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West Midlands Economy

Volume 724: debated on Wednesday 14 December 2022

Q12. What recent discussions he has had with the Mayor of the West Midlands on the economy of that region. (902838)

Our priorities are growth, investing in public services and giving businesses the confidence that they need to invest. I look forward to discussing that with the Mayor of the West Midlands.

When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister recently visited the National Memorial Arboretum, he was slightly late, but I do not blame him because he had to come by road. My friend the Mayor of the West Midlands is supporting an extension to the cross-city line from Birmingham using an existing freight line to make it into a rail service to the National Memorial Arboretum and beyond. Will my right hon. Friend revisit the National Memorial Arboretum, see the armed forces memorial, and come to Lichfield to see why we need a leisure centre?

I would be delighted to visit the National Memorial Arboretum again, and to see my hon. Friend and the fantastic Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, to discuss his plans to drive growth and opportunity in the region.

It is now well over three years since the Conservatives promised the end of no-fault evictions. Enfield has the highest rate of section 21 evictions in London. Thirty families in my constituency in the past month alone were made homeless as a result of section 21. I have families sitting in my office trying to keep warm as we try to find them emergency accommodation. Will the Prime Minister scrap this shameful legislation, and if so, when?

The hon. Lady will know that we have announced plans to do that and we await parliamentary time, but it is not the only thing we are doing to protect renters. We have passed legislation already to protect tenants from rip-off fees and we have capped holding deposits, because we want to make sure that renters have the protections they require and decent homes to rent.

Small modular reactors are a hugely important part of our future energy mix. This Conservative Government realised that when they awarded Rolls-Royce’s nuclear section, based in my constituency, a grant of £210 million for development, but there is still no clarity or plan for moving from development to deployment. Will the Prime Minister come with me to meet Rolls-Royce to discuss how to move things forward and ensure that the UK benefits from this exciting opportunity?

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I am delighted that the Government awarded £210 million to Rolls-Royce SMR last year for research and development. This has the potential to benefit the UK and to support our energy security and climate goals. I look forward to getting updates and to working with my hon. Friend to see this fantastic new technology come to life.

When my constituent who has dementia was taken ill recently, it took three hours for an ambulance to arrive. He then spent 10 hours in the back of an ambulance outside A&E queueing to get in. The doctor said to him, “I’m so sorry we are treating you out of the back of a truck.” But as we have heard, the King’s Fund has said that the Government have presided over a decade of neglect and managed decline in the NHS. So, should it not be the Prime Minister, and not that doctor, who should be apologising?

That same King’s Fund report also acknowledged that there was 40% more funding going into the NHS under this Conservative Government. We need to make sure that that funding makes a difference. That is why this winter half a billion pounds is being deployed to move people out of hospital beds into social care and to speed up those discharges specifically so that ambulances will not be queueing as much as they currently are. That money is already making a difference on the ground.

The community in Kingshurst, which I represent, suffered an unimaginable tragedy earlier this week when four children fell through the ice at Babbs Mill Lake. Sadly, three of the children did not survive and one, a six-year-old, is fighting for his life. They and their families are in my thoughts and prayers. Will my right hon. Friend pay tribute to the community in Kingshurst, who have come together and are supporting each other to get through this tragedy? Will he recognise the heroic efforts of the emergency services, including the police officer who used his bare hands to try to break through the ice and then jumped in the water without personal protective equipment, and fire service personnel, risking their own lives to save the young children?

I thank my hon. Friend, and send my condolences to the families and friends of all those who have lost their lives. I join him in paying tribute to our emergency services for, as he said, their incredibly selfless actions. This whole event has completely shocked the local community and I know that my hon. Friend will continue to do all he can to support his constituents at this difficult time.

This year, the Tory party has given us five Education Secretaries, four Chancellors, three Prime Ministers, two leadership coups—[Interruption.] And, Mr Speaker, the partridge has had to sell the pear tree to pay the gas bill. [Laughter.] Is it not the case that, after a year of Tory chaos, incompetence and self-indulgence, the best Christmas present the Prime Minister could give to the British people is a general election?

Labour Members are happier with that than they were earlier. All I would say when it comes to what the British people need this Christmas is that to ease the disruption on their lives the best thing that Labour Members could do is tell their union bosses to call off the damaging strikes.

After the second world war, Winston Churchill sent British Conservative lawyers to help to draft the European convention on human rights. That is something that we can be proud of in this country, but in an age of mass migration the ECHR is now limiting our ability to control our borders. In the light of the tragedy in the channel this morning, does the Prime Minister agree that he should do as Churchill did and draw up a new framework for refugees and human rights, including legal routes, but that, one way or another, and if necessary alone, we must be prepared to leave the ECHR?

As I told the House yesterday, our new legislation will deliver a system whereby a person who comes here illegally will have no right to stay and will be removed to their own country or a safe third-country alternative. That is the system that the British people want to see and that is the system that we will deliver. I look forward to hearing whether the Labour party will support it.

Q11. As temperatures are plummeting and the cost of living crisis is deepening, ordinary families throughout the country face a Dickensian nightmare this Christmas. Mortgage bills are soaring, household repossessions are up and nearly half a million tenants face the threat of eviction after falling behind on their rent. Too many people are worrying about where they and their children will wake up on Christmas morning, so will the Prime Minister agree to a temporary ban on repossessions and evictions over the festive period so that nobody has to live in fear of losing their home this Christmas? (902837)

We provide a range of support to homeowners and tenants who are in difficulty already, but the most important thing that we are doing to support them financially during the winter is providing almost £900 of support with their energy bills. On top of all the additional support for those who are most vulnerable, including pensioners, that demonstrates the actions of this Government to help the country to get through what we acknowledge is a challenging time.

Tomorrow, Mr Speaker, at 9.30 am you will lead this House in a one-minute silence to mark 80 years since the British Government recognised that the holocaust was taking place in Nazi-occupied Europe. As we come together to mark that moment, will the Prime Minister join me in praising the Holocaust Educational Trust and the extraordinary survivors who continue to do amazing work to ensure that the next generation understands and learns the lessons from the past?

Eighty years ago, Parliament listened in stunned silence as the truth of the holocaust was spoken in this House for the very first time, so it is absolutely right that you, Mr Speaker, lead a moment of silence in which we will stand together to remember and reaffirm that truth. I join my right hon. Friend in paying tribute to the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust. It could not be more fitting that Britain’s holocaust memorial and learning centre should be built right next door to Parliament. We must never forget the holocaust and we must stamp out antisemitism and prejudice in all its forms wherever we find it.

Q14. Caerphilly County Borough Council recently announced a £3 million cost of living hardship fund to help those most in need in Islwyn and across our county borough. Does the Prime Minister think it is right that local authorities are forced to cover the costs of 12 years of economic mismanagement by this Tory Government? (902840)

The hon. Gentleman fails to acknowledge that because of the actions of the UK Government not only are we supporting people in Wales and across the United Kingdom with help with their energy bills, but we have provided £1.2 billion of extra funding for the Welsh Government to use to give to local authorities to support their constituents. The hon. Gentleman would do well to acknowledge the benefits of the United Kingdom and the actions of the UK Government.

It is excellent that a record 4,000 newly qualified doctors are training to be GPs, but we have an issue with retention, which is made even worse in areas like mine that have extremely high housing growth. As the son of a GP, what will the Prime Minister do to fix this?

My hon. Friend has talked about and championed this issue for a long time, and he is right to do so. We do have record numbers of GPs in training at the moment, and we are also making sure that we support primary care appointments and access. My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Chancellor are looking at how best we can increase retention, particularly with regard to pensions, and I look forward to getting their suggestions.

Q15.   In a written response from the Department for Work and Pensions, it was confirmed to me that an unpaid carer earning more than £132 a week from their job is classed as being in gainful employment and as a result loses their carer’s allowance of £69.70 a week. Caring never stops, so can the Prime Minister explain to me the rationale behind that decision, given that we are trying to get economically inactive people back into work? Can he explain why it is his Government’s position that £132 is enough for people to live on? (902841)

I start by paying tribute to those up and down the country who give up so much of their time to care for others. I am delighted that the Government are supporting the hon. Lady’s Bill, which will give a week of highly flexible paid leave to unemployed carers. That is the right thing to do and I am grateful to her for taking it forward. Carer’s allowance is a means-tested benefit, and is part of many other benefits that are available to support people. As I have said, significant support for energy bills is in place right now for people through Christmas.