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.
May I reassure my hon. Friend that we have confirmed that, when we bring forward the vote on the final deal, we will ensure that Parliament is presented with the appropriate analysis to make an informed decision? With negotiations ongoing, it would not be practical or sensible to set out the details of exactly how the Government will analyse the final deal, but we will set out our assumptions and methodology when we present the analysis to Parliament and the public.
I hope that the whole House will join me in paying tribute to Patricia Hollis, Baroness Hollis of Heigham, who died earlier this week. She was a tireless campaigner for social justice and played a pivotal role in defeating the cuts to tax credits this Government were imposing on low-paid workers. We on the Labour Benches will miss her dearly.
Given the Prime Minister did not once mention Chequers, either in her conference speech or in her statement to Parliament on Monday, does this mean the Chequers plan is now dead?
First, may I join the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sure the whole House, in expressing our sincere condolences to the family of Baroness Hollis? She was an outstanding parliamentarian. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will remember how she was a dedicated champion for the poorest and most disadvantaged in our society.
The right hon. Gentleman asks if the Chequers plan is dead. The answer is no.
Well, that is most interesting. The International Development Secretary and the Work and Pensions Secretary have both refused to say that they back the Chequers plan. Maybe the Prime Minister could share a pizza with them and see if that can sort it out. Will the Prime Minister confirm the Treasury legal advice given to Cabinet that, in the event of no deal, the Government would still have to pay the EU a divorce bill of £30 billion?
We have been very clear, throughout the negotiations in relation to the financial settlement that led to the figure of around £39 billion that appeared following the December joint report, that this is a country that honours its legal obligations and we will do exactly that. But I would also remind Members that we have been very clear, as has the EU, that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
Last week, 63 Conservative MPs wrote to the Chancellor to complain that Treasury forecasts based on Brexit negotiations are too negative. I am just waiting for them to write to say that the legal advice is too negative as well. In December, the Prime Minister signed an agreement with the EU, which stated:
“In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union.”
Will she confirm that this agreement still stands and that she signed up to it without any time limit?
If the right hon. Gentleman reads the December joint report, he will see very clearly that the first way to deal with the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is through the future relationship. As I said to this House on Monday, we have made good progress on aspects of the future relationship based on the plan that we put forward in July. We then said that there could be some Northern Ireland-specific solutions—there are already Northern Ireland-specific arrangements that take place—and that failing that, we would look at those UK-wide solutions. We were clear then, and we are clear now, that the purpose of the backstop is to bridge the gap between the end of the implementation period and ensuring that the future relationship is in place. As we have said, I expect—and intend to work for—the future relationship to be in place by
My question was that the Prime Minister signed an agreement that had no time limits attached to it. Does she stand by that or not? [Interruption.]
Order. We do not need heckling from either side. It is not in keeping with good order and demonstrations of respect, from whichever side it hails.
Order. I know that I say it every week, but I say it again: the questions will be heard and the answers will be heard. That is the situation.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The car industry is clear that it needs a new customs union to secure investment in British manufacturing. Vauxhall recently said that it would continue to invest, but there are limits and:
“Those limits are customs barriers.”
Jobs are at risk. Why will the Prime Minister not back a customs union—supported not only by Labour and trade unions, but by businesses, and I suspect by a majority in this House—to protect those jobs?
What the automotive industry and indeed other industries such as aerospace have said is that they want to see frictionless trade across the borders. Frictionless trade across our borders is exactly what lies at the heart of the free trade deal that is proposed in the Government’s plan, put forward after the Chequers meeting in July. That is what we are working to deliver for people in this country. We want to deliver a Brexit that delivers on the vote of the British people and ensures that we protect jobs and security. What would Labour deliver? They are havering around. They think free movement could still continue. That will not deliver on the vote of the British people. They now want a second referendum, to go back to the British people and say, “Oh, we’re terribly sorry, we think you got it wrong.” There will be no second referendum; the people voted and this Government will deliver on it.
My question was about investment in British industry. Jaguar Land Rover is holding off investment until it knows the terms of the deal. Jobs are at risk and manufacturers and skilled workers have little confidence in this Government, because they cannot even agree among themselves.
Last week, the Public Accounts Committee reported that the Department of Health
“could not assure us of its plans to safeguard the supply of medicines after the UK has exited the European Union”.
Does the Prime Minister dispute its assessment?
I think that the right hon. Gentleman was talking about the position in relation to a no deal situation. The Department of Health is working, as are other Departments, to ensure that we have the plans in place, should it be the case that we end up in the position that we have no deal with the European Union. We continue to work for a good deal with the European Union—as I say, a deal that delivers on the Brexit vote but also protects jobs and livelihoods, and crucially, protects the precious Union of the United Kingdom.
The British Medical Association said that the NHS is woefully unprepared for this, and this week the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has suspended investments in Britain due to a lack of clarity over the future.
The Conservative party has spent two years arguing with itself instead of negotiating a deal in the public interest, and now, just days before the deadline, Conservative Members are still bickering among themselves. The Prime Minister and her Government are too weak and too divided to protect people’s jobs, our economy or ensure there is no hard border in Northern Ireland—[Interruption.]
Order. Members are a little overexcited. Just calm down!
The Prime Minister and her Government are clearly too weak and too divided to protect people’s jobs and our economy or to ensure there is no hard border in Northern Ireland, so she has a choice: she can continue to put the Tory party’s interests first, or she can listen to unions and businesses and put the interests of the people of Britain first. Which is it to be?
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken in a number of his questions about protecting jobs. I note that he has said nothing about the unemployment figures this week. I will tell him overall what this Government are delivering for the people of this country: the scrapping of the council borrowing cap, so that councils can build more homes for people; an end to austerity, so that people’s hard work pays off; a freezing of fuel duty for a ninth year, so that there is more money in people’s pockets; the lowest unemployment for 40 years; youth unemployment halved; and wages rising faster than at any time in a decade. Labour can play politics; the Conservatives deliver for the people of this country.
There will be more, and it will be from Mr Tim Loughton.
The Prime Minister is very familiar with my five-year campaign to extend civil partnerships to all couples, and my private Member’s Bill has now completed its Committee stages, so I welcome her recent announcement that it is now Government policy, albeit without a timeline and with my having to find out about it by reading the press. Will she now support amendments to my Bill on Report in nine days as the quickest way to make equal civil partnerships a reality for the many thousands who want her to get on with it?
I am pleased that we are supporting my hon. Friend’s proposal on civil partnerships. We are working with him on his private Member’s Bill and will be supporting him on it. I understand that some small amendments are required, and officials will be discussing those with him.
It is in all our interests—and in the interests of jobs, in particular—that the Prime Minister comes back from Brussels with the right deal. We will act as a constructive Opposition—the enemy is behind her. Yesterday, the former Conservative Prime Minister, Sir John Major, said that Brexit would leave the UK a poorer and weaker country. Previously, another Conservative party leader told the BBC that “People’s jobs would be put at risk” as a result of Brexit. Does she agree with these statements?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the plan that we have put forward for our future relationship with the EU would protect jobs and livelihoods in this country and enable us to get not just that good trading relationship with the EU but good trading relationships around the rest of the world.
“People’s jobs would be put at risk”—those are the words of this Prime Minister in June 2016. No Prime Minister should negotiate a deal that threatens jobs. She must accept responsibility and avoid an economic catastrophe. Prime Minister, go to Brussels, act in the interests of all citizens across the UK and negotiate to keep us in the single market and customs union. That will command a majority in the House of Commons. Does the Prime Minister not understand that staying in the single market and the customs union is the only deal that will get through this House?
As I have explained in the Chamber on a number of occasions, and will continue to explain, our proposal delivers on the referendum vote, but also ensures that we protect jobs and livelihoods across the United Kingdom. However¸ if the right hon. Gentleman is interested in ensuring that the interests of everyone in Scotland are taken into account in the negotiations that we undertake, he should join us in recognising the importance of leaving the common fisheries policy.
The vast majority of people in the United Kingdom will wish the Prime Minister well in the very tricky negotiations that she must undertake, which no other Prime Minister has had to do in our history. Will she ensure that the outcome of those negotiations will allow us to continue to attract the levels of inward investment that we have been attracting, which have caused unemployment to fall by more than 1 million people in the last six years?
My right Friend is absolutely right, and I thank him for raising that issue. Inward investment in the UK is important because it supports jobs here, and we want to ensure that we remain an attractive place for that investment. We also want to encourage it through the deals that we are doing with countries around the world. Free trade deals mean greater choice, lower prices for British consumers, more export opportunities for British businesses, and increased investment here in the UK. Leaving the European Union gives us an opportunity to forge even better relationships and even better connections with the rest of the world, to encourage that inward investment and bring yet more jobs to the UK.
Even the Prime Minister’s fiercest critics—I believe she has a few—must be full of admiration for the way in which she manages her diabetic condition and holds down such a tough and demanding job. I understand that she benefits from a FreeStyle Libre glucose monitoring system. Wouldn’t it be nice if she did something to make that benefit available to the half a million people who are denied it because of NHS rationing? Perhaps we could call it “help for the many, not the few”.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I do use a FreeStyle Libre, and it is now available on the national health service, but it is not the only means of continuous glucose monitoring that is available on the NHS. Yesterday I saw a letter from a child—a young girl—who had started on the FreeStyle Libre, but, because of the hypos that she had been having, had been moved to a different glucose monitoring system. There is no one system that is right for everyone; what is important is that those systems are now available on the NHS.
The Government’s announcement of a pilot scheme for seasonal agricultural workers has been warmly welcomed by fruit and vegetable farmers in Cornwall and, indeed, across the country, but that is not the only sector that relies heavily on seasonal migrant workers. The tourism and hospitality sector is anxious to be able to continue to access its seasonal workforce after we have left the EU. What action are the Government taking to ensure that the tourism sector, which is so important to our economy, will still be able to access the workforce that it needs, and will my right hon. Friend consider a seasonal workers scheme for that sector?
I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the seasonal workers pilot scheme that we have introduced. The horticultural sector is a particular British success story. Over the last 20 years we have seen a significant growth in soft fruit production: an increase of more than 130%. We have made clear that we are piloting the scheme and will assess how it will work. Obviously we will announce further details of the overall immigration policy that we have proposed, but we will ensure that we recognise the needs of the British economy.
Yesterday, Nottingham Citizens published a report on hate crime in our schools, which it highlighted as a growing issue. I was particularly struck by the lack of awareness among the children who were surveyed of what actually constitutes a hate crime. We have failed those children by not yet properly arming them with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to thrive in this challenging world. Will the Prime Minister meet me, and a delegation of young people from my city, to discuss how to change that?
The hon. Gentleman has raised a very important issue about hate crime, and we have been taking a number of steps over recent years. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has published an updated action plan, and I suggest that the hon. Gentleman and those young people meet the Home Secretary to discuss how that action plan can help to address the issues raised.
Our joint Health and Social Care and Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committees inquiry into the future funding of adult social care recommended a social insurance system of the type that has been so successful in Germany. Will the Prime Minister give her fullest consideration to this solution, which would mean that everyone is protected from the potentially catastrophic costs of care?
I thank my hon. Friend and the health and the local government Select Committees for their work on this important issue. It is important that we get social care on a sustainable footing for the future and alleviate the short-term pressures on both the social care and health systems. Obviously we have given more money to councils, but we will be publishing a Green Paper later this year setting out proposals for reform. It will look across the board at a number of proposals that have been put forward in this area, and we will certainly consider those put forward by the Committee.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the arrangements for the free licences change were part of the last BBC settlement. The money is being made available to the BBC and it will take decisions on how it operates on that.
It is extraordinary that the Labour party has nothing to say about the good news of the fall in unemployment—falling by 50,000, and now at the lowest rate in my lifetime. More importantly I would suggest, wages are growing. That is particularly good news in constituencies such as North Dorset, where incomes are below the national average. Does my right hon. Friend agree that thousands of families across our country are now benefitting from the security of a regular pay packet and our balanced Tory approach to the economy?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the excellent news on employment: employment at a near record high, unemployment at its lowest rate since the 1970s, youth unemployment, as I said earlier, halved under this Government and at a new record low, and real wages rising. As my hon. Friend says, what that means is more people with the security of a job, more people with a regular salary, more people able to support their families. We are only able to ensure that that takes place by having a balanced approach to the economy, and that is the Conservative way.
The Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied Palestinian territories faces imminent demolition and is currently being swamped with sewage from the nearby settlement of Kfar Adumim. Just this morning Israeli forces have tasered and pepper-sprayed activists there. Will the Prime Minister make it clear to the Prime Minister of Israel that this is occupied territory, that these are refugees—protected people whose forcible removal would constitute, as the United Nations has stated, a war crime?
My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East met the Israeli ambassador on
My constituent Elliot Peters died earlier this year from hyperammonemia aged just 14. His parents, Holly and Andy Storey, are understandably devastated. Elliot’s condition was not diagnosed early enough; by the time he was placed on dialysis it was too late. Will the Prime Minister meet me and Elliot’s parents to discuss raising awareness of the condition and adding hyperammonemia testing to A&E departments when a patient presents symptoms?
This is an extremely tragic case, and I offer my sincere condolences to Elliot’s family and friends. I understand that the condition is associated with an inherited metabolic condition. Some of these conditions are very rare and staff are not always on the lookout for symptoms of such rare conditions, but we are committed to ensuring that the NHS always seeks to learn when things go wrong, to ensure that such tragic events can be prevented for future parents. I am sure that a Minister from the Department of Health and Social Care will be happy to meet my hon. Friend and Elliot’s parents to discuss this.
In the face of clear breaches of electoral law where the Vote Leave campaign might just have cheated its way to victory, the police refuse to undertake a criminal investigation because of what they say are “political sensitivities”. This comes on top of all the issues of unaccounted dark money sustaining the Scottish Conservatives. Does the Prime Minister believe that our electoral laws are fit for purpose, and what will she personally do to ensure that our democracy is defended from those who would seek to circumvent it?
As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Electoral Commission is an independent regulator, accountable to Parliament and not to the Government. There is a very important constitutional principle in this country that politicians do not interfere with police investigations, and that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but we will be considering the wider implications for Government policy. We will review very carefully the Electoral Commission’s recent report on digital campaigning and the Information Commissioner’s recommendations on the use of data in politics. Also, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is conducting an inquiry, and we will look at its recommendations when it concludes. As regards the vote in the referendum, I must remind the hon. Gentleman that 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU, on a turnout of three quarters of the electorate, and it is up to this Parliament and this Government to deliver on that mandate.
First, I should like to thank my hon. Friend for his report on the use of technology in the NHS. We are dedicated to using this new funding to support technology transformation and modernisation, and capital funding is being provided to the NHS to upgrade equipment and to construct new buildings and refurbish existing ones. In the 10-year plan, we want to see the NHS embracing the opportunities of technology so that we can not only improve patient care but save more lives and deliver healthcare more efficiently.
In Mitcham and Morden, Brexit means that the Wilson hospital will not reopen, after funders pulled out due to economic uncertainty. Goodness knows how many communities are now going to lose their health centres and GP surgeries. We must have missed that Brexit bus. Will the Prime Minister give Mitcham and Morden a people’s vote on Brexit so that we can save our hospital, or will she today guarantee the reopening of the Wilson?
As we announced earlier this year, we have asked the NHS to produce a 10-year plan, and we will be providing a multi-year funding settlement for the NHS. Within that, we are able to provide extra money to the NHS as a result of not spending, not sending vast amounts of money to the European Union every year when we leave the European Union. That is an advantage of Brexit.
I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in commending all those who have undertaken those journeys to ensure that that remembrance continues. It is important that we are able to recognise the contributions that people have made in conflict.
The Prime Minister will be only too well aware that people living in the remote highlands and islands are being penalised by extra charges for the delivery of goods and utilities. Indeed, I would say that this is a wholly unfair geography tax on my constituents. May I appeal to her to consider and look favourably upon the proposal that a royal commission be set up to look into these extra charges and into how they could be eliminated?
We have taken the price of parcel surcharges seriously, including those for more remote constituencies. We set up the consumer protection partnership to bring together various consumer bodies from the advice and enforcement world to look at the transparency, accuracy, level and fairness of delivery charges. I am sure that the relevant Minister from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the matter further.
Could I ask my right hon. Friend to impress upon our European friends two points that I hope the House will think reasonable and practical? The first is that the European Union may not break apart the Union of the United Kingdom, and the second is that the EU may not direct how we regulate our economy and govern ourselves after we have left the European Union.
Certainly, I am very clear that when we have left the European Union we will be taking decisions here in the United Kingdom on all the issues that were previously decided in the European Union. We will be taking control of our laws, our money and our borders. On my hon. Friend’s first point, I made it clear earlier this year, have continued to make it clear and will carry on making it clear that we will not accept any proposals that would effectively break up the United Kingdom.
Given that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, does the Prime Minister accept that it would be difficult for the House to be asked to confirm a legally binding withdrawal agreement without having clear assurances and some precision about the details of the future trading relationship?
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. As I have always said, when we bring the withdrawal agreement package back to the House, it is important that Members are able not only to consider the withdrawal agreement, but to have sufficient detail about all aspects of the future relationship. The trading relationship is important, but our future security relationship, for both internal and external security and other issues, are also of importance. It is also important to me that there is a linkage between that future relationship and the withdrawal agreement.
Not long ago, we had the horror of three pigs’ heads being left outside a Muslim community centre in Solihull. Then English Defence League thugs came to my proud, multicultural town, but we turned our backs on them. In the light of such events, will the Prime Minister join me in utterly condemning the actions of a Solihull Green councillor, as reported in the Birmingham Mail, who has written a guide to attracting and tricking British National party voters? There is no place for pandering to racism in my town or in our politics.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. There is no place in our society for pandering to racism of any sort, and that message should be sent out clearly by the whole House. He referred to what happened at one of his local mosques. The Home Secretary has been pleased to make extra money available for the security of places of worship, because we sadly see places of worship of different faiths being subjected to attacks all too often. However, my hon. Friend’s key point that there is no place for racism in our society is absolutely right.
We take the issue of domestic violence and abusive relationships very seriously indeed. Split payments obviously are available when they are the right thing for couples, but we need to take a sensitive approach to cases on an individual basis. We all want to ensure that women in abusive relationships are getting the support that they need, and we should send a message of clear condemnation of that abuse from across this House.
The next time shroud-waving EU negotiators claim that a hard border is necessary on the island of Ireland, will the Prime Minister kindly ask them who would actually construct it? The Irish certainly will not and the British certainly will not, so unless the EU army plans to march in and build it, it surely can never happen.
My constituent Matthew Hedges, a young PhD student, has been held in a jail in the United Arab Emirates for more than five months, and this week he was charged with spying. Will the Prime Minister ensure that her Government make it quite clear to the UAE that Matt was in the country to do academic research, and nothing more? Will she also ensure that he receives full consular and legal support, and a fair trial, so that he can return to his wife, Dani, in England as soon as possible?
Obviously this is a very difficult and distressing time for Mr Hedges and his family. Foreign Office officials are supporting Mr Hedges and his family, and they have raised the case with the Emiratis at the highest levels. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has personally raised this case with his Emirati counterpart. We are in regular contact with the Emiratis regarding Mr Hedges’s health and wellbeing, and we continue to push for consular access to ensure that he is given the support he needs.
In welcoming the Japanese Prime Minister’s suggestion that we can join the Trans-Pacific Partnership when we leave the EU, and in wishing my right hon. Friend well in the upcoming negotiations, will she please confirm that our joining and fully participating in the TPP will not be hindered by the common rulebook of the Chequers agreement and that the whole United Kingdom will benefit?
I have been pleased to discuss our potential membership of the TPP with the former Australian Prime Minister and with the Japanese Prime Minister. I am pleased that the Australian Government and the Japanese Government are welcoming us in joining the TPP. One of the issues we looked at when we put forward our proposals for our future trading relationship with the European Union was precisely whether it would mean we cannot join the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership—the CPTPP. I am happy to reassure my hon. Friend that we would be able to join the CPTPP under the relationship proposed in the Government’s plan.
My constituent came to see me earlier this year about being sexually harassed at work by a co-worker. Despite many months of meetings with her human resources department and line management, she has been treated like the problem rather than the victim. Can the Prime Minister advise me on what I can do to help my constituent return to work and feel safe when her employer is this House?
It is important that everybody is treated with dignity and respect in their workplace. There is no place for bullying, sexual harassment or abuse in any workplace, including this Parliament. I am sure we are all very concerned about Dame Laura Cox’s report. We have been working on this issue here in this House, and I particularly commend my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who has been working tirelessly to try to change our culture and practices. I hope there will be a very serious, very full and proper response to Dame Laura Cox’s report. This should worry all of us, and I want to see a situation where the constituent of Teresa Pearce is able to come to work in this House and be treated with dignity and respect, and not be subject to bullying, harassment or abuse.
The UK Agriculture Bill is currently before this House. Wales, England and Northern Ireland are part of the Bill but, due to the Scottish National party, Scotland is excluded and isolated. Will my right hon. Friend commit this Government to working with all parties to deliver an Agriculture Bill that guarantees that Scotland and my constituents are not left behind?
My hon. Friend raises a very important point, and I am happy to give him the assurance that we will work with parties in this House to ensure that Scotland is not left behind and that we have an Agriculture Bill that actually works for all of us and for all our agricultural sector.
The Prime Minister has an admirable sense of duty, so will she be honest about Brexit? There is now only one viable option in the short term that can reconcile the referendum result with the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom, with the genuine concerns of many Members on both sides of the House about the impact of a flawed deal or no deal, with our communities and with Labour’s tests. We should join the European Free Trade Association and the European economic area and seek EU agreement to remain in the customs union for a specified period from the date we leave. We should make it clear that, on joining the EEA, we will exercise our right to put an emergency brake on the free movement of labour. It may not be the perfect option, but our only consideration now should be the national interest.
The only consideration for this Government is the national interest. That is why we have put forward a proposal that delivers on the vote of the referendum; that ensures that we leave the European Union on