Oral Answers to Questions

Peter Bone Excerpts
Wednesday 12th January 2022

(1 week, 6 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I refer to the answer I gave earlier.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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This Friday, my private Member’s Bill, the BBC Licence Fee (Abolition) Bill, gets its Second Reading. It will abolish the BBC licence fee and require the BBC to be funded by subscription. In this day and age it is ridiculous to have a state broadcaster, it is ridiculous that people are forced to pay a fee just because they have a television, and what is totally wrong is that people who believe the BBC to be institutionally biased have to subsidise it. Will the Prime Minister, if he is free on Friday, come along and support the Bill?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I have the highest respect for the media judgment of my hon. Friend. Though I understand some of his strictures about the BBC, I would also say that it is a great national institution. But I will study what he has to say with interest.

Oral Answers to Questions

Peter Bone Excerpts
Tuesday 9th November 2021

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I share my hon. Friend’s total disgust at what we have learned about those hospitals in Kent, and, indeed, in relation to the David Fuller case more broadly. Although I have already said this, as has, I think, the Health and Social Care Secretary, I am very happy to repeat that I am willing to look at those sentences again. Incidents of this kind of event are rare, but they are abhorrent and the sentence must match the level of outrage, the trauma and the renewed trauma that it will put the victims’ families through.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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Women and girls who are victims of human trafficking suffer extreme violence, yet, last year, there were only 91 prosecutions and 13 convictions for specific modern slavery offences. However, there is some good news: the charity Justice and Care has been working with the Government to provide victim navigators to help in prosecuting these evil gangs. In nine out of 10 instances where the victim navigator is involved, we get the evidence to prosecute. Will the Government look at extending their support for that charity?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I am very happy to look at that. We have a record-breaking amount from the spending review, certainly the largest in the past 10 years, for justice issues, and I will be looking very carefully at the support that we can provide for victims. My hon. Friend referred to the work of the charity in question, and it dovetails with what I have already mentioned to the House about the independent sexual violence advisers. We know that, if the victims who have gone through these awful crimes get the support they need, they are less likely to fall out of the justice system. That is one of the important ways that we will secure more prosecutions.

Committee on Standards: Decision of the House

Peter Bone Excerpts
Monday 8th November 2021

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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I do share that concern. That would be a very easy thing for the Government to say today, and we have another two hours to run in this debate, so there is plenty of time to say it.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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I could not agree more with the Leader of the Opposition that House business should never be whipped. Can he say whether he whipped his Members last week?

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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No. Our Members did not need whipping to know what the right decision was.

There are good ideas across the House about how we can improve standards to restore the trust that the Prime Minister has broken. There has been talk about cross-party working this afternoon. We are willing to work cross party and with the expertise of the Standards Committee to make that happen, but let me be loud and clear: we are not willing to work with the Government on their plans to weaken standards. There will be no cross-party agreement on weakening standards.

There are other ideas. The Labour party has long called for the MPs’ code of conduct to ban paid directorships and consultancy roles. The current code of conduct recognises that those roles are a potential conflict of interest but does not ban them. We voted to fix that in 2015, but we were blocked by the Government. A change along those lines has been recommended by the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life, but there has been no action by the Government. It is time to put that right.

In addition, the revolving door between ministerial office and the private sector is still in full swing. Ministers can regulate a company one minute and work for it the next. The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments is too weak to provide the check and balance. It is time to shut the revolving door by banning those job swaps. This weekend, we were reminded of the appalling inevitable pattern: a large donation to the Conservative party, a stint as party treasurer, then an appointment to the House of Lords. The regulator has been ignored by the Prime Minister and broken in the process. There is no doubt that the House of Lords needs fundamental democratic reform, but we can act now to toughen the rules over appointments.

Oral Answers to Questions

Peter Bone Excerpts
Wednesday 8th September 2021

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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No. As I have said, households in the top 20% of income pay 40 times more than the poorest. And pay for nurses is exactly what this measure funds, which is why it is so astonishing that the hon. Gentleman and his party are determined to vote against it tonight.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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This Friday my private Member’s Bill, the Asylum Seekers (Return to Safe Countries) Bill, will have its Second Reading. The intention is that an asylum seeker who comes to this country from a safe country will be returned to that country. The Bill would end the problem of people coming across the channel. Will the Prime Minister urge his colleagues to vote for the Bill on Friday?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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We have introduced the Nationality and Borders Bill, which will make it no longer possible for the law to treat somebody who has come here illegally in the same way as someone who has come here legally. It is high time that distinction was made, and that people understand there is a price to pay if they come to this country in an illegal fashion.

Health and Social Care

Peter Bone Excerpts
Tuesday 7th September 2021

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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The hon. Member makes an exceptionally important point. In addition to the £6 billion that we put into supporting local government throughout the pandemic, we are putting more in precisely to support social care. That will ramp up over time as the system kicks in. The distribution will be set out in due course by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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Nobody in this House, and I doubt anyone in the country, will be surprised that the Prime Minister has the guts to take on reforming social care when none of his predecessors did. I was amazed that in the statement he pointed out that roughly one in three hospital beds are occupied by people who could be better treated and cared for elsewhere. It seems to me from my surgeries that the problem is largely due to local government and the health service not working together. When can we see some improvement in that?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend is completely right, and I am sure he speaks for Members across the House who have experienced this problem in their surgeries for years. There is a mismatch between health and social care and there is not a proper system for deciding where people should be treated for their own benefit, and the result is that we get these huge pressures of delayed discharge that make it more difficult to deal with the elective surgery that people need—particularly now. That is why we must do both things at once, and that is why we are doing what we are doing.

Afghanistan

Peter Bone Excerpts
Monday 6th September 2021

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank the hon. Lady. I expect that she speaks for many colleagues around the House who, like me, will have received messages from those who wish to leave Afghanistan. I repeat what I said earlier: every single email from colleagues is being responded to by close of play today.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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Like many Members, I have had emails from Afghans in this country worried about their people back in Afghanistan. The Home Office and the Foreign Office have managed to get some of those people relocated, but I had the extraordinary situation where I had a very detailed email about Afghans who were being persecuted and who had worked for the British. It was very detailed and they produced all the documentation. The following day, my constituent wrote to me and said, “I am really sorry. It is a complete lie. These people are Taliban, and I cannot go through with this masquerade.” I just wonder whether we should be on guard against getting such people into this country.

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I am sure that my hon. Friend, like many in the House, will be relieved to know that from the very beginning of Operation Pitting, the ARAP scheme and all the subsequent schemes we have put in place, the very highest possible security checks have been instituted to make sure that people are who they say they are and that we receive to this country the people who genuinely deserve to come here.

International Aid: Treasury Update

Peter Bone Excerpts
Programme motion
Tuesday 13th July 2021

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Law Portrait Chris Law
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I agree with every point that the hon. Member makes. It is important for our national security and in our national interest to be stepping up at this point, not stepping away.

The UK Government’s funding to the United Nations Population Fund, which provides contraceptives and reproductive health supplies globally, is being cut by a staggering 85%. Yes, Mr Speaker, you heard that correctly: 85%. The UNFPA has stated:

“These cuts will be devastating for women and girls and their families across the world.”

The money being withheld by this Government would have helped to prevent a quarter of a million child and maternal deaths, nearly 15 million unintended pregnancies and more than 4 million unsafe abortions.

A third example, which just shows how ridiculous the cuts are, is that tens of thousands of people are likely to die needlessly because nearly 300 million doses of medicine for the treatment of neglected diseases in Africa are at risk of expiring following the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s announcement that it is almost entirely withdrawing its allocated funding. So far, the UK Government have not confirmed that the expiring medicines will be distributed urgently rather than destroyed. What an utter folly—an absence of simple human decency. Hon. Members voting on the motion must tell their constituents that, because these are the simple facts.

Those are just three examples that cover women’s reproductive rights, disease prevention and urgent humanitarian assistance, but cuts are happening across the board. Programmes to eradicate poverty, to prevent conflict or even to combat climate change—in the year that we will host COP26 in Glasgow—are all suffering a similar fate. Each budget reduced, each project scaled back and each programme cancelled results in a loss of hard-fought progress, a loss of expertise and, fundamentally, a loss of trust. This so-called temporary measure will inflict long-term damage and long-term pain and suffering, which is why the cut must be urgently reversed. The Government are pretending that there is no other option than to cut from 0.7% to 0.5%, but we know that that is not the case. In fact, it is blatantly not the case.

It must have been a complete humiliation for the UK Government when they hosted the G7 summit in Cornwall last month, which should have been a moment of pride in demonstrating our shared collective values. This House may ask why. It is because every other G7 country has recognised the necessity of helping those in urgent need at this time of unprecedented volatility and increased aid spending.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way, but would he acknowledge that those countries may have raised spending from a much lower level and that we shall still be the third highest in the G7?

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Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for East Lothian (Kenny MacAskill), who speaks with passion. I do not accept his arguments, but I accept that those people who will vote against the Government tonight do so with genuine concern. I welcome the fact that we have a lot of SNP Members here, we have the Democratic Unionist party here and we have the Liberal Democrats— ah, but only two Labour Back Benchers have bothered to stay in the debate, and one has just arrived, so I am not so sure about the concerns expressed by those on the Labour Benches.

I welcome one thing that the hon. Gentleman mentioned: the fact that this Parliament is having a vote and a debate on this issue, and that is to the great credit of the Government. They are bringing forward a motion that they may well lose tonight, and that is to their credit. They are letting this Parliament decide on this very important issue.

I think this debate is not particularly about the merits of overseas aid and 0.7%; it is about the state that the economy is in. I cannot tell from sitting here whether the Chancellor is his happy self. He is very popular at the moment because he has been giving money away and helping people, but there is an economic crisis coming down the line, and certainly on these Benches, we should recognise that. That is the reason we should support the cut of £4 billion in overseas aid. If we do not do that, the Chancellor either has to borrow £4 billion more, or he has to tax more, or he has to cut public expenditure. That is actually what the issue is about, and that is why I will be supporting the Government tonight.

I will just touch on what I think is more important with overseas aid: it is the outcome, not the amount of money we are spending. Labour Governments used to say, “We are spending record amounts of money”, but that did not mean they were having record outcomes. When I was chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on human trafficking, it was often the small charities without state money that were having the best outcomes.

The great thing about this Government is what they have done with the vaccine and AstraZeneca. The fact that we have given this to the world and that there will be 3 billion doses across the world by the end of next year is tremendous testament to this Government. That is world-leading and it is changing the world, and it is saving millions of people from being seriously ill and dying. That is the sort of thing we should be proud about. We should not be worried about a figure.

Emergency Covid Contracts

Peter Bone Excerpts
Tuesday 29th June 2021

(7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

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

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
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Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. I welcome the Minister to her place; it is the first time I have appeared opposite her.

After the revelations and resignations at the weekend, this urgent question concerns yet another scandal at the very heart of this Tory Government. It seems that not even a health pandemic can do away with classic Tory cronyism, and the scale of this particular scandal makes it one of the biggest yet.

The Secretary of State ordered the use of a £560,000 emergency covid contract to conduct constitutional campaigning on the Union. Instead of using an emergency covid contract to order PPE for the NHS, the Minister chose to order political polling. This is not media speculation, and it is not even a political accusation. It is, Mr Speaker, a plain fact. It comes directly from official evidence that has been published in the High Court. It comes in evidence from the Cabinet Office, in a witness statement dated 24 December 2020, which states:

“I...received an urgent request for Union-related research from the office of the Rt Hon Michael Gove...In response, I asked Public First to conduct some testing of people’s attitudes”

on this issue.

Did the Prime Minister know or approve of that polling and constitutional campaigning? Who were the polling results shared with, and will they be published in full? How many other pieces of political research were ordered during the pandemic, and exactly how much public money has been spent? These are just some of the questions that the Secretary of State needs to answer. There are many, many more.

The Secretary of State was in Scotland yesterday. He held a press conference. He told Greg Russell of The National newspaper:

“We don’t use taxpayer funds for party political polling”.

He went on to claim that the contract was assigned by others. We know from the witness statement that these things are not true. The truth and this Government are distant strangers, and that should come as no surprise when we remember the Prime Minister has been sacked not once but twice for lying.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
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Last Wednesday at Prime Minister’s questions, the Prime Minister said he was unaware of these contracts, and ever since he has ignored demands for a full—

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Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
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That’s a lie!

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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Kick him out!

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Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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I congratulate the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) on securing the urgent question.

The Minister seems to be auditioning for the role of Minister for the Cabinet Office; I do not know whether he has been kidnapped but he does not seem to be about at the moment—but my hon. Friend is doing very well. Is this urgent question not an opportunity to highlight the fact that if the Government had not used emergency powers, we would not have established the world-leading vaccination programmes, which have saved not just hundreds of thousands but probably millions of lives across the globe? They used the emergency powers to develop the vaccine programme, rather than go through the red tape and bureaucracy that the European Union did and did not develop a programme.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I assure my hon. Friend that I am not auditioning for that position; the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has not been kidnapped. He is in Scotland, as part of our efforts to make sure that we are less Whitehall-centric as a government—we have offices now in Glasgow.

My hon. Friend is right about the importance of being able to take sensible risks that save lives in times of crisis, which is what we did in a number of these areas, and that was the right decision to make.

Security of Ministers’ Offices and Communications

Peter Bone Excerpts
Monday 28th June 2021

(7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

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

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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(Urgent Question): To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will make a statement on security arrangements relating to ministerial offices and communications.

Julia Lopez Portrait The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Julia Lopez)
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I appreciate your comments, Mr Speaker, about matters in relation to the House. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) for his question and for the chance to address concerns felt across the House about the security of ministerial offices and communications. These are concerns that the Government also take very seriously.

As has been the practice of successive Administrations, the Government do not generally comment on internal security matters. On the specific incident relating to the leak of footage from a security camera to the media, given the public interest in the case I can confirm that the Department of Health and Social Care has launched an investigation that is supported, as appropriate, by the Government security group based in the Cabinet Office. Until the investigation is complete, it would be inappropriate to give further details. I am sorry to hon. Members who will understandably be seeking a lot of details on this matter. It is the case, however, that robust safeguards are in place around the security of Ministers, parliamentarians and Members of devolved legislatures.

My hon. Friend may also want to ask about ministerial communications, which I am happy to go into. Government guidance is that official devices, email accounts and communications applications should be used for communicating classified information. Other forms of electronic communication may be used in the course of conducting Government business, but each Minister is responsible for ensuring that Government information is handled in a secure way. How that is done will depend on the type of information and on the specific circumstances.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting the urgent question and for your comments. I thank the Minister for her response, but it seems to me that the revelations over the weekend that the Secretary of State for Health’s personal office had recording devices in it should be of national concern. If Government and parliamentary offices have recording devices in them—whether audio, visual or both—it is of the utmost concern. Since the disclosure, several Cabinet Ministers have gone on the record to say that they had no knowledge that their offices might be subject to surveillance.

It is totally unacceptable for private conversations between Ministers, civil servants, Members of Parliament and members of the public to be secretly recorded. It also brings into question whether the Wilson doctrine has been broken. Since the premiership of Harold Wilson, it has been a long-standing rule that secret recordings of Members of Parliament by the police, security services or state are outlawed, so I have a number of questions for the Minister on which I hope she will be able to be a little more forthcoming.

First, do the offices of Ministers or Members of Parliament have recording devices in them? If so, who authorised them? Who has access to the recordings? What is the purpose of the recordings? How long are they kept? Has the Wilson doctrine been broken? Are there currently any Members of Parliament under surveillance by the police, intelligence agencies or the state? What measures are taken to ensure that there are no illicit recording devices in ministerial and parliamentary offices? Are they routinely swept for those devices?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Before you answer that, Minister, I should say that you have no responsibility for the House. That is a responsibility of the House that I am looking into, but everything else is fair game.

Oral Answers to Questions

Peter Bone Excerpts
Wednesday 9th June 2021

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
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As I said in response to an earlier question, we have the civil society and youth advisory group, co-chaired by two young climate activists, one from the global south and one from the global north, and on every visit that I do, I meet youth activists. Of course, I am very happy to look at the event that the hon. Gentleman is talking about and, if my diary permits, I will certainly come to it.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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What his policy objectives are for COP26.

Alok Sharma Portrait The COP26 President (Alok Sharma)
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Our overarching objective is to keep within reach the target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 °C. To do that, we are asking countries to set out ambitious emissions reduction commitments, come forward with plans to protect communities and nature, mobilise finance and reach agreement on the outstanding elements of the Paris rulebook.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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Mr Speaker, you will remember when David Cameron was hugging huskies, and I thought it was a great idea to try to do something to save the planet, so I got rid of my polluting petrol car, bought a biofuel car and then discovered that I was destroying the rainforest. I knew what to do next: get carbon dioxide down and buy a diesel car; now I know that when I drive along the street I am poisoning people. Could the President of COP26 please give me some advice? Before I buy an electric car, will he assure me that the mining of cobalt and lithium is not killing people in the mines, or would it just be easier for me to buy a horse?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
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That would certainly be sustainable. I am really pleased to hear that my hon. Friend is indeed a climate activist at heart; it is a revelation for all of us. It is great that he has made a decision to purchase an electric vehicle. I can tell him that he will not be disappointed. Plug-in grants are available and he knows that the Government are also backing the sector with almost £3 billion-worth of support.