Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th January 2017.

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Photo of Chris Green Chris Green Conservative, Bolton West 12:00 am, 18th January 2017

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s speech setting out a plan for global Britain. It clearly shows that those on the Government Benches are listening to the British people. Will she commend this approach to the council leaders now considering the Greater Manchester spatial framework consultation responses, as they need to listen to the people, give us better infrastructure and protect our green spaces?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments and for raising this issue. I understand that the consultation on the spatial framework closed earlier this week and that there has been huge interest among local people. I echo his comment that it is absolutely right that local leaders should take into account all the representations made.

Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Pensions)

In the UK, we have 14 regional markets for electricity distribution, and highlanders and islanders are facing higher prices because of where we live. Electricity distribution charges for the north of Scotland are an eye-watering 84% higher than those for London. The Prime Minister talks about fairness. Will she introduce a universal market for electricity pricing and stop penalising highlanders and islanders? Those of us who live in the coldest, windiest places are discriminated against by her Government, and it must end.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The hon. Gentleman draws attention to the fact that geography of course has an impact on these matters. He talks about living in the coldest and windiest places, and obviously one interesting issue in Scotland is the opportunity for renewables there. I can tell him, however, that we are looking at making sure that energy markets in the UK are indeed working properly.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire

I am pleased that the Prime Minister has said that she will take the necessary action on air quality to deal with the 40,000 premature deaths it causes across our country every year. I know she believes in her Government leading by example, so will she make sure that all diesel cars are removed from the Government Car Service as soon as possible?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that improving air quality is a priority for the Government. We are determined to cut harmful emissions and have committed money since 2011 to supporting the take-up of low-emission vehicles. The Government Car Service is working to remove diesel vehicles from its fleet. It has so far replaced a quarter of its vehicles with petrol hybrid cars, and of course its work continues to remove those diesel vehicles.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Is the Prime Minister aware that I totally agree with what she said yesterday—Wait for it. I agree that we in this House have a real responsibility to ensure that our children and grandchildren have a bright future, but is she aware that dark clouds are looming on the horizon—intolerance, racism across Europe and the foundering and flux of many of our great institutions that have kept peace and prosperity since the last world war? I speak here of the United Nations, NATO and, indeed, the European Union. Are we fit for purpose in keeping this country safe and secure in that world?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I absolutely recognise the important issue that the hon. Gentleman has raised. It is precisely as we move out of the European Union that the United Kingdom will be more outward looking. We will look globally. We want to ensure that we continue to play our part in the United Nations and that the UN is able to do the job that everybody wants it to do. NATO has obviously been the most important bulwark when it comes to maintaining safety and security across the European continent. That is why we are continuing to support NATO. British troops are in Estonia, and British forces are in Poland and Romania, which shows our continuing commitment to NATO. The thrust of my speech yesterday was that we want a strong strategic partnership with the European Union. We want access to the single market through a free trade agreement, but we also want to continue to work with the EU on justice and security matters. Now is not a time to co-operate less; it is a time to co-operate more.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Conservative, Sutton and Cheam

I am delighted at the third-round FA cup replay, in which Sutton United won 3-1 against Wimbledon. However, the pressing issue—what would make us really happy—is being able to get to work on a day-to-day basis. Does the Prime Minister share my cautious optimism that a return to talks by ASLEF and Southern can provide a long-lasting solution for hard-pressed commuters?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As a former Wimbledon councillor, I am not sure that I quite share the enthusiasm of my hon. Friend for the defeat of AFC Wimbledon. On the point about the train strikes, yes, I do; and I hope that those sitting around the table are going to ensure that an agreement will be reached to enable passengers to be able to get on with their lives and their jobs, and not suffer the misery that was brought about by the strike in the first place.

Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden

I agree with the Prime Minister and disagree with the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully) about last night’s AFC Wimbledon result.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I might remind the hon. Lady that she and I sat on a council together where we tried to keep Wimbledon actually playing in Wimbledon, or at least in the borough of Merton rather than moving elsewhere.

On the point about GP services, GPs are part of the solution for the NHS in the future. That is why we have seen more GPs coming into the NHS and 5,000 more are being trained and will be in place by 2020. We want to ensure that GPs are open and providing services at times when the patients want to access them.

Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Conservative, Broxtowe

It was quite clear from the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday that she seeks to build a Brexit consensus and to bring our country back together. I thank her for that. To that end, and indeed to strengthen the Prime Minister’s negotiating hand, before article 50 is triggered, will she please at least consider publishing all those 12 objectives in a White Paper so that we can debate them here in this place on behalf of all our constituents?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I absolutely understand my right hon. Friend’s point about Parliament’s desire to be able to debate the objectives that I set out very clearly in my plan yesterday. One of the objectives and principles I set was about certainty and clarity. It continues to be the Government’s intention that we will provide clarity whenever it is possible, and we will ensure that, at appropriate times, both the public and Parliament are kept informed and are able properly to consider and scrutinise these issues.

Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Chair, Transport Committee

While dedicated and talented staff at Royal Liverpool University hospital’s accident and emergency department struggle to find beds for sick people, about 135 patients cannot be discharged solely because of Government cuts in social care budgets. When will the Government recognise their responsibilities, and not try to blame GPs for a problem of their Government’s own making?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

There is pressure on social care. I have accepted and recognised that in the House. The Government have recognised it, and have provided additional funding through the Better Care Fund and the social care precept. This year Liverpool raised £2.8 million from the precept, and it will receive more than £48 million on top of that from the improved Better Care Fund by 2019-20. However, this is not just a question of money; it is a question of ensuring that we have a sustainable social care system for the future, and that is what the Government are working on.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

May I commend my right hon. Friend for what she said yesterday, and not least for her constructive tone and constructive approach to the European Union and its future? That was in marked contrast to what we have heard from others over the years, from many different quarters in the United Kingdom. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that that constructive tone will remain, as the best base for securing an agreement between us and the EU that is in our mutual interest? Will she also confirm that the default position of “no deal” will remain a default position, and that the Government will not be persuaded to make it their preferred option?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Absolutely. We want to get that good deal and we expect to be able to get that good deal, and, as my right hon. Friend says, it is through good will and a positive approach on both sides of the negotiations that we will achieve it.

I am very clear about the fact that the United Kingdom wants to see a continuing, strong European Union of 27 member states. We want a strong strategic partnership with that European Union, and, of course, we want to continue to work bilaterally with individual member states. I made that point to a number of European leaders yesterday when I spoke to them after my speech. I said that we wanted to approach this in a positive and optimistic fashion, because I believe that a deal that is good for the UK will be a deal that is good for the European Union.

Photo of Louise Haigh Louise Haigh Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Economy)

This week the national auditor revealed the abject failures in the Concentrix fiasco which had resulted in thousands of people being wrongly denied their tax credit. That was not one rogue contractor, but a system designed by the Government to pursue and chase down claimants for profit. Does the Prime Minister agree with the chief executive of HMRC that payment by results has no place in our welfare system? Will she review this model, or will she wait for the next scandal to hit vulnerable people?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I recognise that many people received a poor service from Concentrix. This is not the first time that that has been highlighted in the Chamber. It was not acceptable, and I apologise for the worry and distress that was caused to people. We have been very clear about the service operated by Concentrix. HMRC will learn the lessons from that contract, and it remains committed to providing a high-quality service. It will not use a private sector supplier to undertake tax credit error and fraud checks again.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Conservative, Rushcliffe

My right hon. Friend Anna Soubry mentioned the speech that the Prime Minister made yesterday. In that speech, she confirmed her commitment to parliamentary democracy, and I assume that she therefore accepts the long-standing convention that the Executive—the Government—are continuously accountable to the House for the policies that they are pursuing. Will she clarify whether she intends to make any further statements of policy intentions to the House, and whether she expects the House to have an opportunity to vote its approval for those policies earlier than two years from now, when the whole negotiation has been completed?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My right hon. and learned Friend has raised a matter that has also been raised not only by our right hon. Friend Anna Soubry, but by others as well. Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union spent two hours answering questions in the House, and there will be a further debate on matters relating to exiting the European Union later today. There have been a number of such debates already, dealing with issues that are part of the objectives that we have set.

We shall have to consider the result of the decision of the Supreme Court, which may, if it goes against the Government, require legislation. There will be an opportunity in the great repeal Bill to consider a number of issues relating to exiting the EU, but as for voting on the actual deal that we have, we cannot do so until we know what it is. That is why I said yesterday that Parliament would have a vote when we knew what the deal was.

Photo of Eilidh Whiteford Eilidh Whiteford Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Social Justice and Welfare)

The Prime Minister’s passing reference to the interests of Spanish fishermen in her speech yesterday rather let the cat out of the bag that our fishing opportunities are already on the table as a bargaining chip before the Brexit negotiations have even started, so what exactly does the Prime Minister want to offer the Spanish fishermen?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I made the very simple point yesterday that this negotiation is not just about the United Kingdom; there will be others in the European Union who will be looking to ensure that the deal we get is good for the UK and good for the EU. But I have to say to the hon. Lady that if she in any sense thinks that continued membership of the common fisheries policy is what we should be looking for, that is certainly not the case, and it is certainly one of the things people voted against.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

The people of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are again being confronted with the possible loss of emergency services in Stafford or Burton, when our acute hospitals are constantly under intense pressure. Does the Prime Minister agree with me, our hon. Friend Andrew Griffiths and other local MPs that closing A&Es is no way to deal with increased real—not imagined—need?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The important issue is the level of service that is available to people in any particular local area. That is why the sustainability and transformation plans that are being considered and have been published are being taken into account and being considered at a local level, so that local clinicians and local people will be able to agree what is best in their particular area.

Photo of Gordon Marsden Gordon Marsden Shadow Minister (Education)

Last Friday I went to Blackpool Victoria hospital where the number of people waiting 12 hours or more in A&E doubled last year, with 100 of them aged 90 or over. Trust managers told me that the biggest factor in delays is discharging patients who cannot get community care, and my local paper said that Government cuts have eroded support for them. Will the Prime Minister stop waffling about her shared society, listen to her own budget watchdog saying that we will need £30 billion for older people in the next 10 years, and put that money not into corporation tax cuts but into local adult care and the NHS?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Just looking at the figures on what has happened in health in the hon. Gentleman’s area, I see that there are more doctors in his NHS foundation trust and significantly more nurses, but the—[Interruption.] I know what the hon. Gentleman is talking about and I am about to comment on it, but Angela Rayner, who is shouting from a sedentary position, might have recognised that he started off talking about the NHS, which is what I am also commenting on. [Interruption.]

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. I am not going to allow an exchange across the Dispatch Box or across the House at this point. The Prime Minister was asked a question [Interruption.] Order. I require no help from Mr Mahmood, which is of zilch value. The Prime Minister will answer, and she will be heard with courtesy, including by the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Gordon Marsden asked me about pressures on the national health service. We are seeing more doctors and nurses in his Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and health funding in the hon. Gentleman’s area will be £3 billion this year, and that will be rising with a further £450 million by 2020-21.

As I have said in this House before, we are putting extra money into social care. We are giving local authorities the opportunity to raise more money and spend it on social care. But this is not just about more money; it is about ensuring best practice is spread throughout the country and it is about a long-term solution to sustainable social care for the future, an issue that has been ducked by Governments, including a Labour Government for 13 years.

Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman Conservative, Boston and Skegness

On Friday the east coast of England faced the threat of a tidal surge that endangered tens of thousands of homes and thousands of lives. A simple change in the weather meant that flooding was averted, but will the Prime Minister join me in praising the response of the emergency services in planning ahead, involving the Army, the Coastguard, the fire and ambulance services and the police, to make sure that the best possible plans were made? Will she further join me in making sure that the public know that in future these warnings should always be taken seriously?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend raises an important point, and I am happy to join him in commending the action of all those in the emergency services, in our armed forces and in local authorities who worked so hard to ensure that this problem was dealt with. As he said, a change in the weather took place, but it is crucial that when these warnings are given, people recognise that they are given for the very good reason that there is concern about the danger that could take place. The efforts that were put in protected tens of thousands of properties, and I am pleased to see that we have learned from the work done on previous flooding incidents. The work between the emergency services, local services and the armed forces was much better co-ordinated than has perhaps been the case in the past, so we have been able to learn from the flooding in the past.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee

In response to the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), the Prime Minister talked about her desire to give clarity around our exit from the EU. Many of my constituents are European citizens who are paying tax and bringing up their families here. What assurance can she give them about their future, particularly if they change employer or are freelancers?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

One of the objectives I set out in my speech yesterday was something I have said before about the guaranteeing of rights for EU citizens living here in the UK, but I also want to see the rights of UK citizens living in the 27 member states being guaranteed. I remain open, and I encourage others across Europe to agree with me that this is an issue we should look at as early as possible in order to give people the confidence and reassurance that the hon. Lady is looking for .

Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset

In supporting my right hon. Friend’s endeavours in facing the difficult challenges in social care and the national health service, may I invite her to endorse the concept and continuance of community hospitals in our market towns across the country? Those hospitals, including the Westminster Memorial hospital in Shaftesbury in my constituency, provide a vital piece of the jigsaw in our national health service.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am sure that the Westminster Memorial hospital in Shaftesbury is providing good services for local people. The structure of local services is of course a matter for discussion at local level, and it is crucial that local clinicians and others agree that we have a safe and secure service for people and that they are provided with the NHS services that they need at the most appropriate level. I fully accept my hon. Friend’s point that we often think only about the major district general hospitals and acute hospitals when actually the NHS is made up of many different parts. We need to ensure that patients are being treated at the most appropriate level for their needs.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Europe), Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader

How can abandoning membership of a customs union that takes 68% of Wales’s exports—including, crucially, 90% of our food and drink exports—and that supports 200,000 jobs cause anything other than “calamitous…self-harm”?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

What we will be doing is negotiating a free trade agreement with the European Union to get the best possible access for trade with the EU, but we also want to be able to negotiate trade agreements with other countries around the world. A number of countries have already expressed interest in doing that with us. We want to do that to open up new export markets being delivered for businesses here in the United Kingdom, including the sort of trade in Wales that the hon. Gentleman is talking about. On the question of customs with the European Union, we want an arrangement that will involve the most frictionless borders possible.