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Volume 671: debated on Wednesday 5 February 2020

The whole House will want to pay tribute to the police and all the emergency services for their brave response to the terrorist incident in Streatham on Sunday. That appalling incident makes plain the case for immediate action, and we will shortly introduce emergency legislation to ensure that we do everything to protect the public.

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.

On behalf of my constituents in Bridgend, may I warmly congratulate the Prime Minister on delivering on the promise made to the British people that we will leave the European Union? Will he reassure my constituents that, now that we are taking back control of our money, our borders and our laws, every effort will be made to bring jobs and investment to areas such as Bridgend that feel left behind?

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. With better education, better infrastructure and high technology, we will unite and level up this country and deliver, as he is doing for the people of Bridgend.

We were all appalled by the terror attack in Streatham on Sunday, and I want to join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the bravery and dedication of the police, security services and all the other emergency response staff for the way in which they dealt with a terrifying and terrible situation.

Last Friday, this country left the European Union. Britain’s place in the world is at a crossroads, and while there are different views across the country, we will be holding the Government to account as the negotiations begin. My hope is that we will now truly come together to shape our common future and build an internationalist, diverse and outward-looking country. Indeed, we will get an opportunity to do that when Britain hosts the UN climate change conference, COP26, later this year. Despite the fact that we are at the 11th hour to save the planet, the former Tory Minister and now ex-president of COP26 Claire O’Neill said that there has been a

“huge lack of leadership and engagement”

from this Government. What on earth did she mean?

If we look at what the Government are achieving and already have achieved on climate change, it is quite phenomenal. The right hon. Gentleman will know that last year was the first year on record that renewables produced more of this country’s energy than fossil fuels. He will know that 99% of all the solar panels that have achieved that miracle were installed since the Conservatives came to power in 2010. We are delivering for the people of this country. We are reducing greenhouse gases. All he would produce, I am afraid, is a load of hot air.

The problem is, the Government’s own figures show that they are missing the carbon budget —let alone 2050, it will be 2099 before this country meets net zero.

We discovered this morning that two former Conservative leaders have also turned down the job formerly done by Claire O’Neill. It might be third time lucky if we make a joint approach to the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith)—perhaps he would like to take on that job. He is in the Chamber, ready for it.

The Prime Minister’s own former Minister said that we should have “clear actions”, “an agreed plan” and

“a roadmap for the Year of Action”,

but we do not. Why is the Prime Minister failing so spectacularly to measure up to the scale of the climate crisis that this country and this planet are facing?

This is beyond satire. This is the first country, the first major economy in the world, to have set a target of being carbon neutral by 2050. It is an absolutely fantastic thing. We are leading the world in our ambitions, and we will have a wonderful summit in Glasgow, one of the most fantastic cities in our country, at the end of the year.

This country is not meeting its target and it is not due to meet its target, and I think the Prime Minister should recognise that. Even the Paris targets are not enough. The UN says that we have just a decade to change course if we want to avert a climate catastrophe. Let us look at something else his ex-Minister said—that the Prime Minister promised to “lead from the front” and guaranteed there would be “money” and “people”, but these promises are not close to being met. What on earth could she have been talking about?

As so often, I am not entirely sure what the right hon. Gentleman is talking about, because if we look at what this Government have actually delivered—if we look at our Conservative policies of backing green tech, of backing innovation, of supporting a dynamic market economy, which is the solution to these problems—we have cut CO2 emissions in this country since 2010, on 1990 levels, by 42%. That is an astonishing achievement, and at the same time, the economy has grown by 73%, thanks to free-market, dynamic, one nation Conservativism. That is our approach. What is his?

The Prime Minister’s former Minister said: “My advice to”—[Interruption.] Well, Government Members may not like it, but I am going to read it:

“My advice to anybody to whom Boris is making promises—whether it is voters, world leaders, ministers, employees or…family members—is to get it in writing, get a lawyer to look at it and make sure the money is in the bank.”

Not my words—hers. The Prime Minister’s failure in government means this country will not meet its net zero target until 2099. This Government have banned offshore wind, and this Government are funding billions on fossil fuel projects abroad. Is this what his ex-Minister means by the “absence of leadership”?

I think the grotesque failure of the Leader of the Opposition to understand what is happening in this country’s economy, let alone in the fight against climate change, is quite mind-boggling. I can inform him today not just that this country is leading in producing the technology to generate offshore, but that the north-east of this country leads the world in producing and designing those fantastic turbines. It is because of that technological innovation that we are able massively to expand our renewables. I can tell him —I think he may know this—that in 1990 this country was 70% dependent on coal power. And, by the way, he would want to reopen the coalmines. Today, we are down to 3%, and by 2024 it will be zero. That is our plan. What is his?

It was the Labour party that proposed the climate change emergency motion to this House on 1 May. The Prime Minister is quoting things that happened in 1990 and afterwards. During that time, of course, he was a climate sceptic who did not say anything about this at all.

Poor leadership is nothing new to this Prime Minister. When he was Foreign Secretary, he cut the number of climate attachés across the world by 60% in our embassies, and reportedly said to his staff, “You’re not going to spill this all out to the media, are you?” Considering his monumental failure in advance of COP26, is it not really just a continuation of his climate change denial statements that he was regularly making up until 2015?

The right hon. Gentleman is talking absolute nonsense. This Government are delivering a fantastic agenda in tackling climate change; we lead the world in going for a zero-carbon approach. His own approach is utterly unclear and has indeed been condemned by the GMB as a disaster for the UK economy. He would confiscate people’s cars and prevent them from having foreign holidays. We have a plan that will allow the UK economy to continue to grow and create jobs and that will tackle climate change.

I really do admire the Prime Minister’s very vivid imagination, but unfortunately his vivid imagination seems to have taken over from his memory, because he might recall saying that climate change is a “primitive fear…without foundation”. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh said:

“Any consequence of failure to deliver a climate action plan must fall equally on every country…the cost of our inaction is devastating for every living person”,

but our Prime Minister is failing on the biggest stage on the most important issue of our time. And now his former Minister has described preparations in Whitehall as

“Whitehall knot-tying, infighting and obfuscation, petty political squabbles and black ops briefings”.

No wonder the Prime Minister is shutting newspapers out of No. 10 because he does not like the briefings. When will he face up to the climate emergency and take the action necessary to turn Glasgow into the turning point when this world will stop the levels of pollution and climate change we are having and go forward to a sustainable future? Because his Government’s policies simply do not take us there.

This Government are showing world leadership in tackling climate change, and we are going to have a fantastic summit at Glasgow and I look forward to it very much.

The right hon. Gentleman mentions the media. Labour finally conducted an inquest into what happened in the general election, and they discovered in the Labour party that it was not the leadership that was at fault, and it was not Brexit; it was the media. They blame the media for it. I do not blame them; I am a journalist—I love journalism. The people of this country do not blame the media; they can see that the media do their best to represent the reality, and the reality is that this is a Government who are getting on with delivering 40 new hospitals and 20,000 more police, tackling climate change, and £30,000 starting salaries for every teacher in the country. It is not about the presentation of the facts, it is about the reality, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot cope with the reality.

Q2. As MP for Broxtowe, I am absolutely delighted that funding is starting to flow to rebuild hospitals, such as the £5 million seed funding going to Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that this Conservative Government are committed to fulfilling their manifesto pledges and will deliver for the NHS? (900621)

I agree passionately with my hon. Friend and congratulate him on all he has done to campaign for the redevelopment of Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital, and of course I am proud that that money is now flowing through to those wonderful projects.

May I add my grateful thanks to the police and emergency services who had to react to the dreadful terrorist incident in Streatham?

In the first few days of Brexit Britain this Prime Minister has sacked an official, taken an isolationist approach to trade and banned the press from a Downing Street briefing; is he intentionally trying to impersonate Donald Trump?

I do not think anybody listening to my speech on Monday could have mistaken it for having anything but the most passionate internationalist, globalist, open, outward-looking approach. There is only one party in this country that has “nationalist” in its name; that’s them. They would break up the most successful political partnership of the last 300 years. The right hon. Gentleman and his party should concentrate on the day job and doing a better job for the people of Scotland.

The Prime Minister does not even know the name of our party. The Prime Minister is on a dangerous trajectory. Is it any wonder that poll after poll shows majority support for Scottish independence? Our former US ambassador has made clear the threat of a Tory-Trump trade deal, warning that drug prices could soar. This would see increased pressure on our frontline services. It is clearer than ever that this Government and this Prime Minister are a threat to our NHS. This afternoon the SNP will present our NHS protection Bill to remove the very real threat of Tory privatisation. Will the Prime Minister commit right now to supporting our legislation?

I think it is very odd that the right hon. Gentleman should denounce this country’s wish to have trade deals around the world when, as I understand it, their proposal is to try to re-join the European Union, and have a different currency, whose name they have yet to identify—perhaps they could elucidate that for the House—have a border at Berwick, and just after this country has taken back control of its outstanding marine wealth to hand it back to Brussels. That is their policy. I really think they should concentrate on doing a better job for the people of Scotland.

Q5. A strong society needs strong families, as our manifesto rightly said. It went on to say that we will champion family hubs to serve vulnerable families. Will the Prime Minister prioritise family hubs and ensure that they are linked to our early years strategy, the troubled families programme and children’s services reform? (900624)

Yes, indeed. That is why we have given another £165 million to extend the troubled families programme this year.

Q3. In the past 10 years, violent crime has risen 152% across the towns of Warwickshire. In the past two weeks in my constituency, two people have been killed in two separate events and others remain seriously ill or injured. The Government have promised to reinstate 20,000 police officers, but is not the simple truth that it is now our residents, through hikes in council tax of 12% last year and 6% this year, who are picking up the whole bill for the Old Bill, and that the Conservative party is no longer the party of law and order but the party of fear and disorder? (900622)

To be fair to the hon. Gentleman, he is making an important point about violent crime. I share his anger. That is why we are putting 20,000 more police on the streets. That is, above all, why we are now tackling the county lines drugs gangs that are behind so much of the rise in violent crime. We will get that crime down.

Q9. The Prime Minister is conscious of the very widespread concern in this House about the plans to involve Huawei in 5G networks, concern that will have only been increased by the news this week that France is building a new 5G network without the involvement of Huawei, following the lead of Australia. If they can do it, we could do it. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he wants to reduce Huawei’s involvement over time, and can he give a timescale as to when that involvement will hit zero? (900628)

My right hon. Friend is certainly right that we are going to be reducing the involvement of Huawei below the 35% market cap, but he is also right in his general vision, which is one I entirely share. What has happened, I am afraid, is a failure of like-minded countries to produce an alternative to the 5G network except that provided by high-risk vendors. That is why we are now doubling the science budget. We will be working with some of the countries he mentions in order to produce exactly that diversification in the market.

Q4. In November last year, the personal independence payment assessment centre in my constituency was moved to Rhyl. No notice has ever been given of that change. The next bus from Caernarfon to Rhyl takes 1 hour 44 minutes, or in a case in point in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts), the bus from Barmouth to Rhyl takes 5 hours 15 minutes. This is the reality in the Prime Minister’s soaraway global Britain. Will he instruct his Minister to remedy this matter immediately? (900623)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the point he raises. We do need to improve our bus services across the whole country and that is why we are investing another £250 million immediately to improve bus services. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has many more such investments in the pipeline.

Q13. Sometimes we are the train, sometimes we are the track, and just last week we have taken control back. Does the Prime Minister agree that now is the time for us to be the track for a Metrolink between Manchester and Bolton? (900632)

Yes indeed, and that is why—thanks partly to my hon. Friend’s urgings and his campaign—we have given the combined mayoral authority in Bolton £300 million under the transforming cities deal, plus a share of the £4.2 billion local transport fund. We have given it the tools—let us hope that it follows his urgings and builds the Metrolink that he wants.

Q6. Last Friday I visited a school in my constituency, and in 2020 the state of the school buildings was Dickensian, with leaking roofs, rusty shower rooms and mouldy changing areas. When will the Government understand that the cost of education is high, but that it is a worthy investment in the future of our schools? Whether a child is a whizz kid or is needy, every child deserves to be at school in an excellent and inspiring school building. (900625)

That is exactly why this Government are investing a record £14 billion more in education, raising funding for primary schools to £4,000 per head and £5,000 per head for every secondary school in the country. We can only do that because we are running a strong and dynamic market economy, and that is what we are going to do.

Q14. To help to genuinely spread opportunity across our country, may I encourage my right hon. Friend to have a pre-Budget chat with his Chancellor about extending the Government’s welcome plans to reduce national insurance contributions for employers of ex-service personnel to other groups who find it difficult to get a good job, including care leavers, ex-offenders, those with a disability and the long-term unemployed? (900633)

Yes, and I thank my hon. Friend and his family for everything that they do to encourage ex-offenders into work. I will indeed take up that suggestion with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. We cut taxes on working people. We cut national insurance. The Opposition would hike taxes and keep people in welfare.

Q7. It has been two years since the Windrush scandal exposed the wrongful detention and deportation of Commonwealth citizens. While we wait for the much delayed publication of the lessons learned review, the Government plan to deport 50 people to Jamaica by charter flight next week. Will the Prime Minister immediately suspend the flight until the lessons learned review is published and the recommendations are implemented? (900626)

I think the whole House will understand that the people of this country will think it right to send back foreign national offenders.

The terrorist incident last week reminds us that the rule of law remains a fundamental foundation of our democratic constitution, but the explosion of judicial review and judicial activism has led to a censoriousness and litigiousness in our society and has distorted questions that ought to remain exclusively political. How will my right hon. Friend ensure that Parliament remains the sovereign and legitimate source of law as we take back control?

My hon. Friend is a distinguished lawyer and she is right to stick up for the immense value of our legal system. We must protect judicial review. It is a vital part of our system, but we should also ensure that it is not abused to conduct politics by other means or to create needless delay.

Q8. For many years, Bedford has been promised a new in-patient mental health facility, especially since provision at Weller Wing was closed in 2017, yet patients are still travelling 20 miles to access services. Will the Prime Minister explain how that demonstrates the parity of esteem for mental health care that his party promised in 2012? (900627)

We are putting record investment in the NHS—£33.9 billion—and a total of £12 billion is now going into mental healthcare. That is a record sum.

Following on from the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) about Huawei, the Australian agencies analysed the involvement of any element of Huawei in their 5G system and determined that any involvement would lead to a major risk of both sabotage and espionage. Can the Prime Minister give an undertaking that this country will lead the Five Eyes and NATO to create an alternative to Huawei in the next two years?

Yes, we will of course do nothing either to endanger our critical national security infra- structure or to prejudice co-operation with Five Eyes partners, as my right hon. Friend has rightly suggested, and we will work to ensure that high-risk vendors cannot dominate our market.

Q10. The Prime Minister will know that under his Government there has been a mass shortage of consultants across the UK, leading to strain on our A&E services. How will he make sure, especially now we have left the EU, that consultants from overseas are encouraged to apply for NHS visas to work in hospitals across the UK? (900629)

We have instituted NHS visas in order to attract talent from around the world, but I remind the hon. Lady, who I think speaks for a Welsh seat, that that is a devolved matter for the Welsh Labour Government.

The Prime Minister has rightly put keeping our country safe and the NHS at the heart of the Government’s plans. Will he support my campaign for two new GP surgeries in my beautiful market towns of Oakham and Melton, and can I remind him that he is always welcome if he is in search of a pork pie, Rutland Bitter or stilton?

Q11. Last week it was revealed that my constituent Errol Graham starved to death just months after the Department for Work and Pensions stopped his benefits. His emaciated body was only discovered when bailiffs broke down his front door to evict him. The first priority of Government is to keep their citizens safe. How many more vulnerable benefit claimants will have to die before this Government start to value their lives? (900630)

This is a tragic case, and the hon. Lady is right to raise it. We have allocated £36 million to improve safeguarding and decision making in cases like this, including through the creation of a new independent serious case panel, which will enable us to scrutinise and learn lessons from such tragic cases. We are also improving guidance for staff.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in extending on behalf of the whole House our sympathy and best wishes to those injured in the Streatham attack last week? I welcome his intention to legislate as a consequence of this attack. Does he agree that Her Majesty’s Government now have no option but to legislate to try to contain the threat of ex-terrorist offenders when they still pose a threat to our country?

My hon. Friend is entirely right. Most people in this country would agree that the system of automatic early release of terrorist offenders has run out of road and that it is time to find a way, as we are doing, to make sure they are properly scrutinised by a parole board or an equivalent.

Q12. Thanks to the tireless work of my predecessor, the late, great Paul Flynn, my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi), and the families of children with intractable epilepsy, medical cannabis is now legal in the UK, so can the Prime Minister answer calls from the families of very sick children who need medical cannabis as to when this medicine will actually be available on the NHS? Will he come to Portcullis House with me after this session to meet these families and to personally assure them that he will do all he can to help? (900631)

It was this Government and my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary who legalised medicinal cannabis, and I undertake that he will certainly be happy to meet the hon. Member’s constituents this afternoon.

Buses are a vital lifeline for residents in Rother Valley, but too often First Bus is letting down the people of South Yorkshire. Will the Prime Minister confirm that the Government fully back buses as an essential way not only to connect our villages, towns and cities across the north, but to unlock the potential of Rother Valley and South Yorkshire?

The Government are passionate about buses. I assure my hon. Friend that we will massively improve our bus network, in the Rother Valley above all, and I thank him for his lobbying.

Q15. We know that the Prime Minister has form in ducking democratic scrutiny at every opportunity and that his party is no stranger to receiving Russian donations, but his repeated refusal to publish the report on Russian interference in UK democracy is unjustifiable and unacceptable. Will he tell us clearly, without bluff and bluster, when the report will be published, why it has been delayed for so long, and when he will reconvene the Intelligence and Security Committee? (900634)

The report will of course be published—as the hon. Member knows full well—when the Intelligence and Security Committee is reconstituted, and I think that his conspiratorial frame of mind is likely to be thoroughly disappointed by the results.

Commuters in Watford are fed up with poor rail services making them late for work in the mornings and late returning home at night to see their families. Does the Prime Minister agree that even new rail franchises that do not deliver cannot assume that they will keep their contracts if they do not sort out those issues as soon as possible?

Absolutely, and that is why we are putting £48 billion into improving our railways as part of the infrastructure revolution. We should never forget that that lot over there would renationalise the railways. When railways were nationalised, a quarter of rail users deserted the network; after privatisation, rail use doubled.

Last week we lost a political giant in Seamus Mallon. He was an outstanding parliamentarian, and a seeker of justice for everyone. One injustice that burned in him until his dying day was the murder of Paul Quinn, who was beaten to death by an IRA gang in 2007. They broke every single bone in his body, to the extent that his mother could not place rosary beads in his hands when he was in his coffin. In the aftermath, the now Finance Minister Conor Murphy said that Paul was linked to criminality. That was a lie. Does the Prime Minister agree that Conor Murphy should retract that lie, publicly apologise, and give any information that he has about Paul’s murder to the Police Service of Northern Ireland?

I hear the hon. Gentleman, and I think that the whole House will have heard the passion with which he spoke about that injustice. I can tell him that we will implement the Stormont House agreement in such a way as to provide certainty for veterans, and, of course, justice for victims as well.