal immigration down”.
This is not about illegal immigration; this is about Commonwealth citizens who had every right to be here. Cases such as Mr Thompson’s have occurred because it was Home Office policy in 2012 to create “a really hostile environment” for migrants, and the right hon. Lady was the Home Secretary who sent Home Office vans around Brent telling migrants to go home. On Monday, the Immigration Minister said that some British citizens had been “deported in error”. The Home Secretary did not know, and then asked Commonwealth high commissioners if they knew of any cases. Does the Prime Minister know how many British citizens have been wrongly deported and where to, and what provision has she made to bring them back home to Britain?
As the Immigration Minister has made clear, we apologise unreservedly for the distress caused to anyone who has been told incorrectly that they do not have the right to be in the UK. We are not aware of any specific cases of a person being removed from the UK in these circumstances and we have absolutely no intention of asking anyone to leave who has the right to remain here, but the Home Office will work to reach out to those from the Windrush generation who do not have the necessary documentation to ensure that that is provided. There will be no cost to them; nobody will be out of pocket as a result. There is a difference between the Windrush generation, who are British, are part of us and have a right to here—we want to give them the reassurance of that right—and those other people who are here illegally. It is absolutely right that the Government make every effort to ensure that people who access our services have a right to do so and that we take action against people who are here illegally.
I am informed that Mr Albert Thompson has still not been informed when he will be getting the treatment he obviously needs as a matter of urgency. Does the Home Office not keep records? It has been months since these occasions were first brought to the Government’s attention. We know of at least two British citizens languishing in detention centres in error, and this morning the Jamaican Prime Minister has said that he knows of people who are unable to return to Britain.
This is a shameful episode, and the responsibility for it lies firmly at the Prime Minister’s door. Her pandering to bogus immigration targets led to a hostile environment for people contributing to our country, and it led to British citizens being denied NHS treatment, losing their jobs, homes and pensions, and being thrown into detention centres like criminals and even deported, with vital historical records shredded and Ministers blaming officials. The Windrush generation came to our country after the war to rebuild our nation, which had been so devastated by war. Is not the truth that, under her, the Home Office became heartless and hopeless, and does not she now run a Government who are both callous and incompetent?
As I have said, the Windrush generation did come here after the war, they did help to build this country, many of them worked in our public services and they contributed. They have a right to be here: they are British. That is why we are working with those who have no documentation to ensure that they have that provided for them. The decision was taken in 1971 not to require them to have documentation. That is what has led to the problem that we now see in relation to the anxiety of these people.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about being callous and having a disregard for people. I have to say to him that I am the Prime Minister who initiated the race disparity audit, which said: what are we doing in this country to ensure that people have equal opportunities in this country? The right hon. Gentleman talks about being callous. I say to him that I will not take that, following a debate last night where powerful contributions were made, particularly by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth), the right hon. Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger). I will not take an accusation of being callous from a man who allows anti-Semitism to run rife in his party.
May I assure my hon. Friend that Theresa from Maidenhead would bring exactly that? I am very pleased that, in yesterday’s unemployment figures, we see employment in this country at a record high. Any visit to Carlisle will be about jobs, it will be about the future and it will be about national security—our commitment to spend 2% of our GDP on our defence, our commitment to ensure that we have the powers for our intelligence services and law enforcement agencies that they need to keep us safe—and I look forward to my visit to Carlisle.
Does the Prime Minister agree with her Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, who is sitting just along from her, that the rape clause provides victims with “double support”?
I know this is an issue that has been raised a number of times in this House. It is an incredibly sensitive issue, and of course I fully recognise the sensitivities that are involved for the mothers involved. We have taken great care—considerable time and care—to set up procedures, following extensive consultations, that mean that no Government staff will question these mothers about what they have experienced. The point my right hon. Friend was making was that a mother will be granted the exemption through engaging with specialist professionals, such as health and social workers, who may be able to provide them with support in those circumstances over and beyond the issue of their entitlement.
That is not quite the point that the Secretary of State made when she seemed to offend all who were at the meeting of the Parliament in Edinburgh.
Rape Crisis Scotland has clearly stated:
“Hinging benefits on proving trauma isn’t a choice, it’s a disgrace and one which may well re-traumatise women.”
The chair of the British Medical Association in Scotland has said that the rape clause
“is fundamentally damaging for women—forcing them to disclose rape and abuse at a time and in a manner not of their choosing, at pain of financial penalty.”
This is the form, Mr Speaker, with a box for the child’s name. What kind of society do we live in?
We live in a society in which we have taken every care to ensure that this is dealt with in as sensitive a manner as possible. That is why the Government took considerable time and engaged in extensive consultations when putting the arrangements in place. As I have said, no mother in these circumstances will be granted the exemption by dealing with jobcentre staff; mothers will be granted the exemption by dealing with specialist professionals.
My hon. Friend has raised an important point, and he is absolutely right to do so. Home ownership is a dream, and, sadly, too many young people today feel that they will not be able to achieve that dream. We have been having success—last year more homes were built than in any but one of the last 30 years—but we need to ensure that we are helping people into home ownership and seeing more homes being built. I should be happy to meet my hon. Friend and others to discuss this matter.
I understand that it is, in fact, possible for special arrangements to be made for split payments. Domestic abuse—domestic violence—is a terrible abuse, a terrible crime that we must deal with, but I understand that it is possible for those arrangements to be made.
I am very much aware of the key role that is played by the A5 in the midlands and of the plans for growth—the plans for new housing to which my hon. Friend has referred—along a route that is so important to him and his constituents. As he will know, we are already making investments in the A5. However, I have also heard his case promoted by Midlands Connect, as has my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary, and it will be considered very carefully as we make decisions on further road investment.
We do of course particularly want to ensure that we are recruiting people with the skills our armed forces need. In the modernising defence programme, we are looking at the capabilities we require to defend this country against the threats we face, and that will also involve looking at the particular skills that are necessary.
We are actively considering the proposals for the mid-Wales growth deal. I know that my hon. Friend has put a lot of effort into this, particularly into bringing local partners together, including by making important cross-border links for this area. We believe that the best decisions and proposals for what will work for mid-Wales will come from people who live, work and do business there. We will be offering help and support, and UK Government Ministers in Wales have already met a variety of local partners to start this process off. We are ambitious for Wales and I am keen to see every part of Wales having a city or growth deal.
I was very pleased to be able to meet Alfie and his family, and I know the sympathies of Members across the House are with them as he undergoes treatment. I have written to the family to reiterate our commitment to explore a range of options for finding a solution for Alfie. Of course we want to ensure that people get the treatment they need. It is also important that medicines are properly and thoroughly tested, but I will certainly ensure that the Home Office looks at this application speedily.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this very important issue. It is one of the issues we will be focusing on in this Commonwealth Heads of Government week, and yesterday I called on my fellow Commonwealth leaders to join the UK in committing to halving the number of malaria cases by 2023. We are the second largest donor to the fight against malaria and, as the Minister for the Middle East, my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) said in International Development questions, we remain committed to our five-year pledge to spend £500 million tackling it. Yesterday I announced that the UK will commit a further £100 million to the global fund, which has the aim of unlocking a further £100 million of investment from the private sector.
I am aware that the right hon. Gentleman has raised this issue with me before. The contract between the trust and the private finance initiative company is still in place, so the PFI company is contractually obliged to manage the project and find another subcontractor who can continue to deliver the building work and the services. As the right hon. Gentleman may know, even before the issue arose with Carillion there were some delays to this project. The Department of Health and Social Care is working actively on it, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is doing so as well and he has also been in discussions with the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, who has also been in discussions with the trust. We recognise the level of concern being raised on this issue and we are working to resolve it.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Team England on winning the second largest tally of gold medals at an overseas Commonwealth games, as they return on Saturday to Birmingham, which will be the next host of the games?
I am happy to congratulate Team England on coming second in the medals table—
Wait for it. I am also happy to congratulate Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all of whom had a very good Commonwealth games. It was an excellent Commonwealth games; Australia put on a very good show. I was pleased to see that one of the last results was in the women’s netball, in which we beat Australia.
More money is being made available to police forces in the 2018-19 year, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has taken action in relation to the serious violent strategy that she has published. Also, I have to say this to the hon. Lady:
“We do not say that there is a direct causal factor between the number of officers on the ground and the number of crimes.”
She may wave her hand at that, but those are not my words but those of the shadow Policing Minister.
My right hon. Friend has rightly made reference to yesterday’s debate on anti-Semitism. I sat in the Chamber and listened to that debate, including the two appalling testimonies from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) and particularly from the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth), which were deeply moving. They were horrifying in the sense of the abuse that those hon. Members have faced, but also uplifting in the sense of the bravery that they have shown in tackling their abusers. Does my right hon. Friend agree that what came out of yesterday’s debate was that there should be absolutely no place in any political party for anyone who is an anti-Semite and that, just as importantly, any apologists for anti-Semites should be kicked out of their party as well?
I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. It is incredibly important for us and for the political parties in this country to show a clear signal that we will not accept or tolerate anti-Semitism in any form. I have made reference to a number of the speeches that were made yesterday, and I also join my right hon. Friend in commending those Members, particularly the hon. Members for Stoke-on-Trent North and for Liverpool, Wavertree, who have suffered incredible abuse as a result of this anti-Semitism but who have also shown incredible bravery in being willing to stand up and set that out to the House. Theirs was a fine example of the best of this House of Commons and the best of Members of Parliament.
The hon. Gentleman raises a question that I know has been raised in the House before. I am sure that it is a matter of concern not only to him but to a number of his constituents. We continue to take the view that the best resolution of this issue is for India and Pakistan themselves to come together and resolve the matter. That will be the way to resolve it that will actually ensure the sustainability of a resolution.
RBS recently announced plans to reduce the number of mobile banking visits to Dufftown in Moray. Following strong representations from myself, Dufftown and District Community Council, and Speyside Community Council, the bank confirmed yesterday that it would not go ahead with its plans. Will the Prime Minister join me in welcoming that? However, does she agree that RBS needs to engage more with local communities, because had it done so, it would have realised how unacceptable its proposals were?
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in welcoming RBS’s decision, but I commend him for his efforts on behalf of his constituents in Dufftown. Such things are commercial issues for the banks, but we have been clear that banks need to consider carefully the impact on people and their access to services when making such decisions.
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue, and we are happy to ensure through various channels that we encourage others to follow the example that India has shown in relation to TB. At one stage, it was eradicated here in the UK, but we need to ensure that action is taken in other countries around the world.
As the Prime Minister said, unemployment is at a 43-year low, and investment in UK industries, including the tech industry, is at a high. When she is on her way to Carlisle, will she come and visit Imagination Technologies? It has received an £8 billion investment, which shows the confidence that overseas technology investors have in our tech industry.
I think that that might be a bit of a detour on my way to Carlisle, but I certainly support what my hon. Friend says about the importance of high-tech business and of the work that companies such as Imagination Technologies are doing.
Search and rescue at sea is provided by several organisations, including the coastguard and the RNLI. The RNLI has a proud tradition, and we should be grateful for its record on search and rescue at sea. It is obviously independent and decides where best to put its resources, but we are supporting the work of independent lifeboat charities through our rescue boat grant fund, which has allocated more than £3.5 million since 2014 to increase capacity and resilience by providing new boats and equipment.
The Commonwealth is a wonderful organisation, but too many Commonwealth countries have anti-gay legislation on their statute book. Of course, a lot of that is a legacy of the colonial days, when Britain was a very different country. What message about gay rights does the Prime Minister have for Commonwealth leaders this week? More importantly, that message should go out to gay people in those countries who are suffering because of such legislation.
My hon. Friend raises an important point. We have a special responsibility to help to change hearts and minds on such issues within the Commonwealth. When I addressed the Commonwealth forum yesterday, I said that across the Commonwealth
“discriminatory laws made many years ago continue to affect the lives of many people, criminalising same-sex relations and failing to protect women and girls.”
Many such laws were put in place by this country, and I deeply regret the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today. As a family of Commonwealth nations, we must respect one another’s customs and traditions, but we must do so in a matter that is consistent with our common value of equality. The message that I sent yesterday is that we stand ready to support any Commonwealth member that wants to reform outdated legislation that makes such discrimination possible.
I have already met Prime Minister Modi—I did so this morning—and I raised the issue of human trafficking and the work being done in India. We will be setting up discussions between our officials.
London welcomes our good friend Prime Minister Modi today. Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to condemn absolutely the mobile billboards that are going around London attacking our good friend Prime Minister Modi, and will she congratulate and thank the 1.7 million members of the Indian diaspora on their contribution to the work of this country?
India is indeed a good friend of the United Kingdom, and the Indian diaspora here in the UK plays an enormous role and makes an enormous contribution to our society and our economy. I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating and thanking them, and indeed in encouraging the continuation of that contribution. When I spoke to Prime Minister Modi, we discussed how we can encourage and increase the links and development between our two countries.
The vile online and social media abuse suffered in particular by female politicians, which was movingly highlighted in yesterday’s debate and also by events at the weekend back home in Northern Ireland, is testimony to how this must be tackled head-on. Can the Prime Minister assure us that steps will be taken to bring social media companies and platforms to account, so that the wild west culture of “anything goes” is brought to an end as quickly as possible?
The right hon. Gentleman raises a very important point about how these platforms can be used for the sort of abuse that we heard about in the Chamber last night and that, as he says, has also been raised in Northern Ireland in the past few days. We are working with the social media companies. Good work has been done with them on a number of aspects, such as child abuse on those platforms, and we continue to work with them on the wider issues. We are also looking at the issue of the liability of social media companies. They are not publishers, but on the other hand, they are not just platforms. We are looking at that issue urgently.
Free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy. I am sure that the Prime Minister will be aware of the events that happened in the Gower constituency during last year’s election, where the Labour activist Dan Evans has admitted spreading lies and libellous accusations against our former colleague Byron Davies, to influence the outcome of the election. It appears that his efforts worked. Does the Prime Minister believe that the leadership of the Labour party needs to make it very clear that our democracy has no place for this sort of behaviour? Does she believe that the honourable thing would be for the new incumbent of that seat to resign and fight a free and honest by-election?
Of course, our former colleague Byron Davies has received an apology, and I understand that a donation has been made to charity. Of course, our former colleague lost his job as a result of the action that was taken. People across the House talk of free and fair elections—that is what we believe in as a democracy—but political parties need not just to talk about free and fair elections; they need to ensure they put it into practice.
Last week, Shop Direct announced that it is closing all its Greater Manchester sites, with the loss of 2,000 jobs, including nearly 1,400 in my constituency at Shaw. That was without prior warning or discussion with staff, the unions, Oldham Council or even myself. Given that this is about the ascendance of automation, what specific measures is the Prime Minister taking to support my constituents? Will she meet me and my colleagues to discuss this and the longer-term, more general impact of automation on the labour market?
Obviously, this is a time of great concern for the Shop Direct workers and their families in Greater Manchester. The Department for Work and Pensions and Jobcentre Plus are working with the company to understand the level of support that is required for employees, and the DWP stands ready to put in place its rapid response service to support any workers who are made redundant and to help them back into employment as quickly as possible. There are a number of ways in which Jobcentre Plus can support workers, and it will ensure that it does that in this instance.
The hon. Lady raises a wider issue about the impact of automation on jobs. We are looking at the question as part of our industrial strategy, and I will ask the Business Secretary to meet her to discuss it.
Malaria has been mentioned by several Members in the Chamber today. In her conversations with the Prime Minister of Canada this week, will the Prime Minister be discussing how the G7 can help to drive progress towards a malaria-free world?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that. I have not yet met Prime Minister Trudeau this week, but this is certainly an issue that we have made sure is being spoken about here at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, and we will raise it within the G7 context.
In 2009, Michelle Samaraweera was raped and murdered. Since 2012, Aman Vyas has been avoiding extradition for this and eight other charges of sexual violence against women in Walthamstow. There have been 47 hearings to date, with the judge not showing up for seven of them, and seven different judges have been appointed. When the Prime Minister talks to her good friend Prime Minister Modi while he is here in London, will she commit to raising this case with him and asking India to take it seriously, so that we can finally get justice for Michelle?
I have already met Prime Minister Modi for our bilateral discussions. There are a number of issues of extradition between the two countries—the UK and India. We raise a number of cases with the Indian Government, as I did this morning. It is important that we recognise the independence of the judiciary in both countries.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Order. Points of order tend to come after urgent questions, so we will look forward with eager anticipation and a sense of excitement to the contribution of the hon. Gentleman at that point.