Rishi Sunak debates involving the Scotland Office during the 2019 Parliament

Oral Answers to Questions

Rishi Sunak Excerpts
Wednesday 1st May 2024

(3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
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Q1. If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 1 May.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak)
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I know the thoughts of the whole House are with the people of Hainault in east London following yesterday’s appalling attacks. Such violence has no place on our streets. It is absolutely heartbreaking that a teenage boy has died, and I cannot imagine what his family are going through. We send them our heartfelt condolences and offer our very best wishes to all those injured. I reiterate my thanks to the police and other emergency first responders for embodying the highest standards of public service under such awful circumstances. I know our thoughts are also with those injured this morning in an attack at a school in Sheffield.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald
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We know that more than one in five teenagers are vaping, with some experts describing it as an epidemic. Yesterday, new research suggested that teenagers who vape could be at risk of exposure to toxic metals, potentially harming brain or organ development. I agree with the Prime Minister in his wish to reduce the harms caused by smoking and vaping through the Tobacco and Vapes Bill. Does he agree that permitting football strips to be sponsored by vaping companies sends entirely the wrong message to young people, and that it is time to ban vape companies from advertising on sports strips?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank the hon. Lady for her question. Obviously, decisions about kit sponsorship will rest with individual teams, but I agree with her that it is important that we do everything we can to tackle the scourge of teenage vaping. That is why I am glad that she supports our Bill, which will not only clamp down on marketing and availability of flavours, targeting point-of-sale purchases, but improve funding for trading standards to clamp down on those selling vapes illegally to children.

Lisa Cameron Portrait Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (Con)
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Q2. My husband is a veteran, and the defence of the country is the Government’s first duty, in order to protect people across the United Kingdom. Can the Prime Minister reassure the House that he has a plan in place for backing our world-leading armed services, and does he know why the Opposition refuse to back his plan?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I start by paying tribute to my hon. Friend’s husband and all our veterans for their service to our country. In the most uncertain times since the cold war, it is right that we build our security, protecting our values, our interests and indeed our nation. That is why this Government have taken the step to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, making us the biggest spender in Europe under NATO. When the Labour leader stands up, I hope he stops dithering, does the right thing and confirms that he will back our plan to increase defence spending.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Leader of the Opposition.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab)
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I join the Prime Minister in his words about yesterday’s awful events in Hainault. I am sure that the whole House will want to commend the first responders and send our deepest condolences to the family of the 14-year-old boy who was murdered. I join the Prime Minister in his remarks about the attack in the school in Sheffield as well.

I know that everyone in the House will be delighted to see His Majesty the King returning to his public duties and looking so well. We all wish him and the Princess of Wales the best in their continued recovery.

I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter) to his place on the Labour Benches. After nearly two decades as a Tory politician and an NHS doctor, he has concluded that if you care about the future of our country and our NHS, it is time for change; it is time for this changed Labour party. As of today, he is our newest Labour MP, but I am sure he will not mind my saying that I hope he loses that title on Friday. When a lifelong Tory and doctor says that “the only cure” for the NHS is a Labour Government, is it not time that the Prime Minister admits that he has utterly failed?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I am glad to actually see the hon. Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter) in the House, because he recently pointed out that residents under his local Labour council are

“charged much more in council tax but in return receive…lower quality”

services. He has been wrong about some things recently, but on that point he is absolutely right, and this week, people everywhere should vote Conservative.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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The Prime Minister comes out with all that nonsense, but he locks himself away in his Downing Street bunker, moaning that people are not grateful enough to him. The reality is that Tory MPs are following Tory voters in concluding that only the Labour party can deliver the change that the country needs. I say to those Tory voters that if they believe in a better Britain, they are safe with this changed Labour party, and it is for them. In the two weeks since we last met at the Dispatch Box, has the Prime Minister managed to find the money for his completely unfunded £46 billion promise to scrap national insurance?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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We addressed that a few weeks ago, and I am happy to address it again. I know that economics is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s strong point, but he would do well to listen to his shadow Education Secretary, the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson), who just this morning said, “No, that’s not how it works.” Indeed, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has also said that the link between national insurance and public services funding is “illusory”—just like Labour’s economic plans. However, it is crystal clear that there is one party that will deliver tax cuts for working Britain, and it is the Conservative party. [Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Whoever is banging the furniture will have to pay for it if they damage it. Can we have less of that? We are not in the sixth form now.

--- Later in debate ---
Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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I do not apologise for asking on pensioners’ behalf again whether the Prime Minister will finally rule out cutting their state pension to fulfil the enormous black hole in his spending plans.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Of course we can rule that out. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should stop scaremongering, because it is thanks to the triple lock that we have increased pensions by £3,700 since 2010, and they will rise in each and every year of the next Parliament. It is Labour who always hit pensioners hard. It is his mentors, Blair and Brown, who broke their promises, raised pension taxes by £118 billion, and delivered an insulting 75p rise in the state pension. As one former Labour adviser just said, Brown “destroyed our pensions system”. They did it before, they will do it again. Labour always betrays our pensioners.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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It is clear that the Prime Minister cannot answer the question of where he is going to find this £46 billion. [Interruption.] No, he has said where it is not coming from; he has not said where it is coming from. Luckily for him, one of his peers, Lord Frost—yes, him again—does know. He says that to solve the problem of the Tories’ spending plans, the state pension age should be raised to 75. Understandably, that will cause some alarm, so will the Prime Minister rule out forcing people to delay their retirement by years and years in order to fulfil his £46 billion black hole?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I have answered this multiple times for the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I am happy to say it again: the Conservative party is the party that has delivered and protected the triple lock. Ultimately, he is not worried about any of this, because as we all remember, he has his very own personal pension plan. Indeed, it comes with its very own special law: it was called the Pensions Increase (Pension Scheme for Keir Starmer QC) Regulations. It is literally one law for him and another one for everyone else.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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The Prime Minister wants to abolish national insurance, which will cost £46 billion, and he will not tell us where the money is coming from. We are no closer to an answer. I am going to persevere. Last year, the Prime Minister was apparently drawing up plans to remove the winter fuel allowance from pensioners. His Paymaster General went a step further, saying:

“these are the sorts of things I think we need to look at”.

Will the Prime Minister now rule out taking pensioners’ winter fuel payments off them to help fund his £46 billion black hole?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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It was this Government who, just this winter, provided double the winter fuel payment to support pensioners. What is crystal clear is that we believe that the double taxation on work is unfair. We believe that hard work should be rewarded, which is why this week, we are cutting taxes by £900 for everyone in work. In contrast, it is Labour’s newest tax adviser who thinks that pensioners should be taxed more—those are his words. This adviser calls them “codgers”. He thinks that supporting them is a “disgrace”, and he believes that their free TV licences are “ridiculous”. It is Labour who hit pensioners with tax after tax, and they would do it all over again.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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Is it any wonder that the Prime Minister’s MPs are following Tory voters in queuing up to dump his party? Even the Mayors who he is apparently pinning his political survival on do not want to be seen anywhere near him, because until he starts setting out how he is paying for his fantasy economics, he has a completely unfunded £46 billion promise that puts people’s retirement at risk. How does it feel to be one day out from elections with the message, “Vote Tory, risk your pension”?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Tomorrow, voters will have a choice. It will be a choice between Mayors like Andy Street and Ben Houchen, who are delivering, or Mayors like Sadiq Khan, who simply virtue-signal. It is higher taxes, more crime and the ultra low emission zone with Labour, or lower taxes and better services with the Conservatives—that is the choice. From the West Midlands to Teesside to London, there is only one choice: vote Conservative.

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)
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Q4. We can see the Rwanda deterrent is working, and we have now deported our first illegal migrant, but, unsurprisingly, Labour just does not care. The shadow Home Secretary is busy posing for pics encouraging more boats to come over. The leader of the Labour party has said he would cancel the Rwanda flights. He took the knee when signing letters stopping us deporting foreign national offenders who have committed crimes such as murder and rape, and he would do a deal with the EU, surrendering our borders to 100,000 legal migrants. Is it not right that only the Conservatives will stop the boats and cut legal migration?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Our plan is working. Legal migration, the latest figures show, is down by 24% and student dependants down by 80%. We all know Labour’s big idea: it is to scrap the Rwanda plan even when it is operational. However, as one senior Labour adviser said to Andrew Marr just yesterday:

“'We can’t just come in, tear it up, and have nothing to put in its place”.

I am sorry to break it to Labour Members, but that is exactly their policy. While we are getting on and stopping the boats, all Labour would do is stop the planes.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP leader.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP)
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On Monday, the Armed Forces Minister could neither confirm nor deny that UK troops may soon be deployed on the ground in the middle east. The public watching will be hoping that Members of this House do not have a short memory when it comes to the potential deployment and involvement of our military in the middle east. Can I ask the Prime Minister to provide some much-needed clarity: is he giving active consideration to the deployment of UK forces in the middle east—yes or no?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Mr Speaker, you would not expect me to get into any operational planning details, but what I will say is that we are absolutely committed to supporting international effort to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza, which I think the whole House would support, by land, sea and air. We have tripled our aid commitment, and right now—together with the US, Cyprus and other partners—we are setting up a new temporary pier off the coast of Gaza to get aid in as securely and quickly as possible.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn
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Let us all be in no doubt: aid is required in Gaza, and it is required because, when people are not being bombed, they are starving to death. The solution to that is a ceasefire and the opening of safe ground aid routes, not the involvement on the ground of UK military personnel. These are dramatic and potentially dangerous developments, so will the Prime Minister confirm to the House today that, before he makes a decision, all Members will be afforded a vote?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I am not going to apologise for our armed forces playing a leading role in supporting international effort to get more aid in. Indeed, we are sending Royal Navy support ship RFA Cardigan Bay to the region to support that effort. The right hon. Gentleman talks about this conflict; the fastest way to end it is to ensure that we have a hostage deal that gets hostages out and aid in, and for there to be a sustainable pause in the fighting. It seems clear that there now is a workable offer on the table, so I hope he joins me in encouraging all parties, including Hamas, to accept that deal so we can move towards a sustainable solution.

Bill Wiggin Portrait Sir Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire) (Con)
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Q5. My right hon. Friend’s decision to cancel HS2 led to £207 million for Herefordshire’s potholes and transport infrastructure; Hereford hospital has a new ward, more beds and a new diagnostic centre on the way; £35 million has been allocated to the River Wye recovery plan; inflation is down; the Rwanda Bill has been passed; and defence spending is increasing. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that, if he carries on like this, he is going to win the next election?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I am thankful for my hon. Friend highlighting the work that the Government are doing, whether that is increasing our defence spending to keep us safe, securing our borders with our Rwanda Act, cutting taxes by £900 or raising the state pension by £900. I am also pleased that, locally in Herefordshire, we are filling in potholes, helping to save the River Wye and improving local health services. It is crystal clear that it is the Conservative Government who have a plan and are delivering a brighter future for our country.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)
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In February, the Foreign Secretary said that it would be difficult for a ground offensive on Rafah to avoid harming civilians and destroying homes, and just yesterday, the Deputy Foreign Secretary admitted that he was struggling to see how such an attack could be compliant with international humanitarian law. All the signs are that Netanyahu is about to defy the international community, and that an attack on the 1.5 million Palestinians sheltering in Rafah is imminent. If that attack begins, will that be the moment when the Prime Minister finally finds the moral backbone to ban arms exports to Israel, and if not, how much more suffering has to happen before he acts to prevent further UK complicity in crimes against humanity?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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What the hon. Lady did not acknowledge at all is that Israel suffered an appalling terrorist attack that killed hundreds of its citizens, and it does have the right to defend itself. Of course, as I have been crystal clear, we want to see humanitarian law respected and adhered to by all parties. Too many civilians have been killed, and we want to see Israel take greater care to avoid harming civilians. I have made these points repeatedly to Prime Minister Netanyahu, specifically about the impact of any military incursion into Rafah, and we continue to say to the Israelis at all levels that we want to see more aid going in, and bring about a hostage deal so that we can move towards a sustainable ceasefire.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
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Q6. The 60% increase in funding for special educational needs and disabilities is extremely welcome, but challenges around the recruitment of community paediatricians mean that some children in Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable and Houghton Regis are waiting too long for an assessment. What can the NHS do to attract more of the 39,000 additional doctors recruited under this Government into community paediatrics, as a specialty that is incredibly rewarding and important?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend is right, and he joins me in welcoming the significant action that we have already taken to improve children’s health, whether that is reducing sugar in children’s food, or the £600 million we have invested to improve the quality of sport and physical activity in schools. The NHS has established a special group to ensure that the recovery of paediatric services keeps pace with that of adult elective care, and he will be pleased that the NHS long-term workforce plan, which we have fully backed, doubles the number of medical school places in England and increases specialty training places. That will increase the size of the pool from which community paediatricians can be drawn in the future.

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)
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Q3. I know that you, Mr Speaker, want to join me in sending condolences to the friends, family and colleagues of our former colleague, Lord Andrew Stunell, who served with exceptional diligence and grace as MP for Hazel Grove in this House, and who passed away very suddenly on Monday. When the BBC ends longwave radio transmission next year, that will also end access to electricity tariffs such as Total Heating Total Control, which is relied on by almost 1 million households across the United Kingdom. Switching to smart meters will not fix that for most people, not least because the roll-out programme is so far behind. Will the Prime Minister, or possibly the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, get energy companies, the regulator and customer groups together, so that we can stop passing the blame around, and find a solution that does not yet again leave people in the highlands and island behind and out in the cold?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I understand that an agreement has now been reached to ensure that radio teleswitch services will continue until June next year. Ofgem is also engaging with energy suppliers on their plans to support consumers through the transition. While households currently covered by the service should not be disadvantaged by the switch-off, energy suppliers are best placed to advise on tariffs for those who have been switched to a smart meter. However, I will ensure that the right hon. Gentleman gets a meeting with the relevant Minister, to ensure that his constituents are not left behind during the transition.

Peter Aldous Portrait Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con)
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Q8. The east of England is playing a lead role in delivering the UK’s energy security, and without our contribution the country will not be able successfully to transition to a renewable energy supply system. In recent months, our coast has taken a battering, and projects such as the Lowestoft flood defence scheme have been postponed. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that Departments are fully co-ordinated, so as to provide the region with good supporting infrastructure, proper protection for coastal communities, and every opportunity for local people to take up exciting new jobs?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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We are levelling up across the United Kingdom and investing in places that need it the most, including, as my hon. Friend rightly highlights, our coastal communities. Almost £1 billion of levelling-up funding has been allocated to the east of England, including £75 million for coastal places. I know that he welcomes the town deal for Lowestoft in particular. I will ensure that he gets a meeting with the relevant Minister to discuss how we can further support his region with its role in our energy security, and, in particular, its coastal communities.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Q7. Greenpeace Unearthed found 36 supposed grassroots campaign groups that were actually administered by Conservative staff and activists and which were forums for vile racism, antisemitism and Islamophobic attacks on Sadiq Khan. While the Prime Minister is above such co-ordinated efforts against 20 mph zones in Wales, will he shed some light on these shady groups spreading abuse, including on their funding and their links to his party, and whether he is aware of similar operations existing elsewhere in the UK? If he will not, will he at least commit today to investigating and taking action to tackle the sources of this grubby gutter politics?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I am not aware of the topic that the hon. Lady raises, but I am not going to make any apology for Conservatives pointing out the record of the SNP in Scotland or the Labour Government in Wales, because that is exactly what the democratic process is about. She might not like it when we highlight their record, but we will keep doing that so that we can deliver for people across the United Kingdom.

Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Neil Hudson (Penrith and The Border) (Con)
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Q9. I welcome our Government’s commitments to boosting defence spending and supporting Ukraine, made possible by this Conservative Prime Minister’s international leadership and sound management of the economy. My constituents have been doing us proud supporting Ukraine, with the Pot Place Garden Centre delivering ambulances, medical equipment and supplies, and Steve Hodgson providing vital aid. Will the Prime Minister join me in paying tribute to my constituents and people up and down the land for their support for Ukraine and reaffirm that we will continue to stand with Ukraine for the sake of freedom, democracy and global security?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I join my hon. Friend in thanking people up and down the country, including his constituents, for their fantastic work in supporting the Ukrainian community in the face of Putin’s illegal invasion. We remain steadfast in support of Ukraine.

In total, since the war began, we have pledged over £12 billion of aid to Ukraine. Last week, we announced an additional half a billion pounds of funding, which will be used to deliver much-needed ammunition, air defence and engineering support and drones. More importantly—President Zelensky welcomed this—we are now able to say, because of the historic increase in our defence spending, that we will continue with this level of support for as long as it takes. It is crystal clear that, on the Government Benches, we can say that our support for Ukraine will never waver.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab)
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Q10. In 1969, my constituent Georgina Jacobs gave birth to a baby boy whom she named Robert. Sadly, Robert was born asleep. In those days, the hospitals would ask the father to collect the baby’s body, take it to the cemetery and leave it there for burial. For 53 years, Georgina did not know exactly where Robert was buried. When she eventually found him, she shared her story on social media, and other mothers who had been through the same experience got in touch. Since then, she has located over 60 babies on behalf of grieving parents and has deservedly been presented with the Wirral award for her achievements. Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating Georgina on her award and on having brought comfort to so many parents and families? Will he, on behalf of all previous Governments, apologise for that former practice, which left grieving parents with nowhere to visit their buried children?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank and commend the hon. Lady for raising that case, and I pay tribute to Georgina for what she is doing. I often say that one of the most incredible things about doing this job is meeting people like Georgina, who have suffered tragedy in their lives but used that to campaign, inspire and bring about a better life for everyone else. She is a prime example of that, and she deserves nothing but our praise and admiration. I am so pleased that she has brought comfort to so many other people, too.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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Q12. Since I was elected in 2010, Rugby has seen employment grow by nearly 6,000, with 10% more of my constituents in work. Much of that has been driven by investment in advanced manufacturing in places such as Ansty Park, where we have got the Manufacturing Technology Centre, which the Prime Minister visited, the High Temperature Research Centre, Rolls-Royce, Parker Meggitt, Fanuc and the London Electric Vehicle Company. Given that every Labour Government have left office with unemployment higher than when they came in, can the Prime Minister see any reason why anybody would want to put this fantastic progress at risk?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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On a recent visit, I was pleased to see for myself that my hon. Friend is a great champion for his constituents. I was very pleased to see the thriving local technology and manufacturing industry, which will help us deliver on our ambitions to make the UK a science and technology superpower. He is right that we have a record 1 million fewer workless households, and unemployment near record lows. He is also right that we need to stick to the plan, because that is how we will deliver the long-term change that our country needs and a brighter future for families up and down the country, including in his constituency.

Carla Lockhart Portrait Carla Lockhart (Upper Bann) (DUP)
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Q11. Hypocrisy needs to be called out. Everyone in this House will recall the former Irish Prime Minister in Brussels with a photograph of a bombed customs post, lamenting that any border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was unworkable, in breach of the Belfast agreement and could result in such troubles again. The hypocrisy of the Irish Government position has not been not lost on us, with the Irish police now tasked to patrol the border to protect from the unsubstantiated, unfounded 80% of asylum seekers who supposedly—actually, the reverse is true—make their way to the Republic of Ireland from the UK via Northern Ireland. Will the Prime Minister challenge and call out those actions, and confirm what representations he has made to the Irish Prime Minister and the Irish Justice Minister about the integrity of our UK border?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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The House will be aware that we have made commitments to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. The hon. Lady makes a very important point that the Irish Government must uphold their promises, too. We cannot have cherry-picking of important international agreements. The Secretary of State is seeking urgent clarification that there will be no disruption or police checkpoints at or near the border. I can confirm that the United Kingdom has no legal obligation to accept returns of illegal migrants from Ireland. It is no surprise that our robust approach to illegal migration is providing a deterrent, but the answer is not to send police to villages in Donegal but to work with us in partnership to strengthen our external borders all around the common travel area that we share.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
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Q14. I was the Lord Commissioner who signed into law the special pension of the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer). He owes me one! The Prime Minister is right: Labour’s 75p was an insult to pensioners, yet last year our triple lock afforded pensioners the highest increase in 30 years. The Prime Minister is going to continue to deliver dignity in retirement, is he not?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My right hon. Gentleman is right that we will provide dignity to all those in retirement. That is why we introduced the triple lock and why this year the state pension is rising by £900. I am also proud of our record to bring 200,000 pensioners out of poverty. As I have said previously, the state pension will increase in each and every year of the next Parliament. He reminds us of the 75p increase—unlike Labour, pensioners in this country can trust the Conservatives.

Gareth Thomas Portrait Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op)
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Q13. In only one of the 194 local authority areas in England are NHS ambulances meeting the national response time targets for potential heart attack and stroke victims. Does the Prime Minister know which one it is?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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When it comes to ambulance waiting times in A&E, of course there is work to do, but the place where they are the worst in the country is in Labour-run Wales. Thanks to our plan, we have seen an improvement in A&E and ambulance times this winter compared with last winter. We have 800 more ambulances on the road, faster discharge out of our emergency care centres and 10,000 virtual ward beds. As I said, there is more to do, but the contrast with Labour-run Wales is crystal clear: it has the worst A&E performance anywhere in Great Britain.

Stephen Crabb Portrait Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con)
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For six months, thousands of my constituents have lived with foul polluted air from the Withyhedge landfill site. The company is owned by someone with previous convictions for environmental crimes, who a few months ago gave £200,000 to help Vaughan Gething become First Minister of Wales, after another of his companies was loaned £400,000 from the Development Bank of Wales, overseen by the then Economy Minister Vaughan Gething. Does the Prime Minister agree that this serious matter demands an independent investigation? It is not some internal Labour party matter. Ultimately, that company needs to get out of my constituency and let people in Pembrokeshire have their quality of life back.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My right hon. Friend brings up an incredibly important issue. I know that people in Wales are concerned about the relationship he mentions. I also agree with him on the need for transparency and an investigation regarding the Welsh Labour leader, because it is very clear that the situation is not at all transparent and answers are needed.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
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It has been revealed by The Observer newspaper that the Conservative candidate for the Mayor of London is a member of the six Facebook groups mentioned by the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock). They are full of Islamophobia, antisemitism and the most disgraceful incitement to damaging property. The worst bit, for those of us who were in the House when our Members of Parliament were taken, are the death threats to the current Mayor of London, Mr Khan. Will the Prime Minister close down those Facebook pages, which were begun by Conservative members of staff, and will he investigate the role of the current candidate and her membership of those disgraceful racist Facebook groups?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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The election tomorrow will be fought on the substance of the issues that Londoners face. The Labour record is crystal clear: house building in London has collapsed; knife crime is rising; mayoral taxes are up 70%; and drivers have been hit with ULEZ charges. The Labour Mayor simply panders to unions and has decimated London’s night-time economy. That is his record and that is how he will be judged. People across London know that they will be safer with the Conservatives, with lower taxes and better services.

Karen Bradley Portrait Dame Karen Bradley (Staffordshire Moorlands) (Con)
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Today is Staffordshire Day, when we celebrate all the brilliant things about the county of Staffordshire. Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to our brilliant police, fire and crime commissioner, Ben Adams, and encourage the people of Staffordshire to vote for Ben tomorrow to ensure that Staffordshire remains one of the safest places to live, work and visit?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I wish everyone a happy Staffordshire Day. My right hon. Friend mentions the police and crime commissioner elections. It is right that she does, because under this Conservative Government and previous Conservative Governments we have cut crime by over 50% and delivered 20,000 more police officers. People with a Labour police and crime commissioner are more likely to be victims of burglary and are twice as likely to be victims of robbery. As I said, last year knife crime in London went up by 20%. The facts speak for themselves: vote Conservative for safer streets.

Oral Answers to Questions

Rishi Sunak Excerpts
Wednesday 6th March 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Charlotte Nichols Portrait Charlotte Nichols (Warrington North) (Lab)
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Q1. If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 6 March.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak)
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This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, including listening to the Chancellor’s Budget statement, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Charlotte Nichols Portrait Charlotte Nichols
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The UK used to be a world leader in psilocybin research but, despite the calls of the Home Affairs Committee, leading researchers, charities, veterans’ organisations and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, we have shamefully fallen behind on breakthrough treatments for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, causing misery to millions of people in our country. Can the Prime Minister explain why this policy remains the responsibility of a Home Office that cannot give it the attention it deserves, and why it is okay that American, Canadian and Australian patients can access treatment that British patients cannot?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I completely sympathise and understand why people suffering from distressing conditions will want to seek the best possible treatment available, and I thank the hon. Lady for raising the issue. We are committed to ensuring that the UK is a world-leading jurisdiction for pharmaceutical, clinical and other medical research, and we have asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to review barriers to legitimate medical research involving controlled drugs such as psilocybin. I am pleased to tell the hon. Lady that our response to the council’s recommendations will be published as soon as possible.

Kieran Mullan Portrait Dr Kieran Mullan (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con)
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Q3. My constituency has a long and proud history of farming, with generations of the same families helping to feed our nation. Not since world war two have we been so aware of how important food security is to our national security, so will the Prime Minister update the House on what his Government are doing to support our fantastic farmers?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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As I set out at the NFU conference just a couple of weeks ago, we will always back British farmers for continuing to produce fantastic food. We are accelerating that plan, with the largest package of grants ever. Indeed, one of the new schemes opens just today, supporting farmers with up to £125,000 towards the purchase of new equipment and technology. Our schemes in England are all about more choice, not less. Unlike Labour in Wales, we will never introduce top-down, arbitrary targets that damage farm incomes, damage our food security and take farmers back to square one.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Leader of the Opposition.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab)
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Three years ago, Sarah Everard was walking home when she was abducted and murdered by a serving police officer who should have been trusted to keep her safe. As a father, I cannot imagine the pain her parents, her family and her friends are going through in this difficult anniversary week. Lady Angiolini’s report exposes the appalling failure in police vetting and in misconduct processes, and I am very troubled by its conclusion that there is

“nothing to stop another Couzens operating in plain sight”.

How can that be the case, three years on from this horrendous crime?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Can I first say that I am sure all Members of the House will have been thinking about Sarah Everard in recent weeks? It was, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, an absolutely shocking case, and the abuse of power in particular was appalling. That is why we took action quickly to strengthen police vetting and strengthen the rules for rooting out officers who are not fit to serve, and conducted the largest ever screening of all serving officers and staff. We are now ensuring that any officer who has been charged with a crime will be suspended from duty automatically until their case is concluded, and we will thoroughly consider all the report’s recommendations and respond in full.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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The Prime Minister mentions vetting and I just want to press him on that, because serious failures in police vetting were raised in independent reports as long ago as 2012, 2019, 2022 and 2023. That is why Labour has been arguing for mandatory national vetting standards that would stop anybody with a history of domestic abuse or sexual offending being allowed to join the police in the first place. Why are mandatory national vetting standards not already in place?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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It is vital for public confidence that those who are not fit to wear the badge are rooted out of the police and not able to join in the first place. That is why the College of Policing updated its statutory code on vetting, and that happened quickly. In addition, the policing inspectorate carried out a rapid inspection of all forces’ progress against the previous findings and, in addition to that, an entire check against the national police database was carried out for all serving officers and staff.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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I am obviously very familiar with codes in criminal justice systems, but—[Interruption.] This is too serious for that. There is a world of difference between a code and binding mandatory standards which do not have legal effect, and that should trouble Members across the House.

Couzens’ history of sexual offending stretched back many years. On four occasions, despite allegations of indecent exposure, he was not sacked. We know that indecent exposure is a gateway to more horrific crimes, as was tragically shown to be the case not only in Sarah Everard’s case but in that of Libby Squire, but it is not treated with the seriousness required. The Angiolini report recommends reviewing all indecent exposure allegations against serving officers in order to identify, investigate and remove those officers from service. Given the obvious urgency of this recommendation, can the Prime Minister give a categorical assurance that it will be implemented immediately?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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The Home Secretary addressed this specifically when he made his statement. Indecent exposure, just like any other kind of sexually motivated crime, is abhorrent and we expect police chiefs to take it extremely seriously. We fully expect police chiefs to suspend an officer charged with any kind of sexually motivated crime. It is worth pointing out that, in addition to the new powers that the Home Secretary outlined about automatic suspension, chief constables have existing powers to suspend any officer in their force when allegations are made, and we fully expect them to use those powers.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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I do think the recommendation that I referred to should be implemented urgently and I ask the Prime Minister to look again at that, because every day that goes past when it is not implemented carries risk for victims in these cases.

Sarah Everard’s murder should have been a watershed moment for policing reform, for the criminal justice system and for violence against women and girls, but the sad reality is that victims of rape who have the courage and bravery to come forward have just a 2.4% chance of their perpetrator being caught and charged within the year. How does the Prime Minister expect women to have confidence in the criminal justice system when almost all rapists do not see the inside of a courtroom?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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As we acknowledged a couple of years ago, of course we need to do more to improve rape outcomes in the criminal justice system, and the rape review action plan is showing considerable progress. We have already increased the average sentence for rape by a third since Labour was last in office—by the way, using a power that the Labour party voted against in this House. Thanks to our action plan, we have seen police referrals double and charges double, and last year there was a 50% increase in rape convictions—and now rapists will serve every single day of their sentence behind bars.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman raises his time at the Crown Prosecution Service, but he has not acknowledged that, under his tenure, rape convictions actually dropped.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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The Prime Minister knows that is going to be fact checked. He also knows that I support tough sentences. I really think that victims of violence against women and girls deserve better than this nonsense from the Prime Minister. It needs to be taken seriously. It is not a game.

We all want more victims to come forward, but we have to be honest that, unless things change, the criminal justice system will continue to fail them. That is why we are committed to introducing specialist rape and sexual offences teams in every force to give victims specialist support and confidence that their experience will be investigated properly. When will the Prime Minister commit to doing the same?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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We have already implemented the rape review action plan. The Leader of the Opposition says that we need to take this seriously, and here are the things that we have done: we have ended the appalling digital strip search of victims’ mobile phones; we have ensured that there is better use of pre-recorded cross examination; we have rolled out Operation Soteria, with incredible success, across all the nation’s police forces; we have significantly increased the number of independent sexual and domestic violence and abuse advisers to up to 1,000; and there is more specialist training in all police forces for these prosecutions. That is the plan we have already put in place, and it is a plan that is working to ensure that we keep the women and girls of this country safe.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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The problem is that the rosy picture the Prime Minister tries to paint of the current criminal justice system is completely at odds with the confidence that many women currently have in it. With the publication of the Angiolini report, the country deserves to know that we are doing all we can to make our country safe for women. That starts with what should be the most basic task: creating a safe workplace here in Westminster. At the moment, as everyone in this House knows, we are failing in that endeavour, and we all have a duty to change that. When will the Prime Minister make time for the vote on banning from Parliament those MPs who face allegations of sex offences?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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It is absolutely right that we ensure our communities are safe for women and girls, which is why we passed the landmark Domestic Abuse Act 2021, why we set up a new 24/7 victim support line, why we quadrupled funding for victim support and why we are investing in practical things like CCTV and better streetlighting for safer communities up and down the country. Of course, there is always more we can do, but this Government have a strong track record on ensuring that women across this country feel safe.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con)
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Q4. I want the Prime Minister to know that the people of Romford are struggling with ever-increasing energy prices, yet providers are making huge profits that run into the hundreds of millions. Does he agree that reductions in wholesale prices should be passed on to consumers and that standing charges should be brought down? Will the Government hold utility companies to account for their actions?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend is right to highlight the challenge that high energy bills have posed not just to his constituents in Romford but to constituents across the country. That is why we stepped in with a significant package of support that paid around half of a typical household energy bill when prices were at their highest.

I know my hon. Friend will join me in welcoming the fact that the energy price cap is set to fall by almost £250 in April, which will bring relief to many families, but we must hold companies to account. That is why we introduced the energy profits levy on the windfall profits caused by an unexpected increase in energy prices. We are going further to cut people’s costs by cutting their taxes and putting more money into their family bank accounts.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party leader.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP)
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Much to my surprise, this morning it has been widely reported that the Conservative party in Scotland is absolutely furious that Westminster is about to tax Scotland’s natural resources in order to pay for a tax cut in England. Is the Prime Minister in danger of turning his colleagues into nationalists?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Obviously, I would not comment on the Budget, but I will say that when I was in Scotland last week it was crystal clear that there has only ever been one party consistently standing up for the North sea energy industry, and it is the Scottish Conservatives.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn
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The Prime Minister knows that not to be the case. But there is a serious point to be made here: the Conservative party wants to use Scotland’s natural resources to pay for tax cuts in England, and the Labour party wants to use Scotland’s natural resources to pay for nuclear power stations in England—the cost of that is up to 100,000 jobs. Scotland’s wealth, resources and jobs are all a game to Westminster. With the Tories on just 15% in the polls in Scotland now, will the Prime Minister do us all a favour and call a general election?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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The hon. Gentleman claims to be supportive of the North sea energy industry, but why has he opposed all the measures that we have taken to protect those jobs in Scotland over the past couple of years? He talks about tax in Scotland and England. I gently point out to him that, thanks to the actions of the Chancellor and this UK Government, everyone in Scotland has received a significant tax cut from January this year. In contrast to the Chancellor’s last Budget, the SNP’s budget put taxes up for working Scots. Scotland is now the high-tax capital of the UK, but this Conservative Government are going to keep cutting taxes for hard-working Scots.

David Davis Portrait Sir David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con)
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Q10. The Government are rightly acting to compensate properly the Horizon victims who were highlighted by Alan Bates’s legal challenge. However, there are thousands more sub-postmasters across the country who were not prosecuted but faced financial penalties for bogus shortfalls, causing them enormous financial and personal distress. Does the Prime Minister agree that we should now be doing everything possible to do right by all the victims of a gross miscarriage of justice, clear their names and, at last, properly financial compensate them?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the appalling impact that this miscarriage of justice has had on people’s mental health. As he acknowledged, our focus is on delivering justice for the postmasters, and that is why we will introduce legislation to overturn convictions and pave the way for the swift payment of compensation. I thank him for his long-standing campaign on mental health on this issue, and I assure him that the postal Minister is closely examining the issues he raises, is considering next steps and will keep my right hon. Friend closely informed.

Jeffrey M Donaldson Portrait Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP)
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The Prime Minister will be aware that the Government’s proposals to deal with the legacy of our troubled past in Northern Ireland continue to be the subject of scrutiny, most recently in the High Court ruling in relation to compatibility with our human rights obligations. Many families of victims in Northern Ireland are deeply disappointed with the lack of co-operation by the Irish Government in relation to murders committed in their jurisdiction or from their jurisdiction. In relation to the Omagh bomb inquiry, for example, the Irish Government have declined to conduct a public inquiry on this worst atrocity in our troubled past, despite the courts urging them to do so. Will the Prime Minister continue to press the Irish Government on the need for them to make available facilities to enable the families of innocent victims, including in Omagh, to pursue justice for their loved ones?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his question on this important topic, which I know will be of great interest, not only to his constituents, but to many others across Northern Ireland. The Government have set forward their plans to deal with the legacy of the past and will continue to engage with everyone in Northern Ireland, whatever their views, to set out the best way forward. I can confirm to him that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has raised these specific issues directly with the Irish Government and will continue to do so. I, too, spoke to the Taoiseach about this very matter. We would hope to see further co-operation on Omagh and many other outstanding cases that involve Irish jurisdiction, because, like my right hon. Friend, I want to give families as much information as possible.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
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Q12. Putin has put the Russian economy on a total war footing. He has increased military spending by 68% to 7.5% of GDP. He claimed this month that over 520,000 new jobs have been created in the arms industry, which now employs an estimated 3.5 million Russians. On my recent visits to Ukraine I have met Government Ministers and senior military figures who have expressed great frustration to me about the length of time it is taking to develop collaboration in building a defence manufacturing capability jointly with UK defence companies in Ukraine. Will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss how we can unblock the bureaucracy and, as our Ukrainian friends say,“build the arsenal of the free world together”?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I reassure my hon. Friend that we remain steadfast in our support for Ukraine and we will not allow Putin to achieve his aim of eradicating Ukrainian freedom and democracy. Our cross-Government taskforce is working diligently to support the armed forces of Ukraine and lead UK and Ukrainian defence industrial co-operation. I am pleased to say that in December last year, we conducted our first successful trade mission to Ukraine, alongside the UK defence industry. The Government and UK industry will continue to work hand in glove with our Ukrainian allies, seizing the opportunity for collaboration and bolstering our joint defence industries.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab)
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Q2. Last week, the Institute for Public Policy Research published a paper, “State of the North 2024”. That paper predicted that wealth inequalities, already too large between the north and the south-east, would increase to nearly £250,000 per head by the end of this decade. Does the Prime Minister accept that his levelling-up agenda has failed—or did he never want it to succeed?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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On the contrary, inequality in our country has actually declined under this Conservative Government. When it comes to levelling up in the north, the north has received some of the highest amounts of per capita levelling-up funding of any region in the country. After the hon. Gentleman last popped up to ask me a question about our investment in the north, did he manage to get an answer about what exactly is the Labour party’s position on HS2? I would still like to know, because we are taking that money and reinvesting every penny of it across the north in forms of transportation that people use every day, delivering benefits to communities more quickly, not just in his constituency but across the entire north. That has been warmly welcomed everywhere that I have been.

David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that the performance of the Labour party in voting down our Rwanda Bill in the House of Lords was a disgrace? It is only the Conservative Government and the Conservatives who have a plan for dealing with illegal immigration and the people smugglers. Action on illegal immigration is a top priority in my constituency, and Labour has no policy or plan on this at all.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. He knows, as I know, that if we want fully to stop the boats, we need to have a working deterrent, so if someone comes here illegally, we must be able to remove them to a safe third country alternative. That is why the Rwanda scheme is so important, and why we are determined to see it through. Just in the past week, an independent report was published that talked about the Labour party’s policies in this area. It made it crystal clear that Labour does not have a plan to stop the boats. In fact, its idea would see the UK accept hundreds of thousands more migrants.

Angela Eagle Portrait Dame Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab)
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Q5. Which part of his economic legacy is the Prime Minister most proud of? Is it presiding over the highest tax burden since the second world war, or is it delivering the slowest real wage growth since the Napoleonic war?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Saving 10 million jobs in the pandemic with the furlough scheme.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)
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The Prime Minister will know that there is consensus across this House on the need to build new houses. Where that consensus breaks down is where those houses should be built. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that, wherever possible, new houses should be built on brownfield sites, not on green spaces, not on green fields, and certainly not on prime farmland?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right: sustainable planning must be at the heart of our planning system. That is why we are committed to meeting the needs of communities by building homes in the right places and, as he says, making best use of brownfield land. We have made it clear that that is what the priority should be and we have put extra funding aside to unlock those sites. Our recent changes to the national planning policy framework provide clearer protection for the green belt, making it clear how future housing supply should be assessed. That is the clear difference between our two parties: the Conservatives will protect the green belt and Labour will concrete all over it.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne  (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
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Q6. In some jurisdictions, Ministers routinely publish their tax returns. The Prime Minister voluntarily published his UK tax return last year. Does he agree that Ministers of the Crown should publish their tax returns as a matter of course, and has he ever filed any returns in the USA that have not been published?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I do not think that would be proportionate or appropriate. [Hon. Members: “Oh!”] No, I do not think it would be proportionate for all Ministers to publish their tax returns. In keeping with long-standing tradition, I voluntarily published my tax returns, as did the Chancellor. That is the right balance and I have been completely transparent about that as I have done it.

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con)
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Last year, a number of us were on the first transatlantic flight powered by sustainable aviation fuel. This week, the International Airlines Group made its first major purchase of that fuel, but that fuel is coming from the United States and it is important that we have a SAF industry in this country. Will the Prime Minister tell the Treasury and the Department for Transport to accelerate the work that they are doing to put in place the right framework and the right support mechanisms to ensure that we have a SAF industry for our aviation sector for the future?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank my right hon. Friend for championing this cause, which is absolutely right, and reassure him that we are committed to ensuring that the SAF mandate is in place in 2025. That will require about 10% of jet fuel to be made from sustainable feedstock by 2030. I am pleased to tell him that, to get there, we have provided £135 million to 13 different UK sustainable aviation fuel projects to kickstart our domestic industry and, importantly, as he also knows, we have committed to introducing a revenue certainty mechanism to support SAF production in the UK as soon as practically possible.

Samantha Dixon Portrait Samantha Dixon (City of Chester) (Lab)
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Q7. As our 2,000-year-old Roman walls are an important historic monument of world renown, will the Prime Minister join me in Chester to walk the walls and explore how the Government can support the upkeep of these important structures, which, unlike the Conservative party, are stable, solid and in no danger of imminent collapse?

None Portrait Hon. Members
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Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to the history of her local community. I am pleased that the city of Chester is benefiting from so much investment from the Conservative Government, so that it can maintain its local infrastructure.

Louie French Portrait Mr Louie French (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con)
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Five weeks ago, Conservative MPs from across south-east London and Kent wrote to Transport for London and the Labour Mayor of London to call on them to do the right thing following the botched implementation of a temporary 40 mph speed limit on the A20 near Sidcup, which has seen thousands of drivers unfairly issued with fines and points on their licence. It has left many drivers, including carers, emergency service workers and teachers, at risk of losing their licences and jobs, despite travelling less than 50 miles an hour in the zone. Does he agree that TfL, the Met police and Sadiq Khan must come clean about the number of fines, and cancel these issued points?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank my hon. Friend for the question. I understand the concerns that local drivers have over this ongoing TfL issue. Although, we are doing everything we can to back motorists across the country, it is disappointing that the Labour Mayor and, indeed, Labour-run Wales are hammering drivers at every opportunity, whether that is with temporary speed limits, blanket 20 mph zones, or the ultra low emission zone expansion. I will make sure my hon. Friend has a meeting with the responsible Minister to discuss his concerns.

Judith Cummins Portrait Judith Cummins (Bradford South) (Lab)
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Q8. To strengthen current spiking legislation, forensic evidence is essential. The NHS does not have uniform policy for the screening of suspected victims of spiking at A&E. We can pass all the laws we want in this place, but to achieve justice that forensic evidence is vital. Will the Prime Minister commit to ensuring that hospital emergency departments have a statutory obligation to take forensic samples from these victims?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I agree with the hon. Lady that spiking is an appalling, violating crime, which seriously undermines public safety, particularly the safety of women and girls, and we want to ensure that the existing laws recognise the threat that spiking poses. That is why at the end of last year we announced a raft of new measures to confront spiking and support victims, including changing the law to make it clear without any doubt that spiking is illegal, as well as other measures, such as an online reporting tool, investing in research and rapid testing kits, and training for bar staff. I will ensure that we look into the issue that she raises and write back to her.

Ben Bradley Portrait Ben Bradley (Mansfield) (Con)
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This winter, there has been significant flood and storm damage to the infrastructure in and around my constituency of Mansfield, including our roads, drains, and flood infrastructure. It is among the highest concerns that residents raise with me on a regular basis. I am really grateful that from next year in particular very significant infrastructure funding is coming our way, but what can my right hon. Friend do to help fix this for my constituents now?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I am pleased that in 2020 we announced that we would double our flood investment to a record £5.2 billion. In Nottinghamshire, since 2010 we have invested over £50 million to protect 15,000 properties. I know that currently there is a programme in Mansfield that is looking at surface water and drainage improvements, but I will ensure that I talk to the Chancellor, and that we have a strong economy to keep investing in local infrastructure in my hon. Friend’s area. That is exactly what we are about to hear from my right hon. Friend in just a second.

Oral Answers to Questions

Rishi Sunak Excerpts
Wednesday 29th November 2023

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak)
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This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have other such meetings later today.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands
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Last year, Scotland exported 19 trillion Wh of electricity, worth £4 billion, to the UK grid, yet not only do Scottish generators pay the highest grid connection charges in Europe, but Scots pay among the highest standing charges while London’s are by far the lowest. Our heating and lighting is switched on a lot earlier and off a lot later than the south of England’s. Should Scottish households be forced to shiver in the dark this winter to subsidise the richest part of the UK?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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As the hon. Gentleman will know, standing charges are a matter for Ofgem, the independent regulator. Last week, it launched a consultation asking for views about standing charges. He will know that because of geographic factors, the UK Government already provide an annual cross-subsidy worth £60 to a typical household in Scotland, but on top of that we are providing considerable support to everyone across the UK with their energy bills this year.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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Q3. Abigail Mor Edan is four years old. Released from Hamas captivity last weekend, Abigail is an orphan, after her parents were brutally executed in front of her during Hamas’s rampage on 7 October. To secure the freedom of Abigail and some other hostages, Israel is taking a huge risk, releasing convicted terrorists, including would-be suicide bomber Israa Jaabis, imprisoned for detonating a gas cylinder in her car in 2015. Hamas also seem to have broken the ceasefire, by activating three explosive devices. What steps is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister taking to continue his welcome, steadfast support for Israel in its fight against not only Hamas, but other Iran-backed terror groups?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising such an important issue. My thoughts and the thoughts of the whole House will be with Abigail.

As I have said before, we support Israel’s right to defend itself, to go after Hamas and to free hostages, to deter further incursions and to strengthen its security for the long term. We welcome the extension to the agreement to pause fighting, increase humanitarian aid and release further hostages. Negotiations are ongoing and highly sensitive, but this has been a welcome first positive step. We will continue to hold Iran to account for any further escalation from these groups, as well as continuing to work with partners to disrupt and deter Iran’s destabilising activities in the middle east.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Leader of the Opposition.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Let me be crystal clear. The levels of migration are far too high and I am determined to bring them back down to sustainable levels. That is why we have asked the Migration Advisory Committee to review certain elements of the system. We are reviewing those findings and will bring forward next steps. Earlier this year, we announced the toughest action ever taken to reduce legal migration. The effects of that action are yet to be felt, but will impact 150,000 student dependants. Forecasts show that migration is likely to drop as a result. Up until this moment, all we have heard from the right hon. and learned Gentleman on this topic is a secret backroom deal with the EU that would see an additional 100,000 migrants here every year.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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Never mind the British Museum—it is the Prime Minister who has obviously lost his marbles. The Greek Prime Minister came to London to meet him: a fellow NATO member, an economic ally and one of our most important partners in tackling illegal immigration. Instead of using that meeting to discuss those serious issues, the Prime Minister tried to humiliate him and cancelled at the last minute. Why such small politics, Prime Minister?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Of course we are always happy to discuss important topics of substance with our allies, like tackling illegal migration or strengthening our security, but when it was clear that the purpose of the meeting was not to discuss substantive issues for the future but to grandstand and relitigate issues of the past, it was not appropriate. Furthermore, specific commitments and assurances on that topic were made to this country and then broken. It may seem alien to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but in my view, when people make commitments, they should keep them.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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I discussed the economy, security and immigration with the Greek Prime Minister. I also told him we would not change the law regarding the marbles—it is not that difficult. The reality is simple: the Prime Minister has no plan on boat crossings and migration is at a record high. His policy is that companies can pay workers from abroad 20% less than British workers and that has contributed to those record high immigration levels, has it not?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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The right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about the boat crossings but has failed to notice that illegal boat crossings are down by a third this year, thanks to all the actions we have taken, which he opposed every single time they were raised. No one will be surprised that he is backing an EU country over Britain. Just last week, he was asked which song best sums up the Labour party. What did he come up with? He showed his true colours and chose “Ode to Joy”—literally the anthem of the European Union. He will back Brussels over Britain every single time.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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Let me get this straight: the Prime Minister is now saying that meeting the Prime Minister of Greece is somehow supporting the EU, instead of discussing serious issues. He has just dug further into that hole that he has made for himself. Rather than dealing with the facts, he is prosecuting his one-man war on reality, and that reality is stuck. Under this Government, a bricklayer from overseas can be paid £2,500 less than somebody who is already here, a plasterer £3,000 less, and an engineer £6,000 less. The list goes on. It is absurd. Labour would scrap his perverse wage-cutting policy. Why will he not do so?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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As I have said, we have taken significant measures and will bring forward more. Indeed, as the Office for National Statistics itself said, more recent estimates indicate a slowing of immigration as a result of the things that we are doing. But I am surprised to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman now taking this new position. I have a quote here from a pushy young shadow Immigration Minister, who said to this House—I directly quote this person—that limits on skilled migrants are

“a form of economic vandalism”.—[Official Report, 7 March 2016; Vol. 607, c. 19WH.]

Who could possibly have taken such a bizarre position only to U-turn? It will come as no surprise to anybody that it was him.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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There is only one party that has lost control of the borders, and its Members are sitting right there. This is a Government who are not just in turmoil, but in open revolt. The Immigration Minister thinks that the Prime Minister is failing because, apparently, nobody will listen to his secret plan. The former Home Secretary thinks that he is failing because of his “magical thinking”. The current Home Secretary thinks that he is failing. He even took time out of his busy schedule of insulting people in the north-east to admit that he agrees with Labour. The Prime Minister seems to be the only person on the Tory Benches without his own personal immigration plan. Clearly, his own side do not have any faith in him. Why should the public?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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It is really a bit rich to hear about this from someone who described all immigration law as “racist”, and who literally said that it was a mistake to control immigration. We have taken steps and we will take further steps, which is why recent estimates show that immigration is slowing. It is why, next year, the immigration health surcharge will increase by more than two thirds. It is why immigration fees are going up by up to 35%. One of his own Front-Bench team said that having a target is not sensible. It is no surprise to have people like that, because, while we are taking all these measures that he opposes, this is the person who stood on a platform and promised to defend free movement.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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On this Government’s watch, migration has just trebled, and the Prime Minister is giving the House a lecture about targets. He is lost in la-la land. There can be few experiences more haunting for Conservative Members than hearing this Prime Minister claim that he is going to sort out a problem. First, he said that he would get NHS waiting lists down; they went up. Unabashed by that, he said that he would get control of immigration; it has gone up. Following that experience, he turned his hand to bringing taxes down. And, would you believe it, the tax burden is now going to be higher than ever. It is ironic that he has suddenly taken such a keen interest in Greek culture when he has clearly become the man with the reverse Midas touch: everything he touches turns to—perhaps the Home Secretary can help me out—rubbish. [Interruption.] We might have to check the tape again, Mr Speaker.

Will the Prime Minister do the country a favour and warn us what he is planning next, so that we can prepare ourselves for the disaster that will inevitably follow?

None Portrait Hon. Members
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Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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At the beginning of the year, we said—

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Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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At the beginning of the year, we said that we would halve inflation and this Government have delivered, easing the burden of the cost of living for families everywhere. We know about the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s plans—all the way through that, what did he do? He backed inflationary pay rises and talked about welfare—no controls for welfare—and about borrowing £28 billion a year that would just make the situation worse. He mentioned tax: just this past week, we have delivered the biggest tax cuts since the 1980s for millions of people and businesses, and increased pensions and benefits. And this week, we secured £30 billion of new investment for this country. So he can keep trying to talk—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Can I just say to the shadow Foreign Secretary—[Interruption.] Order. Just a little bit quieter, please. I want to hear.

Rehman Chishti Portrait Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con)
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Q5. The Government have rightly responded to the shocking and unacceptable rise in antisemitism, and we saw extra funding in the autumn statement. I note that 44% of religiously aggravated offences last year were against the Muslim community, yet in the autumn statement there was no funding to deal with Islamophobia. The Government’s independent adviser on Islamophobia role has been left vacant for over one year. As the Prime Minister knows, we discussed these matters over a year ago, yet no action has taken place. Prime Minister, enough is enough with regards to tackling anti-Muslim hatred. Will the Government now finally take action?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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We will not tolerate anti-Muslim hatred in any form, and expect it to be dealt with wherever it occurs. I actually recently met Tell MAMA, a service that provides support to victims of anti-Muslim hatred, which we have in fact supported with over £6 million of funding since its inception. We are in regular dialogue with it. We have also doubled the funding for protective security measures through the protective security for mosques scheme, and we will continue to do everything we can to keep our Muslim community safe.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP leader.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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It is simply not right to say that there is not support for families this winter—there has been considerable support this year for energy bills. This winter, pensioner households, for example, will receive up to £300 alongside their winter fuel payment. They are some of the most vulnerable households, and it is right that they get that support at a difficult time.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn
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I appreciate that it is difficult for the Prime Minister to empathise when he quite clearly cannot understand, but to be clear to him and, indeed, the whole House: this is not a matter of energy production. Scotland produces six times more gas than we consume and around two thirds of our electricity already comes from renewable resources. This is a consequence of decades of failed energy policy here in Westminster. Those of us on the Scottish National party Benches believe that Scotland’s energy wealth and energy resource should benefit the people of Scotland. Why doesn’t he?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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The entire energy grid infrastructure in this country is integrated, which brings benefits to people in every part of our United Kingdom. When it comes to supporting people with energy bills, earlier this year we increased benefits to the highest rate on record. It is why we provided cost of living payments worth £900 on top of regular support. It was right not to wait until the last moment to give people that support; we gave it to them earlier this year so that they would have the security they need going into winter—as I said, on top of the money for pensioners. When there are cold snaps, we have cold weather payments that kick in and the warm home discount, which provides an extra £150 to the most vulnerable households. All that is the most considerable action taken by any Government to help people with their energy bills.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone  (Kettering) (Con)
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Q7.   The £400 million redevelopment of Kettering General Hospital is the No.1 investment priority for local residents. The first part is a £50 million new energy plant to power the expanded and improved hospital. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister please do all he can to ensure that the Department of Health gets spades in the ground on time next spring, so that we can get the construction of our redeveloped, much loved local hospital fully under way?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank my hon. Friend for continuing to champion the new hospital in Kettering. We are absolutely committed to delivering the scheme for Kettering General Hospital. As my hon. Friend will be aware, the new energy centre is vital to the delivery of the new hospital, and we expect that work to begin in the first quarter of next year. The new hospital programme is working closely with the trust to ensure that the plans are deliverable.

Ed Davey Portrait Ed Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD)
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Three years ago, the Government made a commitment to 40 new hospitals and significant upgrades to hospitals in most need, but today many schemes are badly delayed. The Royal Berkshire—stuck at the development stage, with not a single pound transferred for construction. Harrogate District Hospital—still waiting on £20 million for urgent upgrades after reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete was discovered. There are 25 more such schemes. Will the Prime Minister explain why his Government are happy to let patients, doctors and nurses suffer for years in such unfit and unsafe conditions?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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We are delivering 40 hospitals by 2030. Good progress is already being made, and that programme is being backed by over £20 billion of investment. Three schemes are already open, two are opening this year, and 16 are in construction, or work has begun to prepare the site. It is absolutely right, though, that within that we prioritise RAAC hospitals. That required a reprioritisation, but that was the appropriate thing to do to ensure safety. Patients and staff are already benefiting from some of the improvements that we have made, which come on top of the largest capital programme for the NHS in its history, rolling out community diagnostic centres, urgent treatment centres and surgical hubs right across the country.

Sarah Dines Portrait Miss Sarah Dines (Derbyshire Dales) (Con)
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Q9. As disturbed as I was to learn that British politicians are being debanked by the National Westminster Bank, the Prime Minister can imagine my horror to find that an entire town—Bakewell in the Derbyshire dales—is being debanked by the National Westminster Bank. In the whole of the Derbyshire dales and the Peak district, there is not a bank left. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern, as we are the major shareholder, that the National Westminster Bank is ignoring my vulnerable elderly constituents, and my businessmen? Bakewell is a big, thriving market town.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend is right that all customers, wherever they live, should have appropriate access to banking and cash services. That is why we have legislated to protect access to cash, and the Financial Conduct Authority has issued guidance that seeks to ensure that branch closure decisions treat customers fairly. I know that there has been an assessment of access to cash in her area, and the financial services sector will provide a new cash deposit service for her community. Also, everyone can access the post office for regular banking services.

Derek Twigg Portrait Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab)
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Q2.   Yesterday, Cancer Research UK’s manifesto “Longer, better lives” set out a road map to save 20,000 lives a year by 2040. Research is key to that, and it has identified a funding gap of over £1 billion. Cancer Research UK has told me that, excluding research funded by industry, charities fund 62% of cancer research compared with the Government’s 38%. Is the Prime Minister ashamed of that, and what will he do to address the gap?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Of course the Government must do more to continue preventing cancer deaths in our country. That is why we are focused on fighting cancer on all fronts—prevention, diagnosis, treatment, research and funding. Crucially, cancer is now being diagnosed at an earlier stage more often, with survival rates improving across all types of cancer, including the most common cancers, and through our treatment record we are rolling out community diagnostic centres everywhere to ensure that we can reach those people as quickly as possible.

David Mundell Portrait David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale) (Con)
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Can I thank you, Mr Speaker, on behalf of the all-party parliamentary group on HIV and AIDS, for hosting today’s reception to honour the incredible contribution that Sir Elton John has made to the fight against AIDS? I very much welcome today’s announcement of further funding for HIV and hepatitis B and C opt-out testing in hospital emergency departments as a critical step in fighting those diseases. I ask the Prime Minister to join me, and I am sure the whole House, in praising Sir Elton and his AIDS foundation for pioneering this work.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Sir Elton John has been a powerful voice for change in the UK and the world. Through the brilliant work of his foundation he has raised awareness of HIV, reduced stigma and saved lives. I am very pleased that that will be celebrated tonight at the HIV and AIDS all-party parliamentary group event. Ahead of World AIDS Day on Friday, I would also like to reaffirm this Government’s commitment to ending new transmissions within England by 2030. I know my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care will have more to say at tonight’s event about the expansion of our recent pilot initiative on screening.

Gerald Jones Portrait Gerald Jones (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) (Lab)
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Q4. Pearl Melody Black was 22 months old when a car rolled off a private drive on to a highway and hit a wall, which fell and killed her while she was holding her daddy’s hand. Her parents, my constituents Gemma and Paul, South Wales Police and the Crown Prosecution Service were all frustrated that no charges could be brought in the case due to a loophole in the law. My ten-minute rule Bill, the Driving Offences (Amendment) Bill, sought to amend the Road Traffic Act 1988, but it fell as it did not get parliamentary time. I know that colleagues across the House have had similar issues, so I ask the Prime Minister to meet me and meet my constituents to assist in finding a way forward.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I am incredibly sorry to hear about Pearl. My thoughts and, I know, those of the whole House will be with Gemma and Paul. I will make sure that the hon. Gentleman gets a meeting with the relevant Minister on the legislation as quickly as possible.

Nickie Aiken Portrait Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)
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We know the Labour party has an aversion to white van man, but does the Prime Minister share my concerns that, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph today, Labour-run Westminster Council is increasing parking charges for small electric vehicles by up to 1,800%, demonstrating that it does not support small businesses or tackling climate change?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend is right to raise those concerns. It seems that Labour in London is yet again penalising hard-working people. First we had the ultra low emission zone, and now it seems Labour is hiking parking charges on white van drivers and small businesses. I join her in urging the Labour-run Westminster Council to rethink those damaging proposals.

Tulip Siddiq Portrait Tulip Siddiq  (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab)
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Q6.   I quote: “Rishi thinks just let people die and that’s okay”. That was reportedly the Prime Minister’s view of covid during late 2020, as recorded by the then chief scientific adviser in his diary. It came to light last week in the covid inquiry and I was shocked that Downing Street did not categorically deny it. I ask the Prime Minister today how it is that people who were closest to this issue, whom he worked with day in, day out at the top of Government, got the impression that the Prime Minister was okay with people in our country dying—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I think he has got the question.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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As the hon. Lady knows, there is an ongoing inquiry into covid. It is right that that is followed and I look forward to providing my own evidence. If she had taken the time to read the evidence submitted to the inquiry, she would have seen that the person she mentioned, the chief scientific adviser, confirmed that he did not hear me say that—and that is because I did not.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con)
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That 1.3 million migrants over a period of two years is a catastrophe for Britain is obvious to everyone apart from guilt-ridden bourgeois liberals and greed-driven globalists. Given that the same kind of people are stymieing the Prime Minister’s “stop the boats” campaign, will he bring urgent measures forward to deal with legal migration, and will he ensure that the Bill he has promised is in exactly the form recommended by his own Immigration Minister?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I am pleased to have my right hon. Friend’s advice and support on all on our measures to tackle legal and illegal migration. As I said, we are reviewing the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee and we will be bringing forward measures on top of the very significant restrictions that we have already announced on student dependants. When it comes to stopping illegal migration, I have been crystal clear that we will bring forward legislation that makes it unequivocally the case that Rwanda is safe and there will be no more ability of our domestic courts to block flights to Rwanda. That is what our legislation will ensure.

Alison McGovern Portrait Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab)
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Q8.   Last week, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham), the Prime Minister claimed that the “best way” to stop children living in poverty is for them to have parents who work, but over 70% of poor children already live in a home where someone goes out to work. So I will give him another chance: can he explain why reports say that, in 2022, 1 million of our children experienced not just poverty but destitution?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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No child should grow up in poverty. That is why I am pleased that, because of the measures we have taken, 1.7 million fewer people are living in poverty today than in 2010. I would also say to the hon. Lady that it is crystal clear that children growing up in workless households are four or five times more likely to be in poverty. That is what the facts say; that is why our efforts are on getting people into work and ensuring that work pays. The actions in the autumn statement to raise the national living wage to record levels and provide a significant tax cut will do an extraordinary amount to continue lifting children out of poverty.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call Jeremy Wright.

Jeremy Wright Portrait Sir Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam) (Con)
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Thank you, Mr Speaker, for welcoming my constituent John Farringdon to Parliament this morning. At 110 years of age, John is among my more experienced constituents, and I know that he would want me to ask the Prime Minister to join us in thanking the staff of Cubbington Mill care home for looking after him so well. May I also ask my right hon. Friend to try to find a moment or two to speak to John when he comes to Downing Street this afternoon? It may be a useful conversation for those who are obsessed with the opinion polls, as John, I think it is fair to say, has some experience in surviving against the odds.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I very much hope that I have a chance to meet John later on. I join my right hon. and learned Friend in paying tribute to John’s care home for the incredible care that it provides. It is great that John is here and I am sure that everyone will enjoy meeting him later today.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant  (Glenrothes) (SNP)
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Q10.   The Prime Minister may already be aware from his colleagues of the exceptional contribution that my constituent Dr Hadoura has made during a 30-year career in our health service. He may also be aware that, for the past six to eight weeks, she has been frantic with worry about her 83-year-old mum, who is trapped in Palestine with a number of family members and no way out. Will he agree to work with the Foreign Office and the Home Office, during this time of some hope in the middle east, to find an urgent way to get vulnerable people, such as Dr Hadoura’s mum, out of danger and into a safe place of refuge while we can? Tragically, once the ceasefire ends, so too will the chance of survival for too many people in Palestine.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s constituent for her long service in the health service. I assure him that we are doing everything we can to ensure the safe passage of British nationals out of Gaza. I will ensure that the Foreign Office gets in touch with him. All British nationals who have been registered with the Foreign Office have had significant interaction, and we have successfully ensured the safe passage of well over 200 people already. We will continue to do everything we can for those who remain, and I will ensure that we are in touch with the hon. Gentleman and his constituent.

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean (Redditch) (Con)
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Thanks to this Conservative Government, the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch has received nearly £19 million of investment, and we are boosting training places at the Three Counties Medical School. Does the Prime Minister agree that this is the perfect time to back my campaign to bring back services, so that local mums can once again give birth in their home town and all children can be seen at the hospital, no matter the illness they are experiencing?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I know that my hon. Friend campaigns passionately for the delivery of first-class healthcare for her constituents. Like her, I welcome the investment that the Alexandra Hospital has had in recent years in a range of different services. She will know that reconfigurations of services are, of course, clinically led local decisions following the appropriate engagement with patients and stakeholders, but I know that she will continue to make her case on behalf of her community.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin  (Bedford) (Lab)
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Q11.   In June, the Canadian Prime Minister claimed that the Indian Government may be linked to the killing of Canadian Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada. Now, it is reported that the US Government thwarted a second assassination attempt on a Canadian-American citizen on US soil, so will the Prime Minister reassure my Sikh constituents—who have raised their safety concerns with me—that this Government are taking the matter very seriously, and will he raise my constituents’ concerns with his counterpart in India?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I have already made statements on this matter, but crucially, of course, we ensure the safety of all communities in our country. That is the first duty of government, and we will continue to do that, not just for the Sikh community but for every community here in the UK.

John Baron Portrait Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con)
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With both the Office for Budget Responsibility and the ONS confirming that the British economy is now substantially larger than they estimated even a few months ago, does my right hon. Friend agree that the economy has once again proven the detractors wrong and, because unemployment is a corrosive social evil, will he do all he can to ensure that we retain record employment?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. A year ago, not just the OBR but the Bank of England, the International Monetary Fund and the OECD were all predicting that we would fall into a recession this year, but thanks to the actions of this Government and this Chancellor, we have grown the economy. We saw that momentum carry on just in the past week with Nissan’s announcement of record investment in its new plant in Sunderland, safeguarding the future of thousands of jobs in the north-east and ensuring the transition to electric vehicles. We also saw it in the summit we hosted, which attracted £30 billion of new investment into the UK. As my hon. Friend said, crucially, that investment will support thousands and thousands of jobs in our country.

Beth Winter Portrait Beth Winter (Cynon Valley) (Lab)
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Q12. There are 2,500 disused coal tips in Wales. The Welsh Government previously asked the Treasury for £600 million to make them safe, and ahead of the autumn statement sought an initial £20 million, but this Tory Government provided nothing. Rhondda Cynon Taf has the most high-risk coal tips of any local authority, and the spectre of Aberfan looms large over our communities. Does the Prime Minister think it is right that the UK took the economic benefit from Welsh coal, but will not fund the safety of its legacy?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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The UK Government are investing in Wales, with record investment in electrification of the north Wales line and record investment in communities up and down the country. It is important to recognise that just recently, the UK Government invested hundreds of millions of pounds to safeguard thousands of jobs at Tata Steel. The Welsh Government have had access to the largest set of Barnett consequentials on record over the past couple of years, and have the resources they need.

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)
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Thanks to this Conservative Government, the people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke will see over £200 million to fix our broken roads, the reopening of the Stoke to Leek line, and over £30 million to bus back better by introducing fairer fares and smarter routes to better connect our communities. However, residents who have a free bus pass are being denied the use of it before 9.30 am by Labour-run Stoke-on-Trent City Council, meaning that people cannot get to their GP appointments or to work. Will the Prime Minister back my campaign to end that unfair policy, which is being imposed on my residents?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of high-quality bus services. That is why we have capped the cost of travelling on buses at £2 until the end of 2024 as a result of our decision on HS2, and why we have supported councils with £1 billion of funding. I urge all councils to ensure that people see the benefit of that investment, and I wholeheartedly back my hon. Friend’s campaign.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock  (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Q13.   NHS England has awarded £330 million to Palantir, a controversial technology firm, to help it recover from its pandemic backlog despite deep concerns among many healthcare professionals about privacy, ethics and the safety of patient data. In light of the Government’s recently commissioned report on unifying health data in the UK, can the Prime Minister confirm that no attempts will be made to force the Scottish Government to release the personal data of Scottish residents to any centralised system?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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As the hon. Lady knows, healthcare is devolved, but we will look for every opportunity to improve patient care and reduce waiting lists in England. That is what we are doing in developing new technology that has a proven track record of bringing down waiting lists and improving the optimisation and efficiency of how theatres are scheduled. That is the type of thing we need to do to ensure that patients get the care they need, and that we can get efficiency in the NHS.

Robert Buckland Portrait Sir Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con)
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The increasing proliferation of AI-generated disinformation and deepfakes poses a clear and present danger not only to our democratic process, but to the administration of justice itself. What further steps will my right hon. Friend take, following the Bletchley summit, to strengthen our domestic law when it comes to this threat to democracy, and to take international action to provide the guardrails that I believe are essential if we are to maintain integrity in the administration of justice?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for all the work he has done in this incredibly important area. He is right that we need to have guardrails around the successful exploitation of this technology, which is why the Online Safety Act 2023 gives the regulator significant new powers to regulate the content on social media companies, including some of the ones that he mentioned. We are also working internationally, following on from the summit, to ensure that we can all get the benefits of this technology, but in the process safeguard our democracy, which is so crucial to the functioning of our country.

Oral Answers to Questions

Rishi Sunak Excerpts
Wednesday 13th September 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Law Portrait Chris Law (Dundee West)  (SNP)
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Q1.   If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 13 September.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak)
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I start by paying tribute to the Clerk of the House, Sir John Benger, and thank him for his many years of distinguished service. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I will have further such meetings later today.

Chris Law Portrait Chris Law
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The wealth of billionaires has skyrocketed over the past decade, while average working households in the UK have the lowest living standards since the 1950s. While hard-working families are struggling to make ends meet, the wealthy are playing by a different set of rules, with reports that even Members of the House of Lords are trying to exploit the non-dom status loophole to avoid paying their fair share. Does the Prime Minister agree that whether it is the wife of the most powerful man in the country or the host of “The Apprentice”, no billionaire should qualify for special tax treatment while my constituents face soaring levels of inequality and poverty?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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The facts tell a very different story from what the hon. Gentleman said. He mentioned inequality; inequality today is lower than it was in 2010. He mentioned the number of people in poverty. Again, I am pleased to say that 1.7 million fewer people are in poverty today than in 2010, including many in Scotland. Of course we understand that things are challenging right now with the cost of living. That is why we have put in place record support to help families, particularly with their energy bills and particularly for the most vulnerable in our society, with record amounts of cost of living payments going to millions across the country, including in Scotland, showing the power of the United Kingdom Government.

Nicola Richards Portrait Nicola Richards (West Bromwich East) (Con)
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Q2.   Thanks to this Conservative Government, we have the opportunity to be the first country in the world to end new cases of HIV by 2030. That is partially down to our world-leading opt-out HIV testing programme that has been rolled out in very high prevalence areas. To reach this goal and to make this progress, we must roll out opt-out testing to other high prevalence areas, such as the west midlands, including my constituency of West Bromwich East. Will the Prime Minister commit to meeting me and the incredible Terrence Higgins Trust to hear more about the merits of opt-out testing?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important issue and thank her for her work in this area. We remain absolutely committed to ending new HIV transmissions within England by 2030, and I am pleased that she highlighted that the provisional data from NHS England indicates that the opt-out testing programme has been highly successful. The Department of Health and Social Care is currently evaluating the impact of the programme with a view to deciding whether it should be expanded to additional areas, and I know Ministers will keep her and the House updated.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We come to the Leader of the Opposition.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab)
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I join the Prime Minister in his words about the Clerk of the House.

I pay tribute to the police who tracked down the escaped terror suspect from Wandsworth prison last week. Despite being charged with terrorism, and despite being a flight risk, he was not held in a category A prison. Why not?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank the police and their partners for their efforts to find and arrest Daniel Khalife. There is now an ongoing legal process that must be allowed to take its course, but I would like to reassure the public that while these cases are extremely rare, the Justice Secretary has launched an internal investigation about how this could happen, as well as an independent investigation of the incident so that we can learn the lessons from this case and ensure that it never happens again.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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The truth is, the Government are presiding over mayhem in the criminal justice system. Only a few short months ago, Zara Aleena’s family said that Ministers had—these are their words—“blood on their hands” after probation failures that led to her murder, so it beggars belief that we are back here once again. The chief inspector of prisons said that conditions in Wandsworth were so bad that it should be shut down. The Chancellor is telling anyone who will listen that he raised concerns months ago. Probation, school buildings, and now prisons—why does the Prime Minister keep ignoring the warnings until it is too late?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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The right hon. and learned Gentleman, with his background, should know better. Because of the wide variety and considerable difference in severity of people charged under that Act, it is not, and has never been, the policy that they are all held in category A prisons. It should not need me to point that out to him, given his experience.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about resourcing. I am happy to tell him that, over the last few years, we have delivered an extra 4,000 new prison officers. Staffing levels at Wandsworth in particular are up by 25% in the past six years and, because we are boosting prison pay, we are also improving retention. At the same time, we are investing £100 million to improve prison security with new measures such as X-ray body scanners. If he wanted to have a truly honest debate about this, perhaps he would acknowledge that prison escapes were almost 10 times higher under the Labour Government than under the Conservatives. [Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I did say this last week, and it will continue this week: anyone who wants to start the session by leaving, please do so. I am happy to help you on your way.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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Every week, whatever the topic, the Prime Minister paints this picture as if everything is great and fine out there. It is so at odds with the lived experience in the real world.

Let me turn to another serious security concern. Some in this House face sanction, intimidation and threats from the Chinese state. When I asked the Prime Minister on Monday whether the Foreign Secretary raised the specific issue of the alleged spy arrested in March when he visited China a few weeks ago, he would only say that he raised that “type of activity”, but avoided specifics. I ask the Prime Minister again: did the Foreign Secretary raise this specific case when he visited China—yes or no?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I refer the right hon. and learned Gentleman to my previous answer, where I said clearly that the Foreign Secretary raised these issues with the Chinese Foreign Minister, whom he met, as did I when I had my meeting with Premier Li over the weekend. When it comes to China, the Government have put in place the most robust policy that has ever existed in our country’s foreign policy. It is to protect our country and the values and interests we stand up for; it is to align our approach with our closest allies, including those in the G7 and Five Eyes; and it is to engage—where it makes sense—either to advance our interests or, as I did at the weekend, to raise our very significant concerns. That is the right approach to China. It is one that is welcomed by each and every one of our allies. I would be interested to know what he thinks he would do differently.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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That certainly was not a yes. What the Prime Minister says now is totally at odds with the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament report of July. That set out that the Government have no clear strategy when it comes to China, have failed to support the intelligence agencies, and are leaving the UK “severely handicapped” in managing our future security. This has been raised time and again but, yet again, the Prime Minister fails to heed the warnings and is now desperately playing catch-up. Will he finally commit to the full audit of UK-China relations that so many in this House have so long demanded?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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As always, the Leader of the Opposition is just playing catch-up, but he has not caught up with the reality of what is actually happening. He talks about the ISC report. If he actually went through it, he would realise that it related to a period of investigations in 2019 and 2020. Since then, we have launched a whole new integrated review refresh of our China strategy, which is published. We have put in place a range of new measures, including the National Security Protective Authority, which is staffed out of MI5 and supports businesses and organisations to be alert to the risks from cyber and from China.

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants to talk about foreign policy, he should perhaps reflect on his own record. This is the man who said he was 100% behind the former Labour leader—a person who wanted to abolish the Army, scrap Trident and withdraw from NATO. It is clear what he did: he put his own political interests ahead of Britain’s.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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Probation, prisons, schools, China—yet again, inaction man fails to heed the warnings and then blames everyone else for the consequences. On Sunday, the Home Secretary celebrated her first anniversary in post—that is, if we overlook the six days she missed when she was deemed a national security risk. In that year, 40,000 people have crossed the channel on a small boat, and the taxpayer is now spending £6 million a day on hotel bills. The Prime Minister is failing to stop terrorists strolling out of prison, failing to guard Britain against hostile actors, and he is completely failing to stop the boats. How can anyone trust him to protect the country?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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The right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about trust and about action, but just today, this Government are taking action to reform defective EU laws to unlock over 100,000 homes, boosting our economy, supporting jobs and ensuring that we can realise the aspirations of homeowners. He talks about trust; he tried in this House to talk the talk on house building, but at the first sign of a cheap political hit, what did he do? He caved in. Rather than make the right long-term decisions for the country, he has taken the easy way out. It is typical of the principle-free, conviction-free type of leadership that he offers, flip-flopping from being a builder to a blocker. The British public cannot trust a word he says.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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Every week the Prime Minister comes here, protesting that nothing is his fault and trying to convince anyone who is still listening that everything is great. The truth is that the floor fell in for millions of families because of the Government’s economic mayhem; the classroom ceilings collapsed because he cut vital school budgets; and now the walls of our national security have been breached because they have ignored repeated warnings. No one voted for this shambles. No one voted for him. How much more damage do the British public have to put up with before he finally finds the stomach to give them a say?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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We are getting on for the British public. Just in the last week we have announced a new landmark deal for British scientists and attracted £600 million of new investment for our world-leading auto industry, and wages are now rising at the fastest rate on record. And where has the right hon. and learned Gentleman been this week? Locked away with Labour’s union paymasters, promising to give them more power and to scrap the laws that protect British families and their access to public services. It is clear that it is only the Conservatives who are on the side of the hard-working British public.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knares- borough) (Con)
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Q4.   Last week, with Yorkshire colleagues, I met our local integrated care board to discuss plans for improving dentistry provision. When surgeries suddenly close to NHS patients without notice, as one in Harrogate did very recently, an immediate strain is put on local provision. Will the Prime Minister look at what can be done in those circumstances to ensure no one is left without access to an NHS dentist?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that, and we will look into the issue. He will be reassured to know that we are investing £3 billion a year in dentistry. There is no geographical restriction on which dental practice a patient may attend and practices should keep all their records up to date, including whether they are accepting new patients. Typically, where a practice ends a contract, NHS England and ICBs should work together to ensure that funding is reallocated and patients continue to have access to NHS dental care.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP leader.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP)
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As someone who spends more money heating their swimming pool than the total value of the UK state pension, the Prime Minister—I think it is safe to say—might not be as invested in this topic as some others, but let us afford him the opportunity to clear up any confusion. Will he commit his party, the Conservative party, to maintaining the state pension triple lock beyond the next general election—yes or no?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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This is the party that introduced the triple lock. This is the party that has delivered a £3,000 increase in the state pension since 2010. It is also the party that has ensured that there are 200,000 fewer pensioners living in poverty today and that this winter pensioners will get an extra £300 alongside their winter fuel payment to support them through the challenging times with inflation. Our track record is clear. There is one party in this House that has always stood up for our pensioners and that is the Conservative party.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn
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I do not think we heard a yes there, Mr Speaker. You will imagine my shock—my utter surprise—that we appear to have consensus once again between the Conservative party and the Labour party on this most important of issues, despite the promises that were made to the people of Scotland in 2014 and despite clear statements from the likes of Gordon Brown that the only way to protect pensions was to remain within the UK. How hollow those words are now. Who does the Prime Minister think will scrap the state pension triple lock first, his Government or the Labour party’s Government?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Thanks to the actions of this Government, pensioners in Scotland are receiving record increases in their state pension—£870 this year—and extra support with the cost of living this winter. This is the Government who introduced and remain committed to the triple lock, but the hon. Gentleman raises a good point. Pensioners in Scotland should know that the reason they can rely on the state pension, not just today but for years to come, is the strength of our Union and the strength of our United Kingdom Government.

Caroline Ansell Portrait Caroline Ansell  (Eastbourne)  (Con)
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Q5.   Beautiful Eastbourne is perhaps best known as a top visitor destination, but there is important work being done to put us on the digital map. DigiFest, the first local event of its kind, is coming to the Welcome Building next week. It will showcase some pretty stellar local tech talent and open doors of opportunity, with an ambition to create 10,000 local jobs in this sector. Will the Prime Minister applaud event organisers Chalk Eastbourne and Switchplane, and lay out what the Government are doing to ensure Great Britain—and Eastbourne—is one of the best places in the world to be involved in this continually groundbreaking sector?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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The Government have a mission to make the UK the most innovative economy in the world and the growth of our tech industry is one of the key ways we will achieve that. I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in thanking and paying tribute to Chalk Eastbourne for its terrific organisation of DigiFest. This is a great example of how, in local areas, we can bring together people to create jobs and opportunity, and ultimately drive the growth that our country wants to see.

Ed Davey Portrait Ed Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD)
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Last year, after being referred by their GP, 22,000 people waited more than four months to start urgent treatment for cancer—a terrible wait that is twice as long as the Government’s maximum 62-day pledge; a cancer target they have not met once since 2015. We all have loved ones whose lives have been turned upside down by cancer and we all know that every day counts. Waiting reduces the chances of survival. Will the Prime Minister tell people waiting anxiously to start their cancer treatment when this cancer target will be met?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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It is absolutely right that we do everything we can to speed up cancer diagnosis. The pandemic has had a significant impact on cancer recovery: as the right hon. Gentleman will know, before the pandemic there were about 200,000 cancer referrals a month, but during the pandemic the figure dropped to about 80,000, and now, as those referrals come through, that is having an impact. However, we are ensuring that there are hundreds more oncologists and radiologists working this year than last year, and rolling out more than 160 community diagnostic centres. As the right hon. Gentleman says, early diagnosis is key, which is why, although there is work to do, cancer treatment today is at record levels. We are making progress, and the 62-day backlog is now falling. Recently the NHS wrote to all trusts, streamlining our targets, clinically advised, and now all the focus is on meeting them as quickly as possible.

Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
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Q6. In 2017, the Bolton police station custody suite was closed by the police and crime commissioner and the then chief constable, because they had given up on arresting criminals. The new chief constable is delivering on the people’s priorities, so that emergency calls are answered promptly, crimes are investigated and arrests are made, which means that the newly reopened custody suite is always full. Will my right hon. Friend join me in thanking Greater Manchester police? Does he think that that approach ought to catch on throughout the country?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I am delighted with the improvements that have been made by Greater Manchester police; the Home Secretary met the chief constable recently. They have made significant improvements in, for example, answering 999 calls, and have seen almost a 50% year on year increase in the number of charges recorded. I very much welcome the force’s focus on getting the basics on crime and antisocial behaviour right. It is a model for police forces across the country.

Ashley Dalton Portrait Ashley Dalton  (West Lancashire) (Lab)
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Q3. I thank the Prime Minister for his response to the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn), but I am still confused on this matter. Just yesterday, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said that the pensions triple lock was not sustainable, and the Chancellor’s economic advisers have suggested that it is time to review the policy, but those at No. 10, when questioned, have said that they are committed to it. Which is it?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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This Government are committed to the triple lock; it was this Government who introduced the triple lock. The hon. Lady might want to have a word with her own deputy leader, who did not provide much clarity on the matter. What we all remember, when it came to pensions, is Gordon Brown’s 75p a week increase.

Saqib Bhatti Portrait Saqib Bhatti (Meriden)  (Con)
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Q7.   Week in week out, as I meet businesses in my constituency, I hear about how artificial intelligence is transforming the way we work in sectors such as life sciences, automotives and financial services. Does my right hon. Friend agree that artificial intelligence will transform the way in which humanity will live in the 21st century? Through his upcoming global AI summit, will he ensure that appropriate guardrails are put in place to protect society as we become world leaders in this technology?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend is right to highlight the incredible power of AI to transform not just businesses and our productivity, but public services such as health and education. However, we do need guardrails to allow us to make the most of the opportunities of AI, and to address risks. We have a responsible, proportionate regulatory approach that balances risk with innovation, and I look forward to working with international partners at our upcoming AI safety summit on how we do that at a global level.

Daisy Cooper Portrait Daisy Cooper (St Albans) (LD)
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Q10. Luton airport is trying to expand its capacity massively, from 18 million passengers per year to a whopping 32 million. That will blight the lives of thousands of residents across Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire—especially those in north St Albans, who live under the flightpaths—but it will also fly in the face of advice from the Government’s own climate advisers. It has been reported that the Prime Minister is getting ready to ignore his climate advisers. Is that true?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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No; but I would say that my approach to reaching net zero is not one that requires people to give up doing the things that they want to do and enjoy, such as flying. The right thing to be doing is as we are doing: investing in and funding new technologies, such as sustainable aviation fuel, because that is how we will decarbonise aviation during the transition to net zero, rather than forcing people to give everything up.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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Q8. When the Prime Minster was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he put the full might of the Treasury behind the 10-year drug strategy, which, with its Adder Project, is now turning lives around across England and Wales. A key part of that strategy was developing a new approach to possession. He will know from his own constituency that in towns such as Andover in mine, possession is a huge concern, particularly to the parents of young people who spend time in the town centre. The Home Office issued a White Paper on this over a year ago, and the consultation closed in October last year. Will the Prime Minister commit in the forthcoming King’s Speech to legislation that will deal finally with this pernicious problem?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank my right hon. Friend for all of his work and attention in this area; it was good to work with him on Project Adder in particular. He is right to highlight the fact that drugs destroy lives and families, hitting the most vulnerable in our society the hardest. The 10-year drug strategy, which he helped put in place, is ambitious and backed with a record £3 billion of funding. As he highlighted, we have consulted on a new drug possession offences framework, and I assure him that Ministers will keep him and this House updated on future plans.

Kate Hollern Portrait Kate Hollern (Blackburn) (Lab)
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In the last few hours I have been contacted by the headteacher of St James’s Church of England Primary School in Blackburn, who is desperately seeking help after a reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete survey conducted on 7 September was inconclusive. The urgent intrusive inspection that was supposed to follow has not been arranged by the Department for Education. The potentially affected part of the building has been closed off, with children crammed into the dining room and learning at the tables. Staff are unable to access facilities and the whole school is hugely inconvenienced. The headteacher has been unable to meet the Department for Education, so can I implore the Prime Minister to get the Secretary of State for Education to investigate this urgently?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Of course I am sorry for the disruption at schools as we work hard to identify those affected, but the DFE is fully funding the inspection process, ensuring that we are now rapidly inspecting and surveying all potentially affected schools and paying for that work. Also, with the increase of up to 80 dedicated caseworkers, St James’s Primary School, like others, should have a dedicated point of contact to work through those issues. I will ensure that the Secretary of State and the Department are in touch with the school and the hon. Member for an update.

Stephen Hammond Portrait Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con)
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Q9.   Personally, I know the stark impact of dementia and the effect that it has on the families of our 1 million citizens who live with it. It was my honour last week to sponsor Alzheimer’s Research UK to highlight the recent progress on a new diagnostic test and new drugs that could be available as early as next January. I welcome the inclusion of dementia in the Government’s major conditions strategy, but will my right hon. Friend ask his Secretary of State to convene a dementia medicines taskforce so that we can take advantage of this progress in research? Will he consider Alzheimer’s Research UK’s request for a dementia champion?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I start by thanking my hon. Friend for his work in this important area. Regulators are working closely with industry to evaluate new dementia medicines, because of course we want patients to benefit from rapid access to safe and effective treatments. We are also strongly committed to funding dementia research, including doubling the amount allocated to £160 million a year by next year, and last year we launched the Dame Barbara Windsor dementia mission, backed up with new funding, which will work with industry to develop biomarkers and data and digital science innovations and to strengthen our trials in dementia. I look forward to hearing more suggestions from my hon. Friend on that.

Derek Twigg Portrait Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab)
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In the 1990s, under the Conservative Government, people were dying because of the length of time they were on NHS waiting lists. In 2023, we are seeing an increasing number of people dying while they are on NHS waiting lists before getting treatment. Is the Prime Minister ashamed that people are dying needlessly on his watch?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Of course, the number on waiting lists has been impacted significantly by the pandemic, but that is why we have put record funding in place to help to address that, including innovations such as surgical hubs, same-day emergency care, virtual wards and such like. I would gently point out to the hon. Gentleman that, in England, part of the reason that waiting lists are not coming down as fast we would like is the strike action by doctors—something that is supported by him and his colleagues, who have stood on the picket lines ensuring that patients cannot get access to care. It is also him and his party who are saying that they will repeal the laws we have put in place that will guarantee patients safe access to medical treatment in the event of industrial action. If he wants to make this issue emotional, he should tell people why he believes that patients should be deprived of access to lifesaving care because of industrial action.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
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Q11. What recent assessment he has made of the economic outlook for the west midlands.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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We regularly engage with local partners across the west midlands to gather insight and intelligence on the economy. Earlier this year we initiated the trailblazer devolution deal, which includes measures to help businesses thrive. I see that, just the other week, the Mayor launched Business Growth West Midlands, backed with £100 million in funding for business support.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant
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I thank the Prime Minister for that answer, and I am glad to hear about the continuing growth in the west midlands. However, in Lichfield we have a problem with road and footpath closures, and we do not know for how long they will go on. HS2 is behind these closures, and one hand does not know what the other is doing—HS2 is the most dysfunctional organisation I have ever had to deal with. Will the Prime Minister, in the short term, try to restructure HS2 so that it works as a company should? In the longer term, can he save other constituencies by stopping HS2 at the end of phase 1?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I know the frustration that this is causing to my hon. Friend’s constituents. I am told that HS2 Ltd is prioritising the completion of works that are under way, including roadworks in Lichfield, to keep disruption to a minimum. I know that the Transport Secretary will continue to hold it to account and that the company will keep local communities informed about future works.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
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UK billpayers are facing having to pay an extra £1 billion because of the Government’s failure to agree new offshore wind. With Russia using energy as a weapon, when will the Prime Minister take energy security seriously and protect us from the whims of fossil fuel autocrats?