All 53 Parliamentary debates on 23rd Jan 2024

Tue 23rd Jan 2024
Tue 23rd Jan 2024
Tue 23rd Jan 2024
Tue 23rd Jan 2024
Tue 23rd Jan 2024
Tue 23rd Jan 2024
Tue 23rd Jan 2024
Tue 23rd Jan 2024
Tue 23rd Jan 2024
Tue 23rd Jan 2024
Tue 23rd Jan 2024
Tue 23rd Jan 2024

House of Commons

Tuesday 23rd January 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Tuesday 23 January 2024
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock

Prayers

Tuesday 23rd January 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Prayers mark the daily opening of Parliament. The occassion is used by MPs to reserve seats in the Commons Chamber with 'prayer cards'. Prayers are not televised on the official feed.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Tuesday 23rd January 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
The Secretary of State was asked—
Sara Britcliffe Portrait Sara Britcliffe (Hyndburn) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1. What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to support the children of alcohol-dependent parents.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Victoria Atkins)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I start by wishing the hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) a speedy recovery?

We are taking a wide-ranging approach to alcohol harms. Some £27 million has been invested in specialist alcohol care teams in a quarter of hospitals with the highest need, and we have published the first ever UK-wide clinical guidelines on harmful drinking and alcohol dependence, as well as providing around £300 million in funding to 75 local authorities through the family hubs and Start for Life programme. Family hubs funded through that programme are encouraged to provide full wrap-around support for families, which may include alcohol support services.

Sara Britcliffe Portrait Sara Britcliffe
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

To the Government’s credit, they are currently putting money into addiction services. However, at the same time, there is no national strategy for children of alcohol-dependent parents. That has not always been the case. Between 2017 and 2021, there were local and national helpline services funded through a national strategy. Will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss this matter, as the children in these awful situations are some of the most vulnerable in society?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I thank my hon. Friend for her care and also for sharing her experiences on this subject? Through the drugs strategy, we have committed an extra £532 million of funding over three years to improve alcohol and drug treatment services, with £15.7 million invested in Lancashire. Last year, we saw a further £2.8 million invested nationally in line with guidance for the extra drugs strategy funding, which allows local authorities to fund targeted services for parents in need of treatment and support for their children and families. I will, of course, be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss this further.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Barry Sheerman, briefly—[Laughter.]

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Sheerman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have turned over a new leaf, Mr Speaker.

May I urge the Secretary of State to take this issue very seriously, to direct much more social media at young people and to get into schools the message about the real damage that can be done to the entire life of a child if the mother is drinking alcohol during pregnancy?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing some insight into how we can best reach families. Of course, it is not just mums, but fathers or carers who can have a huge impact on our children. That is why the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Dame Andrea Leadsom), is investing so much energy and commitment in our family hubs. We believe that they can be the centre for families to make the very best start to a child’s life.

Sarah Green Portrait Sarah Green (Chesham and Amersham) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2. What recent progress her Department has made on supporting the timely discharge of patients from hospital into social care.

Helen Whately Portrait The Minister for Social Care (Helen Whately)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Discharging people on time is better for them and frees up hospital beds. We are changing how our health system works to do that: joining up health and social care and care transfer hubs; helping people to recover at home, with more than 10,000 new virtual ward beds; and investing in social care. And it is working. Last month, delayed discharges were down 9% compared with the end of December 2022 despite almost 1,000 extra urgent admissions to hospitals every day in December.

Sarah Green Portrait Sarah Green
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Nearly one in six beds in my local healthcare trust in Buckinghamshire continues to be occupied by patients fit for discharge. A recent King’s Fund report found that the Government’s current practice of providing one-off funding to reduce delay, while welcome, comes with insufficient advance notice to allow for effective planning. What steps is the Minister’s Department taking to ensure the best use of this funding?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

One reason we distributed discharge funding back in April last year was to give more advance notice to organisations, so that they could put in place what is needed to speed up discharges. I say to the hon. Lady that our plan is working. That is why, in her own trust, discharges at the end of December were down by a third compared with the previous year.

Will Quince Portrait Will Quince (Colchester) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I note the progress that my hon. Friend referenced, but delayed discharges are still a major issue. Patient flow through a hospital is a critical factor, especially at the front door through emergency departments. We know the role that electronic bed management systems can play in helping that flow. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that more hospitals roll out that technology?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is right. I know how much work he did when he had oversight of urgent and emergency care services, which included his contribution to our urgent and emergency care recovery plan that was published almost a year ago. That plan included a host of steps to improve the flow through hospitals, including investment in bed management systems, as he described. The plan is working, which is why we are improving the flow through hospitals and seeing reductions in delayed discharges.

Rob Roberts Portrait Mr Rob Roberts (Delyn) (Ind)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

3. What steps she is taking to increase the recruitment of qualified nurses from overseas.

Andrew Stephenson Portrait The Minister for Health and Secondary Care (Andrew Stephenson)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

NHS data shows that we have delivered early on our manifesto commitment to have an extra 50,000 NHS nurses, with the number of nurses working in our NHS increasing from around 301,000 in 2019 to 357,000 today. That has been achieved through boosting training and education routes, ethically recruiting internationally and taking actions to improve retention. Measures such as the health and care visa introduced in 2020 support international recruitment.

Rob Roberts Portrait Mr Roberts
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for his answer. As he knows, the national health service would completely collapse without the input and expertise of clinical staff from around the world. One barrier to those people coming to help us are the high fees for applying for permanent residency. Some nurses from countries such as India and the Philippines are having to take out expensive loans just to feel like they are welcome and able to stay in our country. I have presented a private Member’s Bill to exempt NHS clinical staff from paying those high fees to become residents. Will the Minister support the Bill and work with his Home Office colleagues to find a way to make that a reality for those people who work so hard in our health service?

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the enormous contribution made by internationally recruited staff to our NHS. As he will know, immigration policy and fees are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. However, our long-term workforce plan supports international recruitment. In addition to the new visa route, we are exempting health and care staff from the immigration health surcharge.

Florence Eshalomi Portrait Florence Eshalomi (Vauxhall) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister will know that without our fantastic workforce, the NHS would not work. I pay tribute to all those hard-working nurses in all our hospitals and care centres, including at St Thomas’ Hospital in my constituency. Does the Minister recognise that in addition to recruiting staff we have to look at retaining staff, who talk about the workload, their mental wellbeing and the fact that the cost of living is having a big impact on them? Does the Minister agree that the Government need to come forward with a wide-ranging plan on addressing workforce planning, pay, training, staff wellbeing and retention?

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I completely agree with the hon. Lady, which is why this Government became the first Government ever to introduce a long-term workforce plan. Retention is one of the key pillars of the long-term workforce plan, and we are already seeing that deliver the result of keeping more staff in our NHS.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

4. If she will make an assessment of the potential impact of the level of accessibility to dental appointments on urgent dental and oral surgery services.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

7. What recent steps she has taken to increase capacity in NHS dental care.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

18. What progress she has made on introducing a dentistry recovery plan.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Dame Andrea Leadsom)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am determined to ensure that everybody who needs NHS dental care can receive it. We have already implemented a package of reforms to improve access and provide fairer remuneration for dentists. That has had an effect, with 1.7 million more adults being seen, 800,000 more children being seen and a 23% increase in NHS activity in the past year. We know we need to do much more, and our dentistry recovery plan will be published shortly, setting out a big package of change.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I listened carefully to what the Minister said. That change has not come to Oxfordshire, for sure—it is in a dire state. An Oxford resident wrote to me saying that when his NHS practice closed, he rang a dozen others across the county. Each one said they were offering NHS services but, in fact, they were not; they were only offering private care. In this cost of living crisis, people simply cannot afford that. As a result, they are waiting in A&E rather than getting treatment, and that ends up in their having oral surgery. What is the Minister doing now to improve the situation in Oxfordshire and across the country?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am incredibly sympathetic to what the hon. Lady says. In fact, in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West integrated care board, the number of adults seen by an NHS dentist rose in the 24 months to June 2023 from 448,000 to 485,000, with a similar increase in the percentage of children seen. The situation is improving, but I completely agree with her that we need to do more, and we will be coming forward shortly with a big package of dental recovery plan reforms.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer. Following my very productive meeting with her only a few days ago, will she confirm that NHS England locally has finally been unblocked and that my constituents in Clacton will soon benefit from more dentists practising on NHS patients?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As my hon. Friend will know, this is a local matter, and it is for his ICB to determine whether it wishes to support the excellent pilot proposal for overseas dental students in Clacton. At the same time, it needs to ensure that its actions are compliant with current legislation and within the delegation agreement with NHS England. I have just written to my hon. Friend about that, and my letter should address his concerns, but of course I would be happy to see him again if he has any further questions.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We were promised “before the summer”, we were promised “after the summer”, we were promised “before Christmas”, we were promised “soon” and now we have been promised “shortly”. The reality is that Labour has a plan and the Government have not. In York, we cannot get an NHS dentist either. Blossom Family Dental Care is just handing back its contract. My constituents have nowhere to go. What is the Minister going to do to ensure that my constituents can access NHS dentistry?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I said to the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran), I absolutely understand the challenge for some people. The situation has improved over the last year. Since the covid pandemic, where almost every dentist had to stop working altogether, we have not seen the recovery we want. We are putting in plans—not a paper ambition like the one Labour has put forward, but significant reforms that will enable many more people to be seen by NHS dentists. I say gently to the hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell) that a recent Health Service Journal article states that Humber and North Yorkshire ICB

“have indicated in board papers that dentistry funding will be squeezed to help them balance their books.”

I encourage her to talk to her ICB about that too.

Paul Bristow Portrait Paul Bristow (Peterborough) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

For new patients, accessing an NHS dentist in Peterborough is almost impossible. Should a new medical centre wish to establish a new NHS dental practice, doing so would require flexibility in units of dental activity rates and the ability to recruit dentists from overseas. Would the Minister give that effort her enthusiastic support and encourage NHS bosses to do the same?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is pushing against an open door. He may be aware that in 2023 we made some legislative changes to give the General Dental Council more flexibility to expand the registration options open to international dentists, tripling the capacity of three sittings of the overseas registration exam from August 2023 and increasing the number of sittings for the part 2 exam in 2024 from three to four. That will create an additional 1,300 places overall for overseas dentists aiming to work in the UK. We will also be bringing forward measures to enable dental therapists to work at the top of their training, which will expand the capacity. He is right that reform of the UDA is also required and we will be bringing forward our plans shortly.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I want to share with Ministers the experience of Emma from Grimsby, who said:

“NHS dentistry is a joke in the town at the moment. Thankfully I managed to get an emergency appointment in Scunthorpe (after being offered one in Doncaster originally) and I’ve now been referred to hospital to have 3 wisdom teeth removed. My dentist closed at the onset of the pandemic and I’ve not been able to register with an NHS dentist since.”

What does the Minister have to say to Emma and the millions like her who cannot get an appointment when they need one?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to point that out. Emma has my absolute sympathy and apology for the fact that since the covid pandemic we have not seen the recovery of dentistry that we would have liked. I can tell her that in July 2022 we brought in significant reforms to encourage dentists to take on more NHS patients, but we recognise the need to do more. The long-term workforce plan will increase training places and the overseas registration will improve capacity, as will the changes to dental therapists’ programmes. All those things will improve the situation, but in the meantime we will be bringing forward our recovery plan very soon, which will immediately expand the incentives to NHS dentists.

Simon Lightwood Portrait Simon Lightwood (Wakefield) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

5. What steps her Department is taking to help reduce pressure on NHS services in winter 2023-24.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Victoria Atkins)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Our plan includes opening 5,000 more beds, increasing ambulance capacity, expanding innovative services such as virtual wards and bringing forward covid and flu vaccinations for the most vulnerable. Thanks to the hard work of staff, NHS performance this winter has improved on last year, despite the impact of industrial action.

Simon Lightwood Portrait Simon Lightwood
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sure the caveat to that was the word “shortly”. I have had constituents contact me in desperation regarding delays at Pinderfields Hospital in my constituency. They tell me they have waited hours in emergency care this winter for routine blood tests—literally all day in some cases—even while in extremely poor health. The Tories’ patchwork reforms and sticking-plaster politics are not fooling anyone. Does the Secretary of State not think that those dangerously long waiting times are a damning indictment of 14 years of Conservative mismanagement? What does she say to my constituents who are suffering right now?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is a fair man, and that, being so, he will point out to his constituents, when they call him with their issues, that ambulance response times for category 2 emergency incidents in his local area have in fact been over 30 minutes faster than last year. However, we accept of course that this is a two-year plan and will take time to meet our full ambitions. Interestingly, the latest figures show that we have provided £6.9 million from the community diagnostic centres fund for the development of a community diagnostic centre at Wakefield. Presumably he welcomes that Conservative innovation.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee.

Steve Brine Portrait Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The pressure on services is acute this winter, as it is every year. So far, we have heard very little mention in these 20 minutes of the biggest headache facing trusts, integrated care boards, patients and, of course, the Prime Minister’s pledge to cut the waiting lists further. Given that the British Medical Association ballot on consultants’ action closes today, and that the dispute among doctors in training continues, can the Secretary of State update the House on her message to those voting today, and on where we are in wider industrial disputes, which are a drag anchor on the NHS right now?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is right to point out that we are in the final few hours of the consultants’ ballot on the pay reform programme that we have offered the British Medical Association. I very much hope that consultants will feel able to support that programme, because it is about bringing together the frankly quite bureaucratic system that they have to deal with at the moment, so that they are assessed in a shorter time with less bother and paperwork, while respecting their need to train and keep up their education and supporting professional activities commitments. I hope that they will agree with us on that. As I have said to the junior doctors committee from this Dispatch Box, should they return with reasonable expectations, we will, of course, reopen negotiations.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Karin Smyth Portrait Karin Smyth (Bristol South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State has said that preparation for winter started last January, but 54% of A&E departments were still rated inadequate or needing improvement in December, exacerbating the winter crisis. What will she do differently this year to ensure that we do not have another winter crisis in 2024-25?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Again, the plan that we laid out last year is having a real impact at local level on the services being deployed through our accident and emergency services. We have seen discharge rates improving, for example. We appreciate that there can be local differences, but the importance that we put on maintaining that flow through hospitals is critical to ensuring that the waiting lists and waiting times that the hon. Lady describes are reduced. However, I gently remind the Labour party that it has been running the NHS in Wales for some time now, and it is a great shame that the good people of Wales—[Interruption.] The good people of Wales are waiting longer for their treatment—[Interruption.] They are almost twice as likely—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. I am a little bothered, because we have a long way to go on the Order Paper. I call the SNP spokesperson.

Amy Callaghan Portrait Amy Callaghan (East Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We cannot discuss winter pressures in the NHS without acknowledging workforce shortages. The Secretary of State is having to contend with new immigration policies from her Cabinet colleagues that prevent dependants from coming to the UK, meaning that we are asking people to come and care for our loved ones while they leave behind theirs. I imagine that she is frustrated that that is now another barrier to recruiting staff to our health and care sectors. Has she expressed those frustrations to her Cabinet colleagues?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I genuinely want to work with the Scottish Government, because I am troubled, to put it bluntly, that Scotland has some of the worst health outcomes in western Europe. It has the worst level of drug death rates in Europe, the highest alcohol death rates in 14 years, and there was a fall in life expectancy for three years in a row. We offered to allow Scottish patients to receive lifesaving operations in England, but sadly, that offer has been declined. I remain genuinely willing to work with the Scottish Government to help them with their health service.

Sarah Edwards Portrait Sarah Edwards (Tamworth) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6. What steps she is taking to increase access to child and adolescent mental health services.

Maria Caulfield Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Maria Caulfield)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are investing an extra £2.3 billion a year to expand mental health services in England, with the aim of enabling 2 million more people to access mental health support, including 345,000 more children and young people.

Sarah Edwards Portrait Sarah Edwards
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Many constituents in Tamworth are coming to me in desperate need of support for their children. Those constituents include Kate, whose daughter is at crisis point and has been without a psychiatrist since November; Roger, who has been waiting 18 months for an autism referral for his daughter; and Jess, who has been waiting for an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder assessment for her son. Will the Minister explain what action she is taking so that children, parents and families in my constituency can get the support they need?

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Through the investment we are putting in, particularly in the hon. Lady’s local area, there are a number of initiatives to help support children and young people with their mental health. The Sandbox scheme, which is a funded NHS service, supports those in the south Staffordshire area; Malachi provides family support across Tamworth and east Staffordshire; and Combined Wellbeing, which is an online resource, covers north Staffordshire. There is also the Family Wellbeing Service, Action for Children for those aged five to 18 with mild to moderate mental health needs, and the Staffordshire Emotional Health and Wellbeing Service for those aged five to 18. I would recommend that the hon. Lady’s constituents look up those services, because we are funding them to improve mental health care for children in her local area.

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The agony and damage of undiagnosed and untreated mental health conditions is nowhere more acute than in rural areas, where we see an epidemic of silent suffering. The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has long struggled with a series of management problems. I am sure the Minister has seen the recent report highlighting that between 2019 and 2022, we saw over 8,500 avoidable deaths—that is nearly 45 a week. Will she agree to meet me, other Norfolk and Suffolk MPs, and those affected to look at what is really going on here and make sure that we turn that trust into a beacon of the best mental health services, rather than the worst?

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. We were holding regular meetings with Norfolk and Suffolk MPs, the trust, the Care Quality Commission and NHS England, and with the new management team, that trust did appear to finally be turning things around. However, I am concerned to hear the points that my hon. Friend has raised. I am very happy to restart those meetings and will ask my office to arrange them as quickly as possible.

Clive Efford Portrait Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8. What steps she is taking to increase staff recruitment and retention in the adult social care sector.

Helen Whately Portrait The Minister for Social Care (Helen Whately)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Care is a skilled profession, and I want care workers to get the support and recognition they deserve. This month, we took the next step in our ambitious care workforce reforms, publishing the first ever national career structure for the care workforce alongside our new nationally recognised care qualification.

Clive Efford Portrait Clive Efford
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Ambitious care workforce reforms—it is all blah, isn’t it? We have had 14 years of Conservative Government, and we have a crisis in every area of the NHS. Job insecurity, poor working conditions and low pay—one in five care workers is living in poverty—are all reasons why we have a recruitment and retention crisis in social care. Is not the truth that that is a damning indictment of 14 years of Conservative Government, and the only thing that is going to sort out social care and the crisis in recruitment and retention is a general election?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am actually really shocked by the way the hon. Member referred to the care workforce, with terms like “It is all blah”—very shocking. I am determined that care workers should get the recognition they deserve. We have a 10-year plan for social care, and it is working: the care workforce grew by over 20,000 last year, vacancies in social care are down, and retention is up. We are reforming social care so that it works as a career. That is why, as I said a moment ago—I wish the hon. Member had been listening—we have introduced the first ever career pathway for social care workers and a new national care qualification.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

But according to Care England and Hft, 54% of social care providers have increased their reliance on agency staff; 44% have turned down new admissions; and 18% have had to close services altogether. Labour’s fair pay agreements will ensure that staff in the sector are treated with the dignity and respect that will make them want to stay, but after 14 years, why do Ministers not have a proper plan to address the workforce crisis facing adult social care? Is it because it is a crisis of their making?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have a plan for the social care workforce, and it is working. The social care workforce increased by over 20,000 last year, and it is still going up. But I will take no lectures from the hon. Member. In fact, his hon. Friend the Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth), early this morning on television, made it clear that Labour does not have a plan for social care—or if it does, it is clear that it will cost a lot of money and is yet another unfunded Labour plan.

David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

9. What steps she is taking to help improve men’s health.

Maria Caulfield Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Maria Caulfield)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I assure my right hon. Friend that this Government are committed to improving men’s health. That is why, in November, we announced a suite of measures, including a £16 million fund for a new prostate cancer screening trial, and the recruitment of a men’s health ambassador. We have also launched our men’s health taskforce to tackle the biggest health issues facing men.

David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that answer, and I would urge her to continue to make men’s health a top priority. In particular, can she look at how we can detect prostate cancer better and sooner? It is the most common cause of male cancer in the United Kingdom, and anything that can be done to reduce that number will be most welcome.

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend and male colleagues on the Government Benches, including my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher), who are fighting so hard to improve men’s health. He is absolutely right: 12,000 men a year die from prostate cancer. That is why we are investing in the £16 million prostate cancer trial called Transform, using methods such as MRI to detect prostate cancer rather than PSA, which can be inaccurate. Thousands of men will be recruited. We are hoping that the trial will start in the spring, with recruitment in the autumn, including the recruitment of black men, who are disproportionately affected by prostate cancer.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister agree, however, that the information she has just given about why screening for prostate cancer does not happen for men is based on a study that is 20 years old? There are 12,000 deaths a year—it is the biggest killer among men, and the second biggest killer among all people—yet here is this evil cancer for which there is no screening programme whatsoever. Will she take steps to update current NHS guidance to ensure that all those at high risk of prostate cancer receive a targeted early detection service? I think she has hinted that she may be doing that, but will she finally introduce mass screening for prostate cancer? It is the only cancer without specifically commissioned early diagnosis work, and men are dying unnecessarily because of the failure to bring this in.

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have more than hinted: we have just announced a £16 million pilot study of prostate cancer screening. We have a plan to tackle those 12,000 deaths a year, and it will work, because until now we have not had a diagnostic test. PSA is not a sensitive test in all prostate cancers: there are many men with prostate cancer who do not express PSA. That is why the Transform study, using detection tools such as MRI, will be trialled, and if they are effective, such tools will be rolled out across the country.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10. What steps she is taking to increase the recruitment and retention of NHS midwifery and maternity staff.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Victoria Atkins)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are investing an additional £165 million a year to improve maternity and neonatal care, rising to £186 million a year from April. This will increase the number of midwifery posts and improve the quality of care that mothers and babies receive. As of October last year, there were 23,100 full-time equivalent midwives working in NHS trusts and other core organisations in England, which is more than 1,000 more than a year ago and 3,500 more than in 2010.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Secretary of State for that response. The Royal College of Midwives estimates that there is a shortage of around 2,500 full-time midwives working in the NHS. I know that at first hand from Cossham Hospital in my constituency, which has a wonderful birth centre, but it has been closed for most of the last few years, because it simply cannot get the midwives to staff it—they have to go elsewhere where more serious cases need to be dealt with. What is she doing specifically about the retention of midwives? I know that student numbers are, thankfully, coming up, but a lot of midwives are choosing to leave the profession because there is not enough flexibility in their work.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think we all agree that a career as a midwife is just one of the most rewarding and fulfilling careers that one can hope for. That is why we have placed such priority on retention in the long-term workforce plan that we launched last year. The national retention programme for midwifery and nursing has prioritised five actions to support staff retention, including menopause guidance, because we know that that can be an issue for midwives, and valuing them and their contribution is also a key objective of NHS England’s three-year plan for maternity services.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As well as recruitment and retention, training matters. Anglia Ruskin University has a campus in Chelmsford and is the provider of the largest number of health and social care degrees in the country, training midwives, nurses and, since the medical school opened, doctors. Will the Secretary of State back the campaign to expand the medical school in Chelmsford so that we can train even more local people to work in our local NHS?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising her local college, which does amazing work for the whole of the NHS as well as in her local area. I may have to retain a discreet silence over that particular application but I know that if any Member is sure to advocate effectively for their local area, it is my right hon. Friend.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Recruiting and retraining more NHS staff is crucial if women are to get gynaecology, obstetric and maternity care. I would like to share the story of Sandy Simmons. She was told 11 months ago that she needed surgery for a uterine prolapse; today, after nearly a year of pain, she is still waiting. Labour candidates such as Keir Cozens in Great Yarmouth are speaking up for women like Sandy and the 905 women waiting more than a year for treatment in Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Will the Secretary of State apologise to these women—or, like the Prime Minister, will she just walk away?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was genuinely delighted to welcome the hon. Lady to the Government’s women’s health summit last week to announce the consolidation, and indeed the improvement, of the women’s health strategy that this Government have launched. We saw significant success last year with hormone replacement therapy improvements and she knows, because she attended the summit, that I have just announced a £50 million research fund looking at maternity disparities and also research into female-specific conditions. Any concern she has about operation times she should take up with the local trust and it will perhaps tell her what impact industrial action has had, sadly, on elective surgery.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11. What steps she is taking to support the early diagnosis of cancer.

Andrew Stephenson Portrait The Minister for Health and Secondary Care (Andrew Stephenson)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I know this is an issue close to my right hon. Friend’s heart and pay tribute to her for her work as vice-chairman of the all-party group on radiotherapy. The pandemic has of course presented a real challenge to delivering the Government target to diagnose 75% of stageable cancers at stage 1 or stage 2 by 2028, but I am pleased to be able to tell the House that we are coming through that and last year diagnosed more cancers at stage 1 and stage 2 than ever before.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Cancer Research UK has published an ambitious plan, “Longer, better lives”, which reminds us that for some cancer patients just a few weeks of delay can make the difference between whether they can be offered curative treatment or just palliative care. Will the new diagnostic centres being opened by the Government, including at Finchley Memorial Hospital, bring waiting times down and secure that early diagnosis that is so important to surviving cancer?

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. Diagnostic checks are a key part of the cancer pathway and the 150 community diagnostic centres opened by this Government, including the one at the Finchley Memorial Hospital, will provide earlier diagnostic tests, support earlier diagnosis and bring down waiting times, benefiting millions of patients. These centres have delivered more than 6 million additional tests for all elective activity since July 2021 and we expect the Finchley Memorial Hospital CDC to provide over 126,000 tests for elective care in the next financial year.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that response. Research and development is very important; it means we can find more cures for cancer. My father, who is dead and gone, survived cancer on three occasions; that happened because of advances in finding cures. What is being done to work alongside those in research and development to ensure that even more cancers can be cured and we can go from a 50% rate to perhaps a 60% or even 70% rate for those who live longer?

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was delighted that one of my first visits in the new year was to Northern Ireland to see some of the life sciences companies, particularly those based around Queen’s University Belfast. That sector in Northern Ireland is flourishing. We are keen to support companies working in research and bring together world-leading universities such as Queen’s with the private sector and the NHS to deliver improved outcomes for all patients across every part of the United Kingdom.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby (Lewisham East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

12. What steps she is taking to improve healthcare outcomes for patients with sickle cell disease.

Andrew Stephenson Portrait The Minister for Health and Secondary Care (Andrew Stephenson)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I know this is an important issue for the hon. Lady in her role as chair of the sickle cell and thalassaemia all-party parliamentary group. We are working hard to provide the best possible care to those living with sickle cell disease. That includes boosting Ro subtype blood donation numbers, identifying improvements in clinical pathways and delivering world-leading treatments, such as the new blood-matching genetic test announced by NHS England yesterday, which will reduce the risk of side effects and offer more personalised care.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate NHS England on the launch of the new blood-matching genetic test for sickle cell patients, but it has been more than two years since the “No One’s Listening” report, which made the key recommendation that sickle cell patients receive pain relief within 30 minutes of attending accident and emergency. Why is that still not happening for sickle cell patients, and would the Minister like to meet me and the Sickle Cell Society to discuss how to achieve that?

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I of course would be happy to meet the hon. Lady and the Sickle Cell Society to look at how we can improve patient experiences and ensure that all patients benefit from timely access to the medications they need. I am delighted that she welcomes yesterday’s announcement. It is an example of how the NHS can bring forward world-firsts and is leading the way to transform patient care and improve patient outcomes.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

13. What steps her Department is taking to increase access to urgent and emergency care.

Helen Whately Portrait The Minister for Social Care (Helen Whately)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Almost a year ago, we published our urgent and emergency care recovery plan. The NHS has already halved the waiting times for category 2 ambulances and brought down waits in A&E. We are determined to cut NHS waits, and our plan is working.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Rugby is one of the fastest growing places in the UK. While we have had additional services introduced at our local Hospital of St Cross, my constituents have insufficient accident and emergency provision. Thousands of local residents have signed my petition for doctor-led accident and emergency care at the Hospital of St Cross. I know it is a matter for the integrated care board, but will the Minister give her support? As a previous Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Will Quince) and the previous Secretary of State have visited in the past few months, and I invite this Minister to do likewise.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his invitation. He has been a tireless campaigner on this issue on behalf of his constituents. The future of healthcare is about getting people the care that they need, where they need it and when they need it, and Rugby is no different. New local NHS services are bringing care closer to home in his area, such as the new imaging unit at the Hospital of St Cross that opened in September.

Gregory Campbell Portrait Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Access to urgent and emergency care can be greater facilitated when greater protection is offered to staff, particularly the many who suffer attacks in emergency departments at hospitals across the United Kingdom—often by people who are intoxicated.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Member makes an important point. The safety of our staff in the national health service is important, including those in urgent and emergency care departments, as well as the ambulance services. He is absolutely right to point that out, and it is never acceptable for anyone, including patients, to be violent towards staff.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

14. What steps she is taking to increase access to mental health services.

Maria Caulfield Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Maria Caulfield)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are investing a record amount in NHS mental health services, committing £2.3 billion extra a year for the expansion and transformation of services in England, which will enable 2 million more people to access mental health support.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

If only the reality was that rosy. The entire sector is calling out for reform of the Mental Health Act 1983. With our mental health services in crisis, why did the Government scrap the long-awaited and overdue mental health Bill, which could have started to alleviate pressures on trusts by reducing the numbers of people detained inappropriately and making services more fit for purpose? Is it not true that we need a Labour Government to take action on this issue?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is going to be a long year.

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have news for the hon. Gentleman, because we have a plan and it is working. Our investment of £143 million into crisis support is showing early evidence of reducing admissions—admissions are 8% lower. With the crisis telephone services, which are available 24/7, we have admissions down 12%. More importantly, detentions under the Mental Health Act are 15% lower. We have a plan, and it is working.

Lisa Cameron Portrait Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15. What recent progress her Department has made on reducing the number of people with a learning disability in in-patient units.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Victoria Atkins)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have made progress against our target to reduce learning disability and autism in-patient numbers in England by 50% since 2015. For people with a learning disability without an autism diagnosis, there has been a 58% net reduction; for people with a learning disability who are autistic, the net reduction is 35%.

Lisa Cameron Portrait Dr Cameron
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Secretary of State for that comprehensive answer. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group for disability, I have been hearing from organisations such as Mencap that remain concerned that people with learning difficulties are disproportionately detained for five to 10 years and for over 10 years. Will she reassure those organisations that the “Building the right support” action plan will continue to progress the great work that is being done?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for her interest and, of course, her many years working as a clinical psychologist. She brings that experience to the Chamber. National commissioning guidance to integrated care boards was published in November. It sets out that a mental health in-patient stay for a person with a learning disability

“should be for the minimum time possible, for assessment and/or treatment which can only be provided in hospital”.

In overseeing implementation of the action plan going forwards, the “Building the right support” delivery board will maintain focus on quality of care and on reducing long stays.

Barbara Keeley Portrait Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is vital for the Government to do more to move autistic people and people with learning disabilities out of in-patient units and back to their communities. Recently, in the trial of staff at Whorlton Hall, we saw staff who were cruel and uncaring. Delivering sentences, the judge said that Whorlton Hall was an

“unpredictable and…frightening place to live”.

Is it not time for the Government to close down those units and move the majority of people into the community?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for raising that point. We were all dismayed and upset to see the experiences of residents in those units, and we saw the correct criminal outcomes—if I am allowed to say that—for those involved in those assaults. A review is going on as to how those issues are affecting the estate as a whole, but we are clear that in-patient stays should happen only when they are strictly necessary. We must be mindful that clinicians will be taking many situations into account, including not just the safety of the patient but the safety of the wider community.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Victoria Atkins)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Women’s health needs are often overlooked and under-researched. Through our women’s health strategy, the Government are changing that. Last year, we made menopause a priority, helping almost half a million women get hormone replacement therapy for less than £20 a year. This year, we are building on that work and will have a women’s health hub in every integrated care board area in England. We will promote research into conditions that only affect women, such as endometriosis and lobular breast cancer, and those that affect women differently from men, such as heart attack symptoms.

We have also launched the first research challenge—worth £50 million—to tackle maternity disparities that have no place in modern Britain. Following the brave campaigns of my hon. Friends the Members for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe) and for Stafford (Theo Clarke), by March we will make dedicated maternal mental and physical healthcare available to every woman in England.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I recently met two constituents with experience of invasive lobular breast cancer. Invasive lobular carcinoma is the second most common form of breast cancer, but it is not generally picked up by mammograms, and it behaves differently from other breast cancers. However, lobular breast cancer has been understudied and underfunded, and it urgently needs research funding. Will the Secretary of State tell the House what specific actions her Government are taking to address those gaps? Will she also reply to the Lobular Moon Shot Project, to which she—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. This is topical questions.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I gently remind the hon. Lady about the statement that I just gave. Last week we held the women’s health summit, at which I announced that we are encouraging research into conditions such as lobular breast cancer. I made that announcement because of two amazing women I met recently who were living with the condition. They were introduced to me by my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Sir Jeremy Quin) and my right hon. Friend—

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am waiting for the reply.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. Please can I just say that these are topicals? I have got to get through a big list, and lots of Members are standing. We need short, punchy questions, and the same with answers.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T6. I have been carrying out a health survey of thousands of residents in Harrogate and Knaresborough, to ask them for their experiences and views of the NHS. I will share the results with local healthcare professionals, to support them and their work. When the results are in, will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss how they will help inform and shape our local healthcare planning ?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss that. As always, he is an excellent advocate for his constituency, and I will enjoy listening to the results of his survey.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Mike Reader, Labour’s candidate for Northampton South, shared with me the horrific experience of Stanley, who had severe abdominal pain and called an ambulance, only to be told it would take hours and to go to A&E. There, he was told to wait for assessment on a patio chair outside. It was 3°. Who is to blame?

Helen Whately Portrait The Minister for Social Care (Helen Whately)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very sorry to hear of the experience of that specific constituent. Because of challenges that the NHS faces, particularly our urgent and emergency care services, almost a year ago we set out our urgent and emergency care recovery plan, to speed up care for people in A&E and reduce waits. That plan is working. We are seeing ambulances get to people quicker, and people treated quicker in A&E.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is not a one-off. Why will the Minister not take a shred of responsivity for the chaos that her party has caused our NHS? The last Labour Government achieved the shortest waits and the highest patient satisfaction in NHS history. The Conservatives have delivered the longest waits and the lowest patient satisfaction in history. Let us have that general election, so that she can defend her abysmal record to the public.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman obviously was not listening to my answer; in fact, he was reading aloud. Our urgent and emergency care plan is working. It is reducing rates in A&E, and ambulances are getting to people faster. Meanwhile, I am sorry to say that in the Labour-run NHS in Wales, more than half of patients are waiting more than four hours in A&E.

Andrew Lewer Portrait Andrew Lewer (Northampton South) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T7. What steps is the Minister taking to ascertain the cause of ongoing problems affecting access to riluzole, the only licensed drug for the treatment of motor neurone disease in the UK, to provide clarity to the MND community and ensure that normal supply is restored as soon as possible?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We understand how worrying the possibility of medication shortages can be. There is a supply issue with riluzole 50 mg tablets, caused by a supplier experiencing manufacturing issues. We have a well-established procedure in place to deal with such issues, and are working with the industry, the NHS and others to resolve it as quickly as possible. We have contacted alternative suppliers and have secured sufficient volumes of stock.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

Amy Callaghan Portrait Amy Callaghan (East Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Cancer Research UK has found that too much UV radiation is the third biggest cause of cancer across these isles. Does the Secretary of State recognise that cost is a barrier for people wishing to protect their skin from the sun, and will she commit to having conversations with Cabinet colleagues to remove VAT on sun protection products, which will help protect NHS budgets and ultimately save lives?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We see that as part of a much wider campaign to ensure that we treat the sun safely, by reducing the amount of time we spend in the sun, particularly during peak hours of the day in summertime. I keep all these discussions in play with my Treasury colleagues.

Sheryll Murray Portrait Mrs Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T10. Rural constituencies such as mine are seeing a growing number of dentists withdraw from NHS provision. What steps is the Department taking to ensure that vital dental care is provided for everyone, particularly in rural communities?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Dame Andrea Leadsom)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is a great advocate for her community, and I pay tribute to her for working with determination to see more access to dentistry in Cornwall. She is right to do so. We have a plan, which is almost ready. I urge her to wait just a little longer. She, like all colleagues across the House, will see significant and real measures to improve access to dentistry.

Ian Byrne Portrait Ian Byrne (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T2. NHS staff have expressed concerns about the Anaesthesia Associates and Physician Associates Order 2024. Can the Minister tell me if resource will be needed for AAs and PAs to be properly supervised by doctors on a one to one ratio? Will he meet trade unions and professional bodies as a matter of urgency to clarify the Government’s position on this hugely important public health issue?

Andrew Stephenson Portrait The Minister for Health and Secondary Care (Andrew Stephenson)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

PAs and AAs are an essential part of the reform piece to the long-term workforce plan. I note that the order was passed by the House last night without a Division, so I am grateful for that cross-party support. We are working with the General Medical Council, the British Medical Association and others to ensure that the regulations are fit for the purpose. We look forward to the GMC launching its consultation on the fine print of the regulations very soon.

Heather Wheeler Portrait Mrs Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As my constituents have to travel to Tamworth, Burton or Derby for diagnostic tests, can I encourage the Secretary of State to look favourably on a bid for a new much-needed community diagnostic centre in South Derbyshire?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend sincerely for her question. The good news is that community diagnostic centres have now delivered over 6 million additional tests and scans since July 2021 thanks to the hard work of NHS staff, but I will of course be delighted to meet her to discuss her plans for her local constituency.

Derek Twigg Portrait Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T3. New British Heart Foundation analysis shows that the number of people dying before the age of 75 in England from heart and circulatory diseases has risen to its highest level in over a decade. The rate of premature deaths from cardiovascular disease has now increased in England for three years back to back. Why are the Government taking such a long time to get to grips with this crisis?

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The NHS long-term plan commits to a number of key ambitions to improve care and outcomes for individuals suffering from cardiovascular disease, including enhanced diagnostic support in the community, better personalised planning, and increasing access to cardiac rehabilitation. Those ambitions will support the delivery of the aim to prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases by 2029.

Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The single biggest concern my constituents raise about healthcare is access to GPs, especially in Blackrod and Westhoughton. What more can my right hon. Friend do to ensure we have better GP access?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that our NHS long-term plan sets out a real-terms increase of at least £4.5 billion a year for primary and community care by 2023-24. We now have over 2,000 more full-time equivalent GPs working in our NHS, and we have had the amazing achievement of more than 50 million more appointments per year, beating our target several months early. Things are improving significantly, and there are many more measures I would be delighted to talk to him privately about.

Samantha Dixon Portrait Samantha Dixon (City of Chester) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T4. In the NHS in Cheshire and Merseyside between April and June last year, the 62-day cancer waiting time target was not met. If the target had been achieved, around 150 extra patients would have been treated on time. What would the Secretary of State like to say to those 150 patients?

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The 62-day backlog has fallen by 27% since its peak in May 2020. We know there is more to be done, and that is why we are bringing forward more measures as early as possible. In April 2023, more than nine in 10 patients—90%—started their first cancer treatment within one month of a decision to treat.

James Morris Portrait James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Many of my constituents who use Regis Medical Centre have been left angry and frustrated by the botched implementation of an Anima booking system, leading to them being unable to get an appointment or the treatment they need. Will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss how we can learn the lessons from that botched implementation and make sure trust in that GP surgery is restored?

Sarah Dyke Portrait Sarah Dyke (Somerton and Frome) (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T5. I recently met the staff of a pharmacy in Bruton in my constituency to hear about some of the challenges it is facing. Community pharmacists are dispensing some of the country’s most widely prescribed drugs at a loss, therefore subsidising the NHS. What steps is the Secretary of State’s Department taking to prevent the closure of community pharmacists?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are ensuring that community pharmacists have an even greater role in primary care than they have already. For example, we saw the first stage of the roll-out of Pharmacy First in December, with blood pressure checks and contraceptive care being rolled out. I am very pleased that we are on track to deliver the full roll-out of Pharmacy First by the end of the month.

Sajid Javid Portrait Sir Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The colour of someone’s skin should not have an impact on the reliability of medical devices, but we know that that is what happened during the pandemic for many black and Asian patients. When I was the Health Secretary, I commissioned an independent review of the equity of medical devices from Professor Dame Margaret Whitehead. Her report was handed to the Department in June last year, but the Department has not yet published it or responded to it. I know that my right hon. Friend cares about health inequalities as much as I do, so may I ask her to publish the report, along with a full Government response, as a matter of urgency?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend for commissioning that vital piece of work. I am giving the matter my closest attention, and I hope very much to be in a position to respond to his points in due course.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T8. This week the Riverside unit in my constituency, which treats young people with severe eating disorders, had to close temporarily because of concerns about its ability to provide safe care. What are the Government doing to ensure that young people who, in many cases, go through mental health crises as a result of their eating disorders receive the care that they need as close to home as possible?

Maria Caulfield Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Maria Caulfield)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the hon. Lady will know, we are investing more in mental health services for young people in particular and, indeed, for those with eating disorders. We are seeing more young people more quickly than ever before, but if the hon. Lady wishes to raise a local issue with me, I shall be happy to meet her and discuss it.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The opening of a new block of operating theatres next month marks the latest investment in Torbay Hospital, but it is, of course, a prelude to the major rebuilding work. When does the Secretary of State plan to deliver the next update on the progress of that project?

None Portrait Hon. Members
- Hansard -

Hear, hear!

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am delighted that the House is as happy about that expansion as the hon. Gentleman and I are. I will meet him to go through his plans, because I know how carefully he has campaigned for this important asset in his constituency.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T9. In the early hours of Friday morning, I arrived at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary with my sick son in an ambulance. As we walked past trolleys in the corridor, the nurse who was treating him said, “Our A&E unit is too small. We were promised a new hospital four years ago, but I think they have forgotten about us.” Can the Secretary of State tell that nurse, my constituent, whether we have indeed forgotten about that new hospital?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady is aware of my knowledge not only of that hospital, but of her local area. I will look into this matter for her, because I want to ensure that the good people of Lancashire, Mr Speaker, are looked after as we would all hope and expect.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I look forward to seeing that in Chorley.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Sir Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I warmly welcome what my right hon. Friend said last week about encouraging research on lobular breast cancer, and I look forward to meeting the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the hon. Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield), shortly to work out how we can operationalise what is her clear ambition.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison) for bringing two amazing women to talk to me about the impact of lobular cancer. For the benefit of Members on both sides of the House, last week we sent out a “Dear colleague” letter and graphics about the women’s health strategy so that we can all help our constituents to understand what this Conservative Government are doing to ensure that the healthcare of women is faster, simpler and fairer.

Action Against Houthi Maritime Attacks

Tuesday 23rd January 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
12:33
Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Overnight, at my order, the Royal Air Force engaged in a second wave of strikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen. We did so because we continue to see, for instance in intelligence, an ongoing and imminent threat from the Houthis to UK commercial and military vessels and to those of our partners in the Red sea and the wider region.

I told the House last week that we would not hesitate to respond if the acts continued, in order to protect innocent lives and preserve the freedom of navigation, and that is what we have done. We acted alongside the United States, with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands. We acted on the same basis as on 11 January—fully in line with international law, in self-defence and in response to a persistent threat—and, and as with the first wave, the strikes were limited to carefully selected targets, with maximum care taken to protect civilian lives.

Attempting to counter every Houthi attack after it has been launched is simply not sustainable. We have already shot down dozens of missiles and drones targeted at civilian vessels and at the Royal Navy, and the Houthis have conducted at least 12 further attacks on shipping since 11 January, including just last night, shortly before our strikes were conducted. So we acted to further degrade their ability to mount such attacks.

Last week I gave the House our initial assessment of the first wave of strikes. Since then, we have seen further evidence that they were successful in degrading the Houthis’ military capability. Last night we hit two military sites just north of Sana’a, each containing multiple specific targets which the Houthis used to support their attacks on shipping.

I want to be very clear: we are not seeking a confrontation. We urge the Houthis, and those who enable them, to stop these illegal and unacceptable attacks. But if necessary, the United Kingdom will not hesitate to respond again in self-defence. We cannot stand by and allow these attacks to go unchallenged. Inaction is also a choice. With that in mind, and given the persistent nature of the threat, it was important to update the House again today. I listened carefully to right hon. and hon. Members last week, and we will give the House a chance for a full debate on our broader approach in the Red sea tomorrow.

We took extensive steps to address this threat to international security before taking military action. We launched Operation Prosperity Guardian in December with over 20 other countries. The international community issued repeated statements on 1 December, 19 December, 3 January and 12 January condemning the attacks and urging the Houthis to desist. On 10 January, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution demanding that they stop the attacks. I think it is important to note that the internationally recognised Government of Yemen have also condemned the Houthis for their actions, accusing them of

“creating a conflict for propaganda”

serving only their own selfish ends.

As we saw in the House last week, Members are rightly keen to hear how this situation can be brought to an end. The answer must include the vital right to self-defence when we are attacked, but that is only one part of our wider response, which I want to say more about today. First, we are increasing our diplomatic engagement, because we recognise the deep concerns about, and the complexities of, the current situation. I spoke to President Biden about these issues last night. The Foreign Secretary will be in the region in the coming days, and he met his Iranian counterpart last week. He made it clear that they must cease supplying the Houthis with weapons and intelligence and use their influence to stop Houthi attacks.

Secondly, we must end the illegal flow of arms to the Houthi militia. We have intercepted weapons shipments in the region before, including components of the very missiles used by the Houthis today. This brings home the importance of maritime security in the region, and it includes working closely with our allies and partners to disrupt and deter the supply of weapons and components.

Thirdly, we will use the most effective means at our disposal to cut off the Houthis’ financial resources, where they are used to fund these attacks. We are working closely with the US on this and plan to announce new sanctions measures in the coming days.

Fourthly, we need to keep helping the people of Yemen, who have suffered so terribly as a result of the country’s civil war. We will continue to deliver humanitarian aid and to support a negotiated peace in that conflict, not just because it is the right thing to do but because we need to show the people of Yemen that we have no quarrel with them—as the Yemeni Government understand. This is our strategy and we will keep all other tools under close review as well.

I repeat that there is no link between our actions of self-defence in the Red sea and the situation in Israel and Gaza. Those who make that link do the Houthis’ work for them, and I want to be clear that those here at home who glorify the Houthis’ attacks are glorifying terrorism, plain and simple. They will be met with a zero-tolerance approach. All of that said, I would like to address the situation in Israel and Gaza directly because it remains at the forefront of Members’ minds. President Biden and I discussed this again yesterday and he shares my deep concerns about the situation and the terrible suffering and loss of civilian lives, so together we are working to establish a new aid route through the port of Ashdod.

The UK wants to see an end to the fighting in Gaza as soon as possible. We are calling for an immediate humanitarian pause to get aid in and hostages out, as a vital step towards building a sustainable, permanent ceasefire without a return to destruction, fighting and loss of life. To achieve that, Hamas must agree to the release of all hostages. They can no longer be in charge of Gaza. The threat from Hamas terror and rocket attacks must end, and an agreement must be in place for the Palestinian Authority to return to Gaza to provide governance, services and security. That pathway to peace should unite the whole House. I believe we are also united in support of a two-state solution.

Through all the complexity of the current situation, our principles hold firm: resolute in the face of threats, compassionate in support of those in need, and determined in maintaining stability, security and the rule of law. That is what our allies and partners have come to expect from the United Kingdom, and that is what we stand for.

I commend this statement to the House.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the Leader of the Opposition.

12:40
Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Prime Minister for the advance copy of his statement.

Labour said that we will judge further action against the Houthis on a case-by-case basis, so let me be clear that we back this targeted action to reinforce maritime security in the Red sea. The Houthi attacks must stop. They are designed to destabilise us, so we must stand united and strong. They bring danger to ordinary civilians working hard at sea, so we must protect those civilians. And they aim to disrupt the flow of goods, food and medicines, so we must not let them go unaddressed.

The professionalism and bravery of those serving on HMS Diamond and flying RAF Typhoons are both totally accepted and completely remarkable. Without them, Britain cannot be a force for good in the world.

This is, of course, the second set of strikes in which the UK has participated. The stated aim of the first set was to deter and degrade Houthi capability, but we now know that their attacks have continued. While we do not question the justification for action, it is right that the House hears more about its effectiveness. Labour, of course, recognises that strikes can reduce threat without eliminating it, and we recognise that military action is just one component of a wider diplomatic strategy. None the less, I ask the Prime Minister to set out his confidence that these strikes will be effective in reducing Houthi capabilities. As the situation has evolved, although we of course understand the clear legal basis for these actions, will the Prime Minister commit to restating and republishing the Government’s legal position?

Alongside the UK and the US, other countries have provided non-operational support for these strikes and maritime protection in the Red sea. Many more support the United Nations Security Council resolution that utterly condemns the Houthi attacks. What work is being done to hold together that coalition and, if possible, to enlarge it? The action that the UK takes must draw on the support of all those who care about international law. Given the special role that the UK plays in Yemen, will the Prime Minister set out the concrete steps, in addition to those in his statement, that we are taking to help the people of Yemen who have suffered terribly as a result of that country’s civil war?

The international community cannot allow itself to be divided, which is exactly what the Houthi backers in Tehran would love to see. On that note, can the Prime Minister update the House on whether his Government have given further consideration to the proscription of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps? We need every tool at our disposal to disrupt IRGC activities, and we must show Iran that it cannot pursue its ends by destabilising the entire region.

Like the Prime Minister, I totally reject the Houthi claims that attacking ships from around the world is somehow linked to the conflict in Gaza. These attacks do absolutely nothing for the Palestinian people. What is needed in Gaza is a humanitarian truce now, a sustainable ceasefire to stop the killing of innocent civilians, space for the return of all hostages, urgent humanitarian relief and a decisive step towards a two-state solution. Palestinian statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people; it is not in the gift of a neighbour. Does the Prime Minister agree that a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state is the only path to a just and lasting peace? We must stop those who sow division; we must do what we can to disrupt and deter the Houthis; and we must stay united and steadfast in defence of our values, our security and our right to self-defence. Labour will always act in the national interest, and we provide our full support for these necessary and proportionate strikes.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his statement and his support—I am grateful to him for that. He raises all the right questions about the action today, which I am happy to answer.

First, the right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about the effectiveness of strikes in deterring and precisely degrading capability. I am pleased to tell him that further evidence, after the initial statement I made last week, has demonstrated to us that the strikes last week were effective in degrading capability and all the intended targets were destroyed. I am also pleased to say that our initial evidence from last night’s strikes is also that all intended targets were destroyed, which demonstrates to us that, working with our allies, who have the same view, the strikes are working to degrade capability, even though, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, there may be a difference between reducing and eliminating. We are confident that what we are doing is working to degrade capability. The targets are specifically selected on the basis of intelligence; they are military sites that impact the security and safety of seafarers and shipping. To that end, I am confident that, as I said, the strikes are being carried out in a way that is effective in achieving their aim.

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for acknowledging that the strikes sit within a wider strategy in the region to bring about an end to what we are seeing. The Foreign Secretary will be in the region this week, engaging extensively with our partners and allies on all the topics that the right hon. and learned Gentleman raised, and particularly ensuring that we can continue to make progress on a sustainable peace in Yemen. No doubt the Foreign Secretary will talk to our Saudi partners about that and, crucially, broaden the coalition of support for the action we have taken.

As I pointed to in my statement, multiple statements have been made by a wide coalition of countries from around the world in support of action. The right hon. and learned Gentleman can rest assured that we are continuing to expand that coalition of support, because the security of navigation and shipping impacts all countries, wherever they might be, not just in the Red sea. All of us have seen the consequences of the war in Ukraine on energy bills across the European continent and beyond, so I think people are very alive to the interconnectedness of the global economy and the importance of protecting freedom of navigation everywhere.

On the legal advice, my understanding was that we had published or were imminently about to publish a summary of the legal advice—I can happily give the right hon. and learned Gentleman that confirmation. I can also confirm to him that the basis for action remains the same as it was last time, but an update to that effect has been published or will shortly be published by the Attorney General.

Lastly, I will touch on the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s broader point. He is right to highlight the malign influence of Iran in the region. Obviously, we do not comment on ongoing decisions or processes relating to the proscription of organisations, but he can rest assured that we are alive to the risk and working closely with our allies, particularly the United States and our European allies, to jointly work out the most effective way of countering that influence. As I have said, the Foreign Secretary spoke to his counterpart last week, and we will continue to use all measures at our disposal to protect ourselves. We passed the National Security Act 2023 here in the UK and have already sanctioned the IRGC in its entirety.

More generally, on the specific action we have taken, I again thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his support. We have taken limited, proportionate and, I believe, necessary action in self-defence. We will always reserve the right to do that to protect innocent lives and freedom of navigation. Our desired outcome, of course, is for the Houthis to desist and to de-escalate the situation. What they are doing is unacceptable and illegal, and the onus should be on them to stop it. But we will use all levers at our disposal, including diplomacy and sanctions, to achieve that objective.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the Chair of the Defence Committee.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Sir Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome what my right hon. Friend says about diplomatic and humanitarian efforts, and indeed cutting off the supply of arms. I particularly welcome what he says about the effectiveness of the strikes that have already taken place. However, does he agree that in order to protect civilian shipping, this may need to be a prolonged and persistent targeted campaign alongside our allies?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. I want to be absolutely clear that no decision has been taken to embark on a sustained campaign of the nature that he mentioned—these were limited strikes, specifically in response to threats that we perceived—but we do reserve the right to take action in self-defence, as I have said. Crucially, the military action is just one part of a broader strategy, including diplomacy, sanctions and other things; we will use all levers to bring about an end to the disruption and the illegality that the Houthis are causing.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the leader of the Scottish National party.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Freedom of navigation is not a choice: it is a necessity, not least because of the impact there could be on all the people we are very fortunate to represent. As such, as a point of principle it is fair for the Government to use proportionate and robust action to defend that right to freedom of navigation. However, all of us in this Chamber need to be mindful of the opponent that we face in this regard. The Houthis have been under almost constant bombardment from Saudi Arabia for the best part of eight years; they did not get that message, so why are we so confident that they will get our message this time around?

That, of course, leads to the wider question: what is the ultimate strategy going forward, in relation not just to the Houthis but to the wider region? Over the past week, we have seen missile strikes in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria and, of course, Yemen. In the meantime, we continue to see the complete destruction of Gaza and, of course, Hamas continue to obtain hostages. We need to understand the Government’s strategy to calm waters not just in the Red sea but right across the region. Surely that must begin with a ceasefire in Gaza.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As difficult as the situation is, to do nothing would also be a choice. I believe that would be the wrong choice because it would be tantamount to ceding control of a global, economically vital shipping route to a dangerous militant group that is backed by Iran, and it would put innocent lives at risk. The hon. Gentleman is right that the military action should sit within a broader strategy, which hopefully he can tell from my statement we are engaged in on all fronts.

On the hon. Gentleman’s point about Israel and Gaza, as I have made clear, no one wants to see this conflict go on for a moment longer than necessary. An immediate pause is necessary to get aid in and hostages out—that is what we have been calling for. The best outcome will be moving from that pause to a sustainable ceasefire, but, as I was clear about in my statement, a number of things need to happen for that to be possible, including the release of all the hostages by Hamas, Hamas no longer being in charge in Gaza and an agreement for the Palestinian Authority to return to Gaza to provide governance. That is a conversation we have been having, and we will continue to push for that, because I believe that will be the best outcome and it is one that is widely supported by, I would imagine, everyone in this House.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Just to help the House, some people were late, and we are only going to run this for an hour, so please try to help each other by being as quick as you can. I call the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Alicia Kearns Portrait Alicia Kearns (Rutland and Melton) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the airstrikes, which were conducted solely to re-establish freedom of maritime movement. However, there are a number of Iranian proxies and allied groups operating across the middle east, and the hand of Iran is clear in their activities. Iran is the fundamental threat to UK security and to stability in the region. What is the strategic approach and intent to comprehensively reduce the threat that we face from all the proxies and allies, so that we do not end up playing whack-a-mole? Have we seen any opportunism from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or Daesh, who are also on the ground in Iran? Finally, as the Prime Minister touched on Gaza-Israel, please may I reiterate my request for the UK to launch a contact group for Palestine, so that we can launch track 2 negotiations to get some progress towards stability and a two-state solution?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The behaviour of the Iranian regime, including the actions of the IRGC, poses a significant threat to the safety and security of the United Kingdom and our allies, particularly given Iran’s direct threats against people here in the UK, as well as its destabilising influence in the region. We are alive to the threat, which is why we have already sanctioned more than 400 Iranian individuals, including the IRGC in its entirety. The National Security Act 2023 provides new measures for our police and security services to counter the hostile influence that we see.

The Foreign Secretary spoke to his Iranian counterpart last week, and we will continue that diplomacy this week. As I pointed out in my statement, we have previously interdicted the supply of Iranian missiles being smuggled to the Houthis, last year and the year before. We need to ensure that we work with our allies to do that, because the flow of those weapons to the Houthis is critical to their ability to carry out these attacks. Working with our allies, we should try to do everything we can to stop that.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the leader of the Liberal Democrat party.

Ed Davey Portrait Ed Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. As I made clear last week, the Liberal Democrats accept the case for limited strikes against the Houthis, as long as they remain limited. As the Prime Minister updates the House for the second time on this matter, there is remarkably little clarity about what the next steps are and when the UK’s objectives will be judged to have been fulfilled. Nor has the Prime Minister sufficiently addressed how he plans to avoid regional escalation in this most fragile of regions. I thank him for agreeing that the House can debate this matter tomorrow, but will he not give the House the opportunity to vote on this matter, not least given the huge cross-party support for limited strikes? That would surely strengthen the signal he intends to give.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

What is escalatory is the Houthis ramping up attacks on commercial shipping, launching missiles and drones against US and UK warships, and threatening allied bases in the region. I have been very clear that military action was a last resort. We provided warning after warning, including with allies and at the UN Security Council. The Houthis had, and continue to have, the ability to prevent this by stopping their illegal attacks. As I pointed out earlier, there are also risks to inaction because it would damage international security and the global economy, and send a message that British vessels, lives and interests are fair game, none of which I think is acceptable.

I am pleased that the House will have an opportunity to debate the matter tomorrow but, as I said, we reserve the right to take action in a limited, proportionate and legal way in self-defence. That is the right thing and the country would expect nothing less from the Government.

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and action. On the issue of Iran, can he say what contingency planning has been done in the eventuality that Houthi attacks in the Red sea are followed up by IRGC attacks in the Persian gulf?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend is right to point out the link between Iran and the Houthis. We are alive to that and I discussed it with President Biden last night. My right hon. Friend will know that we have assets in the region and we are working closely with our allies to ensure maritime security, whether that is by interdicting arms or more generally ensuring the freedom of navigation. Diplomacy will also have to play a part, which is why the Foreign Secretary’s conversations with his Iranian counterpart are so important, but we remain alive to the risks and will do everything we can to reduce them.

Derek Twigg Portrait Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Prime Minister is right that to do nothing is not an option, but to do something there needs to be a strategy. If the attacks continue and there is continued disruption to maritime trade, does he have a plan B?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is why we are working extensively with our allies, broadening the international coalition of support condemning the Houthis’ behaviour, and putting pressure on them in all different ways. It is important that military action is not seen in isolation: it sits alongside wider diplomatic and economic strategies. As I said, we will bring forward new sanctions measures, together with our allies, in the coming days.

Bernard Jenkin Portrait Sir Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I express my full support for the action that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has approved. Will he extend his strategic objectives, because it seems that this threat will remain so long as the Houthis have a safe haven to operate from? It is a question of how we deal with that part of Yemen, which is effectively an ungoverned space.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is clear that the Houthis’ behaviour is damaging the people of Yemen. We have talked previously about the importance of the supply of food into Yemen, but the destruction of oil infrastructure also deprives the Yemeni people of key revenue. These are all topics with which we are engaged with our Saudi partners. We very much support the negotiations. As my hon. Friend knows, a deal was announced in December. We would like to see a lasting peace and security for the Yemeni people for an inclusive political settlement, and I can assure him that, diplomatically, we are working very hard to achieve that aim.

Imran Hussain Portrait Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Prime Minister rightly states that the majority of this House supports a two-state solution to bring a lasting peace, but that is clearly not shared by the Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, members of his far- right Cabinet, or the Israeli ambassador to the UK, who openly advocated genocide on the UK airwaves. They have all rejected an independent state of Palestine. Will the Prime Minister make it clear to the Israeli Prime Minister that he condemns his comments, which stand in the way of peace? Will he also condemn the vile comments of the Israeli ambassador, who labelled every building in Gaza as a legitimate target for the Israeli military?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Foreign Secretary will be in the region this week and will reiterate what I have said publicly and from this Dispatch Box: we are absolutely committed to a two-state solution. We believe that is the right outcome for the people in the region. We want Palestinians and Israelis to be able to live side by side in peace, security and dignity, and we will redouble our efforts to bring about that outcome.

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yemen is a complex, war-torn and troubled country that has never really settled since the north and south united in 1990. Today, the civil war means that two thirds of the population require humanitarian support. When I was Minister for the middle east, I spent a lot of time with the United Nations, the US and Gulf nations trying to build a suitable governance and security framework. Does the Prime Minster agree that, unless our attention on Yemen includes not only removing the immediate threat in the Red sea, but a fresh and more cognitive approach to resolving the longer-term governance issues in this troubled country, the threat will remain?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend for his previous efforts. As he knows, we are a penholder on Yemen in the UN, and we continue to use our diplomatic and political influence to support UN efforts to bring about that lasting peace to Yemen for an inclusive political settlement. The British people can be proud of what we are doing to support the Yemeni people from a humanitarian perspective. We have committed more than £1 billion in aid since the conflict began in 2014. I believe that this year we will be the fourth or fifth largest donor to the UN’s appeal.

Valerie Vaz Portrait Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

What assessment has the Prime Minister made of the risks if the Houthis move to a different part of Yemen, and how many civilian casualties have there been so far?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am pleased to say that all our intelligence suggests that there were no civilian casualties from the strikes that we conducted last week, and that will of course have been our intention this time. We are very careful to take the time to pick the targets and minimise any civilian casualties and impacts. As I have said, we believe that there were none last time, and we have no evidence to suggest that there were any this time, but of course that is just an initial assessment.

Flick Drummond Portrait Mrs Flick Drummond (Meon Valley) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Prime Minister for the update and the continued humanitarian aid to Yemen. I totally agree with the action that he has taken to protect shipping. However, can he tell me what truth there is in the rumours that the Houthis may become a proscribed terrorist organisation, as that would have a major impact on any humanitarian aid sent to Houthi-controlled territories, which includes about 70% of the population?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As my hon. Friend will know, we do not comment on proscription processes or decisions on any group, so she will appreciate that there is not much that I can say on that. Just to clarify, it is worth pointing out that the United States has designated the Houthi group as “a specially designated terrorist group”, which is different from full proscription.

John McDonnell Portrait John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

At the moment, we see Houthi attacks continuing, the Popular Mobilisation Units attacking US bases in Syria, and Hezbollah in a low-level war with Israel in Lebanon. Yesterday in Gaza 24 members of the Israeli military were killed, and 24,000 Palestinians have died—[Interruption.] It is now 25,000, we are told. This morning we heard how a doctor is amputating children’s limbs in Gaza without anaesthetics. Does the Prime Minister not realise that, without an immediate ceasefire, any hope of a strategy succeeding will fail, and that the Netanyahu Cabinet has now become an obstacle to peace, rather than a partner in peace?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I have said, no one wants to see the conflict in Gaza go on for a moment longer than is necessary. An immediate pause is now needed to get aid in and hostages out. The best outcome will be moving from that pause to a sustainable ceasefire, but that sustainable, permanent ceasefire does require a set of conditions for it to be truly sustainable and permanent, and that involves the release of all hostages and Hamas having no role in Gaza, particularly to fire rockets continually into Israel. That is the sustainable ceasefire that we are pushing for.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

If the Houthis persist, have we the capability to remove the threat, and will we do it?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As my right hon. Friend can see, we will always back up our words with action. We have been clear that we will not tolerate risk to innocent lives and British interests in the region. We will take action where necessary in a limited and proportionate way, in compliance with international law and in self-defence. That is what we did last week and what we have done this week, and we will always reserve the right to do so in order to protect British lives and interests.

John Cryer Portrait John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is clear that the “Partisans of God”—the Houthi militia—are fascist and racist. They are backed by fascists and racists in Tehran. Further to earlier questions—this has been asked time and again from both sides of the House—may I ask when we will get around to fully proscribing the IRGC?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I have said previously, we do not routinely comment on groups that we may or may not be considering for proscription, but we have taken significant action against the IRGC, including sanctioning them in their entirety and passing new laws here at home to make sure that we can protect ourselves. Critically, we are working with our allies so that we can jointly determine what is the most effective way to combat the risk that Iran poses to us.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate the Prime Minister on a robust response—the right to navigate is indisputable—but the damage has already been done. Tankers are avoiding the Gulf of Aden, the Red sea and the Suez canal. Freight rates are now soaring and the impact of that on European refineries is likely to be significant. Can the Prime Minister say more about what will be done for armed convoys and how we will restore confidence that people and vessels will be able to navigate that stretch of water?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Transport Secretary has been engaging extensively with the industry. My hon. Friend will have seen the statements from leading shipping companies after last week’s strike, saying that they welcomed action being taken to restore security. I also point him to Operation Prosperity Guardian, a coalition of more than 20 countries. More are now sending assets into the region to ensure the safety of all civilian and commercial shipping through the Red sea. It is a critical economic strait, but there is also a principle at stake, which we must defend.

Marsha De Cordova Portrait Marsha De Cordova (Battersea) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The war in Gaza and the situation in the middle east are worsening every day. We know that more than 25,000 people have been killed, including 10,000 children, not to mention about 135,000 children suffering from severe malnutrition. We know that the only way to de-escalate the violence in Gaza and the crisis in the Red sea is by securing an immediate ceasefire—not a pause, but an immediate ceasefire. Why will the Prime Minister not commit to calling for this, so that we can see an end to this humanitarian catastrophe and the killing of innocent children?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I point the hon. Lady to my previous comments on that topic, but I will also just highlight that we have trebled our aid commitment for this financial year. We are working with partners in the region to increase the amount of aid going into the region. I discussed that with President Biden yesterday, because we recognise the humanitarian impact that the conflict is having. The UK is playing a leading role in getting more humanitarian aid into the region. As I have said, right now we will work with the Americans on opening up Ashdod so that we have a new maritime corridor to increase the flow.

Lisa Cameron Portrait Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I thank the Prime Minister for his resolute work, including the wider update on humanitarian aid and work to release hostages. Families of hostages and those hostages released will be suffering unconscionable long-term psychological trauma. Can we, in addition to physical aid, look at providing psychological support and expertise from the UK wherever it is needed for all those so gravely impacted?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that excellent point. Like her, I have spent time with hostage families, including just yesterday, and she is right about the trauma that they are experiencing. Every family that we are in contact with will have dedicated support from the Foreign Office to provide them with what they need, and I will continue to ensure that the issue she raises gets the attention it deserves. She highlights the importance of pauses and ceasefires to ensuring the unconditional release of all the hostages. They and their families are undergoing something that no one would wish to have happen to them, and it is important that we prioritise them in all these conversations.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I and many others will be disappointed at the Prime Minister’s failure to condemn the increasingly violent and extreme language by Netanyahu and his Ministers, and I invite him again to do so. The Prime Minister said 10 days ago that the airstrikes against Houthi targets would send a clear message. The Foreign Secretary said this morning that more strikes send the clearest message. Can the Prime Minister tell us where that will end, given that the only message actually being received in the region, whether he likes it or not, is about the UK’s failure to back an end to the suffering in Gaza?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Again, I urge the hon. Lady not to link and conflate these two things, because—

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is not me!

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

She is right: it is the Houthis who are doing that, and it is right that we call that out as being wrong, as the Government of Yemen themselves have done. It is absolutely right that we take necessary and proportionate action in self-defence against risk to British lives and interests. That is what we did last week and what we have done this week, and we will always reserve the right to do so. In parallel and separately, we are also doing everything we can to bring about more aid into Gaza and a sustainable ceasefire there that involves a release of hostages and the end of Hamas’s hostilities.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and actions of self-defence against the Houthis as the right thing to do. Over the past 24 hours, the BBC has carried reports that senior IRGC generals have made extremist speeches to United Kingdom students that are riddled with antisemitism and the promotion of violence. This radicalisation simply must stop. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to end IRGC infiltration in the United Kingdom? While I fully acknowledge that he will not comment on proscription at the Dispatch Box, will he at least acknowledge the strength of feeling on both sides of the House and across the political divide for the proscription of the IRGC, which is behind so much of the violence in the region, including the barbaric attacks of 7 October and the continuing attacks in the Red sea?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I first stress that it is an absolute priority to protect the UK against foreign interference, and we will use all available levers to do that. On the particular matter my hon. Friend raises about those reports, I know the Charity Commission has opened an ongoing compliance case into trusts linked to the Kanoon Islamic centre, so it is right that that investigation happens properly. More broadly, universities have a duty to prevent people being drawn into terrorism, and where there is evidence that universities are failing in that duty, I am happy to reassure him that the Government will not hesitate to intervene to ensure that the right steps are taken.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I, too, share concerns about what the strategy is, what the contagion to the rest of the middle east will be, and the possibility that might be bolstering the Houthis’ position in Yemen. Can I ask the Prime Minister about a constituent’s partner, who I mentioned to the Leader of the House last Thursday? He has been awaiting evacuation from south Gaza for a number of months. He has now suffered a broken leg and is receiving no healthcare. I urge the Prime Minister to liaise with the Israeli and Egyptian authorities for his immediate evacuation—it cannot carry on.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very happy to do that, and I will follow up with the Leader of the House on the hon. Lady’s case.

James Morris Portrait James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The threat to maritime shipping in the Red sea is from not just Houthi missiles, but the threat of cyber-attacks often coming from Iranian proxies. Does the Prime Minister agree that there is an urgent need to strengthen the cyber-resilience of our maritime partners, to ensure that they are not susceptible to the threat of cyber-attack, which may disable them and cause multiple problems?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, and that is why we previously created and funded the National Cyber Security Centre, on which our allies respect us for showing global leadership. His point is well made, and I will ensure that we are spreading our best practice to allies in the region.

Kenny MacAskill Portrait Kenny MacAskill (East Lothian) (Alba)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The key to addressing violence is to address the root cause, not just its manifestations. The Red sea is inextricably linked to the events in Gaza. Rather than bombing the Houthis, who have been bombed for a decade by Saudi Arabia with the best military equipment that Britain and America could sell to it, is it not time that we supported South Africa and other countries at the International Court of Justice in addressing the root cause, which is the genocide unfolding in Palestine?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman, and we disagree with what South Africa has brought to the ICJ and do not believe that it is helpful. I also disagree with him that those two things are linked. The Houthis have carried out attacks on multiple ships from different countries, many of which have nothing to do with the situation in Israel and Gaza. As the Government of Yemen themselves have pointed out, the attacks have nothing to do with that situation, which the Houthis are using as propaganda for their own selfish ends.

Stephen Timms Portrait Sir Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Prime Minister has referred to the international support for the actions in the Red sea, but why have only US and UK forces actually taken part in them?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We also received support from Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Bahrain in these strikes, as we did last time. I point the right hon. Gentleman to the statements that have been put out previously by over a dozen countries, including New Zealand, Korea, Singapore and others, and also to the UN Security Council resolution from 10 January, which was unequivocal in condemning the Houthi attacks and acknowledging the right of member states, in accordance with international law, to defend their vessels from attacks.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We now have 25,000 dead. There are still 130 hostages. My extended family are still trapped. While we want to have hope, I dare say that it has now turned to complete despondency. The Prime Minister will have heard with dismay, I am sure, the words of Netanyahu when he said that he is categorically against two states. That echoes the equally awful words of Hamas, who say the same thing. Does the Prime Minister not agree that what we have here are the extremes of the debate? What words of hope does he have to offer those voices in Israel, Palestine and beyond who cling on desperately for the light in this darkness?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her question and comments. I agree that we are committed to a two-state solution, because that is the only way we can bring about a future where Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side with the security they deserve, with dignity and with opportunity. The events of the last few months remind us that we must redouble our efforts to bring about that outcome. I remain confident, because of the engagement that we are having, that we can make progress on that aim.

Alex Sobel Portrait Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Prime Minister said, “We urge the Houthis, and those who enable them, to stop these illegal and unacceptable attacks.” He then spoke only about Iran in terms of those who enable them. Who else is enabling the Houthis, and what action are the UK and its allies taking to stop them and their supply of weapons and other support to the Houthis?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I particularly mentioned Iran with good reason, because it is one of the primary suppliers of weapons to the Houthis. That is why in the past we have interdicted those shipments. Iran’s behaviour remains of primary concern to us. It is the significant destabilising actor in the region, and it will continue to be a focus of our diplomatic efforts. More broadly, we want to see peace and stability in the region across the board. Diplomatically and otherwise, we will work hard to bring that about.

Apsana Begum Portrait Apsana Begum (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Further violence will not achieve peace. Aid agencies are warning that the UK and the US continuing to bomb Yemen is threatening civilian populations and inhibiting humanitarian assistance reaching millions who are already enduring starvation. Instead of escalating risks to civilian populations in the region, why can the Prime Minister not just support the growing and increasing calls internationally for an immediate ceasefire in Israel-Gaza, an end to the bloodshed in Gaza and an end to the attacks on Yemen, and call for peace, justice and human rights?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Again, I would not draw a link between the action in the Red sea and the situation in Gaza. They are two completely different things. The Houthis may seek to link them, but we should not pander to that narrative. We have been in touch with our non-governmental organisation partners, and they have confirmed no significant disruption to humanitarian efforts following our airstrikes. We help feed around 100,000 Yemenis every single month. Again, I would urge the hon. Lady to recognise that the Houthis’ activities actually damage the Yemeni people, who are entirely reliant on food coming in through those shipping lanes.

Stephen Farry Portrait Stephen Farry (North Down) (Alliance)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Prime Minister sketched out some of the Government’s view on terms for a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza. What steps are the Government taking to discuss with other states—particularly with friendly states—a long-term peace plan for the region, including a two-state solution, to ensure that we make real progress towards that objective?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that we are having exactly that conversation with all our partners and allies in the region. I started that dialogue when I visited the region towards the end of last year, the Foreign Secretary will be in the region again this week, and it is something that President Biden and I have discussed. I believe that we are aligned on the future that we all want to see for the people of Israel and Gaza, and now we will work constructively with our allies to try to ensure that that can happen.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I press the Prime Minister a little more on Palestine? Although he was right to say in his statement that President Biden and he are united in support of a two-state solution, he will be acutely aware that the person who is likely to be President Biden’s main challenger in November’s election is almost certainly not in favour of a two-state solution, and neither is the Israeli Prime Minister. What are the Prime Minister and the British Government doing to use this narrow window of opportunity to push for that two-state solution?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I refer the hon. Gentleman to my previous answer. We are absolutely committed to a two-state solution and will work very hard with all our allies to make progress towards that aim.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yemeni analyst Hisham Al-Omeisy is no friend of the Houthis—they took him hostage some time ago—but he has been raising concerns about the way in which these blunt military actions will play into the Houthi narrative against America and the UK. How does the Prime Minister intend to challenge that political narrative and ensure that the Yemeni people do not play into Houthi hands because of the action that he is taking?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I say, we are in dialogue with the Yemeni Government, and they are doing their best to counter the narrative that the hon. Lady mentions. Also, I would not characterise these as “blunt” strikes; they are actually very deliberate and careful targeted strikes on military sites, minimising the impact on civilians. We will continue to ensure that that point is heard loud and clear.

Stella Creasy Portrait Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Houthis have already said that we should “expect a response” to the strikes. Benjamin Netanyahu’s words have further inflamed things, jeopardising opportunities for peace between Israel and Palestine. There have been attacks in Pakistan by Iran. Clearly, the situation is escalating. We need all partners to collaborate as best we can if we are to secure a ceasefire, end the attacks on shipping and get that two-state solution. The Prime Minister has talked about talking to our allies. Will he set out the conversations that he has had with colleagues in the European Union, which has its own peace initiative in the region, and where does he think that will get to?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I speak regularly to colleagues across Europe, including speaking to the Belgian Prime Minister just this morning. We will work with all our allies on these issues, as we have done in the past and will continue to do. I believe that we are all united on the outcome we want to see, which is a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side with peace, security and dignity.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I very much welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and his clear, firm stance—it is good to have that. What steps will he take to further secure safe passage for shipping companies, which have been forced to increase the price of shipping in order to enhance their protection? Even Church missions in my constituency sending humanitarian containers to Eswatini in southern Africa are paying increased prices for containers. What else can be done to alleviate not only this international affront but the direct impact on our constituents, who are already struggling with increased prices and stagnant wages?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman is right to point out the economic impact of attacks on shipping on everyone here at home and across the world. There is a meaningful economic cost to container ships rerouting around the Cape of Good Hope. That is an important reason why we must have freedom of navigation and it demonstrates why it is right that we take action. Prosperity Guardian is the operation providing more maritime security in the area.

Richard Burgon Portrait Richard Burgon (Leeds East) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

To follow up on the Prime Minister’s comments on Gaza, 25,000 people have now been killed there, so is it not time that our Government did more than express sympathies and instead used their diplomatic power to prevent more deaths there, starting with a UN Security Council motion calling for an immediate ceasefire and ending arms sales to Israel?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Our actions are clear: we have trebled our aid commitment this year, we are doing everything we can to open more crossings, and recently we worked to deliver a new humanitarian land corridor from Jordan into Gaza, with 750 tonnes of lifesaving food and aid arriving on its first delivery. We can be proud of the impact that we are having, but of course, there is more to do, and that is why we will continue to have those conversations to get more aid in.

Andy Slaughter Portrait Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Prime Minister says that he supports a two-state solution. That requires his Government to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel. When will he do that?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The position of this Government is the same as that of previous Governments and is long-standing: we will recognise a Palestinian state at a time that best serves the peace process.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

There are 21 million people starving and in desperate need of food and aid in Yemen. How will the Prime Minister ensure that the military action taken by the British Government does not impede that desperately needed humanitarian support?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I refer the hon. Lady to my previous answer. In fact, the Houthis’ disruption of Red sea shipping is harming the Yemeni people, who are relying on those corridors to bring aid in. As I said, we are the fourth or fifth largest donor to the UN appeal this year, we have contributed £1 billion since the conflict began in 2014, and we are currently helping to feed 100,000 people in Yemen every month.

Jamie Stone Portrait Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It will surely be of great concern that the Royal Navy is now almost too small to carry out its many responsibilities, including those that the Prime Minister has told us about today. Can he assure the House that that important issue will be placed at the top of the agenda at the next defence review?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am pleased to tell the hon. Gentleman that the MOD is receiving significant extra funds—£24 billion at the last spending review, and billions of pounds since—to rebuild stockpiles and ensure the sustainability of our defence nuclear enterprise. In particular, the Royal Navy has a very ambitious capital programme. As he can see, it has successfully carried out the operations that we need it to carry out, and it deserves our thanks and praise for its work.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Prime Minister spoke about maritime security in the region, particularly in relation to stemming illegal arms getting into Yemen. How will the UK’s ability to contribute to wider maritime security be affected by considerations of decommissioning HMS Westminster and HMS Argyll after multimillion-pound refits, and when will we make a final decision on whether to mothball HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the hon. Gentleman can see, we absolutely have the capabilities and personnel we need to contribute to allied operations such as Prosperity Guardian, and to take action in self-defence, as we have done. We will always ensure that our armed forces have the investment that they need, and under this and previous Governments they have continued to receive very significant investment, which is set to rise in the years ahead.

Tributes to Sir Tony Lloyd

Tuesday 23rd January 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
13:28
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before we proceed with the business, I would like to take the opportunity to remember our late colleague Sir Tony.

I first met Tony almost 30 years ago when I was standing as a candidate in Chorley in the 1997 election. Tony was shadow Foreign Affairs Minister. He came along to Chorley and to Adlington—the village I live in—where, on Sutton Lane, he knocked on doors. I have to say that it was his charm, passion and good humour that helped convince those wavering voters to vote for me, so I am forever in his debt.

Of course, Tony had been in the Commons for quite some time before me. In total, he served the people of Greater Manchester for 45 years. He was first elected as a member of Trafford Council in 1979, and, in 1983, he was elected to this House as the Member for his home town of Stretford. In 1997, he was returned for Manchester Central. By that time, he had been part of the Labour Front-Bench team for over a decade, and Tony Blair appointed him Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, serving under Robin Cook. He remained active in internati