This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
The Government chose to launch the pupil premium at Spire Junior School in Chesterfield, where 70% of pupils receive free school meals. The headteacher, Dave Shaw, was going to run the great north run for a cancer charity. However, the Prime Minister’s new schools funding formula means that Spire Junior School now faces the biggest cuts in all of Derbyshire. Running for cash is now the only alternative to sacking staff. Will she go to the finish line and tell Dave Shaw how this is a fairer funding formula?
I am pleased to say that, in the local authority that covers the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, we have seen an increase of over 17,000 children at good or outstanding schools since 2010. That is down to Government changes and the hard work of teachers and other staff in the schools. For a very long time, it has been the general view—I have campaigned on this for a long time—that we need to see a fairer funding formula for schools. What the Government have brought forward is a consultation on a fairer funding formula. We will look at the results of that fairer funding formula and will bring forward our firm proposals in due course.
Over the last 12 months, as a member of the Defence Committee, I have had the opportunity to look into the Iraq Historic Allegations Team and how we as a country more broadly deal with historical allegations against our servicemen and women. This has been a deeply disturbing experience not only for those of us who have served, but for many Members across the House. I know that the Prime Minister gets this, but will she commit to redouble her and her Government’s efforts to get a grip on this historical allegations process so that never again will our servicemen and women be exposed to the likes of Phil Shiner?
I am sure the whole House will want to join me in praising the bravery and commitment of all those who serve in our armed forces. I thank my hon. Friend for the work that he is doing on the Defence Committee, because, of course, he brings personal expertise to that work. Those who serve on the frontline deserve our support when they get home, and I can assure him of the Government’s commitment to that. All troops facing allegations receive legal aid from the Government, with the guarantee that it will not be claimed back. In relation to IHAT, which he specifically referred to, we are committed to reducing its case load to a small number of credible cases as quickly as possible. On the action that has been taken in relation to the individual he has referred to, I think it is absolutely appalling when people try to make a business out of chasing after our brave troops.
Nine out of 10 NHS trusts say their hospitals have been at unsafe levels of overcrowding. One in six accident and emergency units in England is set to be closed or downgraded. Could the Prime Minister please explain how closing A&E departments will tackle overcrowding and ever-growing waiting lists?
First, I extend my thanks and, I am sure, those of the whole House to the hard-working staff in the NHS, who do a great job day in and day out treating patients. Yes, we recognise there are heavy pressures on the NHS. That is why, this year, we are funding the NHS at £1.3 billion more than the Labour party promised at the last election. The right hon. Gentleman refers specifically to accident and emergency. What is our response in accident and emergency? We see 600 more A&E consultants, 1,500 more A&E doctors and 2,000 more paramedics. It is not about standing up, making a soundbite and asking a question; it is about delivering results, and that is what this Conservative Government are doing.
Congratulating A&E staff is one thing; paying them properly is another. I hope the Prime Minister managed to see the BBC report on the Royal Blackburn A&E department, which showed that people had to wait up to 13 hours and 52 minutes to be seen. A major cause of the pressure on A&Es is the £4.6 billion cut in the social care budget since 2010. Earlier this week, Liverpool’s very esteemed adult social care director, Samih Kalakeche, resigned, saying:
“Frankly I can’t see social services surviving after two years. That’s the absolute maximum... people are suffering, and we are really only seeing the tip of the iceberg.”
What advice do the Government have for the people of Liverpool in this situation?
Order. It is bad enough when Members who are within the curtilage of the Chamber shout; those who are not absolutely should not do so. It is a discourtesy to the House of Commons—nothing more, nothing less. Please do not do it.
The right hon. Gentleman referred at an early stage of his question to Blackburn. I am happy to say that compared to 2010 there are 129 more hospital doctors and 413 more nurses in Blackburn’s East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust. He then went on to talk about waiting times. Waiting times can be an issue. Where is it that you wait a week longer for pneumonia treatment, a week longer for heart disease treatment, seven weeks longer for cataract treatment, 11 weeks longer for hernia treatment, and 21 weeks longer for a hip operation? It is not in England—it is in Wales. Who is in power in Wales? Labour.
My question was about the comments from Samih Kalakeche in Liverpool and why the people of Liverpool are having to suffer these great cuts. Liverpool has asked to meet the Government on four occasions.
The crisis is so bad that until yesterday David Hodge, the Conservative leader of Surrey County Council, planned to hold a referendum for a 15% increase in council tax. At the last minute, it was called off. Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether or not a special deal was done for Surrey?
The decision as to whether or not to hold a referendum in Surrey is entirely a matter for the local authority in Surrey—Surrey County Council.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the issue of social care, which we have exchanged on across this Dispatch Box before. As I have said before, we do need to find a long-term, sustainable solution for social care in this country. I recognise the short-term pressures. That is why we have enabled local authorities to put more money into social care. We have provided more money. Over the next two years, £900 million more will be available for social care. But we also need to look at ensuring that good practice is spread across the whole country. We can look at places such as Barnsley, North Tyneside, St Helens and Rutland. Towards the end of last year, there were virtually no delayed discharges attributable to social care in those councils. But we also need to look long term. That is why the Cabinet Office is driving a review, with the relevant Departments, to find a sustainable solution, which the Labour party ducked for far too long.
My question was whether there had been a special deal done for Surrey. The leader said that they had had many conversations with the Government. We know they have, because I have been leaked copies of texts sent by the Tory leader, David Hodge, intended for somebody called “Nick” who works for Ministers in the Department for Communities and Local Government. One of the texts reads:
“I am advised that DCLG officials have been working on a solution and you will be contacting me to agree a memorandum of understanding.”
Will the Government now publish this memorandum of understanding, and while they are about it, will all councils be offered the same deal?
What we have given all councils is the opportunity to raise a 3% precept on council tax, to go into social care. The right hon. Gentleman talks about understanding. What the Labour party fails to understand—[Interruption.]
Order. There is far too much noise. Mr Pound, calm yourself—you are supposed to be a senior statesman—and Mr Rotheram, you should reserve your shouting for the stands at Anfield.
As I say, all councils have the opportunity to raise the 3% precept, to put that funding into the provision of social care. What the Labour party fails to understand is that this is not just a question of looking at money; it is a question of looking at spreading best practice and finding a sustainable solution. I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that if we look at social care provision across the entire country, we will see that the last thing that social care providers need is another one of Labour’s bouncing cheques.
There was a second text from the Surrey County Council leader to “Nick”. It says:
“The numbers you indicated are the numbers I understand are acceptable for me to accept and call off the R”.
I have been reading a bit of John le Carré and apparently “R” means “referendum”—it is very subtle, all this. He goes on to say in his text to “Nick”:
“If it is possible for that info to be sent to myself I can then revert back soonest, really want to kill this off”.
So, how much did the Government offer Surrey to “kill this off”, and is the same sweetheart deal on offer to every council facing the social care crisis created by this Government?
I have made clear to the right hon. Gentleman what has been made available to every council, which is the ability to raise the precept. I have to say to him—[Interruption.]
Order. As colleagues know, I never mind how long Prime Minister’s questions take. The questions and the answers must be heard.
The right hon. Gentleman comes to the Dispatch Box making all sorts of claims. Yet again, what we get from Labour is alternative facts; what it really needs is an alternative leader.
My question was, what deal was offered to Surrey that got it to call off a referendum, and will the same deal be offered to every other council going through a social care crisis?
Hospital wards are overcrowded, a million people are not getting the care they need, and family members, mostly women, are having to give up work to care for loved ones. Every day that the Prime Minister fails to act, this crisis gets worse. Will she finally come clean and provide local authorities with the funding they need to fund social care properly, so that our often elderly and vulnerable people can be treated with the support and dignity that they deserve in a civilised society?
The deal that is on offer to all councils is the one that I have already set out. Let me be very clear with the right hon. Gentleman. As ever, he stands up and consistently asks for more spending, more money, more funding. What he always fails to recognise is that you can spend money on social care and the national health service only if you have a strong economy to deliver the wealth that you need. There is a fundamental difference between us. When I talk—[Interruption.]
Order. I am sorry, but there is still too much noise in the Chamber. People observing our proceedings, both here and outside, want the questions heard and the answers heard, and they will be.
There is a difference between us. When I talk about half a trillion pounds, it is about the money we will be spending on the NHS this Parliament. When Labour Members talk about half a trillion pounds, it is about the money they want to borrow: Conservatives investing in the NHS; Labour bankrupting Britain.
Significant challenges face this great nation of ours, Prime Minister, one of which is tackling mental health, particularly for young people. The pressures of juggling school life and family life, and of staying safe and feeling valued online, are more difficult than ever. Will the Prime Minister meet me and my team to discuss the mental health app we have been working on and developing to give young people a toolbox to help them in their times of crisis?
I am very interested to hear of the important work my hon. Friend is doing in that important area. As he knows, I think we need to put more of a focus on mental health and make progress. I am pleased to say that something like 1,400 more people are accessing mental health services every day. That is an advance, but more needs to be done. We are putting more money—£68 million—into improving mental healthcare through digital innovation, which sounds as if it fits right into what he is looking at. There will be a focus on that with children’s and young people’s mental health in mind. He might want to look out for the Department of Health and Department for Education joint Green Paper on that, which they will publish in October.
Last night, parliamentarians from across the Chamber and across the parties voted overwhelmingly against the UK Government’s Brexit plans—in the Scottish Parliament. If the United Kingdom is a partnership of equals, will the Prime Minister compromise like the Scottish Government and reach a negotiated agreement before invoking article 50, or will she just carry on regardless?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, when the UK Government negotiate, we will negotiate as the Government for the whole United Kingdom. We have put in place the Joint Ministerial Committee arrangements through various committees, which enable us to work closely with the devolved Administrations to identify the particular issues they want represented as we put our views together. We have said that we will intensify the discussions within that JMC arrangement, and that is exactly what we will be doing.
When the Prime Minister was in Edinburgh on
We are ensuring that we are working closely with the Scottish Government, and indeed with the other devolved Administrations, as we take this matter forward. I would just remind the right hon. Gentleman of two things. First, the Supreme Court was very clear that the Scottish Parliament does not have a veto on the triggering of article 50—the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which is going through the House, obviously gives the power to the Government to trigger article 50. I would also remind him of this point, because he constantly refers to the interests of Scotland inside the European Union: an independent Scotland would not be in the European Union.
The people of Rossendale and Darwen warmly welcome the Government’s housing White Paper. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, when it comes to providing more security for renters, building more affordable homes and helping people to buy their own home, this party—the Conservative party—is fixing our broken housing market?
I am happy to agree with my hon. Friend. Our broken housing market is one of the greatest barriers to progress in Britain today, and the excellent housing White Paper brought out by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government sets out the steps we will take to fix it. My hon. Friend is right: it is the Conservatives in government who will support local authorities to deliver more of the right homes in the right places, to encourage faster build-out of developments—I am sure everybody recognises the problem of planning permissions that are given and then not built out—and to create the conditions for a more competitive and diverse housing market. We are calling for action and we are setting out the responsibilities of all parties in building the homes that Britain needs.
Does the Prime Minister agree that in a 21st-century Parliament the rules should not enable any Member to speak for 58 minutes in a three-hour debate? Does she agree that the rules of the House should be changed to prevent filibustering and ensure that Members on both sides of the House get a fair share of the time available?
I find that a rather curious question from the hon. Gentleman. As it happens, last night I was out of the House between the two votes. I switched on the BBC parliamentary channel and I saw the hon. Gentleman speaking. I turned over to something else. I switched back to the parliamentary channel and he was still speaking. I switched over to something else. I switched back and he was still speaking. He is the last person to complain about filibustering in this House. [Interruption.]
Order. Mr Docherty-Hughes, you seem to be in a state of permanent over-excitement. Calm yourself, man. Take some sort of medicament and it will soothe you. We must hear Mrs Villiers.
My right hon. Friend raises an important point that is, I know, of concern to many people in the House and outside. We should be proud that in the UK we have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world—indeed, one of the highest scores for animal protection in the world. Leaving the EU will not change that. I can assure her that we are committed to maintaining and, where possible, improving standards of welfare in the UK, while ensuring of course that our industry is not put at a competitive disadvantage.
Last week, the Russian Duma shamefully decriminalised domestic violence committed against women and children. Given the Prime Minister’s new global Britain approach, I trust that the Government will encourage Russia to rethink that regressive approach, which trivialises domestic violence. Does she agree that ratifying the Istanbul convention would send a message to Russia and the world about the priority that should be placed on ending gender-based violence?
I am proud that in this country we have strengthened the law on domestic violence and violence against women and girls. We see this as a retrograde step by the Russian Government. Repealing existing legislation sends out the wrong message on what is a global problem. We have joined others in the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in criticising that decision.
Each year, the NHS reportedly spends £80 million more than it needs to on prescriptions for basic painkillers that can be sourced much more cheaply, but at the same time secondary breast cancer patients face being denied life-extending drugs such as Kadcyla by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Will my right hon. Friend review that poor allocation of resources and give breast cancer sufferers the hope that they deserve?
This is obviously a very important issue that my hon. Friend has raised. I understand that on the point of basic medication it is not the fact that the NHS pays more for basic painkillers than on the high street: in fact, its prices are lower. In the case of Kadcyla and similar drugs, it is right that difficult decisions are made on the basis of clinical evidence. I understand that NICE is undertaking a comprehensive assessment before making a final recommendation, and in the meantime Kadcyla is still available to patients.
Last month, Sir Anthony Hart published his report on historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland. Given the uncertain political situation with the Northern Ireland political institutions, if the Executive is not up and running within a month, will the Prime Minister commit to implementing the report in full?
This was obviously an important review. We have our own inquiry into historic child abuse in England and Wales. I recognise the hon. Gentleman’s point about looking ahead to the future. The elections in Northern Ireland will take place on
The Prime Minister has been crystal clear on her negotiating objectives as we prepare to leave the European Union. Does she agree that regions like the west midlands, part of which I represent, need a voice in the negotiations to ensure we take the opportunities presented by Brexit to raise investment in education, skills and infrastructure and to ensure that her vision of a global Britain represents the interests of all the regions of England, as well as the broader United Kingdom?
I agree with my hon. Friend. When we negotiate as a United Kingdom, we will be negotiating for the whole of the United Kingdom and taking account of all parts of the United Kingdom. We have a real ambition to make the west midlands an engine for growth. That is about growing the region’s economy and more jobs. Money has been put into growth deal funding and, for example, the Birmingham rail hub. The west midlands will of course be getting a strong voice nationally with a directly elected Mayor in May. I believe Andy Street, with both local expertise and business experience, will be a very good Mayor for the west midlands.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman back again to the Chamber.
I’m looking pretty slim as well, Mr Speaker!
I had five months of NHS treatment at the Newcastle Royal Victoria infirmary under the auspices of Professor Griffin, a marvellous surgeon. Seeing as I might have come out with palliative care, I think he has just about saved my life. That is the best side of the NHS. The service I received was absolutely wonderful, but there is a flip side. What we have today is what are called “corridor nurses”, who look after patients on trolleys in corridors. Quite honestly, Prime Minister, that is not the way we want the health service to be run. We want it to be run in the way it saved me. Get your purse open and give them the money they want.
As Mr Speaker said, I welcome the hon. Gentleman back to his place in the Chamber. I commend the surgeon and all those in the national health service who treated him and enabled him to be here today and continue his duties. There are, as we know, surgeons, doctors, nurses and other staff up and down the NHS day in, day out saving lives. We should commend them for all they do. The north-east is a very good example of some of the really good practice in the NHS. I want to see that good practice spread across the NHS in the whole country.
I am not alone in hearing from families long-settled here in Britain who are deeply worried that they could be separated after we leave the European Union. I know the Prime Minister will not want that to happen. Will she reassure all our constituents today that those who were born elsewhere in the European Union but settled here in the UK, married or in partnerships with British citizens will have the right to remain?
My hon. Friend obviously raises an issue that is of concern all across this House. As she says, it is of concern to many individuals outside the House who want reassurance about their future. As I have said, I want to be able to give, and I expect to be able to give, that reassurance, but I want to see the same reassurance for UK citizens living in the EU. What I can say to her is that when I trigger article 50, I intend to make it clear that I want this to be a priority for an early stage of the negotiations, so we can address this issue and give reassurance to the people concerned.
Just two weeks ago, Quamari Serunkuma-Barnes, 15 years old, left school, was stabbed four times and died. Three days earlier, Djodjo Nsaka, 19 years old, was stabbed to death in Wembley. Just a few months earlier, two of my young constituents, James Owusu-Ajyekum, 22 years old, and Oliver Tetlow, 27 years old, were killed in what the police say was a case of mistaken identity. Next week, I am meeting the deputy Mayor of London to discuss this and other issues. Will the Prime Minister meet me, fellow MPs and my borough commander to talk about this issue and the Sycamore project, which we would like rolled out in London and beyond?
First, may I send the condolences of the whole House to the families and friends of all those the hon. Lady refers to who were brutally stabbed and attacked in knife attacks? This is obviously an important issue, particularly in London, and we want it addressed. A lot of good work has been done. I am not aware of the Sycamore project, but I would be happy to hear more details of it.
From medics at Kingston hospital to researchers at Kingston University and the staff at growing electronics businesses such as Genuine Solutions, Kingston’s workforce is enriched by highly skilled workers from abroad, so will my right hon. Friend confirm that, after we leave the EU, we will continue to welcome highly skilled workers from the EU and beyond?
We have been very clear that we want to bring the net migration numbers down, but we also want to ensure that the brightest and the best are still welcome here in the UK. That is why people want to see the UK Government making decisions about people coming here from the EU. We are clear, however, as I said in my Lancaster House speech, that there will still be immigration from the EU into the UK. We want to ensure that the brightest and the best can come here.
Yesterday, the Brexit Minister claimed that Parliament would have a meaningful vote on the final EU deal. Will the Prime Minister confirm that, under her plans, Parliament will either have to accept what the Government offer or fall back on World Trade Organisation rules and that, in the event of no deal, there will be no vote at all? In reality, is this not just a case of take it or leave it? It is not a meaningful concession; it is a con.
We have been clear on this, but I am happy to reiterate what the Minister said yesterday. We have looked at this matter. I said in my Lancaster House speech that there would be a vote on the final deal, but there were a number of questions about what exactly that meant. We will bring forward a motion; the motion will be on the final agreement; it will be for approval by both Houses of Parliament; it will be before the final agreement is concluded, and we expect—I know that this has been an issue for several right hon. and hon. Members—and intend that that will happen before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement.
The Prime Minister knows that Trafford schools are the best in the country, but they are also in one of f40’s worst-funded areas. Perversely, the draft funding formula would actually cut funding to Trafford schools, not increase it. When she reviews the draft proposals, will she please look for a new formula that guarantees that all the worst-funded areas see an increase in funding, not a cut?
My hon. Friend raises an important matter that is on the minds of a number of right hon. and hon. Friends. As I said earlier, the current system of funding is unfair, not transparent and out of date. I want a system that supports our aspiration to ensure that every child has a good school place. In looking at these reforms, I can assure my hon. Friend that we want to get this right, which is why we are consulting and why we will look closely at the responses to the consultation.
Npower has announced a 9.8% increase on dual fuel bills, which even the former boss of Npower, Paul Massara, has described as “shocking”. EDF has announced an 8.4% electricity hike, and it is reported that British Gas is preparing its 11 million customers for a 9% increase. Ofgem has moved to protect those who are on prepayment meters with a cap on their energy bills, so why does the Prime Minister not demand similar protection for the majority of customers, who are being ripped off, as the Competition and Markets Authority has said, to the sum of £1.4 billion a year?
The right hon. Lady may have missed the fact that we have said that where we think markets are not working, we will look at any measures that are needed—and the energy market is one of those we are looking at the moment.
In the spirit of neutrality, Speaker, the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech last month was a rallying call to put the divisions of the referendum behind us and to unite behind a bold vision for a stronger, fairer more global Britain. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that this is a vision that every Member should support, because the more united we are, the stronger our negotiating hand will be—
Order, I apologise for interrupting, but the hon. Gentleman must be heard.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I think all of us and everybody in the country wants to unite behind the Government’s work to ensure that we get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union, and I believe that we can get a deal that will be in the interests of both the UK and the EU. I had hoped that I would be able to welcome the shadow Home Secretary to the Front Bench in time for the vote that is going to take place later tonight. Perhaps Labour Members are starting to realise that their only real headache is their leader.
What we want to do is to ensure that we negotiate a deal with the European Union that enables us to have the best possible deal in trading with and operating within the European Union single market in goods and services. I believe that is possible precisely because, as I have just said in response to my hon. Friend Karl McCartney, such a deal would be good not just for us, but for the EU as well.
The Prime Minister rightly argues for true parity of esteem between mental and physical health, but parents in York have been told that their children must wait up to a year for an assessment by child and adolescent mental health services. The Department of Health does not currently record these figures, so will my right hon. Friend consider making the monitoring of CAMHS waiting times a requirement?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. As I set out a few weeks ago, the Government will be reviewing the operation of CAMHS across the country, because I recognise some of the concerns that hon. Members have raised about it. We want to ensure that children and young people have easy access to mental health at the right time, because of the evidence that a significant proportion of mental health problems that arise later in life actually start at the age of childhood and adolescence. We have made more money available to support transformation in children’s and young people’s mental health, but the shadow Health Secretary—sorry, I mean the Health Secretary is on—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is in his place, as well. I hope the shadow Health Secretary will agree with me that we need to review CAMHS and ensure that we give the right to support to children, young people and adolescents with mental health problems. We will look at the issue that my hon. Friend has raised.
Many hon. Members have recently made the long journey up to west Cumbria for the Copeland by-election, and will all have experienced the parlous state of our roads and our local railways. In fact, it has taken a by-election for Transport Ministers to look seriously at, and show any real interest in, the situation. Is the Prime Minister planning a trip herself, so that she, too, can experience why we need proper investment from this Government into the transport infrastructure in west Cumbria?
The Government are putting more money into infrastructure throughout the country. The Labour party had 13 years in which to improve transport in west Cumbria, and did not do anything about it.
I recently visited the headquarters of Woodall Nicholson, a world-class coachbuilding company based in my constituency, and heard about its exciting plans for the future. Will my right hon. Friend join me in emphasising the importance of skills and manufacturing to our economy, especially as we look to leave the European Union?
I thank my hon. Friend for drawing our attention to the example of Woodall Nicholson. We are pleased to hear that it has those good plans for the future. As we leave the EU, we will be doing so from a position of strength, and my hon. Friend is right to say that skills and manufacturing are important parts of our economy for the future. That is why, in the industrial strategy, we are looking into how we can develop the excellence that we have in the United Kingdom to ensure that we have a prosperous, growing economy for the future.
Last week, Mr Clarke pointed out that the Prime Minister’s aspiration to achieve barrier-free, tariff-free trade with the single market, getting all the benefits but paying none of the costs, was akin to disappearing down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. I think that the Prime Minister makes a very interesting choice for Alice, but if she does not manage to achieve that high ambition, will she produce an analysis of what trading on the basis of WTO rules would mean for our economy, so that we, too, can make a proper choice?
I commend my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke for the significant service that he has given to the House and his constituents over the years. He and I have worked well over a number of years—although I should add that, when I was Home Secretary, I used to say, “I locked ’em up and he let ’em out.”
The Government believe that it is possible, within the two-year time frame, to secure agreement not just on our withdrawal from the European Union, but on the trade arrangements that will ensure that we have a strong strategic partnership with the European Union in the future.
When my right hon. Friend met Mr Netanyahu earlier this week, did she impress on him that a lasting peace settlement can only be secured if young Palestinians and young Israelis can look forward to a job, a share in prosperity and a life without fear? Does she agree that that can only be achieved through face-to-face negotiations, and will she join the Israeli Prime Minister in pressing the Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority to engage in such negotiations?
My right hon. Friend has made an important point. We continue, as a Conservative Government, to believe that the two-state solution is the right one. It means a viable Palestinian state, but also a safe and secure Israel. Of course, it is for the parties to negotiate: obviously, there are others in the international arena who are doing their work to facilitate an agreement in the middle east, but ultimately it is for the two parties to agree on a way forward.