Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 2016.

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Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP, South Antrim 12:00 am, 13th July 2016

If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 13 July.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

I know that the whole House will join me in congratulating Andy Murray, Heather Watson, Jordanne Whiley, Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett on their stunning success at Wimbledon.

This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. Other than one meeting this afternoon with Her Majesty the Queen, the diary for the rest of my day is remarkably light.

Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP, South Antrim

May I echo the Prime Minister’s congratulations to Andrew Murray and all the other winners? We thank the Prime Minister for all his hard work and his leadership—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear”!]—particularly his commitment to the Union and to Northern Ireland, visiting it often and swimming in Lough Erne. Perhaps he would like to come and swim in Lough Neagh. The Ulster Unionist party looks forward to working with the next Prime Minister. I am told that there are lots of leadership roles out there at the moment—there is the England football team and “Top Gear”. Even across the Big Pond, there is a role that needs filling. I will if I may go into my pet subject.

Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP, South Antrim

Thank you.

Brexit really threatens the Union. Will the Prime Minister work with his successors to ensure that we have somebody that will pull together all the countries of the Union and the overseas territories so that we can all work and thrive together?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

Let me thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks and fascinating suggestions for future jobs, most of which sound even harder than this one, so I think I’ll pass. I believe that Northern Ireland is stronger than it was six years ago—58,000 more people in work, the full devolution of justice and home affairs delivered under this Government, the Saville report published, record inward investment and the creation of new jobs. Like him, I care passionately about our United Kingdom, as do all of us in this House. We need to make sure that, as we leave the European Union, we work out how to keep the benefits of the common travel area. Hard work is being done now with civil servants in Northern Ireland, Whitehall and the Republic of Ireland, and the pace of that work needs to quicken.

Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke

I, too, pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for all the hard work that he has done leading this great country for the past few years.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

First, I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. He is absolutely right that the Kurds are incredibly brave fighters and are doing valuable work against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. I will look carefully at his suggestion of using the Birmingham hospital. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital has excellent facilities for battlefield casualties. Our Army is already providing medical instruction to the peshmerga to help them deal with the situation, but we will look to see whether more can be done. Let us be frank, the strategy is working. Daesh is on the back foot: it has lost 45% of the territory that it once held in Iraq; its finances have been hit; more than 25,000 Daesh fighters have now been killed; desertion has increased; and the flow of foreign fighters has fallen by 90%. I have always said that this will take a long time to work in Iraq and Syria, but we must stick at it and we must stay the course.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party

May I start by joining the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the British winners at Wimbledon—Andy Murray, Heather Watson, Jordanne Whiley, Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid? Also, I think it would be nice if we congratulated Serena Williams on her fantastic achievement.

It is only right that after his six years as Prime Minister, we thank the right hon. Gentleman for his service. I have often disagreed with him, but some of his achievements I welcome and want to recognise today. One is helping to secure the release of Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo Bay; another is legislating to achieve equal marriage in our society. I am sure he would like to acknowledge that it was Labour votes that helped him to get the legislation through. Will he express some concern at the way that homelessness has risen in this country for the past six years and looks like it is going to continue to rise?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. I join him in paying tribute to Serena Williams, who has now overtaken Steffi Graf’s amazing record of 22 grand slams.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he said about Shaker Aamer. That was a case that this Government raised again and again with the US Government, and we are pleased that it has been resolved. I thank him also for what he said about equal marriage. There are 30,000 gay people in our country who, in the past six years, have been able to get married. That is real progress. I will never forget the day at No. 10 when one of the people who works very close to the front door said to me, “I’m not that interested in politics, Mr Cameron, but because of something your lot have done, I am able to marry the person I’ve loved all my life this weekend.” There are many amazing moments in this job, but that was one of my favourites.

As for homelessness, it is still 10% below the peak that we saw under Labour, but the key is building more homes. We have built 700,000 homes since I became Prime Minister, but now we need to quicken the pace of that. The key to building more homes is, yes, programmes such as Help to Buy; yes, the reforms to the planning system, but the absolute key is a strong economy.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party

I have been listening carefully to what the Home Secretary has been saying over the past few days. She said:

“It’s harder than ever for young people to buy their first house.”

Does the Prime Minister think that is because of record low house building or his Government’s apparent belief that £450,000 is an affordable price for a starter home?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

First, let me say at the Dispatch Box how warmly I congratulate the Home Secretary on becoming leader of the Conservative party. When it comes to women Prime Ministers, I am very pleased to be able to say that pretty soon it is going to be 2:0, and not a pink bus in sight.

On the issue of housing and homelessness, as I said, 700,000 homes have been delivered. The right hon. Gentleman asked about affordability, which is key. When I became Prime Minister, because of what had happened to the mortgage market, a first-time buyer often needed to have as much as £30,000 to put down a deposit. Because of the combination of Help to Buy and shared ownership, some people are able to get on the housing ladder now with a deposit of as little as £2,000. With the low mortgage rates and the new houses we are building, we are making good progress.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party

The malaise seems a little deeper still. The Home Secretary said, talking of the economy,

“so that it really does work for everyone. Because it is apparent to anybody who is in touch with the real world that people do not feel our economy works that way”.

Is she not right that too many people in too many places in Britain feel that the economy has been destroyed in their towns because the industries have gone, there are high levels of unemployment or under-employment, and a deep sense of malaise? Do not we all need to address that?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

If we are going to talk about the economic record, let us get the facts straight. We have cut the deficit by two thirds. There are 2.5 million more people in work in our country. There are almost a million more businesses, and 2.9 million people in apprenticeships have been trained under this Government. When it comes to poverty, 300,000 fewer people are in relative poverty and 100,000 fewer children are in relative poverty. If I am accused of sloth in delivery by the right hon. Gentleman, let us take the past week. We have both been having leadership elections. We got on with it. We have had resignation, nomination, competition and coronation. The Opposition have not even decided what the rules are yet. If they ever got into power, it would take them about a year to work out who would sit where.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party

Democracy is an exciting and splendid thing, and I am enjoying every moment of it.

Talking of the economy, the Home Secretary said that many people

“find themselves exploited by unscrupulous bosses”—

I cannot imagine who she was referring to. In his hand-over discussions with the Home Secretary, could the Prime Minister enlighten us as to whether there is any proposal to take on agency Britain by banning zero-hours contracts, clamping down on umbrella companies, repealing the Trade Union Act 2016 or, preferably, all three?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is right that democracy is a splendid thing—I have to agree with him about that. Let me answer very directly on exploitation in the workplace. It is this Government that, for the first time, has introduced a national living wage—that is a huge change. It is this Government that has massively increased the power of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. There are record fines for businesses that do not pay the minimum wage, and there is much more policing and many more prosecutions taking place. All of those things have changed under this Government. As for zero-hours contracts, they account for fewer than one in 40 people in work. Some 60% of people on zero-hours contracts do not want to work more hours. It was this Government that did something the Labour party never did, which was to ban exclusive zero-hours contracts—13 years of Labour, but it took a coalition Conservative Government to do it.

Let me say something to the right hon. Gentleman about the democratic process of leadership elections, because I did say a couple of weeks ago—[Interruption.] I have to say that I am beginning to admire his tenacity. He is reminding me of the Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. He has been kicked so many times, but he says, “Keep going, it’s only a flesh wound.” I admire that.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party

I would like the Prime Minister to address another issue that the House voted on last week. I have a question from Nina—[Interruption.] It is a question from somebody who deserves an answer. She says:

“I would like to know, if there is any possibility, that an EU citizen, that has lived in the UK for thirty years can have their right of permanent residence… revoked and deported, depending on the Brexit negotiations”.

There has been no clear answer to this question. It is one that worries a very large number of people, and it would be good if, in his last Question Time, the Prime Minister could at least offer some assurance to those people.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

Let me reassure Nina that there is absolutely no chance of that happening to someone in those circumstances. We are working hard to do what we want, which is to give a guarantee to EU citizens that they will have their rights respected—all those who have come to this country. The only circumstance in which I could ever envisage a future Government trying to undo that guarantee would be if British citizens in other European countries did not have their rights respected. I think it is important to have reciprocity. The new Prime Minister will be working to give that guarantee as fast as we can.

I am glad the right hon. Gentleman mentions emails, because, actually, I have an email as well. I got this—I am not making this up, I promise—on 16 September 2015 from someone called Judith, and she said this:

“Please, please keep dignity, and not triumphalism during the first PMQs today with Jeremy Corbyn.”

She gave this reason:

Tom Watson, who may oust Jeremy Corbyn…is a very different kettle of fish. He is experienced, organised and far more dangerous in the long run.”

She goes on:

“Sensible, sober, polite answers to Mr Corbyn…let him create his own party disunity.”

After this is over, I have got to find Judith and find out what on earth happens next.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party

I have had the pleasure of asking the Prime Minister 179 questions—[Hon. Members: “More!”] Thank you. There are plenty more to come to his successor—don’t worry about that.

Before I ask the Prime Minister my last question, could I just put on record that I wish him well as he leaves office? I also wish his family well—Samantha and their children. We should all recognise that while many of us really do enjoy our jobs and our political life, it is the loved ones nearest to us and our families who actually make enormous sacrifices so that we may be able to do this. I would also like him to pass on my thanks to his mum for her advice about ties, suits and songs. It is extremely kind of her, and I would be grateful if he would pass that on to her personally. I am reflecting on the lesson that she offered.

I have one rumour that I want the Prime Minister to deal with. There is a rumour going round that his departure has been carefully choreographed so that he can slip seamlessly into the vacancy on “Strictly” that was created this morning by Len Goodman’s departure. Is that his next career?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

I do not really have a pasa doble, so I can promise that that is not the case.

Let me thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks and good wishes to my amazing wife Samantha and my lovely children, who are all watching from the Gallery today. He is absolutely right: the pressure in these jobs often bears hardest on those we love around us. Let me send my best wishes to his family as well.

I have done a bit of research, Mr Speaker. I have addressed 5,500 questions from this Dispatch Box; I will leave it for others to work out how many I have answered. Because of your belief in letting everyone have their say, I think I have done a record 92 hours of statements from this Dispatch Box, as well as some very enjoyable Liaison Committee appearances and other things.

I will certainly send the right hon. Gentleman’s best wishes back to my mother. He seems to have taken her advice and is looking absolutely splendid today.

This gives me the opportunity to put a rumour to rest, as well—it is even more serious than the “Strictly Come Dancing” one. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate this because El Gato, his cat, is particularly famous. This is the rumour that somehow I do not love Larry; I do, and I have photographic evidence to prove it. Sadly, I cannot take Larry with me; he belongs to the house and the staff love him very much, as do I.

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in 33 years in this House watching five Prime Ministers and several ex-Prime Ministers, I have seen him achieve a mastery of that Dispatch Box unparalleled in my time? That is not just because of his command of detail and his wit, but because he commands the respect of friend and foe alike, who know that he is driven not just by legitimate political ambitions and ideas, but by a sense of duty that always leads him to try to make this country more prosperous, more solvent, more tolerant, more fair, and more free. He will command the respect of generations to come.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

Those words mean a lot from my right hon. Friend, who has spent so much time in this House. It is a special place. I think Prime Minister’s questions, for all its theatrics, does have a purpose, because it is a time when every week the Prime Minister has to know absolutely everything that is going on in Whitehall. Often you find out things that you want to stop pretty quickly before 12 o’clock on a Wednesday. I believe that politics is about public service in the national interest, and that is what I have always tried to do.

This session does have some admirers around the world. I remember when I was doing the Leader of the Opposition’s job and I met Mayor Bloomberg in New York. We walked down the street and everyone knew Mike Bloomberg. Everyone came up and said, “Mayor, you’re doing a great job.” No one had a clue who I was, until eventually someone said, “Hey, Cameron. Prime Minister’s questions—we love your show!”

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader

I join the Prime Minister and the leader of the Labour party in paying tribute to all the winners at Wimbledon.

This week we mark the 21st anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. As this is one of the few political causes that the Prime Minister and I both wholeheartedly support, I hope he will impress on his successor the importance of supporting the Remembering Srebrenica organisation and all the good work that it does across the UK.

Notwithstanding our differences, I genuinely extend my best personal wishes to the Prime Minister and his family; I wish them all the best. However, the Prime Minister’s legacy will undoubtedly be that he has brought us to the brink of being taken out of the European Union, so we on these Benches will not be applauding his premiership. What advice has he given his successor on taking Scotland out of the EU against the wishes of Scottish voters?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

First, let me join the right hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to all those who lost their lives in Srebrenica. We should make sure that we commemorate the event properly every year. This year there will be a service in the Foreign Office, where commemoration will be given and testimony read out. We should think of it alongside the terrible events of modern history such as the holocaust. This also reminds us that while, as we often debate in this House, there is a price for intervention, there is also sometimes a price from non-intervention. We should remember that.

In terms of what the right hon. Gentleman says about Scotland, the United Kingdom and Europe, my advice to my successor, who is a brilliant negotiator, is that we should try to be as close to the European Union as we can be for the benefits of trade, co-operation and security. The channel will not get any wider once we leave the European Union, and that is the relationship we should seek. That would be good for the United Kingdom and good for Scotland.

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader

The Prime Minister’s successor is very well known in Scotland at present—this is across all the front pages—because of the threat to deport the very much loved and liked Brain family from the highlands. The first vote of her premiership is likely to be on imposing Trident against the wishes of almost every single MP from Scotland. Meanwhile, she says that she plans to plough on with Brexit, regardless of the fact that Scotland voted to remain in the EU. How does the outgoing Prime Minister think that all that will go down in Scotland?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

First of all, specifically on the Brain family, Mrs Brain came to this country on a tier 4 student visa to study for a Scottish history degree. She completed it and her husband and son came as dependants. We have given them an extension until 1 August to put in an application for a work visa in the normal way, and I very much hope that will happen.

On Trident, there will be a vote in this House. It is right that this House should decide. Actually, many people in Scotland support our nuclear deterrent, maintaining it and the jobs that come in Scotland.

The right hon. Gentleman asks about the record of this Government when it comes to Scotland. I will tell him what it is: 143,000 more people in work in Scotland; massive investment in the renewable industries in Scotland; the two biggest warships in our history built in Scotland; a powerhouse Parliament; a referendum that was legal, decisive and fair; and, I might add, a Scotsman winning Wimbledon twice while I was Prime Minister. Never mind Indy 2; I think it is time for Andy 2.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill Conservative, Bury St Edmunds

I thank the Prime Minister for the leadership he has shown, particularly in his support of women in the Conservative party. The Prime Minister’s legacy for me, however, and for fellow cancer survivors, is the personal support that he has shown for the cancer drugs fund. Today I ask him to show the same support for those who have been affected by contaminated blood. Will he please update the House as to whether they, too, will have a legacy?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for what she says about the cancer drugs fund, which has helped many people and families in our country. She is absolutely right to raise the issue of contaminated blood, and I can today announce that we will spend the extra £125 million that we have identified. A much fairer and more comprehensive scheme will guarantee that all those infected will, for the first time, receive a regular annual payment. That will include all those with hepatitis stage 1, who will now receive £3,500 per year, rising to £4,500 per year by the end of the Parliament. For those with hepatitis C at stage 2 or HIV, or who are co-infected with both, annual payments will increase over the lifetime of the Parliament, and we will enhance the support for those who have been bereaved and those who will be in future, significantly boosting the money for the discretionary payments. Last year I apologised to the victims on behalf of the British Government for something that should never have happened. Today I am proud to provide them with the support that they deserve.

Although it is not right to pick out two individuals, I think that people should know that they can come to constituency surgeries, make their point to their Member of Parliament and campaign, as these sufferers have done. In my case, David Leadbetter and Matthew Davies repeatedly came to my surgery, saying, “This mustn’t stand. More must be done.” I know that not everyone will be fully satisfied with what is being done, but it does show our democracy working and compassion in replying to this terrible problem.

Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Prime Minister came to office promising to keep the UK’s triple A rating, to end top-down NHS reorganisations and to stop his party banging on about Europe. How would he say that has gone?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

On the economic record, 2.5 million more jobs, the deficit cut by two thirds, 2.9 million apprenticeships, a million more businesses, and a growth rate that has been at the top of the developed world are all because of the choices that we made. Because we did that, we have been able to back our NHS with a 10% funding increase, which is more than £10 billion in real terms in this Parliament. As for Europe, we have to settle these issues. It is right that, when trying to settle a really big constitutional issue, you not just rely on Parliament, but ask the people as well. We made a promise and we kept a promise.

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Conservative, Winchester

I am very sorry that this turns out to be my last question to the Prime Minister. I want to thank him for everything he has done for my constituency, where every school is now good or outstanding and the jobless total is down 64% since he took office. As he prepares to leave Downing Street, I encourage him to return to the big society agenda that I know he is so passionate about. Does he remember saying, shortly before becoming Prime Minister, that politicians are a mixture of egotism and altruism, and that

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. When it comes to education, there is a very strong record to build on. We have 1.4 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010. We have seen the free school movement really take off, with over 300 free schools open. I visited one yesterday that is outstanding, as a quarter of them are, which is an amazing record when we think how little time they have had to get going. I think that we should build on that record.

As for the big society, yes, we should use a stronger economy to build a bigger and stronger society. One thing we are doing is introducing the National Citizen Service. Some 200,000 young people have taken part in that programme and I hope that, by the end of this Parliament, it will be the norm for 16-year-olds to take part. We talk about the soft skills that are necessary to give people real life chances. Many people do not get those chances, and the National Citizen Service will help them.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

I thank the Prime Minister for the courteous way he has always answered the questions I have managed to ask him. I have always listened carefully to his answers but, until I had two eye operations, I was not able to see him very clearly. Is he as concerned as I am about newspaper reports that people who are not entitled to NHS cataract operations are jumping the queue and preventing people who are entitled to NHS operations from having that treatment?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. I try to answer questions from this Dispatch Box, but it is difficult sometimes when I have not seen the specific story, and I have not in this case. I recall from previous occasions that we are still investing in cataract operations and that the number of people receiving them is going up. However, I will look carefully—this afternoon—at the question he asks about the danger of queue jumping and get back to him.

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills

Under the leadership of my right hon. Friend, unemployment in my constituency has dropped from 5.1% in May 2010 to 1.9% in May this year. That is a record to be proud of and one for which I would like to thank him. Does he agree that that has been possible only thanks to his firm focus on jobs, apprenticeships, skills, a strong economy and investment?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

The figures are remarkable—when a constituency gets to an unemployment rate of 1.9%, that is very close to full employment. We had 2.4 million apprenticeships in the previous Parliament, and there are already an extra 500,000 in this Parliament, taking us towards the target of 3 million in this Parliament. I am confident that we can achieve that target if we work hard. These are not just numbers on a page; they are real people who have experience of the workplace, who are learning a trade and who are taking their first steps in their career. What I want is that, when they get that career, we not only have the national living wage, but make sure that people do not start paying income tax until they are earning a good wage. We have taken 4 million of the lowest paid people in our country out of income tax altogether—that is a record to be proud of.

Photo of Adrian Bailey Adrian Bailey Labour/Co-operative, West Bromwich West

This week is Black Country Week. Yesterday, black country manufacturers were in Parliament demonstrating the high-quality products that are exported worldwide. Will the outgoing Prime Minister impress on the incoming Prime Minister the huge importance of maintaining access to the EU single market during Brexit negotiations so that we can maximise the black country’s contribution to exports, productivity and jobs?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. We have seen in the west midlands 173,000 more people in work under this Government. We have seen something of a renaissance in manufacturing, particularly in the automotive sector, some of which is, indeed, in the black country. It is vital for that industry that we have proper access to the single market. I think he is right; this is one of the things we absolutely have to focus on. I want these high-quality automotive and aerospace manufacturing firms to go from strength to strength in our country, and making sure we get that access to Europe is going to be vital.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker Conservative, Worcester

Ten years ago today, I was applying to become the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Labour-held Worcester as my right hon. Friend was uniting the then Opposition and preparing them for government. Like many Conservative Members, I entered this House in the week when he became Prime Minister. Since that time, unemployment in Worcester has halved and apprenticeships have doubled. We have more good and outstanding schools, and are beginning to receive fairer funding. Wages are up and taxes are down. May I thank my right hon. Friend for all his service to our nation and for the legacy of improved life chances that he will leave behind?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. We have seen unemployment fall in all these constituencies and the claimant count going down. More importantly, we now see 450,000 fewer children in households in which nobody works. Think of the effect of having a parent or a loved one in work helping to put food on the table and providing a role model for their children. That is really what this is all about, and I thank him for his kind remarks.

Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Public Services and Education)

Between broken vows, Brexit and the likely renewal of weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde, the Prime Minister has done more for Scottish independence than many SNP Members could ever hope to do. As he contemplates a move to Aberdeenshire, will he now make his commitment to Scottish independence official by visiting snp.org/joinus?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

What I say to the hon. Lady, and indeed to all SNP Members, is that when Lord Smith himself says that the vow to create a powerhouse Parliament was kept, the SNP should pay attention to that, and recognise that a promise was made and a promise was delivered. I have talked many times at this Dispatch Box about creating this powerhouse Parliament; what I have not seen is the SNP using any of the powers that it now has.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Conservative, Rushcliffe

May I first join with all who have thanked the Prime Minister for the statesmanlike leadership that he has given to our party and to the country for the past six years? I thank him particularly for the debating eloquence and also the wit and humour that he has always brought to Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesdays. Although, no doubt, he will have plans for a slightly more enjoyable and relaxed Wednesday morning and lunchtime in the future, may I ask that he will nevertheless still be an active participant in this House as it faces a large number of problems over the next few years? As no two people know what Brexit means at the moment, we need his advice and statesmanship as much as we ever have.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his very kind remarks. I remember that one of the toughest conversations I had in politics was when I was Leader of the Opposition and I was trying to get him to join my Front Bench. He was on a bird-watching holiday in Patagonia; it was almost impossible to persuade him to come back.

Not many people know this, but my right hon. and learned Friend’s first act as Chancellor of the Exchequer was to fire me as a special adviser. I am proud of the fact that one of my first acts was to appoint him to my Cabinet in the coalition Government. The then Deputy Prime Minister will join me in saying that my right hon. and learned Friend provided great wisdom, thoughtfulness and ballast at a time of national difficulty with the advice that he gave us. He is not always the easiest person to get hold of—Tory modernisation has never quite got as far as getting Ken Clarke to carry a mobile phone. He did briefly have one, but he said, “The problem is that people keep ringing me on it.” In opposition, I seem to remember that we had to move our morning meeting to accommodate his 9 o’clock cigar.

I will watch these exchanges from the Back Benches. I will miss the roar of the crowd and I will miss the barbs from the Opposition, but I will be willing you on. When I say “willing you on”, I do not just mean willing on the new Prime Minister at this Dispatch Box, or indeed just willing on the Government Front Bench and defending the manifesto that I helped to put together. I mean willing all of you on, because people come here with huge passion for the issues they care about and with great love for the constituencies that they represent. I will also be willing on this place. Yes, we can be pretty tough, and we test and challenge our leaders—perhaps more than some other countries—but that is something we should be proud of, and we should keep at it. I hope that you will all keep at it, and I shall will you on as you do.

The last thing I would say is that you can achieve a lot of things in politics and get a lot of things done; in the end, public service and the national interest is what it is all about. Nothing is really impossible if you put your mind to it. After all, as I once said, I was the future once. [Applause.]