The Secretary of State was asked—
Northern Ireland Centenary
I hope, Mr Speaker, you will allow me a slight indulgence at the beginning of proceedings to wish the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) a very happy birthday. Today is, I believe, the feast day of St Thomas, but none of us is in any doubt about the joy he brings to this House.
My Department is exploring the options to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland in 2021. The centenary represents an excellent opportunity to reflect on the past, to celebrate the present, and to build a united Northern Ireland for the future. It needs to be undertaken in a spirit of historical accuracy, mutual respect, inclusiveness and reconciliation.
I thank the Secretary of State for her response. Does she agree that people across Northern Ireland will want to enjoy, celebrate and commemorate the centenary at the events in the 18 months leading up to it but, more than that, they will want to do it in a spirit of generosity and inclusiveness, remarking upon our history, our culture and our heritage for the next 100 years of Northern Ireland within the UK?
I agree wholeheartedly with the hon. Gentleman. He is absolutely right in the way he describes how the 2021 anniversary should be marked. I reflect on the work by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson) on the world war one commemorations, which had an inclusive nature that fostered reconciliation and brought great joy to the people of Northern Ireland.
That is a matter for my colleagues in the Cabinet Office, who will have heard my hon. Friend’s question. He will know that we are changing the date of the early May bank holiday next year to mark VE-day. Perhaps they would want to consider using the subsequent bank holiday for a similar purpose.
The 100th anniversary of the establishment of Northern Ireland is an opportunity to look at the history of Northern Ireland in its times of darkness and of light, and particularly to build on the tremendous progress of recent years. Last week, commemorating the sad passing of Ivan Cooper, the Archdeacon of Derry quoted Lord Carson, who said in 1921:
“From the start be tolerant to all religions, and, while maintaining to the last your own traditions and your own citizenship, take care that similar rights are preserved for those who differ from us.”
Will the Secretary of State be liaising with her Irish counterpart and other interested parties to make the most of this opportunity, as she said, to learn from the mistakes of the past and promote the Northern Ireland of the future?
I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. We should all reflect on the words that she quoted. She will be pleased to know that, at the last meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office raised exactly those points with his Irish counterpart. It is important that we do mark this in a spirit of reconciliation, mutual understanding and looking to the future.
Devolved Government: Restoration
There has been significant engagement over the past nine weeks with the political parties in Northern Ireland, considering a range of important and difficult issues. Progress has been made, but there are a number of areas of disagreement between the political parties.
The Secretary of State’s mapping exercise on the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland revealed 96 areas directly underpinned by or linked to EU law. After Brexit, obviously, these will need to be replaced and shaped by the institutions of Stormont. Given that, does she believe that it would be irresponsible to pursue a no-deal Brexit while the devolved Administration is not in place?
My focus is on getting the devolved Administration back together and getting all the institutions that were agreed in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement working—in particular, the north-south institutions, which are incredibly important. Having those, and also having representation of the Northern Ireland Executive on the Joint Ministerial Committee, are both very important points in making sure that Northern Ireland’s voice is heard in the Brexit debate.
Both sides of the border are willing and praying for success in the talks in which my right hon. Friend is involved. The absence of devolution is now tangibly and negatively impacting upon the lives of too many people in Northern Ireland. Will she commit to ensure that the summer recess is not an excuse for pausing the talks and keep parties in the room—by force, if necessary—to ensure that, by the time we come back in September, we are on the cusp of seeing devolution return?
May I start by congratulating my hon. Friend on his appointment to the role of Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee? I have not had an opportunity to do so in the Chamber before now. I am sure he will make an excellent Chair, following his predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison), who is now a Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
I want to reassure my hon. Friend that I am doing everything in my power to ensure that the parties continue to talk. They are all still in the room. I will be returning to Northern Ireland straight after questions, to continue talks over the rest of the week. I want the talks to succeed and will do whatever I can to ensure that they do.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, he was the last direct rule Minister in Northern Ireland, and I very much hope that he continues to be. He will understand the constitutional implications of the independence of the civil service in Northern Ireland and the fact that it reports to the Executive Office, not to this House. I am determined to get the institutions restored because then the question that he asked will become irrelevant.
We have, of course, ensured that all parties are in the room. These have been talks with the five main parties in Northern Ireland—those that are eligible to form an Executive and the Alliance party—and they have all made a valuable contribution to the discussions. We have done so through working groups, chaired by five independent facilitators. Good progress has been made, but we have not had any institutions in place for two and a half years because of some very difficult issues, and those difficult issues remain.
I am trying to get the institutions restored. It is vital for the people of Northern Ireland that the politicians they elected make decisions on their behalf, so I am doing everything I can to ensure that those politicians are able to do what will be very difficult for all of them to find a compromise and an accommodation and go back into Stormont.
My role is to help the parties but, clearly, if they are able to reach an agreement, I am sure that they will want things from the UK Government, and I will consider those when we are at that stage. If my hon. Friend will forgive me, we are at a delicate stage in the negotiations and I would not want to compromise anybody’s position at this point.
One of the issues that has to be addressed in the talks is justice for victims. The Secretary of State will be aware that the late William Frazer, who was laid to rest this Monday, devoted his life to fighting for victims; I pay tribute to him and his work. Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the biggest issues must be addressing the definition of a victim, so that innocent victims are entitled to the pension they need?
The right hon. Gentleman refers to a number of issues, and he is right to do so. He refers to dealing with the legacy of the past. He will know that we have consulted on the institutions agreed at Stormont House and will publish a response to the consultation in due course. He also mentioned pensions for severely injured victims, which have been promised to them for far too long. I am determined to make progress on that matter.
Another issue that is causing real problems across the community in Northern Ireland, in the absence of devolved government, is the atrocious waiting lists in the health service, with cancer victims being made to wait a horrendously long time and targets being missed. Surely in the last days of the Prime Minister’s tenure, she will address that point and ensure that something is done to bring waiting lists under control. It is not good enough that the Government sit on their hands while this is happening.
I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman’s comment that the Government are sitting on their hands; the Government are absolutely determined to see these matters addressed and the best way to do that, as he knows, is through devolved government in Stormont. I pay tribute to him and his party for the willingness that has been shown and their determination to engage in the talks very constructively and to make progress. I very much welcome that, particularly from the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, Arlene Foster, whose attitude has been exemplary throughout.
Istanbul Convention and Northern Ireland Law on Domestic Abuse
I am sorry to report that, while the UK has signed the Istanbul convention, we are one of only a handful of signatories that have not yet ratified it. So, in the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice are working closely with the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland to establish how this can be progressed for Northern Ireland, perhaps in the upcoming Domestic Abuse Bill.
The Minister is absolutely right. If it was the will of Government to include Northern Ireland in the jurisdiction covered by the Domestic Abuse Bill, that would allow the Istanbul convention to be ratified, so I ask the Government to do that, as did the prelegislative scrutiny Committee on the Domestic Abuse Bill in one of its recommendations.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right that the prelegislative scrutiny process by the Joint Committee made that recommendation. That has opened the door and it is certainly one of the things that is therefore being considered. Obviously, we need to work through the detail, but that door is certainly now open and we are considering it carefully.
I cannot yet categorically confirm any of those measures to be in or out, but it is certainly one of the points that was addressed by the prelegislative scrutiny Committee. It was one of the things it recommended, so it is one of the things that is being considered very carefully.
Does the Minister of State acknowledge that the fact that every two minutes there is a phone call to abuse charities regarding domestic abuse means that it must top the agenda when the Assembly reconvenes? Further, will he pledge to raise the matter with local parties and be assured of the DUP’s support to make that happen?
I am delighted to hear that there is broad support for the measures that we have just been discussing. I am sure that, when the Stormont Assembly reconvenes, it will be one of the most important issues. There are others, of course, but I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman’s support.
Leaving the EU: Talks on Restoring Devolution
The Northern Ireland parties have made it clear that they want to use the limited window ahead of us to make a success of the current talks process. I agree with them that restoring devolved government cannot wait. I remain determined to do what is necessary to make this talks process a success.
The future PM held a private meeting with the leadership of the DUP yesterday. For over two years now, the Conservative party has been beholden to one political party in Northern Ireland. Does the Secretary of State seriously believe that there is no connection between this narrow and self-interested relationship between these two political parties and the continued absence of devolved institutions in Northern Ireland?
I reject that entirely. The institutions collapsed well before the confidence and supply arrangements between the Democratic Unionist party and my party and, as the Northern Ireland Office, we are rigorously impartial. I pay tribute to the Democratic Unionist party and the attitude that it has brought to the talks. I pay tribute to all other parties in that respect.
All of us in this House would want to see the restoration of a functioning devolved government in Northern Ireland. Clearly, one of the things that is most important about that is transparency. In the interests of transparency, will the Secretary of State’s party in the months ahead be offering another Brexit bung to that lot behind us?
The matter of transparency is very important. It has been a matter for one of our working groups, which has been working and making good progress on how we improve transparency within the institutions established under the Belfast agreement. I look forward to seeing the parties going back into government and seeing those transparency measures being enacted.
Would it not quite simply be a constitutional outrage for the UK to leave the EU in October with Northern Ireland having been without an accountable and elected devolved Parliament for the entirety of the article 50 process? Is that not all the more reason why we cannot and must not leave in October?
The people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and we will leave the European Union as one United Kingdom, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we need to see restored devolved government in Northern Ireland and that is what I am working to achieve.
Did the Prime Minister consult the Secretary of State before appointing Lord Dunlop to conduct a review of devolution? Brexit is already driving a coach and horses through the devolution settlement on these islands, and it will not be helped if the two arms of Government do not know what the other is doing, so will the Dunlop review extend to Northern Ireland and the effects of Brexit on devolution?
While we listen to all the rhetoric and the excuses about talks not proceeding—we have heard that Brexit is one of them—surely it is in our interest, I am sure the Secretary of State will agree, that we make an even better Northern Ireland, a perfect Brexit and a frictionless border for all the people of Northern Ireland.
As the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) is likely to have promised the Secretary of State’s position to about six or seven people, this may well be her last appearance at Northern Ireland questions. Having now spent considerable time in Northern Ireland knowing the damage that a no-deal Brexit would inflict, will she commit to voting against a no-deal Brexit if the House is given the opportunity to do so? Will she commit, as the Chancellor did yesterday, to doing everything she can to avoid no deal?
I assure the hon. Gentleman that this will not be my last appearance at Northern Ireland questions; I will absolutely be at Northern Ireland questions for many years to come. I believe that the right way for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union as one United Kingdom is with a deal, and that is what we are working to achieve.
With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, may I make the point to this House, which has known the murder of its own Members, that it must condemn threats to Arlene Foster? Democratic politicians are entitled to operate in security without such threats of violence.
The Secretary of State knows, because she has voted in a way to prevent it, that a hard Brexit would lead to a hard border across the island of Ireland, with the threats of terrorism that the former Chief Constable has invoked and with increased unemployment and all the difficulties that that would cause. The Secretary of State has taken a different view in the past. Will she make it clear that a no-deal Brexit would be massively damaging for the people of Northern Ireland and that she will continue to oppose that step?
I join the hon. Gentleman in condemning threats against any politician. Those of us who are democratically elected put ourselves into public service because we believe in public service. We are all entitled, no matter our political persuasion, to have protection and not to receive death threats. I join him in condemning those death threats.
With respect to Brexit, I have been clear throughout that I want to see the United Kingdom leave the European Union as one United Kingdom. I believe that the best way to do that is through a deal that enables us to leave in an orderly fashion, protecting jobs and the economy. I have also been clear that a no-deal Brexit would be longer lasting and more acute in Northern Ireland, but I am doing everything I can to ensure that we leave with a deal.
City Deals: Scope
The hon. Gentleman will know that, in line with our 2017 manifesto commitment, we have already announced two city deals in Northern Ireland, with £350 million for Belfast and a combined package of £105 million for Derry/Londonderry and Strabane. Early-stage discussions have also begun with other councils in the mid, south and west, as well as Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.
On a recent visit to the wonderful city of Derry, I spoke with those involved in shaping the education offer in the city. They told me that a central aspect of the city deal is the establishment of a riverfront university, medical centre and innovation hub. Will the Minister update the House on the timeline and progress of this much-needed facility?
The timeline for that is the same as the timeline for the rest of the city deal. Business cases have to be worked up and the business cases for all the projects have to work well. Incidentally, for any business cases that do not shape up, there are many other ideas that can also be brought through. They will then get approved and will proceed, particularly once the—
The Belfast city deal has huge potential to bring investment and economic growth to Belfast and the wider region. Will the Minister outline in a little more detail what discussions he has had with the head of the civil service and with the city councils about getting those projects to implementation stage? When does he anticipate that the first project will be rolled out?
The difficulty is that city deals are by definition local initiatives. We can lay foundations, but they need to be taken forward by local partners and local councils. Also, ultimately, as soon as we get the Stormont Executive re-established, they will have to have an essential role in this. Although we are making progress as fast as we decently can—so are local councils—we are ultimately also dependent on the progress of the talks.
May I say to the Secretary of State how grateful I am for her kind wishes? If she would care to join me in Strangers for a small sweet sherry later on, she would be most welcome. She will be aware that the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), who aspires to be the father of the nation—to be fair, he does have some expertise in the field of paternity—has announced his intention of creating a Monaco-style tax-free zone in Belfast, with, presumably, a border around that fair city. Does the right hon. Lady consider that proposal to be risible and ridiculous, or the product of an unfocused mind with no knowledge of Northern Ireland?
I join my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in wishing the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) best wishes for his 21-and-a-few-months birthday. I am afraid I cannot answer for my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson); that is a skillset I do not have.
Being Part of the UK: Benefits
May I address the invitation I have just received, Mr Speaker? Of course I enjoy a sweet sherry, but I am afraid I will be on my way to Belfast by that point.
I’m sure he will.
As this Government have made clear on numerous occasions, Northern Ireland benefits hugely from being part of the Union. Our steadfast belief is that Northern Ireland’s future is best served within a strong United Kingdom. This Government will never be neutral in expressing our support for the Union.
Northern Ireland is home to beautiful scenery and stunning beaches. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government should leave no opportunity unturned to promote tourism in Northern Ireland, especially great events such as the Open Championship, which will be held in Portrush next month for the first time in over 60 years?
I agree wholeheartedly. I had the honour of visiting Portrush and Royal Portrush last week, and saw the beaches at their best in the sunshine. Mr Speaker, you will be delighted to know that the Open starts after Wimbledon finishes, so I hope that you will be able to enjoy it.
My Staffordshire neighbour has announced that he will not be standing at the next election; I pay tribute to him for the work that he has done for the people of Stafford, and will, I know, continue to do until the next election. He is quite right to refer to foreign direct investment in Northern Ireland; it increases year on year. It increased by 25% last year, creating nearly 1,500 new jobs.
Surely one of the benefits of Northern Ireland being in the UK is that people who live in Northern Ireland enjoy the same rights as the rest of us. If the opportunity arises—say, through an amendment to legislation—to extend equal marriage to Northern Ireland, will the Secretary of State and her Government finally support it?
The hon. Gentleman knows that personally I would like to see equal marriage extended to Northern Ireland. It is a devolved matter, and it is right that politicians in Northern Ireland deal with it, but if there is a vote on that matter in this House, it will be a free vote for Members on the Conservative Benches, as has been made clear.
Would the Secretary of State, having attended Armed Forces Day events in Lisburn this year, agree with me about the importance of Northern Ireland’s contribution to the armed forces in the first and second world wars, and in subsequent conflicts? Will she lobby for us to hold the national Armed Forces Day events in Northern Ireland?
That sounds like a very good idea. I very much enjoyed my visit to Lisburn for Armed Forces Day. As the hon. Gentleman will know, because we had a discussion on the day, I then went with my family to visit the Somme Museum, and of course I was in Belfast on Monday for the commemoration of the Somme, as were many of his hon. and right hon. Friends. The contribution that the armed forces have made is very significant, and does need to be marked in Northern Ireland.
In assessing the benefit of Northern Ireland being in the United Kingdom, can the Secretary of State advise the House of the participative role it has played in the review ordered by the Prime Minister of the rights of those in Northern Ireland, based on their rights as European citizens who identify as Irish? If Northern Ireland has not participated, why not?
I welcome the Secretary of State’s claim that this Government are no longer neutral on Northern Ireland, which sets aside what was previously said about “no selfish, strategic … interest” in Northern Ireland. Will she put together promotional literature, and a promotional programme, that expresses the economic, social and cultural benefits of the Union that can be promoted not only in Northern Ireland but around the world?
The Prime Minister was asked—
While offering our commiserations to the England Lionesses following last night’s semi-final, may I say that they have inspired millions and made us all very proud?
I am sure the whole House would want to join me in congratulating Rose Hudson-Wilkin on her appointment as Bishop of Dover. I know she will take on that new role with the same dedication and care that she has shown to all of us during her time as Speaker’s Chaplain.
We offer our best wishes to all those taking part in this Saturday’s Pride. Yesterday, 10 Downing Street hosted a reception to look back with pride on everything that generations of campaigners have achieved, to celebrate the contribution that LGBT people of all backgrounds make to our national life, and to look forward to a future where the bigotry and discrimination that LGBT people still face is a thing of the past.
This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
I add my thanks, and those of everyone in Bermondsey and Old Southwark, to the England women’s football team, who have inspired the next generation of girls and boys to get involved in football.
In March, the Prime Minister told this House that we had to back her damaging Brexit plans so that she could focus on domestic issues like knife crime. On Sunday, an 18-year-old was stabbed and killed in Walworth in my constituency. Can the Prime Minister explain to that teenager’s family why she has overseen a Government of paralysis who have failed to tackle violent crime?
We are all concerned by the incidents of knife crime that we have seen. We are all concerned with the incidents that we saw over the weekend, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims. Too many lives of potential are being cut short, and those individuals and their families are being cruelly robbed of those futures.
We have not been failing to act on this; we have been acting on this. We have ensured that we are working across the board, because it takes all of society to work on this issue. It is not just an issue of policing. We have made more powers available to police—[Interruption.] Some Labour Members say it is just an issue of policing. No, we need to ensure that young people do not carry knives. We need to ensure that young people are taken away from a route into crime. That means dealing with drugs; it means dealing with gangs. We have provided more funding to police. We have provided extra powers to police. Sadly, the Labour party voted against that.
I thank my right hon. Friend for raising this issue. I have been shocked, as I am sure Members across the House have been, to see the scenes from Hong Kong on Monday and the use of violence at the Legislative Council. The vast majority of the hundreds of thousands who marched did so peacefully and lawfully. This week’s anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong is a reminder of the importance of the rights and freedoms enshrined in the joint declaration, and it is vital that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and the rights and freedoms set down in the Sino-British joint declaration are respected. I have raised my concerns directly with Chinese leaders, as have my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers, and we will continue to do so.
I am sure the whole House will want to express its condolences to the families of the rail workers who were hit and killed by a train this morning in Port Talbot. There will obviously have to be a full investigation into this, but our thoughts must be with the families and friends of those that were killed and injured.
I join the Prime Minister and others in congratulating Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin on becoming Bishop of Dover. She has been absolutely brilliant as Chaplain to the House, but she was also brilliant when she was a parish priest in Hackney. She shows such empathy for people, and we wish her well on her way. I am sure she will do really well.
I also congratulate the England women’s football team on their successful journey as far as the semi-finals and wish the men’s cricket team well in their current match against New Zealand, which I understand is 134-1 at the moment. Pride this weekend will be a source of great enjoyment. I think of all those who suffered in the past to try to defeat homophobia in our society and will be enjoying the joy of the streets of London this weekend.
The Chancellor says that a no-deal Brexit would cause a £90 billion hit to the public finances. The former Foreign Secretary says concerns about no deal are “confected hysteria”. Who does the Prime Minister think is right?
First, I echo the right hon. Gentleman’s remarks about the incident in Port Talbot. Secondly, the figure that was quoted was actually publicly available at the time. It appeared in the Government’s economic analysis in relation to these matters. If he is worried about no deal, let me say this: I have done everything I can to ensure we leave the EU with a deal. I can look workers in the eye and tell them I voted to leave with a deal that protected jobs. He cannot do that because he voted three times for no deal.
The Prime Minister should be aware that her deal was rejected three times by the House, and when something has been rejected three times, one might think about an alternative method of doing things. A confidential Cabinet note apparently says that the Government are not properly prepared for no deal, and NHS trusts have warned that it will pose a major risk to NHS services. Furthermore, Make UK, which represents UK manufacturers, recently said:
“There is a direct link between politicians talking up the prospect of no-deal and British firms losing customers overseas and British people losing jobs.”
Is Make UK guilty of confected hysteria or is it speaking up for its members and its very legitimate concerns right across the manufacturing sector?
The Prime Minister could not get her own party to support it. The Opposition parties did not support it either. As the danger of no deal looms ever larger, JLR, Ford, Nissan, Toyota and BMW have all said that no deal would threaten their continued presence in the UK. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has said:
“Leaving the EU without a deal would trigger the most seismic shift in trading conditions ever experienced”.
Furthermore, within the last week Vauxhall has said that its decision to produce the new Astra at Ellesmere Port will be conditional on the final terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. What can the Prime Minister say to workers at Ellesmere Port and elsewhere—[Interruption.]
The right hon. Gentleman asks what I would say to workers at Ellesmere Port. I would tell them that I and the vast majority of Conservative Members in this House voted to protect their jobs. The Labour party whipped three times against a deal. The Labour party whipped three times for no deal. The threat to those Ellesmere Port jobs is from the Labour party. [Interruption.]
The Labour party is about protecting jobs and living standards in this country, not crashing out without a deal. With tariffs up to 40% on some basic foodstuffs, will the Prime Minister set out exactly what impact no deal would have on food prices and on the farming industry in this country?
The right hon. Gentleman claims that the Labour party stands up for protecting jobs and living standards It has not only voted three times for no deal, thereby putting jobs under threat; it has also consistently, on a number of occasions, voted against the very tax cuts that help people to maintain their living standards. We will take no lectures from the Labour party on protecting people’s jobs and living standards.
As I recall, it was this party that put down a motion to take no deal off the table. The managing director of Birds Eye says that no deal would add 20% to the price of some foodstuffs “instantaneously”, and the National Farmers Union says that it would be very damaging to British farming. Both the candidates to succeed the Prime Minister have claimed that they will renegotiate the backstop. Can she confirm that section (12) of the European Council decision to extend article 50 ruled out reopening the withdrawal agreement, and therefore the backstop?
I do not think I need to tell the right hon. Gentleman what was in the Council conclusions. They are clear, and I have made them clear in the House. The right hon. Gentleman says that it was the Labour party that put down a motion to abandon no deal and take it off the table. The trouble is that when it came to the votes that mattered—when it came to the votes that would actually have an impact on stopping no deal—the Labour party whipped against them. That is absolutely typical of the right hon. Gentleman: all mouth and trousers.
We made very clear what the danger of no deal is, and we will do everything to prevent a no-deal exit, because we know the damage it will do to jobs and living standards in this country.
This Government have comprehensively failed on Brexit. Jobs are at risk, inward investment has fallen off a cliff, and manufacturing is at a six-year low. No deal threatens to crash the economy. The Government themselves say that no deal would cut growth by 10%, yet we have two leadership candidates who are threatening no deal, and, indeed, are competing with each other on the rhetoric of no deal. This Government is now an irrelevance. The two candidates to succeed the Prime Minister have only fantasy plans. As she and her successors have no answers, does she not accept that the best thing to do would be to go back to the people and let them decide which way we go?
I have made the point in answer to five of the right hon. Gentleman’s questions that if you want to ensure that this country leaves the European Union with a deal, you have to vote for a deal, which is what he and his colleagues have consistently refused to do. But there is another question for the Labour party. With all this talk about no deal, the question really is “Where does the Labour party stand on Brexit?” The shadow Brexit Secretary does not support Brexit. The shadow Foreign Secretary does not support Brexit. The shadow Chancellor does not support Brexit. The Labour deputy leader does not support Brexit. Labour wants to block Brexit, and that would be a betrayal of the many by the few.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising what I know is an important issue that is of concern in his constituency and elsewhere in Northamptonshire. Subject to parliamentary approval, of course, the new authorities will be a significant step towards ensuring that residents and businesses can in future have the sustainable, high-quality local services they deserve. Officials are working hard with the eight Northamptonshire councils on the detail of the secondary legislation, because that will need to include detail. Our aim is to lay the statutory instrument as soon as practical for parliamentary debate and for approval.
May I join the Prime Minister in welcoming the Pride event in London this week and of course right throughout the world, and acknowledge that it is the Scottish National party that has proportionately the largest LGBT group here in Parliament?
This Prime Minister’s days are numbered. Her review of devolution is nothing more than an act of sheer desperation. This is a Prime Minister running scared of the people of Scotland. Does the Prime Minister think the future of Scotland should be decided by the people who live and work there or by her party?
If the Prime Minister looks at the opinion polls she will see there is a majority for independence.
Scotland’s First Minister was explicitly clear when she said:
“It’s for the Scottish people—not a Tory PM—to consider and decide what future we want for our Parliament and country.”
Will the review of devolution include the views of her would-be successors that a Scot would never be Prime Minister and that Westminster should actively choke off Foreign Office support for a First Minister doing her job—doing her job, Prime Minister? This review is a farce. The real legacy of this Prime Minister is shutting down Scotland and ignoring the will of the Scottish Parliament. The Tories have never supported devolution, and it is clear that they never, never will.
My hon. Friend is right to raise concerns about Iran’s destabilising behaviour in the region. Our objective continues to be to work with our international partners to find diplomatic solutions and to de-escalate tensions.
My hon. Friend is also right to raise cyber-capability. We have a dedicated capability to act in cyber-space through our national offensive cyber programme, and last year we offered our offensive cyber-capabilities in support of NATO operations.
My hon. Friend talks about working with others: we were the first nation to do that, and we will continue to ensure that we have effective offensive cyber-capabilities that can be deployed at a time and place of our choosing across the full range of international threats.
The Committee on Climate Change was clear that 2050 is the right target date for net zero emissions. There is no ban on onshore wind. In 2015, local communities were given more say on onshore wind applications in their areas. Onshore wind has successfully exceeded its expected contribution to our 2020 renewable energy target, but at the same time we are backing offshore wind through a new sector deal, maintaining the UK as the largest market in Europe over the next decade.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for the work he has done on this important issue. He, like me—and I am sure everyone across the House—is absolutely clear that domestic abuse has no place in our country. That is why I have set out plans to end the postcode lottery of support for survivors of domestic abuse.
My right hon. and learned Friend refers to our draft domestic abuse Bill, which will introduce the first-ever statutory Government definition of domestic abuse, but this is not just about legislation. If we are going to transform our response, we need other action, so the draft Bill will be accompanied by a package of non-legislative action to tackle domestic abuse, and in November last year we awarded a further £22 million for various domestic abuse projects across the country. Wherever you are, wherever you live and whatever the abuse you face, everyone must have access to the services they need to be safe.
I do not know about the hon. Gentleman’s constituent, but I know that Lord Dubs came here on the Kindertransport organised by my late constituent, Sir Nicholas Winton. We as a country can be proud of everything we have done to help refugees and other vulnerable children who are affected by conflict, violence and instability. Since the start of 2010, we have provided asylum or an alternative form of protection to more than 34,600 children, and we have granted family reunion visas to an additional 26,000.
We are determined to continue these efforts. We have introduced a new form of leave exclusively for children brought to the UK from the Calais camps, so that they can continue to rebuild their lives with families in the UK. That Calais leave will grant those who qualify the right to study, to work, to access public funds and healthcare and to apply for settlement after 10 years. We have a proud record of helping refugees, and we will continue with that proud record.
May I thank my right hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity, as Leader of the House of Commons, to chair an inter-ministerial group looking at giving every baby the best start in life? Some excellent work was done by my ministerial colleagues, and a number of recommendations were made, including that the Government should establish a first 1,001 days vision for what best practice should look like. What progress has been made on addressing those recommendations?
I thank my right hon. Friend for the work that she did as Leader of the House and for her work on the inter-ministerial group looking at that issue. Beyond that, the issue of early years is a cause she has championed for some considerable time, both before and since she came into this House. I am proud that more than 850,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds have benefited from the free early education places that we introduced in 2013. Our social mobility action plan sets out a clear and ambitious plan for the early years, closing the word gap at age five, and we want to ensure that where a child gets to in life depends on their individual talents and not on the background. We will continue to work with my right hon. Friend and others who rightly put a high value on the importance of the early days in a child’s life.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have been putting more funding into our schools and ensuring that the distribution of that funding is fairer—fairer—across the country. As I just said in response to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), I want to ensure that every young person can get as far in life as their talents and hard work will take them,
As long ago as 1875, this country became the first in the world to require animals to be stunned prior to slaughter, yet the latest evidence from the Food Standards Agency is that 25% of all sheep slaughtered last year were unstunned following the use of a religious derogation. Religious slaughter is a contentious issue and a matter of personal conscience and religious conviction for many. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there should be a free vote on the Floor of the House on the issue?
I understand that my hon. Friend had a Westminster Hall debate yesterday on this issue, which raises a number of emotions and concerns across the House. We have upheld the right of religious slaughter, but this Government, as my hon. Friend will know full well, are taking steps to ensure that we monitor what happens in abattoirs through the introduction of CCTV.
VAT rules allow drugs and medications dispensed by registered pharmacists against a prescription issued by a qualified health professional to be zero rated for VAT. High-factor sunscreen can be on the NHS prescription list for certain conditions and is provided VAT-free in those circumstances.
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue, but we should ensure that people do not just think that skin safety is about sun protection products, because leading cancer charities are clear that people should be taking several steps for protection, including avoiding long periods of sun exposure. I take his point that some jobs involve people being outside for periods of time, but we should all be taking all precautions.
Under the Prime Minister’s leadership, we have a new funding formula for our schools. I warmly welcome it as a first step, but more still needs to be done. To make it fairer still, does the Prime Minister agree that areas that have been historically underfunded, such as Dorset and Poole, need to be protected, while also protecting all schools?
I recognise the concern around this issue. Our fair funding formula will ensure a much fairer distribution of school funding over a number of years. I recognise that some authorities have been at the lower end of funding in the past. Indeed, several schools in my own constituency come under Wokingham Borough Council, which is one of those very authorities. That is why we are taking steps to ensure that the impact is fair as we introduce this fair funding formula for schools across the country.
The right hon. Gentleman raises a very important issue, and I am sure the whole House will want to extend our sympathies to the families and friends of young people who suffer sudden cardiac death. He and the all-party parliamentary group on cardiac risk in the young have done very important work on this issue. I am assured by the Department of Health and Social Care that the independent UK National Screening Committee will carefully consider all the relevant evidence, and I know DHSC will study the committee’s findings when they are published in due course—it will look at the findings very carefully. This is an important issue, and we want to make sure we get it right.
My 27-year-old constituent Kirsty Garrity tragically took her own life in September last year. After her death, her father found among her possessions a book called “The Peaceful Pill Handbook,” which she had bought from Amazon. In a letter to me, Amazon said:
“We believe that legislators, rather than retailers, are best placed to make decisions on what should and should not be legally available for public purchase.”
Does that not sound rather like Facebook, which recently said that it needs to be regulated because it cannot decide for itself what to put, and what not to put, on its platforms? Does the Prime Minister agree that businesses have a duty to think very hard about what they offer for sale and what they put on their platforms, and that they have a duty to behave with a moral imperative?
I am sure we all want to send our deepest sympathies to Kirsty’s family and friends. We are determined to make sure that the UK is the safest place to be online, which involves tackling content that encourages suicide and self-harm. Working with the tech companies to get them to accept greater responsibility for the sort of material that is put out across their platforms has been a long-standing issue.
We have seen some tech companies take action to tackle the issue, and we want to ensure a more consistent response from companies to protect the safety and wellbeing of their users, especially those who are vulnerable. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price), who has responsibility for suicide prevention, is aware of this aspect of online content. She is deeply concerned, and she will be writing to Amazon about it.
First, may I send my very best wishes to the hon. Gentleman’s father for a happy birthday in a few weeks’ time?
The BBC received a good funding deal from the Government, and many people would ask why the BBC can raise the salary bill for its top performers and personalities while taking the action it has taken on TV licences. The BBC needs to think again.
The Government have ambitious targets for a low-carbon economy and country, and achieving that will undoubtedly require nuclear energy. Will the Prime Minister encourage the next Prime Minister properly to support and invest in the nuclear industry?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that, as a Government, we believe that nuclear should play a role in our energy mix, and I would wish to see that continue. That is why I am pleased we were able to take the decision we took on Hinkley Point C. I recognise that other nuclear projects have not been able to progress in the way hon. Members had hoped, but I want to see the Government continue to work with the nuclear industry to find a way to ensure that nuclear can, indeed, play a role in our future energy mix.
As I am sure my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister knows, Stoke-on-Trent is a unique city, being made up of six towns, and it is essential that all those towns proper. Does she agree that we need to see investment in our towns, particularly through our future high streets fund bid for Longton?
I am very pleased to see the renaissance in Stoke-on-Trent, particularly in its ceramics industry. My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of high streets, and that is why we have put money into the high streets fund. Bids for that money are currently being considered.
I am very happy to congratulate Royal Portrush golf club on hosting the Open and to welcome the fact that the Open has returned to Northern Ireland. We look forward to seeing golfers, particularly from across the United Kingdom, performing well in that particular Open golf. As for being able to join the hon. Gentleman in two weeks’ time, I suspect that I, and the two contenders for the Conservative party leadership, may be rather busy in two weeks’ time, but I will certainly be watching what is happening in the Open with great interest.
Does the Prime Minister agree that the news of the fire and tragic loss of life aboard the Russian nuclear submarine Losharik while it was working on the sea bed in the high north should encourage her Government to accept that, to maintain operational military advantage and defend the west and critical subsea cable infrastructure from interference, we must, in this the 50th year of our extraordinary continuous at-sea deterrent—Operation Relentless—invest properly in our Royal Navy and her submarine capabilities?
I am sure that the whole House will want to extend condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives. This was aboard a Russian nuclear submersible, but losing one’s life under the sea is something I am sure we can all express our condolences for.
This is an important point about our submarine capability and the Royal Navy. I would like to pay tribute to all our submariners, who work so hard to keep us safe. We are committed to our submarine build programmes. The Ministry of Defence has been given access to the £10 billion Dreadnought programme contingency, so that our submarines will continue to silently patrol the seas, giving us a nuclear deterrent every minute of every hour, as they have done for 50 years, and we thank them for it.
We are spending £250 million every year to keep fares down and maintain an extensive network, which benefits people up and down the country. I am pleased to say that since I became PM the overall number of bus routes is up by more than 2,000. Of course the hon. Gentleman asks me about subsidies for buses, but he might very well ask the Mayor about his responsibility in relation to this matter.
Many colleagues will visit the lobbying event on trophy hunting today, and this is in the same week as Japan has resumed commercial whaling. What more can we do to send the strongest message that this abhorrent practice should be stopped immediately?
First, we are very disappointed with Japan’s decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission and restart commercial whaling. I have raised my concerns personally with Prime Minister Abe—I did that earlier this year. My right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary has written to his Japanese counterpart on this matter. We will continue to work with the Japanese Government to engage with them and raise our concerns at every level, and we urge them to rethink their decision.
Agreements have been reached on the sharing arrangements. Of course, we all have concerns about pensions and the continuing ability of pension funds to provide for pensioners, but one of the biggest challenges to pension funds—one of the biggest hits on pension funds—came when the previous Labour Government took £100 billion out of them.
We can be proud of the Prime Minister’s driving the global agenda on climate change, but what discussions has she had with her counterparts about how they can follow Britain’s lead as the first major economy to commit to net zero carbon and help to reverse global warming?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. I encouraged not only leaders around the European Council table but other leaders when I spoke at the G20 summit at the end of last week to follow the UK’s lead. I am pleased to say that a number have already shown their willingness to do so. We will continue with the message that we can play our part, but it will be truly effective only if everybody around the world recognises the need to take action.
Reference has already been made to the Prime Minister’s moving speech on burning injustices in education. On a day when her former school, Wheatley Park School, near Oxford, is planning to move to part-time education because of what the headteacher calls “enormous” financial pressures, does she agree that before she leaves office she must secure additional funding outside the spending review?
We have already put extra money into schools. We recognise the pressures there have been on schools and are ensuring that they are funded. I read in the Maidenhead Advertiser that the right hon. Gentleman thinks I am about to step down from Parliament. I am not. He said that the Liberal Democrat party was looking forward to a by-election in the “Windsor and Maidenhead” constituency; that is not my seat. I believe he claimed that the Liberal Democrats were looking forward to taking the seat, but they could not even win it when they put 1,000 people on the streets of Maidenhead when it was a decapitation target. Wrong on prediction, wrong on facts—typical Liberal Democrats: wrong on everything.
Two of my constituents are relatives of Kirsty Boden, one of the victims of the London Bridge terrorist atrocity. Despite the fact that at least one of the terrorists’ families received legal aid for representation at the inquest, none of the victims’ families did. Does my right hon. Friend think that we need to look again at the entitlement to legal aid for inquests, so that those people who wish to ask questions about what happened to their loved ones are not left to fend for themselves?
My hon. Friend has raised an important issue, and he will have seen from the reaction across the House the concern that people have about it. As I have said previously, we send our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims. I can see why my hon. Friend has raised this as a matter of concern. I understand that the Ministry of Justice is making a number of changes to ensure that there is more support for bereaved families, and we are committed to simplifying the process for applying for exceptional case funding, but I will make sure that the Ministry of Justice meets my hon. Friend to discuss the issue further.
The whole country has been shocked by the brutal murder of the pregnant mum Kelly Mary Fauvrelle in my constituency at the weekend and the subsequent death of her baby Riley, which was announced this morning. The police now believe that it may have been a random attack by someone unknown to the family. If the Government have been acting on knife crime, it is not working, so what further action will the Prime Minister now take to stop the terrifying increase in the use of knives on our streets?
We were all shocked when we saw the terrible act that, sadly, led to the death of Kelly Mary Fauvrelle. Of course, as the hon. Gentleman said, the baby inside her sadly died this morning. The question of knife crime is one I did refer to earlier. We are taking action in a number of ways. We will continue to work, and work with the Mayor of London, on the action that can be taken across London on this issue, but this is something that requires a multifaceted approach; it is about the whole of society. Yes, we look at giving police the right powers—we have done that—but we also need to look at how we can ensure that young people particularly do not feel the need to carry knives and that we deal with the criminal gangs and the drugs that are often behind these terrible acts of violence that take place.
Yet again this year, we can expect to welcome between 35 million and 40 million overseas visitors to our shores. Overall, tourism employs about 3 million people in the UK, including thousands in my constituency. Does that not underline the importance of a tourism sector deal?
We have, of course, been working with the tourism sector to look at what support can be given and how we can work with it to enhance not just the offer that it is able to make but the way in which it is able to ensure that people can come here and enjoy the benefits of not just my hon. Friend’s constituency but all our constituencies across the country. Tourism is an important sector for us, and we will continue to work with the tourism industry to ensure that we can enhance that sector, and enhance the benefits to this country and our economy of that sector, but also enhance the benefits to the many tourists who come here and see what a wonderful place the United Kingdom is.
Following the Windrush scandal, in which black British citizens were deported, detained and stripped of their rights to access public services, the Prime Minister rightly announced an independent review led by Wendy Williams. She said that review would be published on 31 March 2019. It is now 3 July. Can the Prime Minister confirm that Wendy Williams will publish her review before she leaves office?
It was absolutely right that the Home Secretary commissioned that review from Wendy Williams. She will be putting that report together. I believe that the report has not yet been received by the Home Office, but, obviously, we will ensure that, when that report is received, that report is published.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming last week’s announcement from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of this Government’s investment of £4.8 million in the Acorn carbon capture and storage project at the St Fergus gas plant in my constituency? Does she agree that, along with the development of renewable sources of energy, natural gas will remain an important transition fuel on the way towards a net zero emissions target?
I am very happy to welcome the investment that my hon. Friend has referred to. It is important, as we look to that net zero target, that we look across the board at the various ways in which we can ensure that we are providing for that net zero target. As he has said, the importance of natural gas within that energy mix in the future will remain. We also look at ensuring that we are providing support for technologies such as carbon capture, because that will play an important part in the future, too.
Prime Minister, a constituent of mine—a single mum who has worked for the Department for Work and Pensions full time over 30 years—has been forced to take part-time work to support her child, a severe sufferer of Down’s syndrome, from childhood to adulthood. Because of the confusing rules in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs on working tax credits for such workers, she has been forced to extend her mortgage and go part time. Will the Prime Minister please help to resolve this issue? My constituent will not be the only person in the country in that situation.
I am sure that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has heard the particular case that the hon. Lady has raised in this House. We do want to ensure—we are working, and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities is working, on ensuring this—that women are able to take their place in the workforce. We do see women in the workforce at record levels. We want to ensure, and we are working on providing, greater economic empowerment for women so that they can take their place. I am sure that the Secretary of State or the relevant Minister will respond on the specific case.
No, no. It is becoming quite commonplace for there to be a flurry of attempted points of order immediately after Prime Minister’s questions. Colleagues will have to be patient. I will exercise discretion and allow one point of order from the hon. Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), who I believe wishes to raise a matter with which the Prime Minister is well familiar, so this might be a convenient moment. Thereafter, we should proceed with the Prime Minister’s statement. Colleagues can of course raise points of order, more suitably and appositely, after statements.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. If you will indulge me, may I please take a brief moment to thank everyone involved with the introduction of the children’s funeral fund?
Since 2016, I have been asking the Government to introduce a fund to assist bereaved parents during their darkest hour and financially support them in funding a funeral. I have at times been impatient. I have at times been frustrated. But I have always known it was the right thing to do. The Prime Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar), the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Colchester (Will Quince) and civil servants have delivered on my request, and I understand that the children’s funeral fund will be operational from 23 July.
I thank everyone involved in making this happen: the organisations that have supported me; colleagues who have encouraged me; my family who, like me, have had to revisit our loss; my team, who have held my hand; and you, Mr Speaker, for your understanding. Martin’s fund is a legacy for my son and will be a comfort to every parent who will need to use it in the future; so, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. [Applause.]
I think it only right that if the Prime Minister wants to respond in a moment, she must certainly should do so. Let me just say to the hon. Member for Swansea East that the sheer passion, sincerity and integrity with which she has spoken and conducted herself are an example to us all, and that the determination that she has shown is an enormous credit to her. Her constituency, her party, the House, and people across politics and beyond are inspired by the way in which she has behaved, and we are unstinting in our admiration for her. Before the statement, let us hear from the Prime Minister on this subject because she has brought matters to fruition.
May I also commend the hon. Lady for the work that she has done? This was born out of personal sadness, but many families will benefit from the passion, commitment and determination that she has shown in championing this issue. She said that she has sometimes been impatient. Sometimes you have to be impatient, because it is that impatience that spurs others on. I am pleased that we have been able to introduce the fund, and I echo Mr Speaker’s comments in commending the hon. Lady for the way in which he has championed this cause. As I say, we share and are concerned about the personal sadness that she went through, but she has taken that and put it to good use for the benefit of families up and down the country.