The President of COP26 was asked—
Civil Society and Youth Groups
I have established a civil society and youth advisory council, which is the first of its kind at any COP. It is working with the UK presidency to deliver a successful summit. The co-chairs are youth climate activists, one from the global north and one from the global south. I also meet civil society and youth groups on my international visits, to ensure that their voices are heard.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. Does he agree that children in our schools can play a crucial part in helping us to get to net zero by becoming young climate leaders? In my constituency there are groups such as Warrington Youth Voice, which last month organised its first green schools conference, and pupils at Penketh Primary School have come together to take steps to reduce energy use in their homes. Will my right hon. Friend encourage Members of the House to reach out to schools in their constituencies, and build greater understanding of the work of COP26?
What an excellent question. I commend my hon. Friend for the work he is doing to encourage youth climate activists in his constituency, such as those in Warrington Youth Voice and at Penketh Primary School. As he knows, last month we sent a COP26 schools pack, designed to engage students with climate action, to schools across the UK. In May, MPs also received a UK engagement pack.
Limiting Global Temperature Rise
We are pressing all countries to come forward with mid-century net-zero commitments, and aligned ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets. We have seen some progress. When the UK took on the COP26 presidency, less than 30% of the global economy was covered by a net-zero emissions target, and that figure is now 70%.
The Government claim that the UK has reduced its emissions footprint by 42% since 1990, which is a commendable feat. That has been achieved in part by offshoring manufacturing and outsourcing many emissions to countries such as China that produce the goods we consume. If we factor in those emissions, the UK emissions reduction is possibly as little as 10% to 15%. Ahead of COP26, what steps will the Minister take to include the full scope of our emissions in the accounting, including those arising from UK consumption, supply chains, and international aviation and shipping?
Keeping the 1.5°C limit alive is now, quite rightly, one of the Government’s stated aims of COP26. Although we do not doubt the COP President’s personal commitment to delivering on that objective, the Government as a whole are patently still not doing enough. If we are to markedly increase the global ambition for 2030 targets, forge a coalition with vulnerable nations to hold the major emitters to account, and mobilise the climate finance that is essential to unlocking any agreement, we need sustained engagement and focus from the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor, and we need it now. With just over 100 days until this critical summit, does the COP26 President recognise that if senior members of the Government do not raise their game quickly, there is a real risk of failure in Glasgow in November?
There is a concerted effort across the whole of Government to ensure that we press other countries to come forward with ambition. We are, of course, seen around the world as a leader on climate action, in terms of both the actions we have taken and the commitments we have made. The Prime Minister has regular dialogue with world leaders, as do the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary with their counterparts.
Current carbon budgets will see the world miss the 1.5°C target, with all the disastrous consequences that will have. The UK’s portion of that carbon budget is up to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 higher than is proportional to its population. France put in the effort for global improvement in the Paris agreement, but we have seen nothing comparable from the UK Government. When will we see that change? What conversations is the right hon. Gentleman having with his Cabinet colleagues about the immediate actions their Departments should be taking to reduce the UK’s carbon contribution?
I respectfully disagree with the hon. Lady. Since 2000 the UK has decarbonised faster than any other G20 nation, and our national determined contribution of at least 68% reduction in emissions on a 1990 base year by 2030 is world leading, as is the commitment in our carbon budget. We are doing our bit but, of course, there is always room for all of us to do more.
I have seen at first hand, when I was Secretary of State for International Development and, indeed, in other roles, that UK support continues to transform millions of lives for the better across the world. The hon. Gentleman will know that we will continue to spend over £10 billion this year in aid, and of course we now have certainty that we will be returning to the 0.7% target.
Emerging Markets Exports: Energy and Renewables
For COP26, we want clean power to be the most attractive option for new power generation for any country. This presents economic opportunities for every country choosing clean energy. The UK Government will showcase a variety of organisations and technologies at COP26 in the blue and green zones, including innovative energy solutions, green technologies and services that can help fight climate change and support resilience.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the contracts for difference auction that is happening in November, shortly before COP26, is a wonderful opportunity to ensure that there is a separate pot for marine energy, which can give opportunities for some of our great new technologies around the coastline to shine? Does she also agree that COP26 provides an opportunity for us to showcase some of those technologies to visiting delegations from abroad, particularly Asia? Mr Speaker, you will be interested to hear that a British company is the second biggest investor in renewables in the Philippines and will be launching a new large fund on the London stock exchange this autumn to invest in further renewable opportunities in Asia.
Just to confirm, the next contracts for difference auction will open in December this year and will be our biggest yet, firmly charting our path towards net zero. Technologies such as wave and tidal stream projects are eligible to compete in pot 2 for CfD auctions, and we will publish specific allocation round parameters in advance of the auction. The Government continue to provide support to UK companies that are looking to export tidal technologies and other marine renewables abroad.
Member Engagement with COP26
As I said in response to an earlier question, all Members of Parliament were sent a COP26 pack in May, which provides ideas for engagement on climate issues with their constituents. With regard to attendance at COP26, we will set out more details very shortly on how parliamentarians can register their interest to attend.
Reducing greenhouse emissions and tackling air pollution is a priority for many Carshalton and Wallington residents, not least because we have the Beddington incinerator in my constituency. In the spirit of engagement, I hope to host a local COP26 event later this year to discuss how we can work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What steps is the COP26 President taking to ensure that the public can engage with COP26 and play their part in this important event?
I commend my hon. Friend for the work he is doing in hosting a local climate event in his constituency, and I would urge all hon. and right hon. Members to consider doing the same. We are today also launching the local authorities and mayors COP26 engagement pack. Of course, we want everyone to play their part in taking climate action; I have always said that we want this to be the most inclusive COP ever.
Ethics and Human Rights: Climate Change
The UK recognises the serious and unequivocal threat that climate change poses to our planet, and that it can indeed undermine the enjoyment of human rights. The Paris agreement preamble states that respecting and promoting our human rights is fundamental to effective climate implementation. Therefore, human rights are a cross-cutting consideration in all climate action, so we will be working with all countries this year to achieve an ambitious, inclusive and shared outcome from COP26 to help safeguard human rights.
I thank the Minister for that answer. Scotland was not only the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency, but the first in the world to establish a dedicated climate justice fund—a fund that was recently doubled by the SNP Scottish Government in Edinburgh. Will the UK Government, ahead of COP Glasgow, match Scotland’s ambitions? Will this Government create such a fund, and will the Minister and the COP26 President ensure that the focus of COP26 is placed squarely on the rights of those who will be affected first and foremost by the climate emergency?
As my right hon. Friend the COP26 President set out, the UK remains one of the largest donors in supporting a number of areas, including, obviously, humanitarian assistance and humanitarian rights. I would be interested to hear more on the details of the climate justice fund to understand the premise of it, but the UK continues to have an absolutely clear commitment to that.
Geothermal Energy: Net Zero Target
The Committee that I chair has been working with Departments across Whitehall to develop our plans to deliver on our carbon budgets and, indeed, our net zero commitments. The Government consider geothermal energy a low-carbon technology that is within the scope of our new £270 million green heat network fund, which supports the commercialisation of low-carbon heat network projects and opened for applications earlier this month.
The COP President will know from his recent visit that Cornwall is leading the way in the development of geothermal energy in the UK with two wells being drilled and many more planned. However, the people developing this new technology need the Government to back it to ensure that we can realise its potential, and they need certainty to make their plans in the near future. Will he ensure that the Government come forward with a renewable heat incentive for geothermal as soon as possible?
May I say that I very much enjoyed my visit to Eden Geothermal with my hon. Friend? It was particularly pleasing to note that some of those working in the project had made the transition from the oil and gas sector owing to their transferable engineering skills. As I set out, the fund has been launched, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth will be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the issue further.
Upholding COP26 Commitments
The UK presidency is focused on delivering a successful COP26 with ambitious outcomes across mitigation, adaptation and finance. We will use our presidency year to champion the outcome, maintaining close collaboration with our partners and, indeed, the COP27 presidency to make those commitments a reality.
My right hon. Friend makes an important point. As well as pushing for net zero and 2030 emissions reduction targets, we are indeed asking countries to set out their long-term strategies to demonstrate how they will turn ambition into action. In addition, we want to resolve the outstanding issue of transparency in the Paris rulebook, which will allow for reporting by countries of progress on climate action.
Economic Recovery from Covid-19: Climate Action
The Prime Minister’s 10-point plan sets out our blueprint for a green industrial revolution. The plan commits to investments in green technologies and industries, and leverages billions of bounds of private sector investment to create and support up to 250,000 green jobs across the UK. It is a clear plan to build back greener from the covid pandemic. The Government will publish their net zero strategy before COP26.
Two weeks ago, I went on a fantastic community litter pick with the fantastic Hannah Picken, who leads a local environmental group called Wild Earth Movement. Within an hour, we collected 244 kg of litter and waste—a quarter of a tonne in old terms, so it was pretty significant—the majority of which was plastic. Does my right hon. Friend agree that individuals need to do more and show personal responsibility for us to achieve the net zero carbon goal?
My hon. Friend is leading by example. I commend Hannah and her local group, the Wild Earth Movement, for their impressive clean-up operation—but, of course, it is a depressing one to have to do. The challenge we have is to educate and encourage all our citizens to make this wonderful group’s activities redundant by stopping plastic pollution. Through our Together for Our Planet campaign, we are building awareness and understanding of COP26 in every part of the UK to help educate our children and families on the behaviours to change so that we are all part of that positive impact on our carbon footprint.
The success of the UK presidency requires leadership at home. The Government have pledged to consider the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation for near-zero emission iron ore steel- making by 2035, but a plan for decarbonising steel production must be published before COP26. Hydrogen is among the emerging technologies offering solutions, and its use is progressing across the rest of Europe. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit recently reported on 23 pilot projects—planned or live—across several countries producing 10 million tonnes of clean steel annually by 2026. Are the Government considering hydrogen-based pilots as part of their plan for steel?
The hon. Gentleman will know that we will shortly publish our hydrogen strategy, which will set out in much more detail the commitment that the Government are going to make to that developing technology, and a £250 million fund will be available in due course for pilot projects to develop those skills.
I am often contacted by young constituents who care passionately about climate change and want to see Ministers taking bold action. The UK’s credibility as COP president rests on climate action at home. The Government have set legally binding net zero targets but are currently off track to meet their fourth and fifth carbon budgets, which are calibrated for previous, more lenient targets. When does the Minister expect the UK to have its house in order so that I can let my constituents know that their words are not falling on deaf ears?
I would be thrilled for the hon. Lady to go back and say to her constituents that in putting carbon budget 6 into law, as I did just a few weeks ago, we are driving up not only the ambition, but the policy making, frameworks and business models that will help industry to decarbonise and us to change the way that we travel and live in our houses of the future to ensure that we are all part of the solution to meeting that net zero target by 2050.
Recent United Nations analysis makes it clear that the current climate pledges will achieve emission reductions of only 1% by the end of this critical decade, not the 45% required to stay below 1.5° C. What has the Minister done to pressure large emitters such as Australia, Japan, South Korea and Russia who have merely resubmitted old pledges or, in the case of Brazil, have backtracked even further, to step up and do their fair share?
The COP presidency has an incredibly important role in drawing everyone together and driving up ambition. As the COP26 President set out in answer to an earlier question, we have shifted the dial in terms of the ambition brought forward through nationally determined contributions by many countries, but there is much more to do and we are under no illusions that the challenges that we all face as a planet to meet that are yet to be resolved. We continue to work tirelessly as a team and across the globe to encourage more ambition.
Businesses have a key role in tackling climate change, which we will showcase in the UK managed spaces of COP26. Businesses were able to apply for the expression of interest process and will also be able to participate through other delegations and in the action zone organised by the UN and the high-level planet champions.
Local government has a key role to play in tackling climate change and meeting net zero targets, and we are keen to ensure that there is representation at the summit from cities and regions across the UK. My hon. Friend will know that, following the G7 in June, the Government have backed a major drive to make Cornwall the first net zero region in the UK. I am sure that she will be leading on getting the maximum impact for her constituents from the town deals for Penzance, St Ives and Camborne, worth £65 million, up to £1 million of innovation funding and energy efficiency, power generation and energy storage for Cornish businesses, and the opportunities for Cornwall to pilot the new e-bike support scheme.
Last week, we set out our high-level two-week programme for COP26. The conference will open with a world leaders’ summit followed by a range of themed days of activity, including on finance, energy, youth, nature, adaptation, gender, science, transport and the built environment. These days will also be an opportunity to showcase specific global action on tackling climate change. I look forward to welcoming parliamentarians to Glasgow and we will very shortly be inviting Members of both Houses to formally register their interest for attendance at COP26.
As the president-designate says, it is not just world leaders and Governments who are needed to make COP26 a success, but parliamentarians from around the world. As chair of the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, we will be hosting events for parliamentarians around the world, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will encourage his officials to accredit as many parliamentarians from international delegations as possible.
The Copenhagen summit of 2009 was undone by deep mistrust of the developed world by developing countries. Rather than learning from that, rich countries are still failing to deliver on the promised $100 billion of climate finance and the billions of vaccine doses still required by poorer countries. Yesterday, shamefully, the Prime Minister decided to press ahead with the cut in our aid spending. When the COP26 President went to see the PM yesterday, did he explain that COP26 is not some international photo opportunity, but a complex and fragile negotiation, and that the aid cut simply deepens mistrust, damages our moral standing and undermines our COP presidency?
The right hon. Gentleman raises two issues. On vaccines, he will know that we now have an offer open so that any accredited delegates who are not able to get vaccinated in their home country are able to receive vaccinations through the programme that we are setting up. Secondly, I can tell him that there is huge appreciation for the UK’s leadership on climate action around the world. That is based on conversations that I have day in, day out with world leaders.
The COP26 President knows that world leaders and others are asking him why the UK is the only G7 country cutting aid spending in the year that we are hosting the COP. He knows that delivering support to developing countries is not just morally right, but essential to building a coalition to pressure the world’s largest emitters.
The most significant of those emitters is China. To have a chance of keeping global warming to 1.5°, we need China to ensure that its emissions peak and start to decline by 2025 at the latest. Does the COP26 President agree? If so, can he tell us what the Prime Minister is doing to engage directly with China on the issue and persuade it to step up?
We are engaged with all big emitters; as the right hon. Gentleman knows, I am travelling around the globe talking to different countries. To come back to his point about aid spending, I just point out that this year we will spend more on aid as a percentage of our GNI than the US, Japan, Canada or Italy.
I congratulate all local areas and local leaders who are doing their bit on climate action. As I said, today we are launching the local authorities and Mayors engagement pack, which I hope local authorities and Mayors will use to encourage climate action across their areas.
The UK is already leading the way on tackling air pollution. The Government are backing a £3.8 billion plan to clean up transport and tackle air pollution, investing in green transport and working with local authorities just like the City of Westminster. My hon. Friend will be keen to read the transport decarbonisation plan, which will be published later today and will set out the world’s first “greenprint” for decarbonised transport and clean air.
We are supporting industrial clusters around the world, as the hon. Lady will know from the 10-point plan that the Prime Minister published at the end of last year, and we are seeing action across the country. She will know that the Government have recently funded some new offshore wind ports and we have seen the investment that is going into battery manufacturing for electric vehicles.
I would just point out to the hon. Gentleman that MCI has secured only about a third of the market availability for hotel rooms, and that there are alternative options for booking accommodation, which are still available. If he has specific issues, I would be happy to speak to him separately.
The Prime Minister was asked—
While Sunday’s result may not have been the one we were all hoping for, I know that the whole House will want to congratulate Gareth Southgate and the England squad on their fantastic achievements over the last month. The nation is proud of each and every one of them.
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
I second the Prime Minister’s support for our outstanding England team and players, but it is perhaps a pity that it did not come sooner from him and the Home Secretary. We all know the importance of double vaccination, especially against the delta or Johnson variant of the virus, but in Hammersmith and Fulham, despite the hard work of our local NHS, council and volunteers, only 36% of adults have been double-jabbed, so will the Prime Minister think again before recklessly removing all barriers to infection and transmission on 19 January? Will he keep the regulations on mask wearing and, like the Mayor of London, keep fighting the virus until it is beat?
If we had followed the hon. Gentleman’s precepts—he campaigned vehemently to stay in the European Union—we would not have achieved the fastest vaccine roll-out of any European country or vaccinated a higher proportion than any European population. That is the reality. As for his criticism of the road map, I respectfully point out to the hon. Gentleman that the month is July, not January.
It should be obvious that the Cabinet is as inclusive as the English football team, and I think that some of these criticisms are misplaced. Mr Speaker, I welcome your words at the beginning of Tuesday’s debate and the Prime Minister’s first paragraph on the Treasury minute from Monday. Can we agree that a vote in this House does not amend an Act of Parliament passed by both Houses? Are we expecting a similar debate in another place? Can I suggest to the Prime Minister that, instead of leaping from 0.5% to 0.7% at some stage in the future, we step towards it, because a 40% increase in one year would be ludicrous? Perhaps the Chancellor could consider going to 0.55%, 0.6%, 0.65% and then 0.7%.
I thank my hon. Friend very much for his opening point. On official development assistance, of course I can give him the reassurance that we will continue to follow the law, and he will have heard clearly what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor had to say from this Dispatch Box and what I have said. We want to return to 0.7% as fast as we can, and when fiscal conditions allow.
I start by thanking the England football team for everything they have given this country over the last six weeks. I am so proud of this young, diverse and humble team and everything they represent. They are the very best of modern Britain and everything I know this country can be.
Does the Prime Minister think it was wrong to criticise the England team’s decision to oppose racism by taking the knee as “gesture politics”?
I agree very much with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says about the England team, and I repeat that I want to thank each and every one of them for what they did and the incredible campaign they ran during the Euro 2020 championship. They represent the very best of our country, and I repeat that I utterly condemn and abhor the racist outpourings that we saw on Sunday night.
Today we are taking practical steps to ensure that the football banning order regime is changed, so that if a person is guilty of racist online abuse of footballers, they will not be going to the match—no ifs, no buts, no exemptions and no excuses.
I am sorry, but that just will not wash. It rings hollow.
Let me remind the Prime Minister and the House. On 7 June, his spokesperson said:
“On taking the knee, specifically, the Prime Minister is more focused on action rather than gestures.”
On 14 June, the Home Secretary said:
“I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture politics.”
The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Brendan Clarke-Smith), a Conservative MP, called it a “ridiculous empty gesture”. There is no point pretending these things were not said.
The England footballer Tyrone Mings said—[Interruption.] I heard “a Labour party member” shouted out. Is that really the response? Is that it? Tyrone Mings said, and the House might want to listen:
“labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’”
served to “stoke the fire” of racism and hatred. Those are powerful words from someone who has been subjected to racist abuse. He is right, isn’t he?
I reiterate our total support for our fantastic England team, and I support them in the way they showed solidarity with their friends who faced racism.
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about the Home Secretary, let me remind him that she has faced racism and prejudice all her career of a kind that he can never imagine. She has taken practical steps to get black and minority officers into the police in record numbers, of which I am very proud. [Interruption.]
Let me be clear. I totally condemn all racism, including that directed at the Home Secretary, but she has got this wrong. The whole country knows it and the Prime Minister’s own MPs know it. In the last few days, everybody has seen that England’s black players have been the target of disgusting racist abuse following Sunday’s match—disgusting.
This is really simple, either the Prime Minister is with the England players in their stand against racism or he can defend his own record, and that of his Ministers and some of his MPs, but he cannot have it both ways. Can he tell the House whether he now regrets failing to condemn those who booed England’s players for standing up to racism? Yes or no.
We made it absolutely clear that no one should boo the England team. Following the racist abuse that our players sadly suffered on Sunday night and thereafter, we are now taking practical action. In addition to changing the football banning order regime, last night I met representatives of Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram and I made it absolutely clear to them that we will legislate to address this problem in the online harms Bill. Unless they get hate and racism off their platforms, they will face fines amounting to 10% of their global revenues. We all know they have the technology to do it.
The online harms Bill has been promised for three years. I am not sure a 15-minute chat at a garden party moves things forward that significantly. But I want to take the Prime Minister up on what he said about being absolutely clear, because here I have the headline, “Boris Johnson refuses to condemn fans booing England taking the knee”. That is the story and that is the headline, from 6 June. That is absolutely clear, but it is not quite what the Prime Minister is implying today. The story goes on to quote the Prime Minister’s spokesperson saying that the Prime Minister
“fully respects the right of those who choose to…make their feelings known”.
This is about booing; it says that he fully respects their rights. The Home Secretary said that booing was
“a choice for them quite frankly.”
So no condemnation there and no absolute clarity there. When senior Government Ministers and Conservative MPs defend the booing of an anti-racist message, who do they think they are defending, Prime Minister? And why are they defending it?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. We love and admire the England side and what they did. They represent the best of our country. Nobody defends booing the England side. But what the Home Secretary has been trying to do all her life is not just fight racism, but take practical steps to advance the cause of black and minority ethnic groups, which she has done successfully, notably in the police. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman is chucking this kind of thing around, may I ask him now to retract this leaflet I have here that was produced by the Labour party during the Batley and Spen by-election, which was condemned by his own MPs as “dog-whistle racism”?
The Prime Minister is not kidding anyone in this House, he is not kidding the public and he is not even kidding his own MPs. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer), a Conservative MP, has said:
“The painful truth is that”
“is completely right.
Very uncomfortable with the position we Conservatives are needlessly forcing ourselves into.”
So, Prime Minister, behind you they don’t believe you, and neither do we. We can all see what has happened here. The Government have been trying to stoke a culture war and they have realised that they are on the wrong side and now they hope that nobody has noticed. Why else would a Conservative MP boast that he is not watching his own team? Why else would another Conservative MP say that Marcus Rashford spends too much time “playing politics”, when he is actually trying to feed children that the Government will not? And why will the Prime Minister refuse time and time again, even now, to condemn those who boo our players for standing up against racism? What is it that this England team symbolises that this Conservative party is so afraid of?
The House will judge for itself the quality of the question that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just put. I think the whole House is united, including our distinguished Members from Scotland, in admiration of the England team—of every single member of that squad and what they did. We stick up for them, and what we are doing is taking practical steps to fight racism, changing the football banning order regime and fining the online companies. By the way, we will use more legislation if we have to, just as we used the threat of legislation to stop the European super league. We will get on with delivering for the people of this country. We will get on with vaccinating the people of this country, while the Opposition continue to vacillate. We will continue to immunise the people of this country, while the Opposition improvise and dart around. I do not want to engage in a political culture war of any kind; I want to get on with delivering for the people of this country—he simply wants to get on with dithering.
He does not want to engage in a culture war and point scoring—give me a break. Football is a game and racism is not, Prime Minister. That is why many of us have been involved in the charity Show Racism the Red Card for years. Far from giving racism the red card, the Prime Minister gave it the green light. I will tell you the worst kind of gesture politics, Mr Speaker: putting an England shirt on over a shirt and tie while not condemning those booing is the worst kind of gesture.
Finally, I want to ask the Prime Minister about the reported amnesty for crimes committed during the troubles in Northern Ireland. I worked in Northern Ireland for six years with the Policing Board and the police and I have prosecuted terrorists as the Director of Public Prosecutions, so I know how difficult and sensitive the issue is. But a blanket amnesty, including for terrorists, is plain wrong.
I was in Northern Ireland last week, and it is absolutely clear that the Government’s amnesty is not supported by the political parties in Northern Ireland and it is not supported by victims’ groups. Last Thursday, I spoke to victims of terrorism at the WAVE Trauma Centre in north Belfast; they have not even been properly consulted on the proposal. If things are to move forward in Northern Ireland, any discussion has to start with the victims. Politicians in London cannot simply draw a line under terrorism and other crimes and then force it on those most affected. [Interruption.] The Prime Minister looks up; let him look up and let him hear, because I want to quote Julie Hambleton. Her sister Maxine was among the 21 people killed by the IRA in the Birmingham pub bombings—that is Julie Hambleton, Prime Minister. She says:
“Tell me Prime Minister, if one of your loved ones was blown up beyond recognition, where you were only able to identify your son or daughter by their fingernails…would you be so quick to”
grant their murderers an amnesty and propose
“such obscene legislation”?
What does the Prime Minister have to say to Julie—she is listening—and other victims like her?
I think that the whole House will acknowledge the suffering of victims like Julie and their families. Of course, nothing I say or can do now can in any way mitigate her loss. That is clear. But it is also true that the people of Northern Ireland must, if we possibly can allow them to, move forwards now.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will know that the proposals that are being introduced—the House will hear about them in more detail later from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—are measured, balanced and have a wide degree of support, if I may say so, from former Labour Prime Ministers and former Labour leaders who are of considerably more distinction than the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He will recall that it was under a Labour Administration that many terrorists were unfortunately given, effectively, an amnesty. They were allowed to escape the full consequences of their crimes, as he knows very well. That is the reality.
This is of course no consolation to people like Julie, but the sad fact remains that there are many members of the armed services who continue to face the threat of vexatious prosecutions well into their 70s and 80s and later. We are finally bringing forward a solution to this problem to enable the Province of Northern Ireland to draw a line under the troubles and to enable the people of Northern Ireland to move forward. Someone with greater statesmanship and clarity of vision would have seen that and given the proposals a fair wind.
I yield to no one in my admiration for the Environment Agency, but in this case I thank my hon. Friend because it is not, in my view, sorting the problem out fast enough. I am fed up with this issue being raised with me. We must stop the stink, and I want the air around Walleys Quarry to be of alpine freshness before too long.
Let me begin by congratulating the England team on reaching the final, which was an incredible achievement, but the tragedy of the tournament was the undercurrent of racism that was ultimately targeted at three young men: Rashford, Sancho and Saka. Wherever there is racism, it falls on all of us to face it down and to call it out, and it is shameful that it took until last night for the Prime Minister to meet with the main social media companies and finally wake up to the fact that those who publish and promote vile racist online abuse need to be faced down and sanctioned. Can the Prime Minister tell us what sanctions he thinks would be appropriate for someone who publishes racist context—it is shocking even to have to say this out loud—describing Africans as “flag-waving piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”?
I have commented many times about the words that I have said in the past, and I think the House understands how we can take things out of context. [Interruption.] I do think people understand that. What they also understand is that there is a chance now to hold these internet companies to account and to make sure that they face fines running to 10% of their global income if they fail to take hate and racism off their platforms. I hope that the Scottish nationalist party will support that.
There is still no contrition, still no apology. The truth is that the Tory party does not sanction those who publish that kind of racist content; it promotes them to be Prime Minister. The legacy of this Prime Minister’s dog whistling has followed him into No.10 Downing Street and it is now at the heart of this Tory Government. As the England international Tyrone Mings has so powerfully stated, this Government
“don’t get to stoke the fire…and then pretend to be disgusted”
when it happens. They do not get to condemn the racism of others, but deny the racism that they have even provoked. In March, this UK Government’s own report on racism, the Sewell report, said that there was no “systemic problem” in the UK. I think the England men’s football team would beg to differ.
After the shocking racism on show over the past week, does the Prime Minister still stand by his Government’s belief that systemic racism is not a problem that exists in the United Kingdom?
I do think that racism is a problem in the United Kingdom, and I believe that it needs to be tackled and stamped out with some of the means that I have described this morning. When he attacks my party, I am afraid that he has the wrong target. This is a party that has not only had the first ever Muslim Secretary of State for Health and Social Care—and he is the former Chancellor, of course—but two female Prime Ministers. It has the most diverse Cabinet in the history of this country. It has the most diverse Government in the history of this country. If you are a young person growing up in a black or ethnic minority group in this country, we are the party that represents hope and opportunity. That is the reality about the Conservative party today.
I thank my hon. Friend, who knows a lot about the subject that she mentions. This is a fantastic opportunity for this country, because we do indeed produce a great many tech breakthroughs and we are very much looking at how to scale up fast, but we must not forget that, as I speak, there are three countries in the world that have scaled up tech breakthroughs to 100 unicorns worth more than a £1 billion. Only three countries have 100 unicorns. They are the United States of America, China and the United Kingdom.
Diolch yn fawr, Llefarydd.
For more than seven years, Plaid Cymru has been calling for the gargantuan HS2 railway to be treated as an England-only project, so that Wales gets our fair share. Not a single inch of track will be in Wales, but we are footing the bill. Today the Welsh Affairs Committee backed our call, calling the UK Government’s categorisation of HS2 in relation to Wales “unfair and biased”. Will the Prime Minister today right this wrong, respect the Welsh Affairs Committee and ensure that Wales, like Scotland, receives our fair share from HS2?
I normally have a great deal of respect and interest in what the right hon. Lady says, but in this case she has missed what the Government are doing for transport connectivity in Wales and to Wales—something about which I know she is as passionate as I am. Look at what we are doing in the Union connectivity review with the A55, the north Wales railway corridor into Liverpool and the M4. Never let it be forgotten that it was the Welsh Labour Government—not the right hon. Lady’s fault, of course, because she is Plaid—who spent £144 million on a study and then did not even do the diversion.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point about the victims on Alderney. We must never forget those on the Channel Islands who suffered under occupation between 1940 and 1945. I am told that the documents in question have been transferred to the National Archives, but I will ensure that the relevant Minister meets my hon. Friend to discuss the matter further.
The hon. Gentleman seems to want us to relax our rules on self-isolation that are protecting people from coronavirus. I do not think that is the right thing to do at this time. He also calls for us to go against the JCVI. The point he raises is a matter for the JCVI.
Yes. I know how much my right hon. Friend cares about this matter. This is not only one of the reasons why we are rolling out our massive plan for jobs, but why I am proud that under this Government we have increased the national living wage by a record amount, to £8.91 per hour.
The treatment of the postmasters and sub-postmasters in the recent computer malfunction was, I am afraid, appalling, and I have made that clear. When it comes to protecting and supporting post offices, particularly rural post offices, which I think is what the hon. Gentleman was driving at, this Government will do everything they can to protect them.
I thank my hon. Friend. I know the stretch of road that she refers to very well, as I am sure many Members across this House do. I will not be able to click my fingers and say that we can tunnel under Guildford; all I can say, in all candour, is that we will certainly look at it. But hon. Members should be in no doubt that we are spending record sums—£27 billion on improving England’s strategic roads following £640 billion for the biggest, best-ever package of infrastructure investment in this country.
The Prime Minister will have seen that two recently published Government-commissioned reports, mine on competition policy and that of the Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform, both make the same two recommendations to inject fresh energy into our better regulation regime so that we can deliver our Brexit ambition of replacing ponderous EU regulations with simpler, digital and less burdensome UK equivalents without reducing quality standards in the process. Will he take this opportunity to unleash a big post-Brexit better regulation dividend by declaring his enthusiastic support for a strong new one-in-two-out regime with no loopholes or exceptions, right here today?
Yes. It is obvious that the UK has a massive amount to gain not just from my hon. Friend’s report, which I much enjoyed, as I told him—I thought it was excellent—but from the bigger report from the taskforce on reducing regulation. I thank them for that, and he and the taskforce will be seeing a lot more in the next few weeks.
I think the people of this entire country should be immensely proud of what the UK is doing abroad, whether it is educating millions of girls, with an increase in support for female education, helping countries around the world to tackle climate change with £11.6 billion of investment, or helping refugees in Yemen, Syria or Ethiopia with £900 million. We are spending £10 billion a year on overseas aid alone, to say nothing of what we are doing with vaccines. The whole country should be immensely proud of what the UK is doing in spite of this pandemic.
Mr Speaker, I am sure you will know the Green Man festival, an incredibly popular international music event which takes place in Crickhowell in my constituency. The festival organisers have gone to great lengths to ensure that the event is covid-secure, but the Welsh Government refuse to give them the green light to go ahead as a test event, unlike similar events in England. So will my right hon. Friend help us by giving the Green Man festival his full support, and encourage the Welsh Government to get behind the festival at long last?
My message—I am sorry, obviously, for the condition that Jacqui suffers, and I think that the Labour party obviously needs to work out whether it is in favour of going ahead with step 4 or not, because that is not at all clear from what the hon. Gentleman has said, or what the Leader of the Opposition has said. They do not have a clue. But what I can say to the hon. Gentleman, and to Jacqui, is that we expect and recommend everybody to wear a face covering in a confined space where they are meeting people they do not normally meet, and that is quite right.
Last week I met with the Reading Agency, which is about to launch its annual summer reading challenge and hopes to reach 1 million primary school children this year. What a great excuse to go to one of our brilliant libraries and take part in the big covid education catch-up. With that in mind, will my right hon. Friend join me in encouraging every child across the nation to take part in the summer reading challenge? Pick up a book and read back better!
I thank my hon. Friend. She is quite right; there could not be a better campaign for the summer. We have put £1.9 million of support into the reading scheme that she mentions. But of course there is £200 million going into the holiday activities fund, and there could not be a better, more useful, happier way of occupying your time on holiday than reading a good book.
Can I just gently say to all leaders that in the end I have had to cut off quite a few Back Benchers because of the amount of time that has been taken up at the beginning? Can we think about those as well? It is so important that they get their questions heard.