If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 10 October.
Immediately after Prime Minister’s questions I, along with other Members of the House, will watch a parade by 120 members of the British Army to Parliament. They represent the breadth of the 50,000 regular and reserve Army personnel. This is an opportunity for us to thank them for their tireless work to keep our country safe.
This afternoon, I will host a reception for World Mental Health Day. I am delighted that this week the UK hosted the first ever global ministerial summit on mental health, with a landmark agreement to achieve equity for mental health.
This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall have further such meetings later today.
The Polish community has long made a valuable contribution to Scottish society. My Polish constituent is a young man who has lived in Scotland since he was six, but when he applied for jobseeker’s allowance last month, he failed the habitual residence test. Even the Department for Work and Pensions cannot understand the Kafkaesque letter that he has been sent. Like the Windrush scandal, is this the shape of things to come for EU citizens in the United Kingdom?
As the hon. and learned Lady knows, as part of the negotiations with the European Union we have already come to agreements about the rights that will be available to those EU citizens who are already living in the United Kingdom. We have set out very clearly what will be the situation for those who come to the United Kingdom during the implementation period. I was able to update people a few weeks ago to make it clear that in a no-deal arrangement we will also ensure that we look after those EU citizens who have come and made their home here. As for the individual case, I am sure that the Department for Work and Pensions will look into that in some detail.
I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the performing arts and the fact that there are some great performing arts to be seen around the country. She is a performing arts ambassador, and I congratulate her on her work. We are committed to supporting the UK’s tourism industry and spreading the wealth it produces across the country, as we set out in our tourism action plan.
We are providing funding for the performing arts throughout the country. That includes investing £78 million in a new theatre and arts complex, The Factory, which is a home for Manchester International Festival and will encourage international collaboration, investment and visitors, and £5 million in the redevelopment of Colston Hall, the south-west’s major concert venue, to make it fit for the 21st century. Performing arts are being encouraged around the whole country.
I am sure the whole House will join me in expressing our deepest sympathies to the people of Sulawesi in Indonesia following the earthquake and tsunami in which 1,500 people have died. We wish them well in the rebuilding of their communities. I also take this opportunity to thank all those officers and ratings in the Royal Navy who did so much to help during the emergency.
Today is World Mental Health Day, and today there are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses than there were in 2010. The Prime Minister said last week that austerity “is over”. When will austerity be over for mental health services?
First, I join the right hon. Gentleman in expressing our condolences to those who were affected by what happened in Indonesia; our thoughts are with them. I am pleased to say that the Department for International Development was able to respond to that, and I understand that the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal is now up to £10 million. As the right hon. Gentleman said, we were able to provide support in kind through the support that was available from our armed forces and, indeed, others. I commend all those who have been working so hard in that area.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the issue of mental health, and I am pleased he did, because this is a Government that are ensuring that mental health is given the attention that it needs. It is this Government that have ensured that there will be parity of esteem for mental health and physical health in the national health service, and it is this Government that are putting record levels of funding into mental health.
If the right hon. Gentleman is asking me, “Do we still need to do more on mental health?” I would say yes, we do. That is exactly why we are setting out further steps today, particularly to improve the mental health of children and young people. I am also very pleased that the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend Jackie Doyle-Price, is taking on responsibility as the Minister for suicide prevention—the first time that a Government has appointed a Minister to such a post. This Government take mental health seriously. That is why we are putting record levels of funding into mental health.
It was a Labour amendment to the Health and Social Care Act 2012 that put parity of esteem on the face of the legislation. It was opposed by the right hon. Lady’s Government. If she thinks that mental health spending is going well, maybe she should have told the Health Secretary that, because this morning he said that it is
“still way off where we need to be”.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has found that the income of mental health trusts in England is lower than it was six years ago, and children are being sent as much as 300 miles away for urgent treatment. This needs urgent action now.
People in every village, town and city know that violent crime is rising. Some 21,000 police officers have been cut, and 7,000 police community support officers have gone. When will austerity be over for the police?
I have just said that I think there is more for us to do on mental health, and as part of our long-term plan for the national health service we will be doing more for mental health. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that our plans for the national health service will see £394 million more a week going into our national health service.
The right hon. Gentleman then asked me about policing. Of course, this Government have made £460 million more available for policing in this current year, including the precept on council tax. If he is so concerned about funding for policing, why did the Labour party oppose that extra money?
If austerity is over for the police, the Prime Minister does not seem to have told the Police Federation, because it is currently taking the Government to court for failing to implement the decision of the independent pay review body. Our dedicated police officers and police community support officers deserve better than they get from this Government.
In the last year the Education Secretary has been rebuked four times by the statistics watchdog for making false claims about education funding. I know that the Prime Minister is a stickler for accuracy so, given her commitment to ending austerity, can she confirm that austerity is now over for all teachers, who will receive the independently recommended 3.5% pay rise?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the police pay award. It represents the highest consolidated pay award since 2010. He then went on to talk about funding for schools. He knows the announcement that has been made in relation to the teachers’ pay award, but I remind him that school funding this year is at a record high. With the extra £1.3 billion that we have put in this year and next, per pupil funding is being protected in real terms. I recognise the pressures that schools are under, but I also recognise that 1.9 million more children are now in good and outstanding schools, compared with 2010, and part of that is the result of the reforms we have made to education, including free schools and academies which the Labour party would abolish.
The reality is that over half of teachers are getting another real-terms pay cut next year. They have been subject to eight years of pay freezes, with pay rises capped below inflation. It is no wonder that there is a chronic shortage of teachers and the Government have failed to hit their recruitment target.
“couldn’t cope with the levels of cuts”.
The Conservative leader of Somerset County Council said:
“I feel abandoned… there are no solutions coming.”
Will the Prime Minister listen to her own council leaders and end austerity, as she promised to do last week?
In fact, there are more teachers in our schools now, and we see more people applying to be teachers. I recognise the very hard work that our teachers put in day in, day out. The good results that our children are getting are the result of their hard work and that of their teachers.
The right hon. Gentleman refers to Northamptonshire County Council. Of course, the independent inspection was clear that failures at the council were not due to a lack of funding. We have backed councils in England: between 2015 and 2020, £200 billion are available to deliver the local services that their communities want. We will see an increase of £1.3 billion in the money available to councils over the next two years, extra money for social care was announced at our party conference—councils have access to over £9.6 billion of dedicated funding in relation to that—and there is a £31 million increase for rural services. Yes, we have had to make tough decisions, and yes, councils have been asked to make tough decisions. The reason we had to do that was the state of the public finances and the economy that we were left by the Labour Government. People have made sacrifices and they need to know that their hard work has paid off. Yes, better times are ahead, under a Conservative Government.
It might be a good idea if the Prime Minister took a few minutes out of her very busy day to listen to some teachers and hear about the stress they are going through and the number of newly qualified teachers who feel that they cannot carry on anymore and leave the profession that they love.
The National Audit Office has found that local government funding from central Government has been cut by 49% since 2010, and next year Government funding for councils is going to be cut by a further £1.3 billion. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that 75% of the social security cuts announced in 2015 have yet to come into effect; £2.7 billion will be cut from working-age benefits next year alone. Can the Prime Minister confirm that this swingeing austerity on the lowest-paid and the disabled people in our society will now end, as she said last week?
What we see in the changes that we are putting forward in relation to welfare reform is encouraging people into work and making sure that when they get into work, work pays. I might also say to the right hon. Gentleman that there are £2.4 billion of unclaimed benefits under the legacy system of the Labour party that will be paid to people under universal credit—700,000 people getting the benefits that they are entitled to under universal credit for the future. He asks me about what this Government are doing in relation to the end of austerity, and I have been very clear that there are better times ahead for people. We will see debt falling and we will see support for our public services going up. Austerity is being brought to an end. What is not being brought to an end is fiscal responsibility.
The poorest third of households will lose £745 a year if these cuts go ahead. Just this week, the Equality and Human Rights Commission—and the Prime Minister should listen to it—has reported that the situation facing those with disabilities has got worse and their rights are being violated in our society. After eight years of painful austerity, poverty is up, homelessness and deaths on our streets are up, living standards down, public services slashed, and 1 million elderly are not getting the care that they need. Wages have been eroded, and all the while, billions were found for tax giveaways for big corporations and the super-rich. The Prime Minister declared that she is ending austerity, but unless the Budget halts the cuts, increases funding to public services and gives our public servants a decent pay rise, then is not the claim that austerity is over simply a great big Conservative con?
Actually, wages are going up; we have increased the national living wage as well; there are 1 million fewer people in absolute poverty under this Government; and under universal credit, 1 million disabled households will get around £110 a month more as a result. The right hon. Gentleman talks about cuts. I will tell him about some cuts that have been of benefit to working people in this country. What about the £18.5 billion of income tax cuts that have helped household incomes under this Government? What about the cuts in their household bills that 11 million households will see as a result of our energy price cap? And what about the £46 billion of cuts through freezing fuel duty, which has made a real difference to people’s lives? But we know what would really hurt working people. Labour’s plans would cost £1 trillion—£1,000 billion of people’s money. Uncontrolled borrowing, spiralling taxes, working people paying the price of Labour—yet again, Labour taking us back to square one.
As always, I am determined to find plenty of time for Back Benchers.
I know that my right hon. Friend recognises how important it is for every child to have the opportunity of the best start in life. For the past three years, I have been campaigning to ensure that summer-born and premature children have that opportunity. The Department for Education’s recent report contains some statistical oddities and progress seems to have stalled. Would my right hon. Friend agree to meet me and parents to discuss this matter?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising what is an important issue for many parents. We are concerned that some summer-born and prematurely born children whose parents choose to delay their entry to school until compulsory school age may be missing essential teaching in a reception year. I understand that the Department for Education is looking at how best to make changes without creating unintended consequences elsewhere in the system. It is important that it looks at it in that sense. The Minister from the Department will be very happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss this issue.
As you well know, Mr Speaker, today is World Mental Health Day. I want to congratulate the Prime Minister on her appointment of a Minister for suicide prevention. In Scotland, we have our own Minister for Mental Health and look forward to working closely with the new UK Minister on this important issue. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that we must all work to eradicate policies and circumstances that lead people to believe that suicide is their only option?
It is right that we take the issue of suicide as seriously as we have done—in particular, the concerns raised about the number of young men who commit suicide. People in a range of different circumstances find themselves in a position where they think about committing suicide. We must do everything we can to ensure that people are prevented from committing suicide and that support is given to people in those circumstances.
I am glad the Prime Minister agrees with me, because, as reported by The Independent, nearly one in every two women taking part in the UK Government’s work capability assessment say they have attempted suicide after or during the process. A series of secret internal inquiries reveal that Conservative Ministers were repeatedly warned of the policy’s shortcomings. Will the Prime Minister commit today to ensuring that her new Minister for Suicide Prevention looks at the impact of her Government’s own social security policies and at long last scraps the appalling work capability assessment?
First, the assessments were introduced by a previous Government. It is important that we get the assessments right. It is right that we are encouraging people into the workplace and wanting to ensure that people who are able to be in the workplace are given the support that enables them to do that. That is what we want to do. It is right that we maintain assessments. Of course we look at the impact and quality of those assessments. That is work the Department for Work and Pensions does on a regular basis. It is important that we are undertaking those assessments.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and head of the Financial Conduct Authority Andrew Bailey have joined the call by the all-party group on fair business banking for action against the bankers who cost the UK taxpayers trillions of pounds throughout the financial crisis, none of whom have been fined, banned or prosecuted, despite clear evidence of guilt of fraud and malpractice. Will my right hon. Friend do all she can to urge and enable regulators and crime agencies to hold those responsible to account?
I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that, since the financial crisis, we have been looking at the design of the regulatory system to ensure that we have built one of the most robust regulatory systems in the world. It is designed specifically to ensure financial stability and protect taxpayers.
We have introduced a number of measures relating to the responsibility of those at the top of organisations. In 2016, we brought into force the senior managers and certification regime to hold those the top personally responsible for wrongdoing. Legislation was introduced alongside that regime that ensures that bosses whose reckless misconduct causes their institution to fail face up to seven years in prison. Although these reforms are of course very recent and it will take further time before we see the full impact of them, the FCA issued total fines of £229 million last year against individuals and firms who have broken the FCA’s rules. I can reassure my hon. Friend that we will remain focused on ensuring that we build a fairer and more balanced banking system and, if there is more that needs to be done, on looking at what we should be doing.
Does the Prime Minister agree with her Work and Pensions Secretary that half of lone parents and around two thirds of working-age couples with children should lose the equivalent of £2,400 a year under universal credit? For us to believe the Prime Minister’s promise to end austerity, will she promise today to reverse the £3 billion of cuts that are built into the universal credit roll-out?
In relation to those people who are being moved on to universal credit as part of managed migration, we are of course undertaking that. It will start later next year and will be done initially on a small-scale basis to ensure that we get that right. We are putting in transitional protections for those people so that people who are moved on to universal credit as part of the process will not see any reduction—they will be protected.
Last week, Access Community Trust, working in conjunction with other Lowestoft voluntary groups and Waveney District Council, launched the thin ice project, which will provide emergency accommodation for the homeless not just during the period of below zero night-time temperatures but for the whole winter period from 1 November to 28 February. On World Homeless Day, will the Prime Minister build on the rough-sleeping strategy and provide a long-term funding system so that charities such as Access Community Trust and St Mungo’s can put in place bespoke initiatives that prevent homelessness before anyone actually has to sleep rough?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue, because we do not want to see anybody having to sleep on the streets. That is why we have committed to ensuring that we eradicate and end rough sleeping by 2027 and halve it by 2022. That is why we are supporting various projects across the country to do that. I recognise his point about local authorities, their involvement, their need to build capacity and capability in their teams to ensure that they can deal with this and the role that the voluntary sector can play, too. We are investing more than £3 million a year with voluntary sector groups to train and advise local authority teams so that they are able to address these issues. We want to ensure that rough sleeping becomes a thing of the past.
Members of the Scottish Fishermen’s Association and the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations are jointly lobbying Parliament today. They ask for a very simple undertaking from the Prime Minister—namely, that in negotiating the Brexit deal she will not trade away their right to fish in UK waters. Will the Prime Minister give our fishermen that undertaking?
I absolutely recognise the importance of the fishing industry across the UK and particularly in Scotland. I reassure the right hon. Gentleman that as we are going through these negotiations, we will be very clear that once EU rules no longer apply to the United Kingdom, we will be an independent coastal state and we will be making those decisions. We will control access to our waters and we will be seeking to gain a fairer share of quotas.
In 2005, the then Labour Government closed accident and emergency at Crawley Hospital. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has committed to have additional resources for the national health service, including as part of the Brexit dividend. Can I get an assurance that the upcoming NHS plan will include a return for local services at its heart?
Absolutely, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. Obviously, the long-term plan for the national health service is being developed by the national health service in conjunction with clinicians and people at a local level. It is absolutely clear that we need to ensure that we recognise the importance of those community services. As my hon. Friend says, it is this Government who are not only putting in place a long-term plan to support the national health service but also that longer-term funding, which will see the biggest cash boost ever in the history of the national health service.
Modern slavery is a scourge on our society, affecting thousands of victims, including Ján, who lived in an attic in Oldham and was forced to work without any pay by his gangmasters for six years. Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating businesses such as the Co-operative Group on their work, which includes offering paid work placements to help victims to rebuild their lives? Can she explain why it has taken the Government five months to get around to recruiting the anti-slavery commissioner?
As I think the hon. Gentleman will know, modern slavery is an issue that I have taken a particular interest in and worked on. I am proud of the impact that our Modern Slavery Act 2015 is having, but, sadly, we continue to see people being effectively enslaved in this country. We are seeing more cases in which criminals are prosecuted, but we need to ensure that support is available. I certainly commend the Co-op, which he referenced, and other businesses that are working to help people who have been victims of modern slavery. My right hon. Friend the International Development Secretary tells me that when she chaired a session on modern slavery at the UN General Assembly, the role of the private sector was given particular prominence. We will continue to do all we can to ensure that we are dealing with modern slavery.
It is obvious that the biggest task facing the Prime Minister this winter is, first, to obtain a compromise agreement with the other 27 European Governments on the terms of our withdrawal, and then to win the approval of a majority in this House for that same agreement, or something like it, in a meaningful vote on the terms of our departure. Does she equally accept that the maths makes it obvious that that majority can only be obtained if the agreement retains the support of the pro-European Conservative Back Benchers in this House and wins the support of a significant number of Labour pro-European Back Benchers? That would reveal that the hard-line Eurosceptic views of the Bennites on the Labour Front Bench and the right-wing nationalists in our party are a minority in this Parliament. Will she therefore proceed courageously on that basis in the formidable task that lies ahead of her?
We are working to ensure that we get a good agreement for the United Kingdom—an agreement that delivers on the vote that the people took in the referendum to leave the European Union, to bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court, to bring an end to free movement and to bring an end to sending vast sums of money every year to the European Union and that does it in way that protects jobs and ensures that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. We are working for that deal, and when we come back with a deal, I would hope that everybody across the whole House will put the national interest first and not only look at a good deal for the future of the United Kingdom, but remember that having given the decision on whether we stay in the European Union to the British people, and the British people having voted to leave, it is our duty to ensure that we leave.
Yesterday, we marked the start of Baby Loss Awareness Week. Oliver Gill was 24 weeks old when he lost his life to cancer on Christmas day 2010. Since then, his parents Andy and Jennifer have, through the charity LoveOliver, raised well in excess of half a million pounds to fund research into childhood cancers and provide much-needed emotional and practical support for families affected by those terrible illnesses. The Prime Minister will know, having met them in 2016, what a remarkable couple they are. Will she join me today in thanking them for all that they have done and continue to do?
It is very good of the hon. Gentleman to raise that issue. I pay tribute to other Members across the House who have put clear emphasis on this issue and ensured that, in Baby Loss Awareness Week and outside it, we recognise the tragedies that sadly take place and the circumstances that are faced by too many families in this country. I am very happy to pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s constituents and the amazing work that they have done in raising the funds that he has referred to. We do not want anybody to have to face and deal with this, but out of such a terrible tragedy has come the good of that fundraising, which can help others. I hope that his constituents are proud of what they have done.
In Somerset, we have been working for years to pay down the huge debts left by the Lib Dems when they last ran county hall, which means that funding for many essential services is now being withdrawn. Will the Prime Minister meet me and Somerset colleagues to discuss this challenge and will she look favourably on our bid to fully retain business rates from April 2019?
I understand that the issue of business rates and the bids to which my hon. Friend has referred, from Somerset and others, are currently being assessed. A decision will be announced alongside the local government finance settlement later this year. I can tell my hon. Friend that I have already received representations from a Somerset Member of Parliament on the issue, but I am sure that Ministers in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will be willing to meet him and others to discuss it further. I am sure that they will be happy to sit down and discuss the details.
The hon. Gentleman has raised the issue of debt, and it is an important issue to raise. What the Government are doing is seeing that we will actually—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman does not need to ask me the question if he has the figure already. What the Government are doing is ensuring that debt is going to fall, and, crucially, we have seen a reduction in our deficit of three quarters under this Conservative Government. The hon. Gentleman should not look quite so pleased with himself when he starts to think about what a Labour Government would do to our debt in the future, which is take us back.
The 120 soldiers who will march through the north door of Westminster Hall straight after PMQs are actually representing the 3,000 who are currently deployed in 28 countries around the world. I am delighted that the Prime Minister—and, I hope, colleagues from across the House as well as staff from the Palace—will be there to welcome them and thank them for all that they do. But can we also at that time remember two lots of people? First, the families without whose support their deployment would not be possible; secondly, those who are returning from overseas, injured both mentally and physically; and thirdly, those comrades who will never return.
My hon. Friend puts his point extremely well. Of course we are proud of everything that our servicemen and women do, and I, and other Members, will be pleased to welcome those servicemen and women and give thanks to them in the way that we can here in the House. However, my hon. Friend is absolutely right: we should never forget the families of those servicemen and women, and we should ensure that we support them. We should also recognise the importance of supporting those who return with injuries—some, of course, physical, and some mental—and of ensuring that we recognise both physical and mental injuries. We should never forget those who have laid down their lives for our freedom and security.
I am sure that the whole House will have been horrified at the sight of mothers feeding their chicks to death with plastic because of the tons of waste that we pump into our oceans every day. We must take urgent action, but our waste system is broken. Will the Prime Minister commit herself today to working with me to stop this tide?
The hon. Lady has raised a very important issue. As she will know, the question of plastics is one that the Government are taking extremely seriously. Our 25-year environment plan includes a pledge to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste such as microbeads and straws. There are shortcomings in the current regulations relating to plastic recycling and how we incentivise better packaging designs and material choices. We will consult on our proposals later in the year, and we will of course consider any ideas from Members about how we can ensure that we are dealing with the scourge of plastic.
Thank you so much, Mr Speaker; I will save a question about that for later.
As the Prime Minister will know, the Agriculture Bill comes to the Chamber today, and it presents a great opportunity to rethink our land use policy and everything about the way we run our land. Does the Prime Minister agree that it demonstrates that this Government are leading the way in supporting a sustainable biodiverse environment and supporting our farmers and food producers and our rural communities—especially those in Taunton Deane?
I congratulate my hon. Friend and commend her on all the work she does on issues relating to the environment. She is absolutely right: leaving the European Union and the common agricultural policy enables us to take another look at our support for farmers and their use of the land, and as we do that to address issues such as the impact on the environment. It means we are able to ensure not only that we see the sustainable environment and biodiversity to which my hon. Friend refers, but that we are a generation that leaves the planet in a better state than we found it.
We have heard this week that the world is facing ecological and human disaster from climate change and that radical transport reforms are vital for our future. Will the Prime Minister give her personal support to the proposed GB Freight Route rail scheme, which would take some 5 million lorry journeys off our roads each year, cutting thousands of tonnes of CO and other emissions that are contributing to global warming and poisoning the air we breathe?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the need for us to ensure that we get freight off our roads and on to the railways. There are real benefits in doing that, both for the environment and in relation to congestion, and we are investing more money in the strategic freight network. I will have to look into the specific proposal the hon. Gentleman has raised, but I can assure him that the principle of ensuring we are encouraging freight on to our railways and off our roads is a good one.
Obviously I have spoken to the Japanese Prime Minister about this issue, as I have spoken to other Prime Ministers of countries involved in the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership. I am very pleased that they want to welcome us into that trade agreement with open arms, and we stand ready to do exactly that.
Last week, a judge was unable to make a secure accommodation order for a young man involved in gangs who has psychiatric problems and is at serious risk of harm. The judge said that
“an opportunity to help him and keep him safe” was being lost, and added:
“Like many colleagues I am dismayed, frustrated and outraged, and deeply worried that we will have blood on our hands.”
On World Mental Health Day, will the Prime Minister guarantee that she will investigate this case and make sure action is taken and also guarantee that no other vulnerable children will be left in such a terrible situation in future?
I am sure that we are all concerned about the particular case the hon. Lady raises. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will be happy to meet her to discuss it and look at the issues it raises. We want to ensure that support is available for vulnerable people, particularly vulnerable young people.
The effect of the recent tsunami, earthquake and volcano at Palu in Indonesia’s Sulawesi islands has been devastating, and the welcome response from our embassy and Department for International Development includes two RAF A400M aircraft and supplies, as well as a team of humanitarian workers who are out there now. “Teman yang membantu saat dibutuhkan adalah teman sebenarnya”: a friend in need is a friend indeed. Will my right hon. Friend join me in sending our condolences to President Jokowi, and our thanks to British citizens and JCB for their help, and will she encourage DFID to do even more, including extending the matching of funding from the Disasters Emergency Committee Indonesia tsunami appeal?
My hon. Friend raises again the important issue that was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition earlier. Of course our condolences go to all those who have lost loved ones in the terrible disaster that has taken place, and to those who have been affected by it in whatever way. We commend all those who have been working there to bring support, aid and help to those who are affected, and we recognise the significant contribution that has been made by British volunteers and companies and by our armed forces. The Department for International Development has already made some commitments in relation to match-funding the money that the Disasters Emergency Committee is raising, but it will of course continue to look at what support it can give.
I can say to the hon. Lady that issues relating to any particular concerns or allegations that have been raised in the Conservative party are properly investigated and considered through the new code of conduct that we have introduced. Every complaint that has been made is being or has been investigated, and appropriate action has been taken, including in some cases suspending and expelling members. We are also taking further steps. We are working in conjunction with TellMAMA, making diversity training more widely available and improving how local associations deal with complaints. There should be no place in this country for discrimination, and it is right that as a political party we are working to ensure that we take action when any complaints are made about those within our party.
In March, colleagues and I met the Prime Minister to discuss sleep-in shifts, and I thank her very much for her focus. I appreciate that Ministers are still in discussions since the Court of Appeal ruled not to uphold the Unison case, but in the absence of clarity, some local authorities are now reverting to paying a single through-the-night rate, whereas we have rightly said that people should be paid the national minimum wage. Please will the Prime Minister and her Ministers tackle this as urgently as possible? Also, I am not sure that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is interpreting the Court of Appeal’s ruling either.
My hon. Friend raises an important issue, which she and others have raised on a number of occasions in the House. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is looking urgently at the issue, but as I understand it, a case relating to this matter is going to the Supreme Court, and we will of course have to consider any outcome of those court proceedings.
In a few minutes’ time, 57 Members of all political parties will be launching an important new report on acquired brain injury. This is a hidden epidemic that affects more than 1.3 million people in our country. On average, every primary school class in this country will have at least one child who has a brain injury, and they are sometimes unaware of this.
The good news is that if we get good rehabilitation to every single person affected, we can save the NHS £5 billion a year. Will the Prime Minister meet with me and others involved in the group? And I do mean her: I understand that she often wants other Ministers to meet people on her behalf, and that she is very busy, but this affects our prisons, our schools, our armed forces and the whole of Government. We can save lives, and give people a better quality of life, but we can only do it if we join up the dots.
The hon. Gentleman speaks with passion about this issue, and rightly so. It is an important issue, and I will ensure that he is able to bring that information appropriately to Ministers. He makes a point that covers not only this issue but other issues in Government too. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, my right hon. Friend Mr Lidington, is working to ensure that on issues such as this we see joined-up working between Government Departments to ensure that the right action is being taken. [Interruption.]
Does the Prime Minister share my concern that drugs-related deaths in Kent have doubled in the past three years and that the rise in county lines operations means that there are now 48 separate gang operations there? Does she agree that it is important for the Home Office to put more priority on ensuring that we win the war on drugs?
My hon. Friend raises an important issue. I understand that a new co-ordination centre is being set up to ensure that the work on county lines that the National Crime Agency has been leading is properly integrated with the work of the forces involved. I am pleased to say that we saw a recent case in Birmingham in which an individual was sentenced to 14 years for having effectively enslaved three children to sell drugs for them as part of this county lines approach after having pleaded guilty to charges of modern slavery. We recognise that the problem is growing, and the Home Office is taking action.
Nearly 70% of all children excluded from school have special educational needs or a disability, and the reason cited for the exclusion of a fifth of all excluded children is “other”—a category for which no further information is held. Does the Prime Minister agree that this unfolding national crisis is totally unacceptable? Will she commit to stopping the use of that category, which encourages off-rolling in our schools? Will she press Ofsted to ensure that its new framework supports and encourages inclusive schools and an education for all our children?
We want to ensure that every child is in the right school setting for them. For many children with special educational needs that will mean a mainstream school, but for others that will be in a special school. I recognise the hon. Gentleman’s point about exclusion, about which we do have concerns. That is why a review of exclusions is being undertaken by my former colleague the previous Member for Crewe and Nantwich, who took a particular interest in this area as Children’s Minister, and we will look carefully at the results of the review.