Jack Lopresti: May I begin by congratulating the Prime Minister on her leadership and on her sheer guts to take a decisive decision over the weekend to deal with Assad and his friends? In the event of a retaliatory cyber-attack from Russia on our NHS or any other vital part of our infrastructure, would she then, working with our NATO allies, consider invoking article 5?
Jack Lopresti: I welcome the funding settlement approved by this House last month, which will see my own local authority of South Gloucestershire given an additional £3.2 million in funding. This will have a number of positive consequences, based on the budget agreed a week after this funding was announced. The school improvement fund will double, meaning that more help will be available to ensure our...
Jack Lopresti: With pleasure.
Jack Lopresti: Apologies, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was just being polite. South Gloucestershire Council managed to balance its budget, but if councils are struggling to balance their books and need more money, they should not be afraid to make that case to their residents and ask them to fund the services they need. That would require real political leadership and potentially expose some uncomfortable facts,...
Jack Lopresti: With pleasure. I am being polite again, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Jack Lopresti: There has been a big debate in my own area about parking at the Mall at Cribbs Causeway, which remains free. It is always a tough balancing act. Decisions have to be made at a local level to match the circumstances of any particular local authority. When it works well, an experienced team of senior officers can provide vital support and advice for a council, and they can be an invaluable...
Jack Lopresti: On a point of information, is the hon. Gentleman aware that since 2010 more than three times as many council houses have been delivered than in the previous 13 years —the golden era of Labour government that he talks about?
Jack Lopresti: I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and congratulate him on it. I know that he and his Department have done lots of work over recent times on this very important issue. That will provide some comfort to thousands of GKN workers in my constituency, but obviously there is still a process to go through and an end to reach. Does he agree that it is vital that we continue to protect...
Jack Lopresti: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the international response to the Salisbury incident demonstrates the enduring value, reliance and quality of our NATO alliance?
Jack Lopresti: I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. He is making a brilliant speech, as usual. All the values that he speaks of—aid, co-operation, travel and so on—are fantastic, but is there not a case to explore military co-operation and intelligence sharing, given the threats we all face? The Commonwealth can perform a role in its own right.
Jack Lopresti: Does my right hon. Friend agree that apprenticeships are vital to maintaining and enhancing our sovereign defence manufacturing capability, and are a key driver of social mobility, especially in constituencies like mine?
Jack Lopresti: When are we likely to get a decision on the fantastic plans for expansion at the Mall at Cribbs Causeway in my constituency? With the greatest of respect, I do not know why the Secretary of State is taking so long, because I do not know what there is not to like about thousands of new permanent jobs, more housing and better transport infrastructure.
Jack Lopresti: Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the work that Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre does to resist Russian cyber-attacks on the UK’s critical infrastructure? How does he categorise such attacks—are they just nuisances that we have to learn to live with and deal with, or are they, as some would say, acts of war?
Jack Lopresti: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is correct in saying that, in the end, it will be a political and diplomatic solution, but do we not have a responsibility to demonstrate to the world that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated? At the very least, are limited strikes to deny the Assad regime the ability to continue this horror within our responsibility?
Jack Lopresti: rose—
Jack Lopresti: Will my hon. Friend give way?
Jack Lopresti: On a purely practical point, obviously some of our people are scattered far and wide in remote areas without access to a reliable postal service. Is there provision in the Bill—by the way, I congratulate my hon. Friend on presenting it—to use our consulates and embassies as polling stations to collect ballot papers and return them in diplomatic pouches to the UK?
Jack Lopresti: Whether the Government plan to send observers to the elections in Iraq scheduled for May 2018.
Jack Lopresti: Will British diplomats study the Federal Government’s progress in implementing the Iraqi constitution, especially in disputed areas like Kirkuk, where there have been reports of murder, looting and expropriation, and where the autonomy promised under the Iraqi constitution is under threat?
Jack Lopresti: I too congratulate the hon. Gentleman on calling this debate. Is he as surprised and appalled as I am that these people are allowed back into the country, after going abroad to fight with our enemies and to threaten our lives and our freedoms?