May I start by commending the Together initiative for organising this coming Sunday what will hopefully be the nation’s biggest ever Thank You Day to mark the birthday of the NHS? It will provide the perfect moment to thank not just our amazing NHS and care workers, but also those key workers who have helped in the national effort throughout our fight against coronavirus and, indeed, all those across the country who have gone the extra mile for their local communities in these challenging times. I am sure we can agree across this House that the NHS represents the very best of us, and that we will always be there to support it.
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.
As the Prime Minister says, today is the 72nd anniversary of the NHS and a good moment for us all to appreciate the immense role of the NHS in all our constituencies—perhaps especially, the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, which has put up with me as a summer volunteer for the last 10 years.
The Prime Minister’s launch of the UK new deal yesterday paves the way for exciting new projects. May I highlight for his attention the proposed eco park and green energy park in Gloucester, which may need a little of the Chancellor’s oil? May I also highlight, should it be approved, the shovel-ready new Gloucester to Cheltenham cycleway, which I hope he might accept an invitation to come and open, with my hon. Friend Alex Chalk and me, when it is ready?
I thank my hon. Friend very much for that question. I congratulate him on what he is doing to support the wonderful new eco and green energy park, and I look forward to joining him on the new cycleway in due course.
May I, too, celebrate the birthday of the NHS, as we all will this Sunday, particularly at this time?
At the daily press conference on
Well, actually, the Government first took notice and acted on what was going on in Leicester on
I do support the Government’s decision of Monday, but I think the 4,000 businesses and 160 schools that are now shut might take some persuading that the Government acted quickly enough. One of the problems in Leicester was that the local authority had only half the data. It had data for pillar 1 covid tests—NHS and care worker tests, and tests in hospitals—but not for pillar 2 tests, which are the wider tests in the community. That may sound technical, but it meant that the local authority thought there were 80 positive tests in the last fortnight when the real figure was 944. The local authority was given the real figure only last Thursday, so there was a lost week while the virus was spreading. There are now real fears of further local lockdowns across the country. Can the Prime Minister give a cast-iron guarantee today that no other local authority will ever be put in that position again?
I am afraid the right hon. and learned Gentleman is mistaken, because both pillar 1 and pillar 2 data have been shared, not just with Leicester, but with all authorities across the country. We did in Leicester exactly what we did, for instance, in Kirklees, Bradford, Weston-super-Mare or other places where very effective whack-a-mole strategies have been put in place. For reasons that I think the House will probably understand, there were particular problems in Leicester in implementing the advice and getting people to understand what was necessary to do. But, let’s face it: we have had to act and the Government have acted. He wants to know whether we will act in future to ensure that we protect the health of the entire country, and I can tell him that we will, absolutely.
I spoke to the Mayor of Leicester this morning, and I know the Prime Minister spoke to him yesterday, and he was absolutely clear that he did not get that data until last Thursday—I doubt he told the Prime Minister something different yesterday. The Prime Minister cannot just bat away challenge; these are matters of life and death, and people’s livelihoods. For example, last week, my hon. Friend Peter Kyle asked the Prime Minister, “How can seaside towns be expected to cope with the likely influx of visitors to beaches and parks during the hot weather?”. The Prime Minister replied, “Show some guts”. Two days later, Bournemouth beach was closed; there were 500,000 visitors and a major incident was declared. Does the Prime Minister now regret being so flippant?
I really think the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not distinguish himself by his question, because I was making it absolutely clear that as we go forward with our cautious plan for opening up the economy, it is very, very important that people who do represent seaside communities, places where UK tourists will want to go, should be as welcoming as they can possibly be. That was the message that I think it is important to set out. But it is also vital that people behave responsibly. That is why the scenes in Bournemouth were completely unacceptable and it is why we stick to the advice that we have given. I made it absolutely clear that if people are going to travel to the seaside and take advantage of the easing of the lockdown, they must observe social distancing, and it is everybody’s responsibility to ensure that that is the case.
The Prime Minister must understand why this is of such concern. There is a nationwide lifting of restrictions this weekend, without an app, and without clear data for local authorities or the world-beating system we were promised. [Interruption.] I do support it, but I am not blind—[Interruption.] I support the easing of restrictions but, unlike the Prime Minister, I am not blind to the risks, and I do not think anybody else should be. Last week, I pointed out to the Prime Minister that two thirds of people with covid-19 are not being reached and asked to provide their contact details. The Prime Minister, typically, said it was all a stunning “success”. The updated figures now show that things have got worse; of the 22,000 new cases of covid infections per week in mid-June, just 5,000 were reached and asked to provide details. So now three quarters of people with covid-19 are not being reached. How does the Prime Minister explain that?
As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well, the test, track and trace operation is reaching huge numbers of people and causing them to self-isolate in ways that I do not think he conceivably could have expected a month ago when the system was set up. It has now reached 113,000 contacts who have undertaken to self-isolate to stop the disease spreading, and that is why the number of new infections has come down for several days running to below 1,000, and the number of deaths continues to come down. That is a great achievement on the part of the entire population and their willingness to support test and trace.
If the Prime Minister cannot see that three quarters of those with covid-19 are not being contacted and asked for their own contacts, that is a real gap in the system. He cannot just brush it away by referencing those that are contacted. It is a real problem and it is growing; it is going to have to be addressed. The Prime Minister did this at phase 1, brushing away serious concerns.
I want to turn to the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday, if I may. Amid the normal bluster, there was a really striking line in that speech. The Prime Minister said:
“We…know the jobs that many people had in January are…not coming back”.
I fear that this is the equivalent of the line in the Prime Minister’s speech of
“I must level with you…Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”
We know what happened next. That is why there needs to be a laser-like focus on protecting jobs, so how many jobs does the Prime Minister think yesterday’s announcement will protect?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman might first pay tribute to the work of this Government in protecting 11 million jobs throughout this crisis. He might draw attention to the fact that we have supported huge sectors of the UK economy at a cost of £120 billion. I am not going to give a figure for the number of job losses that may or may not take place, but of course the risk is very serious, as he rightly says. That is why we are proceeding with the new deal, the fair deal for the British people, which will be not just massive investment in our national health service— £34 billion in our NHS—and £14 billion more into our schools but an investment in infrastructure going up to £100 billion. We are going to build, build, build and deliver jobs, jobs, jobs for the people of this country.
The reality is that the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday was investment equivalent to less than £100 per person across the United Kingdom—0.2% of GDP. Not much of his announcement was new, and it certainly was not much of a deal. Meanwhile, as the Prime Minister was speaking, Airbus announced 1,700 job losses, easyJet announced 1,300 job losses and T. M. Lewin and Harveys announced 800 job losses. That was just yesterday. There was nothing in the Prime Minister’s speech for the 3.2 million people in hospitality or the 2.9 million in retail. Next week’s financial statement could be the last chance to save millions of jobs. Will the Prime Minister start now by extending the furlough scheme for those parts of the economy that are still most at risk?
Let me repeat and remind the House that, overall, the package represents a £600 billion package of investment in the UK economy. The best single thing we can do is get our economy back to health by getting our people back into work and getting the virus defeated and under control, and the best thing that the Opposition could do is stop equivocating—doing one thing one week and one thing another week—and decide that they emphatically support ending the lockdown and emphatically support kids being back in school rather than being bossed around by the unions. We are the builders; they are the blockers. We are the doers; they are the ditherers. We are going to get on with it and take this country forward.
Does my right hon. Friend not share my anger and the frustration of the Scottish tourist sector that, just as it is getting back on its feet, it is having the legs pulled out from under it by deeply irresponsible, damaging and divisive talk of arbitrary border closures and the quarantining of visitors from across the rest of the United Kingdom?
I must say I find the suggestion absolutely astonishing and shameful. There have been no discussions with the Scottish Administration about that, but I point out to my hon. Friend what he knows very well: there is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland.
Talking of which, we now come to the leader of the Scottish National party.
I am sure that the thoughts of everyone in the House will, like mine, be with those who were caught up in the terrible incidents in Glasgow last Friday, and in particular with PC David Whyte and those who went to do their duty. We hope that everyone makes a speedy recovery from their injuries.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister delivered his self-proclaimed relaunch speech, but when asked at the daily press briefing what new money will be given to the Scottish Government, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson laughed—laughed, Mr Speaker. That is what this Government think about funding for the Scottish economy, jobs, families and livelihoods: they think it is a joke. Is the Prime Minister capable of answering a direct question? I do not want the usual waffle. It is a straightforward question: what are the new Barnett consequentials coming to Scotland as a result of yesterday’s speech?
To start with, the right hon. Gentleman probably does the spokesman in question a serious injustice, because I do not believe he would have taken this issue anything other than seriously. The right hon. Gentleman should wait till next week to have the full Barnett consequentials for what we are outlining from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. I really do hope that he and all his SNP colleagues go around brandishing the fact that not only has this crisis seen the British Army and the British armed services being absolutely indispensable in Scotland and elsewhere in helping us get through it, but we have seen the UK Treasury step up to the plate and get furlough funding across all four parts of our United Kingdom. It was a massive success. Let me tell him that the Barnett consequentials already amount to £3.8 billion for Scotland.
The Prime Minister simply could not answer the question, because the question was about the Barnett consequentials from yesterday. We know that there was not a single penny for Scotland in the supposed reset speech from the Prime Minister yesterday. It was a speech devoid of action, devoid of ambition and devoid of any support for the most vulnerable in our society. The Prime Minister has set the UK on a two-tier recovery. On the same day he delivered his speech, this Tory Government reintroduced their benefits sanctions regime after a three-month freeze. That is not levelling up; it is heartless, cruel and unnecessary. Will the Prime Minister announce right now that he will keep the freeze on benefits sanctions, or will we have to wait until he is shamed into yet another U-turn?
I beseech the right hon. Gentleman just to think that he may be mistaken. The UK Government are absolutely dedicated to supporting people of all incomes across the country. That is why we have actually increased spending on benefits by £7 billion with universal credit, and we stand ready to do more, but I can tell him that there will be plenty of wonderful things that we want to do, working with him and with the Scottish Administration, to improve transport and other infrastructure across the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland. I really hope he will co-operate.
My constituency sits at the heart of our great metropolis. Cities of London and Westminster is the home of the west end, whose theatres and cultural venues, such as the Royal Albert Hall, the London Palladium and the Barbican Centre, attract visitors from across the globe and will help power our economic recovery. Does my right hon. Friend share my aspiration to see these venues open as soon as it is safe to do so, ensuring that the show must go on?
Yes, the show must go on. I know the power of the theatres of London’s west end and the entire cultural industry in London, not just as a magnet for our country, but for the sheer revenues they deliver. We want that to get going as fast as we possibly can, and we want life for theatres and theatregoers to get back to normal as fast as we possibly can, but to do that we have to defeat the disease, and that is what this Government are engaged in.
Exactly six months from today, the Northern Ireland protocol will sadly come into operation. The Government have already recognised that it will involve checks and infrastructure with regard to regulation, which the Prime Minister knows is different from customs. The business community is desperately seeking answers as to how the processes will work in detail. Will he commit to providing that clarity before the end of the summer?
It is very clear from the existing text of the protocol that Northern Ireland is, and remains, a part of the customs territory of the United Kingdom. There should be unfettered access between all parts of the United Kingdom, and that is what we are going to ensure.
We stand for rules and obligations, and think that they are the soundest basis for our international relations. The enactment and imposition of this national security law constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British joint declaration. It violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and is in direct conflict with Hong Kong Basic Law. The national security law also threatens the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration. We made it clear that if China continued down this path, we would introduce a new route for those with British national overseas status to enter the UK, granting them limited leave to remain with the ability to live and work in the UK, and thereafter to apply for citizenship; and that is precisely what we will do now.
This morning and last week the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee heard from victims and survivors about the Government’s troubles legacy proposals. Whether they were injured or bereaved by the IRA, loyalist paramilitaries or security forces, those victims have rejected the proposals, which they say close the door on truth and justice. The proposals depart from those agreed by all parties, including the UK Government, who had embedded the principle that all are equal before the law. The written statement on 18 March said that the proposals sought to put “victims first” and to build a “broad consensus” among victims. It is clear from our evidence sessions that these proposals can do neither. Will the Prime Minister please resile from the March statement and return to the principles embedded in the Stormont House agreement, and, indeed, in January’s Stormont deal?
The victims have waited too long for these payments, and the way to unblock the progress is through the designation of a department to provide support for the victims’ payments board. The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my hon. and learned Friend Lucy Frazer, has indicated that she is prepared to take on that role, so the Executive must now move formally to designate and to prevent any further delay for victims.
There are 3 million people in this country who get no support at the moment because they are self-employed or on contract. Our black, Asian and ethnic minority communities have an unemployment rate that is twice the national average and women are disproportionately affected by covid-19. The Prime Minister said a few minutes ago that he stands ready to help. Will he look at a universal basic income so that these people can get the help that they need now?
The hon. Lady raises a very important point about the self-employed. As she knows, we have provided very considerable support as part of the overall package of £120 billion—I think we have given £22 billion altogether through the furlough scheme for employed and self-employed people. Her further suggestion for a universal basic income is one that we have looked at. The best way forward for our country is to get the disease under control in the way that we are doing; get our people back into work; build, build, build; and take this country forward.
It was great to have my right hon. Friend in the Black Country announcing his new vision yesterday. Perhaps next time he is in the Black Country, he will come five minutes down the road to Tipton, where we can sort him out a pint in the pie factory. I was recently contacted by two students in my constituency, Elliot Wilkes from Sandwell Academy and Will Gill from Q3 Academy Tipton. They want reassurance from the Prime Minister that his announcement yesterday means that, after years of neglect and being overlooked, our communities in Wednesbury, Oldbury and Tipton will finally get the recognition that we deserve.
I am trying to stick off the pies at the moment, but my hon. Friend can tell his communities in Tipton that we are investing massively not just in education, with, as I say, £14 billion more into our schools, but in infrastructure that will reach every corner of the country, particularly the west midlands. I am delighted that West Bromwich will receive at least £500,000 from the Stronger Towns Fund this year to support its high street and local community.
The Met arts centre in my constituency is rightly proud of the work that it has done during lockdown, responding to the needs of young people and disability theatre groups in Bury, but its income has been decimated due to the fact that it is unable to stage events. Will the Prime Minister continue to do everything possible to support the cultural and creative sectors in Bury, Ramsbottom, Tottington and elsewhere to ensure that important community assets such as The Met have a bright future?
Absolutely; I thank my hon. Friend for making those representations. We will do everything we can to get all those sectors going as fast as we can and get life back as close to normal as possible for as many people as possible in this country. But the way to do that, at the risk of repeating myself, is to continue to defeat the virus and take the country forward.
Enfield, Southgate is home to Chickenshed Theatre, an inclusive youth theatre company that has been open for more than 40 years but is now struggling financially. Despite the arts sector’s contributing more than £5.2 billion each year to our economy, the Government have failed to assist it as it hurtles towards the brink of collapse due to the coronavirus pandemic. Will the Prime Minister heed the calls from the Musicians Union, the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union and Equity, and provide the financial support to ensure the survival of the arts sector?
This is becoming quite a theme this morning, and quite rightly too. I am a fan of Chickenshed Theatre and I know its work. We will do everything we can to assist; the economic case for doing so is overwhelming. I would just say to people, “Keep supporting your workers with the furloughing scheme. It is much better now to wait for times to get better rather than laying people off.” That is my message.
Newton Rigg College is a land-based further education college in Penrith that has been listed for possible closure next year by its host institution. Will my right hon. Friend ask Government Departments to work with me and local stakeholders to secure a sustainable future for this vital institution, and, if we are successful, may I invite the Prime Minister to come to Penrith to see this fantastic college and the opportunities it provides to upskill, strengthen rural economies and support this Government’s levelling-up agenda?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I know that this will be a difficult time for the community and all those who care about this Penrith college. May I propose that he and I have a proper conversation about what we can do to help, with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education, and see whether we can find an appropriate solution? I thank him very much for the work that he is doing.
The Prime Minister does not want to talk about the numbers of job losses, so let me give him some: British Airways, 12,000 jobs potentially to go, including in the Vale of Glamorgan, in Llantrisant and in Blackwood; GE, 1,400 jobs potentially to go at Nantgarw; Rolls-Royce, nearly 6,000 to go in Derby, Solihull, Glasgow, Rotherham; and, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, Airbus, with 1,700 jobs potentially to go in north Wales and in the south-west, affecting my own constituents. Workers at those plants do not want to hear slogans. They do not want to hear bluff and bluster. They want to know from the Prime Minister what he is going to do to save those jobs in the long term. They have had the furlough scheme; what is he going to do to protect them going forward?
I do not wish to accuse the hon. Gentleman of failing to listen to what I have been saying over the past few days, but in addition to the £120 billion of support that we have put into the economy, we have to recognise that people now are, as he says, worried about their jobs. That is why we have a plan to build, build, build with a £600 billion programme of investment and to deliver jobs, jobs, jobs. For sectors across the country where we need to keep young people in particular in employment we have offered, as he knows, an opportunity guarantee so that they will have either an apprenticeship, an in-work placement or the opportunity for training.
The pubs are reopening, but we still will not be able to go to the Marsden jazz festival, the Slaithwaite Philharmonic, the Holmfirth Picturedrome, the Lawrence Batley theatre or even a Honley male voice choir concert. Will the Prime Minister, in an effort to support the thousands of musicians, actors and dancers across the country who are struggling, look at replenishing the Arts Council funds that have been redirected to the emergency covid response so that we can have vibrant creative industries coming out of this crisis?
The House is speaking with pretty much one voice this afternoon. I totally share people’s sense of urgency about wanting to get our wonderful creative culture and theatrical sector open as fast as we can, but the House will also remember that what we are trying to do now involves striking a balance. It is very important, as we open up the economy, that we do not go too far and risk a second spike and further outbreaks. People can see what is happening in Leicester, for instance. We need to be very careful that we do this in a prudent way. As we open the theatres, which we will, we want to make sure that we can do it in a covid-compliant and covid-secure way, and I am sure that is what the House would want.
It was excellent to see the Prime Minister participating in the Christians in Parliament event yesterday. I thank him for the kind remarks he made about our answered prayer for his own health, and I wish him continued good health.
The Prime Minister said yesterday in a major speech that he wants the economy to “build, build, build”, and he announced that there will be 4,000 zero-emissions buses for the United Kingdom. Will he ensure that those 4,000 new zero-emissions buses, or hydrogen buses, will produce jobs and deliver a new green economy for the whole of the United Kingdom, and will he invest, invest, invest in hydrogen?
We will certainly invest massively in hydrogen. I cannot make any particular undertakings now about where those contracts will go, but as the hon. Gentleman knows well, I am a big fan of buses made in Ballymena.
Following the publication on
I certainly do. Fraud is corrosive of public trust and wasteful of public money. It is vital that all councils learn the lessons of that report, and I thank my hon. Friend for drawing it to the attention the House.
At year 6, children on free school meals are nine months behind their better-off classmates. By GCSE year, that has extended to 18 months. Some 700,000 children have had no access to the internet for schoolwork during the lockdown. If the Prime Minister is sincere about wanting to level up and make this country good for everyone, will he give Government time to pass a cross-party Bill giving internet access and devices to all children on free school meals?
I passionately support the objective of making sure that there is IT fairness and that all kids have access to the technology that they need. We have rolled out huge numbers of laptops across the country to pupils on free school meals. But the most important thing that I think should happen now is that all pupils in year 6 should now be back in school, and it is still very disappointing that we have not had an unequivocal declaration of support for the safety of schools from the Labour party.
Enterprise zone status at Silverstone Park and Westcott in my constituency has been critical in bringing high-tech innovators to Buckinghamshire across 5G, rocketry, automotive and motorsport. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating those wealth creators, innovators and entrepreneurs, and commit to extending their enterprise zone status and business rates relief period from 2021 to 2024 to ensure that they continue to be an engine of economic growth?
I will certainly look at the proposal that my hon. Friend makes, and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will want to study it, but I also congratulate everybody involved with the Aylesbury Vale enterprise zone on the cutting-edge technology that exemplifies the very best of this country and shows the way to our future.
The Government were right to raise universal credit by £20 a week at the start of the crisis, but other benefits, such as employment and support allowance, claimed by other people in identical circumstances, were not raised. The all-party Select Committee on Work and Pensions recommended unanimously last week that those legacy benefits should be brought back in line with universal credit and raised. That has since been endorsed by the former Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb). Will the Prime Minister endorse it too?
We have done a huge amount. The right hon. Gentleman is a tireless campaigner on this matter, but the House will accept that we have done a huge amount to increase support for people on benefits. I remind him of the increase in universal credit and working tax credit of up to £1,040 a year, which is benefiting 4 million families across the country.
Given the state of us, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I will be among the first in the socially distant queues as barbers and hairdressers reopen this weekend. Neither of us is likely to be queuing for an appointment at a beauty salon, however, as much needed as it may be, and sadly, neither will anybody else, because many of those much-loved businesses remain closed. Will the Prime Minister review that decision, so that the likes of Lush Beauty in Romiley in my constituency can reopen safely as soon as possible?
I am sure that one day I will go with my hon. Friend to Lush Beauty, but it is a sad reality for many of those excellent businesses that they cannot yet open in the way they want. I certainly share his sense of urgency, which I know people feel across the country. People feel a sense of unfairness when they look at hairdressers opening, but I repeat to the House the need to strike the balance that we have described—I believe that is understood by the Labour party—and the need to open up in a way that is covid-secure. As soon as we are sure that nail bars and beauty salons can open in a way that is covid-secure, we will do that.
On 17 April 1984, I was a serving police officer in the Metropolitan police, when WPC Yvonne Fletcher was shot and killed while on duty policing a demonstration outside the Libyan embassy in London. No one has ever been charged in connection with her death. In the light of reports at the weekend about a civil case being brought by her former colleague, PC John Murray, against one of the main suspects, will the Prime Minister pledge to reopen the criminal inquiry into the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher?
I thank the hon. Gentleman very much for his service in the police, and for raising an important subject that I have followed for many years. The murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher was sickening and cowardly. The best thing I can say to the hon. Gentleman today is that I would welcome the opportunity to talk to him in person about the issue he has raised, and see what we can do to take the matter forward.
I thank the Prime Minister for confirming that the virus has receded far enough to open tourism in Cornwall next week. Will he join me in politely asking visitors to Cornwall to follow the example set by local people over the past three months, and strictly to respect distancing guidance? We want people to come and have a fantastic holiday in Cornwall, but we want to them to be sensible when they are visiting.
My hon. Friend brilliantly sums up the approach that we want to take. We want our seaside communities and fantastic national tourist areas to feel confident about welcoming visitors this summer. We want loads of staycations—I think we will get loads of fantastic staycations—but we want people to observe the rules and keep defeating the virus.
The way the disclosure and barring scheme is operating is damaging and discriminatory. When I raised the matter with the Prime Minister last week, I got the usual Home Office guff that the Government were “considering the Supreme Court judgment.” That judgment was in January 2019— 18 months ago. The Lammy report highlighted the problem in 2017. Can we have no more dithering? Will the Prime Minister sort out that scandal now?
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on returning so fast to the fray on that issue. He is absolutely right, and the best thing I can do is write to him immediately, setting out what we propose to do. There are issues with the DBS scheme, and every MP will have received representations from people who feel that they have been unfairly treated by it. The scheme needs looking at, and we shall do so urgently.
The Education Secretary has confirmed that he will set out this week a comprehensive plan to get every child back to school in September. I know that the Prime Minister strongly supports that, as do I. The Prime Minister is a great fan of buses. Can he confirm that that plan will also include the significant number of children who depend on buses to get to school, so that they can go back to school in September as well?
In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for three minutes.