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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 670: debated on Wednesday 29 January 2020

International Development

The Secretary of State was asked—

Plastic Use

It is a delight to see the Conservative Benches so well attended for International Development Question Time.

My Department is providing expertise to help developing countries to reduce plastic usage and funding innovative pilot projects in, for example, Uganda and Ghana to improve recycling rates and waste collection.

Given that 2020 is set to become the first year in which the pieces of plastic in our seas outnumber fish, will the Secretary of State update the House on the Government’s plans for the UK to play its part in tackling that shocking statistic by means of, for instance, their new Blue Planet fund?

Let me first welcome my hon. Friend back to the House: we are all delighted that he is back with us. As he knows, the Government have committed £500 million to the Blue Planet Fund to help developing countries to manage the marine environment. The fund, which is in the process of being designed, will run for five years from April next year, and will focus on four priority areas in marine management: fisheries, pollution—including plastic pollution—climate change and marine protected areas.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s commitment to tackling plastic use. In my constituency, Workington, people care about the future of our seas and oceans. Young students at Ashfield Infant and Nursery School, Holme St Cuthbert School and St Michael’s Nursery and Infant School have written a book about Driggsby, the young fin whale who sadly died on a Cumbrian beach, a victim of plastic poisoning. What is the Department doing to rid the world’s oceans of plastic waste?

About 70% of the litter in the ocean is plastic, and I therefore commend the work of my hon. Friend and his young constituents in highlighting the clear and present danger of plastic pollution to life in our oceans. The Government recognise the need for action and for our joint leadership, with Vanuatu, of the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance, and we are supporting technical assistance for countries that are committed to taking practical steps to tackle marine pollution.

In the poorest countries, 93% of waste is burnt or discarded on roads or open land or in waterways. Will the Secretary of State expand on his answer to the first question, and tell us what he is doing to develop a system of improved waste collection while also encouraging recycling in many of those countries?

The hon. Gentleman has raised an important point. Let me give him a couple of examples. In Uganda and Ghana, my Department is providing support for pilot projects. We are working with businesses to improve waste management and increase recycling. In Uganda, for example, we are working with the Kampala plastics recycling partnership.

The Dutch non-governmental organisation The Ocean Cleanup has discovered that most plastics in the seas come from abandoned fishing gear and nets. Does the Secretary of State agree that assisting fishermen in developing countries is one way to eliminate that waste?

The hon. Gentleman is right. I have talked about the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance, but he will also know that at the 2019 United Nations General Assembly the Prime Minister announced the global ocean alliance of countries which aims to protect at least 30% of the global ocean within marine protected areas by 2030.

Forestry/Biodiversity

2. What steps his Department is taking to protect (a) forestry and (b) biodiversity in developing countries. (900463)

4. What steps his Department is taking to protect (a) forestry and (b) biodiversity in developing countries. (900466)

5. What steps his Department is taking to protect (a) forestry and (b) biodiversity in developing countries. (900467)

8. What steps his Department is taking to protect (a) forestry and (b) biodiversity in developing countries. (900470)

DFID is at the forefront of global efforts to tackle illegal logging, promote sustainable trade in timber, and eliminate deforestation from supply chains. Those programmes, and other assistance from the UK, are helping to preserve the world’s most valuable habitats and address biodiversity loss.

It was great to see many families —particularly children—from Addingham, in my constituency, plant more than 600 trees last weekend, thus setting an example to us all. How do the Government plan to inspire the next generation of leaders, such as the children from my constituency, to ensure that we can continue to use our influence on the global platform to help reduce carbon emissions, improve biodiversity, and plant more trees?

I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to his constituents from Addingham, and to him for representing them in the House so well. The Government will ensure that young people have a strong voice at COP26 in November, so that their views on the climate and nature are heard on the global stage. DFID is committed to involving young people in our work, promoting active and engaged citizenship through our policy and programmes.

The people in North West Norfolk supported our manifesto commitments to tackle climate change and help countries receiving development aid to become more self-sufficient. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that the aid budget, through CDC, is invested in forestry projects in Africa and elsewhere, both to protect the environment and to help reduce poverty?

I am delighted to tell my hon. Friend that the Secretary of State and I visited CDC on Monday. CDC has a number of investments in sustainable forestry across Africa and is actively exploring opportunities to do more. For example, it is supporting Miro Forestry, a sustainable timber business operating in Sierra Leone and Ghana. CDC’s investment is helping Miro to support the natural environment by replanting severely degraded land, thereby protecting the indigenous forest. To date, the investment has supported the planting of roughly 5.4 million trees.

It is shameful that the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed to provide pasture for cattle grazing. This is devastating for that important global natural resource, and it is also undercutting British beef production. Does the Minister agree that efforts to prevent deforestation are essential for global biodiversity as well as for supporting British beef farmers such as those in my constituency?

The Department for International Development is supporting programmes on reforestation and promoting sustainable beef production. The UK’s Partnerships for Forests programme works in South America to support sustainable businesses that grow crops and rear cattle without causing deforestation. This includes support for a responsible beef partnership, which works to eliminate purchases of beef from producers engaged in illegal deforestation.

As a dual national, I accept that Australia is not a developing country, but the ongoing bush fires have seen forestry and bushland destroyed to the tune of almost 25 million acres, an area almost five times the size of Wales. We have also seen the destruction of more than 1 billion animals. What support has been offered to Australia to help to rebuild not only the bushland and forests but the biodiversity that has been destroyed?

Our hearts go out to everyone in Australia who has been affected by these devastating fires. The fires are a tragedy that remind us all of the catastrophe that climate change is inflicting on forests and biodiversity. The UK stands ready to provide our Australian friends with the support they need, including our full range of humanitarian capabilities if required.

Just over a week ago, the Prime Minister made a showpiece promise to end all UK aid spending on coal. That is all well and good, but there has not been any such spending since 2012. This is more evidence that the Government are more interested in talking big on climate change globally than in taking action. It is time for the Government to get serious. Will the Minister commit today to stopping spending taxpayers’ money on gas, oil and fracking, which are helping to destroy our planet and biodiversity, and instead commit to using aid to tackle the vast amounts of poverty and inequality across the globe?

I would encourage the hon. Gentleman to read the announcement in the Prime Minister’s speech more carefully. The announcement includes not only our bilateral aid assistance but investment, export credit and trade promotion support. The Government have shown significant leadership in tackling climate change, not least through our announcement to double our international climate finance commitment to developing countries, and we will host COP26 later this year.

Is the Minister aware that an all-party group has invited leaders of the indigenous communities of the Amazon to visit the House of Commons on 5 February? I invite all Members to meet those people and listen to their concerns about the deforestation of the Amazon.

The hon. Gentleman is right to suggest that we need to work with indigenous communities around the world. Many people in the developing world owe their livelihoods and incomes to local forests, and we therefore need to work with the communities in everything we do.

Developing countries around the world are facing a loss of trees and animals at a catastrophic rate as the climate emergency worsens. When will the Secretary of State follow the bold leadership of the Scottish Government and the recommendations of the International Development Committee and explicitly adopt the concept of climate justice, in order to help climate spending and ensure that the most vulnerable receive the help that they need to protect their biodiversity?

The UK is a global leader. Not only are we the fastest remover of our own carbon emissions in the G7; we are also making ground-breaking commitments such as the Prime Minister’s commitment at the UN General Assembly to double our international climate finance spending. I think that we have a proud record to tell, but we are going to work even harder to ensure that COP26 in Glasgow in November is a huge success.

International agribusiness in Colombia regularly steals land from campesino and indigenous peoples to cut down trees and plant acre after acre of palm oil crops, which is unsustainable for the future and bad for the environment. What are the Government saying to the Colombian Government to bring the peace process back on track so that indigenous people can have their land back?

DFID supports the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a public-private initiative with 90 member organisations that is focused on realising private sector commitments to eliminate deforestation in the supply chains for palm oil, beef, soya and paper. This is one of our many initiatives to address the consequences of palm oil production.

Bilateral Trade: Developing Countries

6. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Trade on increasing bilateral trade with developing countries. (900468)

Our Departments work together to ensure that development is at the heart of UK trade policy. This includes delivering the successful UK-Africa Investment Summit, where we announced the trade connect service. The service will help developing countries to make the most of preferential access to UK markets and support UK firms to strengthen their supply chains in developing countries.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Increasing the number of women in the workforce is key to economic growth. What support is DFID giving to women entrepreneurs?

I commend my hon. Friend’s support for entrepreneurship in his constituency and more widely. The UK is absolutely committed to increasing women’s role in trade, recognising the importance of trade as a lever for equality. That is why we recently announced an extension to the Commonwealth SheTrades programme, which provides training and mentoring to female entrepreneurs and connects them to international markets and investment opportunities.

In 2013, Australia merged its aid and trade departments, resulting in worse-performing aid programmes and a mass exodus of development experts and even leading to DFID downgrading the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to third-tier status for staff exchanges. Is that the future that the Secretary of State wants for his own Department, or does he agree that a standalone Department remains the best way for the UK to deliver world-leading international development projects?

Machinery of government changes are a matter for the Prime Minister, but the UK is and will continue to be a superpower when it comes to international development. He will have seen in our manifesto the commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the success of the UK-Africa Investment Summit. What further steps are the Government taking to support British businesses, such as JCB in my constituency, to export more and generate local jobs?

My hon. Friend did an enormous amount in her previous career to ensure more bilateral trade and investment. The summit was indeed a success, building partnerships with Governments and companies for the future, and that will lead to more trade and jobs in both regions.

Female Genital Mutilation

The hon. Lady is right to raise this matter. I am pleased to say that the UK leads the world in our support to the Africa-led movement to end FGM. In 2018, we announced a further £50 million in UK aid to tackle FGM over the next five years, including £15 million for our programme in Sudan, which is now in its second phase.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. He will of course be aware that the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is next week. In that context, and given some of the discussions around the potential reorganisation of DFID, he will understand why some in the sector are worried about whether funding will be retained up to 2025. The relationships underpinning those programmes take time to embed, so will he please give us that guarantee?

Notwithstanding what may happen with the machinery of government, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State just said, I remind the hon. Lady that we are committed—indeed, we are legally obliged—to spend 0.7% of GNI. That is a firm commitment, and she should be in no doubt about it.

We, like her, look forward to the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on 6 February. We wish it well and entirely agree with its theme of “unleashing youth power”. Following DFID’s success in helping to achieve legal change in partner countries, we look forward to making another further important announcement about how we will work with international partners to strengthen laws, policies and systems to respond to FGM.

Palestine: UK Aid

9. What steps he is taking to ensure that UK aid to the Palestinians facilitates peace-building with Israel. (900471)

As my right hon. Friend knows, the UK is committed to making progress towards a negotiated two-state solution. Meanwhile, UK aid to Palestinians helps to meet immediate needs, deliver key services and promote economic development. It supports stability in the development of a capable and accountable Palestinian Authority who can act as an effective partner for peace with Israel.

UK taxpayers’ aid pays the salaries of teachers in Palestinian Authority schools, yet at least 31 official PA schools are named after terrorists who killed innocent citizens. Does the Secretary of State share my concern that the children studying in those schools are being taught that it is honourable to commit violent acts against Israelis? Does he agree that, instead of prolonging the conflict by supporting such rhetoric, we must do more to press the Palestinians to stop glorifying terrorists and to use our aid as it is meant to be used?

My right hon. Friend is right to raise this matter. We are clear with the Palestinian Authority on how we expect UK aid to be spent. Last week, I had a further meeting with the Palestinian Authority Education Minister, Professor Awartani, following our meeting in Ramallah last year. He expressed his commitment to the EU’s review of teaching materials, as well as to the PA’s own review, which will be available before the start of the academic year.

Education means hope, and we need to be careful about removing hope from the OPTs, because hope is what is preventing people from falling into the arms of those with mischievous intent for the future of that part of the world.

Preventable Child Deaths

10. What steps his Department is taking to implement the findings of the UNICEF UK report on ending preventable child deaths. (900472)

I welcome the report and its recognition that my Department is a force for good that saves children’s lives and makes a real difference. The report is in line with the Government’s ambition to end preventable maternal, new-born and child deaths by 2030.

Without global leadership, we will not meet sustainable development target 3.2 and end preventable child deaths by 2030. Does the Secretary of State agree that we should place child health on a level footing with the Government’s commitment to girls’ education?

The hon. Lady cares deeply about this issue, which I completely understand. We made a manifesto commitment to tackle preventable deaths by 2030. I hope in the coming weeks to set out a detailed strategy on how we will do that.

The UK Government have an outstanding record on contributing to the 50% fall in the number of children in developing countries who die before their fifth birthday but, even with that progress, UNICEF calculates that 52 million children will still die before the age of five by 2030. What more can we do to provide additional leadership to make sure we get rid of diseases like pneumonia, as well as the lack of access to basic vaccines, which will help to end this blight?

We support organisations such as the Global Fund and, as my hon. Friend knows, the UK will host the replenishment of GAVI later this year. He is right to highlight this important issue.

Hunger

11. What progress his Department has made on achieving sustainable development goal 2 on tackling hunger. (900474)

The UK is at the forefront of the fight against hunger, giving £461 million to humanitarian food assistance in 2018 through the World Food Programme. We will take a leadership position as a global influencer and convener, alongside Germany, at the SDG2 summit in Berlin in June and at other events leading up to the New York food systems summit and Japan’s nutrition for growth summit.

Malnutrition is the No. 1 risk factor for TB, the world’s deadliest infectious disease. A quarter of the 10 million new cases last year were caused by undernutrition, and treatment is less effective for those who are unable to access a good diet. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that fewer people fall ill with TB and to improve access to nutritional support for those who do fall ill?

The hon. Gentleman is right to link TB and malnutrition, and I hope he approves of the UK’s contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria last year. That was a huge effort on behalf of this country. I think he will also approve of the GAVI replenishment, which this country will be hosting in London in June.

Topical Questions

In August, I announced an International Development Infrastructure Commission to advise me on mobilising additional private sector funds alongside public money to deliver on the sustainable development goals. The United Nations estimates that an additional $2.5 trillion is required annually to meet those goals, and the commission has now made recommendations on how to turbocharge infrastructure investment in developing countries. At the recent UK-Africa investment summit, I announced that the UK will work together with the Governments of Uganda, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana— initially—to do just that.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I was pleased to see that COP26 will be held in Glasgow. Will he update the House on preparations for that conference?

A successful delivery of COP26 in November is a key priority for the Government, and cross-departmental work is being co-ordinated through the Cabinet Office. It is vital for current and future generations that all of us around the world step up to the challenge.

Will the Secretary of State clarify what his Department’s policy is on spending UK aid money on expanding fossil fuels overseas?

I think the answer was given earlier by the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson) in respect of the statement the Prime Minister made at the Africa investment summit.

I am afraid that that is just not good enough. Last week’s UK-Africa investment summit cost the Department more than £15 million of aid money, on a one-day event. I wonder whether the Secretary of State can say now whether any of that money was spent on business-class flights or five-star hotels, because the Department will not disclose the figures until autumn 2021. At the summit, almost £2 billion-worth of new energy deals were struck for fossil fuels. How on earth can he justify using taxpayers’ funds to help fossil fuel companies when we are in the midst of a climate catastrophe?

If the hon. Gentleman had read the communiqué that came out of the summit, he would have seen not only the billions of pounds of investment, but the UK support going to developing countries. He always castigates private investment, but perhaps he ought to read what the UN Secretary-General wrote in November in the Financial Times, where he pointed out that the private sector is vital to advance development goals. Sometimes the hon. Gentleman needs to read and listen to the experts, rather than to people on his own Benches.

T2. . Will my right hon. Friend reassure companies in my constituency that specialise in renewables, such as Kensa Heat Pumps, as to how the African summit held last week will boost African countries’ efforts to adopt cleaner forms of fuel? (900479)

My hon. Friend raises a good question. The summit highlighted the UK’s distinct offer to support clean growth, and our expertise in low-carbon sectors and green finance. For example, along with the President of Kenya, I attended the London stock exchange for the launch of the first green Simba bond, which the UK Government helped to develop.

Will the Minister confirm that educating and employing women and girls will remain a key strategy for his Department?

T3. Will the Secretary of State update the House on what measures he is taking to empower the women’s economy in many developing countries? (900480)

Women and girls are very much at the heart of our approach to economic development, and I am sure that all colleagues would agree that no society can truly flourish if half the population is held back. At the UK-Africa investment summit, I announced further support for our work and opportunities for women programme, which will help at least 100,000 additional women to achieve better paid and more secure work.

The UK has a major responsibility for the plastic pollution we see, particularly in developing countries, so what work are the UK Government doing to stop the trade in and export of plastic pollution from the UK?

I set out earlier what we are doing in this particular area. There is a legitimate export market for plastic waste and secondary raw material, but we take firm action against those engaged in the illegal export of contaminated, low-quality and unrecyclable plastic waste.

T4. I understand that, given the recent significant influx of Syrian refugees into the Kurdistan region of Iraq, there are issues with the allocation of British funding to the Kurdistan region. So will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the region, which has accommodated more than 1 million refugees and displaced people since 2014, and will he sort out the funding? (900481)

I most certainly do join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the Kurdistan Regional Government and other Governments in the area, including those of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, who are helping. I am not aware of any delays to the allocation to which my hon. Friend refers, but I am happy to look into the matter.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—

Engagements

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.

Monday was Holocaust Memorial Day, when we remember those who suffered under Nazi persecution. During that dark time, Britain stood out as a beacon of hope, and 10,000 Jewish children came here with the Kindertransport. When the Prime Minister’s Government rejected Lord Dubs’ amendment on unaccompanied child refugees, Britain’s beacon dimmed. Will the Prime Minister now devolve powers over immigration to Holyrood, to allow Scotland to be that beacon of hope?

The hon. Lady does a disservice to this country’s reputation and record, because not only have we taken 41,000 unaccompanied children since 2010, but the whole country can be very proud of everything that we continue to do to commemorate the holocaust and what took place then.

Q3. I know that my right hon. Friend would never put our country at risk, and I also know that he was born in America, so what plans does he have to convince the US Secretary of State that the Huawei deal is safe not only for our constituents but for our allies? (900487)

My hon. Friend raises a most important point that I know is of great concern to Members from all parties. I assure the House and, indeed, the country that it is absolutely vital that people in this country have access to the best technology available, but that we also do absolutely nothing to imperil our relationship with the United States, do anything to compromise our critical national security infrastructure, or do anything to imperil our extremely valuable co-operation with Five Eyes security partners.

I am sure that the whole House will want to send our thoughts to the family and friends of the Royal Marines soldier who sadly died in a training incident earlier this week.

If you will forgive me, Mr Speaker, may we take just a minute to pay tribute to Nicholas Parsons, who passed away this week? We thank him for his work in broadcasting.

This Friday, the UK will be leaving the European Union. The actions that we take over the months and years ahead will shape our future role in the international community for generations to come. Britain’s role in the world will face one of its most important tests later this year when COP26 meets in Glasgow to discuss the need for drastic action to tackle the climate emergency. Given the scale of the crisis, does the Prime Minister think that we as a country should be financing billions of pounds-worth of oil and gas projects all around the world?

Let me first say, in memory of Nicholas Parsons, that we should all avoid hesitation, deviation or repetition in this House.

I do think it important that the UK continues to campaign against hydrocarbon emissions of all kinds, as we do. The right hon. Gentleman will have noticed that we have just decided to ban support for all extraction of coal around the world. That is a massive step forward by this country.

The report from the BBC and Unearthed investigation has revealed that a Government agency has helped to finance oil and gas projects that will emit 69 million tonnes of carbon a year—nearly a sixth of the total emissions from this country alone. The effects of climate change have been felt in this country, with flooding in Yorkshire and the midlands, and of course we have seen the wildfires in Australia. Despite pledging to reach net zero emissions by 2050, the Government are currently on track to meet that target only by 2099. Can we afford to wait another 79 years before we reach net zero in this country?

This Government have doubled spending on tackling climate change internationally to £11.6 billion. I am not surprised by what the right hon. Gentleman has said because he is so pessimistic. We should not forget that this country has reduced CO2 emissions already by 42% on 1990 levels, while the economy, under this Conservative Government, has grown by 73%. That is our record; we can do both.

The right hon. Gentleman voted against every proposal to take action on climate change until he became Prime Minister. I hope, for the sake of our future, that he changes his mind before COP26 meets in Glasgow.

Speaking of failing to take a global lead on climate change, the US Secretary of State is visiting later today. President Trump’s latest middle east peace plan is not a peace plan. It will annexe Palestinian territory, lock in illegal Israeli colonisation, transfer Palestinian citizens of Israel, and deny Palestinian people their fundamental rights. When the Government meet the US Secretary of State later today, will they make it clear that they will stand for a genuine, internationally backed peace plan rather than this stuff proposed by Trump yesterday?

Let us be clear that this is a problem that has bedevilled the world, and the middle east in particular, for decades. No peace plan is perfect, but this has the merit of a two-state solution—it is a two-state solution. It would ensure that Jerusalem is both the capital of Israel and of the Palestinian people. Rather than being so characteristically negative, I urge the right hon. Gentleman to reach out to his friends and my friends—our friends—in the Palestinian Authority, and to Mahmoud Abbas, for whom I have the highest respect, and, for once, to engage with this initiative and to get talking rather than to leave a political vacuum.

I have the greatest respect for President Abbas and those in the Palestinian Authority; I have met them many times—[Interruption.] This is actually a very serious issue. The Prime Minister should acknowledge that President Trump’s plan will not bring any move towards peace and that it has no support from any Palestinian anywhere in the world. Perhaps this would be a good opportunity for the British Government to say frankly and candidly to the US that, on this, it is wrong. There needs to be a two-state solution with international support.

The kind of test for this country for the future has to be how we work to end conflict abroad. The Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen has led to the needless deaths of innocent men, women and children, yet this Government have broken the ban on Saudi arms sales three times, while Donald Trump has vetoed a ban on arms exports three times. Will the Prime Minister confirm that he will respect his own ban and will he, when he meets the US later today, ask it to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia while it continues the bombardment of the people of Yemen?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Saudi-led operation in Yemen is supported by the UN—a UN mandate to restore the Government of Yemen—and that is absolutely vital. He is completely correct that the crisis in Yemen continues, and that it is a tragedy for the people of Yemen, but what he should be doing is supporting the activity of the British UN negotiator, Martin Griffiths, who is doing a fantastic job in trying to bring the sides together and to get a peaceful solution led by Yemenis.

Of course, attempts are being made to bring about a peace process, but it is not helped when one country supplies arms to Saudi Arabia, which has led to the deaths of 100,000 people in Yemen last year alone. According to Human Rights Watch, Saudi authorities have stepped up their arbitrary arrests, trials and convictions and the killing of peaceful dissidents and activists, including a large-scale crackdown on the women’s rights movement. When the Prime Minister heads to Riyadh later this year for the G20, will he make it clear that any future trade arrangement with Saudi Arabia will be dependent on an improvement of its human rights laws and its human rights record, particularly in respect of women in that country?

It will not have escaped the House’s attention that the right hon. Gentleman is a supporter and defender of the Iranian regime in Tehran, which has grossly exacerbated the tensions in Yemen by sending missiles to attack the civilian population of Saudi Arabia. Of course we raise the matter of human rights in Saudi Arabia. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised the rights of women in Saudi Arabia only the other day. We will continue to do that, and we will do that ever more vigorously and ever more energetically as we pursue our policy of a global Britain doing free trade deals around the world, which will give us the leverage to make exactly these points.

I condemn human rights abuses in every country in the world, including Iran, Russia and anywhere else where such abuses are committed. My question was: what is being done to ensure that our future trade deals are dependent on good human rights in the countries that we deal with? Nine women are in Saudi prisons at the present time, merely for standing up for equal rights for women. Four of them have received electric shock treatment during interrogation. Is that the kind of human rights we tolerate? I sincerely hope not.

Britain is at a crossroads. We are leaving the EU, and our place in the world is going to change. The question is what direction it will take. The signs are that this Government are prepared to sacrifice our country’s interests and values for short-term political advantage and a sell-out trade deal with Donald Trump. As Foreign Secretary the Prime Minister embarrassed this country, and as Prime Minister he shows every sign of being prepared sell it off. When will he accept that the only chance of a truly internationalist Britain is to work with our global partners to tackle the climate catastrophe, expand trade, fight human rights abuses and promote peace?

The difference between this Government and the way we treat international affairs, and the Labour party under its present leadership, can be summarised as follows: the right hon. Gentleman, as leader of the Labour party, has consistently stood up not just for Tehran, but for Vladimir Putin, when he poisoned innocent people on the streets of this country; he has said that he would scrap the armed services of the United Kingdom, end our nuclear deterrent and abolish NATO, which has been the bulwark of our security for the past 70 years. This Government are leading the world in tackling abuses, sticking up for human rights, championing the struggle against climate change, and leading the fight for every single girl in the world to have access to 12 years of quality education. That is what global Britain is delivering under this Government. The right hon. Gentleman would isolate this country and deprive us of our most crucial allies. We are going to take this country forward and outward into the world, and—in case I forgot to mention it before—we are going to deliver on our promises and take us out of the European Union this Friday, despite everything that he and all the Opposition parties tried to do.

Q7. With our Prime Minister’s vision, this Conservative Government have an incredible opportunity to deliver change by driving forward the levelling up of parts of the country that have lagged behind London. Will the Prime Minister confirm that beautiful Hastings and Rye will not be overlooked in the process of levelling up, and that the necessary investment will be made in our transport infrastructure, education and health to unleash our bags of talent and potential? (900491)

I can confirm that the infrastructure revolution will penetrate all the way to Hastings and Rye, and across the whole country. There will be an additional £100 million for the redevelopment of the Conquest Hospital and Eastbourne District General Hospital, which I know will be of benefit to my hon. Friend’s constituents.

Scotland is being dragged out of the European Union against our will. We hope that our European friends will leave a light on for Scotland.

During the EU referendum, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that when it came to immigration, it would be for the people of Scotland to decide. On Monday, the Scottish Government published their plans for a Scottish visa, doing just what the right hon. Member promised Scotland should be able to do. Before the ink was even dry, those proposals were rejected without consideration. Given that the Prime Minister would never reject a proposal before reading it, can he tell the House on what points he disagrees with model 3? If it helps the Prime Minister, that model was outlined on page 20 of the proposal.

I have every sympathy with the industries and businesses of Scotland that need to allow workers to come freely for the seasonal agricultural workers scheme; we have doubled that number, and that is very important. I thank the lobbying representations that I have received from Conservative colleagues in Scotland on that point. But the idea of having a Scottish-only visa, with a border at Berwick, a wall and inspection posts is absolutely fanciful and deranged. Whatever may be on page 20 of the right hon. Member’s document, I doubt that he explains who would pay for it.

Nobody is suggesting such a thing, and that confirms that the Prime Minister does not have a clue.

Unlike the Prime Minister, experts have backed the Scottish Government’s proposals. The Scottish Trades Union Congress supports them. The Federation of Small Businesses supports them. The Scottish Council for Development and Industry supports them. Even the Migration Advisory Committee report commissioned by his Government has highlighted additional migration routes as a means of increasing population growth. The Scottish Government’s proposals will boost Scotland’s population, grow our economy, and protect public services. The UK Government’s policies threaten to plunge our working-age population into decline. We were told we would have the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world. We were told we would be an equal partner in the family of nations. Will the Prime Minister now read the Scottish Government’s proposal, listen to the evidence, and deliver a tailored migration policy for Scotland?

We will have exactly such a thing. We will have a points-based system that will deliver the immigration that this whole country needs. The way to boost the population of Scotland is not to have a Scottish Government who tax the population to oblivion and who fail to deliver results in their schools. It may interest you to know, Mr Speaker, that the SNP has not had a debate in its Parliament on education for two years—and what is it debating today? Whether or not to fly the EU flag. It should get on with the day job.

Q13. Prime Minister, up in Yorkshire, in your Conservative Brexit heartlands, we are celebrating us leaving the EU on Friday with a big Brexit bash. I wish to congratulate the Prime Minister on achieving us leaving the EU when so many deemed it impossible. Does he agree that this is an opportunity for a new chapter in our great country when we will finally control our laws, our borders and our money, and become a truly global trading nation? (900497)

I do join my hon. Friend in her celebrations. I am sorry I cannot be there personally but I wish everybody in Morley and Outwood a very enjoyable big Brexit bash.

Q2. Sexual exploitation does not end when you turn 18. Indeed, it is the main driver of modern slavery and trafficking of women in this country. So will the Prime Minister join other countries around the world by bringing in legislation to end demand, making it illegal to buy sexual consent? (900486)

I am certainly happy to look at the proposals if the hon. Lady wishes to bring them forward to the House.

Does the Prime Minister agree that we need to increase capacity on our railways in and between the north, the midlands, the south and Scotland, and that unless we want decades of disruption, the only way to do this is through Midlands Engine Rail, Northern Powerhouse Rail, and HS2?

I can tell my hon. Friend that we are not only building Northern Powerhouse Rail and investing in the midlands rail hub but, as he knows, we are looking into whether and how to proceed with HS2, and the House can expect an announcement very shortly.

Q4. This Prime Minister has shown no respect for Scotland. Will he listen to the Scottish food and drink sector, which currently employs 40,000 EU nationals? We have 46,000 roles needing to be filled by 2030. The figures are clear: immigration is an urgent priority for Scotland. So when will this Prime Minister accept that Scotland must have the power to tailor its own immigration policy and ensure that we have the powers to do so? (900488)

I have the utmost respect for the people of Scotland. I have less respect for the SNP Government of Scotland, who are currently, because of their failures, producing less growth than any other part of the UK.

May I start by congratulating the Prime Minister on ensuring that this is the final Prime Minister’s questions of our time as a member of the European Union? I know that he shares my concern about the loss of biodiversity around the world. I have seen at first hand how it is possible to turn a palm oil plantation back into a fast-recovering rainforest full of wildlife. While we are already doing good work on restoring environment around the world, will he ensure that we step up our work through the Department for International Development to restore biodiversity, and in doing so, help to tackle climate change?

My right hon. Friend raises an exceptionally important point. That is why it is vital that we have a direct link between the Chinese COP summit on biodiversity and our COP26 summit on climate change.

Q5. The Prime Minister talks of avoiding hesitation, repetition and deviation, but does he agree that we should also avoid hypocrisy? We will not be taken seriously on climate leadership as long as we are ploughing taxpayers’ money into projects overseas that are emitting huge amounts of carbon. It is not just the export finance. It is also the fact that at the UK-Africa investment summit last week, it was announced that £2 billion will be ploughed into more oil and gas. Will he join me and the Environmental Audit Committee in agreeing that, from the end of 2021, there should be no UK money going into fossil fuels overseas—yes or no? (900489)

What I can tell the hon. Lady is that we have doubled spending on tackling climate change, to £11.6 billion. Not another penny will be going into digging out coal, and we will do everything we can to help the rest of the world achieve the incredible record of the UK Government in reducing CO2 emissions. That is our ambition.

This Sunday is World Wetlands Day, and I have the superb WWT Slimbridge headquarters in my constituency. Will the Prime Minister tell us what the environment Bill will do for wetlands and wildlife, and will he visit our famous flamboyance of flamingos?

I look forward to seeing my hon. Friend’s famous flamboyant flamingos at the earliest opportunity. I can tell her that our environment plan places biodiversity frameworks on a statutory footing—whether or not that includes flamingos, I do not know.

Q6. P&O Ferries in Hull are finding Filipino seafarers to work for far below the national minimum wage. They are expected to work 12-hour shifts seven days a week for six months at a time. The Prime Minister will remember that the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster, which claimed the lives of 193 passengers and crew, was caused by seafarer fatigue. Will he agree to meet a cross-party group of MPs to discuss that issue, to try to put it to bed once and for all and to protect British seafarer jobs? (900490)

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise that serious issue. I have been told that the replacement crew’s working pattern meets the requirements of international maritime conventions, but plainly there are concerns for all the reasons that he mentions. The shortest answer I can give him is that I know my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary will be only too happy to meet him and others who are concerned.

This week, the much anticipated Chapelford Medical Centre opened in my constituency, improving GP access for residents. Will the Prime Minister confirm that this Government’s intention is to recruit, train and deploy more doctors, so that we can increase the number of appointments for people in Warrington and across the UK?

Yes; I can confirm that we will not only deliver 6,000 more GPs but, as my hon. Friend may recall, we have also pledged to deliver 40 new hospitals and 50,000 more nurses. This is the party of delivery, decision and democracy, and we get on with the job.

Q8. The Prime Minister will be aware that we have been pressing for some time for a pension for innocent victims of violence in Northern Ireland. Can he update the House on the progress made thus far and give an absolute assurance that those in receipt of such a pension are innocent victims and will not include perpetrators who were injured by their own actions? (900492)

We obviously have every sympathy for innocent victims of violence in Northern Ireland. We have been consistently clear about the principle that people must have sustained injuries through no fault of their own, and that principle will be sustained throughout the negotiation.

The Prime Minister will know that the Future Fit programme is a £312 million investment in upgrading and modernising hospital services in Shropshire. Telford Council, a medically illiterate organisation, has managed to prevent these changes over the last six years, undermining the 300 local doctors and surgeons who believe it is essential for patient safety. Will the Prime Minister intervene to use his good offices to help us break this deadlock, otherwise patient safety will be put at risk at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that issue, and I can tell him that we are indeed getting on with that job. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health says that he will personally intervene to ensure that that is done.

Q9. While the MAC report proposes a reduction in salary thresholds from £30,000 to £25,600, it does not go far enough, given that around half of Scottish employees earn less than the proposed threshold, and that rises to almost 90% in the vital care sector. Does the Prime Minister agree that protecting Scotland’s care sector with a tailored migration system is more important than his ideological obsession of cutting immigration? (900493)

I think the House should be clear that we do not wish in any way to deprive any part of the UK of the labour that it needs, and we have special provisions to ensure that Scotland is properly catered for. As I say, we have doubled the seasonal agricultural workers scheme. But we will respond in due course to the stipulations of the Migration Advisory Committee.

I know my right hon. Friend is very fond of the north-east of Scotland, having visited twice in the last year, so will he commit here today to delivering the long-awaited oil and gas sector deal so that we can work with that industry as it transitions to net zero and make Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire not just the oil and gas capital of Europe, but the energy capital of the world?

Yes. Not only that, but we can do it in such a way as to continue this country’s reduction in hydrocarbon emissions.

Q10. The shortage of GPs has reached crisis point. In his answer to the hon. Member for Warrington South (Andy Carter), the Prime Minister did nothing to allay the fears and concerns of patients who are waiting weeks to see a GP now. People in training is all very well, but what is he going to do now to make sure patients can access GPs? (900494)

The hon. Member is right to raise the point, but the number of GPs is already going up, and as I have just told the House, we are recruiting 6,000 more.

Yesterday’s announcement of the Nexus contract being placed with the Swiss company Stadler instead of with Hitachi Rail, which is based in my Sedgefield constituency, is in my opinion inappropriate and it takes no account of the socioeconomic benefit to us of UK-based business. I hope to see a positive decision on HS2 with its potential to reconnect the north with London, and would ask the Prime Minister to ensure that UK-based businesses such as Hitachi see their investment in the UK properly recognised in the procurement process.

My hon. Friend has personally raised the issue with me before, and I am sure that his constituents will congratulate him on sticking up for their interests in the way that he does. I can tell him that there will be a decision on HS2 very shortly, if he can just contain his impatience a little bit longer.

11.   Yesterday, the EU published the Erasmus+ programme annual report. It showed that Edinburgh University is the top UK institution for sending students on the scheme. The number of incoming higher education EU staff stood at 4,970 across the UK. The educational benefits are clearly endless. Will the Prime Minister now prioritise talks on the UK’s continued participation, so we do not face any delay in joining the next cycle from 2021? (900495)

Nothing in withdrawal from the EU stops UK students being able to pursue their hopes, their dreams around the whole of the European Union, and we will ensure that that is the case.

This week sees the start of the second phase of the Grenfell inquiry. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that our thoughts are with those affected, and that what we seek from the inquiry is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth as to what happened?

Yes. I think most people would agree that Sir Martin Moore-Bick was pretty unflinching in the first section of his report, and I have no doubt that he will be equally unsparing in the next.

Q12. Prime Minister, is the BBC a mortal enemy of the Conservative party, or a cherished British institution that will be funded by the licence fee? (900496)

I can certainly say that it is a cherished British institution, and not a mortal enemy of the Conservative party.

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust is receiving £500 million thanks to this Conservative Government. Does the Prime Minister agree that that is excellent news for Carshalton and Wallington patients, and will he encourage my constituents to get involved with the consultation on where the new hospital should go?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on speaking up for Carshalton and Wallington, and on drawing attention to investment in the NHS. That investment is increasing under this Government, and we have now legislated for it, not just for this year, not just for next year, but for every year of this Parliament.

Q14. Last week I visited Grange Academy, a special school in Kempston. Its recent bid to the condition improvement fund, in order to make desperately needed school improvements, was turned down by the Government. Will the Prime Minister urgently review the funding formula for capital and revenue, so that schools for children with special educational needs and disability are not disadvantaged simply because they have fewer pupils? (900498)

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We are increasing funding for SEND schools by £780 million and ensuring that there are more of them, but I would be happy to look at the particular case he raises.

Half of the adult population in Cornwall, and 40% of children, have not seen an NHS dentist in the past year. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who is a friend of Penzance and Cornwall, meet me to see how we can resolve that inequality?

Q15. Is the Prime Minister aware that the international strand of Glasgow’s fantastic Celtic Connections festival has been scaled back by almost 20% this year, because of what the director, Donald Shaw, described as the “hassle and stress” of sourcing visas for overseas artists? What is the Prime Minister’s message to artists who want to come here and share their talents, but who are put off by an over-complicated and extortionate application protest that signals they are not welcome? (900499)

As the hon. Gentleman knows, this Government have already instituted new measures to ensure that people of talent, and who can contribute to this economy, can come without let or hindrance. I am surprised that the director of the festival he refers to is encountering any difficulties, but if he really has a problem, may I direct him to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary?

Given the Prime Minister’s proven track record in overcoming prevarication, procrastination, dither and delay, will he repeat that success, do as other hon. Friends have asked, and get High Speed 2 done, in order to secure jobs across the country, including in Crewe and Nantwich?

I reassure hon. Friends and Members across the Chamber, of whatever persuasion they may be regarding HS2, that there will be an announcement and decision very shortly.

I hope the Prime Minister has the humility to recognise that not everybody will be celebrating on Friday night. We have been promised that leaving the EU will bring power closer to the people and give us a greater say in our communities, but instead many people feel that they have so far been ignored and disempowered. Will he demonstrate his willingness to listen to all voices by meeting Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price, and me, to discuss how Wales will win the tools to forge a better future?

I certainly share the right hon. Lady’s general sentiment that it is time for the whole country to come together. I think from memory that Wales voted to leave the EU, and it is time that we regarded this as a beginning. This is curtain-up on a fantastic future for our country, and I respectfully suggest to the right hon. Lady, and others, that that is the frame of mind in which they should approach it.