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House of Commons Hansard
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Commons Chamber
06 December 2018
Volume 650

House of Commons

Thursday 6 December 2018

The House met at half-past Nine o’clock

Prayers

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Exiting the European Union

The Secretary of State was asked—

Third-country Trade Agreements

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1. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Trade on the implications of EU withdrawal negotiations for potential trade agreements with third countries after the UK has left the EU. [908036]

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I have had a number of discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade, as we build on the political declaration’s recognition of an independent free trade policy. As with the withdrawal agreement, we will be free to negotiate, sign and ratify free trade agreements during the implementation period.

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On a personal level, may I welcome my right hon. Friend to his new position? Britain must seize its amazing opportunity to forge a new role in the world as a beacon of free trade, and an important part of that is implementing not only primary but secondary legislation. Will the Secretary of State update the House on the progress of primary and secondary legislation, and say when some of it will come forward?

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My hon. Friend is correct to focus, with his keen eye, on the importance of secondary legislation, and significant progress is being made. To date, we have laid before Parliament more than 220 statutory instruments out of a target of 700. We have made significant progress, and my hon. Friend is right also to look to the opportunity that we will have as an independent free trade nation.

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May I join the hon. Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena) in welcoming the Secretary of State to his first appearance at questions to the Department for Exiting the European Union? When he and Oliver Robbins appeared before the Exiting the European Union Committee on Monday, the question was raised about what will happen to the 40 or so trade agreements to which we are party because of our membership of the European Union and which relate to about 70 countries. We were told that the EU has said that it intends to inform those countries that they ought to interpret those deals as continuing to apply to the UK during the transition period, but Mr Robbins said that that is “not the same” as a guarantee. What assurances can the Secretary of State give to businesses that trade under those arrangements in many parts of the world if our own negotiators say that there is no guarantee that the deals will continue to apply?

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I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. He is right—we did explore that issue in Committee—and the point is about the significant progress that has been made in our bilateral discussions with those countries. He is right to say that that is not an absolute guarantee—that was the point made by Mr Robbins—but significant progress is being made.

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Further to the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), contracts in those trade agreements are worth more than £73 billion of exports and about £74 billion of imports. That is a serious matter for businesses in the Secretary of State’s constituency, and mine, that might be trading under those agreements. In the event of no deal, we will lose those agreements from 30 March next year. Is it time that he and the Government made a statement to the House, to set out in detail the implications for UK businesses of losing access to those trade agreements, which we have been part of negotiating over the past 45 years?

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The hon. Lady and I explored that point in Committee, and it is not the case that in the event of no deal we would lose those agreements, because we are having those bilateral discussions. She points to a wider point, however, which is that the deal on the table from the Prime Minister is the way to deliver the certainty that our country needs and what the business community wants. That is why it is the right deal, the only deal and the deal the House should support.

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I welcome the Minister to his new post, and I hope he stays around long enough to realise how complex the world is in terms of international trade. Will he look forensically at what really happened with Bombardier, which was part of a complex supply chain? He does realise—does he not?—that no deal is as good as staying in the European Union.

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I feel that I should look to the hon. Gentleman when it comes to sticking around, because he is a good model for many of us in the House. He is right to mention the importance of Bombardier. Notwithstanding points that have been raised from a constitutional perspective—I know colleagues in the Democratic Unionist party have raised that issue—the head of Bombardier in Northern Ireland made it clear that the deal that the Prime Minister has secured from the European Union is the right deal for Bombardier and for Northern Ireland.

No-deal Legislation

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2. What estimate he has made of the volume of new legislation required in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. [908037]

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9. What estimate he has made of the volume of new legislation required in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. [908044]

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We continue to put the legislative building blocks in place to deliver our exit, and we have made good progress in passing the required primary legislation, including on nuclear safeguards and sanctions. As I said earlier, we are laying exit-related statutory instruments before Parliament.

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Will the UK be ready for a no-deal Brexit by 30 March 2019 if the withdrawal agreement is voted down next week?

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Given that in politics one is sometimes asked for short answers, I feel that I should stop my answer with the word “yes”. Yes, we will be ready. This is an opportunity to pay tribute to the work that the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), is doing on no-deal planning; a significant amount of work has been done. Let us not lose sight of the fact that the situation will also be very challenging: there is a huge amount to do as part of that no-deal planning. So yes, we will be ready, but significant work will be required.

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I thank you for hosting the Patchwork Foundation MP of the year awards last night, Mr Speaker; I thank the organisation for the great work it does for people of non-traditional backgrounds.

The Prime Minister and her Ministers continue to prove Danny Dyer right, who talked of the “mad riddle” of Brexit. They pose their deal, no deal or no Brexit. What concrete assurances can they give the university representatives I met yesterday about what happens to their millions of euros of monthly research funding if we crash out with no deal on 1 April? The last they heard was a letter from the now long-departed hon. Member for Orpington (Joseph Johnson)—he, they, I and the majority of my constituents want no Brexit.

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It might surprise you, Mr Speaker, but I was not able to join your social gathering last night.

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Neither was I!

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We are both dealing with the complexity of the issues.

On the substance of the point raised by the hon. Lady, I should say that this is the very essence of why we need the certainty that the deal offers. The alternatives that she points to are the uncertainty of no deal or of a second referendum. I know she desires a second referendum, given a number of questions she has put to the Prime Minister, but that would bring uncertainty to our democracy and politics.

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I gather that the hon. Lady was given the award of Labour MP of the year; I have a feeling that the relevant west London media organs will soon be aware of this important fact, if it has not been divulged to them thus far.

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If, or when, the withdrawal agreement is voted down next week, no deal is not the only option. There is a third option—to revoke article 50. We know what the Advocate General said earlier this week. Is the Secretary of State aware that the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union will give its final opinion—the opinion of 26 judges—on this issue at 8 am on Monday? MPs will therefore have the answer to the question whether article 50 can be unilaterally revoked. Can the Secretary of State confirm that he will be coming to the Chamber, in the wake of that decision, on Monday afternoon, to make a statement about the implications of the judgment of the Grand Chamber?

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The hon. and learned Lady has discussed these issues with the Attorney General on a number of occasions. Obviously, I cannot prejudge the court case, but the position of Her Majesty’s Government is very clear: we will not be revoking article 50, and there is a reason for that. The Commission has a very similar view: if someone could revoke, in essence they could go to the last day of a judgment and then revoke and retrigger the process. That would make a mockery of the two-year period for article 50 and that is why we do not think that is the right position.

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The Office for Budget Responsibility’s analysis of the recent Budget suggested that there could be an underspend of up to £400 million in the £1.6 billion Brexit funding pot that the Chancellor allocated back in March to prepare for leaving the EU. Will the Secretary of State tell the House precisely how much of that Brexit funding pot has not yet been spent?

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Such is the Labour party’s desire to spend that the idea of any underspend is anathema—there is always a desire to spend more and spend more again. As the Chancellor has made clear, the Budget money will be allocated to deliver on the no-deal plans. The significance of those plans is recognised in government and all the requests that have been made have been discussed in the usual way and gone through the usual Treasury clearing process.

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Given that the Department’s role is now largely confined to domestic preparations for exit, many will find that answer deeply troubling. But it is not surprising that no-deal preparations are not being taken seriously, because they have been a bluff from the start. Yesterday, the Chancellor told the Treasury Committee that the infrastructure works needed to prepare the port of Dover for an exit on World Trade Organisation terms would take years, not months. With 113 days left, will the Secretary of State now take this opportunity to rule out a no-deal Brexit once and for all—before this House does it for him?

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The hon. Gentleman has clearly not read the transcript of my session at the Select Committee. What he will see from that is that the role of the Department is not constrained to merely the domestic side, although that is of huge significance. We are also focused on moving forward on the political declaration and looking to the future. Yes, the withdrawal agreement deals with the winding-down of our relationship of over 40 years with the European Union, but we are also focused on taking forward the political declaration to deliver on the future trading relationship that we want with our closest trading neighbour.

Free Movement and Scotland

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3. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Scotland on the potential effect on the Scottish economy of the proposed abolition of the free movement of people between the UK and the EU after the UK leaves the EU. [908038]

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19. What assessment the Government has made of the potential effect on the Scottish economy of the proposed abolition of free movement of people after the UK leaves the EU. [908059]

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With your permission, Mr Speaker, I will take Questions 3 and 19 together.

The Secretary of State has regular discussions with his Cabinet colleagues. We also engage with the Scottish Government through the Joint Ministerial Committee and the ministerial forum, which I co-chaired on Monday. The political declaration makes it clear that free movement will end. We will design a future immigration system that works for all parts of the UK.

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I had no previous notice of that intended grouping, but it is, as far as I can see, unexceptionable.

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The average EU citizen living and working in Scotland contributes £10,400 a year in tax revenues. Does the Minister think it is acceptable to cut the Scottish tax intake by £2 billion by 2040?

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We all recognise the valuable contribution of EU citizens in our communities. That is why we are looking to secure a deal that makes sure that EU citizens working and living in the UK, and UK citizens living in the EU, are fully protected under the terms of the withdrawal agreement.

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Freedom of movement is fantastic for Scotland’s economy and provides amazing opportunities for our young people. To what extent would migration form part of negotiations on the future relationship, and why have we not seen the immigration White Paper?

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I am sure the Home Office will be coming forward with details of future immigration policy shortly. However, it is also important that we set out in our White Paper—it is reflected in the political declaration—that important elements of labour mobility will form part of those negotiations. It is also clearly reflected in the political declaration that free movement will come to an end when we leave the EU.

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I welcome the Secretary of State to his first Question Time. The Prime Minister listed the end of the free movement of people as the single biggest cause for celebration in her deal. The reality is that, every week, Fife is losing talented young families, who are leaving their home and the land where they belong because they do not want their children growing up in a place where they have been regarded as bargaining chips and queue jumpers. That is causing enormous heartache to thousands of my fellow Fifers and to hundreds of thousands of my fellow Scots. Will the Minister explain why I should celebrate that?

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From the Prime Minister downwards, we have always been clear that we hugely value the contribution of EU citizens living all over our country; we want them to stay, and we will make sure that they can stay under any circumstances. However, the best way to do that is to secure the agreement we have negotiated and to secure citizens’ rights arrangements for 4 million citizens, including many UK citizens living in the EU.

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It is very hard to reconcile the reassuring words from the Minister with the fact that the Prime Minister herself used the phrase “queue jumpers” to refer to thousands of my constituents and tens of thousands of my fellow Scots. The Government’s own analysis has shown that every single Brexit scenario they could think of—ending the free movement of people, cutting migration from the European Union to somewhere close to their ridiculous target—damages our economy in the longer term. As well as being morally repugnant and socially divisive, ending the free movement of people is economically stupid and violates the sovereign will of the people of Scotland. Does the Minister agree that anyone in this House who claims to stand up for Scotland has only one option next week, and that is to thoroughly reject this miserable deal and to get back round the negotiating table?

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I do not think the hon. Gentleman will be particularly surprised to hear that I do not agree. I believe that the sovereign will of the people of Scotland he referred to was to stay in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union and end free movement. However, every scenario in the Government’s analysis showed our economy continuing to grow.

Welsh Assembly

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4. What recent discussions he has had with representatives of the National Assembly for Wales on the proposed withdrawal agreement and political declaration. [908039]

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No unexpected question pairings this time, Mr Speaker.

I have appeared twice in front of the Assembly’s External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee this year, most recently on 11 October, to provide evidence on the UK’s exit from the European Union. I also regularly engage with the Welsh Government, with whom I had a call this morning. Earlier this week, I co-chaired the sixth meeting of the ministerial forum for EU negotiations, which three Welsh Ministers attended. We remain committed to engaging fully with the devolved Administrations and legislatures.

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I thank the Minister for that answer. In the Exiting the European Union Committee on Monday, the Government’s chief Brexit adviser told me that Welsh representatives will not sit on the new joint committee of five. He said that the Joint Ministerial Committee might be used, or

“other structures that may be invented in due course.”

The JMC is widely seen as not being fit for purpose—for example, by the recent inter-parliamentary forum on Brexit, which I attended. What are those proposed invented structures, and when and how will they be activated?

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This is an issue that we take very seriously. The ministerial forum, which I co-chair with the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith), who is the Minister for the constitution, has had some very useful engagement, in addition to the JMC structure. My new Secretary of State has already attended his first meeting of the JMC. We intend to keep moving forward and talking to and including the devolved Administrations in our approach.

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Under the Government’s post-Brexit UK prosperity fund, will funds be allocated on the same basis and to the same areas as under the current European structural funds?

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The hon. Gentleman asks an interesting question. Clearly, work is still ongoing on the UK shared prosperity fund. There is a huge opportunity to do better than the European structural funds. Our country sends millions of pounds into the European structural fund system, and they never return to our country. In the future, the UK shared prosperity fund can deliver more effectively for every part of the United Kingdom.

Manufacturing Industry

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5. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the proposed withdrawal agreement and political declaration on the manufacturing industry in the UK. [908040]

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8. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the proposed EU withdrawal agreement and political declaration on manufacturing industry in the UK. [908043]

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The Government’s analysis shows the deal that the House is considering will deliver for every section, region, nation and sector of our country, including the manufacturing sector. I assure the hon. Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) that it has grown by 9.5% since 2010.

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The Attorney General’s legal advice on the backstop states:

“any GB goods crossing the border into the EU will be subject to third country checks”.

How much damage does the Minister think that will cause to manufacturers, like those in the north-east, where my constituency is based, who rely on just-in-time supply chains?

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The prospects for manufacturing under the Government’s policy are actually very strong. [Interruption.] I will answer the hon. Lady’s question. I think the House will be very interested to learn that Sir Roger Carr, the chairman of BAE Systems, which has locations near the hon. Lady’s constituency, said that the deal is

“something that had the key elements of what people were looking for, particularly in the sense of a pathway to frictionless trade, control of our borders and preservation of the UK.”

Manufacturing has nothing to fear from this deal.

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No. 8, Mr Speaker.

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The hon. Gentleman must have been momentarily inattentive. His question has been grouped with this. His chance is now.

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Dunbia Cardington is a major employer in Bedford. Despite years of trying to recruit staff locally, the business relies on workers from the EU, who make up 90% of the workforce. Does the Minister agree that the Government’s future immigration policy, which restricts the low-skilled workforce that the factory depends on, puts the future of the company at risk?

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I completely reject that idea. As we have stated very clearly, the rights of EU citizens who are already here are absolutely guaranteed under the terms of the withdrawal agreement. We look forward to having a skills-based immigration policy that will absolutely guarantee that the talent we need can come to this country.

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Will the Minister confirm that the proportion of the British economy that is dependent on EU-linked supply chains is just 3%?

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Those are my hon. Friend’s figures, and I know what his views on the subject have been over many years. The deal under consideration will be a sure footing on which we can grow the economy. I think the scare stories are misplaced and we have a bright future ahead, particularly in relation to our exports and our trade policy.

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Why would the world’s eighth largest manufacturer want to leave 20% of its economy subject to the acquis?

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My right hon. Friend has well-known views about these issues. Many manufacturers and businesspeople in Britain seek an assurance that they will be able to trade freely with the EU, and I think the acquis communautaire is something that they value.

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The Minister will be aware that engineering employers and the CBI have given cautious support to the Government’s proposal on the basis that the transition and the common customs area will protect their supply chains. What further reassurance can he give them that these arrangements might be long term, or even permanent?

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The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I commend him for his honesty in suggesting that many businesspeople think the deal is a very good one. Certainly, businesspeople in my constituency want the deal to go ahead. I think that we will secure a frictionless or very good free trade arrangement with the EU, and I think that our businesses will grow and be encouraged by the free trade agreement that we get.

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Labour’s policy of a permanent customs union is supported by, among others, the TUC, the CBI and the Engineering Employers Federation, which said:

“Loss of access to both the single market and the customs union would condemn the manufacturing sector to a painful and costly Brexit.”

On 17 July, this House came within six votes of accepting a customs union as a negotiating objective. Is it not obvious that if the Prime Minister supported it and ignored the empty threats of the European Research Group, there would be a majority in this House for a customs union?

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The hon. Lady makes a fair point, but she will also appreciate that the deal under consideration is supported by businesses for that very reason. It can secure ongoing relationships with the certainty that we need. The problem with the Labour proposal of permanent membership of the customs union is that it completely destroys any idea that we can have an independent trade policy, which is set out on the first page of the political declaration. The Labour proposal is unambitious and completely constrains our ability to do the independent trade deals that will drive our economy in the future.

Scotland’s Place in Europe

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6. If he will make an assessment of the potential merits of the recommendations contained in the Scottish Government document, Scotland’s place in Europe: assessment of UK Government’s proposed future relationship with the EU. [908041]

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As co-chair of the ministerial forum on EU negotiations, I regularly engage with Scottish Government Ministers, most recently with Ministers Dey and Wheelhouse earlier this week. They presented me with a copy of the document to which the hon. Gentleman’s question refers. The deal protects key Scottish interests, including by protecting UK geographical indications and exploring continued participation in EU programmes such as Horizon. However, contrary to the Scottish Government’s assessment, the political declaration confirms that we are leaving the common fisheries policy and does not link access to waters with access to markets.

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The European parliamentary research service has estimated that a potential value of up to €1.1 trillion per year could be realised from further easement of cross-border movement of goods and services, completing the EU digital single market and increasing cross-border public procurement. Surely, the UK Government should listen to the Scottish Government and look at staying in the customs union and single market for the financial benefits that doing so will bring.

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The hon. Gentleman makes the very good point that the single market in services was never completed, and it probably never will be. It is in the UK’s interests to deliver on the outcome of the referendum, move on from leaving the single market and the customs union and deliver a new relationship with the EU. Many people, including those in the party to which the hon. Gentleman belongs, told us that that would never be possible, but the political declaration makes it clear that it is.

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The Government are paying lip service, at best, to the views of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government. In reality, I think they simply do not give a stuff about what people think north of the border. Yesterday, Scottish Conservative spokespeople were describing a debate in the Scottish Parliament as “needless”. Does the Minister honestly agree with them that the Scottish Parliament—and, for that matter, the Welsh Assembly—do not need to debate or vote on Brexit?

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I respect the right of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly to debate whatever they want to debate, but the UK referendum to leave the EU needs to be delivered on by this UK Parliament.

US Trade

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7. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Trade on the potential effect of the proposed withdrawal agreement on the UK’s ability to trade with the US. [908042]

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DExEU Ministers and officials, as the House probably knows, engage regularly with the Department for International Trade on EU exit and trade matters. Our officials also jointly attend the US-UK trade and investment working group, which has met five times already. As the withdrawal agreement states, we will be free to negotiate, sign and ratify free trade agreements during the implementation period, and we will be able to bring them into force after that implementation period is complete.

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Is President Trump wrong when he says that the withdrawal agreement is a good deal for the EU but a bad deal for Britain?

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President Trump can justify his remarks for himself, but the US ambassador, Mr Woody Johnson, recently said:

“Britain is the perfect trading partner for the United States”.

That relationship is already the strongest we have—the United States is our single biggest trading partner, accounting for 20% of our trade—and there is no reason to suggest that that would be in any way jeopardised by the deal.

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There has been much talk about the backstop. In the unlikely and frankly unwelcome event that we find ourselves in it, will the Minister please confirm our position with respect to being able to sign trade deals with the United States and other countries?

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As I suggested in my earlier response, the United States is our single greatest trading partner as of today. There is no reason to suggest that that relationship cannot develop. Under article 129 of the withdrawal agreement, as Members know, we can negotiate, sign and ratify free trade agreements. It is very important to emphasise that point. Those relationships will kick in and take effect after the end of the implementation period.

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Since the legal advice of the Attorney General has proven that Northern Ireland is to consider GB as a third country, will the Minister outline how our trade relationship will proceed if this dastardly and despicable deal manages to slip through?

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As the hon. Gentleman has heard me suggest from the Dispatch Box, this is a good deal. It works for Britain and it is a very secure basis on which to provide the certainty from which our businesses can grow. With regard to the Northern Ireland backstop, it is not a situation that we want to be in; we hope to conclude a free trade arrangement before the backstop kicks in, and I have every confidence that we will manage to do so.

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Can we have a little bit of honesty in this House? The Minister knows full well that as long as we remain in the backstop, we can talk as much as we like to the United States, and we can sign an agreement with them, but we cannot implement an agreement with them or indeed with anyone else as long as we remain in the customs union. Will my hon. Friend just get up to say, “Yes, that’s true actually”?

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I think that my hon. Friend’s interpretation of the withdrawal agreement is slightly different from my own. The first thing I should say is that the backstop is a hypothetical situation; it is not a situation that the Government intend to be in. Let me repeat to the House: if we complete a free trade agreement, the backstop falls away—it is not something that we intend to pursue. [Interruption.] With respect to concluding trade deals, as he knows and as I have said, the withdrawal agreement states that we can sign those deals and they will be—[Interruption.]Forgive me—they will absolutely be concluded, or kick in, after the end of the implementation period.

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I repeat the question from the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), because the Minister did not answer it. He surely has to confirm at the Dispatch Box that the deal means that any trade deals that might be signed cannot be implemented until we are out of the customs union and single market. He just has to get up and say that that is true.

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I simply reject the premise of the hon. Lady’s question. It is clear, and is stated clearly in the political declaration, that we will embark on negotiations with the EU and we will conclude them. That is our principal objective—to conclude a free trade agreement with the EU before the end of the implementation period.

Immigration White Paper

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10. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the immigration White Paper. [908045]

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I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and, as he has said, the Government will shortly publish an immigration White Paper setting out the details of our future immigration system.

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As immigration was one of the key issues of the 2016 referendum, is it not a complete failure of Government that we will not have that White Paper before we vote next Tuesday? Can the Secretary of State say what he believes will happen with the crisis in our social care workforce once Brexit happens?

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The hon. Lady is correct that it was a key area of debate during the referendum, and that is why it is also one of the key wins that the Prime Minister has secured in the withdrawal agreement. She has made it clear that freedom of movement is coming to an end and that we will put in place a skills-based system, so that we can recruit on the basis of what our economy needs, whether that is in social care, health or other sectors such as fintech. We can recruit on the basis of skills, rather than nationality. It is one of the key wins secured by the Prime Minister, and that is why this is a good deal.

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As the Secretary of State has acknowledged, those campaigning for Brexit made controlling immigration central to their case. The Government have put it top of the 40 reasons to back the Brexit deal. Yesterday was assigned for Parliament to debate the issue, but the Home Secretary was unable to give any indication of the Government’s plans. The promise to publish the White Paper before Tuesday has been broken, apparently because Ministers have deeply conflicting views and cannot agree a policy. Blindfold on our future economic relationship and blindfold on migration, how can they expect the House to support them on Tuesday?

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The exact opposite is the case. The clarity of the Government’s objective on immigration is signalled by the way that in the withdrawal agreement we have control of the way forward. That is why we will be able to take forward a skills-based system. It is for the Home Office to set out through the White Paper its approach. That is what it will do shortly, as I said a moment ago.

Fishing Policy

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11. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on fishing policy after the UK leaves the EU. [908046]

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My Department and I continue to work closely with the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and his team on future fisheries policy. The Government’s vision was set out in the fisheries White Paper and will come into force via powers in the Fisheries Bill. As an independent coastal state, we will take back control of our waters, setting quotas and adapting our fisheries management regime for the first time in more than 40 years.

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When we leave the EU, we leave the common fisheries policy and become an independent coastal state. We therefore need to enter upon a new fisheries agreement with the EU, just like Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Does my hon. Friend agree that Ministers and officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs should, with input from stakeholders across the fisheries sector, take the lead in those negotiations?

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I know that my hon. Friend has battled hard over the years for Scottish fishing communities. He is like a machine in his relentless enthusiasm and passion for this subject, so I am sure that he already knows the answer. In fact, I am doubly sure that he already knows the answer because he asked exactly the same question of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs just last week. I can assure my hon. Friend that DEFRA and my Department are on the same page, and that the Government have consulted the fisheries industry throughout the negotiations and will continue to do so. It is right that we continue to use the expertise inside and outside of Government to get the best deal for fishermen in Banff and Buchan, Scotland and the whole United Kingdom.

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I thought that the Minister might like to know that a recent survey by the chamber of commerce in Cornwall found that 80% of its members wanted to stay in the European Union. Their concerns included the risk of fish caught in Cornwall and exported by truck via Dover being caught in traffic jams. What is he going to do in relation to that and fishing policy?

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The right hon. Gentleman, like me, represents one of the most landlocked constituencies in the country, but his question is important none the less. Perhaps he should step back from spreading scare stories about what will happen over the short straits. All he has to do is google what we as a Government are doing and what the French Government are doing to ensure flow over the short straits. He should be happy with what he sees, as should people in Cornwall.

UK-EU Trade Policy Options

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12. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Trade on potential policy options in the event that a trade agreement between the UK and the EU is not finalised by the end of June 2020. [908048]

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DExEU Ministers and officials hold regular discussions with the Department for International Trade on EU exit and trade matters. We are working at pace to ensure that the necessary arrangements for our future partnership are in place for December 2020.

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Being in the customs union with the European Union means that we cannot negotiate our own independent free trade agreements. If negotiating our future trade relationship with the EU required us to extend the transition period by a year, that could be seen as negative, but the reality is that negotiations with most major countries, such as China and the US, will take time to conclude. Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that extending the transition period by a year would be better for securing independent free trade agreements than being stuck in an indefinite backstop?

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I know that my hon. Friend has considerable experience, particularly on issues such as China, in which I know he takes a deep interest. The key point is that it will be a sovereign choice for the UK whether it extends the implementation period. He alludes to the fact that significant work is already going on. For example, the economic and financial dialogues the Treasury has with countries such as China, India and Brazil lay the groundwork for much of the trade discussions that colleagues in the Department for International Trade are concluding.

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The Secretary of State for International Trade promised that he would have 40 trade deals ready to sign the day after we leave the European Union. What assessment has the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union made of his right hon. Friend’s progress on that?

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I am both pleased and encouraged by the progress that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade is making. The point is that, through the deal that the Prime Minister has negotiated, we now are in a position where we can pursue an independent trade policy. That is clear on page 1 of the political declaration. Part 5 of the political declaration sets out a clear timetable to put momentum into the discussions in order that we can not only negotiate and sign during the interim period but get to that future trade agreement with the European Union, which will allow us to start those trade agreements with the rest of the world.

Agriculture: No-deal Planning

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13. What discussions he has had with representatives of the agricultural sector on Government contingency planning on the UK leaving the EU without a deal. [908050]

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We continue to have regular conversations with representatives of the agriculture sector on all aspects of exit, including no-deal planning. While the Government have been clear that we do not expect no deal, we continue to do the responsible thing and prepare for all eventualities. As set out in our technical notices, in a no-deal scenario, farm payment and rural development programme beneficiaries will continue to receive payments under the funding guarantee.

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In September, the National Farmers Union warned its members that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, we could be out of the EU market for up to six months while the process of registering the UK as a third-party country is undertaken. For Shetland farmers and crofters, for whom Europe is an enormously important market for lamb exports, that could be very serious. What is the Minister doing to ensure that we are not left in that position?

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I know that the right hon. Gentleman takes these matters very seriously on behalf of his constituents. As he will know, we want to get the deal that is on the table at the moment, because that guarantees these things, but as I mentioned, we have already published technical notices detailing what farmers would need to do to export their products in a no-deal scenario. We have been clear that there would be some changes in the way we export animal products, for example. However, in November, the European Union published a document on its no-deal planning, in which it set out that it will swiftly list the UK as a third country if all applicable conditions are fulfilled. That would allow us to continue to export live animals and animal products to the European Union. We are continuing to maintain dialogue with our European Union partners and take concrete steps to minimise any disruption that might occur in those circumstances.

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The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs continues to say that there will be no deal with any country that does not share our high standards in animal welfare and environmental protection. Does the Department for Exiting the European Union share those views?

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Those are the Government’s views.

Support for Farmers

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14. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on support for farmers after the UK leaves the EU. [908052]

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15. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on support for farmers after the UK leaves the EU. [908053]

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We continue to have regular conversations with ministerial colleagues across Government on all aspects of exiting the European Union, including support for farmers. The Agriculture Bill is part of the Government’s programme of critical legislation to deliver a smooth exit from the European Union and seize the opportunities of a green Brexit. It will allow us to break from the EU’s common agricultural policy and free farmers to continue producing world-class food.

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The EU is our biggest export market for agricultural goods, including a huge amount that we export from south Gloucestershire. Does the Minister agree that maintaining unfettered access to that market is absolutely essential for businesses around the country, including the many farms in south Gloucestershire in places such as Chalford?

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I absolutely agree, which is why we have a deal on the table that will deliver that, and why the political declaration sets out the plan for a free trade area for goods, including agri-food. It recognises that controls and checks will depend on the UK’s commitments on regulatory co-operation, including the level of alignment with EU rules. We need to agree that balance as part of the future negotiations, but we have agreed to be as ambitious as possible.

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A key concern to Cheshire farmers is to know what discussions the Secretary of State has had with his counterparts in the Departments for International Trade and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about protecting UK food and farming standards following exit from the EU.

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We continue to have regular conversations with colleagues across Government, including the Department for International Trade, on all aspects of exit, including farm and food standards. As we leave the European Union we are clear that consumers must be confident that food has been produced to a high standard and that we must protect highly integrated supply chains to the benefit of customers across Europe. That is why we have this deal on the table.

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When the Agriculture Bill comes back to this Chamber, will the Government table an amendment to maintain our high standards on food safety and animal welfare in future trade agreements?

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I look forward to that discussion in the course of the Agriculture Bill.

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Less than a week after the Environment Secretary declared that the UK would lead a GM food revolution, the UK Government’s Minister for Trade Policy claimed that dropping food import standards would cause “untold damage”. Does the DExEU Minister agree with his colleagues?

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I always agree with my governmental colleagues.

No Deal Contingency Plans

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16. What steps the Government are taking to prepare contingency plans for the UK leaving the EU without a deal. [908055]

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17. What steps the Government are taking to prepare contingency plans for the UK leaving the EU without a deal. [908057]

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While the chances of no deal have been reduced considerably because of the deal that we have on the table, the Government continue to prepare for all eventualities. Extensive work to prepare for a no deal scenario has been under way throughout Government for more than two years, with more than 300 unique work streams. That work continues apace. We have published 106 technical notices to help businesses and citizens; successfully passed critical legislation; signed international agreements; recruited additional staff; and guaranteed certain EU funding in a no deal scenario.

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I welcome the Secretary of State, along with my great friend the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng), who takes his rightful place on the Government Front Bench. Will the Minister set out specific examples of what the Government have done in their no deal preparations? Does he agree that the actions he has outlined are far better than the zero pounds that the shadow Chancellor committed to prepare for no deal?

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The whole House will be aware that we have passed a lot of critical legislation, including the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018 and the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. We have signed key international agreements, including new bilateral nuclear co-operation deals with the US, Australia and Canada. We are recruiting new staff to prepare for the day the UK leaves the EU, including more than 600 new Border Force officers in addition to 300 officers deployed by the end of this year.

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It is rumoured today—I read it on Twitter, so it must be true—that the Privy Council is to be briefed by the Cabinet Office civil contingencies department on its preparations for no deal. In the interests of balance, will the Minister ensure that the Privy Council is also given a full report of his Department’s readiness for a no deal outcome so that it is fully informed?

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I do not know whether that was a bid from my hon. Friend to become a Privy Counsellor, but he would be a worthy recipient of that honour. My Department always remains open, and I remain open to talk to all colleagues, from whatever part of the House, about the Government’s no deal planning.

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We seem to have a slightly contrary position here. Earlier, we heard from Ministers that there is nothing to fear for manufacturers about no deal and that there are scare stories in this place, but we also hear that there is lots of contingency planning. I have visited manufacturers, and they remain scared of no deal. This week Bristol City Council has published its assessment of a no deal scenario. Have Ministers met with leaders of Core Cities to discuss and debate what a no deal scenario means for these drivers of our economies across England?

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The very simple answer is yes, Ministers have been meeting with councils up and down the country. There are four Ministers within my Department and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government who also do that. I suppose it is an interesting balance, when trying to get a deal with some of our best friends, whether to float above the surface the extent of the no deal planning we might be doing, but a responsible Government plans for everything.

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Very briefly—a sentence—Christine Jardine.

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Given the continued concern about medical supplies in the event of a no deal Brexit, can the Minister assure us about the latest situation for people on life-saving medicines?

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As a responsible Government, we will do whatever it takes to ensure that cross-channel trade continues to move as freely as possible, and we have a range of contingency plans in place just in case. Our top priority is ensuring that traffic and goods keep moving, which is why we have been speaking directly to industry across the medical supply chain, from pharmaceutical trade bodies to storage providers, so that consumers continue and will continue to get medicines in the same way as they do now in the event of there being no deal.

Northern Ireland Backstop

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18. What recent discussions his Department has had with EU officials on technological solutions to avoid the proposed Northern Ireland backstop. [908058]

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We had discussions on alternative arrangements to avoid the need for the backstop to come into effect, and that is why the political declaration includes a specific commitment to consider how facilitative arrangements and technologies could be used to develop such alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border in the island of Ireland. To ensure that those are developed quickly, the forward process section sets out how preparatory work should begin before we leave, enabling rapid progress after our withdrawal.

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I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng) and the Secretary of State on their new positions on the Front Bench. They will do their job admirably. The truth of the matter is that existing techniques currently used in the EU can be applied to all EU borders. Will my hon. Friend update the House on those technologies and how they can be properly applied?

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My right hon. Friend makes an interesting point. It is an argument that we have made a number of times earlier in the process. There are techniques that can be explored. I think it is fair to say that discussions have further to go on this front to ensure that both parties are agreed on how we implement those. That is what we will want to take forward very rapidly under the political declaration.

Devolved Administrations

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20. What plans he has to meet representatives of the devolved Administrations to discuss the UK leaving the EU. [908060]

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It is not just what you say, but what you do that matters. My very first meeting as Secretary of State was with the Scottish and Welsh Governments, and I hope that underlines my personal commitment to that dialogue. As the Prime Minister committed on Tuesday, we will continue to engage with the devolved Administrations on the detailed positions on the future relationship.

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The Secretary of State will be aware that the Scottish Parliament voted to reject the withdrawal agreement. Will he respect the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament and recognise the result of that vote?

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I seem to recall that the democratic will of the people of Scotland was to remain within the United Kingdom. Having taken that correct decision, they will be the first to recognise that the referendum was a UK decision.

Topical Questions

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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [908061]

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Eleven days ago, the Government published the EU withdrawal agreement and the political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and the EU. We have achieved a deal with the EU that delivers on the referendum, that the nation can unite behind and that Parliament should back.

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I welcome the Secretary of State to his new role on the Front Bench. Will he explain or elaborate on the work he is doing across Government to enhance connectivity post Brexit for international trade across the county of Essex and in our regions to get the economic growth that is required and to expand our ports and airports to ensure that our trade not only flows but increases when we leave the EU?

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My right hon. Friend makes an extremely important point, and I am very conscious of it in the East Anglia region. The border delivery group is working with Departments to ensure that plans are in place to engage fully with traders in advance of exit and indeed, it has visited each of the 135 port and airport locations. My right hon. Friend brings considerable experience to the subject and I am happy to meet her to discuss it further.

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I welcome the Secretary of State to his place and genuinely wish him well in his role.

On 15 October, the Prime Minister made an important point from the Dispatch Box to reassure MPs who were worried about the backstop arrangement. She said that

“if the EU were not to co-operate on our future relationship, we must be able to ensure that we cannot be kept in this backstop arrangement indefinitely.”—[Official Report, 15 October 2018; Vol. 647, c. 410.]

Does the Secretary of State agree?

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I thank the right hon. and learned Member for his generous welcome. I also take the opportunity, as I did on Monday night—although technically it was Tuesday morning—to pay tribute to him for serving as shadow Secretary of State throughout this period. On the core of his question about the UK’s ability to exit from the backstop, he will know, as a former lawyer, that the legal process is clear in terms of the role of the Joint Committee and the arbitration, and that there is legal wiring in the withdrawal agreement that requires the EU to act in good faith. Those issues were explored in much more detail with the Attorney General on Monday, but in short, I very much agree with the Prime Minister because there is a legal connectivity between the withdrawal agreement and the backstop arrangement.

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That is a very sensible position. The Secretary of State suggests that he agrees with the Prime Minister that, if the EU does not co-operate, we cannot be kept in the backstop indefinitely. The problem is that the Attorney General’s legal advice, which was published yesterday states, in terms,

“in international law, the”

backstop

“would endure indefinitely.”

He went on to say:

“This remains the case even if parties are still negotiating many years later, and even if the parties believe that the talks have clearly broken down”.

That is the complete opposite of what the Prime Minister said she intended to achieve.

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The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes the same point in essence as my very distinguished predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab), about where the balance of risk sits. The right hon. and learned Gentleman quoted the Attorney General, so it is worth drawing the House’s attention to exactly what the Attorney General said on that point. [Interruption.] Well, he quoted part of what the Attorney General said, but my right hon. and learned Friend said more than what has been quoted in isolation, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be the first to accept that when considering these issues, one looks at the whole, not selective comments. The Attorney General said:

“I do not believe that we are likely to be entrapped in the backstop permanently”.—[Official Report, 3 December 2018; Vol. 650; c. 552.]

However, he also said that

“the matters of law affecting the withdrawal can only inform what is essentially a political decision”.—[Official Report, 3 December 2018; Vol. 650, c. 546.]

It is a question of where one assesses the balance of risk to be. I looked at that very issue when I considered the matter. The Attorney General has addressed that, as is reflected in his comments to the House on Monday.

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T4. Will my parliamentary neighbour, the Minister for no deal, confirm for the benefit of our constituents in Northamptonshire that the Government have advanced plans in place to ensure a smooth Brexit in the event of no deal? [908064]

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I thank my hon. Friend and parliamentary neighbour for his question. I know how hard he works in his constituency, and he always puts me to shame with the amount of work he does for his constituents.

I remind my hon. Friend of the answers he has heard on this so far, before giving him some extra bits. We already have over 300 plans that we are delivering to ensure that, should we be in a no deal scenario, it goes smoothly. We have plans for our border, and he will have heard about the amount of legislation, primary and secondary, that is going through the House, and I have some specific examples.

On 2 November. Canada signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with the UK. Later in November, the Competition and Markets Authority started its recruitment campaign to hire staff to fulfil the obligations of its new state aid role. We have begun a pet travel awareness campaign to advise pet owners of the actions they would need to take to be able to travel to the EU with their pets from March 2019. The Home Office has recruited 300 people to its readiness taskforce, and it was on track to be deployed in November. I could go on.

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Can I very gently say to Ministers that they appear today to be adopting what I can only describe as an Oxford high table approach to political debate? That no doubt has its own merits, but we are subject to the constraint of time, and therefore I would urge a degree of pithiness of exchange.

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T2. The German owner of the Barden factory in Plymouth has announced that the precision ball bearing plant and 400 jobs will go, and it blames Brexit for the closure. Will the Secretary of State join me and Plymouth’s Conservative MPs in encouraging Barden’s German owner, Schaeffler, to change its mind and keep this profitable plant open? [908062]

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I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his approach of working with other Plymouth MPs, my hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer) and for South West Devon (Mr Streeter). I recognise the importance of this to the three constituencies, and I am happy to raise the issue with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. We recognise the importance of Barden as a firm, and I am happy to work with the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) and his constituency neighbours as we take the issue forward.

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T5. The majority of my constituents and I voted to leave the EU primarily to take back control of our sovereignty, and I am struggling to reconcile that with the proposed Northern Ireland backstop and our inability to leave it unilaterally. What reassurances can my right hon. Friend give me following the publication of the Government’s legal advice yesterday? [908065]

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I am very happy to reassure my hon. Friend. A number of the safeguards have been debated at some length in the House, including safeguards on extending the implementation period, on the undesirability of the backstop to the EU27 and on the due legal process. Given the commitments in the withdrawal agreement, the due process that applies, in terms of the joint committee and the arbitration, would follow. There are clear safeguards in the text that the Prime Minister has negotiated as part of the wider achievements that have been secured in delivering on the referendum. There is an independent coastal approach, and we are coming out of the common fisheries policy and having a skills-based immigration system.

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T3. I welcome the Secretary of State to his post. The North East England chamber of commerce is briefing that, because this deal fails to nail down certainty, it threatens investment and jobs, and businesses in the north-east do not support it. Why is he asking this House to support a deal that will threaten my constituents’ jobs? [908063]

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If there is an outlier to which the hon. Gentleman refers—I always enjoyed our dealings in my previous ministerial role, given his health expertise—the overwhelming feedback we have received from business is its support for the deal and its desire to see the implementation period. Business does not want the uncertainty of crashing out, but it also does not want the uncertainty of a second referendum.

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T8. The legal position of legislation passed by this House is that we will be leaving the EU on 29 March 2019, deal or no deal. The events of this week, and I suspect next week, make a no deal outcome more likely, so will the Secretary of State ensure that all Government Departments now make ready and prioritise their preparedness for no deal? Does he agree that for the Government not to do that would be a dereliction of duty? [908068]

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My hon. Friend will appreciate that a key focus for me since taking on this role has been to review the work on the state of readiness and to ensure that those discussions are held with Cabinet colleagues. That is exactly what I am doing, and it is supported by the excellent work of the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris).

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T6. As the Secretary of State for stockpiling, can he explain to me how he will maintain a supply of the medical radioisotope technetium, given that its precursor has a half-life of less than three days? [908066]

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I trust the hon. Lady is not trying to scare any vulnerable constituents we might have. I know she does not necessarily trust what a Minister might say, but all she needs to do is look at what other countries are doing to guarantee that the flow of all medical supply continues across borders, by Googling what might be going on at the French border, to see that her concerns are unwarranted.

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Will the Government consider a parliamentary lock to the backstop?

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I very much hear the point that my hon. Friend makes. As I am sure he is aware, I am meeting colleagues and listening to concerns, including those on the backstop. Obviously, we also need to be mindful of the imperative of the guarantee that we have given to the people of Northern Ireland, which was given for a reason, in terms of the peace process and ensuring that we honour the obligations that have been given to the people of Northern Ireland.

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I call Helen Goodman. She is not here. Oh dear, where is the hon. Lady? I hope she is not indisposed.

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T9. On Tuesday, the National Assembly for Wales voted overwhelmingly for a Plaid Cymru motion to reject the British Government’s deal. What notice will the Secretary of State take of this new, emphatic and democratic decision? [908070]

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We always pay attention to what the devolved Assemblies and devolved legislatures do. We, of course, take note of its decision, but it was a UK referendum that decided we should leave the UK, and Wales also voted to leave.

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The Government’s own analysis shows that my constituents will be worse off under this deal, but the Secretary of State argues that they will gain sovereignty and future trade agreements. Can he explain precisely in engineering terms how supply chains between the north-east of England and north-west France, for example, can be replaced by ones with the mid-west of America or Western Australia?

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The hon. Lady usually speaks on business matters with great experience, but it is a misreading of the economic analysis to suggest that her constituents will be poorer or less well-off. The issue within the economic analysis is what the impact will be on the rate of growth; it is not whether people will be worse off than they are today. One key achievement of the Prime Minister’s deal is that it keeps open the option of frictionless trade, because it moves from the binary choice that was initially offered, of either a Canada-style or Norway-style deal, and recognises a bespoke option.

Business of the House

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Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?

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The business for next week will include:

Monday 10 December—Continuation of debate on section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (day 4).

Tuesday 11 December—Conclusion of debate on section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (day 5).

Wednesday 12 December—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Ivory Bill, followed by a general debate on fuel poverty.

Thursday 13 December—A general debate on the public health model to reduce youth violence.

Friday 14 December—The House will not be sitting.

The House of Commons is now midway through our historic debate on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal. Yesterday, my noble Friend Baroness Evans opened the Brexit debates in the other place. Come the meaningful vote on Tuesday, we will have spent about 38 hours debating the deal, on top of the hundreds of hours we have already spent in this place debating our exit from the EU. I hope that, with all views taken into account, and in the final analysis, Members will choose to support the deal we have on the table.

This week we are also midway through the Festival of Light, and I wish everyone in our Jewish communities a very happy Hanukah.

Finally, yesterday was International Volunteer Day. During business questions we often hear about fantastic examples of volunteering from right across our communities, so it is right that we all recognise the fantastic work that they do.

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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. I note that there is only one week to go and we do not have the business for the final week. Will the Leader of the House confirm that the House will definitely rise on 20 December and return on 7 January? She will know that there are discussions, not quite about Christmas being cancelled, but about the day that the House rises.

I have raised this issue previously and my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire) has asked very nicely a number of times: when will the immigration White Paper be published?

It has been a momentous week, not least for you, Mr Speaker, because you were in the Chair for 14 hours on Tuesday. I suppose some could argue that it kept you out of mischief. I wish to comment on the proceedings because we need to separate them out from the debate on the deal. The Solicitor General said on television that this was a “complete diversion” and a

“concocted parliamentary parlour game that should be stopped”.

The Attorney General said that it was time we all

“grew up and got real.”—[Official Report, 3 December 2018; Vol. 650, c. 563.]

The Leader of the House’s comment on the radio that we would “live to regret” the vote was slightly threatening and she described the vote as “incredibly disappointing”. It was not disappointing; it was an inevitable consequence of the process and the Government’s failure to comply. It is quite surprising, because the Law Officers would expect everybody to comply with a court order. There was an order from this House and the Government failed to comply. The Government should have known better. The process is set down in the procedure and all Opposition parties were united. It was the will of the House to ask for the advice, which we have finally got, but the Government initially refused to give it. They could have given it, but regrettably chose to test the procedures of Parliament, and those procedures were then engaged. This shambolic Government will go down in history as the first Government to be held in contempt of Parliament. All that was within their control. Will the Leader of the House now accept that it was the Government’s own stubbornness that put them in that position?

On Monday, the Attorney General undertook to send you a letter, Mr Speaker. He said that he would be writing to you that evening. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon) then asked whether we could all have a copy. Will the Leader of the House say what was in that letter and whether it has been published? [Interruption.] The Leader of the House should check Hansard, because he did say that he was going to write to Mr Speaker.

Will the Leader of the House correct the record? Last week, she said that there was an economic assessment of the draft agreement, but in fact the cross-departmental Treasury analysis was based on the Chequers plan, not the agreement. While we are at it, I am working my way through the agreement and I wonder whether the Leader of the House could take away the idea that its formatting might be done differently. If Members look at page 132, they will see that it is blank, apart from the title. There are lots of white spaces on the pages, so perhaps it would be a smaller and easier-to-read agreement if all the space were taken up. Do have a look at it.

I have now reached the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, so it is helpful that the legal advice has been released and can be read in conjunction with it. It is right that Members should have all the information before them if we are to make this momentous decision.

The Leader of the House will know that we are apparently paying £39 billion to the EU, but I should point out that, according to article 53, on access to relevant networks, information systems and databases, the UK will have to reimburse the Union for facilitating that access. That requirement goes through the agreement in a number of places, so is the Leader of the House expecting the Chancellor to make a supplementary financial statement? If so, when?

Will the Leader of the House confirm that she is actually asking Members to back the deal? I say that because Labour Whips have tweeted that she did not actually ask Members to back the deal; she asked them to “focus” on the deal. Could she definitively say that she also backs the Prime Minister’s deal?

It is chaos. It seems the Treasury is in chaos. This is a comment that was made: “I embrace chaos. I’m a thrill seeker”. That was not the Gilet Jaunes; it was the Chief Secretary to the Treasury who was overheard saying that. It might be chaos and thrill seeking that has caused the Treasury not to provide the local government settlement for 2019-20. It has been cancelled. It was due to be announced today. Will the Leader of the House say when the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government will make an oral statement to the House?

We are also missing the NHS 10-year plan and I am not sure what is happening about the police settlement either. Almost 80 leaders of Labour councils have written to the Secretary of State asking that any funding cuts—the figure of £1.3 billion has been mentioned—be cancelled at an absolute minimum and saying that to press on blindly with further cuts at a time when local government is on the brink of collapse would be hugely irresponsible—a bit like the Government not complying with the order to provide the legal advice. Or is it only the few in Northamptonshire who get a bail-out without an oral statement?

There is more chaos and thrill, but now in the Department for Education. As the shadow Secretary of State said—at the time, there was not a higher education Minister in place, but there is now—the student loan book, which was worth £3.5 billion, has been sold for £1.7 billion in upfront cash. The Office for Budget Responsibility said that this does not strengthen public finances. Can we have an urgent statement on the student loan book sell-off?

I want to pay tribute to Toby Jessel, who sadly died on Tuesday. He was my first MP. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) tells a funny story about how Toby Jessel was wearing this bright green and red tie one day. While he was speaking to the House, they found something sticking out of his trousers, which led the TV commentator to say it was his tie. I was a Labour candidate in Twickenham in 1987, and both Toby and his wife Eira Heath were wonderful and kind to me. It was my first outing. He was irrepressible and a gifted pianist.

Monday is Human Rights Day. The Attorney General said on Monday that the European convention on human rights is protected by the Belfast agreement, so there is no divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. I am sure that the ECHR is also embedded in our laws in perpetuity. I look forward to celebrating Hanukkah in Speaker’s House later, and I wish you and Sally a very happy anniversary tomorrow, Mr Speaker.

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It is extraordinarily kind of the shadow Leader of the House to do that. Perhaps I may be permitted to wish her a happy birthday.

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I also wish the hon. Lady a happy birthday. It is extraordinary. I remember this time last year we were also in business questions. Doesn’t time fly?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her many points. Yes, the House will rise on 20 December and return on 7 January, and as the Home Secretary said yesterday in Home Office questions, the immigration White Paper will be published as soon as possible. It is being finalised and will be brought forward. It is obviously important to me, as the person responsible for bringing legislation through, that we get it through in good time.

On the Attorney General and the contempt procedure, I gently point out to the hon. Lady that I was saying that any parliamentarian who finds themselves in government would regret this—that was not in any sense threatening and I slightly personally resent that she is impugning that. I was making the point that it remains a fundamental constitutional convention that Law Officers’ advice should not be disclosed outside of Government. If we disclose that advice, it severely constrains future advice from being offered in a frank and open way. That was my point. I hope that she accepts that in no way was I attempting to threaten anyone; I was merely stating the facts. While the Government have absolutely complied with the demand of the House, there is a fundamental problem with the overlap between the constitutional convention of confidentiality of Law Officers’ advice and the perfectly legitimate expectation and will of the House, with which I have complied.

The hon. Lady asked about the Attorney General’s letter to Mr Speaker. My hon. Friends on the Front Bench have managed to establish that it was published on the gov.uk website on 4 December—hopefully that is helpful. She talked about the economic assessment of the draft agreement. Obviously, we will be discussing that during today’s debate and I hope that hon. Members will be able to pick that up.

I can absolutely confirm to the hon. Lady that, as I said at the start, I hope that all hon. Members will choose to support the deal that is on the table. It is the only deal on the table. On the matter of the local government settlement, we have local government questions on Monday, in which there will be an opportunity for Members to ask the Secretary of State about his plans.

The hon. Lady referred to the NHS 10-year plan. We all really look forward to seeing that. It is fantastic that this Government have made the biggest ever investment in our very precious national health service, and we all look forward to seeing some of the measures to create equality of mental health with physical health, more investment in identifying cancers early and better cancer outcomes for patients. There is so much that will be in that 10-year plan and we all look forward to seeing that. Finally, she asked about Education questions. I just point out to her that Education questions will be on Monday 17 December.

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The curse of HS2, the Titanic of the railway world, has struck again with the apparent forced resignation of its third chairman, Sir Terry Morgan, after four months and the extraordinarily rapid public appointment of yet another chairman, Allan Cook, who, I believe, will also be part-time. After three chief executives, five Secretaries of State, and six Under-Secretaries of State, we still do not know the real costs of this project, which, frankly, might put the £39 billion being paid to the EU into a box in the corner, because it is looking like it will cost £100 billion. Can we have a full debate on the Floor of the House on the subject so that we can find out what the real costs are, why the corporate governance is so dreadful, what the problems and the risks are, and what the cost-benefit analysis is for the taxpayers of this country, because, frankly, we should be putting this ill-conceived and ill-executed project out of its misery and cancelling it now?

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My right hon. Friend raises a matter of great importance to her constituency, to mine, to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis) and, indeed, to your own, Mr Speaker. We have all worked together to get the best compensation and mitigation for our constituents, many of whom have very serious concerns about that project. On the very important issue that my right hon. Friend raises, she will appreciate that this is a matter for the Transport Secretary and I urge her to seek to raise it directly with Transport Ministers, possibly in a Westminster Hall or an Adjournment debate.

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Mr Speaker, I also congratulate you on your endurance over the past couple of days. I hope that you are not having nightmares about big green chairs shouting, “Meaningful vote” to you over the course of an evening. I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the most dramatic business for next week. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz)—for she is a friend—on her birthday today.

Here we are, Mr Speaker. It does feel a bit like the end of Tory days. After doing everything possible to avoid and evade a defeat, the Government have only gone and found a taste for it. After barely a glove being laid on them over the past two years, they endured three defeats in two hours on Tuesday. After acquiring this taste, they have offered themselves up for another hiding on Tuesday—or have they? That is the question. To go through with this vote and almost certain defeat seems almost unnecessarily cruel. It would be like political self-flagellation on an almost Marquis de Sade scale. To endure the indignity of a huge majority against them—most of them from their own Benches—on such a major issue of policy would be unsustainable for the Prime Minister. Can the Leader of the House take this opportunity today to confirm that, whatever happens over the course of the next few days, we will still have this vote regardless of the consequences and that they have no intention of taking it off the table? Can she also tell us a bit about what happens next? Let us hope that she will not be the Grinch of the House who stole Christmas in making sure that Christmas becomes Brexmas for the majority of Members in this House.

Almost laughingly, the Leader of the House has timetabled ordinary business on Wednesday. I think we might be telling hon. Members preparing for the Ivory Bill and the fuel poverty debate not to exercise themselves unduly. No one believes for a minute that it will be business as usual on Wednesday. It is going to be chaotic crisis management peppered with mild panic and served up with a dollop of a probable vote of no confidence in this Government. Can she tell us what provisions she has in place for Wednesday? What is she going to do to ensure that this House will be able to deal with the consequences of the devastating defeat? It is inconceivable that she has no back-up plan, plan B or set of extraordinary measures, and it is time to share them.

We in Scotland are watching this crashing of the UK with increasing alarm and concern, but we are also brushing down our constitutional options, and thank goodness we have them, because although this country may be going down with any arrangements for getting out of the European Union, Scotland most definitely will not.

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I am glad that the hon. Gentleman recognises that so far in this Session the Government have introduced some very significant legislation, and have not lost any votes. Some extremely important legislation has been passed on automated vehicles and greater fairness to tenants. In fact, 45 Bills have been introduced, 30 of which have received Royal Assent. There are nine exit-related Bills in Parliament, and those that have already received Royal Assent include the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018, the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018 and the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018.

If that were not enough, the House has also achieved some extraordinarily good things for our country through private Members’ Bills. I am delighted that the Stalking Protection Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) has completed its Third Reading here, as has the Parking (Code of Practice) Bill of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight). Enormous progress is being made in this House, so I am grateful to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) for pointing that out.

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that, yes, the meaningful vote will go ahead next week, as announced. He mocked, albeit gently, the business I announced today for next week. Although we do have very serious issues around our exit from the EU, it is incredibly important that we look at and take note of the serious challenges faced by those in this country suffering from fuel poverty, and indeed the broader global issue of the hideous trade in ivory that this country is determined to be one of the first to stamp out finally. The hon. Gentleman mocked last week’s business, when we brought forward the Offensive Weapons Bill, seeking to prevent young people from accessing knives online. These are very important pieces of legislation, and this House can be proud of our achievements so far.

The hon. Gentleman talks about the Scottish constitution and what the Scots think. I would gently point out to him that the Scots said very clearly in 2014 that they wanted to remain a part of the United Kingdom. As a democrat, he should accept the will of the people. In 2016, the people of the United Kingdom decided that they wanted to leave the European Union. Again, he should accept the will of the people. The problem with the hon. Gentleman is that he only thinks about what he wants, not what the people want.

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Benjamin Disraeli said:

“Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends”

yet this week Ofsted reported that, for our 1.3 million children with special educational needs, support is “disjointed and inconsistent”. Notwithstanding the good work of Gosberton House School, the Garth School and Priory schools in my constituency and many others, that report goes on to say that many of these pupils spend years out of school, thousands are left unplaced and, most disturbingly, some of our most vulnerable children’s whereabouts are altogether unknown. Can we have an urgent statement from Ministers on how we are going to respond to this national scandal? If our fate is dependent upon education, our humanity is defined by how we regard and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable; they deserve our care and their chance to prosper.

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My right hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of how children with special educational needs are supported through their early years, and I am sure that, in his usual way, he will find the opportunity to raise the issue directly with Ministers, perhaps through an Adjournment debate. Some 86% of schools in this country are now classed as good or outstanding, compared with only 68% in 2010, and 1.9 million more pupils are now in good or outstanding schools. That is incredibly important, and it demonstrates the Government’s commitment to ensuring that every child gets a good education.

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I am glad to learn that Christmas has not been cancelled, and I and the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) are very much looking forward to meeting the Leader of the House next Tuesday to discuss the hiatus in Backbench Business Committee debates in the House. As I said last week, by next Thursday it will have been eight weeks since we had any Backbench Business in the House, and I am pretty sure that when the Committee was established, the Standing Orders were written with the intention that the 27 days of parliamentary time would be over a one-year Session, not over two years. I remain disappointed that we are not getting any additional time, or notification of additional time, and I have written to the Chair of the Procedure Committee to ask the Committee to look into that, and into the Government’s interpretation of the Standing Orders.

Members may have noticed that the O2 phone network was down this morning, which also affected customers of Sky, Tesco, Giffgaff and Lycamobile. Thirty-two million subscribers have been without mobile telephone coverage since 5.30 this morning, which has also affected emergency services and bus networks. Will the Leader of the House ask the relevant Department to investigate the issue and consider what implications there might be, particularly for coverage of those emergency services?

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The hon. Gentleman will appreciate, I am sure, that it was not possible to find time for the Backbench Business Committee in next week’s business, but as I said last week, I look forward to meeting him to discuss the issue.

The hon. Gentleman raised an important point about phone networks, and I urge him to raise that matter directly with Ministers next week during questions to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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I join the Leader of the House in wishing everyone a happy Hanukkah, and I look forward to attending the annual reception in your house later this afternoon, Mr Speaker.

My constituents in Stanmore are suffering a crisis of aggravated burglaries. These are not normal burglaries where people break in and steal things; these involve gangs of five or six people who break in, beat up the residents and steal their possessions, including their address books so that they can move on to the next people. May we have a debate in Government time on how we deal with that epidemic, and the crisis in our society of aggravated burglaries in which people suffer not only the loss of their possessions, but personal injury as well?

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I am genuinely sorry to hear about the problems experienced by my hon. Friend’s constituents, which are completely unacceptable, and I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise that issue. I know from my constituency that the police are concerned that sometimes residents do not report crimes—indeed, they would want us to encourage our constituents always to report any crime they experience, because so often that assists police to form a picture of what is going on, and to get the intelligence that enables them to make arrests. My hon. Friend will be aware that the resources available to police during this funding period have been increased, and it is for police and crime commissioners to make decisions on policing priorities. I am sure he is in contact with his own police and crime commissioner.

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Frankly, we could all do with a little bit of Christmas cheer in this place this week, so I will briefly speak about Derek Highe from Robin Royd Avenue in Mirfield. He lights up his house every year, and has raised more than £40,000 for charity, including for Kirkwood Hospice. In this case seeing really is believing, and I encourage people to visit www.robinroyd-xmas-lights.co.uk to see it for themselves, if they do not want to or cannot visit Mirfield. May we have a debate on how our local communities contribute so much at this time of year, whether by donating to food banks or raising money for charity?

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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for cheering us all up; I also love to see the houses that have been made bright and friendly for the whole community by people who have gone to enormous lengths. I encourage colleagues to pop around to my office. We have a few Christmas decorations up there as well, although probably nothing like as good as the ones in Robin Royd Avenue. I pay tribute to her constituent for the excellent work he is doing in raising money for charity.

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The Leader of the House is well aware of the situation between Taunton Deane and West Somerset, which is my council. The amalgamation is now going so wrong—so many people have decided to leave the council that it is having to raid the housing revenue support grant to pay the redundancies. First, that is immoral, and secondly I hardly think it is legal. Can we please have a debate on this? Certain councils may be bailed out—mine is not, so we are living at our edges. Can we have time in the House to discuss the matter?

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As my hon. Friend will be aware, Housing, Communities and Local Government questions are on Monday 10 December. I encourage him to raise the matter directly with Ministers.

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This is the first opportunity I have had to apologise to the Leader of the House; the last time we were together in the Chamber, I said that she “flounced”. I did not realise that that was a disrespectful or sexist term, but I used it and I apologise profoundly.

While we have her in a good mood, can I ask the right hon. Lady for an early debate on the status and respect given to the Bank of England and its Governor? I have been in this House for quite some years, and I cannot remember a time when Ministers have so reviled the Governor of the Bank of England—undermining the work that the Bank is doing in independently telling us that there is no deal better than staying in the European Union. Can we have a debate on how the Bank of England—this wonderful institution—can get back to full respect from all parties in this House?

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I am really grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his apology, which is unnecessary—he had already apologised to me privately. I have been practising my flounce, although I am not sure I have perfected it yet. [Interruption.] It is something like that—[Laughter.] I was not quite sure what a flounce was. I know that the hon. Gentleman’s daughters told him off; I would like to put that on the record—we know when we see a bit of sexism.

The hon. Gentleman raises a very serious issue about the ancient institution of the Bank of England, to which we all in this place owe a great debt of gratitude given its determined pursuit of the national interest over many years. Colleagues have different views about how different spokespersons for the Bank of England represent their views, and it is right that we allow freedom of speech in this place. But the hon. Gentleman’s fundamental point is about the importance of the Bank of England, and I share his great regard for it.

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In Redditch, I am supporting an excellent charity called Charlotte & Craig Saving Hearts Foundation in its campaign to get first aid on to every school curriculum. May we have a debate in Government time about how we create a nation of lifesavers and get cardio-pulmonary resuscitation —CPR—in every school curriculum?

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I think my hon. Friend would find a lot of support across the House for that; I congratulate her constituents on their initiative in trying to get it on to the agenda. She might want to seek a Westminster Hall debate so that hon. Members, who I am sure would have a lot of sympathy with the issue, can share their views.

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On Tuesday night in my constituency, there was significant violence at the away end of the Port Vale and Stoke City derby football match. I thank the police and emergency services for their work. Can we have a debate in Government time on the rise of football hooliganism in parts of our country?

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I am sorry to hear about the experience of some of the supporters in the hon. Lady’s constituency. Any rise in football hooliganism is absolutely unacceptable. It used to be a problem in the past and we do not want it to come back again. DCMS questions are next Thursday and I encourage the hon. Lady to raise it with Ministers then.

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Can we have an urgent statement on protecting public libraries? In a potential act of barbarism and cultural vandalism, Essex County Council is threatening to close libraries in disadvantaged and deprived areas of my constituency of Harlow—a disgraceful decision. These libraries are treasured by the community and schoolchildren as an important place of reading. Will my right hon. Friend work with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and get these cuts reversed?

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My right hon. Friend raises an incredibly important point. We all know the value of libraries in our communities. It is not just about accessing books; many other community activities take place, bringing people together and providing them with support and guidance. The Government are committed to seeking a sustainable future for libraries. As he will be aware, local authorities in England have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. I am aware that Essex County Council’s consultation on its proposals closes on 20 February. I am sure that he and his constituents will want to participate in that consultation.

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It is just not good enough to say, “It’s coming—it’s on its way.” The immigration Bill is necessary for my constituents, whether they work in the creative industries and want to be able to continue to tour around the European Union over the coming years as they do now, work in some other service industry, or are EU citizens themselves. When, when, when will we see the immigration Bill and White Paper?

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As the Home Secretary said yesterday, it will be brought forward soon. As I have just said, it will be as soon as the specifics around the policy are finalised. The hon. Lady, as an Opposition Whip, will be involved in usual-channels discussions, and I encourage her to make her views continually known, as she always does.

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May we have a debate to celebrate the local fundraisers who we all have in our constituencies? I would like to make a special mention of Nancy Jamieson from Keith, who every October since 2005 has cycled 100 miles to raise funds for breast cancer charities and in that time has raised over £13,000. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Nancy on her great efforts, particularly this year, because when she started she was 89 and when she finished she was 90, having celebrated a very significant birthday at the end of October?

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It is obviously something in the air: my hon. Friend’s constituents are extraordinary people and he is absolutely right to praise them as he so often does. The desire to raise money for charitable causes is one of the best human qualities and one that we should all celebrate and encourage. I would like to join him in congratulating Nancy Jamieson and the extraordinary achievement of cycling 100 miles at the age of 90, for which she deserves a huge amount of praise.

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I am pleased that we are due to have a debate on youth violence next Thursday; we will see whether it actually happens. I support the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) in calling for a debate on burglary. I have seen in my constituency a rise in burglary and aggravated burglary. That is not entirely unconnected with the fact that three police stations have closed in my constituency. We do not have a single police station, so that deterrent has completely disappeared. May we have a debate on this?

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As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), I am very sorry to hear of the ongoing problem of aggravated burglary in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. He will know that many of the decisions around police station closures are to do with the tendency of people to prefer to report crime via the telephone or online. Nevertheless, it is absolutely vital that police and crime commissioners take the steps necessary to keep their communities safe. I encourage him perhaps to raise this through an Adjournment debate.

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May we have a debate about Northern Rail and its appalling track record—if you will excuse the pun, Mr Speaker? My constituents repeatedly experience trains being cancelled, often at rush hour, so they are late for work, or trains that are completely jam-packed, sometimes so jam-packed that they cannot even get on the next train and are even later for work. Northern Rail is showing a complete disregard for its customers, and the Government really need to do something to make it to get a grip of the situation. Please can we have a debate, because my constituents and I are getting greatly frustrated by its incompetence?

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My hon. Friend is quite right to raise that issue. The disruption to rail passengers has been completely unacceptable. He will be aware that the Department for Transport is seeking resolution of the issues and that there is massive investment going into rail infrastructure, to ensure that we have better passenger experiences, but I encourage him to raise that directly with Rail Ministers.

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At the launch of the Institute for Public Policy Research report on social mobility this week, the Child Poverty Action Group reported that out of every class of 30 schoolchildren, nine of those children are being brought up in poverty, and six of those have at least one parent in work. May we have an urgent debate on child poverty in the UK, as also identified by the report from the UN rapporteur?

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The hon. Lady raises a very important point. We, as a Government, are absolutely committed to taking care of and protecting children, and that is why we challenge the report to which she referred. In fact, there are fewer children and families in absolute poverty than there were in 2010. There are over 3 million more people in work than there were in 2010, which means more people with the prospect of securing a living for their families, and inequality is at its lowest level ever. Just because the hon. Lady makes those assertions, it does not make them true.

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May we have a debate on the great job that Parliament TV does, allowing our constituents to see what we do in this place and hold us to account? I am pleased to report to the Leader of the House that a clip of her highlighting the failures of the SNP in this place attracted more than 60,000 views on my Twitter feed.

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I am always delighted to hear about the importance of the Westminster operation to constituents in Scotland, which demonstrates their commitment to remaining a part of the United Kingdom and the relevance of what we discuss here. My hon. Friend’s determination to support his constituency interests is admirable, and I commend him for it.

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Ah, Mr Snell is wearing a most engaging tie.

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Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. [Interruption.] My shirt is not tucked in. My late grandmother would be appalled that I was not correctly attired.

Last week, I asked the Leader of the House whether she could use her offices and influence to help progress Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill. She told me that she was tabling extra days for private Members’ Bills, but she will know that the list of private Members’ Bills waiting to be heard is so long that Lord McColl’s Bill may not make it through. May I ask her again to use her influence to try to get the Bill at least into Committee, so that it can be scrutinised by Members of this House?

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First, may I say that I think the hon. Gentleman looks entirely smart?

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Well, up to a point.

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Less heckling from my right hon. Friend.

I am sure the hon. Gentleman’s late grandmother would be very proud of him. He raises a serious point about days for private Members’ Bills. As he knows, I have sought to provide a further six sitting Fridays for private Members’ Bills to make progress. Unfortunately, that was objected to, and an amendment was tabled to reduce that number to five. Those discussions are ongoing through the usual channels, and I hope to come forward soon with an alternative proposal.

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A constituent of mine bought three tickets earlier this year for the BBC Biggest Weekend concert in Swansea through Viagogo. She expected to pay £50 overall. The confirmation said that she had paid £1,772.41. The bank refused to make that payment, but Viagogo then put a £1 charge through, as a gateway to take the full amount. She has taken it up with the bank and Viagogo, and I have taken it up, but we have not had any positive response. May we have a debate on that kind of behaviour and total corporate irresponsibility—I would almost say corporate theft?

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My hon. Friend raises what sounds like a case of appalling behaviour by a private company, and he is right to do so in this place. We have Digital, Culture, Media and Sport oral questions next Thursday, and I encourage him to take it up with Ministers then.

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In 2015, seven-year-old Rowan Fitzgerald, a constituent of mine, died in a bus crash. Last week, having pleaded guilty, Midland Red—part of Stagecoach—was sentenced and fined under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. At the time of the accident, the driver was 77 years old and had worked an average of 72 hours in the four weeks up to and including the week of the tragedy. Currently, this is not illegal, as short-distance local bus drivers can work unlimited hours. Will the Leader of the House consider having a debate on limiting working hours for local bus drivers to ensure that a tragedy like this is never allowed to happen again?

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The hon. Gentleman raises a really tragic case, and I know we were all desperately sorry to hear of it. He raises an important point about the number of hours that individuals are allowed to work, and I encourage him to raise it directly with Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Ministers and Transport Ministers. There is always a balance to be struck between ensuring that people are fit for work and enabling them to earn a living, but he raises a very important point.

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This year has been a fabulous one for women in Parliament, and it would be excellent if this centenary year could leave a lasting legacy for those to come. Yesterday, the all-party group on women in Parliament—I encourage women from across the Floor to come along—met Professor Sarah Childs to look at her report on “The Good Parliament” and see what more can be implemented. Given the support from across this Chamber for proxy voting for baby leave, does my right hon. Friend think that we could make more progress on that before the end of this centenary year?

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First, I congratulate my hon. Friend on all her work as chair of the all-party group on women in Parliament. I repeat to her that I am absolutely committed to ensuring the Government do all they can to allow new parents to spend that vital early time with their new babies. We had a valuable debate during the September sittings, and as I confirmed in the debate, I will bring forward a substantive motion on proxy voting as soon as I can.

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Pen-y-Bryn, Glanwern House and the Beeches retirement homes in my constituency face Christmas under threat of closure. May we have a debate on retirement home provision, acknowledging that while we of course have to plan for the future, that should never be at the expense of our existing residents, who really rely on and thrive in these facilities?

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I think that we all want to pay tribute to all those who look after elderly people in such a caring way, and those retirement homes are vital for some older people who perhaps do not have extended families to help them in such ways. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this issue, and I would encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can talk about his particular constituency issues.

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Earlier this year, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade held a very successful event with businesses in Stirling. I know for a fact that Stirling’s businesses want to see Scotland’s two Governments working together in areas such as trade. I have become aware that the Government are about to set out a new intergovernmental concordat with the devolved Administrations on trade. May we have a statement?

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My hon. Friend raises a very important issue for Scotland and, in particular, about how the entire UK can work together to promote some of the amazing exports that come from Scotland as well as from England. When I was Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, I had the great pleasure of attending some of the international food and drink symposiums of which Scottish whisky, smoked salmon and so on formed such an important part. [Interruption.] Yes, and haggis, too. I absolutely encourage my hon. Friend to seek a Westminster Hall debate so that hon. Members can discuss this important concordat.

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May we have a debate in Government time on recognising great British sporting heroes, including Cudworth resident Dorothy Hyman, and my campaign to secure her BBC sports personality of the year trophy 50 years after it was originally awarded to her?

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I join the hon. Lady in congratulating Dorothy Hyman on her win 50 years ago. I wish the hon. Lady success in promoting her constituent at the forthcoming sports personality of the year. I encourage her to raise the issue at DCMS questions next week.

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May we have a debate to remember all the people who were killed by terrorists in Northern Ireland, particularly on this day? The House should remember the 17 people killed at Ballykelly shortly after 11 o’clock on this day 36 years ago. Of those 17 people, 11 were soldiers, with eight from the Cheshire Regiment. Six were civilians, and significantly and extremely sadly five of them were young women.

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I know my hon. Friend was the incident commander that night and lost many of his own men. He reminds the House of the dreadful events of the Ballykelly bomb in 1982. As with all acts of terrorism, this was an act of unspeakable evil for which there can be no possible justification. We all owe a vast debt of gratitude to the heroism and bravery of the soldiers and police officers who upheld the rule of law. Our thoughts today remain with the families of those who lost loved ones in this appalling attack.

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Conservative-run Cambridgeshire County Council has sent a miserable Christmas present to their staff this year by demanding they take three days unpaid leave at Christmas—effectively a 1.2% pay cut. May we have a statement from a Minister to explain the mess they have made of local council finances?

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I am sorry to hear about the situation for the staff in the hon. Gentleman’s local area. I wish them all a very happy Christmas in spite of it. He will be aware that the local government finance statement will come forward soon. I suggest he raises it with Ministers then.

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The hospice movement does a fantastic amount of very good work, none more so than Derian House in the constituency of my parliamentary neighbour, the right hon. Member for Chorley (Sir Lindsay Hoyle). May we have a debate on the difference in state support between the general hospice movement and children’s hospices, such as Derian House? Normal hospices receive about 30% of their income from Government support, while children’s hospices receive about a third of that. May we have a debate on closing that gap?

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising such an important matter. Hospices across the country provide vital respite, as well as end-of-life care. To compensate for the lower levels of funding that children’s hospices receive, NHS England provided £11 million in 2018-19 through the children’s hospice grant, which is awarded annually. I can tell him, however, that end-of-life care is an important part of the proposals that are helping to shape the long-term plan for the NHS. The children’s hospice grant is being considered as a part of that.

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In my constituency, Wandsworth Council is planning to close York Gardens children’s centre and to cut universal stay-and-play for nought to three-year-olds at the Yvonne Carr children’s centre. Parents have got in touch with me to share their concern, worry and dismay at the move by the council. Like parents across the country, they recognise the importance of children’s centres and they rely on them. May we have a debate in Government time to discuss Government funding and funding for children’s centres?

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I share the hon. Lady’s enthusiasm for children’s centres and the work they do right across the country. They really do provide valuable support for new families and families with young children. She will be aware that councils are receiving over £200 billion to deliver local services, including children’s services, up to 2020. The Government are setting out to provide local councils with the financial support to be able to provide for the needs of their own local communities.

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In 2012, a decision was taken by the Government to dissolve the University of Aberdeen’s Royal Naval Unit and merge it with Edinburgh. I campaigned against that decision as a student and I am campaigning to overturn it now as an MP. URNUs are brilliantly positive organisations, affording students a great opportunity to experience life with the Royal Navy and doing much for the visibility of the Royal Navy in the wider world. Will my right hon. Friend grant a debate in Government time to debate the importance of University Royal Naval Units not just to the universities and communities that they serve, but to our senior service?

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University Royal Naval Units offer dedicated training facilities in or around universities, and they certainly spread much needed awareness of the role of the Navy to students. They open up huge opportunities for students right around the country so I fully understand my hon. Friend’s disappointment about the 2012 closure of his closest URNU in Aberdeen. I understand that the relocation to Edinburgh captures a greater number of students and offers easier access to waters, but I suggest that he perhaps seeks an Adjournment debate so that he can discuss further his concerns.

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May I ask the Leader of the House for a debate on the UK shared prosperity fund? Many communities, including my own of Ynys Môn, have been beneficiaries of the European social fund. The clock is now ticking and many of those communities need to do planning for post-2020, so that the poorest communities in our country can get the help and support that is needed.

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The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the UK shared prosperity fund will replace the previous EU funding. In fact, the priority for debate today is the economic proposals under the meaningful vote debate, so he might well wish to raise that later today.

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May we have a debate on the benefit of the Men’s Sheds movement in tackling social isolation and loneliness? Last week, the Barrhead Men’s Shed celebrated its fifth birthday, and I was absolutely delighted to congratulate it on its work, so will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Alex Storrie, Alex Locke, Bill Core, Fiona Currie and all the shedders at Barrhead’s Men’s Shed for everything that they do for our community?

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That is a shedload of congratulations to all those in his constituency who are doing such good work to support men’s mental health and other mental health issues. I am delighted to share in his congratulations to them.

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I do not know whether I should admit this as a Whip, but when I went into the Lobby on Tuesday, I was slightly concerned about the number of Conservative Members and I thought that I had walked into the wrong one. Of course, this coming Tuesday, there is the likelihood of people walking into all kinds of Lobbies that they are not normally accustomed to, so can we not finally reform this totally arcane procedure, which is leading to crushes and delays, and get on with it, modernise the system and introduce electronic voting?

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I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have loved to be in the same Lobby as some of my hon. Friends and to be able to share and enjoy the moment. He does raise an important point. I know that this House has considered alternative methods of carrying out our business. If he wanted to discuss it with the Procedure Committee and if the Committee wanted to have an inquiry, I would be delighted to look at it, but as he and all other hon. Members will notice, every time I put forward a motion, somebody objects to it—it just seems to be par for the course these days.

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My constituent, who wishes to remain anonymous, is being treated for severe depression and has contemplated suicide as a result of the retrospective tax changes that the Government introduced in the Budget last year. He runs a small business and is a family man. He is just about to lose his house and his business because he is being pursued by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Could we have a statement in this House from the Chancellor about the impact of retrospective tax changes on people’s livelihoods and homes?

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I am very sorry to hear about the hon. Gentleman’s constituent. It is always incredibly difficult when somebody comes up against an issue that was unexpected for them, and I hope that his constituent will find a way through this difficult time. I just say to the hon. Gentleman that we have the Chancellor of the Exchequer here shortly to open the debate on today’s economic assessment of the withdrawal agreement and political declaration, and indeed, we have Treasury questions next week, so there are plenty of opportunities for the hon. Gentleman to raise this matter.

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Does the Leader of the House share my interpretation of the passing of the amendment from the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) on Tuesday, which is that if this House does not vote in favour of an amendment that allows this country to leave the European Union without a deal, the Government cannot leave without a deal? Is that correct?

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The practical impact of the Grieve amendment is that if we are not successful in winning the meaningful vote, the Government will return to Parliament to set out their next steps. The amendment means that at that point the Commons will be able to express its view by tabling amendments to the Government’s preferred way forward. I should add that the Prime Minister remains fully focused on the importance of winning the vote on Tuesday, and is determined to do so.

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At 8 am on Monday, the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union will issue its final judgment on the question of whether article 50 can be revoked—and revoked unilaterally—in response to the case brought by me and by a number of other Scottish parliamentarians. Yesterday the Prime Minister acknowledged that it was highly likely that the Grand Chamber would follow the Advocate General’s opinion.

Given the considerable amount of public money that has been expended by the Government in fighting me and my fellow petitioners through the Scottish courts, the UK Supreme Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union, does the Leader of the House agree that the UK Government owe it to the people of this country—the taxpayers—and the House of Commons to come to the House on Monday and make a statement about the outcome of the case and how they intend to proceed, and justify the expenditure of public money to prevent the House and the people of the United Kingdom from knowing the answer to that question?

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As the hon. and learned Lady will appreciate, a democratic vote in the 2016 referendum determined that the United Kingdom would leave the European Union, so the issue of whether the United Kingdom could choose not to leave the European Union is not one that the Government are minded to pursue. Nevertheless, the hon. and learned Lady will have ample opportunity over the next few days of debate to raise specific questions with Ministers about what the Government’s response should be to the findings of that judicial review.

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According to written parliamentary answers that I have received to my questions 193440 and 196869, only 308 out of 144,000 universal credit claimants have been offered home consultations. May we have an urgent debate about the systematic refusal of the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments to provide home consultations for sick and disabled universal credit claimants?

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The hon. Gentleman has raised an important point, and I am sure that he will wish to raise it with Ministers directly during questions to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions at the next opportunity. Let me add, however, that universal credit overall is designed to help people, to get them back into work, and, when necessary, to give them more support. Since last year’s Budget we have scrapped the waiting days and increased advance payments to 100%, and we are now paying two weeks’ housing benefit to people moving on to universal credit. We have also formed a partnership with Citizens Advice in order to deliver universal support that helps claimants through every step of making a claim.

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The Leader of the House will be well aware of the displacement of 100,000 Christians from Mosul as a result of Daesh’s campaign of terrorism. Rudaw reports that Daesh has destroyed thousands of Christian homes, as well as 120 churches and Christian shrines in Mosul alone. It is estimated that the renovation of those properties would cost a minimum of $12.5 million. While thousands of displaced Christians have returned to the Nineveh plains, only a few have returned to Mosul. Their houses remain destroyed, and the security situation is unpredictable. More must be done to help these people. Will the Leader of the House arrange a statement or a debate on this very concerning matter?

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The hon. Gentleman paints a horrendous picture of the plight of the Christians who have been so badly treated by Daesh and the terrorist attacks that have taken place. He is absolutely right to do so, and I encourage him to seek a further Westminster Hall debate. I know that he secured one recently and will have raised a number of these issues then, but it is very important that the House always remains aware of what is going on, and, of course, that we continue to support all those who are being so terribly abused.

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Recent figures released by IPPR North show that the north of England has seen the biggest spending cuts of any UK region; in fact, public spending in the north has fallen by £6.3 billion but has risen across the south. People in Bradford and across the north know that austerity is not ending for them; this is fact, not assertion, and to say otherwise does my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) a great disservice. So may we have a debate in Government time on these unfair disparities in public spending and what urgent steps the Government are taking to invest in the north?

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The hon. Lady will recall that it was this Government who introduced the northern powerhouse, devolved so many powers to local government, introduced mayoral authorities and invested over a quarter of a trillion pounds on infrastructure since 2010. Public investment has been 14% higher on average than under Labour, and we have embarked on the biggest rail programme since Victorian times and the largest road-building programme since the 1970s. The northern powerhouse and the north of England have significantly benefited from this Government’s commitment to developing an infrastructure that is fit for the 21st century.

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On 23 November the PSA Group announced another 241 redundancies at Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port; when they have been completed we will have lost over half the workforce in just a year, so as the Leader of the House can understand there is real anxiety about the future of the plant. May we have a statement about what the Government can do to protect this vital piece of manufacturing in my constituency?

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I am very sorry to hear about the further redundancies in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. He will be aware that the Jobcentre rapid response team will be available to seek to redeploy staff who have lost their jobs, but this is a very difficult time of year and they deserve our sympathy. The hon. Gentleman might well wish to raise this issue at Treasury questions next week.

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St Helens Council has lost 71% of its funding since 2010, so while it has not welcomed the local government funding settlement that has at least provided certainty from which to plan. Will we have the announcement before Christmas, and if so will the Government leave us a few quid under the council Christmas tree, as opposed to taking the presents back up the chimney?

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As I have already said to other colleagues, we have Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government questions on Monday, and I encourage the hon. Gentleman to raise that matter there.

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And in other news this week, the Select Committee on Transport found the Transport Secretary culpable for the timetabling chaos earlier this year, January’s rip-off rail fares have been nodded through, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) just said, IPPR North research shows that spending fell by £18 per person in Yorkshire and the Humber since the launch of the northern powerhouse in 2014 while increasing by £326 per person in London. Moreover, Crossrail 1 is demanding the third bail-out within a year and the chair of HS2 has resigned after just four months. Given this and the Transport Secretary’s trail of calamity from the DWP through Justice and into Transport, may we now have a debate on why he seems to be unsackable?

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I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I have just given about this Government’s commitment to the northern powerhouse and to ensuring we develop an infrastructure that is fit for the 21st century. Our investment in infrastructure has been unparalleled over many decades. With regard to the rail review, my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary has made it absolutely clear that he finds the disruption to passenger services over the past few months unacceptable. He has a very broad-ranging review under way to look at what can be done differently in future to ensure we get the better journeys and the better fare structure that our passengers deserve.

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The UK does not produce radio isotopes that are used in medicine for cancer diagnosis and treatment. At the moment Euratom guarantees the time-critical delivery of these materials, so may we have an urgent debate on the arrangements for the supply of these materials—radio isotopes in particular—in medicine post-Brexit?

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I understand from colleagues on the Front Bench that this question was raised just now in Department for Exiting the European Union questions and reassurances were given. The Government are preparing for all eventualities including ensuring that radio isotopes for medical purposes remain available in the event of all outcomes, including no deal.

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Next Thursday, we are having a debate on tackling youth violence with a public health approach, and I want to ensure that we can inform the debate better. Will the Government provide a written statement on what they have been doing about this, before the debate? Also, will the Leader of the House ask all the relevant departmental Ministers to attend the debate and at least listen to it even if they do not respond? I genuinely believe that this will help to ensure that we have a good debate on an issue that I and many other Members think is so important.

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As the hon. Lady knows, I completely agree with her that this is a vital issue and that we have to do everything we can. I genuinely believe that the Government are doing everything possible through publishing the serious violence strategy, establishing the serious violence task force and progressing the Offensive Weapons Bill, as well as through many interventions through community projects to try to get young people off a life of crime. And yes, I absolutely will take up with other Departments the hon. Lady’s request for Ministers to attend if they possibly can.

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The Government have brought forward the national funding formula for schools, which is something I strongly support, but will the Leader of the House organise an urgent debate on those recalcitrant authorities such as Gloucestershire that still refuse to pass the funds through to schools?

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I am glad that the hon. Gentleman recognises the value of the new national funding formula. He will be aware that we are investing more than £1.3 billion up to 2020 to attract new teachers into the profession, and that 1.9 million pupils are now in good or outstanding schools since 2010. That is something that we can all be proud of. He has raised a specific issue about his local authority, and I encourage him to raise that matter at Education questions next week.

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May we have a debate or a statement on encouraging young people to becoming involved in social enterprise and become young entrepreneurs, as celebrated in early-day motion 1892, which congratulates Erin McGinley, a pupil at St Oswald’s School and a Pollok resident, on being a finalist in the Scottish young entrepreneur of the year awards this year?

[That this House notes the entrepreneurial achievements of Erin McGinley, a talented and inspirational youngster based in Pollok; congratulates her on being shortlisted as a finalist in the Young Entrepreneur of the Year category at the Scottish Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2018 for her fantastic small business EMO-G; praises her success at the Young Enterprise Awards in April 2018; commends her on winning a Caritas Award earlier in the year; and wishes her a very successful future in all that she does.]

Does the Leader of the House agree that we should encourage and support all such talented and inspirational young people?

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Worth waiting for.

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Absolutely! That was very much worth waiting for, and I congratulate Erin on being a finalist. That is fantastic news and a great achievement. We all celebrate the achievements of young people, particularly when they want to get involved in raising funds for charities or in starting their own businesses. That is absolutely the right way to go, and I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Erin.

Members’ Interests

(Standing Order 149(1)(a))

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will be aware that the Committee on Standards has today published a report on nine payments, mainly unexpected foreign royalties, which I am very sorry to say were recorded late on the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I fully accept that the delay was a breach of the House’s rules and, though I am grateful to the Committee for recognising that there was no intention to mislead the House and that I have been completely transparent, I therefore offer the House a full and unreserved apology.

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I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said, and for the way in which he has said it. He has been very prompt, and that is appreciated. We will leave the matter there.

European Union (Withdrawal) Act

[3rd Allotted Day]

Debate resumed (Order, 4 December).

Question again proposed,

That this House approves for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’ and the framework for the future relationship laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom’.

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Just before I call the Chancellor of the Exchequer to resume the previously adjourned debate, I want to make two points for the benefit of the House. First, I said yesterday, and I think it is worthy of repetition today, that although this is in one respect a seamless debate running over a period of five sitting days, colleagues should know—and if they have forgotten, be reminded—that there are wind-up speakers each day from the Front Benches. The implication of that for colleagues should be unmistakeable. If right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, they should be sure to be present for the winding-up speeches, and they should have a pretty good—if not precise—idea of when those speeches will be delivered. I will keep a record, but this is an important convention, and it really is unacceptable for a Member to speak and then take the attitude that he or she has many commitments and a very full diary and must be elsewhere and cannot possibly be present for the winding-up speeches. That really is unacceptable in parliamentary terms, so I am sure that Members will want to comply with the convention.

Secondly, perhaps I can be forgiven for saying, as I happen to know, that the last time I looked no fewer than 75 right hon. and hon. Members had indicated to me that they wish to catch my eye today. From the Chair’s point of view, and in terms of the efficiency of chairing and of the proceedings, it would be much appreciated if colleagues did not beetle up to the Chair to inquire where they are on the list, how long it will be before they are called, etc. The usual channels are on the case. I politely say to colleagues that the Chair will, as always, do his level best to get everybody in, but the merits of patience can scarcely be overstated. With that, I invite the Chancellor of the Exchequer to resume the debate.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate today and to make the case to the House for backing the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, ensuring a smooth and orderly departure from the European Union, delivering on the referendum decision of the British people and, at the same time, securing a close economic and security partnership with our nearest neighbours and most important trading partners. I will also make the case for rejecting the calls from those who would prefer to plunge the country into the uncertainty and economic self-harm of no deal, and from those who would seek to undo the referendum decision and, in doing so, fuel a narrative of betrayal that would undermine the broad consent on which our democratic politics is based.

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The Chancellor said recently that backing the Prime Minister’s deal would be better for the country than remaining in the EU. However, during the referendum campaign in February 2016, he said that a yes vote would lead to “very significant uncertainty” and would have a “chilling effect” on the economy. What information can the Chancellor share with the House that has caused him to have such a fundamental change of opinion?

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I have always recognised that leaving the EU will have an economic cost, but the deal that the Prime Minister has negotiated minimises that cost. Our nation is divided on the issue, and I fundamentally believe that we have to bring the country back together in order to succeed in the future. This deal offers a sensible compromise that protects our economy but delivers on the decision of the British people in the referendum. My judgment is that, if we want to maximise the chances of our nation being successful in the future, this is the right way to go.

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Did my right hon. Friend subscribe to the statement in the 2017 Conservative general election manifesto that no deal would be better than a bad deal?

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Yes. As I have said in this House many times, at the beginning of the process, there were people inside the European Union who were contemplating a punishment deal for the United Kingdom—a deal designed to punish us for having the audacity to decide to leave the EU. Clearly, we could not have accepted such terms for our departure.

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I will give way one more time and then make a little progress.

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The Chancellor mentioned no deal, so I wonder whether he can explain what no deal means. My understanding is that the rest of the world trades under World Trade Organisation rules with independent free trade agreements, so there is actually no such thing as no deal, is there? If we do leave—I do not buy the term “crash out”—we will trade on WTO rules, so that does not mean “no deal”, does it?

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Yes, it is no deal. As I will say later in my speech, if we did leave the European Union without a deal, we would actually be the only advanced economy in the world trading with the European Union on pure WTO terms, with no facilitation agreements whatsoever. In my view, that would be a very bad outcome for the United Kingdom.

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I agree with the Chancellor that there will inevitably be an economic penalty from leaving the EU. Does he agree that having to comply with lots of rules set by the EU, over which we will no longer have any say—that will be the position under the withdrawal agreement—is part of the economic penalty that we will suffer?

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It depends very much on what those rules are. Rules on the goods acquis, the part of EU regulation that deals with goods, are very stable and have been for many years. We know that our manufacturers in this country will continue to follow EU rules on goods, whether we choose to adopt those rules or not, so I think that the economic price of having such rules would be very small. In other areas, such as financial services, where rules are changing rapidly and where there is a great dynamism in the system, there could be much greater dangers for us in being locked into following rules over which we have no influence. That is why the deal we are putting before the House proposes a very different way forward for goods than for services, and particularly financial services.

I have observed this process at close quarters for two and a half years, and I am absolutely clear about one thing: this deal is the best deal to exit the EU that is available or that is going to be available. The idea that there is an option of renegotiating at the eleventh hour is simply a delusion. We need to be honest with ourselves that the alternatives to this deal are no deal or no Brexit. Either would leave us a fractured society and a divided nation.

Only the compromise of this negotiated deal—delivering on the referendum result by leaving the EU, ending the free movement of people and reasserting our sovereign control over our laws, while at the same time maintaining the closest possible trade, security and cultural links with the European Union to protect our jobs, our living standards and our values—can allow our country to move on. Only that compromise can bring us back together after Brexit is delivered, and we should remember the lesson of history that divided nations are not successful nations.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree it is important that we have a deal that is not only good for the economy but that brings our country together? The deal on the table is one that offers that, and it is one with which we should move forward.

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I completely agree with my hon. Friend. That is the central theme of what I will say to the House today. Yes, leaving the European Union has a cost, but going back on the decision of the British people would also have an enormous cost for our country.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that uncertainty is bad for our economy and very bad for businesses?

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Yes, and we are already paying a price, and have paid a price, for the uncertainty on our future trading relationship with the European Union. The sooner we can restore certainty, the sooner we can get back on to a path of solid economic growth.

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The Chancellor is being generous with his time. Can he clarify whether the Government’s analysis confirms that the half-baked Brexit deal that they are pursuing will actually leave our country permanently poorer?

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No. In all scenarios, we expect that economic growth will continue and the economy will carry on growing. What we were looking at in the analysis we published last week is a ranking of five different scenarios based on their impact on the overall size of the economy over a 15-year horizon.

The theme of today’s debate, as Mr Speaker has reminded the House, is the economy, and the economy has always been at the heart of the UK’s relationship with Europe. It was definitely not the lure of political union but the prospect of jobs, wage growth, trade and prosperity that brought Britain into the European Economic Community, as it then was, in 1973—I was there, and I remember. For most of us who campaigned 43 years later to remain in the EU in 2016, it was certainly not the political institutions and the paraphernalia of the Union that provided the motivation to do so, but a hard-nosed appraisal of our economic interests.

The fact is that our economic and trading relationship with the EU has been built over 45 years, during which time our economies have shaped themselves around each other and become inextricably intertwined: supply chains criss-cross borders; workforces draw on talent from across the continent; and a firm in Birmingham can deal with a customer in Berlin as easily as one in Bradford—so much so that almost 65% of all UK trade is now with the EU or through EU trade agreements. These trading relationships and commercial partnerships were not built overnight, but in a no-deal exit many of them would be destroyed overnight, as the market access and free-flowing borders on which they are based were lost. Although new trade partnerships with countries outside the EU undoubtedly offer new and exciting opportunities for UK companies, the analysis the Government published last week is clear that the benefits flowing from new free trade agreements would not compensate for the loss of EU trade from a no-deal exit.

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On Tuesday, the House of Commons Library wrote to me to say:

“The backstop comes into force automatically, if the Withdrawal Agreement is signed, at the end of the transition period.”

This morning, the Prime Minister said:

“If we get to the point where it might be needed, we have a choice as to what we do, so we don’t even have to go into the backstop at that point.”

Can the Chancellor help to explain that because there seems to be a variance between those two statements?

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The backstop remains as the ultimate default, but the agreement we have negotiated with the EU very importantly gives us the choice, if we are not ready to move to our new future partnership on 1 January 2021, to seek an extension of the implementation period for one or two further years. That is a very important part of the architecture of what we have negotiated. I make no bones about this—I have said it before. In my view, it would be much better for the UK to seek an extension of the implementation period if we need a further period of time before we are ready for the new long-term arrangements, rather than go into the backstop.

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The Chancellor is making a very good case about what would happen if there were a no-deal Brexit. Indeed, in his opening remarks he described it as an act of “uncertainty and economic self-harm”. Given that the companies he has talked about, which depend so much on just-in-time deliveries in the motor industry and elsewhere, are most worried and concerned about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, and as there is clearly not a majority in this House for a no-deal Brexit, although we may disagree about other things, why do we not unite and rule out that option?

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The way to do that is to support the proposal that the Prime Minister has presented to the House, which represents a compromise, ensuring that we leave the EU and respect the referendum decision of the British people, but do so in a way designed to minimise any negative impact on our economy and maximise the opportunities for this country in the future.

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I totally concur with what my right hon. Friend said about divided nations, but may I urge him to be cautious about relying too heavily on economic forecasts? We all remember the Treasury, the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund predicting economic woe by Christmas 2016 if we voted to leave, with talk of 500,000 extra unemployed, a do-it-yourself economic disaster and so on. It got so bad that in the end the Bank of England had to publicly apologise for getting it so wrong. Can we just make sure we keep things in perspective with regard to these economic forecasts?

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because he gives me the opportunity to clarify for the House that these are not economic forecasts; they are modelled scenarios for what might happen in different circumstances. Like all economic modelling, they depend to an enormous extent on the assumptions that are made. The assumptions in this paper are transparent and the assumptions that the Bank of England made are also clear. My hon. Friend has made his point about the modelling that was done in 2016. I can only speak for the Treasury and tell him that a huge amount of work has been done since 2016 to update and upgrade the Treasury’s long-term model. That computable general equilibrium model is the one that has been used.

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The one thing that I would suggest to the Chancellor is that the problem with these forecasts is that they do not anticipate a response from the Government to a given set of scenarios. That is one reason why the forecasts in 2016 were so wrong.

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My hon. Friend is right. Of course, this work seeks to do something quite different: it looks at five different potential scenarios and ranks them in terms of the impact that they would have. I readily concede that it is more important to look at the ranking than the absolute numbers or ranges of numbers attached to them.

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I shall make a bit of progress, then give way again.

I was saying that the benefits flowing from new FTAs would not compensate us fully for the loss of EU trade from a no-deal exit. That is why we have fought so hard for a deal that delivers the closest possible trading relationship with the EU, while respecting the outcome of the referendum and giving ourselves the ability to form new trading arrangements with countries around the world. Today, the case for this deal is that, uniquely among the options open to us, it does deliver on our commitment to leave the EU and on our collective duty to protect the jobs and living standards of our constituents.

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While the Chancellor is explaining the deal, will he explain to the House which trade unions he has sat down and briefed on the deal, and what their response was? The feedback that I have had from ordinary trade union members in my constituency is that, although this deal is preferable to no deal, it is still a long way away from the certainty that they would have hoped to have had in the proper arrangement that they were expecting.

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The deal that is on the table provides the key elements that we will need to maintain our trading relationship with the European Union. It makes a commitment to maintaining our borders as openly and free-flowingly as possible. It eliminates tariffs, quotas, fees and charges. It will protect the vital supply-chain business that is at the heart of our trading relationship with the European Union.

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Does the Chancellor agree with the Governor of the Bank of England that stress tests have shown that under every scenario the financial system is robust? That should give the Government confidence to be equally robust with the EU in future negotiations.

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The Governor is of course absolutely right. The modelling that the Bank has done has been tested against the financial policy committee’s stress tests to ensure that, even in the worst-case scenario, our financial system would be resilient. The work that we have done since 2010—including increasing banks’ capital ratios and introducing risk-reduction strategies around banks and financial institutions—has ensured that the system will be resilient, even against the most extreme circumstance that the Bank of England has modelled.

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With regard to the deal versus no-deal scenario, does the Chancellor agree that the problem with the WTO option is that it is silent on swathes of modern British industry, so it does not cover our economy completely? Aviation is one of the most obvious sectors that is not covered by the WTO option. It is very dangerous for us to go into a situation in which those sectors are not adequately covered.

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My hon. Friend is right, but I think the most telling point about this issue is the one made regularly by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade. If WTO terms are so fantastic and so good for a trading relationship, why do we need to negotiate free trade deals with all these other countries around the world? We already trade with them on WTO terms, but we clearly believe that we can do much more if we negotiate something better than WTO.

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The Chancellor is being very candid. According to his recently published long-term economic analysis, the Government’s two scenarios would result in a hit to GDP, or a lowering of the growth rate, of between 3.4% and 6.4%, if there is a deal, and of between 6.3% and 9% if there is no deal. Will he confirm that this is indeed the choice the UK are putting before Parliament?

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The hon. Gentleman is misinterpreting the analysis. These are not rates of GDP growth; this is an estimate of the relative size of the economy at a 15-year horizon under different scenarios. In all scenarios, we expect that GDP growth will recover and continue.

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Will the Chancellor put on the record what he thinks the hits will be? He said in response to a Labour Member that there would be a lower growth rate. What are the percentage differences in the two scenarios—deal and no deal—versus staying in the EU?

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I am sorry but the hon. Gentleman is wrong. I did not talk about a lower growth rate. I am talking about a smaller overall size of the economy. It is our central view that, once the economy has moved to a new equilibrium, growth will resume in all these scenarios and that our economy will go on getting larger.

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What are the numbers?

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This is not an economic forecast. It is a modelling of five different scenarios. Our economic growth rate in 2033 will depend on a raft of other issues, not only on the outcome of this debate.

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Is it not the truth that there has not been time to consult with the organised trade unions because the Government have been consulting with the hard-line Brexiteers in the European Research Group instead of putting the national interest first?

My question is this: why did the Chancellor not support his Prime Minister in her pledge to end austerity in the Budget, which would have addressed many of the reasons for the divide in the nation he refers to?

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I am not quite sure what the hon. Gentleman is referring to. In the Budget, I set out a clear plan for Britain’s future. I set out an indicative envelope for the spending review next year, which will show public spending increasing in real terms throughout the next spending review period. In most people’s definition, that is turning a very important corner for this country.

The economic analysis published by the Government last week clearly shows that, of the spectrum of outcomes for the future UK-EU relationship, the modelled White Paper scenario would deliver significantly higher economic output than the no-deal scenario, the FTA scenario, and even the EEA scenario. The proposed future UK-EU relationship is estimated to result in economic output around 7 percentage points higher than in the modelled no-deal scenario in the long run, once the economy has reached its post-Brexit equilibrium.

This is a deal that secures the rights of more than 3 million EU citizens living in the UK and around 1 million UK nationals living in the EU; a deal that takes us out of the European Union and sets a framework for an economic partnership with our European friends and neighbours that is closer than any other they have today, while allowing us to strike free trade agreements around the world; a deal that ends freedom of movement and regains control of our borders, not so that we can shut down immigration, but so that we can manage it in our own best interests, ensuring that our businesses and health service still have access to the skills they need—skills that we will need as we build on our fundamental economic strengths to give Britain the brighter future our citizens imagined when they voted in June 2016; a deal that delivers on the referendum result, while securing the achievements of the British people in rebuilding our economy over the past eight years; and, above all, a deal that can bring our country together again.

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The Chancellor just referred to British citizens living in EU countries. Can he confirm that, under this deal, EU citizens living in the UK will be in a better position than British citizens living in EU countries, because they will not have the ability they currently have to move freely between EU countries?

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British citizens living in an EU country will be able to continue living in that country. They will not necessarily have the automatic right to relocate to another EU country.

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rose

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At the same time, EU citizens living in the UK will have the right to continue living here.

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