Prime Minister’s Questions: 3 April 2019 – Brexit, Universal Credit, poverty
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Prime Minister’s Questions: 3 April 2019 – Brexit, Universal Credit, poverty


>>Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab):
If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 3 April.>>The Prime Minister (Mrs Theresa May):
April marks 50 years since the launch of our longest sustained military operation, Operation
Relentless, and the beginning of our continuous at sea deterrent. I am sure all Members on
both sides of the House will want to join me in paying tribute to all the generations
of Royal Navy submariners, their families, who sacrifice so much, and all those involved
in protecting our nation. Tomorrow marks 70 years since the founding
of NATO. I assure the House that, under this Government, the United Kingdom will continue
to play our leading role in NATO as it continues its mission of keeping nearly 1 billion people
safe. 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.>>Mr Cunningham:
I assure the Prime Minister that I will not raise Brexit, which will be raised later.
I want to raise another very important issue. Consultants and doctors at the university
hospital in my constituency have raised the issue of the NHS pension scheme and the tapered
annual allowance, the consequences of which are that doctors are retiring early and turning
down additional shifts for fear of paying higher tax bills to the Government. That is
resulting in longer waiting times for patients and a shortage of doctors and consultants.
Will she raise this with the Chancellor as soon as possible and inform me of his answer?>>The Prime Minister:
I am aware of the issue that the hon. Gentleman raises. In fact, the Chancellor and the Treasury
are already in discussion with the Department of Health and Social Care on this very issue.
The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that the Chancellor is on the Treasury Bench and
has heard his point. I will make sure that we confirm to him what comes out of those
discussions.>>Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con):
With party loyalties being severely tested, is my right hon. Friend aware that, as the
country and the world ponder whether Brexit means Brexit and whether we will make a success
of it, Southend-on-Sea has been welcoming ambassadors from all over the world to work
in partnership and on investment, looking at our pier and building a new marina? Will
she consider bringing forward a meaningful vote, for which I believe there is a majority
in the House, that Southend-on-Sea be declared a city?>>The Prime Minister:
I should just congratulate my hon. Friend on so cleverly working in Southend’s claim
to become a city. As he says, it is very important that we see that investment coming to our
country. The benefits and opportunities, when we have got over this stage and delivered
Brexit, for building that better Britain and building that better future, including in
Southend-on-Sea, will be there. It is for all of us to ensure that we can get over this
stage, get a deal through, get to Brexit, deliver on Brexit and build that better future,
of which I am sure Southend will be a leading part.>>Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab):
I join the Prime Minister in wishing the people of Southend well, and I hope it does become
a city. [Interruption.] Is that okay? I welcome the Prime Minister’s offer of
talks following the meetings I have held with Members across the House, and I look forward
to meeting her later today. I welcome her willingness to compromise to resolve the Brexit
deadlock. When the Prime Minister began her premiership,
she promised to resolve the burning injustices facing this country, so can she explain why,
according to the Government’s own official figures, poverty has risen for all ages under
her Administration?>>The Prime Minister:
No one in government wants to see poverty rising, and we take this very seriously indeed,
but, as I have said previously to the right hon. Gentleman, the only sustainable way to
tackle poverty is with a strong economy and a welfare system that helps people into work.
That is why it is important that we have the lowest unemployment since the 1970s and that
the number of homes where no one works is at a record low. But we also need to make
sure that work pays. Let me just give the right hon. Gentleman some figures: in 2010,
under a Labour Government, someone working full-time on the national minimum wage would
have taken home £9,200 after tax and national insurance, whereas now, thanks to our tax
cuts and the biggest increase in the national living wage, they will take home more than
£13,700—that is £4,500 more under a Conservative Government.>>Jeremy Corbyn:
Official figures show that since 2010 child poverty has increased by half a million, working
age poverty has increased by 200,000 and pensioner poverty has increased by 400,000. Although
the Prime Minister is right to mention the national minimum wage, whose introduction
her party strongly opposed, we should just be aware of what the national minimum wage
actually means: it is £8.21 for over-25s; for 21 to 24-year-olds it is only £7.70;
and for apprentices it is just £3.90 an hour. These are poverty wages. There are now 8 million
people in this country in work and in poverty. Many on middle incomes are struggling to make
ends meet. Universal credit is failing. Will the Prime Minister today at least halt the
roll-out of universal credit and agree to a thorough review of it?>>The Prime Minister:
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, as we have been rolling out universal credit, we have
been making changes to it. One of the early measures we took when I became Prime Minister
was to change the taper rate. We have since abolished the seven-day wait. We have ensured
that we have taken action to make it easier for those who are transferring on to UC in
relation to their housing benefit. But, crucially, there is only one way to ensure that we sustainably
deal with the issue of poverty—>>Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown)
(Lab/Co-op): A Labour Government.>>The Prime Minister:
No, and I will come on to that. It is to ensure that we have a strong economy that delivers
jobs, and better jobs, and that people can keep more of the money that they earn. What
do we know would happen? From behind the right hon. Gentleman, an hon. Member says, from
a sedentary position, that the answer is a Labour Government. But a Labour Government
would spend £1,000 billion more than has been proposed; a Labour Government would put
up taxes; and the Labour party has opposed tax cut after tax cut. This is how you help
working people: tax cuts which keep people in work; better jobs; and high employment.
That is under the Conservatives.>>Jeremy Corbyn:
From a Government that rolled out austerity and has caused such poverty across the country,
the Prime Minister really ought to think for a moment about what she has just said. The
last Labour Government halved child poverty; brought in children’s centres and Sure Start;
and reduced poverty across the whole country. She seems to be ignoring the true impact of
universal credit. The Trussell Trust says that in areas where universal credit has been
rolled out, food bank use has increased by more than 50%. This week, we also learned
that another 400,000 pensioners are in poverty compared with 2010. So why is the Prime Minister
pressing ahead with cuts to pension credit for couples where one person is of pension
age and the other is not?>>The Prime Minister:
Under a Conservative Government we have seen the triple lock on pensions, which has provided
good increases for pensioners year after year, and under this Conservative Government we
have seen the introduction of the new pension arrangements for individuals who are pensioners.
Let us just remember what we saw under a Labour Government. It is not under a Conservative
Government that we saw a 75p rise in pensions—it was under Labour.>>Jeremy Corbyn:
The last Labour Government lifted 2 million pensioners out of poverty; this Government
have put 400,000 more into poverty. Age UK, which I think knows a thing or two about this,
says that this proposal by the Government is “a substantial stealth cut”. This year,
15,000 pensioner households could be up to £7,000 a year worse off as a result of this
stealth cut. I am pleased that the Prime Minister mentioned
the triple lock, because at the last general election the Government alarmed older people
by pledging to scrap the triple lock and the means-tested winter fuel allowance. Will the
Prime Minister give an unequivocal commitment that this is no longer Government policy and
will not be in the next Tory manifesto?>>The Prime Minister:
We have given our commitments to pensioners. We are clear: we are keeping those commitments
to pensioners. What we have seen under Conservatives in government is the basic state pension rise
by over £1,450 a year. That is in direct contrast to what a Labour Government did for
our pensioners. We want people to be able to live in dignity in their old age, and that
is what this Conservative Government are delivering.>>Jeremy Corbyn:
I am sure that the whole generation of WASPI women will be pretty alarmed at the lack of
action by this Government and the lack of justice for them. Additionally, over 1 million
over-75s currently receive a free TV licence, a scheme established by the last Labour Government.
This Government transferred the scheme to the BBC without guaranteeing its funding.
Will the Government take responsibility and guarantee free TV licences for the over-75s?>>The Prime Minister:
We have been clear what we want the BBC to do and, frankly, I think that the BBC is in
a position to be able to do that with the income that it receives.>>Jeremy Corbyn:
The last Labour Government guaranteed free TV licences for the over-75s; this Government
appear to be outsourcing that policy to the BBC. I think it should be an item of public
policy and not be left to somebody else to administer on behalf of the Government. The last Labour Government lifted 2 million
pensioners out of poverty and 2 million children out of absolute poverty, and homelessness
was cut in half. Contrast that with this Government, who have has put half a million more children
and 400,000 more pensioners into poverty, and doubled homelessness. This, by this Government,
is a political choice. There is nothing inevitable about rising poverty, homelessness and soaring
food-bank use in the fifth richest country on earth. So yes, let us work to try to resolve
the Brexit deadlock, but unless this Government tackle insecure work, low pay and rising pensioner
poverty, the Prime Minister’s Government will be marked down for what they are—a
failure in the eyes of the people of this country.>>The Prime Minister:
The right hon. Gentleman cited the last Labour Government—I did not realise that he was
such a fan of the last Labour Government. He seemed to spend the entire time voting
against them when he had a Labour Government. Let us just talk about what is happening under
this Government: a record rate of employment; wages growing at their fastest for a decade;
debt falling; a long-term plan for the NHS, and the biggest cash boost in the NHS’s
history; a skills-based immigration system; more money for police, local councils and
schools; the biggest upgrade in workers’ rights for over 20 years; the freeing of councils
to build more homes; world-class public services—>>Mr Speaker:
Order. Mr Russell-Moyle, you are behaving in a truly delinquent fashion. Calm yourself,
young man. I had to have words with you yesterday. You are a bit over-eager. It is not the sort
of thing that I would ever have done as a Back Bencher.>>The Prime Minister:
World-class public services; better jobs; more homes; and a stronger economy—Conservatives
delivering on the things that matter.>>Dame Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)
(Con): As this week is World Autism Awareness Week,
may I ask my right hon. Friend to encourage all Departments to follow the examples being
set by the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of
Health and Social Care, which are taking initiatives to improve their engagement with people who
have autism in their families? I also ask her to endorse the autism awareness training
course for Members of Parliament—offered through the all-party parliamentary group
on autism and the National Autistic Society—which will be held in this House on 1 May. As we
celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Autism Act 2009, it would be good to see every MP
go through that training course to better help their constituents.>>The Prime Minister:
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for the work that she did to bring in the Autism
Act 2009. It was very important; it was groundbreaking. It was the first piece of parliamentary legislation
to be linked to the condition of autism. I thank her and the members of the all-party
parliamentary group on autism for their work on this important issue, including in highlighting
the awareness week, and in ensuring that autism training is available for Members of Parliament.
I hope, as she does, that Members from across the House take that up. We are reviewing our
autism strategy to ensure that it remains fit for purpose, because we want to know what
is working and where we need to push harder to transform our approach, so we will continue
to look at the issue, which she rightly highlighted in her work on the Act. I welcome that, and
congratulate her on the work that she continues to do on the issue.>>Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber)
(SNP): It is well known that the SNP supports a people’s
vote and has supported revocation, but all the way through this process, right back to
2016, the SNP and the Scottish Government have sought compromise. We have published
document after document, including “Scotland’s Place in Europe”, which we know Michel Barnier
has read; he says it is an interesting document. Why does the Prime Minister continue to ignore
Scotland’s voices? Why has she restricted herself to inviting the Leader of the Opposition
to formal talks? Why has she not invited the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government?
Why is it that Scotland’s voices are being ignored by this Prime Minister and this Government?>>The Prime Minister:
I am meeting the First Minister of Scotland later today, and we will be talking to her
about Scotland.>>Mr Speaker:
Order. The right hon. Gentleman asked a question, and the Prime Minister is answering it. Let
us hear, fully and courteously, the answer.>>The Prime Minister:
Thank you, Mr Speaker. As I say, I am meeting the First Minister of Scotland, and the First
Minister of Wales, later today. The right hon. Gentleman asks why I offered to meet
the Leader of the Opposition. I am happy to meet Members from across the House to discuss
the Brexit issue, but I think I am right in saying that the Leader of the Opposition and
I both want to ensure that we leave the European Union with a deal, whereas of course the right
hon. Gentleman, as he has just said, has a policy of revoking article 50. That means
not leaving the European Union at all.>>Ian Blackford:
I asked about formal talks. I am well aware that my friend and colleague is meeting the
Prime Minister this afternoon.>>Mr Speaker:
Order. Members are becoming very over-excited. The right hon. Gentleman has a right to be
heard, and he will be heard.>>Ian Blackford:
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Let me make it clear that the voices of Scotland will not be shouted
down by Conservatives in this House. The important factor here is that the Prime Minister is
having formal talks with the Leader of the Opposition. Scotland will not accept a Tory
or a Labour Brexit. Scotland voted to remain in the European Union, and we simply will
not be dragged out against our will. Will the Prime Minister now engage in formal talks
with the Scottish Government, the Scottish National party and other Opposition parties
to make sure that our voices are heard, and that the desire to stay in the European Union—the
best deal for all of us—is listened to and respected?>>The Prime Minister:
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, because we have met to talk about these issues, just
as I have met other party leaders from across the House, I am always happy to meet party
leaders from across the House. I want to find a way forward that delivers on the referendum
and delivers Brexit as soon as possible, but in a way that means that we do not have to
fight the European parliamentary elections, and in an orderly way for this country. He
talks about voices from Scotland; I can assure him that there are indeed strong voices for
Scotland in this House—they sit on the Conservative Benches.>>Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty) (Con):
Can I urge my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, on behalf of all the people of Selby,
to put her weight behind the campaign for step-free access for Selby railway station?
I am sorry to disappoint colleagues with my line of questioning, but this matter is very
important for the people of Selby. In this day and age, it is totally unacceptable that
those who are unable to walk up stairs—people with disabilities—are denied access to public
transport. The people of Selby demand action.>>The Prime Minister:
First, I thank my hon. Friend for his service as a Government Minister since 2017. He has
worked extremely hard, serving as both a Wales Office Minister and a Government Whip simultaneously,
and I am sorry that he has resigned. I also thank him for raising the important issue
of access to public transport, particularly access to stations for people with disabilities.
He asked me to add my weight to the campaign, but I have to say that his considerable weight
has been behind the campaign for a long time. As a campaigner!>>Mr Speaker:
Order. The Prime Minister was referring to the hon. Gentleman’s qualities as a campaigner.
That is what she was saying. She was not looking at the hon. Gentleman when she made that remark;
she was saying it on the basis of her knowledge of him.>>The Prime Minister:
As I said, my hon. Friend has been campaigning hard on the issue for some time. I understand
that the Department for Transport will announce tomorrow the stations that will benefit from
funding for accessibility, if my hon. Friend can have just a little patience and wait for
the announcement.>>Owen Smith (Pontypridd) (Lab):
When the Prime Minister sits down later this afternoon with my right hon. Friend the Leader
of the Opposition and the shadow Brexit Secretary, no doubt she will hear that Labour’s policy
on Brexit is to secure membership of a customs union and the single market, and—crucially—to
get a people’s vote on any deal. If the Prime Minister accepts that compromise, she
can pass her deal and leave office. Will she do so?>>The Prime Minister:
The purpose of meeting the Leader of the Opposition today is to look at the areas on which we
agree. There are actually a number of areas on which we agree in relation to Brexit: we
both want to deliver on leaving the EU with a deal; we both want to protect jobs; we both
want to ensure that we end free movement; and we both recognise the importance of the
withdrawal agreement. We want to find a way forward that can command the support of this
House, to deliver on Brexit and the result of the referendum, and to ensure that people
can continue to have trust in their politicians doing what they ask us to do.>>Suella Braverman (Fareham) (Con):
Robert Small and David West were two young men from the Fareham area with their whole
lives ahead of them. While suffering with mental health problems and under the care
of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, they tragically took their own lives. Few can imagine
the grief endured by their families, who have since been campaigning for a change at Southern
Health, which has struggled with systemic issues and problems for some years. Will my
right hon. Friend reassure me that the Government will work with me and other Hampshire MPs
to secure vital changes at Southern Health so that such tragedies may be avoided?>>The Prime Minister:
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important issue. I extend my deepest sympathies to the
families and friends of the constituents she referred to. These incidents are very concerning.
I understand that the local trust and the county council have pledged to work together
more closely to resolve issues, but we remain absolutely committed to transforming mental
health services around the country. We are providing record investment for these services,
and we have an ambitious plan to increase the workforce and deal with the issues. I
reassure my hon. Friend that action will be taken to ensure that we can prevent such incidents
from happening in the future. They were terrible incidents, and our sympathies are with the
family and friends of the victims.>>Afzal Khan (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab):
This afternoon there will be a reception in Parliament to honour the 51 Muslims killed
in Christchurch. In the wake of that horrific terror attack, mosques were targeted in Birmingham
and Newcastle. There is a global rise in Islamophobia, including in the ranks of the Tory party.
In an article for The Times this week, their party chairman could not even utter the word
“Islamophobia”. How can they deal with a problem they cannot even name? I ask the
Prime Minister, for the third time, when will the Conservative party conduct an inquiry
and adopt the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims definition of Islamophobia?>>The Prime Minister:
As I believe I have said to the hon. Gentleman before, when any allegations of Islamophobia
are made, against elected Conservatives or members of the Conservative party, we take
them very seriously and action is taken in relation to those individuals. He referred
to the attacks on mosques. I absolutely condemn any attacks against mosques, or indeed against
any place of worship. I am pleased to say that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary
has increased the funding available to help protect places of worship against attacks.
This has no place in our society and we should all be working to ensure that people can go
to their place of worship and feel safe and secure in this country.>>Mr David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con):
Does it remain the Prime Minister’s position that the Leader of the Opposition is not fit
to govern?>>The Prime Minister:
Yes, I think my right hon. Friend will know, having heard my remarks about what I think
a Labour Government would do to the economy, that I do not think the Labour party should
be in government. It is the Conservatives who are delivering for people. The Leader
of the Opposition and I have different opinions on a number of issues, and I will highlight
just one. When this country suffered a chemical weapons attack on the streets of Salisbury,
it was this Government, with me as Prime Minister, who stood up to the perpetrators. The right
hon. Gentleman said that he preferred to believe Vladimir Putin than our own security agencies.
That is not the position of someone who should be Prime Minister.>>Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr)
(PC): The British Government are in meltdown, Westminster
is completely dysfunctional, and this morning the Wales Office lost its fourth Minister
in a year. Who could possibly say that Westminster is working for Wales?>>The Prime Minister:
The hon. Gentleman should look at the funding that has been made available to Wales by this
Westminster Government. He talks about the Government of Wales. There are indeed issues
there that I think we should be focusing on, such as the national health service in Wales
under a Labour Government. Yes, Members may well point. That is what we see when Labour
is in office: a national health service that has not met its A&E target for over a decade.>>Dr Phillip Lee (Bracknell) (Con):
According to polling that has just been published, over 58% of the British public have expressed
a wish to have a final say on the Brexit process. Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that,
with the ongoing impasse here in Westminster, and despite her best endeavours to pass her
deal, and indeed the ongoing endeavours of the House to find a compromise, the British
public are right increasingly to think that they should have a final say before proceeding
with Brexit?>>The Prime Minister:
I know how passionately my hon. Friend has campaigned on this issue for some time now.
He refers to the deal that the Government have put forward being rejected. Of course,
the Leader of the Opposition’s deal has also been rejected by this House, as has a
second referendum. What I believe we should be doing is delivering on the result of the
first referendum, which is why I will be sitting down with the Leader of the Opposition later
today.>>Preet Kaur Gill (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
(Lab/Co-op): My constituent Georgia Stokes has two children
with autism who have been unable to get the support they need and are therefore not at
school because of incorrect diagnoses. Every child with autism is unique, which is why
awareness raising and education about autism is vital. Some 34% of children on the autism
spectrum say that the worst thing about being at school is being picked on. This World Autism
Awareness Week, will the Prime Minister commit to speeding up the time between referral for
autism and diagnosis, and will she promise to fund mandatory training for healthcare
professionals so that parents such as Georgia are not left to fend for themselves?>>The Prime Minister:
The hon. Lady again raises the important issue of autism. I am sure that, as constituency
MPs, we all see cases where parents have found it very difficult to get support for their
children who are on the autistic spectrum. It is important to ensure that there is the
awareness and the ability to deal with this issue. As I said in response to my right hon.
Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan), we are looking again
at our autism strategy, because we want to ensure that we have in place all we need to
support those with autism.>>Lee Rowley (North East Derbyshire) (Con):
Last week in this Chamber, the Prime Minister said that the Leader of the Opposition is “The biggest threat to our standing in the
world, to our defence and to our economy” In her judgment, what now qualifies him for
involvement in Brexit?>>The Prime Minister:
Every Member of this House is involved in Brexit. I want to deliver Brexit. I want to
deliver Brexit in an orderly way. I want to do it as soon as possible. I want to do it
without us having to fight European parliamentary elections. To do that, we need to get an agreement
through this House on the withdrawal agreement and a deal. The House has rejected every proposal
that has gone before it so far, as well as a second referendum and revoking article 50.
I believe that the public want us to work across the House to find a solution that delivers
Brexit, delivers on the referendum and gives people faith that politicians have done what
they asked and actually delivered for them.>>Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP):
After two years of Brexit deadlock, intransigence and a seven-hour Cabinet meeting, the best
the Prime Minister can do is invite the leader of the British Labour party to become the
co-owner of her Brexit failure. Let me ask her: had she been the Leader of the Opposition
and been invited into a trap like that, would she have been foolish enough to accept?>>The Prime Minister:
Across this House, we all have a responsibility to ensure that we deliver Brexit and that
we do it as soon as possible and in an orderly way. It is entirely right, and I think members
of the public expect it, for us to reach out across the House to find a way through; they
want a solution. The country needs a solution, and the country deserves a solution, and that
is what I am working to find.>>Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con):
In the past fortnight there have been two incidents involving knife crime in my city
of Chelmsford, and my constituents are extremely concerned. Can my right hon. Friend give us
an update on this week’s knife crime summit?>>The Prime Minister:
My hon. Friend raises a very important issue. Our thoughts are with the family and friends
of her constituents. It was a very important summit that we held on Monday. I was pleased
to bring together people from the police, across Government Departments, community groups,
the judiciary, healthcare and a wide range of activities to recognise the importance
of taking a holistic, collective approach to dealing with knife crime. We will be consulting
on a statutory duty to deal with knife crime as a public health issue, which is important,
to ensure that everybody plays their part. After the summit I was able to meet a number
of families who had lost children—I say children, because these were teenagers—as
a result of serious violence involving knife crime and a shooting. The horror and devastation
of these attacks is brought home when sitting down and listening to the families who have
seen promising young lives cut short in this tragic way. We are committed as a Government
to working not just across Government but with society as a whole to deal with the scourge
of serious violence, which is taking so many young lives.>>Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport)
(Lab/Co-op): Back in June last year, I asked the Prime
Minister to help fund the recycling of the 20 old nuclear submarines tied up and rotting
in Devonport and Rosyth. Today’s National Audit Office report shows that the Ministry
of Defence has no funded plan to do this work, and no submarines have been dismantled since
1980—that is the year I was born. Will the Prime Minister now extend the civil nuclear
clean-up to make sure that it includes all the Royal Navy submarines, so that we can
deal with this issue, and make that part of her legacy in office?>>The Prime Minister:
We remain committed to the safe, secure and cost-effective defuelling and dismantling
of our nuclear submarines as soon as is practically possible. The MOD continues to act as a responsible
nuclear operator by maintaining its decommissioned nuclear submarines to meet the necessary safety
and security standards. I think its commitment is illustrated by the recent success in the
initial dismantling of the submarine Swiftsure, which has been followed immediately by the
initial dismantling of Resolution. The MOD will continue to work with the Nuclear Decommissioning
Authority to achieve steady-state disposal of our laid-up submarines as soon as possible.
We are working on this. The Labour Government had 13 years as well, and what work did they
do during those 13 years on this decommissioning issue?>>Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con):
Why is a Conservative Prime Minister, who repeatedly told us that no deal is better
than a bad deal, now approaching Labour MPs to block a WTO Brexit when most Conservative
MPs want us to leave the European Union with a clean break in nine days’ time?>>The Prime Minister:
I say to my right hon. Friend that I was absolutely right: no deal is better than a bad deal,
but we have got a good deal. We had a chance last Friday to ensure that we would leave
the European Union on 22 May, and I am grateful to all colleagues who supported that motion,
some of whom, I know, doing so with a very heavy heart. But I want to ensure that we
deliver Brexit. I want to ensure that we do it in an orderly way, as soon as possible,
without fighting European elections, but to do that we need to find a way of this House
agreeing the withdrawal agreement and agreeing the way forward. It is on that basis that
I have been sitting down with Members across the House and will continue to do so in order
to ensure that we can find a way forward that this House can support.>>Martin Whitfield (East Lothian) (Lab):
Grace Warnock is a young East Lothian constituent of mine who has Crohn’s disease. Using accessible
toilets, she has faced negative comments and abuse from adults, but this has inspired her
to create Grace’s sign to remind everyone that there are people with invisible disabilities,
who have every right to use accessible toilet facilities, and that society should have a
heart. Will the Prime Minister join me in endorsing Grace’s campaign to standardise
toilet signage to ensure that anyone—anybody—with a disability feels able to use accessible
toilets without abuse?>>The Prime Minister:
I commend Grace for the work that she has been doing on this issue—sadly, coming out
of her own personal experience. I think the hon. Gentleman has raised a very important
issue. We want to make sure that people with invisible disabilities are able to access
public toilets and can do so in a way that does not lead to the abuse that, sadly, Grace
suffered. I fully recognise the campaign that she is fighting, and I think it is an excellent
campaign.>>Dr Caroline Johnson (Sleaford and North
Hykeham) (Con): The people of Sleaford and North Hykeham—like
myself, like the country—voted for Brexit and want to see it delivered. I understand
the Prime Minister’s saying that we have to look at the balance of risk. Indeed, I
looked at the balance of risk myself and supported her deal, and I urge others in our party to
do so. But if it comes to the point when we have to balance the risk of a no-deal Brexit
versus the risk of letting down the country and ushering in a Marxist, antisemite-led
Government, what does she think at that point is the lowest risk?>>The Prime Minister:
First, I thank my hon. Friend for the support she has shown for the Government’s deal
and for the encouragement she is giving to others to support that deal. I want to see
that we are able to deliver for her constituents and for others across the country and that
we, as I say, deliver Brexit, and do it as soon as possible. In delivering Brexit, we
need to ensure that we are delivering on the result of the referendum. That is what I said
yesterday, and that is what we will be looking to do.>>Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP):
The Prime Minister stated last night that she will meet the Leader of the Opposition.
Can she indicate for the benefit of my party, the Democratic Unionist party, but also for
all Members of this House, which of the Leader of the Opposition’s Brexit policies she
thinks she could accept?>>The Prime Minister:
I am going to be in discussion with the Leader of the Opposition, but as I indicated earlier,
I think the Leader of the Opposition and I both want to deliver leaving the EU and to
deliver that with a deal. I think we both agree that the withdrawal agreement is a part
of any deal. I think we both agree that we want to protect jobs and ensure high standards
of workers’ rights. I think there are a number of areas on which we agree; the question
is, can we come to an agreement that we can both support that would command the support
of this House? That is what the talks will be about.>>Sir Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk)
(Con): Seventy years after the founding of NATO,
will the Prime Minister find time today to look at the situation facing Northern Ireland
veterans, some of whom are being arrested and charged with murder, nearly 50 years after
the alleged events and where there is no new evidence? What signal does that send to youngsters
looking to join the armed forces? Will she try to make solving this part of her legacy?>>The Prime Minister:
I recognise the issue that my hon. Friend has raised, and obviously the concern has
been shared by our hon. and right hon. Friends and others across the House. The current system
for dealing with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past is not working well for anyone. As I
have said previously in this Chamber, around 3,500 were killed in the troubles, and the
vast majority were murdered by terrorists. Many of these cases require further investigation,
including the deaths of hundreds of members of the security forces. The system to investigate
the past needs to change to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors of the
troubles and to ensure that our armed forces and police officers are not unfairly treated.
The Ministry of Defence is also looking at what more can be done to ensure that service
personnel are not unfairly pursued through the courts in relation to service overseas,
including considering legislation, and we continue to look at how best to move forward
in relation to the issues of the legacy in Northern Ireland.>>Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth)
(Lab/Co-op): South Wales Police is doing a brilliant job
in Cardiff South and Penarth, in spite of pressures, dealing with knife crime, drugs,
domestic violence and so much more, but it does not get capital city funding, unlike
in other capitals, which makes the pressure worse. Will the Prime Minister look at this
again urgently, and does she agree that we would be better off spending billions on our
police instead of Brexit?>>The Prime Minister:
I understand that South Wales Police has been given extra funding in relation to dealing
with knife crime. It is important that we deal with this issue. The hon. Gentleman raised
Brexit, and it is also important that we deliver on the result of the referendum and do what
is necessary to ensure that we are prepared for leaving the European Union, which is exactly
what the Government are doing. However, we are focusing on the issue of serious violence,
as witnessed by the knife crime summit that we held earlier this week.>>Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con):
In agreeing with the 14 members of the Cabinet who are happy for the United Kingdom to leave
the European Union next week, can I ask my right hon. Friend whether she will set out
her vision for the benefits that will come to the United Kingdom from no deal?>>The Prime Minister:
I say to my hon. Friend, first, that he should not believe everything that he reads in the
newspapers; the Cabinet came to a collective decision yesterday. Secondly, I have always
been clear that I think the opportunities for the United Kingdom outside the European
Union are bright. I believe we can build that greater Britain and that brighter future for
everybody. I believe we will do that better by leaving with a good deal. I believe we
have a good deal, and that is why I have been working to ensure that we can leave, do so
as soon as possible and in an orderly way, and build that brighter future.>>Naz Shah (Bradford West) (Lab):
Despite the repeated efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan)
and others in calling on the Prime Minister to adopt the all-party group on British Muslims’
definition of Islamophobia, the Prime Minister refuses. Despite repeated calls for an independent
inquiry into institutional Islamophobia in the Tory party by the former chair, Baroness
Warsi, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Tories’ own Conservative Muslim Forum, the
Prime Minister again refuses. The London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, said just a few days ago: “I
have never received an explanation let alone an apology for the openly Islamophobic campaign
the party ran against me in London in 2016,”and that the attacks on him continue. I ask the
Prime Minister directly today: will she now show some leadership and at the very minimum
apologise to London Mayor Sadiq Khan for the Islamophobic campaign led by her party?>>The Prime Minister:
As I said in response to the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan), any allegations
made in relation to the Conservative party are investigated carefully by the Conservative
party and action is taken. This Government have been doing more to ensure that the police
can deal with issues around hate crime. When I was Home Secretary, I required the police
to ensure that they were properly recording incidents of hate crime, so that we could
better identify Islamophobia. I am pleased to say that my right hon. Friends the Communities
Secretary and the Home Secretary recently chaired a roundtable on anti-Muslim hate crime.
It is being taken seriously by the Conservative party and by the Government.>>Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) (Con):
It is worth everyone in this place remembering that for people outside there is far, far
more to life than Brexit, as illustrated by many of the questions today. In Loughborough,
we are very proud of Loughborough University being the best university in the world for
sports-related subjects. One group of athletes who have been much undersung in recent weeks
are our Team GB athletes who took part in the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi. One hundred
and twenty-seven athletes returned with 169 medals, over 60 gold. Will the Prime Minister
congratulate them, and does she think it might be time for GB to host the next Special Olympics?>>The Prime Minister:
I will look very carefully at my right hon. Friend’s suggestion in relation to the Special
Olympics. I am very happy to join her—I am sure everybody across the whole House will—in
congratulating our GB team on the significant haul of medals they brought back from the
Special Olympics. May I also say how much we value Loughborough University and the work
it does on sports-related matters?>>Karin Smyth (Bristol South) (Lab):
Headteachers and governors in my constituency have cut school budgets to the bones. They
are now desperately concerned about the impact on children. The Prime Minister’s own advisers
have been sent into schools and, as reported by Schools Week, their ideas are truly shocking:
reducing lunch portions for some of the most disadvantaged; holding back money for charities;
and even employing unqualified teachers. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that these
suggestions belong to the days of the workhouse, not 21st-century England?>>The Prime Minister:
The hon. Lady knows that we are increasing the funding—£1.3 billion extra—available
to schools. I am sure she will want to welcome, as I do, the fact that there are 22,500 more
children in the Bristol local authority area in good and outstanding schools since 2010.>>James Cleverly (Braintree) (Con):
Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford), I
thank the Prime Minister for the invitation she extended to me to her knife crime summit
on Monday. Does she agree that, while the numbers and powers of police officers are
important, we need to send a message to people who would never wear a t-shirt made in a sweatshop
and look carefully at the air miles of the food they buy, yet seem not to make the connection
between the drug use they have in their personal lives and the damage done to young people
on our streets? Will she send a message that it is not acceptable?>>The Prime Minister:
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. If we look at the extent to which knife crime
is gang and drug-related, many people across our society need to ask themselves what they
are doing to ensure we deal with knife crime and not see drug-related gangs committing
these crimes, so that we are able to rid our society of what I believe to be the curse
of drugs. I believe they have those impacts. They are bad, and that is why it is important
that, as a Government, we have a very clear drugs strategy to take people off drugs and
ensure we deal with this issue. My hon. Friend makes a very important point: it is a matter
not just for Government or police, but for all of us across our society to deal with
these issues.>>Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP):
Freedom of movement is a good thing. It is good economically: EU citizens exercising
their free movement rights contribute to our GDP. It is good socially: our communities
are more diverse and more successful as a result. And it is good for our young people,
who can go to Europe to study and to work. Can the Prime Minister be honest about the
benefits of freedom of movement and ensure that we retain those benefits?>>The Prime Minister:
We want to ensure we have a migration system that enables us to welcome people into this
country on the basis of the skills they will bring and the contribution they will make
to this country, not of the country they happen to come from. When people voted to leave the
European Union in 2016, they sent a clear message that they wanted things to change.
One of the things they wanted to change was to bring an end to free movement and to ensure
that it is the UK Government who are able to make decisions about who can come to this
country.>>Mr Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con):
As the Prime Minister seeks to get her short extension upon the short extension, will she
make it absolutely clear to the European Union that if they turn around and say that it has
to be a long extension and that we will have to fight the European Union elections, she
will say no, no, no?>>The Prime Minister:
We had the opportunity on Friday to cement that extension to 22 May and ensure that we
left on 22 May. As I said earlier, I am grateful to all who supported that motion. Some did
so with some difficulty, and with a very heavy heart. I now want us to find a position where
we can, across the House, support the withdrawal agreement and a deal that enables us to leave
on 22 May without having to hold European parliamentary elections. We can only do that
if we come together and find a way forward that this House is willing to support.>>John Grogan (Keighley) (Lab):
The Prime Minister and I are both fans of Geoffrey Boycott, who was perhaps not best
known for compromise in his prime but, like many of us, has mellowed with the years. In
the spirit of the times, will the Prime Minister find time in her busy diary to look at the
compromise proposals advanced by the Mayor of South Yorkshire on the important subject
of Yorkshire devolution?>>The Prime Minister:
We are looking seriously at issues around Yorkshire devolution. I know that it has caused
some concern and there are different opinions about how it should be taken forward. The
hon. Gentleman references Geoffrey Boycott, and one thing that I have always admired about
Geoffrey Boycott is that he stayed at the crease, kept going and got his century in
the end.>>Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con):
Further to the last question, once the Prime Minister has dealt with the rather tricky
issue that is Brexit, as I am sure she will, will she move on to the much more difficult
problem of devolution in Yorkshire? Now that the Secretary of State has ruled out devolution
to the whole of Yorkshire, will the Prime Minister consider a devolution deal to the
York city region, to include the city of York and the glorious county of North Yorkshire?>>The Prime Minister:
We recognise that there is in Yorkshire, as I have just said, enthusiasm for and dedication
to the concept of devolution, and its potential to release and harness local people’s sense
of identity with Yorkshire and be of ongoing benefit to the people of Yorkshire. We need
to find the right proposals that will suit the area, and I believe that my right hon.
Friend the Communities Secretary has met the Yorkshire leaders. Discussions are continuing
with them about a localist approach to devolution in Yorkshire different from the One Yorkshire
proposal, which did not meet our criteria.>>Sir Vince Cable (Twickenham) (LD):
Reports from the Cabinet yesterday suggest that two proposals were put forward for cross-party
co-operation to solve the Brexit crisis. One of them was to work with the Leader of the
Opposition to deliver a Labour Brexit. The other was to work with the 280 MPs across
the House who will support the Prime Minister’s deal subject to a confirmatory referendum.
Why does she trust the Leader of the Opposition more than the people?>>The Prime Minister:
I want to ensure that we find a resolution that the House can support, such that we can
deliver Brexit in a timely fashion. I believe it is important to do that as soon as possible,
and I want us to do it without having to fight the European elections. I believe it is absolutely
right, and the public would expect us, to be willing to work across the Chamber to find
a resolution to this issue.>>Rachel Maclean (Redditch) (Con):
Conservative-led Redditch Borough Council has recently submitted its bid for the future
high streets fund. Will the Prime Minister add her support to that bid, because the people
of Redditch deserve to have our town unlocked? Does she agree that it is only with Conservatives
in our town hall that we can continue to unlock Redditch after years of Labour neglect?>>The Prime Minister:
I commend Conservative-led Redditch council for the work that it is doing to unlock the
town and to unlock the high street. My hon. Friend tempts me to support one bid over others,
but there will be other of our hon. and right hon. Friends who wish me to support bids from
their towns. It is important that we have made this money available, and I congratulate
Redditch council, under the Conservatives, for all that it is doing to ensure the vitality
of the town.>>Nick Boles (Grantham and Stamford) (Ind):
I find myself in a slightly curious position, sandwiched between the Liberal Democrats and
the Welsh nationalists. I reassure my constituents and hon. Members that I remain a progressive
Conservative while I am, sadly, independent in this House. The Prime Minister’s late conversion to
compromise is welcome, but I am sure she will understand the scepticism of those of us who
have been working on a cross-party compromise for many months. Can she reassure me that
she will enter discussions with the Leader of the Opposition and other parties without
the red lines that have bedevilled the Brexit negotiations so far?>>The Prime Minister:
I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s indication that he remains a progressive Conservative
in his thinking on various issues. I approach the discussions in a constructive spirit,
because I want to find a resolution of this issue. I want to ensure that we can do what
people told us we should do, which is to deliver Brexit in an orderly way that is good for
this country.

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