All 40 Parliamentary debates on 8th Sep 2020

Tue 8th Sep 2020
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Tue 8th Sep 2020
White Goods (Registration)
Commons Chamber

1st reading & 1st reading & 1st reading & 1st reading: House of Commons
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [Lords]
Commons Chamber

Report stage & Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting & Committee: 1st sitting & Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons & Report stage & Report stage: House of Commons & Committee stage
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Second sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 2nd sitting & Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Parliamentary Constituencies Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Sentencing Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 3rd reading
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 3rd reading
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Fire Safety Bill
Lords Chamber

1st reading (Hansard) & 1st reading (Hansard) & 1st reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 1st reading

House of Commons

Tuesday 8th September 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tuesday 8 September 2020
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock

Prayers

Tuesday 8th September 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Prayers mark the daily opening of Parliament. The occassion is used by MPs to reserve seats in the Commons Chamber with 'prayer cards'. Prayers are not televised on the official feed.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Virtual participation in proceedings commenced (Order, 4 June).
[NB: [V] denotes a Member participating virtually.]

Oral Answers to Questions

Tuesday 8th September 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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The Secretary of State was asked—
Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
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What steps the Government are taking to support the Lebanese people since the explosion in that country on 4 August 2020.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on restarting the resettlement of refugees from Lebanon.

Royston Smith Portrait Royston Smith (Southampton, Itchen) (Con)
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What steps the Government are taking to support the Lebanese people since the explosion in that country on 4 August 2020.

James Cleverly Portrait The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa (James Cleverly)
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Our thoughts remain with the people affected by the terrible events in Beirut. The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and I spoke with the Lebanese President, Prime Minister and ambassador respectively. We rapidly deployed UK medical, humanitarian, military and logistics experts to support Beirutis in their response to the blast. The UK is a long-standing friend of the Lebanese people, and we were pleased to commit £25 million to help the most vulnerable.

On refugee resettlement, the resumption of arrivals remains dependent on covid-19 developments internationally and in the UK. We are not in a position to resume arrivals in the short term.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne [V]
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I thank the Minister for that answer and for the UK humanitarian response. The Lebanese people have suffered greatly from the consequences of civil war and then failed political institutions. What is the Minister doing to help bring about a stable political settlement, to allow the people of Lebanon to restore peace and security to their lives? Will he and the Foreign Secretary consider introducing Magnitsky-style sanctions in conjunction with other key members of the international community if any political leaders are found culpable?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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As I say, my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have engaged at the highest levels with the Lebanese Government, and ensuring that there is political and economic stability, as well as security, is key. We support the Lebanese Government in many ways, including through the Lebanese armed forces, which recruit cross-faith and cross-community. Our diplomatic efforts go hand in hand with our humanitarian efforts. My right hon. Friend will understand that future designations under our autonomous Magnitsky sanctions regime are not something that we wish to speculate about at the Dispatch Box, but we will ensure that our support to the people of Lebanon, and Beirutis in particular, continues.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron
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Migrants are crossing the channel partly because of a lack of safe and legal routes. Refugee resettlement, including from Lebanon, is a safe and legal route, but the pandemic has understandably seen it suspended. Now is surely the time to reopen those safe and legal routes. Will the Minister take steps this week to assist the Lebanese Government in restoring safe routes to the UK for refugees?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. In 2015, the then Prime Minister committed to help 20,000 vulnerable refugees. As of March this year, 19,768 had been taken in by the UK, in a typical act of generosity. As I say, future acceptances will be dependent on the covid situation, which we will keep under review.

Royston Smith Portrait Royston Smith
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Before last month’s tragic blast in Beirut, Lebanon was already facing financial ruin, requiring investment from regional partners. Countries will obviously be reluctant to invest if they feel that some of their money may go to help fund Hezbollah and its activities. Has my right hon. Friend had conversations with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf states about what they can do to help Lebanon in its time of need?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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My hon. Friend is right that the diplomatic efforts of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office go hand in hand with its humanitarian efforts. We have indeed spoken to good friends of the UK across the region about what more they can do to support the Lebanese people. I hear what he says about concerns about money going to Hezbollah, and I can assure him that the money committed by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to support the Lebanese was targeted directly at the vulnerable people in need and did not go through Hezbollah.

Fabian Hamilton Portrait Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East) (Lab) [V]
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One month on from the horrific explosion in Beirut and the subsequent collapse of the Lebanese Government, the UK Government have rightly pledged aid to support the people of Lebanon. Global leadership is urgently needed now to ensure the rapid reconstruction of the port of Beirut, to allow vital supplies and international aid to reach those in need. How are the Government planning to work with our international allies, such as France, to ensure that aid is delivered swiftly and directly to those who need it most on the ground in Lebanon and that the port can resume its vital role as a point of entry for UN aid to the whole region, including Syria, Iraq and Jordan?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the importance of Beirut as a port city for the Lebanese—a traditionally internationalist and commercially minded people. On international leadership, my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary engaged very swiftly at the highest level and, in her role as Secretary of State at the Department for International Development, my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Anne-Marie Trevelyan) engaged within days with an international group of leaders—national leaders—to co-ordinate the response. I am very proud that British expertise, including under-sea survey experts, was deployed at haste to Beirut to help with the technical support in its rebuilding programme.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
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What progress the Government has made through international co-operation on tackling climate change.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
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What progress the Government has made through international co-operation on tackling climate change.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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What progress the Government has made through international co- operation on tackling climate change.

James Duddridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (James Duddridge)
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The UK is leading by example on climate change. We are the first major economy to legislate on net zero by 2050. Globally, we have provided 33 million people with improved access to clean energy and helped 66 million people cope with the effects of climate change. As co-host of the conference of the parties and president of the G7 next year, we will bring together accelerated action on the climate change crisis.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans
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With the UK being president of the climate change conference, COP26, I am really pleased to see the Government bring forward proposals that would prohibit large businesses from using products that have been grown on illegally deforested places such as in the Amazon, but what steps is the Minister’s Department taking to ensure that this is a workable and successful policy?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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As a Government, we have worked for many years to tackle deforestation, and specifically deforestation caused by trade in unsustainable agricultural commodities, including timber. For example, in Indonesia, we have worked to improve regulations, improve independent monitoring and improve law enforcement. I am pleased to say to the House today that 100% of timber exports from Indonesia are sourced independently from audited factories and forests.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones
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Next year, the UK will both host the UN climate change conference and assume the presidency of the G7, so does my hon. Friend agree that, at this crucial time for our foreign policy, now is the perfect opportunity to bring together security, foreign and development work and leverage that behind tackling climate change?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I do agree with the thrust of the question. The world is looking for the UK to show global leadership in one of the greatest challenges of our time. The creation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office brings together our diplomatic and development experiences, which means that we can do more to tackle climate change. The Department and I are working very closely with ministerial colleagues to support this agenda. In particular, we are working with Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, who is known well to Members in this Chamber.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew
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If we are to achieve our goal of carbon net zero by 2050, some form of effective carbon taxation that takes account of the challenges of international trade will be necessary. Given that, what negotiations has the Department had with our European partners on the establishment of an effective system of carbon border adjustment payments?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I have discussed this incredibly important and technical matter with Treasury officials. I can reassure the House that we remain a global leader on decarbonisation and recognise that, as we cut domestic emissions, it is important to ensure that that does not lead to emissions elsewhere. An active debate is under way on which interventions are going to work, and the Government are monitoring and actively engaging with those discussions.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab/Co-op)
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To avoid scrutiny, the Secretary of State snuck out cuts of £2.9 billion from the aid budget on the day Parliament rose for the summer recess. That is around 20% of the aid budget, despite the fact that projections of an economic downturn suggested a required fall of something closer to 9%. Can the Secretary of State tell us where those cuts will come from, and how the Government will ensure that they tackle poverty and the climate crisis and deliver value for money for the British people? Will he today commit to ending the use of UK aid and investment to fund fossil fuel projects in the global south?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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The Government take our responsibilities very seriously. I remind the hon. Lady that we have delivered on 0.7%, but that does mean that the budget goes down as GDP goes down. In our prioritisation process, we have looked at a number of things to protect, including, in particular, the vulnerable, the bottom billion, climate, girls’ education and using Britain as a force for good overall. The details of that will be presented to the House in due course.

Paul Holmes Portrait Paul Holmes (Eastleigh) (Con)
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What recent assessment the Government have made of the political and humanitarian situation in Yemen.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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What recent assessment he has made of the political and humanitarian situation in Yemen.

James Cleverly Portrait The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa (James Cleverly)
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The humanitarian situation in Yemen is worsening, and we are particularly concerned about the growth of famine. In addition, UK-funded modelling predicts that the number of symptomatic cases of covid-19 in Yemen could reach as many as 10 million. In response to the risk of famine, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs announced last week that we are committing a further £25 million to Yemen, and we continue to reiterate the UK’s unequivocal support for the efforts of the United Nations special envoy, Martin Griffiths.

Paul Holmes Portrait Paul Holmes
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Does the Minister agree that the action this Government have taken to support those in need in Yemen will be further enhanced by bringing together our diplomatic clout and development expertise in the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I agree with my hon. Friend on that. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary speaks with his international counterparts about the international effort to support Yemen, and I speak with the Yemenis themselves. The best thing that can happen for the people of Yemen is for the conflict to cease, which is why diplomatic pressure is applied to that end.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss [V]
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Today, Oxfam campaigners are visiting the new FCDO to hand in a letter on behalf of thousands of people, including my constituents, that calls on the UK Government to stop fuelling the war in Yemen and to reverse the decision to resume arms sales licences to Saudi Arabia. Does the Secretary of State not accept the inherent contradiction between selling arms with one part of the FCDO and providing aid with the other? Does he also accept that what Yemen needs is an urgent and immediate ceasefire, rather than an escalation of this five-year-old conflict?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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The UK has an internationally respected and robust arms trade licensing regime. We have a close working relationship with the allies that are involved in the conflict in Yemen, to minimise civilian casualties and collateral damage. It is completely legitimate for all countries around the world to defend themselves against external aggression, and we are proud of the work we are doing to help the people of Yemen through this difficult time.

Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)
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What recent assessment he has made of the political and security situation in Cameroon.

James Duddridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (James Duddridge)
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The Government are deeply concerned at the situation in the north-west and south-west regions of Cameroon. We are assisting humanitarian efforts, and today I can announce that we are increasing funding to the humanitarian efforts by £4.5 million, bringing the total for this year to £13.5 million.

Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris
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I am grateful to the Minister for his answer and for his clear commitment, as I am to the Chair of the Select Committee for his interest in this area. What is going on in Cameroon is concerning for us all, whether we are talking about the multiple hundreds of thousands of displaced persons internally or in neighbouring countries, the more than 1 million people going hungry or the significant and continuing violence, including last month’s suicide bombing. This country has a special connection to Cameroon and a special responsibility to be part of a peaceful future there, as does France. It is hard to see a future settlement that does not involve both countries, so will the Minister tell us what conversations he has had with his counterpart in France about working together to bring about a peaceful solution?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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That is an excellent point. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his passion on Cameroon, and I know that a number of colleagues share concerns, which the Government of Cameroon understand. We regularly engage with a number of partners, including the French and Americans, and the UN, where there have been resolutions. I intend to travel to Paris, covid permitting, in the next few months to discuss areas of mutual interest across the continent where we can work together, and Cameroon will be high on that list.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
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What recent discussions he has had with his Belarusian counterpart on (a) democracy and (b) the rule of law in that country.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
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What recent representations he has made to his Belarusian counterpart on the arrest and alleged torture of protesters by security forces in that country.

Damian Collins Portrait Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con)
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What diplomatic steps his Department has taken to help ensure media freedom for domestic and international journalists in Belarus.

Brendan Clarke-Smith Portrait Brendan Clarke-Smith (Bassetlaw) (Con)
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What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the 2020 presidential elections in Belarus on the political and security situation in that country.

Wendy Morton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Wendy Morton)
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The Government have been clear: we do not accept the results of the fraudulent presidential elections in Belarus. We have strongly condemned the shocking scenes of violence by the authorities in Belarus towards peaceful protestors and the targeting of journalists, including representatives of the BBC. I have raised these concerns with the Foreign Minister of Belarus, and in my statements to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe on 28 August and to the UN Security Council on 4 September. The Belarusian authorities must be held to account, and we are calling for an independent investigation through the OSCE. We support sanctions, and there must be dialogue between the people of Belarus and the authorities.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey
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My constituents in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath do not view the suspension of military training to Belarusian forces as a cause for celebration. That the UK was supporting the last dictator in Europe does not square with the UK’s espoused role as a beacon of hope. Between 2018 and ’20, UK armed forces provided training to 17 of the 30 countries where the FCO is particularly concerned about human rights issues. Will the Minister urgently provide me with comprehensive detail on the specific training provided to the Belarusian armed forces and full details of police and military training being provided to Turkey, Bahrain and the Philippines?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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With specific regard to Belarus, the hon. Gentleman raises a very important point around defence co-operation. The UK shares a co-operative relationship with the Belarusian armed forces, including mutual learning, winter survival training, language tuition and peacekeeping, but in the light of recent events we have suspended all defence engagement with Belarus.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy
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There are protesters outside Parliament today trying to draw attention to the situation in Belarus. I hope that the Minister will find time to pop out to meet them, as it is really important that we talk to members of the diaspora community here. The EU is currently drawing up a list of Belarusian officials who they will make subject to asset freezes and travel bans. Is the UK looking to do likewise, and if not, why not?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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The hon. Lady makes a very important point. She can rest assured that we will, at the very least, match that list.

Damian Collins Portrait Damian Collins [V]
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As the Minister said, two BBC journalists have had their accreditation revoked in Belarus, and we have also seen entire shutdowns of the internet in that country to stop citizens both reporting on what is happening in their country and finding out information for themselves. Does she agree that this is completely intolerable and a violation of the rights of citizens of that country? What representations have we made to the Government of Belarus that they should stop these internet shutdowns and removals of accreditations for BBC journalists?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this with me today. The Belarusian authorities have indeed blocked internet access for the entire country on several occasions. I have made clear through my statements at the OSCE and the UN that the democratic values and rights of the Belarusian people, including freedom of expression and media freedoms such as access to information, must be respected, and those who violate them must be held accountable.

Brendan Clarke-Smith Portrait Brendan Clarke-Smith
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I know that my hon. Friend shares my deep concern about the violence we have seen to suppress the peaceful demonstrations in Belarus, and I welcome her comments so far. Can she assure me that she will continue to work with our international partners to put pressure on the Belarusian regime to stop all violence against journalists, protesters and opposition candidates, and does she share my concern over the forced deportation of such individuals?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question and for his interest in the situation in Belarus. I can assure him that we are supporting an independent investigation through the OSCE into the fraudulent election and the violations by the Belarusian authorities. I spoke to Germany and the US on 18 August and France on 19 August, and I have also spoken to the Baltic states, Finland, Sweden and Poland.

Alyn Smith Portrait Alyn Smith (Stirling) (SNP)
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We on the SNP Benches, and I am sure those across the House, support and salute the bravery of pro-democracy activists and call for the immediate release of all political prisoners, along with, of course, Maria Kolesnikova. I am sure that we all agree on that point.

I am grateful for the Minister’s statement and I agree, as far as it goes, but I would urge her to go further. I make four concrete proposals specifically based on the rule of law. There are things we can do through the OSCE and European partners, but there also things we can do specifically. Targeted sanctions on individuals under the Magnitsky regime is something that the UK can do now. We welcome the suspension of military co-operation, but could we have an explicit statement on what it actually involves and its ramifications? Can we explore humanitarian aid to activists? Poland has given €10 million to brave activists. Can we explore sanctions against companies involved in facilitating oppression by the regime? These are concrete points that the UK can act on now.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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You have two questions, so do not take so long, please—we have to get other colleagues in.

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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First, on sanctions, we have made it very clear that we support sanctions against those responsible for the election fraud and human rights abuses. We will work with our international partners to sanction those responsible and to hold the Belarusian authorities to account. We currently implement EU sanctions and we will continue to do so during the implementation period, and we will consider future designations very carefully, based on evidence.

The hon. Gentleman raises a number of points. I want to touch on humanitarian support and support for civil society, which will be really important. That is why we have doubled our support to independent media, human rights organisations and community groups in Belarus with an extra £1.5 million of projects over the next two years. I am sure that he will welcome that.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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A brief second question from Alyn Smith.

Alyn Smith Portrait Alyn Smith
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I will be brief, Mr Speaker—my apologies. I welcome the Minister’s comments. There is a lot of common ground. Will she commit to meet Belarusian activists here in the UK? My office will be happy to facilitate that.

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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I will undertake to get in touch with the hon. Gentleman’s office to see if that can be arranged.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
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I do hope that the Minister has a chance to meet the activists who are outside Portcullis House as we speak. There is a consensus that the bravery and determination that they have all shown during this terrible crisis has been an inspiration to us all.

I have some specific questions around election monitoring in Belarus and other countries. Have the Government cut funding for that particular function? Is there a desk officer on Belarus who speaks Belarusian? At the same time, the Government are turning up the heat on European allies with leaked briefings that they will break internationally binding treaties, which is hardly the behaviour of a responsible Government intent on working with our allies to solve common challenges. Could we have, perhaps, great tweets but also specific action, to pull together with Europe to solve this terrible problem?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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Let me be absolutely clear. The hon. Lady raises some very important points here. We are working very hard with our international partners, because we recognise the importance of doing so. As I highlighted earlier, we are working through the OSCE. We are also working to support sanctions. In terms of the support that I have from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, I have a great team of officials who are working really hard on this area, as I am sure the hon. Lady would expect and welcome.

Sam Tarry Portrait Sam Tarry (Ilford South) (Lab)
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Whether he made representations to his Israeli counterpart on the full withdrawal of proposals to annex parts of the west bank during his visit to Israel in August 2020.

Rosie Cooper Portrait Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab)
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Whether he made representations to his Israeli counterpart on the full withdrawal of proposals to annex parts of the west bank during his visit to Israel in August 2020.

Mary Glindon Portrait Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab)
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Whether he made representations to his Israeli counterpart on the full withdrawal of proposals to annex parts of the west bank during his visit to Israel in August 2020.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
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What assessment he has made of the effect of normalisation of relations between the State of Israel and the United Arab Emirates on regional stability and security; and if he will make a statement.

Dominic Raab Portrait The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and First Secretary of State (Dominic Raab)
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As I made clear in my statement on 13 August, we welcome both the suspension of plans to annex parts of the west bank and the normalisation of relations between the UAE and Israel. The deal was a historic step forward between two great friends of the United Kingdom.

Sam Tarry Portrait Sam Tarry
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A week before the election in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu indicated he would move forward with the expansion of the illegal settlement at Efrat—an additional 3,500 homes. That plan had been previously frozen for years. It would cut off the north and the south of the west bank and is particularly problematic. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the suspension of annexation plans should be made permanent and should not be substituted for the massive settlement expansion such as the 5,000 homes that are planned in E1 zone, which represent—in my view and that of my constituents—annexation in all but name?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I agree with the hon. Gentleman that settlements are both contrary to international law and counterproductive to peace. It is hugely welcome, first, that Israel has taken the plans off the table for the foreseeable future, coupled with the UAE deal, which is a substantial step forward in the wider process of reconciliation and peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours.

Rosie Cooper Portrait Rosie Cooper [V]
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I welcome the Israel-UAE deal, which stops the prospect of any damaging annexation and should bring about normalisation between the two countries. What steps are the Government taking to encourage more Arab states to follow the UAE’s lead and to use it as a catalyst to get lasting negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I thank the hon. Lady. She is right and there can hopefully be a virtuous cycle of these normalisation agreements. I have been in touch with US authorities, including Jared Kushner when he visited London and Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, and I visited Israel on 25 August, where I not only saw Prime Minister Netanyahu, Alternate Prime Minister Gantz and Foreign Minister Ashkenazi, but visited the west bank and spoke to President Abbas and Prime Minister Shtayyeh—all with a view to encouraging normalisation with the countries of the region and, now that annexation is at least off the table for the foreseeable future, encouraging greater dialogue between the Palestinians and the Israeli Government.

Mary Glindon Portrait Mary Glindon [V]
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Will the Secretary of State talk to European colleagues, particularly the Irish, with a view to taking joint action on settlement trade and on recognition to ensure the Israeli Government do not go ahead with their annexation threat in future?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I thank the hon. Lady. We do talk regularly to our E3 and wider European colleagues—we consider all the different permutations—but I think the positive here is that, through engagement and indeed through this wider process of normalisation, Israel has pulled back from those plans for annexation. That does create a window of opportunity not just with the countries of the region, but with the Palestinians themselves. My focus and the Prime Minister’s focus is on trying to use that to catalyse dialogue between the Palestinians and the Israelis, which is the only route to a two-state solution, which is the only route to enduring peace.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant [V]
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Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the United States Administration and indeed the US State Department on helping to broker this deal? I suspect he will not agree with me when I say that I think it is their pragmatic approach to say that a two-state deal is not going to happen as long as we have Hamas and Hezbollah taking the line they do, but what I would ask my right hon. Friend is: what role does he see for the United Kingdom in brokering further such peace deals between the United Kingdom and Arab states?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I thank my hon. Friend. I think he is right about the positivity of this step. We need some good news in the peace process and in the middle east, and I think the UAE deal with Israel is very positive. We are looking to and will certainly be encouraging—indeed, we have already started to encourage—others to follow suit, but also to make sure that we can engage with the Palestinians, at the level of the Palestinian Authority, to try to galvanise some dialogue between the two principal protagonists to the dispute.

Tom Tugendhat Portrait Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend knows very well that one of the reasons for the proximity between the United Arab Emirates and Israel is the pressure put on both by the Iranian regime, and the work that his Department has done in holding the Iranian regime to account at the UN has been hugely impressive. Applying the rule of law and applying the principles of non-violable international treaty to international negotiation has been so important. Could he please tell me that the UK will read the letter of the treaty of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231, and recognise that any of the named states has the opportunity to snapback sanctions on the violating state of Iran? Will he recognise as well that those international treaties are not for interpretation, but are actually pretty clearly laid out in black and white?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I thank my hon. Friend the Chair of the Select Committee. Lawyers will always have different views on the precise permutations, but I think the position on snapback in relation to the joint comprehensive plan of action is tolerably clear. He is absolutely right also to point to the role that Iran plays not just with its own activities—those it engages in directly—but working through Hamas and Hezbollah and other proxies throughout the middle east as a source of tension and instability. We are working with all of our allies to try to make sure we limit and hold to account Iran for those activities.

Wayne David Portrait Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab)
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The social and health situation in Gaza is extremely serious, especially with regard to covid-19, and recently there was a clash between Israel and Hamas. Fortunately, a ceasefire was agreed, but a concern is that it is only a matter of time before another outbreak of violence occurs. How does the Secretary of State believe that further conflict between Gaza and Israel can be avoided?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, we need to see an end to the targeting of civilians and the firing of improvised explosive devices by Hamas into Israel. That is unlawful and totally unacceptable. I share the hon. Gentleman’s concerns on the broader humanitarian situation. When I visited the west bank on 20 August, I announced £2.7 million-worth of further humanitarian assistance. Now that Israel has taken annexation off the table, it would make sense, even irrespective of the broader peace talks, for the Palestinian Authority to engage with the Israelis on finance and security co-operation in the west bank and Gaza, including in relation to being able to receive tax revenues to pay Palestinian public servants. As a confidence-building measure, given the UAE deal, that is something the Palestinians could do on their side as well.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Government are taking to support human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.

James Cleverly Portrait The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa (James Cleverly)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The United Kingdom has a strong relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which allows us to have important frank discussions. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised human rights defenders with Saudi Ministers on his recent visit to Riyadh, and I have raised concerns with Dr Awwad, the head of the Saudi human rights commission, as did Lord Ahmad in June.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am pleased to hear that the Minister is having robust conversations with the Saudis, but will the UK Government publicly call on the Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the five women human rights defenders who are still being detained, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada, and for all charges to be dropped against the 13 women’s rights defenders currently on trial for peaceful protest and activism?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is important that we recognise that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is taking significant steps in the right direction, and we encourage and support it to do so. The Foreign Secretary raised the release of those human rights defenders face-to-face on his visit to Riyadh just last month[Official Report, 15 September 2020, Vol. 680, c. 1MC.].

Lee Anderson Portrait Lee Anderson (Ashfield) (Con)
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If he will make poverty reduction the primary focus of his Department.

James Duddridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (James Duddridge)
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The Government will prioritise the bottom billion, the very poorest around the world, as part of our core mission. This is in our national interest and it will project the UK as a force for good in the world.

Lee Anderson Portrait Lee Anderson
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The UK has a proud record as a provider of aid across developing countries and has achieved significant milestones in reducing poverty abroad. However, can my right hon. Friend assure my constituents in Ashfield that this aid money will be used as effectively as possible and will not be provided to countries that spend vast amounts of their GDP on projects such as space programmes, as opposed to addressing their own poverty problems?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I am happy to reassure the residents of Ashfield and beyond that reducing poverty will be at the beating heart of the FCDO. That is why we are committed to the Independent Commission for Aid Impact; that is why the Foreign Secretary has appointed Nick Dyer as the first ever envoy on famine prevention and humanitarian affairs; and that is why we have allocated a new £119 million package to look at the threat of the coronavirus and of famine more generally across the bottom billion.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to promote the rule of law internationally.

Nigel Adams Portrait The Minister for Asia (Nigel Adams)
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Promoting the rule of law internationally is integral to the UK’s global influence and to our status as a force for good. That is one of the reasons that the Foreign Secretary has commended the candidature of Judge Joanna Korner QC for election as a judge in the International Criminal Court in the December 2020 elections. The FCDO is supporting ROLE UK to provide expertise in law and justice to developing countries through its partnerships for development programme.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that answer, and I wish my old friend and colleague Judge Korner well in her candidature. Of course, the best way to promote the rule of law is always to adhere to it ourselves. But more specifically, will the Minister confirm that the Government will continue with the excellent ROLE UK, the rule of law expertise programme that has been run by the Department for International Development for the last five years, which has given very modest grants to enable British lawyers and judges to give pro bono advice and support to developing countries?

Nigel Adams Portrait Nigel Adams
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I thank my hon. Friend. We have greatly appreciated the enormous contribution of the pro bono work of some of the UK’s best judges and legal professionals, delivered through the ROLE UK programme. This year we had to reduce its funding due to potential shrinkage in the UK economy and a decrease in the value of the 0.7% commitment. The FCDO has had to prioritise urgent and high-priority work, such as tackling climate change, championing girls’ education, and UK leadership in the global response to covid-19. Although this is a significant cut, through our conversations with ROLE UK we are satisfied that we will be able to continue its good work.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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What steps he is taking to strengthen the UK’s relationship with Egypt.

James Cleverly Portrait The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa (James Cleverly)
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The UK enjoys a strong relationship with Egypt, which is a key economic and security partner. We regularly engage at the most senior levels. In January, we welcomed President Sisi to London for the UK-Africa investment summit. The Foreign Secretary speaks regularly with Foreign Secretary Shoukry and I spoke with the Egyptian ambassador yesterday.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Holden
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I thank the Minister for his answer. Security Print Solutions in Consett, County Durham, has a long-standing contract with the Egyptian Government to provide high-quality tax stamps for tobacco products, which have seen revenues to the Egyptian exchequer rise by 121%. Egypt is in the process of developing its own facility, but in the interim, ongoing contracts remain. Will the Minister use his good offices to do all he can to work with the Department for International Trade to help SPS fight for those interim contracts and look for other long-term opportunities to protect and expand export jobs in Consett worldwide?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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My hon. Friend, in his relatively short time in the House, has shown himself to be a passionate defender of the businesses and people of North West Durham, and I commend him for doing so. I am aware of the case that he has raised. The ambassador and I did not speak directly on that case, but we did talk about bilateral trade relationships. I know our officials are following up on that, but I am more than happy to meet my hon. Friend directly, so he can raise the case with me.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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What steps he is taking to use UK influence to improve the education of women and girls throughout the world.

Wendy Morton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Wendy Morton)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Standing up for the right of every girl to 12 years of quality education is a major priority for the Government and the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, but covid-19 is having a profound effect on the barriers girls face to education and putting them at risk of dropping out of school permanently, so a focus on girls’ education is more important than ever. That is why, in response, we have adapted our education programmes in 18 countries and provided more than £10 million of new funding to support refugee and displaced children to access education.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Sheerman [V]
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I hear what the Minister has said, but today and this week we want the Prime Minister to stick to his agreements and promises, and he recently promised me that the Government’s highest priority would be tackling the lack of education for girls worldwide. Some 15 million little girls do not even get to primary school. There is an enormous commitment from the United Nations sustainable development goals to do something about that. Can I have an assurance that the ministerial team will keep berating the Prime Minister until we get action on that?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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Let us be absolutely clear: as the FCDO, we will continue to deploy the UK’s diplomatic clout and world-leading development expertise to secure greater global ambition and investment in girls’ education. The Prime Minister has been clear in his commitment to that.

Angela Crawley Portrait Angela Crawley (Lanark and Hamilton East) (SNP)
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What recent discussions he has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) international development stakeholders on the progress of the integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy.

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con)
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What progress the Government has made on the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

Dominic Raab Portrait The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and First Secretary of State (Dominic Raab)
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The integrated review was formally launched in February 2020. It was paused because of covid and then recommenced in June. We expect it to conclude in the autumn. Ministers have met regularly. I have chaired those meetings on key themes from trade to security.

Angela Crawley Portrait Angela Crawley
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On the integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy, I would like to understand what specific steps the Secretary of State is taking to establish an atrocity prevention strategy to avert further identity-based violence worldwide.

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I entirely agree with the hon. Lady’s passion and commitment on the subject. Of course, we have already introduced Magnitsky sanctions, which allow us to target the perpetrators of human rights abuses with visa bans and asset freezes. More generally, in the context of the integrated review, one of the powerful themes is the United Kingdom’s role in the world being joined up, which is why we have brought DFID and the Foreign Office together, in solving disputes, managing conflict and holding the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses to account.

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
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I strongly believe that the Government must be more transparent and engage with the British people as we attempt to define our place in the world and how ambitious we want to be. Let us follow the example of the confederation papers, which through consensus helped unify what the US originally stood for. Will the Foreign Secretary please publicise the threat assessment of how the world is changing and the strategic options in response that reflect the degrees of global ambition and the scale of influence we might pursue? Only then can we design the appropriate defence posture. If he takes the nation with him as we define what “global Britain” really means, there will be greater support for the upgrading of our soft and hard power tools that is so urgently needed.

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I thank my right hon. Friend. I share his commitment to making Britain an even stronger force for good in the world. We have engaged far and wide. We are engaged with the Foreign Affairs Committee’s inquiry on the integrated review. We are engaged with think-tanks, from the Royal United Services Institute to the Overseas Development Institute. In the other place, Baroness Sugg is chairing regular meetings with representatives of civil society, led by Bond and including Save the Children and Plan International. Those meetings are related to the covid recovery, but they also touch on the merger, both of which are key elements of the IR.

Sarah Champion Portrait Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab) [V]
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The integrated review was unpaused in late June. It is supposed to be the most comprehensive evidence-driven evaluation of foreign policy since the cold war, so why did the call for evidence go out only in mid-August for 20 working days, and why are the sustainable development goals absent from the scope of the review? Should we assume that the outcomes are a foregone conclusion?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I thank the hon. Lady. She should not assume any foregone conclusion. It is precisely because the consultation is open that we have not stipulated any particular thing with the level of specificity she has asked for. I have explained to the House the breadth of consultation. She is right to note that it was interrupted—that was an inevitable result of covid-19—but I reassure her that we are absolutely committed, as the merger into the new FCDO shows, to bringing all our international assets and attributes together to be an even stronger force for good in the world.

Suzanne Webb Portrait Suzanne Webb (Stourbridge) (Con)
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If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Dominic Raab Portrait The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and First Secretary of State (Dominic Raab)
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Since the last oral question session, on 25 August I visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to press for a new dialogue and to reinforce the UK’s commitment to a negotiated two-state solution. On 2 September, we launched the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to integrate our aid expertise and our diplomatic reach and to project global Britain as an even stronger force for good in the world.

Suzanne Webb Portrait Suzanne Webb
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Does my right hon. Friend share my concern about the case of Ye Ming Yuen in Singapore, and will he ensure that the Government continue to raise our objections to the use of corporal punishment all over the world?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and our staff continue to support Mr Yuen and his family during what must be a very distressing time. I can tell her and reaffirm that the United Kingdom’s long-standing global position is to oppose corporal punishment in all circumstances and to call for the consideration of alternative sentences.

Lisa Nandy Portrait Lisa Nandy (Wigan) (Lab)
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In the last six months, the Foreign Secretary has publicly reminded Iran, Israel, China and Russia of their obligations under international law. I agree with him, so does he agree with me and with the most senior legal official in Government, who has behaved with honour and principle this morning, that when the Prime Minister briefs that he will unilaterally tear up our international obligations under the withdrawal agreement, it undermines our moral authority, harms our national interest and makes a mockery of the Foreign Secretary’s attempts to stand up for international law? Will he assure the House that he, as the Foreign Secretary, will never vote for amendments that violate our international obligations?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I obviously respect all the brilliant civil servants who work for us. I used to work as a Foreign Office lawyer myself. I can say to the hon. Lady that I am surprised she would open up this question. As we go through the uncertainty of changing our relationship with the EU, we will make sure that there is maximum certainty for businesses as regards the UK internal market, and of course we will legislate to that effect. Ultimately, we will take every measure necessary to protect the integrity of the United Kingdom and to comply with and live up to the Good Friday agreement, ensuring that it is respected. I am surprised she is not supporting that.

Lisa Nandy Portrait Lisa Nandy
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The right hon. Gentleman clearly does not read the newspapers, because his own Government have been briefing the precise opposite. Let me try him on another international obligation. An international arbitration ruling determined that the UK owes a debt to Iran, which has not yet been paid. In a letter to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family last week, the Defence Secretary said that the UK

“acknowledges there is a debt to be paid”

and is seeking to find ways to pay it. It is absolutely vital that the Government have a clear and agreed strategy for Nazanin, Anoosheh Ashoori and all dual UK nationals to ensure that they are brought home as soon as possible. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the Defence Secretary, and if so, what steps is he now taking to resolve these heartbreaking cases?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I can tell the House that I had two conversations throughout August with Foreign Minister Zarif. We pursue all the cases of our dual nationals. The question of the International Military Services debt is a parallel issue, but we have always said that we would work to resolve that. As well as all the wider issues that have already been raised in relation to Iran, there is never an engagement, a meeting or a telephone conversation that goes by without our being absolutely clear—and I hope that the hon. Lady agrees—on the appalling and arbitrary detention of all dual nationals and calling for their immediate release.

Crispin Blunt Portrait Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con)
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With my right hon. Friend’s much enhanced departmental responsibilities, together with Britain’s current chairmanship of the 42-nation Equal Rights Coalition, he has an unprecedented opportunity to reinforce Britain’s claim to leadership in advancing the freedom of all LGBT+ people around the world to be themselves. Britain also has a special responsibility to address the unhappy legacy of the laws and the culture bequeathed by imperial Britain. What measures is he considering for global Britain to take this opportunity as well as to help to address the legacy of imperial Britain?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I thank my hon. Friend and hugely welcome all his efforts in this regard. We are taking forward all these strands—from media freedom to the Magnitsky sanctions, to the work that we are doing on LGBT rights. He will know that we intend to build on our current official development assistance allocation for the strategic review on LGBT rights, which will be completed in the autumn. As a founding member of the Equal Rights Coalition of 42 states sharing the same values, in 2019 we took on the role of co-chair and we plan not only to deliver the first ever UK-led five-year action plan, committing the coalition to taking domestic and international measures on LGBT and equality issues, but to expand the ERC and, in particular, to try to draw in more participation from Asia, Latin America and Africa, for all the reasons that he mentioned.

Chris Elmore Portrait Chris Elmore (Ogmore) (Lab)
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There is clearly a global effort to find a vaccine and treatments for people suffering from covid-19, but what representations have the Foreign Secretary or any of his Ministers made on trying to tackle disinformation on vaccines or in relation to false cures for covid-19? There really needs to be a global effort to tackle the ticking time bomb that is disinformation.

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that the UK has a comparative advantage internationally, with research that is going on at Oxford and Imperial in pursuit of the vaccine and the leadership that the Prime Minister showed at the Gavi summit to smash all the records and get $8.8 billion-worth of funding to ensure equitable access to the whole world. That is good for the United Kingdom—we do not want a second wave globally—and important as a matter of moral responsibility. On misinformation, we have discussed it in the G7 and plenty of other formats, and the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that we must be rigorous and robust in rebutting false information, particularly when it is irresponsible about something such as vaccine safety standards.

Bernard Jenkin Portrait Sir Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con)
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May I draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to the exchange of correspondence between our right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and me as Chairman of the Liaison Committee about the continuing scrutiny of the overseas aid budget? I welcome the fact that the Government seem to have withdrawn their proposals simply to merge the International Development Committee with the Foreign Affairs Committee. What possible justification could there be for any reduction in scrutiny by Parliament of this very substantial and complicated budget? [R]

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend does as one of the leading parliamentarians and Select Committee members, and indeed, Chairs. The normal position that the Government take is that Select Committees ought to shadow Departments, but having said that, the representation is ultimately for the House to decide. I welcome all the scrutiny; he will know that we have not only affirmed the role of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact in providing scrutiny and accountability on aid decisions, but I want to review it to make sure that it is focused on what adds the most value and that its critical analysis is followed by practical recommendations.

Wendy Chamberlain Portrait Wendy Chamberlain (North East Fife) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government embarked on and rushed through an unnecessary and expensive merger of the FCO and DFID right at the time when UK aid is needed most overseas. Despite repeated requests from my office, it appears that the Government either do not know what the merger will cost or are not willing to say. Will the Foreign Secretary confirm whether or not any estimate of merger costs was made prior to the merger’s announcement in June?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, on the issue of timing, covid has shown precisely why we need to integrate more in respect of our international endeavours. That was true in relation to the combination between research for a vaccine, the Gavi summit and the misinformation that was asked about earlier. On the cost of the merger, we would envisage that, notwithstanding our commitment to 0.7%, over the long term—over the course of the comprehensive spending review—we can make considerable savings on administrative costs as we streamline, fuse and synergise the various different aspects of the previous Departments.

Sheryll Murray Portrait Mrs Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con)
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Does my hon. Friend think that Cornwall Council’s staffed office in Brussels is a good use of taxpayers’ money at this time, when the money could be spent on local services?

Nigel Adams Portrait The Minister for Asia (Nigel Adams)
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As we have left the EU, it is curious to have an operation overseas. We have a global network of 280 overseas posts, which represent all parts of the UK, including Cornwall. The decision to operate overseas is one for Cornwall Council and, ultimately, the voters of Cornwall, who I am sure will want at the next local elections to have a say on whether it is a good idea and a good use of their taxpayers’ money.

Virendra Sharma Portrait Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall) (Lab) [V]
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This summer, I hosted the British South Asian Youth Summit, bringing together more than 150 young people from across south Asia and Britain. They discussed the future, wrote a memorandum of understanding and agreed to work together. Will the Secretary of State meet me and some of those young people to hear their proposals and offer the support of his network to the positive cause of promoting understanding and engagement in the region?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank and pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for an exceptional endeavour. As we depart the EU and forge our way in the world, we ought to have stronger relationships with that part of the world. I would be very interested in receiving directly those proposals and ideas and would make sure that either I or the Minister for the region meets the hon. Gentleman and those involved.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)
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The UN embargo on the sale of conventional weapons to Iran expires in October. Unless it is extended, Iran will no doubt have more access to weapons to use to oppress its own people and spread death and terror through proxies such as Hezbollah, so why did the UK abstain on a resolution to extend the embargo? What action is the Foreign Secretary going to take to make sure that it stays in place?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend will know that the resolution that was tabled garnered only two votes in the UN Security Council. The UK’s position is clear: we want to see the continuation of the arms embargo. It has to get through the Security Council, as frustrating as that may be. We have offered our good offices; indeed, had time been allowed between the original tabling of the resolution and the vote, we had offered, with the E3, to work with all the permanent members of the Security Council to try to find a compromise. Ultimately, unless the resolution can pass, it has no impact in restraining Iran.

Afzal Khan Portrait Afzal Khan (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Nearly 80% of the Uyghur Muslim population has vanished since 2016, as a result of either detainment in concentration camps or forced disappearance. The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales has detailed disturbing covert drone footage showing Uyghurs blindfolded and taken on to trains. In the light of that, will the Secretary of State outline what steps his Department is taking to hold the Chinese Government to account for these heinous crimes? Will he confirm today that the Government will call for an impartial international investigation into what is taking place in Xinjiang?

Nigel Adams Portrait Nigel Adams
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and he is absolutely right to raise it. We have serious concerns about gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, including the extrajudicial detention of over 1 million Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in political re-education camps—as they have been referred to. We are playing a leading role in holding China to account for its widespread violations of human rights. On 30 June, the UK led a joint statement on behalf of 27 other countries at the UN Human Rights Council about the situation in Xinjiang. Finally, the Foreign Secretary has again raised Xinjiang with his Chinese Foreign Minister counterpart.

Paul Holmes Portrait Paul Holmes (Eastleigh) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The JCPOA—joint comprehensive plan of action—deal did not include terms relating to Iran’s financing of terrorism and development of ballistic missiles. As Iran appears to have both breached its nuclear commitments and allowed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to intervene violently across the region, does my right hon. Friend agree that a new deal addressing these issues is vitally needed?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend will know that, along with our E3 colleagues, we have triggered the dispute resolution mechanism for the JCPOA on the nuclear side. It has always been the case that the JCPOA did not encompass the wider destabilising activities in which Iran engages in the region through militias and proxies, and we have always been open and willing, and indeed pressing, to try to incorporate a bigger agreement. But it is also right to say that until there is scope for that wider agreement, what we have is the JCPOA, which provides the vehicle for some kind of restraint on Iran, although I accept that it has been eroded because of systemic non-compliance. We would be reluctant to move to something bigger until it is in place, and should not lose sight of what the JCPOA adds.

Margaret Ferrier Portrait Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It has been two years since President Mnangagwa took office in Zimbabwe, yet progress in human rights reform has been non-existent. In the past year alone 70 critics of the Zimbabwean Government have been abducted and tortured by security forces; what steps is the FCDO taking to engage with the Zimbabwean authorities to progress reforms and ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are brought to justice?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I share the hon. Lady’s concern about the situation in Zimbabwe. We follow it carefully and engage with our international partners as well as directly with the Government of Zimbabwe. Working with our partners, we have the tools, if the evidence allows and we decide it is the right thing to do, to apply targeted sanctions on those who commit the most egregious human rights abuses.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

12:33
Sitting suspended.

Petition

Tuesday 8th September 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kate Osborne Portrait Kate Osborne (Jarrow) (Lab)
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker—[Interruption.]

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, we should not be surprised; the hon. Member’s timing was absolutely perfect—to the second.

Kate Osborne Portrait Kate Osborne
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you again, Madam Deputy Speaker. I rise to present a petition signed by more than 13,500 of my Jarrow constituents.

The petition states:

The petition of residents of the constituency of Jarrow.

Declares that it is vital that high quality, compassionate palliative and end-of-life care is accessible across the country; further declares that each person who is nearing the end of their life should feel safe in the knowledge they will receive the very best care and be supported to die peacefully and painlessly; notes that in the Jarrow constituency, St Clare’s hospice collapsed into insolvency in January 2019 after more than 30 years, leaving the borough without an end-of-life care facility; and further notes that a petition requesting to keep palliative care at the Primrose Terrace site in Jarrow, rather than setting up an alternative site elsewhere within the borough, has received 13,500 signatures.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to support the NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group in reopening the St Clare’s hospice site at Primrose Terrace, Jarrow.

And the petitioners remain, etc.

[P002595]

Northern Ireland Protocol: UK Legal Obligations

Tuesday 8th September 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

12:36
Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the UK’s commitment to its legal obligations under the Northern Ireland protocol.

Brandon Lewis Portrait The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Brandon Lewis)
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We are fully committed to implementing the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol, and have already taken many practical steps to do so. The protocol was designed to maintain the Belfast/Good Friday agreement and the gains of the peace process, and to protect the interests of all people in Northern Ireland, and that is what this Government will do and will continue to deliver on. Throughout the last year, as we have taken steps to comply with our obligations under the protocol, we have always sought to honour both our international obligations and our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland.

The protocol itself states that it should

“impact as little as possible on the everyday life of communities”

and it explicitly depends on the consent of the people of Northern Ireland for its continued existence. As we continue to implement the protocol, this overriding need must be kept in mind. The Government have consistently said that people and businesses in Northern Ireland will have unfettered access to the whole of the UK market. Our manifesto made a very clear commitment to that. The approach that we will take in this legislation builds on that commitment and on the specific commitment that we made in the “New Decade, New Approach” agreement, to legislate for unfettered access by the end of the year. This has been one of the most consistent asks from Northern Ireland businesses since the protocol was agreed, and we are now moving to provide certainty.

Our approach guarantees that we will be able to deliver the objectives that we set out for implementing the protocol in a way that protects the interests of the people and the economy of Northern Ireland. We are working hard to resolve any outstanding issues through the Joint Committee and will continue to approach those discussions in good faith, but we are taking limited and reasonable steps to create a safety net that ensures that the Government are always able to deliver on their commitments to the people of Northern Ireland and in line with the protocol.

Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh
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Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question.

This week starts a crucial period in our trade negotiations with the EU. Labour wants the Government to succeed—to secure a deal in the national interest and to protect the Good Friday agreement—so it is very welcome to hear the Secretary of State’s confirmation of their commitment to the protocol. But it has been deeply concerning ahead of these talks that the Prime Minister has appeared to undermine our legal obligations and his own deal. The resignation of the Government’s chief legal adviser this morning suggests that concern over the Government’s approach runs to the very top. It risks jeopardising the progress of the negotiation and the chance of securing a much-needed deal.

The protocol was not foisted on the Prime Minister by Brussels, by a previous Government or by Parliament. The Prime Minister personally renegotiated it, campaigned on it, legislated for it and ratified it in an international treaty. With these latest moves, some fear that the Prime Minister is once again using Northern Ireland as a political football to suit his wider political means. We cannot forget that at the heart of this are the people and businesses of Northern Ireland who risk paying the price. For them, this is not the latest episode in a Brexit drama but a profoundly worrying moment that will shape their livelihoods, their businesses and their future. It reopens the uncertainty that they hoped had been settled, takes us backwards in negotiations and undermines trust with the European Commission.

Ultimately, this is about trust. How can the people of Northern Ireland trust this Government with the careful progress made over the past two decades when they tell them that the protocol is necessary to protect it and then suggest that the protocol undermines it? How can the British people trust a Government who swore that they had an oven-ready deal only 10 months ago and now tell them that the deal was ambiguous and contradictory? How can our partners and allies around the world trust us to enter trade negotiations on multilateral arrangements?

Will the Secretary of State confirm whether the Treasury Solicitor resigned today in response to the Government’s plans to bring forward legislation that will undermine our legal obligations? Will he confirm whether a ministerial direction has been given on the internal market Bill? Will he further outline what legal advice he has seen and whether the ministerial code will be breached if MPs are asked next week to vote on provisions that will undermine those legal obligations?

There was no need for it to come to this. The elements of the protocol left to negotiate are not insignificant, but neither are they insurmountable. With trust, progress could easily have been secured. At the start of a new chapter for our United Kingdom, we cannot afford to be seen as a country that cannot be trusted. As Margaret Thatcher said,

“Britain does not renounce treaties. Indeed, to do so would damage our integrity as well as international relations.

In those interests and in the national interest, I urge the Government to stop the posturing, rediscover their responsibility and secure the deal that was promised to the people of this country.

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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The hon. Lady should wait until she sees the legislation tomorrow, because I hope she will then see that we are delivering on the very promises to which she just referred. She commented on the Prime Minister’s campaigning and our manifesto pledges, which I referred to in my opening remarks. The Bill, as she will see, will absolutely deliver on them.

The UK internal market legislation that we will bring forward this week delivers on our commitment to legislate for unfettered access, which Northern Ireland businesses have consistently asked us to do to ensure that we deliver certainty. The legislation will give the certainty that the people, businesses and economy of Northern Ireland have been asking for, and supports the delivery of the protocol in all circumstances, in line with the approach we set out in our Command Paper in May.

The safety net that we will implement, which we will outline this week, will deliver on the commitments made in the general election manifesto. Specifically, we will implement the provision in the protocol that Northern Ireland is fully part of the UK customs territory by ensuring that goods moving within the UK will never even inadvertently have to pay EU tariffs. We will ensure that businesses based in Northern Ireland have true unfettered access to the rest of the United Kingdom without paperwork, and we will ensure that there is no confusion about the fact that, while Northern Ireland will remain subject to the EU state aid regime for the duration of the protocol, Great Britain will not be subject to EU rules in that area.

Those steps are rightly part of the UK internal market Bill, the overriding aim of which is to ensure that the UK’s own internal market operates effectively, and I hope all Members will support that endeavour. The House will of course have an opportunity to debate these matters when it sees the details in full when considering the Bill. Further, the Bill will strengthen Northern Ireland’s place in the UK customs territory and ensure that the UK does take back control of its laws in an organised way after 31 December—exactly as we promised in the manifesto that won a resounding victory and mandate from the people of this country at last year’s election.

I cannot comment on the details of the Treasury Solicitor’s resignation because I have not seen his resignation letter, but we wish him well. We will continue to work at pace with the EU in the Joint Committee, and I stress to the hon. Lady that she should not presume what the outcome of the Joint Committee will be. We continue to work with the EU on that to ensure that we can reach a fair and positive outcome for Northern Ireland. That has always been and continues to be our priority.

Theresa May Portrait Mrs Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con)
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The United Kingdom Government signed the withdrawal agreement with the Northern Ireland protocol. This Parliament voted that withdrawal agreement into UK legislation. The Government are now changing the operation of that agreement. Given that, how can the Government reassure future international partners that the UK can be trusted to abide by the legal obligations in the agreements it signs?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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We have worked with the EU in a spirit of good faith, and both sides continue to work in that spirit to implement the arrangements that uphold the fundamental principles that lie behind the protocol. Of course, our first priority continues to be to secure agreement on the protocol on the Joint Committee and on the wider free trade agreement, but the withdrawal agreement and protocol are not like any other treaty. They were written on the assumption that subsequent agreements could be reached between us and the EU on the detail—that is the entire purpose of the specialised Joint Committee—and we continue to believe that that is possible, but as a responsible Government we cannot allow our businesses not to have certainty for January. The reality is that the UK internal market Bill and the Finance Bill are the last legislative opportunities we have to give the people and businesses of Northern Ireland the confidence and certainty that we will deliver what we agreed in the protocol, what we outlined in our manifesto and what we set out in the Command Paper.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
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The Prime Minister referred to Northern Ireland and said, “This is a good deal”, when he struck it last year. Now he seems to disagree with himself. There are U-turns everywhere, but this is something else. No wonder it is reported today that the head of the UK Government Legal Department has just quit because of the rowing back in respect of the withdrawal agreement and Northern Ireland. The internal market Bill is taking a wrecking ball to devolution. The Government are hellbent on a poor deal or no-deal Brexit—and hang the implications—but using the Bill to renege on parts of the withdrawal agreement is extraordinary and dangerous.

Can the Minister explain what discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues about the impact of these plans on Northern Irish businesses and the Good Friday agreement? What advance discussions did he have with the Northern Irish Executive? I suspect the answer is: precious few. We have all seen the Government’s wilful disregard for devolution and their own international reputation. Who will want to do business with a Government who cannot stick to an agreement with themselves, never mind anyone else, and who make it up as they go along, as we heard just now and as people in Scotland are only too aware?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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The hon. Lady and I have a distinct difference of opinion, because whereas the SNP want to hand powers straight back to Brussels, we, the UK Government and the Conservative party, have been clear that we want to take back those powers for the residents and citizens of the United Kingdom, and indeed we will be devolving power to the devolved authorities, as we have outlined in our discussions with those authorities, including the First Minister of Scotland just this week. This is about taking back power from the EU, as people voted for, and giving it back to the people of the UK, including the Scottish Parliament. I am just sorry that the SNP does not share the desire to see democracy exercised here in the UK.

Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Sir Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con)
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I wonder if my right hon. Friend recalls that in clause 38—the sovereignty clause—of the Act that gave effect to the withdrawal agreement the Government reserved to themselves the right to make clarifications. Given that, and given that when the protocol was signed, the Government recognised that state aid rules would apply to Northern Ireland, their extension to the rest of the Great Britain is an interpretation by the EU, and the Government are quite within their rights to dispute that interpretation and use clause 38 to explain that they do not agree with that and will not implement such an agreement.

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My right hon. Friend has spoken about these issues over the last year or so and has been clear about his position, and he is absolutely right. The UK internal market Bill will make clear what will apply in January if we cannot reach a satisfactory and mutually suitable conclusions through the specialised Joint Committee and the wider free trade agreement. It is reasonable and sensible for the Government to give that certainty and clarity to businesses and people in Northern Ireland, which in itself will ensure that we abide by and deliver on the Good Friday agreement by ensuring that there will be no borders between east and west and north and south. He is also absolutely right that Great Britain will not be subject to EU rules in a state aid area while recognising the unique position of Northern Ireland.

Hilary Benn Portrait Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab)
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I am afraid the Secretary of State’s protestations of innocence will not wash, because over the past two days—the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) addressed this question—the Government have given the impression that they may not be trusted to honour obligations they have freely entered into.

I wonder whether the Secretary of State can answer a very specific question relating to the Northern Ireland protocol, which he had some trouble answering in the summer when he appeared before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. Will goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland be required to complete export declarations, import declarations or entry summary declarations—yes or no?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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As I assume the right hon. Gentleman knows, that forms part of the discussions that are going on in the specialist committee, between us and the EU, to deal with these issues. Our view is that the regime should be very flexible, as Michel Barnier has outlined, in terms of respecting the unique position of Northern Ireland, because those goods going from GB to Northern Ireland are, by definition, very low risk, and we must ensure that we do not end up in a situation where it is presumed that 100% of the goods going from GB to Northern Ireland are what the EU would refer to as “at-risk goods.” That would be inappropriate for Northern Ireland businesses, would drive up prices in Northern Ireland and would restrict supply to Northern Ireland. That does not fit with the protocol’s outline of Northern Ireland remaining an integral part of the UK customs territory and single market.

Simon Hoare Portrait Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con) [V]
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At the moment, for Northern Ireland, there appears to be no certainty for businesses, and no certainty for the long-term future of the Good Friday agreement, as clearly any transporting of goods between north and south will now need to be checked somewhere and somehow. Also, in echoing the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), there appears to be no certainty for the continuity of our country as a country that keeps its word and abides by the rule of law and international obligations. What certainty can my right hon. Friend give me that the Government understand the seriousness of these issues?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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We, as a country, stand for international law and the order of the international system, and we always will. I think countries around the world are aware of that. They are equally aware that we are in these negotiations with the EU. Our focus is on concluding those in a satisfactory and suitable way in order to get a good outcome with a free trade deal, and good outcomes from the specialist committee that work for Northern Ireland. We must remember that delivering on the Good Friday agreement is not just about north-south; it is also about east-west and ensuring that there are no borders, north-south or east-west. That is why we have made the commitment on unfettered access, and that is what we will deliver through the UK internal market Bill.

Claire Hanna Portrait Claire Hanna (Belfast South) (SDLP)
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There are those in this House who say that the protocol is the problem here, when in fact the protocol is a symptom of the problem, which is four years of terrible political decision making. It is now the law and the Government are obliged to implement it in full. A Member of the House told the BBC yesterday that his party had been engaged with the Government since January to achieve the change. Given that the Government are legally bound to rigorous impartiality, and given that they have cited the peace process among their motivations, I hope that they will indicate what engagement there has been with all the parties, and whether they value better the guidance of their top legal adviser or the DUP. May I caution the Secretary of State, please, not to use the threat of a border on the island of Ireland or the hard-won impartiality of the Good Friday agreement as a cat’s paw in this or any other negotiations?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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In large part, I agree with what the hon. Lady just outlined. We had a letter from her party and others yesterday, outlining the issues around the Good Friday agreement. The point is that this is also about ensuring that we continue to deliver on all the gains of the peace process in Northern Ireland, and ensuring that we are able to give Northern Ireland businesses the certainty that, no matter what happens over the next couple of months, at the very least in January they can be assured of having the unfettered access that we have promised. That is what we will set out in the UK internal market Bill, to ensure that Northern Ireland remains an integral part of both the customs union and the single market union of the United Kingdom.

We shall continue to have conversations with Northern Ireland businesses and parties, as we did around the Command Paper earlier this year, as the hon. Lady knows from the conversation that I had with the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP)
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My party has voted against this withdrawal agreement. We have warned Ministers about not just the impact that the withdrawal agreement has on Northern Ireland but the foot in the door for the EU for the rest of the United Kingdom. I am pleased that we now have a Bill that—at least, according to reports—appears to deal with some of those issues. But I am disappointed to hear from the Secretary State today that we still do not know the depth and width of checks for goods coming into Northern Ireland and that we will still be left with state aid rules applying in Northern Ireland, which will stop us defending ourselves against predatory behaviour from the Irish Republic and other European countries. I want to emphasise to him that we will judge this Bill on whether it delivers on the issues that he and his Government have promised to address, in trying to undo the damage that the withdrawal agreement has caused. But ultimately, this agreement, which damages the whole of the United Kingdom—this Union splitting, economy destroying and border creating agreement—has to be changed and replaced. It can be replaced and should be replaced.

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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The right hon. Gentleman has had a strong, consistent view on these issues from the very beginning. I think that there is a huge opportunity for the whole United Kingdom and businesses in Northern Ireland as we leave the European Union. I think there are big opportunities for growth in the Northern Ireland economy, including in areas such as cyber. I believe that the EU will continue to act in good faith, as we are acting in good faith, in these trade negotiations and the specialist Joint Committee to get a good, mutually beneficial outcome for the EU and the United Kingdom. We are very focused on that. That is our priority and our desired outcome. If that does not succeed, we want to ensure, through the internal market Bill, that Northern Ireland businesses have confidence and clarity about what the situation will be in January. That is a reasonable, sensible step for the Government to take, and it will deliver unfettered access.

Gary Sambrook Portrait Gary Sambrook (Birmingham, Northfield) (Con)
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This Government were elected on a manifesto which guaranteed that Northern Ireland would truly remain in the UK customs territory and committed that EU law would not get in the way of other elements of essential Government business. Does my right hon. Friend agree that these changes are simply delivering on that landslide winning, red wall smashing manifesto commitment?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My hon. Friend makes a good point. We outlined very clearly—I do not think anybody can be under any misapprehension about it—our position at the general election: that we would deliver unfettered access, that we would deliver for the people of Northern Ireland and that we would continue to deliver on the Good Friday agreement. That is exactly what we are still focused on doing. We are doing that through the negotiations, but we also want to ensure that we are taking reasonable steps to be prepared for January should we need to be. We will do that in the UK internal market Bill, delivering on that manifesto pledge.

Stephen Farry Portrait Stephen Farry (North Down) (Alliance) [V]
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Any unilateral change to the very necessary protocol risks undermining the Good Friday agreement, risks a hard border returning to the island of Ireland and places Northern Ireland businesses in a very uncertain legal position. Do the Government recognise that, in the event that they make unilateral changes to and, in particular, undermine the agreement, they will reduce the prospects of a future relationship with the European Union? In particular, there will be zero chance of negotiating a trade deal with the United States under a Biden Administration and with a Democrat-controlled Congress.

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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On the first part of the hon. Gentleman’s question, quite the opposite—we are focused on coming to an agreement through the trade negotiations and the specialist Joint Committee, to ensure that we are able to deal with the detailed issues that were always, as set out in the protocol, to be worked out by the Joint Committee. That is exactly what the Committee is there to do. All we will be doing in the UK internal market Bill is giving clarity to the businesses and people of Northern Ireland about what happens on 1 January if that does not come to a satisfactory conclusion. I say to him gently that that is the best way to give certainty to the people of Northern Ireland.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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Given the sovereignty clause, the need for certainty and clarity for businesses and the timeframe involved, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is absolutely right for the Government to use domestic legislation—the UK internal market Bill—to ensure that Northern Ireland truly remains part of the UK customs territory after the end of the transition period?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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Yes. My hon. Friend makes a hugely important point. We should be clear that the UK internal market Bill and the Finance Bill are the last two legislative opportunities for us to put into law what we will need to do if the Joint Committee and the negotiations do not come to a satisfactory conclusion. It is nothing more than that. It means that we have a sensible and reasonable position and can say to people in Northern Ireland, “If that is what happens, this is what the situation will be in January.” It gives confidence and certainty to businesses and people in Northern Ireland that we will deliver for them.

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)
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What authority do we have to criticise China for not keeping her side of the bargain under the joint declaration on Hong Kong if we are seen to approach our own treaty obligations to the European Union in this way?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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As I said earlier, specific issues in the protocol were always designed to be worked out through the Joint Committee. It is right that the Government are taking reasonable, sensible and limited actions to make sure we have that certainty for people in January should the Joint Committee and the withdrawal agreement negotiations for the free trade agreement not come to a satisfactory conclusion.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con)
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The EU signed a withdrawal agreement and political declaration with two things at its core: it would respect the restoration of UK sovereignty, and it would work for a free trade, tariff-free agreement. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that if the EU kept its word on those two colossally important points, the problems it has created in Northern Ireland would disappear?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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This is exactly why it is important that we are clear about our intentions to ensure that we are delivering for the people of Northern Ireland. As I say, I am sure that the EU negotiating team will continue to be negotiating in good faith. Michel Barnier has said that peace in Ireland is due

“thanks to the open border”,

and that this process

“should not and must not lead to the return of a hard border, neither on maps nor in minds.”

He is absolutely right on that and we are determined to ensure we deliver on it. I am sure that the negotiations will be able to get us to that point, but it is right that we are able to say to the people of Northern Ireland that should those not succeed, we will legislate in UK law to ensure that.

Olivia Blake Portrait Olivia Blake (Sheffield, Hallam) (Lab)
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I did not hear an answer to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), so I will ask it again: can the Secretary of State explain whether a failure to uphold international legal commitments would breach the ministerial code?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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I think I did outline earlier that, as a Minister, my focus is on ensuring that we are delivering for the people of the United Kingdom and, within that, the people of Northern Ireland. As Northern Ireland Secretary, my focus is on ensuring that we are delivering for the people of Northern Ireland, as we said we would both in the Command Paper and in our manifesto.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
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For the avoidance of any doubt, is it the case that if the EU negotiators, including those on the Joint Committee, are prepared to move forward to implement the existing agreement in a workable way, these provisions will not be necessary?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My right hon. Friend, as often, is absolutely right; these provisions will be in the Bill to take effect if other things do not come through. I think that with both parties acting in good faith we will get to a position where these provisions become, in effect, irrelevant, exactly as he has outlined.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab)
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Does the Secretary of State recognise that, as others have reminded him, there would be terrible future consequences for Britain if the Government fail to abide by an international treaty they have signed? Does he recognise that—yes or no?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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As I said earlier, I absolutely recognise the importance of following international laws and the rule of law. We have a unique situation with this treaty. Listening to what some Members have been saying from a sedentary position, it seems that there is a fundamental misunderstanding here; there are items and issues in the protocol that were always designed to be worked through in the Joint Committee, because they were not able to be agreed and worked through at the time of the protocol. What we will be outlining in the UK internal market Bill is what the UK Government’s position will be if that does not succeed, in order to ensure that we are delivering for the people of Northern Ireland as part of the internal and integral market of the United Kingdom.

Scott Benton Portrait Scott Benton (Blackpool South) (Con) [V]
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This Government have been clear that they will work flat out during September to agree our future relationship with the EU. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is no reason why these clarifications as to how the protocol is implemented should undermine our negotiations in any way whatsoever?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My hon. Friend is right on that. Those negotiations are ongoing—they are ongoing today, in fact. As I say, I am confident that our negotiating teams and the EU negotiating teams are all focused on getting a good outcome for both our friends and partners in the EU and us in the UK, and that they will come to a solid and good conclusion. We are simply taking reasonable, limited steps to outline what the position will be if that does not succeed, but I am with him in being confident that it will.

Hywel Williams Portrait Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC)
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What assessment has the Secretary of State made of how the failure to implement the protocol in full will impact on the flow of Northern Irish goods exported to Great Britain necessarily through the Republic of Ireland and then through the port of Holyhead?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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The purpose of the clauses we will be putting into the UK internal market Bill is to ensure that we continue to have good, free-flowing trade across the whole of the United Kingdom, including for Northern Ireland—I have mentioned the issue of unfettered access before. I hope that when the hon. Gentleman sees the clauses in the Bill that we will publish and introduce tomorrow he will see that that is a positive and sensible step.

Alun Cairns Portrait Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con)
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What reassurance can my right hon. Friend give that the UK internal market Bill will provide the certainty needed in Northern Ireland to ensure that it remains within the UK customs territory, and that there is no reason whatsoever that the negotiations should be detracted from or undermined by such an Act?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The clauses we will put into the Bill are very clear about ensuring Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom customs territory and single market. The EU has recognised that that is important, and it is a key thing that we will be delivering. There is respect for that point. Acting in good faith by both parties will, I am sure, bring us to a good and sensible conclusion to the negotiations.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
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We know that people in No. 10 like to move fast and break things, but I do not think we knew that that extended to the Northern Ireland protocol, with the consequences that will have for the Good Friday agreement and the devolution settlement as a whole. Does the Secretary of State accept that these are not just bits of paper, but that they affect people’s lives and livelihoods? Who, once all this is broken, is going to pick up the pieces?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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I suggest the hon. Gentleman waits until he has seen the detail of the text tomorrow so that he can support us, as this is about delivering on ensuring that people in Northern Ireland stay part of the United Kingdom, regardless of whether he wishes to or not.

David Jones Portrait Mr David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con)
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Article 6 of the Act of Union provides, in essence, that no duties will be applied to goods passing between Great Britain and Ireland. Does my right hon. Friend agree that these are constitutional rights still enjoyed by the people of Northern Ireland, and that unless the protocol is clarified and adjusted, those rights may possibly be infringed?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My right hon. Friend makes an interesting point. He is right in the sense that Northern Ireland is and has been an integral part of the United Kingdom for almost 100 years—as we know, next year, we celebrate the centenary of Northern Ireland. It is an integral part of the United Kingdom. The negotiations have recognised that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom customs territory and single market. The clauses we will put in the UK internal market Bill to be published tomorrow will confirm that, regardless of the outcome of those negotiations.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab) [V]
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A little over two months ago, the Government in their Command Paper defined the Northern Ireland protocol as existing

“to ensure that the progress that the people of Northern Ireland have made in the 22 years since the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement is secured into the future.”

It went on to say:

“Whilst the Protocol is in force, both the UK and EU must respect and abide by the legal obligations it contains, as well as our other international law obligations.”

Does the Secretary of State stand by that commitment, and if not, why not?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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Yes, and I suggest to the hon. Lady that paragraph 19 states:

“The Protocol is clear that nothing in it prevents Northern Ireland business enjoying unfettered access to the rest of the UK internal market. We will ensure this. As set out in New Decade, New Approach, we will legislate to guarantee unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK internal market”.

Marco Longhi Portrait Marco Longhi (Dudley North) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is no indication that the UK is at this stage seeking to leave the withdrawal agreement, and that it is right and legitimate that adjustments are made so that UK courts have jurisdiction in the UK and the Northern Irish economy is protected from otherwise punitive tariffs?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As I said in my opening remarks, we are still determined to deliver on the withdrawal agreement and the protocol. We hope the negotiations come to a suitable and sensible conclusion. This is purely a set of clauses that we are putting in place so that, should that not happen, we are clear about what the position will be in January and so that there are legal structures in place to be able to deliver on those issues, including unfettered access.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
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On 20 May, the Government outlined their four key principles for supporting Northern Ireland through this process. They said that we would have unfettered access for businesses across the Irish sea, that there would be no tariffs on internal UK trade, that there would be no new customs infrastructure, and that Northern Ireland would benefit equally from the trade deals that are currently under negotiation. I hope the Secretary of State will agree that any customs arrangement that affects trade, or impacts in any way on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom in either direction, is unacceptable and must be stopped. Do this Government have the mettle, or do they have a tin foil spine when it comes to standing up to our detractors in Brussels and our debtors in the Republic of Ireland? Give the people and the businesses of Northern Ireland the certainty that they deserve and let us have certainty in those four key principles.

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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Our determination and desire is to be able to deliver that certainty through the free trade agreement negotiations and the Joint Committee work. What we will be outlining tomorrow in the Bill is how, if that does not succeed, we will be giving that certainty to Northern Ireland businesses about what the framework and the legal structures will be from January to ensure that we do deliver on unfettered access. Let me just say that we are continuing to deliver on the protocol. With the issues around live animals, with the agrifoods work that we have done, with the EU settled status scheme and with other such issues, we are delivering on what we have agreed. We will continue to do that, and we will do so in good faith.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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The much hyped Financial Times story has caused understandable concern right across the island of Ireland and more widely, so can my right hon. Friend reassure the House that the measures being introduced tomorrow are solely a safety net to the work of the Joint Committee, do not in any way prevent the Government from complying with the Northern Ireland protocol in full, and do not compromise the Good Friday agreement?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are doing this in order to ensure that we can always deliver the wider objective of the protocol, which is to protect peace in Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Belfast agreement, and to do so as part of the protocol, outlining, as we did in the Command Paper, how we would deal with those issues that are still outstanding—if they are outstanding—at the end of December.

Colum Eastwood Portrait Colum Eastwood (Foyle) (SDLP)
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The truth is that, whatever reassurances the Secretary of State gives today, the people in Northern Ireland simply cannot trust a word that comes out of this Tory Government’s mouth. At every single turn, they have used us as a bargaining chip, as a useful tactic and as part of a cynical game. Rather than taking his steer from cosy chats with the Democratic Unionist party, will he once and for all accept that people in Northern Ireland—the majority voice in Northern Ireland—will accept nothing less than the full implementation of the protocol?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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If the hon. Gentleman looks at what we have been doing on the protocol, such as the dedicated mechanism, the settled status scheme and the live animals and agrifoods work that we have done on sanitary and phytosanitary checks, he will see that we are delivering on the protocol and delivering on what we said we would do, as we did with the rules and regulations that we passed this year, not least on victims’ pensions. We have a good track record of delivering and doing exactly what we say we want to do. One thing that we said we would do, that we outlined we would do, and that we have a manifesto pledge and a mandate to do was to deliver unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses, and we will do that.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
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The Secretary of State has said that he and the Government are committed to the rule of law. Does he recognise that adherence to the rule of law is not negotiable? Against that background, will he assure us that nothing that is proposed in this legislation does, or potentially might, breach international legal obligations or international legal arrangements that we have entered into? Will he specifically answer the other point: was any ministerial direction given?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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I would say to my hon. Friend that yes, this does break international law in a very specific and limited way. We are taking the power to disapply the EU law concept of direct effect, required by article 4, in certain very tightly defined circumstances. There are clear precedents of this for the UK and, indeed, other countries needing to consider their international obligations as circumstances change. I say to hon. Members here, many of whom would have been in this House when we passed the Finance Act 2013, that that Act contains an example of treaty override. It contains provisions that expressly disapply international tax treaties to the extent that these conflict with the general anti-abuse rule. I say to my hon. Friend that we are determined to ensure that we are delivering on the agreement that we have in the protocol, and our leading priority is to do that through the negotiations and through the Joint Committee work. The clauses that will be in the Bill tomorrow are specifically there should that fail, ensuring that we can deliver on our commitment to the people of Northern Ireland.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) [V]
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I am astounded that the Secretary of State has just conceded that he is proposing to break international law. Perhaps for the first time I agree with the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). It is a question of trust when it comes to signing international treaties. We cannot condemn others for seemingly breaking the international rules-based order if we are prepared to do the same. It is incredibly damaging to our reputation if we are seeking to acquire trade treaties and the UK internal market Bill tomorrow seeks to disapply section 7A of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. That would be a clear breach of our international obligations, and for that reason should he not rule it out?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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As I have said several times today, obviously our focus is on ensuring that none of these clauses is required because we are able to secure a free trade agreement through the negotiations, which are ongoing this very day in London, as well as through the work of the Joint Committee. These clauses will simply put in place reasonable and limited structures to ensure that, should those negotiations not come to a satisfactory conclusion, in January we are able to show that we are delivering unfettered access for the people of Northern Ireland and ensuring that Northern Ireland remains an integral part of the UK customs territory and single market.

Matt Vickers Portrait Matt Vickers (Stockton South) (Con)
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The Prime Minister was clear yesterday that an agreement with our European friends must be made by 15 October if it is to be enforced by the end of the year. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that under no circumstances will we agree to any demands that would force us to give up our rights as an independent state?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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Absolutely. That was very clear in the votes in 2016 and the past two general elections, arguably in 2017, as well as the overwhelming mandate in 2019, bearing in mind that people, even Labour voters, were at the time voting for a party that said it would deliver on leaving the EU. I appreciate that Labour has changed its position somewhat over the past year or so. There has been a regular, clear mandate from the people of the United Kingdom that we should get on and deliver on what they asked for: to leave the European Union, to bring back sovereignty to the UK Parliament, and, where we can—as we will be doing through the UK internal market Bill—to devolve more powers to the devolved authorities as part of the United Kingdom.

Margaret Ferrier Portrait Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP)
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Adam Tomkins MSP described the proposed changes to the Northern Ireland protocol as being

“in breach of our international treaty obligations”.

Can the Secretary of State confirm that he agrees with his Tory colleague’s analysis, and does he accept that the UK internal market Bill demonstrates a complete failure of the negotiating strategy that gives Scotland a raw deal that it did not vote for?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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I appreciate that the nationalist party in Scotland wishes to put a border between Scotland and England. The reality is that what we are looking to do is to take powers back from Brussels. We feel that people in Scotland can exercise them better than people in Brussels. That is what we will do through the UK internal market Bill.

Steve Baker Portrait Mr Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con)
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Is not the right way forward to reach a free trade agreement of the kind that the EU proposed to us back in the spring of 2018 and of the kind that the Government want to reach, combine it with the border arrangements set out in Prosperity UK’s excellent report—arrangements of the kind that the DUP supported—and use that to supplant the protocol? Is not the key to doing that a spirit of good will that accepts that the whole UK is leaving and has left the European Union?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My hon. Friend, as ever, makes a really powerful point. The best way forward—this is what we are all focused on, and I am sure our partners and friends in the EU are, in good faith, as well—is to get the agreement on a free trade deal that delivers on all those issues in the right and appropriate way. I say to Members across the House that it would be wholly wrong for the UK Government not to take this approach to ensure that, should that fail, there is a safety net to ensure that in January businesses and people in Northern Ireland know that they have the confidence of a structure in place that delivers on our promises. He is absolutely right. Our focus remains on getting that positive agreement.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab)
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Hon. Members across the House have talked about the importance of trust and how this will damage the trust of our European Union partners in the trade negotiations that we are currently undertaking. The timing is strange, as we head towards the crunch point for those negotiations. Was it an intentional effect or an unintended consequence that we have put this torpedo into the confidence of the European Union just as we are heading towards that point, making it much more likely that we have destroyed its trust in us and that the no-deal scenario that so many Conservative Members want to achieve is actually achieved?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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The hon. Gentleman may wish to look back in Hansard at what my hon. Friends and other hon. Members have said this afternoon and previously. Our desire, as I have outlined, is to get a free trade agreement, as the previous question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) specifically outlined. We are still working on that, but I have confidence that the negotiators of the UK and EU will be able to do that in the full knowledge that what we will outline in the UK internal market Bill tomorrow is a safety net should they not succeed. It is good practice for the Government to be ready for all scenarios. It would be inappropriate for us not to prepare the UK for all scenarios should those negotiations fail, but they are where our focus is and they are the way we want to go forward. I am confident that they will do so positively.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
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As a responsible Government, the internal market Bill is simply a necessary and precautionary step to ensure that good government is maintained in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Does the Secretary of State agree that the best way to avoid the need to implement those measures is for the EU to finally get a grip and negotiate a free trade agreement that will benefit all the people of the island of Ireland?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My hon. Friend makes a good point in that the best way forward is for us to agree that free trade agreement. I am confident that that is the EU’s overriding position and focus, and that that is why it is at the negotiations. I hope that we will be able to come to a positive conclusion that will be good for people across the United Kingdom and Europe—and, from my point of view as the Secretary of State, for the people of Northern Ireland.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab)
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The Conservative party manifesto described the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol as “a great new deal” that was “signed, sealed and ready.” It explicitly stated, “No more renegotiations.” It also promised to take our

“whole country out of the EU as one United Kingdom.”

Given that none of those things has proven to be true, and given that the Secretary of State has just conceded that the Government are proposing arrangements that would break international treaties, why should anyone at home or abroad trust a single word the Government say?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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Apart from the fact that countries around the world will look at our wider position, as I said earlier, on international law and the rule of law, for which we are a beacon around the world, if the hon. Gentleman looks back at his question, he will see that it reinforces the reason we are taking this position, which is to ensure that we deliver on the points that we included in our manifesto, where we specifically outlined the issues that are in the Command Paper published in May this year, which businesses are supportive of—businesses asked for that certainty—and said:

“We will ensure that Northern Ireland’s businesses and producers enjoy unfettered access to the rest of the UK and that in the implementation of our Brexit deal, we maintain and strengthen the integrity and smooth operation of our internal market.”

That is exactly what we will be doing in the UK internal market Bill when we publish it tomorrow.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend concur that this complex issue is ultimately about the good people of Northern Ireland and that any future protocols will be agreed with their best interests at heart?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That has to be at the core of what we do and at the heart of that is why the concept of consent is important. It is right that we remember that for the people of Northern Ireland.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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Signing an international treaty is not a game; it is a commitment. Catherine Barnard is professor of European law at the University of Cambridge, and she warns that we agreed to a dispute resolution mechanism that could lead to heavy fines or further sanctions. What legal advice have the Government taken? If Ministers choose to ignore that advice, can the Minister spell out the consequences for those Ministers?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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As I said in response to an earlier question, our focus is on ensuring that we are delivering on the protocol or delivering on securing a free trade agreement and the discussions in the Joint Committee. That is our priority and that will ensure that we go forward in a sensible and agreed manner with our partners and friends in the European Union. The hon. Gentleman should wait and see the clauses tomorrow, which will deliver, as I have outlined, on the promises that we have made to ensure that the people and businesses of Northern Ireland have the certainty that they need should that not succeed. I am confident that it will, but should it not, it is sensible and reasonable for the Government to have that safety net in place so that people have confidence in what the situation will be in January.

Nicola Richards Portrait Nicola Richards (West Bromwich East) (Con)
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My constituents and I are clear that we want our obligations to Northern Ireland to be upheld and for there to be no delays or extensions. If a deal cannot be reached with Brussels by the middle of October to ensure that we are a truly independent country, we have no choice but to walk away from the table. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that under no circumstances will the country agree to any demand that does not give us sovereignty over our laws, land, sea and borders?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. When people voted to leave the European Union in 2016, they were giving us a very clear message that they wanted us to return powers and decision making to the UK Government, and that is what we are doing. We are also moving those processes closer to people directly in their everyday lives by then devolving powers, as we will outline through the process of the UK internal market Bill.

Martin Docherty-Hughes Portrait Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
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Mr Speaker,

“Whatever form it takes, Brexit cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement, including the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland”.

That is a clear statement of intent from your counterpart in Capitol Hill, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Given that they make it clear that the Secretary of State’s Government can rip up international agreements to suit their own version of Brexit or they can have a US-UK trade deal, but not both, what will it be?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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I am not sure that I quite follow the logic of the hon. Gentleman’s question, bearing in mind that his party is arguing for a border between Scotland and England; it seems more than ironic. Our top priority will always be to preserve the huge gains from the peace process and the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. We will not do anything or take any risk that may harm that. In fact, as we will be outlining in the Bill tomorrow, we are seeking to take actions through which, should the trade negotiations not come to a satisfactory and positive conclusion, we can ensure that we are delivering on the Good Friday agreement and keeping not just peace in Northern Ireland but prosperity and economic growth for the people of Northern Ireland as part of the internal structure of the United Kingdom.

Bob Stewart Portrait Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con)
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It seems to me that these measures for contingency planning give clarity and make sense in the case that we do not get an agreement. It would make sense for officials north and south of the border to have something they can put their hands around in case it does not work out as we hope it might.

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My hon. Friend succinctly makes an excellent point: this is about having a safety net and contingency planning. These measures will not prevent the Government from complying with our commitments. They will provide Ministers with the powers needed for the UK Government to comply with the Joint Committee’s agreed decisions. As he outlined, they will provide a safety net, so we avoid activating any harmful defaults, even inadvertently, that could jeopardise the peace process or create confusion, by giving certainty about the fact that we will deliver as we said we would on unfettered access and issues that protect Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab)
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With the UK at the foothills of a new era and a raft of trade negotiations ahead of us that will affect the lives of people in Putney and across the country, what message does the Secretary of State think it gives about our word that the UK is prepared to break international law at times, to override treaties and rewrite commitments that we signed up to only months ago?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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I am sure that the hon. Lady will appreciate that, as I said earlier, there are some precedents in very specific, technical circumstances. Countries around the world, including some of those that we will be looking to and are working to secure trade deals with, vary their position on international laws, as I have outlined that we will be doing in this situation. As our trade negotiations start and are ongoing, countries around the world will be looking at the UK as a country that is outward-looking and global, that believes in free trade and that wants to deliver that for the benefit of economies around the world and for the United Kingdom. I want to make sure that Northern Ireland benefits from that. The clauses that we put in the Bill tomorrow will ensure that, regardless of anything else, Northern Ireland will benefit from those kinds of trade deals.

Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con)
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I thank the Secretary of State for his earlier answers to my colleagues, which have given me and my constituents in Newcastle-under-Lyme reassurance that, although we all want a deal, we will not compromise in the negotiations on the things that make our state independent. On Northern Ireland, does he agree that we need “flexible and imaginative solutions”? Those are not my words, but the words in the EU negotiation guidelines.

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My hon. Friend makes a good point. Those kinds of flexible outcomes are exactly what we need. I am sure that the negotiators on the EU side, as well as on our side, are determined to ensure that we deliver on that because that is how we get the right outcome for people across the United Kingdom. Importantly, it means that we can continue to deliver for the economy of Northern Ireland and to continue to protect the peace process.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
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The purpose of the protocol is to protect the Good Friday agreement. Will the Secretary of State outline what discussions he has had with parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly and with the Irish Government about the new clauses in the internal market Bill?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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Obviously, I am having conversations with party leaders, party members and indeed the Irish Government all through, but the clauses in the Bill will not be published until tomorrow. We will be having ongoing conversations with partners and colleagues on that. However, I would just say to the hon. Lady that in order to ensure we can continue to deliver on the Good Friday agreement, it is important to ensure there are no borders, north-south or east-west. That is all part of ensuring that we deliver on the Good Friday agreement. We are determined to do that. We will do that. The clauses that will be in the UK internal market Bill are important in ensuring that, even if we do not come to an agreement on the free trade agreement, and even if the Joint Committee does not come to positive conclusions on how we manage the protocol, we, the UK Government, are able to show that we are delivering on that and there will be no borders.

Andrew Murrison Portrait Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con)
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In the technical note on the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol earlier this year, the European Union suggested that its rules, quotas and tariffs might be imposed on fish landed from Northern Ireland vessels into Northern Ireland that was destined for Great Britain. That runs contrary to the Command Paper earlier this year, certainly, but does my right hon. Friend agree that it also drives a coach and horses through the Northern Ireland protocol itself?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My right hon. Friend makes a really important point and that is one of the key areas the Joint Committee is continuing to work on. It is important that it comes to a satisfactory, sensible and positive conclusion for both parties, to ensure that we can deliver on the protocol in a way that we can all agree on in a positive way. That is the perfect outcome. That is what we are focused on and want to see achieved.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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The Secretary of State knows that the north-east has traditionally sent proportionately more of its young people into the armed forces than any other region. As a consequence, we have many veterans who served during the troubles. They, their loved ones and indeed all of us are proud of the hard-won peace. At the heart of the protocol is protecting the Good Friday agreement. Is he seriously contemplating using it as a bargaining chip in a trade deal?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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If the hon. Lady looks through my answers throughout this afternoon, she will see that I have been absolutely clear that it is quite the opposite: we are determined to ensure that we have a structure and a situation for the United Kingdom and the people of Northern Ireland that continues to deliver on the Good Friday agreement. We are determined to ensure we do that. That is a peace that has been hard won and it must be protected and delivered in the future as well.

Alec Shelbrooke Portrait Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) worked tirelessly to get the Northern Ireland Assembly back up and running—something people said could not be done. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken out key members of the New IRA because of his commitment to peace and the hard work he is doing. He is also a very successful businessman who understands that business needs certainty moving forward. Does he agree that it is hubris in the extreme to doubt this Government’s commitment to the governance of Northern Ireland, the protection of Northern Ireland and the peace in Northern Ireland?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My right hon. Friend makes a very generous point about a number of my predecessors. They all worked hard—across this House, to be fair—in terms of the gains from the peace process. He is absolutely right that one message that consistently comes from Northern Ireland businesses across all sectors is the desire for certainty and understanding of what the situation will be for them in terms of trade, as Democratic Unionist party Members have outlined as well today, should we get to January and a free trade agreement has not been agreed. We have outlined the matter in the Command Paper and the guidance notes, which was positively received. The work we have done on the UK internal market Bill will go further to ensure that they have confidence in what the situation will be, even if we are not able to succeed in a positive outcome to those agreements and discussions of the Joint Committee.

Gregory Campbell Portrait Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP)
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Does the Secretary of State agree that what was used as a negotiating ploy over the first few years was the concept of a hard border on the island of Ireland, when most people should know—if they are in the real world—that it is inadvisable, unworkable and undoable? No one wants it to happen and no one is going to construct it. Will he ensure his colleagues know that we must not allow something that is not going to happen to impede the need to get something that must: a good deal?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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The hon. Gentleman makes a very powerful point, and he is absolutely right that nobody wants to see, and there is no reason for there to be, a border either on the island of Ireland or between the island of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain. We are determined to deliver on that. As I have said, the clauses in the UK internal market Bill are there as a safety net to ensure that, even if we do not reach a satisfactory conclusion to the free trade agreements, although that is something that I am sure both parties, acting in good faith, will be able to do in the coming weeks and next few months.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
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May I ask a very simple question, in case anybody is still unclear? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is of paramount importance to protect the peace process and that, to do so, unfettered access is essential between Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the spirit in which the question was asked, yes.

Jonathan Edwards Portrait Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (Ind)
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Listening to the debate today, would I be right in summarising that the oven-ready deal we were promised by the Conservative party at the general election is missing a cooking apparatus?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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I would say that the apparatus we are using is working through the Joint Committee on the free trade agreement deals and the UK internal market Bill. As anything, this is all part of a package of things that mean we are able to ensure that, when we finish the transition period at the end of December this year, companies, businesses and the people of Northern Ireland have confidence about what the situation will be in January, even if we are not able to conclude those negotiations satisfactorily.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We are now heading to Bob Blackman, who is about to land his question. [Laughter.]

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con) [V]
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. I welcome the statements made by my right hon. Friend. Clearly, we hope that there will be a comprehensive free trade deal with our friends from the European Union, negotiated in good faith. But does he agree that it would be wholly irresponsible of the Government not to take measures to ensure the integrity of the United Kingdom and to preserve the ability of Northern Ireland businesses to trade with the rest of the United Kingdom by publishing this draft Bill tomorrow, and that the Government will ensure that we preserve that integrity while always preserving the sanctity of the Good Friday agreement?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My hon. Friend has put the situation absolutely perfectly. The Bill, as we will publish it tomorrow, as colleagues and Members across this House will see, will set out how we ensure the integrity of the United Kingdom trading markets—that customs union and the single market that has been so much a part of the United Kingdom for hundreds of years, in reality. It will ensure we are delivering on our determination to ensure we continue to see the benefits of the peace process, we deliver on the Good Friday agreement and we deliver on our promises to ensure that there are no borders, that we have unfettered access to Northern Ireland businesses, and that we deliver on exactly what we said in our Command Paper and in our manifesto.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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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.

00:05
Sitting suspended.

Covid-19 Update

Tuesday 8th September 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
13:40
Matt Hancock Portrait The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Matt Hancock)
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With permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement on coronavirus. As a country, we have made huge strides in our fight against this invisible killer. Today’s Office for National Statistics figures show that weekly coronavirus deaths have dropped to the lowest number since mid-March, and the latest daily number of recorded deaths is three. However, we have seen a concerning rise in the number of positive cases, particularly among younger people. These figures serve as a salutary reminder that this virus is still very much with us and remains a threat, so it is critical that we maintain our collective commitment to controlling this disease.

Social distancing is the first line of defence. While young people are less likely to die from this disease, be in no doubt that they are still at risk. The long-term effects can be terrible, and of course they can infect others. Six months on, many people are still suffering chronic fatigue, muscle pain and breathing difficulties. Previously fit and healthy people have been reduced to barely being able to function. A King’s College survey published today shows that 300,000 people in the UK have reported symptoms lasting for more than a month and that 60,000 people have been ill for more than three months.

I also want to address the point, which is of course good news, that the number of people who are sadly dying from coronavirus in this country is currently low. We have seen all across the world how a rise in cases, initially among younger people, then spreads, leading to hospitalisations and fatalities. In Spain, where the rise in cases started around two months ago, hospitalisations have risen 15 times since mid-July. The number of daily deaths there has reached 184. In France, hospitalisations have more than tripled in the same period.

This must be a moment of clarity for us all. This is not over. Just because we have come through one peak, it does not mean we cannot see another one coming towards our shores. But together we can tackle it, so long as we remember that, in a pandemic, our actions today have consequences tomorrow for the people we love, for our communities, and for our country. Each and every citizen has a responsibility to follow social distancing and help to stop a second peak. After social distancing, the next line of defence is test and trace. Over the past six months we have built the biggest testing system of any major European country, and one of the biggest testing systems in the world. Today, I can tell the House that we have met our target to provide testing kits to all the care homes for older people and people with dementia that have registered to get tests.

But I will not rest. We are working flat out to expand our testing capacity even further. Using existing technology, we are expanding our capacity right now, and we are investing in new testing technology too. Last week, I was able to announce £500 million for next-generation tests such as saliva tests and rapid turnaround tests that can deliver results in just 20 minutes. The ability to get rapid, on-the-spot results will significantly increase the weapons in our armoury, in our fight both against coronavirus and for economic recovery. We are rolling out these tests right now, and plan to use them to relieve capacity constraints, to expand asymptomatic testing to find the virus and to give people the confidence that a negative test result brings.

Where it is necessary, we will not shy away from taking targeted local action. In June, I established the Joint Biosecurity Centre, to provide the best possible data analytics, using information from all possible sources. Our local action is driven by the data. We now publish daily local data on cases, so that everyone can see the data on which these decisions are taken, and this shows that our approach is working. For instance, in both Leicester and Luton, the weekly case rate more than halved during August. I want to thank the people of Leicester, including the hon. Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth), of Luton and of the other areas where we have taken local action, who have followed social distancing and helped to bring the virus under control.

Sometimes local action requires us to act fast and respond to changing circumstances. Unfortunately, after improving for several weeks, we have seen a very significant rise in cases in Bolton. Bolton is now up to 120 cases per 100,000 population—the highest case rate in the country—and I am publishing the data behind the decisions that we have taken. I must therefore tell the House that, working with the local council, we are taking further local action. The rise in cases in Bolton is partly due to socialising by people in their 20s and 30s; we know that from contact tracing. Through our contact tracing system, we have identified a number of pubs at which the virus has spread significantly. We are therefore taking the following action in Bolton, starting immediately. We will restrict all hospitality to takeaway only, and we will introduce a late-night restriction of operating hours, which will mean that all venues will be required to close from 10 pm to 5 am. We will urgently introduce further measures that put the current guidance—that people cannot socialise outside their household—into law.

I want us to learn the lesson from Spain, America and France, not to have to learn the lesson all over again ourselves through more hospitalisations and more deaths, and take this local action in Bolton. Crucially, we all have a part to play. Young people do not just spread the virus to each other. They spread the virus to their parents and their grandparents. They spread it to those they come into contact with and others who they love. I know that social distancing can be hard and that it will be extra tough for students who are starting university, but I ask them please to stick with it and to play their part in getting this virus under control.

We are also putting in place extra measures, including visitor restrictions, to restrict the spread of the virus into care homes and hospitals in Bolton. I want to thank the leadership of Bolton Council, who are doing an outstanding job in very difficult circumstances, and colleagues who represent Bolton in this House, with whom I have discussed these measures. I want to say this directly to everyone living in Bolton: I know how anxious you will be, and I know the impact that these measures will have. We are asking you to take a step back, at a time when we all just want to get on with our lives and what we love and get back to normal, but we need to take this crucial step to keep the virus at bay, because as we have seen elsewhere, if we act early and control the virus, we can save lives.

As well as controlling the virus using the tools we have now, we will do everything in our power to bring to bear the technologies of the future. Over the past few months, we have seen the pivotal role that technology has played in our response, such as next-generation rapid testing, machine-learning tools to help the NHS predict where vital resources might be needed, and the discovery here in the UK of the only two treatments known to save lives from coronavirus. We want to keep that momentum going, so today, we are allocating £50 million from our artificial intelligence in health and care award. That fund aims to speed up the testing and evaluation of some of the most promising technologies, because through bringing new technologies to the frontline, we can transform how we deliver critical care and services across the country.

Finally, the best way out of this coronavirus pandemic remains a vaccine. We have already announced that we will roll out the most comprehensive flu vaccination programme in history this winter. We now have agreements with six separate vaccine developers for early access to 340 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, and we will use every method at our disposal to get as many people protected as possible.

This virus feeds on complacency, and although time has passed since the peak in the spring, the threat posed by the virus has not gone away. Now, with winter on the horizon, we must all redouble our efforts and get this virus on the back foot. I commend this statement to the House.

13:50
Jonathan Ashworth Portrait Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab/Co-op)
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I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. There can be no question but that the rise in case numbers in recent days is deeply worrying, and I agree that this is no time for complacency, that those who suggested this could be over