This week is Armed Forces Week, and I know that Members from across the House will attend events on Saturday to celebrate Armed Forces Day. This will provide an opportunity to recognise the source of pride and inspiration that our serving men and women are to us. Today is also Reserves Day, and I pay tribute to reservists, including hon. Members, for the integral and vital role that they play in maintaining this country’s security here and overseas, balancing their civilian lives alongside their military careers.
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.
The Prime Minister is right: we all celebrate the huge contribution our armed forces and reserves make.
Last year the Prime Minister promised that no school would see a cut in its budget, yet half the schools in Bishop Auckland continue to face real cuts, some of more than £1,000 per child. Does she not understand the damage this does to children’s life chances?
As the hon. Lady knows, we are putting extra funding into schools. We are making extra money available for schools, and the fairer national funding formula that we have introduced is ensuring that some of the schools that have previously been among the worst funded in this country are seeing increases in their funding to help to redress the balance.
We are considering a number of issues in relation to Northern Ireland at the moment, in the context of both Brexit and the devolved Administration. We hope that the Administration and the Assembly will get back up and running. I can say to my hon. Friend that I hope to visit Northern Ireland in the next few weeks.
I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Armed Forces Day and Reserves Day. I hope that we also recognise that we need to do far more to address veterans’ housing and health needs.
I also pay tribute to the firefighters tackling the blaze on Saddleworth moor. I am sure all our thoughts are with them, and their communities and families, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) is there today to support them.
On Brexit, the Business Secretary believes that business
“is entitled to be listened to with respect.”—[Official Report, 25 June 2018; Vol. 643, c. 609.]
I am sorry to see that the Foreign Secretary is not with us today. He takes a very different view, using an Anglo-Saxon term to make his point. Which is the Prime Minister’s view?
This party and this Government have always backed business and we will continue to back business. And we back business because it is businesses that create millions of jobs for people in our country and provide billions of pounds in tax that we can spend on our public services; and because it is businesses that are the backbone of our prosperity. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that if he wants to start talking in favourable terms about business, he has a decision to make. He can either back business or he can want to overthrow capitalism; he cannot do both.
I take the Prime Minister’s response as a thumbs-down to the Foreign Secretary.
In recent days, an unprecedented number of concerns have been raised by trade unions, business and even some Cabinet Ministers. Today the CBI director general said:
“Facts ignored today mean jobs lost tomorrow.”
Airbus supports 110,000 jobs in the UK supply chain, many of which are very highly skilled, well paid and unionised. The company says that no deal
“would force Airbus to reconsider its footprint in the country, its investments”
“dependency on the UK.”
Can the Prime Minister reassure thousands of workers today, and take the phoney threat of no deal off the negotiating table?
I do not normally agree with the secretary general of Unite, but on this occasion I actually do agree with him, because he says that backing the expansion—the third runway—at Heathrow would ensure that our country
“remains a world leader in aviation and aerospace”.
Well, the Foreign Secretary did not back it either, but in his own way, he was helping the aviation industry: by spending 14 hours in a plane for a 10-minute meeting in Afghanistan.
The Government are not threatening the EU with their ridiculous position; they are threatening skilled jobs in this country. But at least one Government Minister understands this: the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the hon. Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb). He has asked this question, which I think is about the Health and Foreign Secretaries:
“Do the leadership aspirations of multi-millionaires trump the need to listen to the employers and employees of this country?”
Well, apparently they do. The head of BMW, which directly employs more than 8,000 workers—that is 8,000 jobs—in this country, has said that he needs to know the Government’s plans for customs. He says:
“If we don’t get clarity in the next couple of months we have to start making those contingency plans”—[Interruption.]
We have been meeting with business and we are listening to business. That is why we are very clear on our customs arrangement that we want to ensure not just that we deliver on our commitment in Northern Ireland, with trade as frictionless as possible, but that we can trade around the rest of the world. If we are talking about Government plans for business, it is this Government who have brought the deficit down and it is this Government who are seeing employment at record levels. What would Labour’s three-point plan for business be? A 7% rise in corporation tax, nationalisation without compensation and a run on the pound. That is not backing business; it is a plan to break Britain.
It is very interesting that even those Brexiteers who have made Brexit their life’s work are concerned about their own financial interests. The hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), for example, is relocating his hedge fund to the eurozone, and the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) is advising his clients to disinvest in Britain. Meanwhile, in the real world, Andrew, who works for Honda in Swindon, wrote to me—[Laughter.] I would not laugh if I were you. These are real people with real jobs and real concerns.
“I have seen nothing that gives me confidence that the government is going to deliver a trade agreement allowing the seamless flow of goods through Europe’s borders. My job along with many others in manufacturing, suppliers and the supply chain hang on this”.
So will the Prime Minister ignore her Foreign Secretary, listen to workers, and secure an agreement that safeguards jobs in this country?
We are putting jobs at the heart of what we do in relation to Brexit. We are putting jobs at the heart of what we do as a Government through our modern industrial strategy and we are ensuring that, when we deliver Brexit, we deliver a Brexit that is good for our economy, good for jobs and good for people up and down this country.
Through most of his career, the right hon. Gentleman has been rather a Brexiteer himself. Why is it then that at every stage he and the Labour party are trying to frustrate Brexit in this House?
The Labour party’s priority is defending jobs in this country. I doubt that Andrew from Swindon is alone among skilled workers when he goes on to say:
“I will hold the Prime Minister and her party culpable if my job and those of my colleagues at Honda end up being under threat.”
The Cabinet was split in two apparently on options for future customs arrangements with the EU. The Prime Minister’s preferred option was a customs partnership. We have had no official feedback on that working party, so did the Leader of the House speak for the Government when she said on Monday:
“I think the customs partnership looks quite bureaucratic and unwieldy”?
Is that option now ruled out as well?
As I have made clear on a number of occasions in the House, we are looking at both options in relation to customs because we want to ensure that we deliver as frictionless trade as possible with the European Union and the ability for us to negotiate trade deals around the rest of the world. That is what we should be looking for. It is what we are doing as a Government. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Labour party’s interest is in delivering jobs. Why is it then that every Labour Government leave office with more people out of work than when they went in?
Coming from a Prime Minister who presides over an economy in which 1 million people are on zero-hours contracts, that is very rich. She rules out a customs union, the Leader of the House rules out the Prime Minister’s preferred option and reality rules out a maximum facilitation model. That leaves only no deal, which she refuses to rule out. She is putting jobs at risk. Sadly, it is not those of the warring egos in her Cabinet—they have now been rewarded with an invite to a pyjama party at Chequers. Meanwhile, thousands of skilled manufacturing jobs and the future of whole industries in Britain are at stake. The Prime Minister continues to promote the fallacy that no deal is better than a bad deal. No deal is a bad deal. Is not the truth that real jobs—[Interruption.]
Order. I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman. I will say it again: there is unlimited time—[Interruption.] Order. There is unlimited time as far as I am concerned. [Interruption.] Order. The questions will be heard and the answers will be heard, and nothing and no one will stop that happening. It is as simple and unmistakable and clear as that.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
No deal is a bad deal, but is not the truth that the real risk to jobs in our country is a Prime Minister who is having to negotiate round the clock with her own Cabinet to stop it falling apart rather than negotiating to defend the jobs of workers in this country?
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what I and this Government are delivering. We are delivering a successor to Trident; stamp duty slashed for first-time buyers; a modern industrial strategy for jobs and growth; action on childhood obesity; 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools; fairer schools funding; new technical education; improved mental health services; expansion of Heathrow; record levels of employment—record levels of employment; falling borrowing; and rising real wages. We have triggered article 50, we have agreed an implementation period and we have passed the EU (Withdrawal) Bill: a Britain fit for the future and leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019.
First of all, I congratulate all the workers at British Land Rover on 70 years of production. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Leaving the European Union gives us an opportunity to be in a position to conduct our own trade policy and to sign our own trade agreements with countries around the world.
My hon. Friend raises a specific point about cleaner diesel engines, which can play an important part in reducing CO2 emissions from road transport and could reduce CO2 emissions further while meeting ever more stringent air quality standards during the transition to zero-emissions vehicles. This country is leading on the issue of zero-emissions vehicles, and Land Rover is playing its part.
I commend the armed forces and our reservists for the fine job they do for our country.
Airbus, Honda, BMW, the CBI, the TUC and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders—this Government have completely failed to listen to business, have insulted the business community and have left companies in the dark. Can the Prime Minister tell the House why 186,000 car manufacturing jobs are disposable to her?
We have been consistently listening to business throughout the negotiations so far. Business said it wants us to give priority to EU citizens’ rights here in the UK, and we did just that. Business said it wants an implementation period so there is not a cliff edge next March, and we have negotiated an implementation period so there will be a smooth and orderly Brexit. Business said it wants as frictionless trade as possible, so we are putting forward proposals to ensure we provide that frictionless trade with the European Union.
Alongside that, we will be developing a global Britain, looking out around the world and signing trade deals around the world. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks trade and business is so important, why did he not support Heathrow expansion?
Not for the first time, the Prime Minister has failed to answer the question, and the cost is that investment in Britain is being turned off by a Government who refuse to listen. More than a year ago, the Scottish Government presented a plan for the United Kingdom to remain in the single market and the customs union to give certainty to business. Just this week, Scotland’s First Minister took a trade delegation from Scotland to Berlin.
Every step of the way, the Scottish Government have been seeking to protect jobs and our economic interests. Two years on from the EU referendum, and with the clock ticking down, the Prime Minister has done nothing but increase uncertainty. Has she completed any economic analysis of jobs and the economy were the UK to stay in the single market and the customs union? If not, why not?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about investment into the United Kingdom. Last year, the United Kingdom remained the preferred country for foreign direct investment in Europe. Last year we saw 76,000 jobs being created as a result of foreign investment here in the United Kingdom, more than in the previous year.
If the right hon. Gentleman wants to talk about further confidence from business, he should just look at the fact that this month we have seen £2.3 billion of investment announced by the tech industry as part of London Tech Week, creating another 1,600 jobs, and I could give him more examples. If he wants to listen to business, he should listen to Scottish business, because its message is very clear: stay in the United Kingdom.
First, I congratulate my hon. Friend for completing the London marathon earlier this year and, I know, raising money for a very worthy local cause. I am happy to join him in wishing Alan Bowler, the Halesowen and Rowley Regis rotary club, and all those taking part in Sunday’s fun run the very best of luck. They are doing it for good causes and we congratulate them and wish them well.
We take the issue of the safe storage and disposal of nuclear submarines very seriously indeed. There is capacity for safely storing all remaining operational Trafalgar-class submarines at Devonport following their decommissioning, and work has started on the dismantling of the first submarine, Swiftsure, with more than 50 tonnes of radioactive waste having been removed by the end of May. I believe that the hon. Gentleman and other Members have written to me about this issue; I will respond to him in further detail in due course and ask the relevant Minister to meet him to discuss the issue further.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important issue. We know that conflict is a key driver of educational exclusion. Our education in emergencies work supports greater community awareness of how to protect children in education, by teaching students and teachers about peacebuilding and strategies for conflict resolution. We view compliance with international humanitarian law as the primary basis to protect schools and educational facilities. We are also encouraging international partners to endorse the declaration, most recently Germany, which signed up last month. We take this issue very seriously and we are acting on that. We are supporting the United Nations’ work and I am pleased to say that we are the largest single financial contributor to the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the mid-Wales growth deal. As he knows, I was happy to sign the Swansea city growth deal, the city deal for the Cardiff region, and one for north Wales as well. I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales that we are in discussions about the mid-Wales deal and will involve the hon. Gentleman in that.
I am happy to congratulate Geraint Edwards on the excellent work that he is doing as headteacher of the Priory School. We are committed to helping those children who have special educational needs to achieve well in their education, find employment and, obviously, lead happy and fulfilled lives, so we are implementing the biggest changes to the special educational needs and disabilities system in a generation, to improve these children’s lives, and we are investing £391 million to support the reforms.
Anti-Muslim discrimination is wrong. There is no place for it in our society. That is why, when I was Home Secretary, I required the police specifically to record anti-Muslim hate crime so that we could understand better what was happening and better tackle the issue. We have introduced a new code of conduct in the party. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), the chairman of the party, has met Tell MAMA. We investigate any allegations of Islamophobia that are made relating to members of the party. Action is taken and, in some cases, members have been suspended or expelled from the party as a result.
I was very happy to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency and to highlight the opportunities that the Ayrshire growth deal gives us. As he says, it is important locally, regionally and nationally because of the economic benefit that it can bring. Negotiations have now commenced between both Governments and the Ayrshire councils on how to implement the deal. I understand that officials met on Monday this week to discuss aerospace and proposals for Prestwick, and the work is ongoing across Ayrshire. Therefore, the work is continuing and I can assure him that we recognise the importance of the Ayrshire growth deal.
I say to the hon. Lady, as I have said many times in this House before, that we are pursuing a Brexit that will be a good deal for the UK, a good deal for business, a good deal for citizens, and a good deal for jobs. I believe that we will achieve that because it will be good not only for the United Kingdom, but for the European Union.
My hon. Friend will be aware of the action that we have taken as a Government in relation to the social sector and to local authorities, but we are calling on building owners in the private sector to follow the example set by the social sector in taking action to remove unsafe cladding. Some in the sector—I could name Barratt Developments, Legal & General and Taylor Wimpey—are doing the right thing and taking responsibility, but we want others to follow their lead and we will continue to encourage them to do so. They must do the right thing, and if they do not, we are not ruling anything out at this stage.
A number of decisions are being made to ensure that we have the defence estate that is right for our future capabilities and requirements. I will ensure that the hon. and learned Lady’s point about not yet receiving a reply from the Secretary of State is brought to the attention of the Ministry of Defence.
We all need to keep our election pledges, whether we made those pledges one year ago or nine years ago, so will the Prime Minister update us on our Conservative manifesto election pledges to leave the single market, leave the customs union and pursue an independent trade policy?
I thank my right hon. Friend for the service that he has given to the Government over the past seven years, most recently in an important role on the very topic that he has just raised—as Minister of State at the Department for International Trade—and also in his time as Minister for London. He conducted all these jobs with great ability and distinction, and I thank him for all the work that he has done.
My right hon. Friend is right that we want to ensure that we can negotiate independent trade deals around the rest of the world. We will be leaving the single market and the customs union so that we can do exactly that—have an independent trade policy and negotiate our own trade deals with the rest of the world.
Yes, I am coming to the issue that the hon. Lady has raised. I just wanted to take this opportunity to give my heartfelt thanks to the work of the emergency services, which did their best in addressing the fire. The hon. Lady has raised a specific issue about insurance and ensuring that others can return to their buildings that are close by. I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Scotland is aware of that question, and we will look at what can be done.
At 6.49 am my constituent, James Wheatcroft, emailed me to say:
“I am currently standing at Shepreth station. 06.40 has just arrived. 05.38, 06.10 and 07.25 bus cancelled so this is on the ONLY train to London this morning until the 8.10…Five people have been on the platform for over an hour and…miss their Eurostar connection the station car park is totally empty—people giving up and working from home.”
At 7.29 am he sent another message:
“Our train has now broken down…Another train has arrived but there is not enough room for everyone.”
At 7.59 am, he said that the rest of the passengers had to get a train back north, there was no room for them on that either and that
“people simply decided to go home.”
Please, Prime Minister—assurances from Govia Thameslink Railway are not enough. We need a taskforce to micro- manage these contracts back to performance. Will she please commit to that?
I recognise the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend. The performance provided for passengers has been unacceptable. The Department for Transport has been working on this issue with GTR, and it is working to provide a new timetable, which will provide more capacity on the services, but it is not the same timetable that was originally introduced in May. The Department for Transport will continue to work to ensure that the rail company is providing the performance that passengers rightly expect and deserve.
On Saturday, around 100,000 people gathered in Parliament Square to demand a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal. I did not see the Prime Minister among the many Conservatives in the crowd, and the Leader of the Opposition was in the middle east avoiding the many Labour supporters. Since the Prime Minister—[Interruption.] Since the Prime Minister has such confidence that she will produce a good Brexit deal, why is she so afraid of allowing the final say to the public to endorse it?
Will the Prime Minister confirm to the House today that she is absolutely committed to this country retaining its tier 1 military status, and equally open to the idea that increased threats require increased resources, but also committed to reforming the Department so that we end the narrative of constant decline of UK military capability when the truth is in fact the complete reverse?
We are absolutely committed to this country remaining a leading military power. There is no question but that the Government will do what they need to do to ensure that we are a leading military power, but we need to ensure that we look at the threats that we are now facing and the capabilities we need as these threats change. That is what the modernising defence programme is about. My hon. Friend makes the important point that this is also about making sure that our Ministry of Defence is operating as cost-effectively as it can so that we ensure that we are providing for the brave men and women in our armed forces, but also addressing the needs of the future. What do we need the Ministry of Defence and our armed forces to look like in 2030? That is the question, but we are committed to remaining a leading military power.
On Saturday, I was at BMW Cowley with 15,000 people, all of them BMW workers and their families. Just two days later, we had the starkest warning yet from BMW about the damage of a chaotic deal on Brexit for customs processes. When will the Prime Minister’s Government ditch the ideology and in-fighting and prioritise reaching a workable deal on customs?
We are doing exactly that. We are putting forward proposals—[Interruption.] We are putting forward proposals to ensure that we can have as frictionless a trade with the European Union as possible. That is the aim of this Government, that is what we are working on, and that is what I am sure we will deliver on.
Across the country, people are taking great pride in the disciplined performance of Gareth Southgate’s young and diverse team. Will my right hon. Friend signal her Government’s support for their campaign during the play-offs by asking public buildings across England to fly the St George’s cross, alongside the Union Jack if they want? Will she also offer especial help to the right hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) in raising her own St George’s cross to support our World cup campaign?
On the issue of flying flags, as I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate, we are flying the armed forces flag at No. 10 this week, but I do want to join him in congratulating the England team on making it through to the next round in the World cup. I can assure him that No. 10 will be flying the England flag on the day of each of England’s matches from now on, and we will be encouraging other Government Departments to do the same. I can also say that I am going to go further than my predecessors: next year we will do the same for the women’s World cup.
Social care workers up and down the country are being paid less than the minimum wage as a result of incorrect Government guidance. We are repeatedly told that the Government are in talks with the EU to resolve this issue. Why are the talks taking so long? Will the Prime Minister do the right thing and commit to paying the workers what they are owed, directly through an HMRC scheme?
We are aware of the issue that the hon. Lady has raised. There have been discussions taking place in relation to that. We have been working to ensure that this matter can be dealt with not just in the interests, obviously, of those who are working in the social care sector but also in having a care for the impact that it will have on the charities that are working in that sector.
In matters relating to my constituency, education, defence and local government are all in need of more funding. Can the Prime Minister assure me that the very welcome allocation of more money to the NHS does not crowd everything else out?
My hon. Friend is right to stand up and speak on behalf of his constituents and their interests, as other Members of the House do. As I made clear when I made the announcement about the NHS funding, other Departments’ budgets will all be considered in the spending review.
Everyone knows that Black country brewers brew the best beer in Britain. Holden’s in Dudley has been bottling beer continuously for 75 years, even through the war, but along with other producers, it has had to cease production this week because of the European CO2 shortage. What are the Government doing to sort that out, so that we can all enjoy a beer during the World cup?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that that is predominantly a commercial matter for the companies affected—the producers and suppliers. I am aware of the reports of shortages across Europe, and I know that industry is working on the solution. Although it is an issue for industry, the Government are in regular contact with the UK producer, distribution and consumer companies and trade associations, including those in the food and drink sector. He has made his point well, and I am sure that all those involved are working hard to ensure that his aim can be achieved.
This morning the Supreme Court ruled that the Government had created inequality in not extending civil partnerships to everyone when they passed the equal marriage legislation back in 2013, and that discrimination needs to be addressed urgently. Will the Prime Minister now support an amendment to my Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill when it goes into Committee next month, as the quickest way to resolve this illegal inequality and extend civil partnerships to everyone?
We are very well aware of our legal obligations, and we will obviously need to consider the judgment of the Supreme Court with great care. We also recognise the sensitive and personal issues that are involved in this case, and we acknowledge the genuine convictions of the couple involved. My hon. Friend refers to his private Member’s Bill. As he will know, we have committed to undertake a full review of the operation of civil partnerships. I know that there has been a lot of discussion with him about his Bill. We are supporting his private Member’s Bill, which would enshrine that commitment in law.
Over 100 firefighters are tackling fires across Saddleworth moors, spread over 7 square miles in my constituency and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds). Will the Prime Minister join me in commending members of the Greater Manchester fire and rescue service and Greater Manchester police and the many others who have volunteered and contributed to bringing the fires under control? Will she commit to allocate contingency funds to those authorities affected, in recognition of the huge impact of this major incident on their resources?
I am sure that the sympathies of Members across the whole House are with everyone affected by the fire, and I join the hon. Lady in commending the emergency services and all the volunteers and others who have been working to deal with the fire and fight it. I can reassure her that the Home Office is monitoring the situation closely with the National Resilience Assurance Team. So far, no request for Government support has been made by the Greater Manchester fire and rescue service, but we are keeping this under constant review, and operational policy arrangements are in place to provide support if required.
All Rolls-Royce motorcars—an iconic global brand—are made in my constituency. Every day, 150 trucks arrive from Europe to supply BMW plants, and 120 trucks leave the UK headed for Europe. We are the only serious party of business, so can the Prime Minister give some certainty and confidence to the largest employer in my constituency and businesses up and down the country that they can continue their seamless operating model as we leave the EU?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that issue. Obviously Rolls-Royce plays a very important role in her constituency, but also in our country. It is an iconic brand for our country. We want to have the greatest possible tariff-free and frictionless trade with the European Union. That is what we are working on. At the same time, we want to ensure that we can negotiate other trade deals around the rest of the world. We want UK companies to have the maximum freedom to be able to continue to trade with and operate within European markets, while letting European businesses do the same here in the UK, but we also want to encourage our excellent, iconic businesses to have better opportunities to trade around the rest of the world.
Two Select Committees—the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee—have today released a joint report describing a vision of a social care system where quality personal care is delivered free at the point of need, separated from the ability to pay, and how to achieve that vision. The Committees’ citizens jury said this was a system they were prepared to pay for. Does the Prime Minister share that vision?