Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at on 13 September 2023.

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Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Shadow Minister (Flooding, Oceans and Coastal Communities)

UK billpayers are facing having to pay an extra £1 billion because of the Government’s failure to agree new offshore wind. With Russia using energy as a weapon, when will the Prime Minister take energy security seriously and protect us from the whims of fossil fuel autocrats?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We do take energy security seriously. Indeed, we created a brand-new Department to focus on energy security, so it is a bit rich coming from a Labour party, which wants to cut off our access to home-grown British oil and gas, which would increase our reliance on foreign oil and gas, increase our reliance on dictators and increase our exposure to those markets. As independent reports have said, it would also be bad for the climate, as imported fossil fuels come with something like two or three times the emissions. Labour’s policy is not just bad for the environment; it is bad for our energy security and bad for British jobs.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay

The collapse of a potential rescue deal for Wilko this week brings added urgency to the regeneration of our town centres. Will the Prime Minister agree to meet me and the leader of Torbay Council to identify ways that, with Government support and planning reform, this can be accelerated?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Investment through both arms of our towns fund is part of how we will regenerate and unleash the potential of our town centres. I am delighted to hear that that investment includes Torbay’s £21.9 million town deal and, indeed, £13.5 million for Paignton via the future high streets fund. My hon. Friend is right about ensuring that our planning system is friendly for small businesses, and that is what we are doing: making it much easier to convert unused shops into cafés, restaurants or, indeed, new homes. That is an example of how we are helping our high streets to adapt and thrive.

Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

The new Defence Secretary has been quoted as saying that RAAC could be present in military buildings. Can the Prime Minister today guarantee the safety of our military personnel and equipment? Or is this yet another ticking time bomb that the Government have failed to see coming?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Across the public sector, Departments are making sure they follow the technical guidance to identify and mitigate RAAC, as required. As the hon. Lady has seen in the NHS, we have moved the affected hospitals into the new hospitals programme. More generally, this Government have invested record sums in defence—the £24 billion at the last spending review is the single biggest uplift in defence spending since the end of the cold war.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

It is vital that we retain, recruit and protect our prison officers, so will the Prime Minister agree to prevent any prisoner who assaults a prison officer from being released early from jail? This simple measure would be very popular with prisoner officers and the public, and—you never know, Mr Speaker—it might even find favour with the parties opposite, which normally think that the only people who should be in prison are those who misgender people.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend is right to say that prisoners who are violent towards people working and living in prisons will and should face the full consequences of their actions. I am pleased that the recent Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 increased the maximum penalty, to up to two years’ imprisonment, for those who assault emergency workers—that includes prison officers. The Ministry of Justice will continue to press for charges for more serious offences, such as ABH—assault occasioning actual bodily harm—where appropriate.

Photo of Sarah Owen Sarah Owen Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

At the weekend, seven global economic powers came together to agree a monumental trade agreement. They included India, the United States and the European Union, but not the UK. Did the Prime Minister choose not to sign up because, presumably, he thought it was a bad deal, or was the UK left out altogether because he has as weak a reputation on the world stage as he does at home?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am not sure whether the hon. Lady was here for the statement on Monday, but I rather assume she was not. What she describes was not a trade deal so, first, she should get her facts right. As I explained on Monday, there are lots of different ways in which countries will participate in solving international issues. At the same summit she mentions, we announced a record investment in the green climate fund—the single biggest investment by this country to help with international climate finance. That was warmly welcomed by countries at the summit, which can see that the UK is taking a leadership role and helping countries to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Photo of Brendan Clarke-Smith Brendan Clarke-Smith Conservative, Bassetlaw

This week, we were hit by the devastating news that all Wilko stores would be closing, meaning the loss of 12,500 jobs. Bassetlaw and Worksop are the home of Wilko’s headquarters and a distribution centre, where 1,500 jobs are set to go. Wilko has been mismanaged for years. In the past decade, more than £77 million has been paid out to shareholders, and recently the HQ was sold for £48 million before being leased back. Will the Prime Minister reassure my constituents, and all those nationally who are affected by the demise of Wilko, that he and the Government will do everything in their power to help support people into jobs and make sure that their redundancy packages and pensions are protected, and that we will take whatever action is available to us to hold the ownership to account?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As my hon. Friend knows, some of the topics he raises will be commercial matters for the company, but I do know that this is a concerning time for workers at Wilko. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary is keeping close to developments and we have already started supporting those who have been made redundant, and we stand ready to support others to the fullest of our abilities.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

The head of the Army, General Sir Patrick Sanders, has said that the UK must

“forge an Army capable of fighting alongside our allies and defeating Russia in battle”.

So why are the Government still pushing ahead with further cuts, of 10,000 troops, to the British Army?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Again, this is the Government who have put a record amount into our armed forces: £24 billion. We remain the second largest investor in our defence in NATO. As we saw at the NATO summit, other countries look to us for leadership. How the armed forces allocate that record funding is a matter for the chiefs, to make sure that we have the capabilities we need to meet the threats of today. That is a decision that they will make and we will back them, but no one can doubt our commitment to funding properly the armed forces and ensuring that we keep this country safe.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

The Prime Minister has rightly said that democracies such as the UK, not authoritarian regimes, should lead the fight on global challenges such as development and climate change. Given that the links between failed regimes, climate change and the number of asylum seekers are growing, will my right hon. Friend ensure that doing development democratically is a key theme in the White Paper on international development? Will he also visit the Westminster Foundation for Democracy’s Garden of Democracy exhibition here in Parliament, which highlights our promotion of democratic values abroad?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the exhibition in Portcullis House. Members will have heard his invitation. We are consulting widely on the detail of the White Paper on international development and what it should say, and specifically on the role of democracy in development. I encourage all interested organisations and individuals to share their ideas through the public consultation.