There have been 12 exchanges between Theresa May and Northern Ireland Office
|Tue 8th September 2020||Northern Ireland Protocol: UK Legal Obligations||3 interactions (59 words)|
|Wed 18th March 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (108 words)|
|Thu 16th January 2020||Northern Ireland Executive Formation||3 interactions (191 words)|
|Wed 6th March 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||77 interactions (4,070 words)|
|Wed 20th June 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||68 interactions (4,126 words)|
|Wed 21st March 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||72 interactions (3,516 words)|
|Wed 15th November 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||79 interactions (3,858 words)|
|Wed 13th September 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||76 interactions (4,014 words)|
|Wed 28th June 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||79 interactions (3,951 words)|
|Wed 15th March 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||72 interactions (3,117 words)|
|Wed 26th October 2016||Oral Answers to Questions||64 interactions (3,452 words)|
|Wed 20th July 2016||Oral Answers to Questions||51 interactions (3,103 words)|
The hon. Lady should wait until she sees the legislation tomorrow, because I hope she will then see that we are delivering on the very promises to which she just referred. She commented on the Prime Minister’s campaigning and our manifesto pledges, which I referred to in my opening remarks. The Bill, as she will see, will absolutely deliver on them.
The UK internal market legislation that we will bring forward this week delivers on our commitment to legislate for unfettered access, which Northern Ireland businesses have consistently asked us to do to ensure that we deliver certainty. The legislation will give the certainty that the people, businesses and economy of Northern Ireland have been asking for, and supports the delivery of the protocol in all circumstances, in line with the approach we set out in our Command Paper in May.
The safety net that we will implement, which we will outline this week, will deliver on the commitments made in the general election manifesto. Specifically, we will implement the provision in the protocol that Northern Ireland is fully part of the UK customs territory by ensuring that goods moving within the UK will never even inadvertently have to pay EU tariffs. We will ensure that businesses based in Northern Ireland have true unfettered access to the rest of the United Kingdom without paperwork, and we will ensure that there is no confusion about the fact that, while Northern Ireland will remain subject to the EU state aid regime for the duration of the protocol, Great Britain will not be subject to EU rules in that area.
Those steps are rightly part of the UK internal market Bill, the overriding aim of which is to ensure that the UK’s own internal market operates effectively, and I hope all Members will support that endeavour. The House will of course have an opportunity to debate these matters when it sees the details in full when considering the Bill. Further, the Bill will strengthen Northern Ireland’s place in the UK customs territory and ensure that the UK does take back control of its laws in an organised way after 31 December—exactly as we promised in the manifesto that won a resounding victory and mandate from the people of this country at last year’s election.
I cannot comment on the details of the Treasury Solicitor’s resignation because I have not seen his resignation letter, but we wish him well. We will continue to work at pace with the EU in the Joint Committee, and I stress to the hon. Lady that she should not presume what the outcome of the Joint Committee will be. We continue to work with the EU on that to ensure that we can reach a fair and positive outcome for Northern Ireland. That has always been and continues to be our priority.
We have worked with the EU in a spirit of good faith, and both sides continue to work in that spirit to implement the arrangements that uphold the fundamental principles that lie behind the protocol. Of course, our first priority continues to be to secure agreement on the protocol on the Joint Committee and on the wider free trade agreement, but the withdrawal agreement and protocol are not like any other treaty. They were written on the assumption that subsequent agreements could be reached between us and the EU on the detail—that is the entire purpose of the specialised Joint Committee—and we continue to believe that that is possible, but as a responsible Government we cannot allow our businesses not to have certainty for January. The reality is that the UK internal market Bill and the Finance Bill are the last legislative opportunities we have to give the people and businesses of Northern Ireland the confidence and certainty that we will deliver what we agreed in the protocol, what we outlined in our manifesto and what we set out in the Command Paper.
The objective of the Government and of our scientific advisers is to depress the peak of the epidemic, to ensure that we get through it, so that we come out on the other side, and that we do that as fast as possible. That is why we are taking all the measures that we have announced. That is why we have announced the package of business support that we have. I am not going to give a timescale on it, but that is the strategy, and I am absolutely certain that it will succeed.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks and for his personal comments about me and my team. To confirm the situation on the DeSouza case, we are fully committed to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, and there should never be an incentive to renounce British citizenship. That is why we have provided the same family reunification rights to all the people of Northern Ireland.
As for the hon. Gentleman’s question about broader issues for victims and those seeking justice, I point him to the Prime Minister’s comments. He and the Government are clear that we cannot accept the unfair or vexatious pursuit of our veterans when there is no new evidence. However, that must obviously be balanced against the need for truth for victims, and the Government will be addressing that in due course.
On the finances, at £2 billion, this is the best financial deal of any Northern Ireland talks settlement. The hon. Gentleman referred to a letter from the two First Ministers. I have seen the letter and the reply, which points out that this is an injection of money for this talks process: £1 billion of new money and a guaranteed £1 billion of Barnett-based funding up front. We then have the UK Budget in March, and we have a deal for Brexit. The key task for the Executive is to focus on their priorities. The hon. Gentleman referred to the programme for Government in appendix 2, which clearly states that the
“parties agree to publish, within two weeks of the restoration of the institutions, the fuller details of an agreed Programme for Government.”
This Government stand ready to work with the Executive over the coming months and years, and we really want to support them. This £2 billion is an extremely good start, and I am confident it is the basis for a strong future for Northern Ireland.
I thank my right hon. Friend for her remarks and comments. This deal, above all, guarantees the Executive a seat at the table as we implement our Brexit deal. It also underscores our commitment to ensuring, in law, unfettered access for goods from NI to GB, and it reconfirms that all the arrangements for Northern Ireland in our Brexit deal are subject to the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks and pass my condolences on to the families and loved ones of those who have been the victims of tragic crimes this week.
Britain spent £27 billion on bailing out the banks, and they have repaid us by closing down 3,000 branches since 2016, including the last branch in Grange this week. They have also failed to compensate innocent customers who have lost £2 billion in fraud. Does the Prime Minister agree that the banks have taken without giving for far too long, and will she meet me so that we can force the banks to compensate the victims of fraud and the communities that they have abandoned and prevent them from closing the last branch in town?
Q2. Today sees the start of Lent, traditionally a time of abstinence and giving things up. Recently, it has become a season of doing something new and positive. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would do our national soul some good if we all took up voting with the Government to leave the EU with her good deal and in an orderly fashion on 29 March? 
I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Lord Bhattacharyya, who died last week. As she said, he was a champion of the car industry and manufacturing in general, and he played a key role in saving Jaguar Land Rover, not only safeguarding jobs but, crucially, ensuring that international research is done in the UK. We thank him for everything he did.
Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and I am delighted that for the Opposition the debate will be opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Janet Daby), who is herself the daughter of people from the Windrush generation. We will be making the case for closing the gender pay gap, as we are determined to improve the lot of women in our society. In that vein, may I congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) on giving birth to a son this morning?
I join the Prime Minister in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who have lost young people. Yousef Makki and Jodie Chesney, both 17 years old, were the ninth and 10th teenagers murdered already this year. Two hundred and eighty-five people have been stabbed to death in the past year—the highest level ever. I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister has announced that Cobra is being convened, but what extra funding is being provided to address the root causes of both knife crime and the increasing levels of violent crime on the streets of all our towns and cities?
Many of us in this House will have sat in the living rooms of homes where a young person has lost their life through knife crime and will never forget that experience and never forget that feeling of hopelessness and loss that those families are going through. We owe it to those families and those young people who have lost their lives to do far more about knife crime and far more about ensuring that there are sufficient resources for the police to deal with it. Sara Thornton of the National Police Chiefs Council said:
“We think we need much stronger leadership from Government…and there needs to be more funding.”
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner said yesterday that, of course,
“there is some link between violent crime on the streets…and police numbers.”
A total of 21,000 police officers’ jobs have been cut. Violent crime is at the highest level since comparative records began. If there are sufficient police numbers, can the Prime Minister please explain why, yesterday, the Defence Secretary was offering to send in the military to assist with knife crime?
The police clearly do not have the resources to deal with the problem: safer neighbourhood teams have been cut and community police officers have been cut. Many areas see no police officers at all. There is nobody to supervise these special orders that the Prime Minister is talking about. Perhaps she will listen to Nazir Afzal, the former chief prosecutor of Greater Manchester. Tragically, his 17-year-old relative was recently stabbed to death in Birmingham. He said:
“When you reduce police numbers by 21,000…there isn’t the intelligence any more, there isn’t the neighbour policing any more”.
Does the Prime Minister now regret the cuts in police numbers, and in this review will she undertake to restore them to their former level?
Violent crime has doubled under the Tories’ watch. I have had a letter from Mike in Gosport—[Interruption.] Yes, it is important; he has something to say. Mike says:
“The crime rate has run out of control because there is no police presence…it has become a really unsafe town to live in”.
I think Mike speaks for millions of people around the country. When are towns such as Gosport and others going to get resources for the safer neighbourhood teams, and the local police they need to tackle rising violent crime and to provide the intelligence from which arrests can be made of those who have committed these crimes?
Crime went down when Labour was in office. We increased the numbers of police officers and the safer neighbourhood teams. Police officers are telling me that there is simply not enough of them to do the job. Hampshire alone has lost 1,000 police officers, and its funding has been cut by £70 million. Does the Prime Minister understand the scale of need here?
The Local Government Association says that local services face a funding gap of £3.2 billion this year. By the way, that is double—in one year alone—what the stronger towns fund is offering over seven years. The number of rapes, murders and other serious crimes committed by offenders on parole has risen by more than 50% since the privatisation of the probation service was introduced four years ago. At least one company wrongly classified offenders as low risk in order to meet Government targets. Do the Government now accept that privatising the probation service to profit-making companies has been a disaster that should be reversed, and that the probation service should be brought back completely into the public service?
The problem is that violent crime has doubled. The rise has been driven by austerity—something that the Prime Minister told us a few months ago was over. Cuts to police and rising poverty; the police and the Home Office recognise the link, even if the Prime Minister does not. But the issues are wider: the privatisation of the probation service has been a disaster; mental health services are under-resourced; youth and children’s services are in crisis; more than 600 youth centres have been closed; 3,500 youth workers have lost their jobs; funding for colleges and schools has been cut; and exclusions are rising. The public services that were there to support young people have been systematically stripped away, and everyone can see the consequences. Can the Prime Minister not recognise that there has to be a holistic response? We cannot keep communities safe on the cheap, with cuts and privatisation. We have to invest in all our communities in every part of this country—something that this Government are incapable of doing.
Q8. Across the country, freeholders and leaseholders are being ripped off by management companies charging excessive service charges, often for services they do not require. Many of these people are vulnerable pensioners who are trapped in McCarthy & Stone properties with their asset depreciating thanks to the dominant involvement of FirstPort and Vincent Tchenguiz. May I ask the Prime Minister for two reforms: first, ground rents at peppercorn levels for retirement homes; and secondly, bringing in a charging schedule and an automatic re-tendering process so that all freeholders and long lease holders can bid with their own community interest companies to deliver services that they actually require? 
Tove Macdonald is 87 years old. She was brought up under Nazi occupation in Denmark. She has lived in Scotland for 59 years. Why, Prime Minister, is she being forced to register in a country she has called home for almost the last 60 years?
What a disgrace—a woman who has lived here for almost 60 years, and the Prime Minister wants her to register to stay here. Tove has children. She has grandchildren. She has married in Scotland. She has friends here. She has built her life here. Why is the Prime Minister making Tove register after almost 60 years? Will she end this heartless policy? Will she tell Tove and all EU citizens who have come to the UK to work, live and love that the UK is their home, without precondition?
Q11. Five years ago, my constituent Barry Bednar’s 14-year-old son Breck was brutally raped and murdered. The perpetrator is now serving a 25-year prison sentence. However, in recent months, the victim’s family, including his teenage sister, have received repeated distressing and disturbing communications on Snapchat purporting to be from the perpetrator, graphically recounting the circumstances of the murder. The police have asked Snapchat to provide the data that would help them definitively identify who has been sending those messages—for example, data about the device from which the messages were sent—but Snapchat is referring the police to a mutual legal assistance treaty with the United States, and the police would have to go through a one-year process to get that vital data for their investigation. Does the Prime Minister agree that that is completely unacceptable? Will she join me in calling on Snapchat and other social media companies to promptly co-operate with police inquiries? If they do not do so, does she agree that legislation is required? 
Q3. As I raised with the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago, Conservative Governments have taken £6 billion out of the north-east since 2010. The Government now propose to give back £15 million a year over seven years through the stronger towns fund. At that rate of repayment, can the Prime Minister tell the House by which century the moneys owed to the north-east will be repaid? 
Earlier this week, the owners of the Westgate shopping centre in Basildon terminated Smart Parking’s contract after a disastrous nine months of operation. I have now discovered that Smart Parking has signed a shared business services agreement with the NHS. May I ask my right hon. Friend to ensure that, before any contracts are signed, the Department of Health and Social Care fully researches the impact that the practices of Smart Parking would have on its users, customers, clients and staff?
Q4. Amidst the noise of the Brexit debate, there is a real risk that we lose sight of the reasons why so many people voted to leave in the first place. I think that if we want to restore faith and trust, we need to devolve more political decision making away from Whitehall and closer to the people who will be affected by those decisions. Following on from the very constructive meeting that took place at Fountains Abbey in north Yorkshire with the Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary and Yorkshire leaders on Friday, may I ask the Prime Minister personally to engage with the substance of the One Yorkshire devolution deal with a view to reaching an agreement that will best serve the interests of the people of Yorkshire? [R] 
It was with profound sadness that I saw my constituency this week join the all-too-long list of areas across our country to have lost a precious young person to knife crime. The public do not want to see politicians throw blame at one another for these stolen lives; they want to see them take responsibility for what is within their control, provide resource if resource is necessary and then demonstrate a relentless and total commitment to snuffing out violent crime. I welcome the announcement of an emergency summit, but what action will the Prime Minister be taking after that constantly to drive performance on these issues until we get the result the public rightly demand—to keep children safe?
Q5. It is my daughter’s 16th birthday on 29 March, and it is her generation that will be most impacted by Brexit. Perhaps the Prime Minister could give her an early birthday present, and delay Brexit until she has informed the House about the status of the police and National Crime Agency investigations after Vote Leave and Leave.EU were found guilty of corrupt activities by the Electoral Commission. 
Mr Speaker, you are right that the former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is very welcome here today. As he said in a lecture last night:
“If a state-sponsored adversary has enduring access to staff, software or hardware deployed into a target telecommunication network, then they only require the intent to act in order to conduct operations within the network.”
Given that Chinese law obliges all Chinese companies to assist the Chinese intelligence services, will the Prime Minister explain what the implications are for British Government policy?
Q6. In January, 83% of Scottish MPs voted against the Prime Minister’s deal. Last night, an historic vote took place in the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament, with both Parliaments simultaneously rejecting the Prime Minister’s deal. Is it not the case that the Prime Minister has no mandate from Scotland either for no deal or for her deal? 
Order. Calm! [Interruption.] Difference of opinion is the essence of politics. There is an elaborate combination of finger wagging and head shaking going on, which may be personally therapeutic but is institutionally disadvantageous. In any case, we owe the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) a decent hearing. I call Rebecca Pow.
Break in Debate
Q7. As one of the Aussie MPs in this House, may I say how much I share your appreciation for Australian tennis players, Mr Speaker? I would add my personal favourite, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who was such a brilliant inspiration to so many of us when I was growing up in Australia. For a year now, the Prime Minister has been refusing to answer my questions about the visit of AggregateIQ to Downing Street, so may I ask her about the visit of Alexander Nix of Cambridge Analytica to Downing Street in December 2016? It was reported in The Spectator “Coffee House” blog, but not in the transparency data. May I ask the Prime Minister whom Alexander Nix met in Downing Street, what the purpose of the meeting was and—most importantly—why it was not reported in the transparency data? 
Women’s football is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. I hope you, Mr Speaker, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will welcome the £70 million investment Cheshire Football Association is putting into developing a women’s football training centre in Winsford. May I invite the Prime Minister to come and open the facility—and take part?
Q9. My constituent arrived early to her employment and support allowance assessment, as requested by her assessors, only to be told that she would have to wait another 90 minutes to be seen. She has an open wound, so sitting for any great length of time causes her great distress and pain. After her 90-minute wait she was told that she would not be seen and would have to make another appointment—I believe it is happening right now. Does the Prime Minister think it is right that my constituent has to go through this humiliating process all over again? 
Last week, MPs heard harrowing testimony from family members of a man who tragically committed suicide because he faced the loan charge, a 20-year retrospective tax facing thousands of families in my constituency and across the UK. On 9 January the Prime Minister said that the Government accepted the review into the loan charge, yet the all-party group on the loan charge was only advised this week by the Treasury that there is no such review. The Treasury has acted in bad faith, so will my right hon. Friend now personally intervene to ensure a genuine review and an urgent delay of the loan charge, so that the review, as promised, can be carried out?
Q10. Last Saturday morning, with three colleagues, I met the heads and governors of Gloucester schools. Each school outlined the impact of education cuts on their particular establishment, but they agreed on one thing: the Prime Minister could make a real difference now with regard to special educational needs. I hope the Government will consider this. First, will the Government make sure that the additional needs budget is fully ring-fenced and invested in schools, rather than lost somewhere on the way? Secondly, will the Government take away the ridiculous and perverse incentive whereby the first £6,000 for any education, health and care plan has to be found by the school itself? If that were to be done, it would make a dramatic difference to our schools. I raised that in a debate on Monday, but unfortunately the Education Minister was unable to confirm. Will the Prime Minister confirm that the Government will look into that and do something about it? 
This week marks the beginning of Brain Tumour Awareness Month, and I bring the House’s attention to the event that is happening immediately after Prime Minister’s questions in Westminster Hall. Good progress is being made to find the right care and cure for people who have brain tumours, but will my right hon. Friend meet me and others to discuss how we can improve the life chances of children and young people who survive a brain tumour but are left with brain injuries? Essential therapies and support for children and young people in this situation is not consistent and often lacking, leaving them with significantly impaired life chances.
Q12. The Prime Minister will be aware of our concerns about attempts to prosecute members of the security forces who conscientiously and courageously defended all the people of Northern Ireland against terrorism. Will she assure me that any proposal to provide greater legal protection for our armed forces will include those who served in Northern Ireland? 
Q13. The Department for Work and Pensions is currently carrying out five reviews into disabled people wrongly deprived of social security support because of the flawed personal independence payment assessment. My constituent, Mr Delaurentis, was given just zero points despite being unable to prepare food for himself or even dress himself. We have recently learnt that over 4,000 people were wrongly deprived of their disability living allowance when reassessed for PIP. Seventeen thousand people have died before their PIP decision was reached, and over 72% of cases that go to an appeal tribunal are overturned in favour of the claimant, so when will the Prime Minister follow Labour’s policy and scrap this discredited and flawed PIP assessment framework? 
Yesterday, pupils from Tweedmouth Community Middle School won the national Modeshift STARS trophy for secondary schools for its amazing work to encourage more pupils to cycle to school. Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating the school, its head, Mr Hulbert, and his team of staff, who are committed to creating a fitter, greener and more environmentally focused next generation of Berwickers?
Q14. My constituent, Yvonne Chafey, has a four-year-old son, Logan, who is the only child in the whole of Europe with chromosome 7p duplication syndrome, which causes epilepsy and autism. Hardly any prescriptions of medicinal cannabis have been allowed to date, and with Logan being so unique, he will always be denied access under the current rules of proven benefit. What changes can be made to allow Logan to access cannabis products to ease his suffering without his family having to go through a very high-profile public campaign? 
I welcome the publication of the draft domestic abuse Bill, and I hope it will pass successfully through the House. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as well as tackling extreme abuse and violence, we should also raise awareness of the entry level acts of coercion, deceit and manipulation that lead to more extreme examples?
Q15. Today is the 10th anniversary of the blacklist of construction workers being exposed, and today various news reports detail the extraordinary admissions in the Creadon report that the police and special branches across the UK and the security services supplied information to the Consulting Association. Does the Prime Minister agree that there now needs to be a full standalone UK public inquiry into the human rights conspiracy of blacklisting so that truth and justice can be served and those responsible for blacklisting can be held to account? 
This Ash Wednesday, will the Prime Minister give strong encouragement and support to the 48 Conservative MPs who are taking on an environmental challenge because we have seen the devastating impact of plastics across the world? Will she give a big shout-out to all Members of the House taking on a plastics pledge and raising the good work of Tearfund and the Department for International Development in reducing plastic pollution?
The Prime Minister will recall the advice she received from her Conservative colleagues as well as mine about the dangerous folly of making landlords responsible in criminal law for immigration control. Following the High Court ruling of Mr Justice Spencer that her policy is now increasing the risk of racial discrimination, will she not accept that her policy is fanning the flames of racism in return for nothing but tougher rhetoric about immigration control?
I concur with the Prime Minister’s remarks concerning the terrorist attack on the Finsbury Park mosque. One year on, it is right that we remember it.
Following the agreements to which the UK signed up at the Paris climate change summit, will the Prime Minister now commit to a new UK climate change target of zero net emissions before 2050?
Q3. Dorset is the home of the Jurassic coast, but my right hon. Friend will be pleased to know that it is not full of dinosaurs. [Laughter.] We are a modern, embrace-the-day sort of a county.All my North Dorset constituents want to ensure the safety and dignity of women. As a husband and father, I do, too. Will the Prime Minister confirm that we will make the horror of upskirting illegal quickly, and in Government time? 
I join the Prime Minister in welcoming my friend, Imam Mohammed Mahmoud, here today. He showed enormous humanity and presence of mind on that terrible day a year ago, when he prevented violence from breaking out on the streets of my constituency. I thank him and all the religious leaders in the local community who did so much to bind people together. As a country, we should be bound together in condemning racism in any form wherever it arises.
I was pleased that the Prime Minister mentioned the Windrush generation. I, too, join her in commemorating that event, when the Windrush generation arrived in this country. I hope that the hostile environment will be put behind us, and that we will take a special moment today to welcome a daughter of the Windrush generation as a new Member of this House. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Janet Daby) brings to this House enormous experience of dealing with the problems of poverty and dislocation in her borough, and she will make a great contribution to the House.
Today marks World Refugee Day—a time to reflect on the human misery of 65 million refugees displaced across the globe. There is a responsibility on all political leaders both to aid refugees and to act to tackle the crises and the conflicts that drive this vast movement of people.
The Prime Minister said—[Hon. Members: “A question?”] Thank you. The Prime Minister said that extra funding for the national health service will come from three sources: Brexit, economic growth and the taxation system. Well, there can be no Brexit dividend before 2022. Economic growth is the slowest since 2009, so which taxes are going up?
I am very pleased that the Prime Minister is reading my speeches so closely. I said that the money sent to the EU should be ring-fenced to replace structural funds to regions, support for agriculture and the fishing industry, and funding for research and universities.
May I remind the Prime Minister that my question was about taxation to deal with the NHS promises she made at the weekend. Last year—she might care to forget last summer, actually—she wrote in the Conservative manifesto:
“Firms and households cannot plan ahead”
with the threat of unspecified higher taxes. By her own admission, households and businesses need to plan, so can she be straight with people? Which taxes are going up and for who?
At the weekend, the Prime Minister said that
“about £600 million a week more in cash”
would be spent on the NHS. She continued:
“That will be through the Brexit dividend.”
Our net contribution to the European Union is about £8.5 billion a year, but £600 million a week is more than £30 billion a year. Her figures are so dodgy that they belong on the side of a bus. We expect that from the Foreign Secretary, but why is the Prime Minister pushing her own Mickey Mouse figures?
Last night, the Prime Minister sent an email to Conservative party members telling them:
“The money we now send to the EU will go to the NHS”.
The Government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility says we will not see any dividend until at least 2023. The Prime Minister talks about a strong economy, but our economic growth last year was the slowest of any major economy, and it has already been downgraded this year. If growth does not meet expectations, does that mean—this is the question—extra borrowing or higher mystery taxes?
Under Labour the NHS increase would have been 5% this year, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies confirmed that this year there would be £7.7 billion more for the NHS. What is the Prime Minister’s offer? She has promised £394 million per week without saying where any of it is coming from, apart from those mysterious phantom taxes that the Chancellor is presumably dreaming up at this very moment.
There is a human element to all issues surrounding the national health service and public spending. Let me give an example. Virginia wrote to me last week. She said:
“my diabetic daughter has fallen down on 4 occasions in the last month. She has both legs in plaster and is being told there isn’t enough money for the NHS to give her a wheelchair”.
The IFS says that the NHS needs 3.3% just to maintain current provision, which I remind the Prime Minister is at crisis levels. Does she think that standing still is good enough for Virginia, or for anyone else who is waiting for the treatment that they need and deserve?
Health spending grew by 5% in Wales last year, rather more than in England. The Prime Minister’s 3.4% is actually just 3%, as it is only for NHS England. There is nothing for public health budgets, nothing for community health, and, vitally, nothing for social care. That is less than is needed just to stand still.
After the longest funding squeeze in history, A&E waits are at their worst ever, 4 million people are now on NHS waiting lists, and the cancer treatment target has not been met for over three years. Nurse numbers are falling, GP numbers are falling, and there are 100,000 staff vacancies. NHS trusts are £1 billion in deficit, and there is a £1.3 billion funding gap in social care. The Prime Minister is writing IOUs just to stand still. Until the Government can be straight with people about where the money is coming from, why should anyone, anywhere, trust them on the NHS?
Q4. Reports from the Health Foundation across our front pages this week conclude that millennials will face worse health problems than their parents and that a key cause of this is relationship challenges, yet only 31% of millennials say they had strong relationships and support networks while growing up. What action is the Prime Minister taking in response to calls from over 60 hon. Friends to strengthen family relationships? 
May I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister on the incident a year ago at the Finsbury Park mosque?
Many of us in this House will be aware of the deeply distressing audio and images of children separated from their parents in US detention centres. Infants as young as 18 months are being caged like animals, babies of eight months are being left isolated in rooms, and last night the former head of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said he expects hundreds of these children never to be reunited with their parents—lost in the system, orphaned by the US Government. Is the Prime Minister still intending to roll out the red carpet for Donald Trump?
I have to say that that is a disappointing answer from the Prime Minister. We should all be unreservedly condemning the actions of Donald Trump, and I ask the Prime Minister to do that. On the issue of immigration, while the US Administration call it a zero-tolerance policy, the Prime Minister calls it a hostile environment. We know that this Government detain children in detention centres here in the UK. The UK is the only EU country to detain people indefinitely. Will the Prime Minister today, on World Refugee Day, show some leadership and end her policy of indefinite detention?
Q8. Last year, the number of children in the care system in England rose to a record of 73,000, with huge social and economic consequences. The care crisis review, published last week, found that the drivers of that increase included a risk-averse blame culture and a failure to direct spending to family support. Will the Prime Minister ensure that her children’s Minister considers the review’s recommendations, and will she commit to ensuring that state intervention to remove children from families is used only as a last resort? 
Q2. If I can summarise what we have just heard: President Trump has locked up 2,000 little children in cages and is refusing to release them unless he is allowed to build a wall; he has quit the United Nations Human Rights Council; he has praised Kim Jong-un’s treatment of his own people; and he has turned away Muslims. What does this man have to do to have the invitation that the Prime Minister has extended revoked? 
Q9. Residents across Amber Valley are worried about proposals to build housing on land next to sites on which contaminated waste was tipped in the 1970s. Does the Prime Minister agree that planning guidance should be changed to make it clear that a thorough, competent assessment of the risks of contamination should be carried out before permission is given to build houses on such sites? 
Q5. The Government granted a licence to British Sugar to grow cannabis on an industrial scale and licensed medical cannabis produced by GW Pharmaceuticals. They have now stalled, proposing that a panel should decide on a one-by-one basis who can benefit from medical cannabis. I am wondering what will happen on day one when 20,000 people apply to that panel. Can the Government not see the writing on the wall? Will they move now to provide medical cannabis under prescription to the many people who would benefit? 
Q10. Last Saturday marked two years since the murder of our colleague Jo Cox. Although she is no longer with us, Jo’s legacy still lives on through the work done in her name covering many issues, including loneliness. I welcome yesterday’s announcement of a £20 million fund to combat loneliness, and will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to groups such as Age UK and Brightlife in my constituency that do so much to tackle rural isolation? 
Q6. Thames Water and other water companies have profit margins close to 20%, paying out a huge £1.4 billion annually often to overseas owners that could be used to cut bills and accelerate repairs. Given that only Welsh Water, a mutual, makes no such payments, when might the Prime Minister get behind the efforts to double the size of the mutual and co-operative contribution to our economy? 
Q11. My right hon. Friend will be aware that I have raised the issue of more beds for Hereford County Hospital no fewer than 12 times over the years. Will she now confirm that the funding is in place to deliver those much-needed beds? 
Q7. It is said there is no greater pain than losing a child, especially in circumstances that are entirely and easily avoidable. My Slough constituent Mark Scaife, whose son Michael tragically drowned in the Jubilee river, was shocked to learn that schools are not required to teach water safety and the impact of cold water shock. Does the Prime Minister agree that, as we are currently in the middle of the Royal Life Saving Society’s annual Drowning Prevention Week, now is the opportune moment to discuss this matter with ministerial colleagues and to announce the compulsory inclusion of these vital lessons? 
Q14. The Prime Minister knows that I, as the son of a doctor and a pharmacist, share her strong commitment to the NHS. Will she reassure me and this House that the additional funding that is being provided will lead to measurable improvements in patient outcomes so that this extra money is spent as wisely as possible? 
Q12. After four weeks of Northern Rail chaos, passengers in the north of England have had enough. The Government have said that Network Rail did not deliver and that Northern was not prepared, but I have been handed emails from within the Department for Transport that show Ministers and officials were warned of impending chaos as long as two years ago. These emails are a disgrace. In them, officials describe key Northern routes as valueless, discuss “a classic handling strategy” for Members of Parliament, discuss whether to throw “a sop” to Northern passenger groups and debate whether to propagate myths in order to divert public attention from agreed planned route closures.Will the Prime Minister explain to the House why she has withheld this key information from us and from the public? Or is she so incompetent that she literally does not have a clue what is going on in her own Government? 
Is the Prime Minister aware that Birmingham airport will have 15% fewer international flights than otherwise, and that Manchester airport will have 11% fewer, Newcastle 14% will have fewer and Bournemouth will have more than 40% fewer, by 2030 as a result of Heathrow expansion? How do we help investment in our regions by suffocating the regional airports’ growth?
Q13. Today, 123,000 individuals will visit community pharmacies across Northern Ireland. As the Prime Minister knows, the pharmacies are the front door and shop window of the health service, so telling them that the best way to solve their problem when they have a shortfall of more than £20 million is to write to a defunct Assembly is not an answer to their problem. What is she able to do for community pharmacists across Ulster today? 
May I join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in paying tribute to the bravery of the imam from the mosque in Finsbury Park? May I also pay tribute to two people who are also in the Gallery today and who have shown dignity, bravery and integrity: the parents of Alfie Dingley? Alfie got the licence yesterday so that he will not have so many fits, which is what we know this treatment will do. I thank the Prime Minister and, in particular, the Attorney General for their input into this, but I want us to try to work with the family so that we can speed this up for other families. I know that is the most important thing the family want now.
The European Union and Michel Barnier say that they do not want a hard border on the island of Ireland, and we agree with that, but in his remarks yesterday on security co-operation he seemed to be erecting barriers in the way of the best possible co-operation between the UK and the rest of the Europe. The Belfast Telegraph, in its editorial today, says that this brinkmanship by the EU is a boon to terrorists. Will the Prime Minister make it clear that that kind of approach is completely wrong? It appears that the EU wants to make Brexit harder for the UK but easier for those who want to cause damage across Europe.
In the Gallery today are two young men from my Cleethorpes constituency, Callum Procter and Oliver Freeston, both of whom won seats on North East Lincolnshire Council at last month’s elections. Oliver is just 18 years old and is perhaps the youngest councillor in the country. Will the Prime Minister congratulate Callum and Oliver? Does she agree that it is this country that provides the policies that allow young people to prosper and be successful?
The conclusions of the Gosport independent panel, which I set up with the Secretary of State’s support when I was a Minister, are truly shocking, not only because of the fact that 456 people lost their lives following the inappropriate prescribing of opioids, but because there was a closing of ranks that prevented families from getting to the truth. Does the Prime Minister agree that there now needs to be an independent and thorough police investigation by another force? Will she agree to meet me and family representatives to discuss the report’s implications? Does she agree that we must never again ignore families in this way and that there must be a mechanism whereby when allegations of wrongdoing are raised, they are investigated immediately, and that that mechanism must include the family?
Peak hurricane season is due to hit Bangladesh and the Rohingya in the camps there. The UK is leading in the provision of aid to the Rohingya; other countries pledge aid but do not deliver. What more can the Government do to put pressure on those countries that renege on their pledges of aid for the Rohingya?
I want to return to the broader context of the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Mr Shuker). This has been a chilling week for those of us from right across the House who believe in the values of tolerance and diversity. It is not just President Trump: Viktor Orbán has proposed a new tax on organisations that defend refugees and the Italian Government are targeting the Roma people. It is good that the Prime Minister said that President Trump’s policy is wrong, but I want her to do more, and I think that the House wants her to do more. What is she going to do proactively to defend those values? What work is she going to do with Chancellor Merkel and President Macron to make it clear to the rest of the world and to the European Union that these other values, which are so inimical to our country, cannot stand?
The Prime Minister’s renewed commitment to the NHS is extremely welcome. Recently, the Health and Social Care Committee visited the Larwood House GP surgery in Worksop where, generally, all patients are seen by the doctors the same day. What more can the Government do to make sure that this best practice among GP practices is spread across the whole country so that all of our constituents can get in to see a doctor when they need to?
The last Labour Government oversaw a 5.9% increase in spending on the NHS. The Thatcher and Major Governments managed 3.6%. So far, the Prime Minister’s predecessor, David Cameron, and the right hon. Lady herself have managed 1.9%. Why, therefore, are we meant to be happy and amazed by her unfunded pledge to deliver an increase of 3.4%, which is under the annual average achieved since the NHS was first created?
I am sure that the whole House will want to be associated with the condolences and congratulations that the Prime Minister has just expressed.
Since 2010, Merseyside police has lost 1,084 police officers. In 2017, crime in Knowsley went up by 18.5%, and there were 21 firearm discharges, one of which resulted in a fatality. Across the force area, there were 94 firearm discharges, with four fatalities. Local MPs have met Home Office Ministers, but no extra resources have been provided. Will the Prime Minister arrange for the Home Secretary to meet local MPs to discuss what additional support can be given to deal with that serious problem?
Q3. May I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s earlier comments? Britain’s ability to trade with the world has been curtailed by the EU for over 40 years, but we have now won the ability to sign our own trade agreements around the world. Does the Prime Minister agree that that is Brexit’s greatest opportunity and ensures that we can embrace the globe as a truly proud international country once again? 
I, too, join the Prime Minister in commemorating the attacks that took place in Westminster a year ago, and I, too, will be at some of the events tomorrow. We should all remember this as an attack on democracy within our society.
I also join the Prime Minister in sending condolences to the friends and family of the Red Arrows engineer who sadly died yesterday. We wish the pilot well in his recovery.
I had the pleasure of meeting Andria Zafirakou, who won the global teacher award, just before she went off to receive it, and we should all congratulate her and Alperton School in Brent on the great work that she does there.
Today is the Kurdish new year, Newroz, so can we wish all Kurdish people around the world a happy new year and, particularly for those who are suffering so much in the conflict in Syria, a hope of peace in the year to come?
Does the Prime Minister believe that the collapse of Northamptonshire Council is the result of Conservative incompetence at a local level, or is it Conservative incompetence at a national level?
My question was actually quite specific to Northamptonshire. The Tory leader of the council said:
“We have been warning Government from about 2013-14…we couldn’t cope with the level of cuts that we were facing”.
Three years ago, that council bragged that it was pioneering an “easy council” model. It then proceeded to outsource 96% of council staff, and transferred them to new service providers, which were run like private companies paying dividends. Now that council has gone bust. Does the Prime Minister really believe that the slash and burn model for local government is really a good one?
But the problem is that Northampton- shire has gone bust, and this is caused by the Conservative Government and a Conservative council. It is a model still being used by Barnet Borough Council, which, until very recently, was run by the Conservatives—they lost control of it this week. Capita holds contracts there with an estimated value of £500 million. What has Barnet done? It has cut council staff every year and increased spending on consultants every year. Government cuts mean that councils across England are facing a £5.8 billion funding gap by 2020. So with hindsight, does the Prime Minister really believe it was right to prioritise tax cuts for the super-rich and big business? [Interruption.]
Break in Debate
There seemed to be a lot of concern among Conservative Members about my suggestion that the Government had prioritised tax cuts for the super-rich and big business, and put them as more important than funding for social care, libraries, repairing potholes, bin collection or street cleaning.
The shadow Secretary of State supports councils, thinks they should be properly funded and does not think they should be a vehicle for privatisation.
The leader of Surrey County Council, who happens to be a Conservative, has said:
“We are facing the most difficult financial crisis in our history.”
He did not mince his words, because he went on to say:
“The Government cannot…stand idly by while Rome burns.”
Council funding has been cut by half since 2010. Households in England now face council tax rises of £1 billion. The Tory leader of the Local Government Association says that
“councils will have to continue to cut back services or stop some altogether”
due to Government cuts. So as people open their council tax bills, is it not clear what the Conservative message is—pay more to get less?
Break in Debate
We all admire zen, Mr Speaker.
Pay more for less is the Conservative message. In Leicestershire, the county council is pushing through £50 million-worth of cuts and council tax increases of 6%. Its deputy leader blamed chronically low Government funding. That is the Tory message: pay more to get less. It is not just households: the average small shop will see its rates bill increase by £3,600. Empty shops suck all the life out of our high streets and local communities, so why is the Prime Minister presiding over a Government who are tearing the heart out of our local high streets?
Half a million businesses will see their rates rise this year, some by 500%. Even Mary Portas, who led the Government’s “Save the High Street” campaign, said that it was simply a
“PR campaign which looked like ‘hey, we’re doing something’ and I hoped it might kick-start something—but it didn’t.”
The Conservative Government have slashed public services. They cut funding and expect councils to pick up the pieces. The result is that children’s centres are closing, schools are struggling, there are fewer police on the streets, older people are being left without care or dignity, and refuges are turning women away. The Tories’ own head of local government says it is unsustainable. Doesn’t it tell us everything we need to know about the Government that they demand that households and businesses pay more to get less?
Q4. I can only assume that the Leader of the Opposition has not read the report about Northamptonshire County Council; I commend it to him. But I want to focus on a different issue today. Worldwide, every minute, millions of throwaway paper coffee cups go to landfill. To solve that, we need industry, consumers and the Government to work together. In that spirit, Amaray, a company in my constituency, has developed a fully recyclable alternative cup; it can be easily recycled, unlike the current option. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming that innovation? Perhaps if she is around afterwards, I might be able to give one to her. 
May I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister about the terrorist atrocity in Westminster a year ago? Our thoughts are obviously with those who gave their lives and, of course, with the emergency services. I also want to associate myself with the remarks about the loss of the engineer.
Does the Prime Minister agree that subverting the democratic political process of any country is totally unacceptable?
I thank the Prime Minister for that answer. May I point out to her that the parent company of Cambridge Analytica is Strategic Communications Laboratories? It has been run by a chairman of the Oxford Conservative Association. Its founding chairman was a former Conservative MP. A director appears to have donated more than £700,000 to the Tory party. A former Conservative party treasurer is a shareholder. We know about the links to the Conservative party: they go on and on. Will the Prime Minister confirm to the House her Government’s connections to the company?
Q7. Some London boroughs are renting houses in Kent, including in Sittingbourne and Sheppey, for use as temporary accommodation for homeless families. My local authorities are then expected to provide those families with the support they need. That is putting a strain on Kent’s schools, hospitals and social services, which receive no extra funding to provide that support. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the London Mayor and the London boroughs should be providing more homes in the capital, so that London families can be looked after by them, instead of placing the burden of care on hard-pressed council tax payers in Kent? 
Q2. School cuts in Portsmouth under this Government will reach £3.3 million by 2019, meaning that classrooms are being starved of the resources that they need, including textbooks and basic stationery. At the same time, approximately 40,000 children in the south-east are relying on food banks. If the Prime Minister were a teacher who had been under a pay cut for eight years, what would she buy a struggling child in one of my city’s classrooms—a textbook or a square meal? 
Q8. I am sure that we all recognise and welcome the employment figures announced today, but given the latest report that there are still unacceptably high levels of youth unemployment among ethnic communities in Britain, will my right hon. Friend explain to the House what the new £90 million fund will do to help young people into work? 
Q5. The war in Syria has now entered its eighth year. In recent weeks, over 1,000 people have been killed in eastern Ghouta. In Afrin, hundreds of Kurds lie dead and 200,000 civilians are desperately fleeing for their lives; even the hospital has been attacked. What will the Government do to help to bring urgent humanitarian relief for those in such despair? 
Q9. The Select Committee on Education recently interviewed a panel of university vice-chancellors who failed to recognise that their salaries are outrageous, being twice that of the Prime Minister and mainly funded by the taxpayer and student debt. Given that these outrageous salaries are paid in even the poorest performing universities, will the Prime Minister confirm that this situation will be looked at in the post-18 education review? 
Q6. Last week, the Agriculture and Fisheries Secretary and Ruth Davidson said:“The Prime Minister has been clear: Britain will leave the CFP as of March 2019.”Now, the UK is staying in the common fisheries policy but with no say on quotas—the worst deal imaginable. What changed between last week and this week? 
Q13. Cherwell is really proud to be building three houses a day but construction traffic is playing havoc with our road services. Will the Prime Minister meet me to discuss what more national Government can do to help with inevitable growing pains? 
Q10. The Prime Minister was right to prevent members of the royal family and Government Ministers from attending the football World cup in Russia, but what is being done to safeguard everyday football fans in what was, in my view, already a dangerous place to watch football, even before the incident in Salisbury? What advice will be given to travelling English supporters, many of whom have already bought their tickets, and is she confident that adequate co-operation between our police and the Russian police will protect English fans? 
Q14. My right hon. Friend will be aware that I have mentioned Jacci Woodcock, a terminally ill constituent of mine who set up the Dying to Work campaign. Santander, her mortgage broker, has been incredibly helpful in freezing her payments and will take them from her estate when she dies, but now it has gone even further—it is not increasing the interest payments either. Does my right hon. Friend agree that other banks should follow the caring and compassionate example set by Santander and that we should encourage them to look after terminally ill people in the same way? 
Q11. The Sunday Times said this week that Bedford’s relatively affordable housing and easy access to London have made it one of the best places to live in the UK, but Bedford constituents are concerned about the school funding cuts, court services cuts, the impending closure of our only walk-in centre, the big increase in homelessness and the loss of fast peak-time rail services to London. My question to the Prime Minister is, why are her Government ruining the prospects of our great town? 
Financial services are critical to thousands of my constituents and to the country as a whole. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to update the House on the progress made on ensuring that our future trade deal with the European Union includes an agreement on financial services?
Q12. Mental health issues affect one in 10 children, who on average have to see their GP three times before a referral, with many waiting up to 18 months for treatment. I acknowledge the Green Paper on this issue, but at a time when national funding in this area is being constantly cut, including a 5% reduction in funding to Lewisham child and adolescent mental health services, is this not another example of the Government saying one thing but doing another with our NHS? 
The EU agreement published this week has sadly left my fishermen in Amble and the north-east very anxious. While it is great news that we will regain control of our fishing grounds at the end of the implementation period, there is real concern that our EU colleagues might try to take advantage of our losing our voice in the CFP by altering discard rules or quota rules during the implementation period. Will the Prime Minister consider asking the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to prepare a financial mitigation plan to protect our fleet until 2021 should we need to do so?
This week, every party in Westminster took part in an international summit to challenge violence against women in politics, and online abuse dominated the discussions. Last year, the Prime Minister’s Government considered a statutory code of practice for social media corporations, holding them to account for the abusive content they publish. Will she confirm whether she remains content with a toothless voluntary code, or will she now give us a digital guard dog that both barks and bites?
The clinically led Future Fit programme for Shropshire seeks to improve and modernise hospital services across the county of Shropshire. We have been waiting for a decision on this issue for many years. Will the Prime Minister use her good offices to ensure that this vital scheme is supported in the coming weeks, so that we can secure this vital investment for Shropshire NHS?
The Bercow review made a big difference in improving services for children with communication needs—communication is the key life skill for children to learn and thrive—yet, a decade on, the latest report shows that much more needs to be done. Will the Prime Minister commit to a cross-Government strategy that puts this issue at the heart of policy and gives all our children the best possible start in life?
Unlike the SNP, I do not want to see Britain rejoin the disastrous common fisheries policy, but I do have some concerns about the fisheries aspects of the transitional agreement that has been provisionally agreed with the European Union. Before she travels to the European Council, will the Prime Minister reassure the House, and indeed fishing communities around the United Kingdom, that we will absolutely and unequivocally take back full control of our waters from 2021?
May I associate myself with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the SNP in offering condolences to the family of the Royal Air Force engineer who was tragically killed in my constituency yesterday? The RAF has been part of my constituency for over 75 years, with a tight-knit group of aircraftmen and support staff on the ground. While they are grieving, will the Prime Minister join me in paying tribute to the RAF as it commemorates its century of dedicated service to our country?
May I welcome the Government’s decision to create a medical school at Canterbury in east Kent, which was fought for by all Kent’s MPs—particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately), who has been indefatigable in that fight? Does this not underline the importance of training more doctors and nurses, to ensure that our health services in the regions are well staffed and looked after?
Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the remarkable staff of Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, who have ensured that the hospital is out of special measures today, following a report from the Care Quality Commission? Will she support our campaign for a new hospital to ensure that the staff have a hospital fit for the 21st century?
Thank you. Before we proceed to next business, I take this opportunity to remind the House that tomorrow we will be commemorating the Westminster terrorist attack of a year ago, reference to which was made earlier. I propose that we begin our proceedings tomorrow after prayers with a minute’s silence in memory of those who died. There will also be, colleagues, a commemorative event in Westminster Hall at 12 noon and services in the chapel of St Mary Undercroft at 10 am, 2 pm and 6 pm. I hope that is helpful to colleagues.
Although points of order ordinarily come after urgent questions or statements, I understand that this inquiry appertains to exchanges with the Prime Minister. I am not sure whether that was today or on a previous occasion, but let us hear from the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh).
My right hon. Friend’s stewardship of the economy and her predecessor’s excellent work in making sure that this economy grows have seen confidence in our country grow despite the troubles and tribulations that have been set before us. Our deficit has now come down, and our debts are oversubscribed. Will she take this opportunity to invest in our economy even more than she is already, and perhaps take the chance to build more homes?
I join the Prime Minister in wishing Her Majesty and Prince Philip a very happy platinum wedding anniversary.
The thoughts of the whole House will be with the victims of the devastating earthquake that hit Iran and Iraq on Monday, leaving hundreds dead and thousands without shelter. I hope the Government are offering all necessary emergency help and support that can be used to save life.
I am sure that the House will join me in sending our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the late Carl Sargeant, the Labour Assembly Member in Wales, who very tragically died last week.
Crime is up, violent crime is up and police numbers are down by 20,000. Will the Prime Minister urge her Chancellor—who I note is sitting absolutely next to her so it will be easy for her to make this demand on him—to provide the funding that our police need to make communities safe?
I have been following some tweets from some of the Prime Minister’s friends on the Front Bench. One says:
“Very disappointed and mystified at closure of Uxbridge Police Station.”
For the want of any doubt, that came from the Foreign Secretary, who is also—[Interruption.]
Break in Debate
I am very pleased that you do, Mr Speaker, because the Foreign Secretary is so excited that he will not even hear the answer. The real reason that the police station is closing is the £2.3 billion cut to police budgets in the last Parliament. And it gets worse—they will be cut by another £700 million by 2020. Under this Government, there are now 11,000 fewer firefighters in England than there were in 2010, and deaths in fires increased by 20% last year. In the wake of the terrible Grenfell Tower fire, the Prime Minister was very clear in saying that this could not be allowed to happen again and that money would be no object to fire safety. Will she therefore now back the campaign to provide local councils with £1 billion to retrofit sprinklers in all high-rise blocks?
After the Lakanal House fire, the coroner thought that fitting sprinklers would be the right thing to do. The chief fire officer thinks that it is the right thing to do. The local authorities that have asked central Government for support to retrofit sprinklers have all been refused by the Prime Minister’s Government. Surely, we need to think about the safety of the people living in socially rented high-rise blocks.
Yesterday, I was passed a letter from a lettings agency in Lincolnshire, where universal credit is about to be rolled out. The agency—and I have the letter here—is issuing all of its tenants with a pre-emptive notice of eviction, because universal credit has driven up arrears where it has been rolled out. The letter says:
“GAP Property cannot sustain arrears at the potential levels Universal Credit could create”.
Will the Prime Minister pause universal credit so it can be fixed, or does she think it is right to put thousands of families, through Christmas, in the trauma of knowing they are about to be evicted because they are in rent arrears because of universal credit?
I am very happy to give the Prime Minister a copy of this letter. I suspect this is not the only letting agency that is sending out that kind of letter.
The Prime Minister might be aware that food bank usage has increased by 30% in areas where universal credit has been rolled out. Three million families are losing an average of £2,500 a year through universal credit. The Child Poverty Action Group estimates more than 1 million will be in poverty due to cuts imposed by universal credit. If those are not reasons enough to pause the roll-out, I do not know what are.
Break in Debate
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Last week, the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, wrote:
“the budget for the NHS next year is well short of what is currently needed”.
The A&E waiting time target has not been met for two years. The 62-day cancer waiting time target has not been met since 2015. So, again, can the Prime Minister spend the next week ensuring that the Budget does give sufficient funding to our NHS to meet our people’s needs?
Well, it is very strange that the chief executive of NHS Providers says:
“We are in the middle of the longest and deepest financial squeeze in…history.”
I have a pretty good idea that they know what they are talking about. Let me give the Prime Minister another statistic. The number of people waiting more than four hours in A&E has gone up by 557% since 2010. Two weeks ago, the opposition to us—the Tories over there—were very noisy when I mentioned—[Interruption.] You are the Government, we are the Opposition: you are in opposition to us. It is not complicated.
Two weeks ago, I raised the question of cuts in school budgets—teachers and parents telling MPs what the reality of it was about. The Prime Minister was in denial; every Tory MP was in denial. This week, 5,000 headteachers from 25 counties wrote to the Chancellor, saying:
“we are simply asking for the money that is being taken out of the system to be returned”.
Will the Prime Minister listen to headteachers and give a commitment that the Budget next week will return the money to school budgets so that our schools are properly funded?
I would have thought that 5,000 head teachers had a pretty good idea about the funding problems of their schools and a pretty good idea of the effect of Government cuts to school budgets on their staff and on their students. Indeed, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that school funding will have fallen by 5% in real terms by 2019 as a result of Government policies.
With public services in crisis from police to the fire service, from the NHS to children’s schools, while a super-rich few dodge their taxes—[Interruption.] Ah, yes. The Government sit on their hands as billions are lost to vital public services. The Conservatives cut taxes for the few and vital services for the many. It is not just that there is one rule for the super-rich—
Break in Debate
Quite simply, is not the truth that this is a Government who protect the super-rich, while the rest of us pick up the bill through cuts, austerity, poverty, homelessness, low wages and the slashing of local services all over the country? That is the reality of a Tory Government.