Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st November 2017.

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Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Labour, Bolsover 12:00 am, 1st November 2017

If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 1 November.

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

I know that Members across the House will have been appalled by last night’s cowardly terrorist attack in New York. Our thoughts are with all those affected, and we stand united with the people of New York.

Members on both sides of the House have been deeply concerned about allegations of harassment and mistreatment here in Westminster. This demands a response, which is why my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has been meeting with her counterparts, and we are hopeful that all sides can work together quickly to resolve this. I have written to all party leaders to invite them to a meeting early next week, so that we can discuss a common, transparent and independent grievance procedure for all those working in Parliament. We have a duty to ensure that everyone coming here to contribute to public life is treated with respect.

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

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Labour, Bolsover

Is the Prime Minister aware that some very powerful research has been done on the question of High Speed 2? It shows that for the first 140 miles, in the leafy suburbs of the south, nearly 30% of the line will be in tunnels to avoid knocking down houses, yet now we are told that the figure is only 2% for the whole of the north. Why? It is because HS2 says, “It is too costly; knock the houses down.” Will she arrange for a meeting with people from my area, to avoid another 30 houses being knocked down in Newton, which is part of Bolsover? Is it not high time that this Government stopped treating our people like second-class citizens?

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

I am sure that the Department for Transport will be happy to look into the question the hon. Gentleman has raised, but of course the reason why we are doing HS2 is that it is important to increase the capacity of the railway lines going through to the north. This will be a very important contribution to the United Kingdom economy, and I assure him that if he looks at everything this Government have done, with the northern powerhouse, the midlands engine and the significant investment in infrastructure across all parts of the country, he will see that this is a Government who want to ensure that this is a country that works for everyone.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

I join the Prime Minister in adding that my thoughts, along with Wealden’s, are with New Yorkers. The shocking scenes in New York will have brought back awful memories of terrorist attacks here, and, as we degrade and destroy Daesh at its base, it will export its death cult ideology. Will my right hon. Friend urge our international partners to join with us in delivering the recent United Nations resolution to investigate and prosecute Daesh terrorists, so that we can hold them to account for their vile crimes?

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

My hon. Friend raises a very important point, and it is important that we ensure that we have a complete response to this issue of the threat of terrorism. That involves dealing with the problem at source, and it also involves dealing with terrorism wherever it occurs. But our message is very clear: our values will prevail and the terrorists will not win. However, as we do this, we need to ensure that, as my hon. Friend has said, we work with international partners. We want to develop safe spaces in Syria and Iraq as they re-emerge from this terrorist threat that has been on their streets, but that has also, obviously, affected us here and others elsewhere across the world. Crucially, we have done a lot of work in helping those in situ to gain evidence that can be used to ensure that anybody who is involved in the horrors of the attacks that we see can be properly brought to justice.

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

I put on the record that I am happy to meet with the Prime Minister and all party leaders to discuss the sex harassment allegations that the right hon. Lady rightly referred to. We need better protections for all in this House, and the House must involve workplace trade unions in that, but it is also incumbent on all parties to have robust procedures in place to protect and support victims of sexual abuse and harassment.

I also join the Prime Minister in sending our solidarity to the people of New York and their mayor Bill de Blasio on yesterday’s appalling terrorist attack.

I hope the whole House will join me in paying tribute to two former Labour colleagues who, sadly, passed away this week: Candy Atherton, the former Member for Falmouth and Camborne, and Frank Doran, former Member for Aberdeen North. Both did enormous good work, at opposite ends of the UK, to diligently represent their communities and constituencies. They will be sadly missed by us all, particularly in the Labour party, which they served so well for their entire lives.

In 2010, the Labour Government intervened through HMRC to shut down an Isle of Man scheme used to import yachts into the European Union and thus avoid tax. A similar scheme has recently been exposed relating to the import of business jets into the Isle of Man, so can the Prime Minister assure the House that the HMRC will investigate these new allegations diligently?

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

The right hon. Gentleman referred to a number of points in his question, and I will address them all.

On the first point, the right hon. Gentleman is right that it is absolutely essential that political parties have processes to deal with allegations of misconduct. We also have the ministerial code, and proper investigations must take place against it where that is appropriate. But I believe that it is also crucial for everybody working in this Parliament—be they working for a Member of Parliament or the House authorities, or a journalist working in this Parliament—that there are proper processes in this Parliament for people to be able to report misconduct and for that to be dealt with. That is very important and I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for saying he will meet with me, and I hope with other party leaders, to look at this issue; I see that the leader of the Scottish National party, Ian Blackford, is nodding.

I join the right hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to Frank Doran and Candy Atherton. Frank Doran was first elected in 1987 and served two separate terms as the MP for Aberdeen. He chaired the Administration Committee for five years and was a tireless campaigner for safety in the oil and gas industry. I am sure that everybody will recall the commitment with which he served in this House, and join me in offering condolences to his family and friends. Candy Atherton was first elected in 1997, when I was first elected. She served for eight years as a Member of Parliament and was a strong campaigner for women’s rights and disability issues. She continued to champion those causes on Cornwall Council after she had left this House. Once again, I am sure that Members across the House will join me in offering condolences to her family and friends.

The right hon. Gentleman also talked about tax avoidance. I can assure him that, when cases are referred to HMRC in relation to tax avoidance, it takes them seriously and looks into them seriously. We have taken action collectively as a Government over the last few years since 2010 when we first came in, and we have secured almost £160 billion in additional compliance revenues since 2010 through a number of measures that we have taken to ensure that we clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance.

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

There are 957 business jets in the Isle of Man, and that seems a bit excessive for any island, anywhere. I hope that that will be investigated and that due tax is collected from those people who are trying to avoid it. Estimates of the scale of tax dodging range from £34 billion, which is around the size of our schools budget, to £119 billion, which is the size of the NHS budget. The Isle of Man VAT avoidance allegations are part of a wider leak from a Bermuda-based law firm said to be on a similar scale to the Panama papers. Will the Prime Minister commit HMRC to fully investigate all evidence of UK tax avoidance and evasion from this leak, and prosecute where feasible?

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

I have given the right hon. Gentleman an assurance in my first answer that HMRC does take these issues very seriously, does investigate and does take action, and that, where appropriate, tax loopholes are closed. What is important is to look at the record, and I have mentioned the additional £160 billion of compliance revenues since 2010. We have announced or implemented more than 75 measures since 2010 to tackle tax avoidance and evasion. The right hon. Gentleman referred to one that had been done by the Labour Government, and we have continued to act on this issue. We will be raising billions of pounds more as a result of that. I want to reassure him: I think most people would recognise that HMRC actually wants to collect tax. That is its job, and it looks to make sure that it can do so as much as possible.

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

Well, it is rather strange then that Britain has reportedly blocked a French-led proposal that would have placed Bermuda on the European Union tax haven blacklist. Perhaps the Prime Minister could explain why that would be the case. The Panama papers exposed many wealthy individuals and big businesses who avoided tax through offshore trusts. Labour backs any necessary changes to toughen our laws against aggressive tax avoidance. Just yesterday, we tried to strengthen legislation on the beneficial ownership of trusts, through amendments that we tabled to the Finance Bill. Why did the Government vote against them?

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

The right hon. Gentleman raises the issue of the British overseas territories. In fact, this Government have taken action in relation those territories—action that was not taken by the previous Labour Government. If he is saying to me that the whole question of tax evasion needs constantly to be looked at and that the Government need to be prepared to act, my answer is, yes, we are and we will.

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

There is a strange pattern here. In 2015 alone, Conservative Members of the European Parliament voted against five reports that would introduce methods of fighting tax avoidance and evasion, and HMRC admitted last week that multinational companies avoid paying £5.8 billion in taxes in 2016. Despite that, HMRC is currently cutting another 8,000 staff. So will the Prime Minister assure the House that, instead of more cuts, HMRC will get more resources in the upcoming Budget to tackle the scourge of aggressive tax avoidance and evasion?

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

I have reassured the right hon. Gentleman that HMRC is acting, has been acting since this Conservative party came into government in 2010, and will continue to act. In asking these questions, the right hon. Gentleman might want to reflect on why, before the dissolution of Parliament earlier this year, the Labour party refused to support anti-tax avoidance and evasion measures brought forward by this Government. His party stopped them.

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

My question was about why Conservative MPs opposed what Labour was proposing yesterday. Last month’s European Parliament committee of inquiry, set up in the wake of the Panama papers scandal, claimed that the UK is obstructing the fight against tax dodging and money laundering. Just last week, the EU’s Competition Commissioner announced an inquiry into UK taxation rules that may have institutionalised tax avoidance by multinational corporations. Is the Prime Minister not concerned that vital revenue to fund schools and hospitals is being lost? Will she change the rules in the Budget?

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

We have taken an extra £160 billion in compliance revenue since 2010. He comments on measures that were proposed this week but, as I said in my previous answer, we would have had more anti-tax evasion measures in place if the Labour party had not blocked them before the last election. This party in government has not just been acting in the UK; we have been working with the Crown dependencies and with the British overseas territories, and we have been leading the world. It was a Conservative Prime Minister who put this on the agenda at the G7 and the G20 for international action against tax avoidance and evasion.

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

If we are leading the world, perhaps the Prime Minister could explain how the amount of income tax paid by the super-rich has fallen from £4.4 billion to £3.5 billion since 2009. Earlier this year, the Public Accounts Committee said that HMRC’s record of getting multi-millionaires to pay their taxes was “dismal” and that the super-rich were getting

“help with their tax affairs that is not available to other taxpayers.”

Our schools’ budgets are being cut, more people are waiting longer for treatment—[Interruption.]

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

Order. We tend to have large doses of this over-excitement every week, but I just give notice that, as usual, I would like to get to the end of the questions on the Order Paper and to facilitate Back-Bench inquiries as well. Members are eating only into their own time; I have all the time in the world.

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

Since Conservative Members get so excited, I must say it again: our schools’ budgets are being cut, more people are waiting longer for treatment on the NHS, and more elderly and disabled people are not getting the social care they need. When it comes to paying taxes, does the Prime Minister think it is acceptable that there is one rule for the super-rich and another for the rest of us?

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

The top 1% of earners in this country are paying 28% of the tax burden. That is the highest percentage ever, under any Government. Once again, the right hon. Gentleman is wrong. Over the next two years, £2.5 billion extra is being put into our schools as a result of decisions taken by this Conservative Government.

The right hon. Gentleman talks about spending on schools and hospitals, and I will tell him where the real problem lies. Today we spend nearly £50 billion in payments on interest to those we have borrowed from as a result of the legacy of the Labour party. That is more than we spend on the NHS pay bill, and it is more than we spend on our core—[Interruption.]

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

Order. The Prime Minister’s answer will be heard, as I indicated that the question from the Leader of the Opposition would be heard. Mr Gapes, you are a senior and cerebral denizen of the House. This excessive gesticulation is not good for you, man. Calm yourself.

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

We spend £50 billion every year on debt interest payments to people we have borrowed from. That is more than the NHS pay bill, it is more than our core schools budget and it is more than we spend on defence. That is the result of the economy we were left by the Labour party in government. And what does the Leader of the Opposition want to do? He wants to borrow £500 billion more, which would make the situation worse and would mean even less money for schools and hospitals.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

On 22 August 2015, 11 men in my constituency tragically lost their lives in the Shoreham airshow disaster. More than 26 months later, no decision has been taken on criminal charges and the coroner’s inquest has been delayed again until November 2018. The families of the victims have just had their application for exceptional case funding rejected by the Legal Aid Agency, and they will likely be the only people at the inquest not to be legally represented. Will my right hon. Friend agree to look at the case again and to meet the families to ensure that they have proper access to justice? This exceptionally tragic case has a much wider public interest for safety at all airshows.

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

My hon. Friend raises a very important issue, and I fully understand the concerns of the families. He talks about the timetable for decisions, and the Department for Transport has accepted the air accidents investigation branch’s recommendation to commission an independent review. The Department is working with the air accidents investigation branch to determine the exact scope of the review. The Civil Aviation Authority has accepted all the recommendations. Considerable work is going on to learn the lessons from this disaster, and obviously we are also committed to ensuring that, where there is a public disaster, people are able to have proper representation. I will ask the Lord Chancellor to look at the questions raised by my hon. Friend.

Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader

May I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks about the zero tolerance there has to be for bad sexual practices and behaviour? I certainly commit my Members to working with the Government to make sure that we have a system that we can be proud of and that will protect all members of the Houses of Parliament.

I also pass on my condolences to the family and friends of Frank Doran on his untimely and sad death this week.

Can the Prime Minister tell the House how much a working single parent can expect to lose because of the roll-out of universal credit?

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

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for agreeing to work across the House on this important issue. He refers to sexual misconduct, but it is important that any processes that are put in place not only look at sexual misconduct but look at issues such as bullying, as well—that is also important.

The right hon. Gentleman has raised the roll-out of universal credit with me before. As he knows, the reason why we have introduced universal credit is to ensure that people are encouraged into the workplace and that when they are in the workplace they are able to keep more of the money they earn. I believe that that is an important principle. It underpins what we are doing and will continue to do so.

Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader

The reality is that new research shows that working single parents could lose an average of £1,350 a year because of the cuts to work allowances. Universal credit is fast becoming Theresa May’s poll tax. The Prime Minister has a habit of U-turning, so will she U-turn one more time and fix the problems with universal credit?

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

I have underlined the principle that lies behind universal credit, which I believe is a very important one. That is why when we look at the support that is given to people it is not just about the support they receive in financial terms on universal credit; it is also about the support they receive to help them to get into the workplace to ensure that they can actually meet the requirements of getting into the workplace and that when they are in the workplace they can keep more of the money they earn. That is an important principle. We will continue to roll out universal credit, looking carefully at its implementation as we do so, because we are doing this in a careful way, over a period of time. But the important principle is that universal credit is a simpler system that ensures people keep more as they earn more.

Photo of Cheryl Gillan Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

In Chesham and Amersham, we are acutely aware that infrastructure is vital for economic success, particularly that of other parts of the country. However, we still have areas that do not have access to high-speed broadband, and with the advent of electric vehicles we are going to need to install an extensive charging network. What further action can the Government take to ensure the timely completion of our broadband infrastructure and what they can do to guarantee the rapid roll-out of electric vehicle charging points, so that Buckinghamshire residents and businesses do not just bear the brunt of infrastructure development, but can take advantage of the opportunities offered by modern technology?

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

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that we want to ensure that we take the advantages offered by modern technology. That is why these issues have been addressed in our industrial strategy and will continue to be addressed. We recognise that when we talk about infrastructure in this country, increasingly the IT infrastructure—the broadband infrastructure—is part of that; this is not only about the physical road and rails infrastructure. So we are investing £790 million in improving broadband, taking our public investment to £1.7 billion. We are also, as she says, leading the world in the development of electric cars, and we need to ensure that we have those vehicle charging points. So we have put in place, and are putting in place, grants and policy measures to ensure that we see those charging points so that people can take advantage of those new vehicles.

Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip

If the Prime Minister is serious about building a country that works for everyone, can she tell the House why under-25s are not included in the national living wage and will she address the scandal that is the national minimum wage for apprentices of £3.50 per hour?

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

It is important that we have the national living wage. It was our party, in government, that introduced the national living wage. It has had an important impact on people and, obviously, the national living wage continues to increase.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

Will the Prime Minister join in the positive comments this week from the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) who welcomed the development of some family hubs? Will she encourage our excellent Conservative mayors and councils to be champions of these hubs, which can so improve the lives of children, including the most vulnerable children, by strengthening their families?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this point. We all recognise the value of stable and strong families, and this is a cause she has championed, not only through her time in this House, but outside it. I am happy to join her in welcoming the development of family hubs, and I will certainly encourage Conservative mayors and councils across the country to be champions of them.

Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Climate Justice)

As the Prime Minister will be fully aware, my great city of Dundee has been repeatedly in the news over the last week: Dundee has launched its European capital of culture bid; it is now the world centre for pharmaceutical innovation; and , no less, listed Dundee as one of the top 10 places to visit on earth, making it “Scotland’s coolest city”. So wouldn’t it be great if the Prime Minister today could finally tell the innovative, creative and cool people of Dundee and the surrounding area what precisely is the UK Government’s date for delivering their full and fair share of the Tay cities deal?

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

I am afraid I did not hear the end of the question. The hon. Gentleman stands up and waxes lyrically about his city of Dundee. He will recall that I was asked about Dundee’s city of culture bid last week, and I made the point that a number of places throughout the UK might put in bids. On the creative industries, I am pleased to see the development of the V&A in Dundee. The Tay cities deal will be important for Dundee and the whole Tay area, as other city deals in Scotland have been for the areas in which they have been agreed.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

Cheltenham general hospital’s A&E is hugely valued by me and my constituents and we want to see it preserved and enhanced. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the local NHS managers who are currently formulating the draft sustainability and transformation plan must listen carefully to the voices of my constituents and others in Gloucestershire, and ensure that any proposals truly command local support?

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

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. We are clear that proposals should be developed at a local level by local clinicians, while taking account of and listening to the views of local residents and local constituents on the relevant matters. It is important that local people are heard and know that decisions have been taken in the light of any concerns they have raised. I understand that any proposals for urgent care that are developed by the Gloucestershire STP will be subject to full public consultation in due course.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport)

Today, the Government will publish their first report detailing progress towards the ratification of the Istanbul convention on violence against women, as required by Eilidh Whiteford’s private Member’s Bill, which was enacted earlier this year. After five years, I hope that today’s report signals that we will not have to wait much longer for ratification. Nevertheless, women fleeing from domestic violence do not have the luxury of time, so just as the Prime Minister has vowed to root out the sexual harassment and misogyny in this place, will she commit to long-term, sustainable funding to ensure that all women have somewhere safe to go when fleeing violence?

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

Over the past few years, both when I was Home Secretary and under my right hon. Friend the current Home Secretary, we have taken steps to ring-fence certain domestic-violence funding over a period of time so that there can be greater certainty for organisations that work in this area. There is much for us to do, because sadly we still see domestic violence and abuse. One of the other steps we are taking is of course to bring in new legislation on domestic violence, which I hope will clarify the situation. Nevertheless, we need to address this across a wide variety of action.

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden Conservative, Hertsmere

How we treat our farmed animals is an indication of our civility as a nation. In this country, we have a record of which we can be rightly proud. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern about reports that there might be a relaxation of our standards as a result of our leaving the European Union? Will she take this opportunity to reassure me that that is not the case and that, in fact, we will seize the opportunity to improve standards and thereby enhance the reputation of British produce?

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

First, I agree with my hon. Friend that we are proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. We want to continue to have a reputation as a country with those high standards, so leaving the European Union is not going to change that. We remain committed to high animal welfare standards. Indeed, as he says, we may have the opportunity to enhance those standards so that we can further demonstrate to people this country’s reputation as a place where they can be safe and secure in the knowledge of the conditions in which their food has been prepared.

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South

The Prime Minister will be aware that 4 million children in our country are growing up in poverty, and that that number has risen. Two thirds of those children are from working families. Does she still seriously believe that the introduction of universal credit will bring that number down?

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

I am pleased to see that the number of children in absolute poverty has actually come down under this Government, but of course we need to be aware of the impact of decisions that have been made. We are looking carefully at the implementation of universal credit. Let me repeat what I said in response to the question of the leader of the Scottish National party, Ian Blackford, which is that the point of universal credit is that it is a more straightforward and simpler system, but also it helps people to get into the workplace and ensures that they keep more of the money that they earn. I think that that is important.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

This Government’s industrial strategy makes the historic commitment to have a fairer distribution of infrastructure spending across the regions—that is our roads, railways and digital networks. In advance of the White Paper, will my right hon. Friend confirm that commitment and the commitment to a rebalancing of our economy by more investment spending in the regions, not least in Yorkshire?

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

My hon. Friend stands up well for his county and constituency on this matter. I am very happy to confirm that we will maintain that commitment in our forthcoming industrial strategy White Paper. We do want to see a fairer distribution of infrastructure spending across the country because we know that infrastructure investment is important to unlocking economic opportunities, economic growth and productivity in our towns, villages and cities. We have backed that with ambitious commitments to increase our spending on infrastructure by 50% over the next four years, but I can assure him that we will be looking at that infrastructure spending across the whole country.

Photo of Lisa Nandy Lisa Nandy Labour, Wigan

I thank the Prime Minister for her opening words on the horrific revelations this week, but can I say to her that, three years ago, I brought evidence to her in this House that Whips had used information about sexual abuse to demand loyalty from MPs. I brought that information to her in this House and I warned her at the time that, unless real action was taken, we risked repeating those injustices again today. On three occasions, I asked her to act and on three occasions she did not, so can I ask her: in this of all weeks, for the fourth time, will she finally take concrete action to tackle this?

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

I will, of course, look back at the questions that the hon. Lady said that she raised with me in this House. I assume that she raised those with me when I was Home Secretary. I am very clear that the Whips Office—I hope that this goes for all Whips Offices across the House—should make it clear to people that, where there are any sexual abuse allegations that could be of a criminal nature, people should go to the police. It is not appropriate for those to be dealt with by Whips Offices; they should go to the police. That continues to be the case.

As I say, I will look at the questions that the hon. Lady raised with me, but I am very clear that we will take action against those where there are allegations that we see and the evidence is there that there has been misconduct. I say to her that I hope that we will all send a message from this House today that we want people in this place to be able to feel confident to bring forward cases, and we need to ensure that those cases are dealt with in a way that people can have confidence on both sides that they will be properly investigated. That means I want to see a good process in this Parliament, so that people do not feel that they have to go through a party political process to have their allegations considered.

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Conservative, Aldershot

My constituency of Aldershot is the home of the British Army and of many thousands of servicemen and women who are loyal, resolute and steadfast in their service to the Crown. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agree, when her very busy schedule allows, to visit the Aldershot garrison to meet servicemen and women and to thank them for their service?

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

I assure my hon. Friend that we recognise that the men and women of our armed services serve with great distinction and loyalty, and we are all grateful to them for the service that they give to this country. That is why we are committed to maintaining 2% of our GDP being spent on defence. He very kindly invites me to visit his constituency, and I will be very happy to do so if my diary allows.

Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable Leader of the Liberal Democrats

A few days ago, the Chancellor told the House that the Government could not afford to borrow £50 billion to invest in housing because of the burden on the next generation. The Communities Secretary says that the Government must borrow £50 billion because of the burden of unaffordable housing on the next generation. Will the Prime Minister adjudicate?

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

There is no need to adjudicate. The Government absolutely agree that it is necessary for us to ensure that we are building more homes across the country. We have already announced policies to enable that to happen. A number of proposals were set out in the housing White Paper. I was very pleased to announce the extra £2 billion for affordable housing at our party conference, and the extra £10 billion for the Help to Buy scheme, which genuinely helps people to get their first foot on the housing ladder. We are seeing, and will continue to see, more houses being built under this Government.

Photo of Chris Davies Chris Davies Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire

Earlier this week in Llangammarch Wells in my constituency, a horrific farmhouse fire claimed the lives of a father and five young children. This has had a devastating effect not just on the family, but on the tight-knit community that surrounds them. Will my right hon. Friend join me and this House in sending our sympathies to the bereaved family and to everyone in Llangammarch? Will she also praise the outstanding work of our emergency services, who dealt with this appalling tragedy with true dedication and professionalism?

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

My hon. Friend has raised a very tragic case. I am sure that everybody across the whole House will want to join him in sending condolences to the family and friends of those affected by the fire. This was, indeed, a terrible tragedy. As he said, it is not only the family, but the local community who have been affected. The emergency services did sterling work. I am pleased to commend their bravery and professionalism in dealing with the issue. The Secretary of State for Wales has spoken to the police and they will remain in touch over the coming days. Once again, our emergency services do an amazing job protecting us, as we see in so many instances. They never know when they are going to be called out to such a tragic incident.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

Given today’s news that the Electoral Commission is investigating Arron Banks, the main financial backer of Brexit, and given the significant British connections being uncovered by the American Department of Justice’s special counsel Robert Mueller in investigating Russian interference in the US presidential election, will the Prime Minister assure me that the UK Government and all their agencies are co-operating fully with the Mueller investigation or will do so if asked?

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

We take very seriously issues of Russian intervention, or Russian attempts to intervene in electoral processes or the democratic processes of any country, as we would with any other states involved in trying to intervene in elections. We do, of course, work closely with our United States partners. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that, as part of that relationship, we co-operate with them when required.

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

Last month I was in the Kurdistan region of Iraq—I refer the House to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests—where I saw people’s enthusiasm for independence and a fresh dialogue with Baghdad. The subsequent military actions against the peshmerga by Iranian-backed militia and the Iraqi army are wholly unjust and completely unacceptable. Will the Prime Minister accept that the peshmerga and the Kurdistan region, to whom we owe so much both for resisting Daesh when the Iraqi army dumped their weapons and ran and for helping to keep our own streets safe, remain vital to our security? Will she do all she can to encourage a resolution based on full respect for the Iraqi constitution and the democratic will of the Kurdish people?

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

It is right that we are working with our international partners in the region to defeat Daesh together with the global coalition. Daesh is losing territory. The action being taken is having an impact on it; its finances have been hit, its leadership is being killed and its fighters are demoralised. But we do want to see political reconciliation in Iraq and a political settlement to the Syria conflict to deny Daesh safe space and prevent its re-emergence. My hon. Friend raises a particular point about Iraq and the Kurdistan region. The Government have always been clear that any political process towards independence should be agreed with the Government of Iraq. We want political reconciliation in Iraq and we have been urging all parties to promote calm, to pursue dialogue and to take this issue forward through dialogue.

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Labour, Wirral South

An hour ago, the Government published a report by the Right Reverend James Jones, “The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power”, which the Prime Minister commissioned to ensure that the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families is not repeated. Given what we have heard in this session and given the events surrounding the Grenfell Tower disaster, I worry that the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families is already being repeated. Will the Prime Minister commit her Government to supporting both a duty of candour for all public officials and, as the report requires, an end to public bodies spending limitless sums to provide themselves with representation which surpasses that available to families?

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

Obviously, the House will appreciate that I have to be careful about what I say in relation to Hillsborough because of ongoing criminal proceedings, but I want to pay tribute to the work of Bishop James Jones throughout: in chairing the independent panel, as my adviser on this issue and with the family forums. He has done an excellent job once again. His report into the experiences of the Hillsborough families, which has been published today, as the hon. Lady says, is important. The Government will need to look very carefully at the, I think, 25 points of learning that come out of it and we will want to do so. I have always been very clear that the experience of the Hillsborough families should not be repeated. That is why we have looked at and are committed to the concept of the public advocate. We want to ensure that people have the support they need and it is important that we learn the lessons of Hillsborough. As she knows, I was involved in making the decision that enabled the Hillsborough families to have legal support on a basis that I felt was fair in relation to the other parties involved in that inquest. I assure her that we will not forget the Hillsborough families, who have been dignified throughout the many years they have been waiting for justice. We will not forget them, we will not forget their experience and we will ensure that we learn from it to improve the experience of others in the future.

Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Conservative, Rayleigh and Wickford

May I cheekily make a diary suggestion to the Prime Minister? If she could remain in the Chamber for just a few moments after questions, she will hear my right hon. Friend Richard Benyon introduce the Armed Forces (Statute of Limitations) Bill, which would provide protection to those brave service personnel who served in Northern Ireland during the troubles. Like her, and I am sure the whole House, I want to see the setting up of the Northern Ireland Executive, but does she agree that we cannot do that at the price of pandering to Sinn Féin and allowing a witch hunt for those people who served so bravely for so many years to uphold the rule of law?

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

I am not sure I am going to be able to satisfy my right hon. Friend on the first point he raises, but I can assure him that I am aware of the proposed legislation my right hon. Friend Richard Benyon is bringing forward. We all want to see the Northern Ireland Executive restored. We recognise that the question of legacy issues has been there throughout the discussions in Northern Ireland and continues to be. What I want to ensure is that any investigations that take place in the future take place in a fair and proportionate way. Our soldiers did serve bravely, as my right hon. Friend says, in upholding the rule of law. It is important that we never forget all the people who lost their lives at the hands of the terrorists in Northern Ireland and it is important that any investigations are conducted fairly and proportionately.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Tracy Brabin Tracy Brabin Shadow Minister (Education)

As the Prime Minister will be aware, self-employed people are not eligible for shared parental leave. This places the burden of childcare on the mum, and denies fathers financial support and bonding time with the child. Has the Prime Minister seen the demands of the March of the Mummies, and can she give us assurances that she is prioritising this very urgent issue?

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

The hon. Lady raises an important issue and I am happy to look at the point that has been made, but I remind her that the reason we have shared parental leave for anybody is because when I was Minister for Women and Equalities I ensured it was introduced.

Photo of Kirstene Hair Kirstene Hair Conservative, Angus

In my constituency, one of the big challenges as we leave the European Union is the uncertainty about the seasonal migrant workforce. Angus produces 30% of Scotland’s soft fruit and welcomes over 4,000 seasonal workers every year. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need clarity on the new migration framework— for the benefit of these loyal workers, for the prosperity of our British soft fruit industry and to support the overall rural economy of our United Kingdom?

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

My hon. Friend raises an important point about the importance of supporting the rural economy across the whole of the United Kingdom. In relation to the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, which she has referred to, obviously we will, as we leave the European Union, be bringing forward new immigration rules, which will enable us to have that control that we have not had in the past for those coming from the European Union. We recognise that we need to do that in the national interest. We need to look at the needs of the labour market, and that is why my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee to look at the needs of the UK labour market and to further inform our work as we bring those new immigration rules in. The issue my hon. Friend has raised is one they will look at.