Vicky Ford: I congratulate my hon. Friend on this important debate. Having spent my young years in Northern Ireland, I remember how many times it was British armed forces who kept civilians safe. I am delighted to see so many Members here tonight. I do not want to turn this into a political issue, but is it not sad that half the Chamber is empty?
Vicky Ford: Airbus is also a key player in the space sector, which is important for many jobs in my constituency. Can the Secretary of State confirm that the partnership that we are looking for will cover co-operation on standards and a deal on services, so that maintenance contracts and the like can continue to be fulfilled?
Vicky Ford: This morning, I attended the schools’ engineering and technology competition in Chelmsford, where Essex students had designed a wheelchair that climbs stairs. Does the Minister agree that such projects are key to inspiring the engineers of the future? Will he congratulate the Chelmsford Science and Engineering Society and all who were involved?
Vicky Ford: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Vicky Ford: The hon. Gentleman speaks forcefully about the need to retain Erasmus+, and also, I presume, ongoing co-operation in science. Does he not agree, however, that if we are to continue to participate in Horizon Europe, which will cost the British taxpayer many billions of pounds, we must have more than just third-country status. We must also have a say in how the programmes are structured.
Vicky Ford: Will my hon. Friend give way?
Vicky Ford: I completely agree with my hon. Friend that money needs to be well spent and that sometimes the EU has not spent its pennies quite as carefully as we have done. However, Universities UK wants us to double the number of young people who take part in these programmes because of the benefits and because so few do at the moment. Does he agree that, if we are to double the number taking part, we...
Vicky Ford: It is a great pleasure to speak in the Chamber about Erasmus+. I am delighted to be here and to speak on behalf of British universities. I have received feedback from Universities UK, the Russell Group and MillionPlus, the association of newer universities, and I speak as the representative of Chelmsford, the heart and home of Anglia Ruskin University. Britain has 14 universities in the...
Vicky Ford: Will the Secretary of State join me in thanking David Dimbleby for the role that he played for 25 years at the helm of “Question Time”, and does he agree that, in a year that marks 100 years of women’s suffrage, the baton should be passed to a woman?
Vicky Ford: Has the hon. Lady ever taken part in a work capability assessment? I had one acted out for me to allow me to understand the process, which was enormously helpful. I would recommend that other Members do that. One can either sit through an assessment or have the process demonstrated. It was really helpful to aid one’s understanding.
Vicky Ford: Will my hon. Friend give way?
Vicky Ford: This time last year I got a lot of cases from constituents who had problems with the PIP assessment process, but it appears to have improved. I fundamentally believe that it would be better if it were easier to get those assessments recorded. Does my hon. Friend agree that that would put more trust in the system?
Vicky Ford: Going back to the point that the hon. Lady made about helping disabled people get into work, my experience in my constituency is that a huge number of projects are going on that do help disabled people to get into work. Clearly, every individual is different, and some people need different levels of support, but will she join me in saying, “Well done,” to the 600,000 disabled...
Vicky Ford: I agree that for some people the PIP assessment has been severely challenging, but only 4% of cases are now being appealed, because the process has improved. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Lady agree that continual improvement is needed, and that we should work to have PIP assessments recorded, when the claimant wishes, so that the claimant can have greater confidence in the process?
Vicky Ford: I have campaigned for rail freight for many years. Is the hon. Lady aware that Chelmsford is the busiest two-platform train station in the country and there simply is not additional space to take additional freight down the great eastern main line in the timeframe involved? Digital networks may add a bit more, but we need to resolve the freight by mending this road and our road networks, not...
Vicky Ford: Will the hon. Lady give way?
Vicky Ford: The hon. Lady said the Labour party would invest in either rail or road. This Government are committed to investing in both. Which is she planning to cut?
Vicky Ford: It is not a yes.
Vicky Ford: I thank my hon. Friend for letting me make this point. On joined-up thinking, does he agree that resolving the issues on the A12 is also part of the bigger-picture solution? Unlocking the issues on the A120 is key to unlocking the improvement on the A12, which we also need in order to ensure that Essex is better connected.
Vicky Ford: I believe that the hon. Lady is complaining that reducing the number of Members of Parliament will create an unacceptable workload, but when I look at the statistics, I see that British MPs each represent about 90,000 people, whereas Spanish MPs represent about 133,000, German MPs represent 116,000 and French and Dutch MPs represent 114,000. Why should we not be able to do at least as good a...