The Secretary of State was asked—
The Department is investing in migrant source countries to give people better opportunities to build decent lives at home. Over the past four years, support for UK aid across all programmes has enabled 14 million children to gain a decent education, and nearly 52 million people now have access to clean water and better sanitation.
Refugee settlement is one way to allow people to secure a safe and legal route to a safe country if they are classified as refugees by the United Nations. DFID funds and supports that, but there is no commitment to long-term resettlement programmes. Will the Secretary of State consider committing himself to a minimum of 10,000 refugees per year via resettlement and for a minimum of five years?
As the hon. Lady will know, in every year since 2016, the UK has resettled more refugees from outside Europe than any other EU member state, and I pay tribute to the local authorities that have already settled 16,000 refugees from Syria. The hon. Lady will also know that we intend to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees, as well as up to 3,000 vulnerable children and their carers, by 2020. Under our new compact, there are global resettlement scheme plans to resettle 5,000 of the most vulnerable every year post 2020.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to what I think is his first session of questions as Secretary of State for International Development, and I wish him—as we all do—very well in the role. May I ask him to update the House on the quality of our £75 million safety, support and solutions programme, which has been used particularly on the migration route in Africa, including north Africa? A particular feature of the programme was the ability to return those who had escaped the clutches of traffickers to their home areas, where they could warn others that the outward route was dangerous and damaging. I should be grateful for an update.
I pay tribute to the fantastic work that my right hon. Friend did in this Department. He was an absolute champion for DFID.
Phase 2 of the safety, support and solutions programme is now running. We are delivering humanitarian protection to vulnerable migrants en route, as well as informing people about living conditions and—as my right hon. Friend mentioned—the other risks that they may face if they travel through the Sahel or the horn of Africa. One of our partners, the International Organisation for Migration, has reached more than 4,000 people with awareness-raising activities.
The hon. Lady has raised an incredibly important point. We are working on nutrition with a range of multilateral agencies, and my ministerial colleagues and I continue to engage in discussions with them. At the United Nations General Assembly, it was announced that £61 million would be provided to develop crops that are better adapted to grow in higher temperatures and that can withstand drought. That is the sort of work that will make a long-term difference when it comes to food insecurity.
Will my right hon. Friend update the House on the Rohingya situation and tell us what discussions he has had with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Government in Dhaka about the situation in Cox’s Bazar?
My right hon. Friend did an enormous amount of work in this area as Minister for Asia, and I pay tribute to him. He will know that the major humanitarian crisis is caused by Myanmar’s military. He will also know that we recently announced the provision of an extra £87 million for food, healthcare and shelter, not just for the refugees but for those who are hosting them. The Minister in the House of Lords, Baroness Sugg, is currently in Bangladesh looking into these issues.
In north-east Nigeria, almost 2 million people have been internally displaced. In a disturbing development, the Nigerian Government have closed two major international non-governmental organisations, posing a risk to thousands of lives. May I urge the Secretary of State to do all that he can to press the Nigerian Government to enable those NGOs to operate, because they are about saving lives?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We are extremely concerned about this issue, and we have raised it with the Nigerian Government. We have asked them to complete their investigations as swiftly as possible. He is absolutely right: those organisations provide support to millions of vulnerable people, and we must make sure that that work continues.
A fortnight ago, I was privileged to be in Jordan to see some of the remarkable work of small organisations helping child refugees from the Syrian civil war recover from appalling injuries. What further support can DFID give to those small NGOs that make such a positive difference?
As my hon. Friend will know, we have pledged almost £3 billion since 2012 to provide support in Syria and neighbouring areas. We are working with a range of NGOs, and I would be happy to meet him to discuss the individual NGOs to which he referred.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that the greatest single impact of climate change could be on human migration. By 2050, it is forecast that up to 1 billion people could be on the move as a result of climate change. The Select Committee on International Development recommended that the UK use last week’s UN climate summit to address that, so will the Secretary of State tell us specifically what discussions he has had on this subject and what concrete actions his Departments will take?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important matter. The Prime Minister made a number of key announcements at the UN General Assembly, including the doubling of our investment and commitment to the international climate finance fund. That is something that we will work on, but the hon. Gentleman is right that that is a key issue. The way to tackle poverty is also to tackle climate change.
The world is on course to have 200 million climate refugees by 2050, so will the Secretary of State tell us why his Government continue to be part of the problem by funding fossil fuel overseas, both with the Overseas Development Administration budget and with export finance. If he wants to be part of the solution, will he commit to work with Cabinet colleagues to increase the number of refugee settlements in the UK, as recommended by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees?
I say gently to the hon. Lady that we are regarded as world-leading when it comes to tackling climate change. If she had been at the UN General Assembly, she would have seen that. A whole range of announcements were made there. I am always happy to have a discussion with her, but she should acknowledge that the UK is actively leading in this area across the world. That is acknowledged by Governments across the world, too.
Venezuela: Humanitarian Support
The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is absolutely dire, with millions fleeing the Maduro regime. Last week, I announced an additional £30 million of vital humanitarian aid to deliver life-saving medicines and clean water, as well as support for vital health services for refugees in neighbouring countries.
Everyone will be glad that we are doing what we can to help. Would it be a good idea if party leaders together nominated members of the Youth Parliament to go and see what has caused this social, economic, humanitarian and political crisis in a country that should be the richest on its continent?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Inflation is running at over 1 million per cent. in Venezuela and poverty has doubled. That is the economic model and regime that the Leader of the Opposition has been defending over a long period. People will know that Venezuela serves as a grim reminder of what might happen to the economy of our country and, indeed, the aid budget should the Opposition ever get their hands near government.
I welcome the invocation of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament, which, for the benefit of observers, customarily sits annually in the Chamber on a non-sitting Friday. A sitting is due to take place next month. It is a magnificent organisation that deserves the support of every one of us.
Until the Venezuelan Government were destabilised, HIV treatment was successful and deaths from AIDS were decreasing. Since destabilisation, HIV treatment is almost impossible for many people in Venezuela and the healthcare system has collapsed. What are the Government doing, particularly to ensure that antiretrovirals reach HIV-positive people in Venezuela?
The reason that the healthcare system and, indeed, public services have collapsed is the Maduro regime; that is something we have to acknowledge. As I have said, the support that we are providing includes healthcare support. There has been a big increase in disease outbreaks over recent periods, and that is why we are providing support for healthcare and vaccinations.
How much are the UK Government giving to the UN central emergency response fund, and how much is that fund giving to the Venezuelan crisis?
We have given about £2 million of support to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and to national societies. In terms of additional funds that we have made available, we do not discuss the value of programmes inside Venezuela or name partners, for security reasons. I hope that my hon. Friend will understand that.
Given the extent of the problem, the millions of people fleeing Venezuela and the amount that the Minister has alluded to, what steps are we taking to ensure that that aid is offered directly to the people affected and not diverted by the regime?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. We have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to fraud, and we have robust controls against diversion. I can tell him that we have due diligence assessments in place to monitor the spending in Venezuela.
Climate change and biodiversity were top priorities for the Government at the recent UN General Assembly. The UK played a leading role, with the Prime Minister announcing a doubling of our international climate finance to £11.6 billion and a major focus on backing nature-based solutions to climate change.
The International Development Committee has specifically recommended that the UK Government should adopt the concept of climate justice to guide their climate spending, but this Government seem scared to even utter the words: not a single International Development Minister has ever said the words “climate justice” in this Chamber. Why are this Government so intent on ignoring this recommendation?
Given what we know about the science in relation to climate change and what we know about what is happening to biodiversity, habitat and species loss, it is absolutely right that this Government’s focus should be on tackling and preventing climate change, both through technology and by doing everything we can to protect and restore the natural world. If we do not do that, no amount of money from this or any other aid Department will properly compensate poorer countries for the devastation that will follow.
I am afraid that the Minister failed entirely to answer my hon. Friend’s question. Will he tell the House when he will follow Scotland’s lead and the recommendation of the International Development Committee and explicitly adopt the concept of climate justice to help to guide climate mitigation spending?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question, but I do not agree that I did not answer the previous one. We provide £5.8 billion for climate finance at the moment, and that will double to at least £11.6 billion. The whole basis of that programme is, in a sense, climate justice. It is about helping developing countries to prepare for climate change, to adapt to the inevitable changes and to fight the causes of climate change to minimise the impact.
By 2030, the destruction of the world’s important habitats and the threat of climate change could force more than 100 million people into poverty. Does my hon. Friend agree that urgent action is needed to tackle deforestation throughout the world?
I commend my hon. Friend for all her work on this issue. She is absolutely right, and that is why, when the Prime Minister spoke at the UN, he emphasised the importance of investing in nature as a means of tackling climate change. She mentions forests, and they are an obvious example. About 1 billion people depend on forests for their survival, and protecting and restoring forests alleviates poverty, tackles climate change and helps to reverse the biodiversity loss that we have seen over recent years.
First, may I welcome my hon. Friend to his well-deserved place at the Dispatch Box? The environmental world rejoices that he is there, and I know he will do an outstandingly good job. Does he agree that it is a perfectly legitimate use of aid funds to spend money on climate change reduction and climate change battling as well as on the mitigation of the worst effects of climate change? That helps in a global sense, and it also helps to mitigate the worst effects for the poorest people in the world.
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. He is exactly right to say that we will have no hope at all of tackling poverty globally if we do not take a bigger interest in preventing climate change and the annihilation of the natural world that we have seen in recent decades. The people on the frontline in relation to nature destruction are the world’s poorest people. They are the people who depend most directly on the natural world, so he is absolutely right.
As we heard from the Secretary of State in his first answer, we have committed serious sums of money to enabling smallholders around the world to adapt to climate change. We have also launched an initiative at the UN called the Just Rural Transition, which is about shifting the way subsidies are spent around the world on land use, away from unsustainable use towards sustainable use, just as we are doing in this country. The OECD tells us that the 50 top food-producing nations spend £700 billion a year subsidising land use, on the whole very badly. If we can shift even a fraction of that, it will have a much bigger impact than all the world’s aid departments put together.
Supporting Women in Developing Countries
DFID’s support for the SheTrades Commonwealth programme has trained over 2,700 women-owned businesses. We recently announced £30 million for the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa programme, which will help to unlock $3 billion of additional lending to women entrepreneurs.
Some of the most inspirational, determined business leaders and entrepreneurs in Romsey and Southampton North are women. Do the Secretary of State and his Front-Bench team agree that female empowerment cannot begin and end in school, but has to continue into the workplace? Will he commit to giving more support to make sure that we have women business leaders in the developing world?
My right hon. Friend is right. Economic empowerment for women is vital, and I made mention of the affirmative finance programme, which is tackling issues such as access to finance, access to mentoring support and overcoming laws that discriminate against women. It is worth pointing out that women typically reinvest up to 90% of their income into education, health and nutrition, compared to 40% for men, so investing in female-led businesses can transform societies.
Specialist organisations such as Khwendo Kor that deliver services to women are being restricted by other NGOs in consortia by exclusivity clauses, so that they can only bid with one organisation for funding, so expertise is being lost. Can the Secretary of State ensure that exclusivity clauses are removed?
I would be happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss that case and to try to understand a bit better what we could do.
Menstruation stops many women participating in the business world and mostly affects the poorest, no more so than in the Rohingya camps, as Oxfam has told me. WUKA produces underwear that deals with the problem, is reusable and environmentally sustainable. Will his Department meet WUKA, Ruby Raut and others in St Albans who have developed the product to help women beat the problems of menstruation?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for all the work that she has done in Bangladesh in tackling humanitarian issues, and she raises an important point. We have a flagship programme called the Girls’ Education Challenge, which does fund support for 23 menstrual hygiene projects across 13 countries, but of course I would be happy to meet with her and the company in her constituency.
Ukraine is a country that is perhaps redeveloping rather than developing. Can the Secretary of State tell us what projects he is supporting for women in business and education in the east of Ukraine, where there is a war with Russia, particularly through the International Committee of the Red Cross?
I am not aware of the details of programmes that the hon. Gentleman talks about, but I would be happy to meet him to discuss that case.
Governments around the world collectively spend around $140 billion every year on aid. However, the United Nations estimates that an additional $2.5 trillion is required annually in developing countries to meet the sustainable development goals. That investment gap needs to be met largely by the private sector. That is why I have established an international development infrastructure commission to advise the UK Government on how we can mobilise additional private sector funds, alongside public money, to deliver on the sustainable development goals.
I welcome the Secretary of State and the new Ministers to their posts. Representing a coastal constituency, I am only too well aware of the impact of pollution and plastic waste on marine life and our beaches. It was great to join many of my constituents at the recent great British beach clean. Given that much of the plastic problem affects developing countries—especially island nations—how are the Government using the aid budget to help to clear up our oceans?
My hon. Friend raises an incredibly vital point. He may be aware that the Prime Minister announced at the United Nations General Assembly last month that we are encouraging countries to join the UK-led global ocean alliance of countries in support of protecting at least 30% of the global oceans within marine protected areas by 2030.
The Secretary of State has announced a new commission of business and finance leaders to mobilise private finance to invest in some of the world’s poorest countries. What action is he taking to guarantee that all aid-backed private investments uphold labour rights and living wages for workers in the global south?
I think that is a sort of welcome for the infrastructure commission we have set up. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that labour rights are vital. When I was Minister for Employment, I worked with the International Labour Organisation on these issues, and if he has particular suggestions to make, I would be happy to discuss those with him.
The Secretary of State is failing to take labour rights seriously. He is a career investment banker by trade, and he has—[Interruption.] I think it is relevant that he has gone from corporate wealth management to managing the UK’s aid budget. Feronia, a Canadian palm oil company based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has received tens of millions of pounds of UK aid via the CDC Group; it has been plagued by scandal for years; and, in July, Joël Imbangola Lunea, a community activist involved in a land dispute with Feronia, was allegedly murdered by a security guard employed by the company. Joël was father to eight children—
Order. May I just appeal to the hon. Gentleman to get to his question mark, because a lot of colleagues want to contribute and they must do so?
Will the Department now launch its own investigation into this case and the litany of failures surrounding Feronia?
The hon. Gentleman is very welcome to write to me about the case. He wrote an article a few days back describing me as
“exploring ways to profit from human misery”.
May I just point out to him, with respect, that he could perhaps take some lessons from the Chairman of the Select Committee, who knows a lot more about development than he does?
My hon. Friend is a true champion on humanitarian and environmental matters. I made reference in a previous answer to what we are doing about plastics, but I can also inform her that the UK Government have pledged £70 million to directly tackle this issue in developing countries, through the provision of technical assistance and testing practical approaches to increase plastic recycling rates.
The hon. Lady will know that we run a range of projects designed to ensure that we have fair trade, and of course I commend the work that goes on in this area.
Globally, vaccines save 2.5 million lives every year. What discussions were had at the recent UN summit about the UK’s role in the global vaccination programme?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that issue. She will know that the UK is the No. 1 contributor to vaccines worldwide in the development space. She will also know that the UK will be hosting the Gavi replenishment next year and that for every pound spent on vaccines £21 is recouped; this remains one of our best buys in terms of international development, and we made that clear at the UN General Assembly last week.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we are a major aid donor to Pakistan overall. We are in discussions with the National Disaster Management Authority in Pakistan, and we stand ready to respond and provide funding if it is indeed requested.
The economy in Zimbabwe is expected to contract by 5.2% this year and millions are at risk of hunger, with warnings that the country is facing its worst ever famine. What are we doing to help?
Humanitarian needs are rising in Zimbabwe, due to a combination of poor and erratic rains and the deteriorating economic situation. DFID has committed £49 million to a new Zimbabwe humanitarian resilience programme, but our ongoing re-engagement depends on fundamental political and economic reform in Zimbabwe.
We have a long-standing position on Kashmir, which has been reiterated and followed by successive Governments, but where there are matters related to humanitarian issues we of course always look at those.
The hon. Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) had a question on the Order Paper but it was not reached, so I will call him, on the strict understanding that he will be exemplary in his brevity.
Currently, approximately 97% of the UK’s export financial support for energy in developing countries goes to fossil fuels and only 1% to renewable energy. That is a ridiculous and untenable position given the Government’s avowed aims. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that his work in supporting developing countries to tackle climate change is not undermined by his colleagues in the Department for International Trade?
I am pleased that the CDC has made no new investments at all in coal-fired power stations since 2012, and that increasingly UK ODA supports renewable energy. I am assured that as a result of its adoption of the recommendations of the taskforce on climate-related financial disclosures, UK Export Finance is looking very carefully at the risks, which the hon. Gentleman has just highlighted, of its support for oil and gas.
The Prime Minister was asked—
I have been asked to reply. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is in Manchester for the Conservative party conference. He is making, as we speak, the keynote speech, setting out that we will leave the EU on 31 October, so that we can get on with our dynamic domestic agenda.
Askham Bog, a world-renowned nature reserve in my constituency, has been described as “irreplaceable” by, no less, Sir David Attenborough; yet it is threatened by proposals to build more than 500 houses on adjoining land. Will my right hon. Friend put in a good word with the Prime Minister to ask him to join me in lying down in front of the bulldozers to save that important piece of natural heritage?
I thank my hon. Friend. I always put in a good word with the Prime Minister on his behalf, and I share his passion for preserving our precious natural habitats. Local community views are of course incredibly important to the local planning process; that is what our revised national planning policy framework provides. He will understand that I cannot comment on individual planning applications.
Yesterday marked the start of Black History Month, so I will begin by paying tribute to a young woman already making history this month. Dina Asher-Smith became the first British woman in 36 years to win a sprint medal when she won silver at the 100 metres in Doha. Tonight she aims to go one better in the 200 metres —and I am sure the whole House will wish her well.
I think that was a preface to a question.
If I may continue, uninterrupted!
Last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) raised the very specific issue of how many of the hundreds of abusive and violent messages that she receives use the Prime Minister’s own words. The Prime Minister dismissed those concerns as simply “humbug”. Since that exchange, my hon. Friend has received four further death threats, some again quoting the Prime Minister’s words. Women across this House experience death threats and abuse. Will the Foreign Secretary take the opportunity to apologise on behalf of the Prime Minister for his initial dismissive response?
I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. My eagerness to rise to the Dispatch Box was because, in Black History Month, as she becomes the first black MP to take to the Dispatch Box for PMQs, it is only fitting to say that she has blazed a trail and made it easier for others to follow in her footsteps. That is something in which I and every hon. Member in this House can take pride in paying tribute.
The right hon. Lady raises the increasing level of online and wider abuse that politicians from all parts of the House get, and we should come together to be clear that there must be zero tolerance of any abuse or any threats. May I also say that I have found the level of abuse that she herself has received online to be totally disgusting and totally unacceptable. At the same time, I am sure that, as a passionate champion of free speech, she will defend our right in this House to defend the issues of substance. The remarks that the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend, made were aimed at the suggestion that he could not describe the surrender Act in such terms. It is absolutely clear, given the substance of the legislation, that it would achieve that and undermine the ability of the Government to go and get a deal in the EU, which on all sides we want to achieve.
So, we can take it that there is no apology from the Foreign Secretary. I raised the very specific point that my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury made about the abuse she gets that uses the Prime Minister’s language.
Deliberately disturbing billboards showing unborn foetuses have been put up in the London borough of Walthamstow. They are upsetting for women walking past, but particularly upsetting for my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), because these billboards are targeted at her in response to her work to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland. Abortion in Northern Ireland should be decriminalised on 21 October. What will the Foreign Secretary do to ensure that, from later on this month, women in Northern Ireland will have the same human rights to legal and safe abortion as women in England, Wales and Scotland?
The right hon. Lady has referred to the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) and the abuse that she has received, which I and all Members of this House, I know, believe is totally unacceptable. There is a place for free speech, but we should never allow that to cross over into abuse, intimidation or harassment of hon. Members from all parts of the House going about their business. The most important thing that we can do on the specific issue that the right hon. Lady raises is get the institutions in Northern Ireland back up and running so that they can exercise their rights, their prerogatives, on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland.
I notice that the Foreign Secretary has not said anything about those horrific posters—they are not posters that anyone would want to see, particularly someone who is pregnant, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow.
Last week, Labour reiterated its call to end the rape clause, which forces women to fill out a four-page form to prove their child was born of rape in order to get financial help. Will the Foreign Secretary today back Labour’s pledge to remove the abhorrent rape clause from universal credit?
I would say that we have looked at this issue and we continue to look at it. On the subject of using inflammatory language, it is incumbent on Members in all parts of the House to be very careful about it. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions is looking at this matter and will continue to take questions and scrutinise it very carefully, so that we get the balance right. I gently say to the right hon. Lady that Labour wants to abolish universal credit and engage in an open spending spree on handouts. That is the wrong thing to do—trapping people in the welfare trap. On our side, we want to help those people from the poorest backgrounds get into work, and our record speaks for itself.
How much more dismissive can the Foreign Secretary be of people and families dependent on benefits? We are not talking about a spending spree; we are talking about a system that is fair and just, and which does not subject people to undue humiliation.
Last week, the 100-year-old travel company Thomas Cook went out of business. We know that 72% of its workers are women. We also know that, although Governments around the world stepped in to save Thomas Cook subsidiary companies in their own countries, the UK Business Secretary thought that this was not her job. Can the Foreign Secretary explain to those workers, some of whom are with us today, why their Government sat idly by?
First, we did not sit idly by. The Government’s efforts, co-ordinated by the Transport Secretary, to ensure that the holidaymakers and travellers who were caught overseas could be returned back to the UK, have been very effective and required a huge amount of cross-Government work, including in my own Department. On whether the Government should have stepped in to bail out Thomas Cook, it is very clear from looking at the financing that such a step would not have rendered the company more sustainable and would not have saved jobs in the long run. We are, of course, concerned to ensure that we have a sound economic base in the long term. We have created 3 million new jobs in this country since 2010, and will continue with that. What we are not going to do is routinely bail out companies that are unsustainable. That is not the right way to go about this.
Nobody is asking the Government routinely to bail out companies. We are asking the Government why they will not even meet the workers.
Whether it is women Members in this House, women claiming benefits, women’s reproductive rights in Northern Ireland or the failure to support women workers at Thomas Cook, is not this a Government letting women down?
On this side of the House, we are proud to be on our second female Prime Minister. [Interruption.]
Order. The Foreign Secretary has embarked on his answer. I want to hear it, and I think the House and everybody else will want to hear it as well.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Members on the Labour Front Bench are pointing to my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). Well, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for her accomplishments in tackling human trafficking, for her accomplishments and drive to tackle violence against women and for the domestic violence Bill that we will be introducing in the House today for further debate.
The Foreign Secretary has not mentioned the fact that there are over 600,000 more women and girls in poverty now than in 2010. I gently say to him that I was a Member of this House when Tory MPs defenestrated the first female Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, and I was a Member of this House when the Tory MPs worked their will against the second female Prime Minister. It seems to me that Tory Members of Parliament may on occasion make women their leaders, but they need to learn—[Interruption.] They need to learn how to treat them less cruelly.
The right hon. Lady mentions Margaret Thatcher. I gently say to her that if she wants to talk about treating women better, she might have a word with the shadow Chancellor, who talked about going back in time to “assassinate” Margaret Thatcher. That is not appropriate language from the Opposition.
The right hon. Lady talked about Labour’s record. Let me remind her that female unemployment rose by over a quarter because of Labour’s economic mismanagement, and now Labour wants more debt, more borrowing and higher taxes. On our side, we are proud: female unemployment at record lows, a higher percentage of women on FTSE 100 boards and a record low gender pay gap—lower than under the last Labour Government.
Order. I believe I am right in saying that the shadow Home Secretary has had her six questions. [Hon. Members: “More!”] There will be more.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We want to make the UK the safest place in the world to go online for our children, but also for all members of our society. Our online harms White Paper set out our plans to make companies more responsible for their users’ safety online, especially children, and also sets out measures to reinforce powers to issue fines against those who put them at risk.
It is a disgrace that the Prime Minister is not here. Since he was elected in July, he has been to only one Prime Minister’s questions. Quite simply, he is running scared from this Chamber.
Right now the Prime Minister is setting out his Brexit fantasy at the Tory party conference—a deal that he knows is unacceptable and doomed to failure. When this deal fails, as Tory Members know it will, Downing Street sources have insisted that the Government will not seek an extension. They will not obey their legal obligations. Yet again, this Prime Minister is prepared to act unlawfully. Has the Prime Minister not learnt his lesson? He is not above the law. Can the Foreign Secretary confirm whether those sources are correct that the Prime Minister will not obey the law? Are this Government seriously planning to take on Parliament in the courts to force through a catastrophic no-deal Brexit, or will the Foreign Secretary now rule that out?
Of course this Government will always adhere to the law. The Prime Minister has written to Jean-Claude Juncker setting out our proposals. We want to take forward the negotiations. We want to avoid a no-deal scenario, and I would urge the SNP, rather than undermining the negotiations in Brussels, to try and support the Government in securing a deal that is good for this country. The right hon. Gentleman talks about respecting judgments. We will always respect legal judgments. I call on the SNP to respect the judgment of the people of Scotland when it comes to staying in the United Kingdom and the judgment of the people of the United Kingdom to give effect to the referendum on the EU.
“We will always respect legal judgments.” The fact is that this Prime Minister cannot be trusted, and his Foreign Secretary cannot even commit the Prime Minister to the letter of the law. This Government must be stopped. I am looking now to colleagues on the Opposition Benches, and I urge them: we must unite. We must stop this Prime Minister by removing him from office. The Scottish National party stands ready to bring this Government down. Other parties need to step up at this moment of national crisis—prepare a vote of no confidence, ensure a Brexit extension, prevent a no deal and call a general election. Doing nothing is not an option. We must act. So I ask the Foreign Secretary: will he give the Prime Minister a message from the Scottish National party? It is not a case of if but when: we will bring this dangerous Government down.
The right hon. Gentleman is at risk of sounding like he is all mouth and no trousers, because he had the chance to vote for a general election and he turned it down; he had the chance to avoid no deal; and the best chance now is to back this Government in securing a good deal—good for the United Kingdom and good for all quarters of the United Kingdom, including the people of Scotland.
My hon. Friend gets straight to the crux of the matter. We must leave by the end of October, come what may. We are committed to doing that. The most effective way of doing it that will unite this House and bring the country back together is to get behind the Prime Minister’s efforts to secure a good deal. I think it is incumbent on all Members on both sides of the House to support the United Kingdom rather than try to undermine the negotiating position in Brussels.
I will certainly pass on the hon. Lady’s specific request to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. She is right to raise the quality of housing. When I was Housing Minister, we developed proposals for a social housing Green Paper. We want social housing tenants to feel they are treated with respect. I remember meeting an individual who said that he ran his own business, and when he went to work he was treated with respect but when he came back home he was treated disrespectfully by his housing association. That is not right.
I would gently say to the hon. Lady that we have delivered over 222,000 additional homes in the past year—the highest level in all but one of the past 31 years —and we have built more council housing than in the previous 13 years of the last Labour Government.
Sir John Major rang me about half an hour ago simply to give vent to his indignation, which I already fully shared, that a major policy announcement of historic significance—our last offer, apparently, to the EU of a withdrawal agreement—was being made not to this House of Commons, which is not even to have a statement, and not after discussion in the Cabinet, most of whose members know nothing about it, but in a speech to the Conservative party conference in which the Prime Minister—who, I remind you, was one of those who voted to stop us leaving the European Union at the end of March—began with an attack on Parliament. If a deal is obtained, I will be delighted and I will apologise to the Prime Minister. I will vote for any deal that is agreed among the 28 member states of the European Union. But can the Foreign Secretary reassure me—it seems to me obvious, otherwise—that this is not just a party political campaigning ploy to blame the European Union for the lack of an agreement and to arouse fury between people and Parliament so as to escape from the responsibility that seems to me to lie with the Spartans on the far right of the party, with whom he and the Prime Minister used to be close allies?
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend. On the specific point, the proposals we are setting out to Brussels—David Frost, the Prime Minister’s special adviser, is in Brussels doing that—will be set out first in the House of Commons. They will be published—[Interruption.] No. The shadow Foreign Secretary is chuntering from a sedentary position, but the proposals have not been set out in Manchester; they will be set out in written proposals to Jean-Claude Juncker and published in the House later on. I gently say to my right hon. and learned Friend: I know—[Interruption.] Later today—[Interruption.] The shadow Foreign Secretary is continuing to talk from a sedentary position. My right hon. and learned Friend and I have always had slightly nuanced but differing views on the EU, but I think the one thing we all want to do is to get a deal right now—that is why the attempts by Parliament to frustrate that have been deeply counterproductive—and to give effect to the promises that, on all sides of the House, we made to give effect to the referendum and to keep trust with the electorate of this country.
The hon. Lady’s concerns are shared right across the House, so it is something that will be of interest and importance to everyone here today. The national planning policy framework is very clear: the green belt must be protected and brownfield sites must be brought forward. In order to provide a greater boost to the supply of new housing, we have introduced measures to boost the density of and the ability to raise homes in more urban or suburban areas while protecting the green belt. A huge amount of money has gone into infrastructure development right across the country to ensure that we can build the right homes in the right places and to answer the significant concerns of local communities, who ask where all the schools, housing and roads will come from. We are making sure that we give councils the support they need to build the right homes in the right places.
The Government are backing a new hospital to serve Basingstoke with money to develop our business case. Does my right hon. Friend agree that a bid that could include new jobs, new state-of-the-art facilities and new homes is one that everyone in north Hampshire should get behind?
It sounds like a tantalising proposal. I am sure that the Health Secretary will look at it very carefully indeed. We have made it clear that we back the NHS with the biggest cash boost in history, an extra £34 billion a year by 2023-24. We can do that only with a strong economy, which is precisely what the Labour party will put at risk.
I feel for anyone in the Thomas Cook scenario—people stranded abroad or people who lost their jobs. I have set out why the Government do not systematically bail out or step in to prop up firms that are unsustainable. I am afraid that if the hon. Lady looks at the figures, she will see that that was not a sustainable route to follow. Of course, if she wants to write to me, we will look at any details she raises, but the bottom line is that the way we create a healthy economy and jobs is by making sure that we have the tax measures in place—by not raising taxes on businesses and by supporting the workers of this country. That is what we are doing.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on being at the Dispatch Box as deputy Prime Minister.
How is it that the Government are allowing special advisers at No. 10 Downing Street, speaking on behalf of the Government, to tell outright lies? My right hon. Friend should be familiar with the fact that on Saturday such a special adviser—whom I believe to be Mr Dominic Cummings—told The Mail on Sunday that a number of hon. Members were in receipt of foreign funding to draft what is known as the Benn Act, something which in itself is totally untrue. Moreover, he went on to say that that was going to be the subject of a Government investigation, which is also completely untrue because, mercifully, this country is not yet run as a police state by Mr Cummings.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend. I was not quite sure what the question there was, but the position of the Government is that advisers advise and Ministers decide. It is right that the legislation that we have rightly dubbed the surrender Act gets the kind of scrutiny that a Government would get—whether it is from the Executive, parliamentary Select Committees in this House or, indeed, the declarations of interest that should come forward in the normal way.
The Government have been very clear: we will respect the law—[Interruption.] We will respect the law, but we are not going to extend beyond 31 October. I would ask all hon. Members who signed up to that shoddy legislation to reflect on whether—with the fact of the multiple conditions, the £1 billion a month that it would cost the UK taxpayer and undermining the position of the UK Government to get a deal in Brussels—they are actually courting the no-deal scenario they pretend they want to avoid.
May I join in the tributes paid earlier to the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) for her historic achievement today?
Today marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that Gandhi’s message of non-violence, religious tolerance and greater rights for women is as applicable today as it was in his lifetime?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I would go one further and tout the words of Martin Luther King, who said that we—I think on all sides of the House—should believe in a society where you are judged on the content of your character, not the colour of your skin, let alone your gender. That is why we on this side of the House are proud of our record of record levels of BAME communities in employment and children from BAME communities taking more rigorous GCSEs. We have the first Asian Chancellor, the first female Asian Home Secretary and I am proud to be in the most diverse Cabinet in history.
Of course we share the concerns of anyone in the position of the hon. Lady’s constituent. That is why the head of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens, and the Health Secretary have said that they have put in place all the necessary arrangements to make sure that, in a no-deal scenario, medicines will continue to flow across the border, as is required. But if she really wants to avoid a no-deal scenario, she should get behind this Government getting a good deal in Brussels, and that is the best thing for all concerned.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his role today. I remember when my right hon. Friend resigned from the Cabinet because of his disagreements with Brexit policy—a route I subsequently became familiar with—but does his experience not remind him that there are honourable, different opinions across this House about how we leave the European Union and about how we interpret the will of the people, and the essential thing is that every Member here representing their constituency has a role to play in that? May I urge him, when working with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to make sure that any decisions—any progress—are taken through this House?
I can give my right hon. Friend that reassurance. I do understand, and we have always managed to stay on civil, cordial, even amiable terms throughout all the challenges of Brexit, which we on both sides of the House should seek to do. Parliament of course has a crucial role to play. I do not think anyone can legitimately say that Parliament, with the stalwart support of the Speaker, has not scrutinised Brexit at every stage. But we also have to remember on all sides, and particularly on this side, the promises we made to the voters to give effect to Brexit—to get Brexit done—and that is the way we can move on, unite the country and take Britain forward.
I say to the hon. Gentleman, the Chairman of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, that we are absolutely committed to boosting bus services in his constituency and indeed infrastructure right across the country. That includes transport, that includes broadband, and that means making sure that we have a more balanced economy that can boost jobs, reduce deprivation and ensure we can fund the precious public services we need. On the specific point he raised, I will ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to write to him personally.
Within the last 24 hours, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has launched a ballistic missile, possibly from a submarine; if so, that would be the first submarine-based missile it has launched in three years. It is its ninth launch, I believe, since June. Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to talk to other leaders in the region? Given that this comes a few days before the resumption of talks with the United States, what assessment has he made of the continuing threat of the DPRK to the region and the wider world?
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for his time at the Foreign Office; he was a very effective Minister, and he continues to make the case from the Back Benches. We are concerned about the situation in North Korea and we regularly raise it with our international partners. There has been a series of missile tests by Pyongyang, which are deeply troubling. We continue to make it clear that it must show restraint and adhere to its legal commitments. Of course, there is some bluff and bluster in the lead-up to the talks with the US. We would like to see a de-escalation of tensions and a route to denuclearising North Korea.
I feel for any family and any children in the situation that the hon. Lady highlights. We are frustrated, as is everyone, that agreement has not yet been reached that would provide access to Orkambi. We have a system, with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and NHS England, where it is for clinicians, not politicians, to determine the fair price for medicines. I say gently that I think the proposals put forward by the Labour party would put that at risk, because they would repel investment and innovation. That is not the right way to get medicines to the people who need them.
May I ask the First Secretary of State to turn his attention to Hong Kong? Yesterday’s events were truly awful. Obviously, the people suffering most are the victims of violence on both sides, but now a number of UK companies with interests in Hong Kong are being adversely affected. As one of the guarantors of the Sino-British joint declaration supporting one country, two systems, is there now an argument for him to discuss Hong Kong with China in the UN Security Council? Perhaps the next six-monthly report on the declaration would be an opportunity to do that.
We are concerned about what we are seeing on the streets of Hong Kong. We of course condemn any violence by protesters, but the vast majority are seeking to exercise their right to peaceful protest. Any response by the Hong Kong authorities needs to be proportionate, but what we need above all is a political process and a dialogue between the Administration and the people of Hong Kong that can lead to the kind of political reform that is envisaged in the Basic Law and reflected in the joint declaration my hon. Friend cites.
We are absolutely determined to correct the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation. We have apologised for the mistakes that were made and, to date, over 7,200 individuals have been given documentation confirming their status. The hon. Gentleman talks about Brexit, which has been a divisive issue for all parties and people right across this country. The best way of resolving that and bringing the country together is to get a deal, get Brexit done, and move on. It is incumbent on those in all parts of the Labour party to think about the promises that they have made, and to get behind this Government as we strive for a good deal that works for the country.
Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the £13.8 million of funding for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust that has been earmarked for upgrading Eastbourne District General Hospital, which many of my constituents use? A few years ago, the hospital was earmarked for closure; under the Conservatives, it is earmarked for investment.
I am delighted about the new investment going into my hon. Friend’s constituency. We have backed the NHS, which will have almost £34 billion a year by 2023-24. There is an extra £1.8 billion going into 20 hospital upgrades, and we are providing £250 million to boost artificial intelligence, so that we can have earlier cancer detection, new dementia treatments and more personalised care. All that would be put at risk by a Labour Government, who would tank the economy.
I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman. Members on all sides of the House want to stand up to, and have absolutely zero tolerance for, any domestic abuse. The best way forward is for us to work together in a collaborative way, which, frankly, we have not seen in recent months and years because of Brexit. That opportunity will come today, when we debate the Domestic Abuse Bill on Second Reading.
Last year, I attempted to introduce legislation requiring banks to maintain or deliver a cashpoint, on a free-to-use, 24-hour basis, to every high street that supports 5,000 residents or more. I was inspired to do that when the tourist town of Battle lost its last cashpoint of that type. I am grateful that LINK has now seen the case for Battle’s cashpoint, but I am conscious that other high streets across the UK are not so fortunate. Will the deputy Prime Minister help to set up a meeting with me and Ministers to help to deliver a boost to all our high streets?
I will certainly pass on my hon. Friend’s point directly to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and other Ministers, and will see what more can be done in the neighbourhood that he talks about. The reality is that some businesses and high streets are suffering, partly because of online competition, and partly because of consumer trends. We need to make sure that we boost high streets and businesses, and in particular the small businesses in this country that have created over 80% of new jobs. All that will be put at risk, frankly, by the damaging and counter-productive policies that the shadow Chancellor has come up with this week.
I have to say to the hon. Lady that of course we will adhere to the law, but the Prime Minister has been clear that we must leave by the end of October in order to maintain public trust in our democracy and avoid the public feeling that parliamentarians and politicians do not listen to what they have said. If she wants to avoid a no-deal Brexit, get behind the Government in securing a deal that all sides can support.
Yesterday, I was honoured to speak at the official opening of CAE’s new flight simulator and aviation training centre at Gatwick airport. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming this significant aviation inward investment into global Britain?
It is absolutely crucial that we make this country the best place to invest for technology and innovation, and that is part of the vision of global Britain. So I pay tribute to the project in my hon. Friend’s constituency. That is what we can deliver if we can get Brexit done and dusted and move on, and allow the people of this country to move on.
The right hon. Gentleman and the Government talk about the will of the people and the need to restore trust in democracy when it comes to Brexit, while completely forgetting that over 16 million people voted for us to remain in the EU, 13 million people chose to abstain in the referendum, and 1.5 million youngsters were not eligible to vote and now want a say about their future. On that basis, surely the way to protect democracy is to put any Brexit deal to a confirmatory referendum because, if we do not have that people’s vote, we will leave the EU without the consent of the majority of people of this country.
I know that the right hon. Lady and I have different views on Brexit, but we have always got on professionally and civilly in the past, and I understand the passion with which she holds her views. But I think a second referendum will be the last thing this country wants. It would solve nothing and put the Union at risk, because it would be a political gift to the SNP. If she wants to avoid no deal, she should back the Government, not undermine them, as they strive for a good deal in Brussels.
With the shape of a potential deal becoming clearer, will the First Secretary of State repeat and confirm his absolute commitment to leaving on 31 October, which is in contrast to the Lib Dems—I do not think we have a single Lib Dem in the Chamber this afternoon—[Interruption.] Oh, we do—we have one. Forgive me, Mr Speaker, I got that wrong. We have one Lib Dem in the Chamber. That commitment is in contrast to the Lib Dems, who want to overturn the democratic result, and to the Labour party, which does not quite yet know what it wants.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we need to get Brexit done. The country wants us to move on and to keep faith with the voters. As for the position of the Liberal Democrats, of all the different views in the House of Commons, I find this the most difficult to understand. How could we have 16 Liberal Democrat MEPs actually writing to Jean-Claude Juncker telling him not to negotiate or do a deal with the UK? That is deeply irresponsible and is courting the very outcome of a no-deal Brexit they say they wish to avoid.
Did the Prime Minister, as The Times reports today, receive a request from President Trump for help in trying to discredit the Mueller report and the role of British and American intelligence in uncovering the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections? Will he assure the House that no British Prime Minister would ever collude with any foreign leader to undermine or smear our security and intelligence services or damage their vital co-operation with their American colleagues?
I should first be clear that the Prime Minister is not going to comment on the discussions with President Trump that were held in private, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that of course neither the Prime Minister, then the Foreign Secretary, nor any other member of the Government would collude in the way he describes. That is of course entirely unacceptable, would never have happened and did not happen.