Women and Equalities
The Minister for Women and Equalities was asked—
The welfare system treats individuals of all genders equally. It provides support and incentives to claimants to enter employment and progress in work. The Department for Work and Pensions and indeed the whole Government are committed to ensuring that all claimants have access to the right tailored support when they need it.
This question is about to completely contradict what has just been said. Under universal credit, lone parents under the age of 25 receive a lower payment than under the legacy system. This is totally arbitrary and discriminates heavily against women, who make up 90% of lone parents. Will the Minister urge the DWP to rethink the policy?
As the hon. Gentleman will know, over the last two Budgets we have put in an extra £6 billion to support the most vulnerable in universal credit. Sadly, he and his colleagues did not vote to support those changes.
Does my hon. Friend agree that ensuring that universal credit is fair and flexible for women is a vital part of supporting women’s economic empowerment?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. In the universal credit system, we have one-to-one support provided by work coaches, and it is working. We have just seen the figures released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics showing that the rate of women in employment is at a record high.
The Minister is also wrong with respect to national insurance contributions being attributed, or rather not attributed, to women who have more than one period of maternity leave within two years. Will he go back to look at the correspondence I have sent to the Department about this very serious problem?
Of course I will look at the correspondence and make sure that the appropriate Minister meets the hon. Lady.
With regards to the DWP’s pensions policy, this Women and Equalities Minister—the fourth—has had the opportunity to reduce the gender pay gap and tackle discrimination against those with disabilities, women and LGBT and BME people before another Prime Minister and another reshuffle. What is she going to achieve in this term?
We in the DWP have introduced a range of measures across the whole Government to make sure that we are supporting those across all sectors of society into work. As I said, the hon. Lady just needs to look at the jobs figures: we have joint record high employment, record high women’s employment and record high ethnic minorities in employment.
Hate Crime Action Plan
The current action plan runs from 2016 to 2020 and it was refreshed last year to ensure that it remained fit for purpose. The Government are delivering on these commitments, but we will of course continue to review what needs to be done to tackle hate crime, including what will follow the current action plan.
I thank the Minister for that reply. She will know that, disturbingly, the latest police figures record a 17% increase in hate crime. Does she accept that this is at least in part encouraged by the casual racism of some in public life, and does she agree that anyone who compares Muslim women with “letter boxes” and describes African children as “piccaninnies” is not fit to be Prime Minister?
The hon. Gentleman is quite right to remind us all that our use of language is very, very important in public life. There are many examples across the House, it is fair to say, where, for example, people have liked Facebook pages which they then come to regret. I think there is a particular duty on all of us to ensure that the language we use is respectful, tolerant and reflects 21st-century Britain, which is a vibrant, multicultural, diverse country with much, much talent and potential among all our people.
Queer bashing is still a fact of life in modern Britain, depressingly, however we have changed the laws, and it is still a fact that young gay boys and girls are six times more likely to take their own lives than their straight counterparts. Does the Minister accept that every time somebody in public life—not necessarily an MP, but in the Church or wherever—spouts language that undermines the fundamental sense of respect that there should be for every different form of sexual identity in the UK, they increase the poison in the well and that leads to more queer bashing and more suicides?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to focus on this. Of course, recent events have shown just how despicably some people will behave when confronted with a relationship or situation with which they clearly do not feel comfortable. That is not what our country is about. Our country is a diverse, tolerant, welcoming country, and each and every one of us can play our part in making sure that that message is clear in the way we behave and speak and the words we use.
First, can I ask or perhaps suggest that all this whataboutery is parked, because it does not suit this House? Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) had access to my question, because I would also like to ask the Minister this. As we are speaking about the hate crime action plan, will she distance herself from people whose comments directly lead to an increase in hate crime, such as her colleague who described gay people as “bumboys”, black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, and Muslim women as “bank robbers” and “letter boxes”, which, according to the Government’s own funded reporting centre Tell MAMA, such led to an increase in attacks on Muslim women?
Again, I am genuinely sorry because I am afraid I am not familiar with some of the instances the hon. Lady has just set out. [Interruption.] Really. But the point of the action plan is that it focuses on the five themes of preventing hate crime by challenging prejudicial beliefs and attitudes, responding to hate crime within our communities, increasing the reporting of hate crime, improving support for victims of hate crime and building our understanding of hate crime. Again, each and every one of us in this House and beyond can play our part in tackling the hate and showing that we are a modern, diverse and welcoming country for everyone.
Census: National Minorities
I respect the passion of my hon. Friends from Cornwall in their campaign for Cornish national identity. However, the Government will be guided by the ONS’s recommendations to the Government and Parliament regarding particular questions in the next census. Everyone who wishes to identify their chosen national identity will be able to do so in the 2021 census.
I thank the Minister for his response, but the Cornish continue to be the only UK national minority unable to identify themselves in the census by way of a tick box. Does the Minister agree that this falls short of equality of recognition for the Cornish?
Ultimately, as I have just said, the Government will be guided by the ONS’s recommendations, and ultimately the final questions will be decided by this House.
Does the Minister agree that while it is important that all recognised national minorities should receive their place in the census, we do need to be very careful that we do not put forward nominations for what are not recognised national minorities and be accused of social engineering?
When filling in the census, particularly given the fact that we have moved mostly to online filling in, everyone will be able to use either one of the tick boxes or the search and type facility for common responses that people may wish to use. Everyone will be able to fill it in in the way they wish and to identify their own identity. As I say, the Government will be guided by the ONS’s recommendations about what should be the suggested ones in the form of tick boxes.
I note the Minister’s response about the online versions, but people filling in the paper version, particularly religious minorities, will not be prompted what to fill in—for example, the Jain community. Will he do everything he can to make sure that those from religious communities can fill in their religion?
I recognise the demands that have been made about a Jain religion tick box, but it is worth noting that the religion question is a voluntary one. Again, there is an opportunity to put in on the paper form what religious identity people have. Most people use that seriously, but as many of us will know, some people decided to declare they were Jedis.
The female employment rate of 72% is a record high. The industrial strategy is transforming our economy, ensuring that everyone can access, and progress at, work. We have a range of parental and other leave entitlements, and we are working with businesses to promote flexible working. We will invest £3.5 billion in early education this year, making childcare more accessible.
We have record numbers of women in work, but more than 50,000 women a year feel they have no choice but to leave their jobs simply because they are pregnant. Will the Minister look carefully at my ten-minute rule Bill, which is a way to try to provide proper protection for pregnant women, so more of them can stay on in work when they are pregnant and continue to work when they have young children?
I commend my right hon. Friend for her passion, and for her work as Chair of the Select Committee and her ten-minute rule Bill. As she will know, we recently conducted a consultation on maternity and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, which finished at the beginning of April. We are currently reviewing more than 600 responses, and we hope to publish the results as soon as possible.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for highlighting that issue. I am proud to be a Minister sitting on the Front Bench among many other females: that just shows that women can do it. One of our priorities has been getting women on boards, and we are on track to reach our target of 33%, but it is crucial that we feed into the pipeline and get women into those executive positions. Hopefully, some of us in the House will be good models for them.
The huge success of the Conservative approach to apprenticeships has enabled many women to secure well-paid jobs in manufacturing. Will my hon. Friend join me in commending the work of companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, which trains equal numbers of men and women as engineering apprentices, despite the challenges that they face?
I strongly commend the work of organisations such as JLR. In my constituency, BAE Systems has high-level apprenticeships for women engineers, which is great. We need more women in higher executive roles, and an apprenticeship system is one of the great vehicles that we can use to achieve that.
As was pointed out by the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), 54,000 women lose their jobs each year because of maternity discrimination. The Women and Equalities Committee has long recommended an increase in the employment tribunal time limit for maternity discrimination claims from three to six months to break down some of the barriers. Why have the Government not implemented that?
The hon. Lady will know that the consultation which finished in April dealt with that very issue. However, we also sought views on the position of parents who have been on adoption leave or shared parental leave and are returning to work. As I have said, we are looking through the 600 responses to the consultation, and are keen to publish the results as soon as possible. Let me emphasise, however, that the law is clear: discrimination against pregnant women coming back from maternity leave is unlawful.
Let me begin by saying that I hope the whole House will join me in wishing good luck to England and Scotland for their world cup matches this Friday.
We have set up a taskforce, which I co-chair with Plan International and Procter & Gamble. It will improve data and evidence on period poverty, and improve access to period products for all women and girls. Internationally, we have committed the United Kingdom to leading a new campaign of action to end period poverty and shame globally by 2030.
Will the Minister join me in celebrating the great work done by the Red Box project, which is helping me to distribute sanitary products to schools across my constituency?
I do congratulate Red Box, and also the many organisations throughout the country which Members will know well in their own constituencies. As well as bringing together the manufacturers, the taskforce brings together a network of all those organisations so that we can combat period poverty across the UK.
The Minister may or may not be aware that Derry City Council is one of the few councils in Northern Ireland that have taken steps to address period poverty among their staff. Has the Minister had an opportunity to discuss these matters with local councils, which have a responsibility to their staff?
The Departments of Health and Education have initiatives involving schools and colleges and people in hospitals, but there are many other settings in which we need to combat period poverty, and the workplace is just one of them. That is the purpose of the taskforce, and we shall be talking to all employers in the public and private sectors.
State Pension Age: Equalisation
The Government of the day decided more than 20 years ago that they were going to make the state pension age the same for men and women in a long overdue move towards gender equality, and this change was clearly communicated. We need to raise the age at which all of us can draw a state pension so that it remains sustainable now and for future generations.
We know from House of Commons Library data that the number of women aged 60 claiming out-of-work benefits has increased since 2013 by more than the total number of claimants of all other ages, so what further evidence do we need that this UK Government have totally failed this cohort of women?
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that additional money was put into the system—an extra £1.1 billion—which means that women in this cohort will benefit.
The fact is that 1950s-born women suffered discrimination and lower pay leading to smaller or no private pensions to fall back on, so it beggars belief that they then had to suffer the equalisation of the state pension age. Given the past injustices, the lack of notification of the Pensions Act 1995 and the way the Pensions Act 2011 Act has been rolled out, who in this Government is going to take responsibility for fair transitional arrangements?
As I said, additional money was put into the system, but ultimately this is a question of fairness between generations. We need to make sure that we keep the state pension sustainable, and of course we have to reflect improvements in life expectancy.
It will not be lost on those in the Chamber that the Minister has again repeated the myth that these changes were “clearly communicated”. The Work and Pensions Committee said in 2016 that the Department did not live up to expectations and that communication “was very limited”, so can the Minister look us in the eye and genuinely say he thinks he did communicate this to women and did not lead them up the garden path?
At the risk of repeating myself, this is a question of making it clear that we have provided extra support, but this is a question of fairness and I know the hon. Gentleman will want to make sure that intergenerational fairness is reflected in these changes.
Women entering Custody
Last summer our female offender strategy set out priorities for supporting women at risk of entering the criminal justice system. As part of that strategy we will be publishing a national concordat shortly, setting out how public services should co-operate to protect these vulnerable women.
The number of prison officers leaving within a year of starting their role has risen dramatically since 2010, so what are the Government doing to ensure that prisons have experienced staff to assist female prisoners, who often have complex needs, and what steps are the Government taking to support women’s centres, which play a huge role in preventing vulnerable women from entering the criminal justice system?
That is two questions for the price of one, which I will seek to answer. As the hon. Gentleman will know, we are recruiting significant numbers of prison officers—over 2,000 more—but also significantly increasing our spending on women’s centres to make sure that every police and crime commissioner area has a centre.
As a welcome reform of probation services is ongoing, now is the time to look at how we can improve delivery of these services. Will the Minister commit to looking at making specialist gendered support such as women’s centres, female drug rehabilitation clinics and women’s refuges mandatory as part of the probation services across the country?
The hon. Lady makes an important point. We know that women leaving prison have a range of quite distinct needs: they have higher reoffending rates than men, 39% go into unsettled accommodation, and a third are not on out-of-work benefits a month after leaving prison. There is a wide range of issues that we need to look at, and we will take the hon. Lady’s point seriously on board.
All employees with 26 weeks of continuous service have the right to request flexible working; that accounts for over 90% of employees. We will consult on creating a duty for employers to consider whether a job can be done flexibly and to make that clear when advertising. We have also established a flexible working taskforce with business groups and employee representatives to promote wider understanding and the implementation of flexible working practices.
Lots of women working in industries such as retail return from maternity leave to find that they are held back from progressing in their careers because their new caring responsibilities are interpreted as a lack of flexibility. What more can the Government do to challenge this short-sighted behaviour in a minority of employers?
I note my hon. Friend’s expertise in the retail sector before being elected to this House. The retail sector gender pay gap is 9.1%, compared with 17.9% overall, but the Government are not complacent and the sector continues to take steps to tackle gender inequality, including through the British Retail Consortium’s “Better Retail Better World”. This has involved more than 30 leading businesses committing to reducing inequality as part of the sector’s contribution to the sustainable development goals.
The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees or people seeking work based on race. The Government are committed to a society where everyone can enter work and progress on merit, regardless of their background. That is why the Prime Minister has launched a consultation on mandatory ethnicity pay reporting alongside the new race charter.
I thank the Minister for her answer, but 35% of black and ethnic minority workers in the west midlands have been encouraged to adopt a western work name by their boss at least once in their career. That is a truly shocking and unacceptable state of affairs in 21st century Britain, so what is the Minister prepared to do to stamp out such discrimination in the workplace for BME workers?
The hon. Lady is quite right. Let us be clear that discrimination of any kind in the workplace is not tolerated, and is unlawful in some cases. The Prime Minister has a strong commitment, which is why she introduced the mandatory ethnicity pay reporting consultation. I would also like to highlight to the hon. Lady that the business diversity and inclusion group, which I recently chaired, very much wants to ensure that no one in the workplace will be discriminated against because of their colour or gender.
This year’s Pride takes place at a time when LGBT issues are firmly in the public consciousness. It is a reminder, 50 years on from the Stonewall riots in New York, that Pride is just as important today as it was then. Still today, LGBT couples fear holding hands in public. Still today, LGBT people are the victims of prejudice and violence, and still today, some people think it is inappropriate to teach children that other children might have two mums or two dads. I ask all Members of this House to support Pride in the coming weeks and to continue to work towards equality for all.
Women overwhelmingly bear the brunt of domestic work, spending an average of 10 hours more per week on household work than men. The Office for National Statistics has estimated the value of this work at £1.24 trillion, which is more than the UK’s retail and manufacturing sectors combined. What work is the Department doing to quantify and value this household work?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We have been working on a women’s economic empowerment strategy, which looks at the responsibilities that women take on at every stage of their lives, and at the impact of that on their financial and physical wellbeing. We will publish the strategy very shortly.
I thank my hon. Friend for her unrelenting campaign to ensure that this issue is brought before the House. Forced marriage is a terrible form of abuse, and this Government and this Prime Minister have made protecting women and girls from violence and supporting victims of forced marriage a key priority. We have introduced a range of measures to tackle this crime, including creating a specific forced marriage offence and criminalising the breach of forced marriage protection orders.
Earlier, one of the Ministers said that they were unfamiliar with some of the comments made by the Conservative candidates for the leadership, so I would like to do my public duty. The right hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab) has refused to lift non-disclosure agreements that he has entered into with some women, and he wants to abolish the Government Equalities Office. The right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) referred to black people as “piccaninnies” and Muslim women who wear the niqab as “letter boxes” or bank robbers. The right hon. Member for Tatton (Ms McVey) says that there is a problem with kids learning about LGBT+ issues. The right hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) said that having children would make her a better Prime Minister. The right hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid), said that he did not condemn all paedophiles. Finally, the Minister for Women and Equalities’ preferred candidate, the right hon. Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt), is going to halve the abortion limit to 12 weeks. In the light of all that, will the Minister confirm whether equalities will progress or regress under the new Prime Minister?
On the accusations that the hon. Lady makes against my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, may I gently point out that it was under his tenure that the scheme for Northern Ireland was introduced, funded from England’s NHS budget? I also gently say that the hon. Lady may like to concentrate on her own side’s performance on equalities. The Conservative party has had two female Prime Ministers, and we may have our third in a few weeks, so I encourage the Opposition to get their own act together before casting aspersions on ours.
The Government intend to require businesses to consider whether a job can be done flexibly, but will the Minister argue for flipping that question, so that jobs are flexible by default and that employers must make the case for any job not to be flexible?
Flexible working is just as important to men as it is to women when they seek to strike a balance between family life and a career. I thank my hon. Friend for welcoming our intention to consult on the duty on employers to advertise jobs as flexible, where possible. The Government are not considering making all jobs flexible, but I spoke at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s festival of work this morning, and making flexible working the norm was very much the topic of conversation.
There is still a lot more to do on levelling the gender pay gap, and I am delighted to announce today the next round of grants to support women who face significant barriers when returning to work. The Adviza Partnership, the Regular Forces Employment Association, which is the forces employment charity, Mpower People, Westminster City Council, the Shpresa Programme, Beam, and Liverpool City Council are some of the awardees, and they will create opportunities for the most disadvantaged women in our society to achieve their full potential.
Climate change is not gender neutral and will impact the poorest countries most, exacerbating inequalities. Will the Minister for Women and Equalities join me in congratulating the Prime Minister on ensuring that our country is the first in the world to legislate for net zero?
This is an incredibly important issue that plays into all the factors that determine whether women and girls around the world are able to reach their full potential. I am extremely proud that our Prime Minister—a female Prime Minister—has been the UN Secretary-General’s resilience champion on climate change and has taken this proposal forward.
I have committed myself to that cause in ways that previous Defence Secretaries have not by wearing a uniform myself. There has been considerable progress, and I refer the hon. Lady to some statistics that will be published tomorrow that are encouraging in that respect. We now have women on the boards of all three services, and I hope to make some further announcements shortly.
Will the Minister join me in welcoming the fact that the UK was recently announced as one of the best places in the world for female entrepreneurship under the Dell scorecard?
I join my hon. Friend in welcoming the fact that this country is a great place for women, indeed everyone, to do business. This is one of the challenges facing us in our new future outside the European Union and, with women like us in our country, we have a very bright future indeed.
The hon. Lady makes an extremely good point, and I will take it up with the relevant Department.
What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to support women facing multiple barriers on returning to work after taking time out for caring duties?
In addition to the returners programme that we have announced today, we have ring-fenced some of that money and an additional £100,000 of funding to particular areas for women who face immense barriers to getting into work or who may have never worked but wish to do so. That includes learning English for those who have not previously had the chance.
I am sure the whole House shares our concern at the recent events we have seen not just in London but in Southampton. As I have said before, we are clear that this is a modern, diverse society, which is precisely why we are introducing sex and relationships education to schools across the country to ensure that our children learn tolerance and understanding.
Domestic abuse and modern-day slavery are two issues that disproportionately affect women. Will my right hon. Friend join me in thanking the Prime Minister for everything she has done to improve the legislation in this area and to help those women affected by these issues to have better prospects and a better future?
It is my great privilege to agree with my right hon. Friend, whom I thank for all the work she has done recently to scrutinise the draft Domestic Abuse Bill. I thank the Prime Minister for her commitment to women’s issues and to addressing domestic abuse and modern slavery. Only yesterday, I was at an important event at which we discussed the impact of domestic abuse on male victims. People in the room said that they would like me to pass on to the Prime Minister their thanks for everything she has done to put women on the agenda of this country and this Government.
The Prime Minister was asked—
Employment: West Midlands
Before I answer my hon. Friend’s question let me say that Friday marks two years since the devastating Grenfell Tower fire. The survivors and bereaved, many of whom lost everything, have endured so much with such dignity. Our highest priority has been to ensure the survivors receive the support they need, and we must learn all we can to make sure no one ever has to go through their experience again.
This week is also Carers Week, which gives us all the opportunity to pay tribute to the enormous contribution that paid and unpaid carers make to our society.
Turning to my hon. Friend’s question, I met the Mayor during my visit to the Kings Norton headquarters of the adi Group, which was an excellent opportunity to see a successful west midlands company doing its part to give young people a career. Yesterday’s job figures show that employment has risen by over 300,000 in the west midlands since 2010, which is something to be celebrated.
I also celebrate my hon. Friend’s birthday today and that of the Mayor of the west midlands, who I believe had a birthday yesterday.
May I associate myself with my right hon. Friend’s earlier comments, if not the birthday greetings, for which I thank her? The west midlands was the first region in the country to launch its industrial strategy, and I think it is the best regional industrial strategy. As this strategy is a shared endeavour between the region and the Government, what further help can she and the Government give to realise its full potential?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the Government’s industrial strategy and to recognise the shared work that goes into those industrial strategies between government, the region and business. We will be investing £20 million towards this region becoming the UK’s first future mobility zone—that will be introducing new technologies to encourage more seamless and efficient journeys; investing up to £50 million to put the region at the forefront of 5G developments, as the new innovative home to the UK’s first multi-city 5G test bed; and £332 million from the Government’s transforming cities fund to extend the city region’s Metro system. This shared vision for inclusive growth shows how we can reach our potential and do so in a way that benefits all communities.
Today would have been the 90th birthday of Anne Frank had she survived, but she died in the Nazi Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. In her diary, she wrote many things, but one that really applies to all of us at all times is:
“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness.”
We should remember her life and all that she has inspired in so many others ever since the second world war.
Later this week, I will be joining those families and survivors commemorating the second anniversary of the Grenfell fire, in which dozens of people died. As Sunday’s fire in the flats in Barking reminds us, there is still much more to do to ensure that people are safe in their homes in all parts of this country.
As is traditional, I am sure the whole House will join me in welcoming the new Member for Peterborough, my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Lisa Forbes), who is sitting behind me today.
The country is in crisis over Brexit. Manufacturing is in crisis. The Prime Minister’s Government have brought us to this point and now the Conservative party is, once again, in the process of foisting a new Prime Minister on the country without the country having a say through a general election. This Prime Minister created the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in July 2016. Has the Prime Minister actually delivered an industrial strategy since then?
First, may I echo the comments of the right hon. Gentleman in recognising what would have been the 90th birthday of Anne Frank? Nobody can have read the testimony of Anne Frank in her diary without being deeply moved and deeply shocked by what she had to live through, and that is another reason why everybody across this House and across our society should do everything we can in the fight against antisemitism. May I also take this, my first, opportunity to welcome the new hon. Member for Peterborough to her seat in this Chamber?
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and our industrial strategy. It is obvious that he had written his question before he heard the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), which of course referred to not only our national industrial strategy, but our regional industrial strategies, which are making a real difference in creating the record levels of employment we see in this country.
The answer the Prime Minister gave has a sort of unreality about it all really. [Interruption.] Let me explain, as I am trying to help Conservative Members. If they could contain their excitement for a moment, I thought I would remind them that the labour force survey shows that compared with 2016, when BEIS was set up, there are now 147,000 fewer people working in manufacturing in Britain, that apprenticeship starts are down 25%, and that manufacturing output fell by 3.9% between March and April this year, which is the largest fall for nearly two decades.
In the last year, Jaguar Land Rover, Honda, Vauxhall, Ford and Nissan have all announced UK job losses. Does the Prime Minister think her Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been good for that industry?
This reveals an awful lot about the right hon. Gentleman’s and the Labour party’s approach to these issues. The point of the industrial strategy is to make sure that we have the economy with the jobs of the future, which is why it is good to see that, in that industrial strategy, we have key challenges such as artificial intelligence and data, which will underpin the work we are doing in clean growth, mobility, the health service, and so much more.
On Monday, I was pleased to attend London Tech Week, to speak at the event and do a roundtable with tech businesses in this country, to welcome the tech unicorns developed in London and the five tech unicorns developed in Manchester, and to welcome the over £1 billion of investment in the tech sector in this country announced at that time. We are looking to the jobs of the future. That is where the high-skilled, high-paid jobs are, and that is what this Government are delivering.
Last week, Ford announced it would end production at its Bridgend plant. UK car production has been virtually halved in the last 11 consecutive months. Ford has also said that a no-deal Brexit would put a further 6,000 UK jobs at risk, with thousands more at risk in the supply chain. Nissan, Toyota, BMW and JLR have all made similar statements. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to reiterate her Government’s assessment that a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for Britain? I think some of her colleagues sitting behind her and alongside her need reminding of that.
Obviously, the announcement by Ford is very worrying. It is an uncertain time for workers and their families in Bridgend. Ford has committed to supporting employees throughout the consultation process and beyond, including with redeployment opportunities to other Ford sites in the UK. My right hon. Friends the Business Secretary and the Welsh Secretary have spoken to Ford, and we are working closely with them and the Welsh Government—the First Minister of Wales spoke to me as well. We are also working with local stakeholders and trade union representatives to ensure that those skilled and valued workers are supported throughout the process.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to talk about no deal and his concerns about a no-deal situation. It would come a little more sincerely from him if he had not gone through the Lobby regularly and consistently voting to increase the chances of no deal by voting against the deal.
The Prime Minister may not have noticed, but her deal was rejected three times by Parliament.
Another industry failed by the UK Government is UK steel. Why did the Government not agree a deal to support our steel industry?
I think the point the right hon. Gentleman makes is exactly the point I was making. Had he really believed that we should be leaving the European Union and doing so with a deal, he would have voted for the deal. We could have left the European Union and moved into that brighter future already.
We did work with British Steel. We worked with its owner, Greybull Capital, and lenders to explore all the potential options to secure a solution for British Steel. As the emissions trading scheme agreement the Government put in place shows, we were willing to act. We continue to work with the official receiver and with the British Steel support group, which includes management, trade unions, companies in the supply chain and local communities, to pursue every possibility and every possible step to secure the future of the valuable operations at sites in Scunthorpe, Skinningrove and Teesside. I am to meet a group of Members of Parliament from the region whose constituencies are affected later today.
Since the Government did nothing to protect the steel industry in Redcar, I hope that they will do a bit better in Scunthorpe, where 5,000 jobs are at risk. The Select Committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy raises questions about whether the Government actually entered into the negotiations in good faith.
Another sector that has been failed by the Government is the renewables industry. Solar installations are down by 94%, onshore wind is coming to a grinding halt, and they have failed to back the very important, very exciting and innovative Swansea bay tidal lagoon. They are failing on cars, on steel, and on renewables. I know that the Tory leadership candidates have been falling over themselves to confess to their past indulgences, but can the Prime Minister name an industry that is legal that her Government Ministers have actually backed?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about solar power, but let us look at the facts: 99% of solar power deployed in the UK has been deployed under a Conservative Government, and last year, renewables generated a record amount of electricity. That is indeed a record that this Government can be proud of. While he is talking about renewables, I am very surprised that he has not taken the opportunity to stand up and thank this Government for our announcement today that we will legislate for net zero on emissions by 2050.
The legacy of the Prime Minister’s Government is one of failure. They claimed that they would tackle burning injustices; they failed. They told pensioners that their benefits were safe; now, they are taking away free TV licences for the over-75s. They promised action on Grenfell; two years on, there is still flammable cladding on thousands of homes across this country. They promised a northern powerhouse; they failed to deliver it, and every northern newspaper is campaigning for this Government to power up the north. They promised net zero by 2050, yet they have failed on renewables, and are missing—[Interruption.]
Order. The right hon. Gentleman will not be shouted down; it is not going to happen. Do not waste your breath. It is not productive, and it is terribly boring.
They promised net zero by 2050, yet they have failed on renewables and are missing their climate change targets. They promised an industrial strategy; output is falling. Which does the Prime Minister see as the biggest industrial failure of her Government: the car industry, the steel industry, or the renewables industry? Which is it?
The right hon. Gentleman can pose for his YouTube clip as much as he likes, but let us actually look at what this Government have delivered. What we have delivered is a racial disparity audit that deals with the inappropriate inequality of public services for people from different communities; record investment in transport infrastructure in the north; a record employment rate; the lowest unemployment for 45 years; wages growing faster than inflation; a record cash boost for the NHS; better mental health support; more homes being built; stamp duty cut; higher standards in our schools; and we are leading the world on climate change. That is the record of Conservatives in government, which we are proud of, and we will never let him destroy it.
I thank my hon. Friend for her words. I am very proud that we are committing to ending that, to ensure that we make our contribution to dealing with climate change, by today laying the legislation for a net zero emissions target by 2050. This puts us on the path to become the first major economy to set a net zero emissions target in law. Once again, this is the United Kingdom leading on the issue of tackling climate change, and delivering on the Conservative promise to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation. This is about long-term climate targets and we are proud of our world-leading record, but I absolutely agree that it is vital to continue this work to ensure that we protect our planet for generations to come.
It is right that today we mark what would have been the 90th birthday of Anne Frank, a young woman who got a diary for her 13th birthday. We should never forget the trials and tribulations of those who paid the utmost price in that genocide and in the genocides that have followed since.
An attack on women’s rights, tax breaks for the rich paid for by raising national insurance in Scotland, closing down Parliament to ensure that a catastrophic no-deal Brexit can be imposed—does the Prime Minister think that any of those policies are respectable, never mind acceptable?
The time will come when the right hon. Gentleman will be able to ask my successor questions at this Dispatch Box. He raises the issue of people paying in Scotland, but I remind him that only one party in Scotland has a policy to ensure that people in Scotland pay more tax, and that is the Scottish nationalists.
You would have thought, Mr Speaker, after the time that the Prime Minister has spent at the Dispatch Box, she would have realised that she is supposed at least to try to answer the question.
The state of politics in this place is humiliating. The Tory leadership race is a total horror show. The EU was clear: use the time wisely. Yet the Tories are obsessing with themselves at the expense of people across these islands; just when we thought that things could not get any worse, they are lurching even further to the extremes. The Prime Minister once described her party as the “nasty party” but, with leadership candidates such as the one announcing today, it is about to get a whole lot nastier. Does the Prime Minister agree that the fantasy fairy stories of the Tory party’s candidates are nothing more than an assault on our common sense? Tonight, will she vote to stop any no-deal madness?
The motion on the table tonight is about whether the Government should hand control of business in this House to the Labour party and the Scottish National party. That is something we will not do. The right hon. Gentleman talks about the need to use this time wisely when he could have been using the time wisely. Had he voted for the deal that we negotiated with the European Union, we would have left the European Union and would have been out with an orderly exit.
I thank my hon. Friend for his question and for the work that he has done over the years on this particular issue. I was pleased to be at the International Labour Organisation conference in Geneva last night to speak about our campaign against modern slavery, and to recognise that 90 countries have now signed up to the call for action against modern slavery which I launched in the United Nations. We see other countries following our legislative example—for example, the Dutch Senate recently, Australia, and President Buhari of Nigeria showing great leadership in sub-Saharan Africa on this issue. I am very pleased to see the impact that the Modern Slavery Act 2015 has had, such that a British citizen has been convicted in British courts for being part of a gang who trafficked Nigerian women to Germany, despite the fact that none of that crime touched the UK. She was a British citizen; she was prosecuted here, thanks to our Modern Slavery Act.
The hon. Gentleman knows that I will not stand at this Dispatch Box and speak about decisions that Her Majesty the Queen might make. What I would say is that we see a situation this afternoon, in a motion, where the Labour party and the SNP are trying to take control away from the Government of the business of this House. Governments are able to govern by having control of the business of this House, and that is what everybody should recall.
I first ask my hon. Friend to pass on my best wishes and thanks to May for her comments and to congratulate her on a long life, and on the interest that she has shown in politics and in what is happening in this country. On the second part of his question, I simply say to him that I have not changed my mind. I believe that we should be working to deliver on the result of the first referendum, where we gave the people the choice and they chose to leave the EU. I continue to believe that we should do that with a deal because I think that is in the best interests of this country.
We do indeed need to ensure that we can see a sustainable future for our social care system. That is why, at the earliest opportunity, the Government will bring forward a social care Green Paper, and it will be open to all across this House to be able to contribute to the consideration of that.
Does the Prime Minister share the growing sense of alarm both in Hong Kong and internationally at the potentially destructive effects of the new extradition law on civil liberties in Hong Kong? Does she further agree that we in the United Kingdom have a special obligation to Hong Kong and should never be fearful about speaking up for freedom and values on that island?
This is an important issue. We are concerned about the potential effects of these proposals—particularly, obviously, given the large number of British citizens in Hong Kong. It is vital that the extradition arrangements in Hong Kong are in line with the rights and freedoms that were set down in the Sino-British joint declaration. We have been unequivocal in our views. We have been very clear, from the outset, in engaging with the Hong Kong Government and with the members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and Executive Council—at all levels—about our view on this issue. As I say, it is vital that those extradition arrangements are in line with the rights and freedoms that were set down in the Sino-British joint declaration.
What I think is fair is what this Government are doing: under this Government we have seen the top 1% paying more in income tax than they ever did under a Labour Government. What is more, we have been delivering tax cuts, with over 3 million people taken out of paying income tax altogether and over 30 million people with a tax cut. That is what is fair: more money in people’s pockets. That is what we, as Conservatives, have done for people.
The Prime Minister will remember that, just two months ago, I raised the case of Nicola Morgan-Dingley. Nicola was 36, a marathon runner and a fit and healthy woman when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. Just two weeks ago, she came to see the Health Secretary to talk about what more could be done to help women suffering from breast cancer. Sadly, on Sunday, Nicola lost her battle. Charities such as Breast Cancer Now are demanding that women in families with a history of breast cancer should have access to testing earlier. Will the Prime Minister leave a real legacy by ensuring that those women have the opportunity to beat cancer by accessing testing earlier?
May I first extend my deepest condolences to Nicola’s family and friends? The news that my hon. Friend brings to the House is terrible. I am sorry that this has happened, particularly so shortly after Nicola was able to speak with the Health Secretary. I will look at this issue with him. One of the benefits of the 10-year plan that we are putting in place and the cash boost we are giving to the national health service is the ability to put more emphasis on early diagnosis, which is so important. We will certainly want to look at that element.
We are taking what will be seen by many as a radical, key step in dealing with this issue. We have been making good progress as a Government over the years. It is important that we give this commitment. We are about 2% of the problem across the world, so it is important that others follow our lead. That is what we will be working to see.
There can be little doubt that this Prime Minister knows what a feminist looks like and I would like to thank her for all she has done to progress equality. Does she agree that there is still a long way to go?
I thank my hon. Friend for her comments. I agree that there is still a long way to go. That is why we continue to take action. That is why my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities continues to look at what more Government can do to help women in the workplace with their responsibilities, to ensure that women are able to take their full place in our society and that as a country we are able to benefit from the enormous talents that lie in our female population.
The hon. Gentleman refers to my staying here. I will indeed be staying in the Chamber of the House of Commons, because I will continue as the Member of Parliament for my constituency. I am a woman of my word. I gave my party my word as to what I would do, and I stand by that. He says that he does not want us to be in this position. I am tempted to say that we would not be in this position if he had voted for the deal.
In the light of yesterday’s Charity Commission report and today’s report by the Oxfam independent commission, does the Prime Minister agree that there is a role for Government and other major donors in ensuring and enabling a strong, ethical structure for the whole aid sector, with good governance, so that as well as doing good, these important bodies do no harm?
My right hon. and learned Friend has raised a very important issue. The former International Development Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), took action immediately when concerns about the actions of non-governmental organisations first became public, and she and the UK have led the way. I know that the current International Development Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), is looking very closely at the report and at what further action we can take. The action that we as the UK have taken is not just about our interaction with NGOs; we have brought the international community together to look at that issue and we will continue to lead.
The hon. Gentleman has indeed raised this issue with me previously. My thoughts and those, I am sure, of the whole House are with Oliver and his mum, Emma. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Health and Social Care Secretary has in fact this morning written to the hon. Gentleman about the issue. Obviously, we have the process whereby NHS England looks at these issues. I understand that NHS England has made a revised and improved offer to Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Vertex should have heard the concerns and very real case studies that have been raised by Members in this House. I believe that Vertex should now accept the offer that NHS England has put on the table, so that this drug does become available to Oliver and others.
Until recently the probate registry has provided an excellent service, but that is no longer the case. There are extensive delays due to proposed rationalisation, the introduction of new technology and the prospect of increased probate fees. This poor service is causing difficulties to practitioners, and distress to families due to the loss of house sales. Will the Prime Minister do everything she can to ensure that the service improves rapidly, and can she confirm that the proposed probate fee increases will now be withdrawn?
I recognise the situation described by my hon. Friend and the delays it must be causing for many people dealing with these issues. I will ensure that the relevant Minister looks very carefully at the issue and responds to him.
We have been clear—I have said it and the Secretary of State has said it—that performance in the north is and has been unacceptable following the timetable changes on 18 May last year. Passengers in the north deserve better, which is why are working closely with a variety of organisations, including Network Rail, Northern, TransPennine Express and Transport for the North, to improve services and punctuality. We have also appointed an industry expert, Richard George, to look at the issue, review the performance and make recommendations to improve reliability. That should drive improvements, but we will not hesitate to take the action necessary.
When I meet constituents over 75 years old, I see a lifetime of contribution to our economy, society and Great Britain. Can the Prime Minister do anything at all to reverse the decision to take away their free TV licence?
I believe that the BBC got a good deal in 2015. Indeed:
“The Government’s decision here to put the cost of the over-75s on us has been more than matched by the deal coming back for the BBC.”
Those are not my words, but the words of the director general of the BBC after the deal in 2015. I think that taxpayers now expect the BBC to do the right thing.
Of course we are all concerned about homelessness and rough sleeping, and when we hear and see the stories that the hon. Lady cited. The latest figures on rough sleeping show that the number of people sleeping on our streets is down for the first time in eight years. That is because action has been taken. It is a step in the right direction, but of course we need to do much more. That is why we have set up the new strategy to end rough sleeping altogether, which is backed by an initial £100 million. We are determined to make sleeping on the streets a thing of the past.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, for the families who have worked hard all their lives to own their own home, like many people in Stoke-on-Trent South, we must resist Labour’s attempts to threaten their livelihoods with a pernicious land tax?
I absolutely agree. Sadly, that is an idea that the Labour party has brought forward in the past. We rejected it wholeheartedly then and we must continue to reject it. As my hon. Friend said, many people in his constituency and others have worked hard to achieve that dream of owning their own home, and we should support them.
Actually this Government have taken a lead on single-use plastics. We have been taking action on plastics and I am pleased to say that we are also encouraging other countries around the world. Our alliance with a number of countries in the Commonwealth on this issue is also seeing action being taken. We are particularly concerned for small island states in relation to marine plastic. We will continue the fight against single-use plastic, but this Government have a record to be proud of.
Our national health service is brilliant because of the people who work in it. The new people plan recognises that and the importance of investing in training staff and truly valuing them, from the top to the bottom of the NHS. Will my right hon. Friend do all she can to ensure that that is put into practice so that our constituents get the healthcare that they need and want?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to recognise the fact that our NHS depends on the excellent people working within it. I would like to thank all the staff across the NHS for all they do day in, day out. The people plan is a very important opportunity to take action now and in the long-term to meet challenges of supply, reform, culture and leadership and to make the NHS a better place to work. The interim plan sets out several practical steps that the NHS will now take to increase the supply of clinical staff, and the final people plan will be published after the spending review. This is a very important element of the 10-year plan for the NHS and I wholeheartedly support the efforts to improve the NHS as a place to work for its staff.
We take the issue of prisoners’ brain injury very seriously and, indeed, action is being taken by the Ministry of Justice to look very carefully into the issue. Obviously, I look forward to the debate that will take place—[Interruption.] Well, I have had many invitations across the Chamber in the past. I have never quite had this invitation from the hon. Gentleman and I have to say, I think I will approach the invitation to work with him with caution given some of the arguments that we have had in the past, but I welcome the fact that I will be able to—or expect to be able to—contribute to the debate on that Bill when it goes through this House. It is a very important piece of legislation, which I want to see genuinely transforming what we can do to deal with domestic violence.
I recognise that cancer survival rates are at their highest in this country, but it remains an inconvenient truth that we are failing to close the gap with international averages. The last Government estimate suggested that 10,000 lives are being needlessly lost because we are failing to close that gap. I know that my right hon. Friend recognises the importance of early diagnosis but, when she has the discussions with her Health Secretary, will she look at a key recommendation from the all-party group on cancer, and many others in the sector, to put the key one-year outcome indicator into the heart of our cancer strategy? The only way that we can improve our one-year figures is to diagnose earlier.
My hon. Friend has been campaigning long and hard on that issue and I congratulate him on the passion with which he has done so. As I said earlier, it is right that, in the 10-year plan for the NHS, early diagnosis is one of the elements and, particularly on certain aspects of cancer, they are looking very carefully at what can be done to ensure early diagnosis, so I am sure they will look at my hon. Friend’s proposal.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman will get an opportunity to ask me another question at PMQs over the coming weeks, but I take this opportunity to recognise the significant work that he has done with the Holocaust Educational Trust. As we recognise that this would have been the 90th birthday of Anne Frank, it is very important that we recognise the work that is done by that trust, and his contribution to it.
The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of the stronger towns fund and he is absolutely right. We have a notional allocation of £212 million for the west midlands. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government met him to discuss the design of the fund when he made a recent visit to Dudley. We intend to publish a policy prospectus on the stronger towns fund before the summer recess, but it is there exactly so that places such as Dudley can harness their unique strengths and grow and prosper.
Has my right hon. Friend found time today to look at the ombudsman’s report on mental health services in my region, with its worrying criticisms of leadership failures? And I have now been involved in 10 leadership parliamentary elections, so will she reflect on the fact that I will be supporting my colleague who respects the referendum result, makes Southend-on-Sea a city and continues to prioritise mental health services?
Ten leadership elections and never a candidate! My hon. Friend has missed his opportunity again. I am sure that all the candidates have heard the point that he made.
I have not had a chance to look at the ombudsman’s report. I am concerned—we have seen over the years a number of parts of the NHS where the mental health services have not been delivering what they should be delivering for individuals. It is important, as we have put mental health as a central part of what we want to see developing and improving in the health service, that we look at not only the money that is being put in, but how, at local level, trusts are operating and delivering services.
The hon. Gentleman might not have been a candidate so far, but he is scarcely at the midpoint of his parliamentary career, and we know not what awaits us, or him, in the future.
On the climate emergency, the Prime Minister will know that I want her to go further and faster, but I congratulate her on facing down the Chancellor by legislating for net zero by 2050. However, if she wants a positive climate legacy, we need deeds, not just words, so there are three things that she could do in the six weeks she has left. Will she cancel the expansion of Heathrow airport? Will she divert the money for more road building into public transport? And will she scrap fracking once and for all? That is the way that she would show us she is serious: will she do it?
I said a few weeks ago that I hoped the day would come when the hon. Lady would welcome action that the Government were taking on climate change and I thank her for her comments on what we have announced today. This decision was taken across Government and it is supported across Government. It is an important decision for the future. She says we need action, not just words. She will have noticed that we have not just said that we are going to have this net zero target—we are actually introducing legislation to put that in place. That is action, not just words.
Order. We come now to the statement from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Dr Greg Clark. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to await a quieter and more appropriately respectful audience, I am happy to play ball with a little bit of judicious delay—[Interruption.] And filibustering, as the Chancellor observes, helpfully and I think good-naturedly from a sedentary position.