Engagements

Prime Minister – in the House of Commons on 15th January 2020.

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Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) (Housing)

I congratulate the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and all the parties in Northern Ireland on the re-establishment of the Assembly. The press were briefed last year that the Prime Minister was going to bring an end to all ongoing investigations from the conflict, and he said on Monday that he would not support vexatious claims when there was no new evidence. However, the Stormont agreement includes the Historical Investigations Unit, and the point of all the ongoing investigations is that the original evidence has never been properly investigated, so will the Prime Minister tell us today, yes or no, whether he now supports the investigation of every single outstanding claim?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We will go ahead and, as I said yesterday, I think that a good balance has been struck, in getting Stormont going again, between those who need truth and those who need certainty in the protection of our armed services. I want to reassure the House that nothing in the agreement will stop us going ahead with legislation to ensure that no one who has served in our armed forces suffers vexatious or unfair prosecution for cases that happened many years ago when no new evidence has been provided. We will legislate to ensure that that cannot happen.

Photo of Craig Tracey Craig Tracey Conservative, North Warwickshire

Staff at my local hospital, the George Eliot, have been praised by their bosses for the superhuman effort that they put in during the Christmas period, which was not only their busiest on record but the fourth busiest across the whole of the west midlands. Will the Prime Minister join me in thanking them for the amazing work that they do? Will he also update the House on the progress of the NHS workforce plan, which will be key to ensuring that hospitals such as the George Eliot are able to attract and retain the inspirational people we all rely on to deliver our healthcare services?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I congratulate my hon. Friend on everything that he is doing to campaign for the George Eliot Hospital in his constituency, and I thank the staff there for everything that they do. The people plan will be coming forward in the spring, but I fancy that he already knows some of the details: 50,000 more nurses, 6,000 more doctors in general practice and 6,000 more primary care professionals in general practice. Today, as he knows, the House is legislating to ensure that we guarantee record multi-year funding for our NHS.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment and Climate Change), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy)

My constituent, Rosanna, came to the UK as a Kurdish refugee fleeing persecution and human rights abuses committed by Turkish-backed fighters in Syria. Her family remain in the area, and she lives in daily fear for their lives. There have been multiple reports of human rights abuses against Kurdish civilians in Syria, including reports that Turkish forces used white phosphorus against children. Will the Prime Minister join me in condemning the human rights abuses committed by Turkish forces against Kurdish civilians in northern Syria, and what will his Government do to prevent further atrocities?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As the hon. Lady knows, we have raised our concerns about the operation in northern Syria with the Turkish Government and with President Erdoğan several times. We certainly deplore any abuse of human rights and the suffering that she has identified. May I make a proposal to the hon. Lady? I would be happy to look at the details of the case she has raised myself, because I am deeply concerned about what is happening.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

As the Prime Minister knows only too well, Britain is a nation of animal lovers, and leaving the European Union and decoupling from its lesser standards will mean that we can lead the world in animal welfare. Will he commit the Government to making that their utmost priority in the months and years ahead?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Yes, indeed. I thank my hon. Friend for everything he does to promote and protect animal welfare. This Government brought in the toughest ivory ban in the world, and we are bringing in new laws on animal sentience and to cut the illegal smuggling of puppies and dogs. As we come out of the EU, we will of course be able to ban the live shipment of animals, which has been a disgrace for so long and against which the British people have campaigned. The Labour party, however, is still trying to work out whether it wants to rejoin the EU or stay in the customs union and the single market, making any such reform of the protection of animal welfare impossible. It is time that Labour made up its mind.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North

Will the Prime Minister support Tees MPs and the Mayor in opposing the dumping of nuclear waste at Port Clarence in my constituency?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am happy to look at that campaign and will write to the hon. Gentleman in due course.

Photo of Helen Grant Helen Grant Conservative, Maidstone and The Weald

Given the Prime Minister’s post-Brexit vision for an outward-looking, global Britain and given Africa’s huge potential for trade and investment, will he update the House on the Government’s plans for next week’s UK-African investment summit?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Yes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has followed such matters with great interest over many years. The summit on 20 January in this country will be a chance to show people not only in the UK, but around the world, particularly in Africa, our huge commitment to Africa, our massive investments in Africa, and the massive opportunities to strengthen our long-standing ties, bonds and commercial relationships.

Photo of Douglas Chapman Douglas Chapman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Small Business, Enterprise and Innovation)

The writer and broadcaster Muriel Gray said last week that the end of the Erasmus scheme

“is an utter disaster, academically, culturally and socially. Politicians have just voted to make our young people more insular, narrow and parochial. Heartbroken.”

What would the Prime Minister say to 2014 no voters like Muriel who thought that the future of Scottish students was safe in the hands of a British Prime Minister?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is talking through the back of his neck. There is no threat to the Erasmus scheme, and we will continue to participate in it. UK students will continue to be able to enjoy the benefits of exchanges with our European friends and partners, just as they will be able to continue to come to this country.

Photo of Andrew Percy Andrew Percy Conservative, Brigg and Goole

At the end of this month, on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the nation will come together once again to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. The theme for this year is “Stand Together”. Does my right hon. Friend agree with the Holocaust Educational Trust, which says that, welcome though they are, signatures in books are not as valuable as action? Will he commit to more action to stamp out antisemitism and all intolerance in this country?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I will be commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day along with my hon. Friend and others. As he knows, this Government and this House—people across the House—want to do absolutely everything we can to stamp out the resurgence of antisemitism. As someone who is now 55 years old, I find it absolutely incredible that antisemitism is rising again in this country in the 21st century. It is a disgrace, and we must stamp it out.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Agriculture and Rural Affairs)

The seasonal agricultural workers scheme affords a limit of 10,000 temporary visas for agricultural workers to come and work in the UK in support of food production. Given that my constituency alone requires 4,000 and neighbouring constituencies a similar amount, will the Prime Minister concede that 10,000 is clearly not enough even for Tayside, much less for Scotland or the rest of the UK? Will he therefore instruct the Home Secretary to review the situation in support of the National Farmers Union of Scotland and our whole agricultural sector and commission that review to look upwards to a limit that will support the actual operational requirements of agriculture in our country?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. We have doubled the scheme and will ensure that not only the Scottish agriculture sector, but the agriculture sector of the entire country has access to the seasonal workforce it needs. That is why we are introducing a points-based immigration system that will enable this country to get the skills that it requires.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

Child sexual abuse is not a thing of the past in this country. Over 4,000 offences of online child abuse were recorded by the police last year. Organisations such as Facebook and Instagram find it easy to analyse our online shopping habits but less easy to keep children safe. Can my right hon. Friend say how the Government will continue to make it their priority to protect children from sexual abuse online?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My right hon. Friend raises a subject of massive interest to the House and to the whole country, and we are indeed very concerned about what is happening online. The Cabinet discussed it yesterday, and the online harms White Paper sets out our plans to make companies more responsible. We will be taking further action in the near future to stamp out this vice.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Acting Leader, Liberal Democrats, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Social Justice)

I thank all those involved in the important progress in Northern Ireland.

When my mother was widowed with three young children, bereaved families received small payments until the youngest child left school. In our case that would have meant payments for 14 years, except my mother died too early. The duration of the payments was reduced in 2017, and a new bereavement support payment was paid for only 18 months. Many of us feel that is far too short. Will the Prime Minister deliver on his Government’s promise to review the new bereavement support payment, and will he meet me and charities helping such families to discuss how we can better care for bereaved parents and their children?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Yes. I know this is an issue that is very close to the right hon. Gentleman’s heart, and it is absolutely right that we should provide people with easily accessible support following their bereavement. I will indeed commit to meeting him.

Several hon. Members:

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