All 28 Parliamentary debates in the Commons on 3rd Jul 2023

Mon 3rd Jul 2023
Mon 3rd Jul 2023

House of Commons

Monday 3rd July 2023

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Monday 3 July 2023
The House met at half-past Two o’clock

Prayers

Monday 3rd July 2023

(11 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.

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[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Monday 3rd July 2023

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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The Secretary of State was asked—
Sarah Atherton Portrait Sarah Atherton (Wrexham) (Con)
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1. What steps she is taking to reduce net migration.

James Daly Portrait James Daly (Bury North) (Con)
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19. What steps she is taking to reduce net migration.

Suella Braverman Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Suella Braverman)
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Net migration is too high, and this Government are determined to bring it down. Indeed, that was one of the reasons why I voted and campaigned to leave the European Union in 2016. Last month, I announced measures to reduce the number of student dependants coming to the UK, which has soared by 35%, and to stop people transferring from student visas to work visas. We expect net migration to return to sustainable levels over time, and immigration policy is under constant review.

Sarah Atherton Portrait Sarah Atherton
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The Labour-Plaid coalition in Cardiff has declared Wales a “sanctuary for all.” The world is welcome. However, its Ukrainian super-sponsor scheme fell apart due to a lack of accommodation and planning, with families still crammed into single rooms. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Welsh Labour Government about the collapse of their super-sponsor scheme? Does she know how many families are still inappropriately placed?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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We are very proud of this country’s track record on providing sanctuary to people in need, and I am very proud of the support that the Government have given to Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s barbaric war. But when it comes to broader accommodation costs relating to asylum seekers, it is clear that we are spending far too much—£6 million a day, or £3 billion a year—on housing asylum seekers in hotels.

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. She speaks frankly to Labour’s abject failure to offer any viable plan for support. Labour is naive about the problem, and it is unrealistic about the solution. Labour has no idea and no plan, and it is letting Wales down.

James Daly Portrait James Daly
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Do the Government have any plans to amend the minimum salary requirement for the skilled worker visa scheme?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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We always keep the salary threshold under review but, as I said, net migration is too high and we need to get overall numbers down. How do we do that? Well, employers need to recruit more people who are already here, rather than advertising abroad so much. We also need to get more people off welfare and back into economic activity, and our welfare reforms will help with that objective. We cannot ignore the pressure that record levels of people coming to the UK puts on housing supply, public services and community relations. That is why we need to focus on lowering net migration.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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Of course, net emigration is the problem in some parts of the UK. Will the Home Secretary pay attention to the plight of our economy in the lakes and dales, where almost two thirds of businesses are failing to meet demand because of a lack of workforce? I have been speaking to the Minister for Immigration about a youth mobility visa scheme, negotiated bilaterally with other countries in Europe, to solve our economic needs so that our hospitality and tourism industries can survive. How is the Home Secretary getting on with those discussions?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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Migration is a very complex issue, and of course we have to balance the needs of the labour market. That is why we are very pleased to support well-crafted youth mobility schemes. There is one with India, and I have just come back from New Zealand, where we have expanded our youth mobility scheme. They are great schemes that allow the exchange of young people, who can come here to serve and work in our economy.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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It is very clear that the issue of migration must be settled and sorted out. At the same time, it is important to note that those who have come from eastern Europe, the middle east and Africa are contributing to the economy of my Strangford constituency. I think the Secretary of State is committed to ensuring that continues, but what discussions has she had with the Northern Ireland Assembly to ensure that we continue to have the workers we need?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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No single measure can control net migration, but as the Prime Minister has been clear, net migration is too high. That is why I recently announced a series of measures aimed at reducing the number of student dependants, which has risen exponentially over the past few years, and ensuring that students come here in a more proportionate and balanced way.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Home Secretary.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
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Will the Home Secretary wish the deputy chairman of the Conservative party, the hon. Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson), a speedy recovery from the terrible bug that I understand has, this morning, prevented him from launching an entirely different Conservative immigration policy from the policy of the Conservative Home Secretary? Does she agree with him that social care visas should be cancelled—yes or no?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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The sorry fact of the matter is that Labour wants open borders and unlimited migration. There is a malaise descending upon the Labour party, and it does not even know what it thinks. Labour’s Sadiq Khan has said that he wants more migration. Labour’s party chairman has confirmed that numbers could rise under a Labour Government. When the shadow Home Secretary was asked whether she wanted net migration to rise or fall, she, in the characteristic style we have come to know and love, could not even answer the question. That is what we always get with Labour—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. May I just say that you have no responsibility for the Labour party and, in fairness, this is Home Office questions?

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
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The Home Secretary could not answer the question: does she support her own social care visas or not? She spent all weekend briefing that she agrees with her Back Benchers, but today she cannot even answer the basic question. Making up stuff about the Labour party will not help her when her party has been in power for 13 years and when work visas have doubled, exactly because the Government have failed to tackle skills shortages or issues in the labour market.

This is total chaos. We have a Rwanda policy that is not removing anyone; an impact assessment that says her policies will not work and will cost much more; a 50% drop in removals of foreign criminals—the inspector says this is because the Home Office cannot even identify who can be removed; a record number of people in hotels; a record high asylum backlog; and Back Benchers writing the Home Secretary’s immigration policy because they do not think she is up to the job. It has been a humiliating few weeks for the Home Secretary—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Sorry, but you are not going to take advantage of me in that way—that is totally unfair. I cannot pull one side up and allow the other to take advantage of it. I expect all the Back Benchers to be able to get their questions in today. This is about everybody having the same opportunity to get involved, so please do not do that again.

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. We all know that only the Conservative party and this Prime Minister have a serious plan to stop the boats and stop illegal migration, and that Labour stands for only one thing: open borders and unlimited migration. Labour Members would rather spend their time campaigning to block the deportation of foreign criminals than back our Illegal Migration Bill. They are on the side of the criminal gangs, not on the side of the British people.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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2. Whether her Department has had recent discussions with the industrial hemp industry on licensing.

Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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The hon. Gentleman will recall that the two of us met just a few weeks ago, on 17 May, together with industry representatives, to discuss hemp licensing. I thank him for taking the time and trouble to organise that meeting. As he knows, there is a light-touch process for licensing industrial hemp. Since 2013, the number of hemp licences has increased from six to 134.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan
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I recollect the conversation well. We have an opportunity within the UK to grow hemp on an industrial scale and so feed many growing industries that use hemp to produce environmentally friendly products. The growth of these industries has been hampered by overly complicated regulations and a poor application process. Meanwhile, foreign companies are racing ahead in this arena. To protect UK farmers and encourage UK industry, will the Minister consider giving the licensing process over to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and making the process farmer friendly?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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It is, of course, important to make sure that UK industry can compete globally, and a light-touch regulatory framework is important in that. We should be aware that some parts of the plant contain high levels of THC—tetrahydrocannabinol—and do need regulation, which is the Home Office’s concern. I will be meeting DEFRA colleagues in the near future to make sure that our approach to regulation is as light-touch as possible, because, like him, I want to see our domestic industry flourish and I do not want any excessive regulation.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
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3. What recent progress her Department has made on reviewing the police funding formula.

Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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The Government have said they will be reviewing the police funding formula, and I hope to have news for the House in the relatively near future about initiating the consultation process. The formula is quite out of date and it needs overhauling, and we are working on that.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
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The record number of 1,455 police officers in Bedfordshire and the recent £6 million special grant are both very welcome indeed, but does the Minister recognise that it is simply not fair or right to go on funding a force with a series of one-off special grants that really need to be part of core funding?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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My hon. Friend makes a good point. I should take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye, who has done a fantastic job for the people of Bedfordshire. He advocated for more funding via the special grant and was successful. He is a great representative for the people of Bedfordshire and I am pleased that he has delivered record police numbers in Bedfordshire, just as the Government have delivered record numbers of police across the whole of England and Wales.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab)
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The chief constable of West Yorkshire police, John Robins QPM, recently told the BBC that his force does not have the resources that it needs to deliver the service that the public expect. Cutting through the spin, he said that the force was down 2,000 staff and £140 million since 2010. He said his force could deal with major incidents and crimes, but only at a cost to neighbourhood policing. This comes from a force that was rated outstanding in planning and the use of resources in its latest inspection by His Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services. Which bit of policing does the Minister think should not be done because forces simply do not have the resources?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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The shadow Minister will know that in the police funding settlement for this year, 2023-24, there is around about £500 million extra—in fact, it is slightly over £500 million—for police forces up and down the country. That has enabled us to deliver a record number of officers ever. There are 149,572 officers—about 3,500 more than there were under the last Labour Government. In West Yorkshire, which the shadow Minister asked about, neighbourhood crime is down by 30% since 2019 and overall crime—excluding fraud and computer misuse, which came into the figures only recently—is down by 52% since 2010. I am still waiting for the shadow Home Secretary to apologise for being a member of a Government who presided over crime levels that are double those we have today.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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4. What recent progress her Department has made on reducing the backlog of asylum applications.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab)
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21. What recent progress her Department has made on reducing the backlog of asylum applications.

Robert Jenrick Portrait The Minister for Immigration (Robert Jenrick)
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We are making good progress, and the latest Home Office statistics show that asylum decisions are up, with a 35% increase since last year in the number made. Productivity has increased, and we are on track to have 2,500 decision makers by September, which represents a quadrupling of the number of case workers.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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Like many Members from all parties, I am constantly contacted by refugees who are desperate to know what is happening to their asylum claim after years of waiting, so I asked the Home Office how many refugees in Newcastle had been waiting for one, two, three, four and five years. The answer came back that the Home Office does not know—it does not even record the data. Instead of indulging in unworkable, unethical, illegal and unaffordable flights of Rwandan fantasy, why does the Home Secretary not focus on her day job and fix the asylum backlog?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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As I just said, we are making good progress on reducing the asylum backlog. Important though the reducing the backlog is, however, it cannot be the totality of a plan. This is the point that the Labour party does not seem to understand: we have to stop the boats coming in the first place. That is the only sustainable way to tackle the issue. Even if we grant our way out of this problem, as the shadow Home Secretary seems to propose, the pressures on the state still remain; they are simply transferred to local authorities and the benefits system, and the British taxpayer continues to pick up the bill.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan
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The Minister has an interesting definition of being “on track”; did the number of decision makers not fall between January and May this year, from 1,333 to 1,280?

A constituent recently passed on to me a letter from a firm of local solicitors that said:

“All possible avenues have been considered to avoid this situation but regrettably, the Home Office’s long term failure to progress asylum claims, and current Government immigration policy, has made it financially unsustainable for”

these solicitors

“to continue Legally Aided work.”

How does it help us as MPs on both sides of the House in our constituency offices, and how does it help with the backlog that the Home Office says it wants to reduce, to make sure that people do not have the legal representation they need to unblock the system and allow progress in asylum cases?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the problem with our asylum system is not a lack of lawyers; there are plenty of legal representatives around. We have had strong overall progress on the backlog, and I am pleased to say that the early data that I have received suggests that last week saw the best performance in four years.

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
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I know how seriously the Minister takes dealing with the legacy backlog, but, as the Home Secretary showed at the recent Home Affairs Committee, in order to deal with that backlog in the timeframe that the Government have set themselves it would require at least a quadrupling of the number of cases being dealt with as from 1 June. Even with the extra 500 staff appointed at Stoke, that will be challenging. Will the Minister give me an assurance that, if we have not managed to clear the backlog before the end of the year, it will not be done by a blanket amnesty?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. The Home Secretary, the Prime Minister and I explicitly chose not to pursue the blanket amnesty approach that the previous Labour Government pursued. Instead, we put in the hard yards to improve productivity by streamlining processes, reducing unnecessary bureaucracy, ensuring that, where appropriate, interviews were conducted in a timely fashion, and recruiting more decision makers. Since my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary appeared before the Committee, I am pleased to say that the data coming out of our caseworking team is very strong. We are seeing significant progress. As I just said, early indication suggests that last week was the best for over four years.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
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I am a bit mystified. Given that 95% of these applications are successful, is it not the case that, if we speed up the process and make it easier and easier, more and more people will come? Is not the only solution to detain people and to deport them—offshore them? Those who suggest anything else are living in cloud cuckoo land and every single county will face what we face in Lincolnshire with thousands of illegal migrants having to be housed in unsuitable places. Let us have an answer for once.

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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The approach that the Home Secretary and I have taken has been both to ensure that, where there are high grant rate nationalities, cases are pursued swiftly, and where there are low grant rate nationalities, such as Albanians—individuals from a safe European country—who can and should be returned as quickly as possible, we do just that. At this point last year, 30% of those arriving on small boats were coming from Albania; today, it is less than 2%. That arrangement is clearly making good progress. None the less, my right hon. Friend makes an important point: those who suggest that we can simply grant our way out of this problem are, I am afraid, hopelessly naive. The idea that the individuals coming across on small boats will, in most cases, make a significant net contribution to our economy is wrong. The costs to the taxpayer are very significant. The ongoing costs of education, access to welfare and community cohesion are very significant, which is why we need to stop the boats in the first place.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
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The Government’s destruction of their own asylum system can best be described as an act of arson and their plans to fix it are utterly farcical. They have sent more Home Secretaries than asylum seekers to Rwanda. They sent the Prime Minister on a victory lap in Dover, apparently failing to notice that the weather improves over the summer and the boat numbers increase. And they were in such a flap about losing votes on their bigger backlog Bill that they resorted to dragging Lord Lebedev of Siberia into the Division Lobby. Now the Court of Appeal ruling has revealed that Rwanda is able to process only 100 claims per year—around 0.3% of those who arrived on small boats last year. Can the Minister tell me what he is planning to do with the remaining 99.7%, and does he therefore agree that the prospect of the Rwanda plan actually deterring any migrant from crossing the channel is close to zero?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I used to say that the Labour party does not have a plan, but the truth is that it does have a plan, but it is a plan that would make things significantly worse. It is a plan that would ensure more granting of cases; more safe and legal routes, so even more individuals would come here; more hotels; and more cost to the British taxpayer. What is so disgraceful is the level of hypocrisy. We only have to look at the record of Welsh Labour to see that. In Wales, the Welsh Minister for Social Justice declared on 15 occasions in the Senedd that Labour-run Wales was “a nation of sanctuary”, but across the same period, Labour-run Wales accommodated 176 fewer asylum seekers. In fact, the latest published data shows that Labour-run Wales has taken just half the number of people that it should per capita.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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5. Whether she has had recent discussions with the devolved Administrations on the Illegal Migration Bill.

Robert Jenrick Portrait The Minister for Immigration (Robert Jenrick)
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I have engaged regularly with the devolved Administrations on the Illegal Migration Bill since its introduction in March, in addition to my periodic meetings with my ministerial counterparts on a variety of immigration issues. Most recently, I met the Scottish Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees in May. Looking ahead, the Bill is on the agenda for the inter-ministerial group for safety, security and migration, which my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will chair later this month.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens
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The Bill will place restrictions on the powers of Scottish Ministers, removing the entitlement for victims of human trafficking and exploitation to access Scottish Government-funded support services, and will undermine the Scottish Government’s ability to deliver on their trafficking and exploitation strategy. We know what route the Government’s damaging ideology is dragging them down, but why should Scotland’s elected Parliament and the devolved Administrations be dragged down the same route, when it is abundantly clear that we want no part of the hostile environment ideology?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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If the Scottish Government cared so deeply about this issue, they would accommodate more asylum seekers. The SNP Government are accommodating just 4.5% of the total asylum population being accommodated in the UK, when Scotland makes up 8.1% of the UK population. I took the time to look at some of the statistics for those local authorities in Scotland where the SNP is the largest party: Clackmannanshire, zero asylum seekers; Dundee, zero asylum seekers; East Ayrshire, zero; East Dunbartonshire, zero; Midlothian, zero; North Ayrshire—want to take a guess, Mr Speaker? —zero; North Lanarkshire, six—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. No, no, no—you are going to get my drift. We cannot read out phone numbers. This is not the “Yellow Pages” advert. One or two statistics are fine, but when we get to five I really do worry. Let us have the SNP spokesperson.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
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The Minister clearly thinks that that is a very clever line, but he knows well that Glasgow takes more refugees per head of population than any other local authority in the United Kingdom. The line he is trotting out is simply wrong and it is insulting to all those in Scotland who have opened their homes to Ukrainians, the communities across the country who have welcomed Syrians and the volunteers in the big cities who work with asylum seekers every day, helping them to overcome trauma. If he wants Scotland to do more to welcome refugees, when is he going to devolve the power and the financial levers that would allow us to do so?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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For good reason, immigration is a reserved matter, but the statistics I have just read out make the point as clear as can be. The SNP tries its very best to undermine the Government’s work to stop the boats, but it refuses to accommodate these people when they arrive, and the costs of its fake humanitarianism are borne by everyone but itself. That is not just hypocrisy; it is deeply irresponsible, and the public have had enough.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady
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It is not the Scottish Government’s policy towards immigration, refugees and asylum seekers that has been ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal. If the Minister wants the system to work and he wants the Scottish Government to do their part, he must take more action to clear the backlog, as we have heard; there must be proper safe and legal rights for people to arrive; and they must be given the right to work when they get here, because then they can pay for their own accommodation and they will not cost the taxpayer money.

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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Just the other day, the Home Office suggested to the Scottish Government that a vessel that had been used to house Ukrainian refugees in Leith could be used for others who are asylum seekers—the same vessel, the same port, the same provider, the same package. What did the SNP say? No.

Anum Qaisar Portrait Ms Anum Qaisar (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
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6. What recent assessment she has made of the compatibility of the Illegal Migration Bill with the 1951 UN refugee convention.

Suella Braverman Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Suella Braverman)
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While I am pleased that the Court of Appeal found that the Government are not in breach of our obligations under the refugee convention, I fundamentally disagree with the judgment that Rwanda is not a safe place for refugees and we are seeking permission to appeal. The Government take our international obligations very seriously and we are satisfied that the provisions in the Illegal Migration Bill comply with the refugee convention. The fundamental principle remains, however, that those in need of protection should claim asylum at the earliest opportunity and in the first safe country that they reach.

Anum Qaisar Portrait Ms Qaisar
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The Home Secretary and the Government website say that they are satisfied that the provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill comply with the 1951 UN refugee convention. I am looking for clarity from the Home Secretary. What exactly is it about persecuting the most vulnerable groups, creating a hostile environment and stripping people of their right to seek safety that complies so well with the UN refugee convention?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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As I have made clear, we take our international obligations very seriously, and we are satisfied that the Bill complies with the refugee convention. With respect to the hon. Lady, I will not take lectures from the SNP on this matter. SNP Members are, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) said, the phoney humanitarians in this debate. They are happy to support asylum seekers as long as they are nowhere near Scotland. When they stop opposing the vessel in Leith, which will house more asylum seekers, then we can have a serious conversation.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
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The UN Refugee Agency has its own asylum seeker relocation programme: it flies asylum seekers from Libya to Rwanda in a scheme part-funded by the European Union. How on earth can Rwanda be deemed not to be a safe country if the UN Refugee Agency itself is using it as a safe haven?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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As always, my hon. Friend makes a powerful point, and I could not agree with him more. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees runs an extensive scheme in Rwanda, and supports the resettlement of many thousands of migrants. I met some of them in my recent visit to Rwanda. They are happy and grateful for the generosity and welcome that Rwanda has offered them, which has allowed them to restart their lives. I am frankly very disappointed by the constant smears and assumptions, which are based on outdated and ignorant views, denigrating our allies in Rwanda. I am nothing but grateful to our partners in Rwanda for the continued co-operation.

Gordon Henderson Portrait Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Con)
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7. What steps she is taking to tackle street crime by young people.

Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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I am pleased to report that, according to the crime survey, violence is down by 41% and criminal damage is down by 68% since 2010. But we would like to do more. That is why we now have record numbers of police and why we are investing in the safer streets fund, £200 million in the Youth Endowment Fund and £170 million in violence reduction units. We have also launched our antisocial behaviour strategy, about which the Home Secretary will speak in a moment.

Now is a good time to put on the record an intervention made by Mr Speaker in his capacity as the Member of Parliament for Chorley. Thanks to his recent intervention with me and the chief constable, Chorley town centre is one of the areas that will receive antisocial behaviour hotspot patrols, and I am sure that the people of Chorley are very grateful to Mr Speaker for the intervention that he made on their behalf.

Gordon Henderson Portrait Gordon Henderson
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Well done, Mr Speaker!

I thank the Minister for his reply. Some young people who are arrested because they are guilty of antisocial behaviour, or so-called low-level crime, are released without charge because there is a reluctance to criminalise them. Too often, those youngsters go on to commit further multiple crimes, and are arrested and released without charge each time. What steps will my right hon. Friend take to end this roundabout of unpunished crime and ensure that young people who repeatedly break the law are not released without charge but are treated as what they are—criminals?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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We want to see tougher action on things such as antisocial behaviour and public drug use; we should have zero tolerance for any of those things. As part of the ASB strategy we are launching instant justice, whereby people who perpetrate acts of antisocial behaviour will rapidly—ideally within 48 hours—be made to do clean-ups and those kinds of things in their local area, to pay back visibly, publicly, rapidly and with enforcement. We are trialling that in 10 police force areas, starting this month, and it will be rolled out to every police force in the country, with funding, by April next year. I completely agree with everything my hon. Friend said.

Vicky Foxcroft Portrait Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)
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The Minister may not be aware that I was chair of the cross-party Youth Violence Commission. We published an interim report in 2018 and a final one in 2020. Our first recommendation was for the Government to adopt a public health approach to tackling violence through regional violence reduction units and long-term strategies. What action is the Minister taking to ensure that violence reduction units have the long-term funding that they need to achieve the best possible outcomes?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I agree with the approach that the hon. Lady sets out, and we have already taken action. She asks about long-term plans. She will be aware that the Youth Endowment Fund of £210 million is a 10-year programme, and that violence reduction units—called violence reduction partnerships in some places—have so far received £170 million, and receive funding each and every year, including an allocation this year. The kinds of things that we find work include diversionary activities for young people. In fact, when I asked the chief executive of the YEF what the most effective intervention is, he said that it was cognitive behavioural therapy, which gets used as well. I repeat one statistic that I mentioned earlier: since 2010, violence is down by 41% and criminal damage by 68%.

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) (Lab)
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A report today found that nearly half of women who experienced or witnessed a crime in the past year chose not to report it because they did not believe that the police would treat it seriously. His Majesty’s inspector, in his latest state of policing report, said that the police were experiencing one of their biggest crises in living memory, there were widespread systematic failings and they were simply not getting the basics right.

Having pushed our British model of policing by consent to the very brink, do the Government take responsibility, do they agree with the inspector that substantial reform is essential, and will they back Labour’s plans to restore neighbourhood policing, halve serious violence and raise confidence in every force—or is the Minister happy to keep twiddling his thumbs while the criminals get away with it?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I must say, in the gentlest terms, that my constituency neighbour has a bit of cheek to talk about reducing crime, given that according to the crime survey, crime levels under the last Labour Government were around double what they are today. [Interruption.] She shakes her head, but that is from the Office for National Statistics, and it is the only statistically recognised long-term measure of crime. If she does not like the ONS figures, she can go and argue with it. She might not like them, but those are the figures.

In relation to the hon. Lady’s serious question about RASSO—rape and serious sexual offences—particularly on women, the proportion being reported is much higher than it was a few years ago, which is welcome. There is a lot more to do, which is why there is a rape review and a rape action plan. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales (Miss Dines), are working hard on that. Operation Soteria Bluestone was fully rolled out at the end of June, just a few days ago, and we have seen a significant increase in the number of relevant charges. They are still too low, and they need to be higher, which is why we have invested in more RASSO specialist officers, and that work is continuing.

Mike Amesbury Portrait Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) (Lab)
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9. What steps her Department is taking to help tackle antisocial behaviour.

Stephen Morgan Portrait Stephen Morgan (Portsmouth South) (Lab)
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14. Whether her Department plans to increase police resources to help tackle antisocial behaviour.

Suella Braverman Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Suella Braverman)
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Earlier in the year, I launched the antisocial behaviour action plan, which includes increasing funding for police and crime commissioners by over £100 million, delivering stronger and swifter punishment, increasing police visibility in response, and banning nitrous oxide. Antisocial behaviour is not a low-level crime. It blights communities, and that is why the Government are committed to tackling it effectively.

Mike Amesbury Portrait Mike Amesbury
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Today, to coincide with Anti-social Behaviour Awareness Week, the all-party parliamentary group on antisocial behaviour has published a report with the charity Resolve ASB, which demonstrates, among other things, that 1.7 million people a day experience antisocial behaviour. Some 58% believe that the Government are not doing enough. Will the Home Secretary meet members of the all-party parliamentary group and me to look at the recommendations in that report?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his work on the all-party parliamentary group, and I am sure that the Policing Minister and/or I will meet him to learn more about the vital work that he has led. May I take the opportunity to applaud the officers of Cheshire police force in the hon. Gentleman’s area? I have had the pleasure of meeting the excellent chief constable, Mark Roberts. I applaud the Conservative police and crime commissioner, John Dwyer, who has rolled out a scheme on antisocial behaviour that provides more CCTV and increases the first-responder response. There is a record number of police officers in Cheshire, and the force has received over £3 million-worth of safer streets funding. The results are a 26% fall in neighbourhood crime and a 17% fall in drugs offences in Cheshire. That is common-sense policing, thanks to the police officers and Government support.

Stephen Morgan Portrait Stephen Morgan
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Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary is one of the lowest-funded police forces in the UK, and with a decade of cuts to youth services, antisocial behaviour has been left to thrive under this Government. We have seen the consequences at South Parade pier, the Camber and many other places in Portsmouth. Neighbourhood policing is vital in cracking down on ASB, which ruins so many lives. Therefore, what explanation can the Home Secretary provide for halving the number of police community support officers over the past 13 years?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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The hon. Gentleman and I represent constituencies that are served by the same police force, and I am really proud of the track record in Hampshire. I am really proud of how the new chief constable, Scott Chilton, has assumed his role, with a real focus on back-to-basics policing; I am really proud of how the Conservative police and crime commissioner, Donna Jones, has led initiatives so that every community in Hampshire will have named, dedicated police officers and PCSOs serving them, bolstering neighbourhood policing and building confidence; and I am really proud of the fact that Hampshire has seen a 15% fall in neighbourhood crime since 2019—common-sense policing serving the community.

Stephen Crabb Portrait Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con)
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Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that some of the principal victims of antisocial behaviour are young people? The Government are absolutely right to bring forward new measures to tackle antisocial behaviour to make our streets, parks and public spaces safer for the vast majority of young people who do not engage in those negative behaviours.

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct. There is such a need for greater diversion and greater support for young people, so that they do not spend their time loitering in shopping centres, causing a nuisance in car parks or harassing members of the community. That is why our antisocial behaviour action plan commits considerable funding—over £160 million of new funding—including for an increased police presence in ASB hotspot areas and to support the roll-out of diversionary resources to support young people so that they do not fall into crime and antisocial behaviour.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Youth zones are exceptional, especially the Chorley Inspire one.

Robbie Moore Portrait Robbie Moore (Keighley) (Con)
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Yet again, in Ilkley and Marley in my constituency, Travellers have set up camp, caused damage and intimidated residents, which just last weekend resulted in Ilkley pool having to close temporarily. When they have gone, they leave a complete mess, which all has to be cleaned up at taxpayers’ expense. Will the Home Secretary meet me to discuss what additional support West Yorkshire police and our local council can get to address this ongoing issue?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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My hon. Friend raises a really important point about illegal encampments and Travellers who blight communities by causing a nuisance and who, in some cases, threaten communities—it is unacceptable behaviour. That is why we legislated in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 to toughen up the powers and measures available to the police, so that they can take more robust steps in relation to this issue, but I am very happy to speak to my hon. Friend about what more can be done locally.

Paulette Hamilton Portrait Mrs Paulette Hamilton (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab)
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10. What recent progress her Department has made on reducing the use of hotels as contingency asylum accommodation.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)
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15. What recent progress her Department has made on reducing the use of hotels as contingency asylum accommodation.

Robert Jenrick Portrait The Minister for Immigration (Robert Jenrick)
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The Home Office seeks to end the use of hotels and to move asylum seekers to less expensive, more suitable accommodation. To support that, we are bringing into use large, disused military sites and vessels, which will provide adequate, safe, secure, non-detained accommodation for asylum seekers and also reduce the pull factor to the United Kingdom.

Paulette Hamilton Portrait Mrs Hamilton
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I recently received an email from the Home Office that said that the use of hotels to house asylum seekers is “inappropriate”, and that reliance on them must be reduced. In the same email, the Home Office informed me that it planned to increase the use of hotel accommodation for asylum seekers in my constituency of Erdington by 159%—the single biggest increase in the whole of Birmingham. How on earth can the Minister expect the country to trust him when he cannot even keep his policies consistent within the same email?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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The policy that we have adopted is one of maximising the capacity of the hotels that we have for as long as we have them. That is saving the taxpayer at least a quarter of a billion pounds and reducing reliance on hotels elsewhere in the country. I do appreciate that there are pressures on the hon. Lady’s local authority, and I also appreciate that some Labour local authorities, such as Westminster City Council, say that asylum seekers must be housed in individual, ensuite bedrooms. We do not agree with that: it is a gross waste of taxpayers’ money that would make the UK a soft touch.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith
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In my constituency, I have had the same experience as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mrs Hamilton), but the question I want to ask is about unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The Home Office still has not explained how it is going to find the children missing from asylum accommodation, so will it set out the plans to do that and find these vulnerable people?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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We have been very clear that we and the police take extremely seriously any young person who goes missing from a hotel or any other form of accommodation. Local police forces and Home Office personnel treat that exactly as they would any other child going missing and they conduct a full missing person inquiry. However, the only sustainable answer to young people living in hotels is to stop the boats in the first place. Doing nothing is not an option. Doing nothing will lead to more young people living in those hotels and being exposed to human traffickers.

James Gray Portrait James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con)
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While I do very much welcome the Minister’s determination to move away from hotels and towards other accommodation, will he give particular attention to the Wiltshire hotel and golf club in my constituency? The number there has gone up: there are now 120 people there, and they are all crammed into very small accommodation. It is not only bad from the point of view of the golf club members and neighbouring long-term residents with them in housing next door, but it is an extremely bad place from the point of view of the asylum seekers. They have nowhere to go and nothing to do. They have no education facilities and no religious facilities. They are stuck in the middle of the countryside with no transport, and it is quite the wrong place for them to be. Will the Minister please give particular attention to the Wiltshire hotel?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I am familiar with the hotel in my hon. Friend’s constituency and the concerns he has raised. I will take a look at that, but as I have said previously, the answer to this challenge is to stop the boats coming in the first place. That is why we all need to support the Illegal Migration Bill. Those who want more hotels would oppose it. The Labour party’s policy will see more hotels, and the shadow Home Secretary will end up with more hotels to her name than Paris Hilton.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
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I do not know how to follow that, Mr Speaker.

All Members would like to see a reduction in the number of hotels used for asylum accommodation—I am sure that is true—but will the Minister spend a moment to congratulate the community of Sharnbrook, and in particular Rev. Paolo Di Leo and Councillor Doug McMurdo, on providing a welcoming environment for people who are put in such accommodation? I think there are signs across the country that communities do come together in these difficult circumstances to achieve an outcome that is beneficial for everyone.

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I would be very happy to put on record my view of the good work being done by my hon. Friend’s constituents. He is right to say that there are voluntary and community groups, charities and churches right across the country that support asylum seekers while they are in this form of accommodation, and we and our providers facilitate that wherever possible.

Kelly Tolhurst Portrait Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester and Strood) (Con)
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T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Suella Braverman Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Suella Braverman)
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I am going to make a short topical statement. The information that Meta and other tech companies give to UK law enforcement helps to protect around 1,200 children and leads to over 100 arrests of suspected child abusers every month. However, Meta plans to roll out end-to-end encryption soon, without safeguards, and it will no longer proactively detect and alert authorities to child grooming and abuse material on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram Direct. This will be a huge boon to anyone who wants to hurt a child. The Online Safety Bill will hold tech firms to account, but indifference to abuse is intolerable. I have written to Mark Zuckerberg—together with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Security, the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat), children’s charities and campaign groups—to outline our profound concerns. Last week, I was in New Zealand at the Five Eyes security conference where there was widespread support for working together to ensure that social media companies put child safety first.

Kelly Tolhurst Portrait Kelly Tolhurst
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Following recent knife crime incidents in my constituency and in the Medway towns, will my right hon. Friend meet me and our Kent police and crime commissioner, Matthew Scott, to discuss funding and how the Home Office can further support Kent police with the increased challenges we are facing in Kent due to our proximity to London?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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I very much appreciate the particular challenges in Kent relating to knife crime. That is why I am glad that since 2019, Kent has received £5.5 million in core violence reduction unit grant funding, and £730,000 in additional support for targeted youth interventions. I have met the police and crime commissioner, and Chief Constable Tim Smith. They are both excellent at leading their forces, and there is now a record number of police officers in Kent. I am sure the Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire, my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp), will meet my right hon. Friend to discuss that issue. We have made a lot of progress, but we can do better.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Home Secretary.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
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The Home Secretary will be aware of the documentary last week on the relationship between Boris Johnson and others, and former KGB officer Alexander Lebedev, and about the meeting in an Italian villa, the ignoring of security advice on Lords appointments, and the decision not to sanction Alexander Lebedev. Given the importance of national security, will she tell the House whether she has any concerns about those reports? Will she set up an independent investigation into what happened, into who knew what, and into how far the security risk spreads?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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At the Home Office, the Minister for Security and I take seriously the threats posed by hostile state actors. That is why the Minister for Security is chairing the Defending Democracy Taskforce, bringing together agencies and Departments in a cross-Whitehall approach to tackling the serious threats that we all face as parliamentarians and facing those in public office. I gently remind the right hon. Lady that one of her own parliamentary colleagues has a very dubious track record when it comes to working with the Chinese Communist party.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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T2. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that police funding reflects rurality and the huge uplift in population experienced in remote coastal locations during the summer tourist season?

Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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As I said in response to an earlier question, the Government intend to consult in due course on a new police funding formula, and part of that consultation will involve looking at the factors that should be taken into account. Those might include things such as population and crime levels, but things such as rurality, sparsity and seasonality, particularly seasonal tourism, are likely to form part of the new formula. I encourage Members across the House to engage closely with that consultation when it comes forward, to ensure that those factors are properly accounted for.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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T5. I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. In recent weeks, the media have carried stories of patients who were receiving medical cannabis on private prescriptions, and who are now having their prescriptions paid for by the NHS. On the surface that is a great leap forward, but parents of children with intractable epilepsy who have been asking for such things for years are still being ignored. Will the Home Office consider reopening the 2018 licensing scheme to enable those children who are already being privately prescribed medical cannabis to have access to it via their NHS GP?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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Many cannabis base compounds were moved wholesale to schedule 2 a few years ago, enabling them to be prescribed. The question that the hon. Gentleman asked about NHS prescription is perfectly reasonable and fair, but prescriptions on the NHS are a matter for the Department of Health and Social Care and for the NHS, including the NHS in Scotland. I would be happy to pass on his inquiry to them.

Gordon Henderson Portrait Gordon Henderson  (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Con)
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T3.   May I assure my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that the majority of my constituents in Sittingbourne and Sheppey understand that sending illegal migrants to Rwanda for processing is key to stopping small-boat crossings in the channel? Will she assure them that despite concerted opposition from the Labour party, she will deliver her plan?

Robert Jenrick Portrait The Minister for Immigration (Robert Jenrick)
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. We are disappointed by the judgment of the Court of Appeal, but we are determined to follow through. He is right to say that we have to add deterrence to the system, as it is only by breaking the business model of the people smugglers that we will stop the boats.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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T7. My constituents want community policing. Kim McGuinness, the police and crime commissioner for Northumbria, has put in place a redeployment programme to get an extra 134 officers into neighbourhoods, but that will not make up for the 1,100 officers and the £148 million that we have lost due to budget cuts. And before the Minister mentions “plans”, that will still leave us 400 officers short. Why have the Tories failed so badly to get police officers on to the beat?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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As I mentioned in earlier answers, across England and Wales we now have record police numbers of 149,572. The previous peak was 146,030 in 2010, so we have 3,500 more officers than we have ever had before across England and Wales. In Northumbria, the number has gone up by 512 since 2015. Of course, many of the powers sit with the PCC, including powers over the precept. It is entirely open to police and crime commissioners to use those powers.

Antony Higginbotham Portrait Antony Higginbotham  (Burnley) (Con)
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T4.   Today, Operation Centurion has started across Lancashire, utilising £2 million from the Government to put more police officers on our streets tackling antisocial behaviour. In my constituency, that means almost 2,500 extra hours of police patrols in Padiham. It will have a major impact, but we can do more. Can I ask the Home Secretary whether the safer streets fund will have another round so that we can make physical changes, as well as getting more officers on the streets?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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I am delighted with the progress being made to tackle antisocial behaviour in Burnley and Padiham. As my hon. Friend will know, we have allocated almost £1 million to roll out pilots of ASB hotspot response in 2023-24. A new round of safer streets will be announced soon. I take this opportunity to thank Lancashire police, which has launched an ASB problem-solving unit. It ran Operation Propulsion, which involved more officers patrolling locations dealing with motor nuisance and boy racers, and it has had a real good crackdown on residential burglary thanks to Operation Defender. Neighbourhood crime has fallen by 26% in Lancashire. Tribute must be paid to Chief Constable Chris Rowley and the police and crime commissioner, Andrew Snowden.

Tommy Sheppard Portrait Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP)
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T9. Given the exchanges earlier, I am obliged to ask the Home Secretary whether she understands the difference between using a cruise ship for the temporary accommodation of Ukrainian refugees, with a shared language and experience, and who have the right to work and are being actively relocated in the community, and using it essentially as a prison ship for the indefinite long-term detention of asylum seekers, who have no right to leave, no right to work, no right to benefits and no recourse to public funds. Does the Department appreciate the difference?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I am disappointed by the hon. Gentleman’s remarks. He knows perfectly well that the proposition was not a prison ship. This is a ship that will be used in exactly the same way as the SNP Government did in Scotland, and in exactly the same way as the Belgian and the Dutch Governments are doing in their respective areas. If I may say, in Edinburgh today, there are 37 asylum seekers. That is disgraceful. If the SNP cared about this issue, it would step up, support asylum seekers and back our Bill.

Anna Firth Portrait Anna Firth (Southend West) (Con)
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People in Southend West want to see a tough, but just policy on illegal immigration that stops people unfairly jumping the queue, that stops evil people smugglers and above all stops vulnerable people drowning in the channel. Will my right hon. Friend therefore agree that we must continue to send a strong signal that it is this Government —not unelected lawyers or criminal gangs—who will decide who comes to this country?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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At the core of this question is: who decides who comes to this country? Is it for the Government and Parliament, or is it for people smugglers and human traffickers? Those of us on the Government Benches know exactly which side of the debate we are on; we want to stop the boats, and we want to secure our borders.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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The family of my constituent who fled Sudan have been stuck in Egypt for more than two months awaiting a spousal visa. Four of the group of five have UK passports. Can the Minister tell us how long he would expect people to be waiting in this kind of situation when they have suffered such distress and anxiety?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I would be happy to look into the case for the hon. Gentleman, but I can say to him that we are processing applications in third countries within service standards. We have closed the visa application centre in Khartoum for obvious reasons to protect the security of our staff and contractors, but we have teams in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and in other close countries who are there to support applicants, such as his constituents.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)
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Given this morning’s U-turn by the Mayor of London on selling off Uxbridge police station, does the Minister believe that the Mayor should also act to save Barnet police station? If he does not, the Mayor’s decision on Uxbridge looks like cynical political gameplaying and interference in a by-election.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I and many other Londoners were concerned when, I think in 2017, Sadiq Khan announced plans to close 37 police stations. Thanks to the resolute campaigning of local councillor Steve Tuckwell in Hillingdon, Sadiq Khan has executed a last-minute handbrake U-turn under pressure, which I am sure is entirely unconnected with the upcoming by-election. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that if Sadiq Khan is to have any credibility at all with Londoners—he currently has pretty much none—he should reverse not just that one police station closure plan but all his police station closure plans.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
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Using the maximum police precept on council tax, having to tap into half a million pounds of reserves and yet again relying on grant funding shows that the Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner has failed to secure the long-term funding that our force desperately needs. Now he is off pursuing his personal ambitions as the next Tory candidate for Mid Beds. The review of police funding is welcome, but when will the House see it? Will it be before the summer recess?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I cannot set out a precise timeframe—it is being actively worked on—but I point out that Festus, the police and crime commissioner for Bedfordshire, is doing a fantastic job for the people of that county. It is thanks to his active, energetic, persuasive and eloquent interventions that Bedfordshire has received these special grants. Its base budget has also gone up by £6.1 million this year thanks to his fantastic work.

David Davis Portrait Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con)
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Last week, Nigel Farage publicised the cancellation of his bank account under the politically exposed persons regulation, but he is only the latest of a number of people to have had their lives wrecked by that regulation. Recently, Lords in the other place tried to correct the policy, but with only partial success, because, I understand, of pushback from the Home Office and the security services. Will the Minister explain why that is and what he will do about it?

Tom Tugendhat Portrait The Minister for Security (Tom Tugendhat)
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I am delighted to be asked a question. Yesterday, the Treasury and the Home Office came together and agreed various things that were announced in the House of Lords: the PEPs agreement. Such a closure on political grounds, if that is indeed what has happened—after all, we have only the allegation of it at this point—should, therefore, be completely unacceptable. PEPs is there to prevent the corrupt use of banking facilities by politicians in corrupt regimes. It is not there to silence individuals who may hold views with which we may or may not agree.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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In the chief inspector of borders and immigration’s latest report on the Home Office system to remove foreign national offenders, he said

“the Home Office does not have a firm grip on its caseworking operations”,

and

“This is no way to run a government department.”

He also said

“I found the Home Office’s inability to provide reliable or consistent data and management information of particular concern.”

Given that, will the Minister explain how the Department will cope with the increase in casework, detention and removals planned under the Illegal Immigration (Offences) Bill?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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We take that report, as we do all others, very seriously. The right hon. Lady is right to say that there are lessons to be learned. However, returns are increasing as a result of deals such as the one we have done with Albania, as a result of reforms such as those we have made to the national referral mechanism and as a result of the 50% increase in illegal working visits that we have secured this year alone.

Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup (Erewash) (Con)
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Despite repeated assurances from the Dispatch Box and it being nearly eight months since I first raised the issue with the Minister, the Home Office continues to operate two wholly inappropriate accommodation centres in my constituency, putting an unbearable strain on public services. Will my right hon. Friend expedite a clear timetable to close the centres permanently and restore the hotels to their intended purposes?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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My hon. Friend and I have discussed this on many occasions. She has doggedly campaigned for the closure of these centres as well as supported the steps that we are taking as a Government to stop the boats in the first place. I will be happy to have further conversations with her, but she has my assurance that we are working as fast as possible to clear all hotels, including those in her constituency.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)
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Last week, the Government rejected a number of recommendations from the inquest into the tragic mass shooting in Plymouth in 2021, which has caused serious concern among some of the families of the victims. Will the Minister explain why he rejected the coroner’s recommendations and whether all those on which he is consulting will be implemented by the end of this calendar year?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for our meeting with the families a few weeks ago. As I said to him on the phone last week, whenever he and the families are ready to have further discussions with Home Office officials, they will be ready. The timing of that will be guided by the hon. Gentleman. On the substance of the Government’s reply, we have committed to doing some things straight away. For example, the National Police Chiefs’ Council has been funded to set up an accredited training programme for firearms officers—that was one of the recommendations. In due course that will become mandatory.

The inspectorate will conduct a thematic inspection of all firearms licensing next year. As I said to the House a few months ago, I asked it specifically to reinspect Devon and Cornwall’s firearms licensing. It is doing that and it should report back by the end of July. The vast majority of the recommendations made by the coroner, the Independent Office for Police Conduct and the Scottish Affairs Committee in connection with the Isle of Skye shooting are being openly and neutrally consulted on.

The Government do not have a position; they will consult openly and respond once we have replies to the consultation. There were two recommendations that the hon. Gentleman referred to that the Government did not feel were appropriate, for the reasons set out in the document, but the vast majority are being openly consulted on. We have taken action on some of them already. I thank him again for his campaigning on this issue, which I know the families are grateful for.

David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)
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I recently visited Uxbridge police station to hear about the valuable work its officers do to serve my constituents as well as those in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. When the Mayor announced its closure in 2017, Hillingdon Council offered to buy the site at market rate and provide a £500,000 revenue contribution and leaseback arrangement, so that those valuable services could continue to be available. The Mayor said that that was completely impossible. Other than the relentless campaigning of Hillingdon Conservatives and Councillor Steve Tuckwell, could my right hon. Friend suggest any reason why the Mayor decided to keep it—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Mr Simmonds, I think you need an Adjournment debate, not a topical question. See if you can pick the bones out of that, Minister.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent question. The answer is no, I cannot think of anything other than the campaigning by Councillor Steve Tuckwell and others, which forced the Mayor into a last-minute, self-interested, screeching U-turn. I would like the Mayor to do a U-turn on all the other police stations he is threatening with closure.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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You are going to be here a while yet.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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Is the Home Secretary concerned by recent revelations about the investigation into the Stephen Lawrence murder and what happened in the Brink’s-Mat aftermath? Is she concerned about some of the out-of-work organisations that our police belong to?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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The recent reports on the Stephen Lawrence case are an operational matter for the police, which I cannot get involved in, nor should I. That is a judgment for the police on operational and casework decisions, within which we do not interfere. We have a good track record on the Met turning around performance. Mark Rowley’s turnaround plan and leadership efforts to restore confidence and rebuild trust with London are working. We need to back him to get the best results possible in London.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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There is a tweet going around regarding a man who identifies as a trans woman. The tweet reads that the trans-identified man who

“appeared in an @itvnews report about ‘mothers’ has posted an image ‘breastfeeding’ a baby. Do you think it’s ok to mock women like this?”

I think that is a valid question, but I am also extremely concerned for the welfare of the child. Will the Home Secretary’s Department look into that for me, please?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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While we respect all the rights of those in the trans community, it is clear that biological men cannot breastfeed. It is remarkable that we are in a position where the Labour party leader cannot define a woman. I think he said something like 99.9% of women do not have a penis. On that basis, we cannot rule him out from running to be Labour’s first female Prime Minister.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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My constituent Sarah has been waiting more than six months for a biometric resident’s permit, during which time she cannot work, access free healthcare or leave the country. Will someone do something to get her the status she deserves, so that she can go on with her life?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I would be happy to look into the case for the hon. Gentleman.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
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The number of foreign national offenders eligible for deportation has now reached a record almost 12,000. Almost 4,000 of those left prison more than five years ago and even those volunteering for deportation are still here. Will the Minister get a grip on the deportation department within the Home Office and make sure those people are chucked out of our country?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We want those individuals to leave the country as swiftly as possible. The published figures show that FNO returns increased following the pandemic—by 14% in the latest 12-month period ending December 2022 compared with the previous 12-month period—but, quite clearly, there is more work to be done.

Kim Johnson Portrait Kim Johnson (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab)
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Liverpool is a city of sanctuary. Currently, we have 237 Afghan families who have been languishing in a hotel for two years. The council must rehouse the families by 11 August. Can the Minister say what will happen if we are unable to find suitable accommodation? Will they be made homeless and thrown out on the street?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer) and I launched a programme that provides significant support to councils like Liverpool to help individuals find alternative accommodation. That might be in the private rental sector or it might be in social housing, but I think we can all agree on the principle that it is not right for individuals or families to live in hotel accommodation for over two years. We need to help those people out of the hotels this summer.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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The Immigration Minister’s earlier claim will come as news to the Labour and Conservative coalition which runs North Lanarkshire Council and a surprise to a director of Mears who confirmed to me that North Lanarkshire Council houses not just asylum seekers but refugees. The Immigration Minister has now given factually wrong information to this House three times. When will he apologise to the House, and will he come back to it to give proper information?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I do not think I have given factually wrong information. They may not be the facts the hon. Gentleman wants to hear, but they are the facts. I did not mention North Lanarkshire, but there are six asylum seekers there. I think the hon. Gentleman would agree that there is more to be done.

Road Fuel Prices

Monday 3rd July 2023

(11 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

15:42
Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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(Urgent Question): To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on road fuel prices.

Graham Stuart Portrait The Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero (Graham Stuart)
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From rural hamlets to coastal communities, it is a properly functioning market that ensures fair prices for motorists, but for that market to function customers need transparent data to find the best price. On that basis, when we saw fuel prices rising last summer we asked the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate whether the market was working for customers as it should. Today, the CMA published its final market study report and I am shocked by its findings: rising fuel retail margins, and clear evidence of a rocket upwards and a feather downwards in the pricing pattern for diesel.

It is completely unacceptable that consumers have been paying more. The financial impact of the 6p per litre increase, just in the fuel margin, from 2019 to 2022, cost customers of the four supermarket fuel retailers £900 million last year alone. Asda’s fuel margin target was three times higher for this year than in 2019 and Morrisons doubled over the same period. It is wrong that in a cost of living crisis drivers do not get a fair deal on fuel and end up being overcharged.

Motorists should not be used as cash cows by the fuel industry. The Government will not stand for it and I know this House will not stand for it. Therefore, we accept the CMA’s recommendations in full. We will create a statutory open data scheme for retail fuel prices and an ongoing road fuel prices monitoring function for the UK market. We will consult on the design of the open data scheme and monitoring function as soon as possible this autumn, but that is not enough. I have asked the CMA to have a voluntary scheme up and running by next month and I fully expect fuel retailers to share accurate, up-to-date road fuel prices. The CMA will also continue to monitor fuel prices.

I demand that fuel retail bosses stop ripping off consumers, by making prices available so that the market can operate as it should. Transparency is vital for competition and to keep prices down.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron
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I am extremely grateful to the Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero and am delighted to see him, but I am disappointed not to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I would have thought that this was something that he cared about.

The problem is that the Government have stood for this over the past year. This morning, right under the Government’s nose, greedy petrol retailers imposed an additional cost of more than £900 million on people filling up their cars. Retailers swiftly passed on price increases in the wholesale market to drivers, and the prices rocketed. Yet when the wholesale prices dropped, prices were lowered only very slowly. I think we could all see that for ourselves. The RAC called this

“nothing short of astounding in a cost-of-living crisis”,

which confirmed that

“supermarkets haven’t been treating drivers fairly at the pumps”.

This affects not just the cost of driving. Higher road fuel prices have a knock-on effect on inflation across the economy, pushing up prices in every sector of our country.

The CMA makes it clear that rural areas still face the highest prices. Where supermarket pumps are fewer and further between, such as in Cumbria and Somerset, fuel retailers are likely to have costs that are higher still. The CMA found that fuel prices in rural places, such as my own in Westmorland and Lonsdale and in Somerton and Frome, are on average 1.2p per litre higher than those in urban areas. Of course, in rural communities with poor public transport links, people have no choice but to drive and the distances to travel are so much greater, affecting, in particular, people who work in the care sector. Once again, rural communities feel taken for granted by this Government.

One solution should be to expand the 5p per litre fuel duty relief scheme to those many isolated parts of Cumbria that are not currently covered by it, so that families in Cumbria are not left at the mercy of the most expensive fuel prices.

Why did the Government fail to stop greedy retailers hitting families with an almost £1 billion excess fuel bill in the first place? Will the Chancellor and the Prime Minister summon those company bosses to Downing Street and press them to return those unfair profits by lowering their prices? Will the Government expand the rural fuel duty relief scheme to more areas, to support communities such as mine that are struggling with the highest petrol prices?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. He and the RAC are right to highlight the particular issue in rural communities such as those that he and, indeed, I represent, and the particular pressures on consumers there. He will understand that rural fuel duty relief is a matter for the Chancellor and that what we need is a properly functioning market. That is why we are implementing the findings of the CMA in full and putting in place an interim regime, starting next month.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Transport Committee.

Iain Stewart Portrait Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con)
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Towards the end of last year, the local radio station in Milton Keynes, MKFM, published research showing that, although there was considerable competition in Milton Keynes, petrol and diesel prices were substantially higher across the board than those in equivalent urban areas. I very much welcome the proposal for a real-time fuel price comparator, but will my right hon. Friend assure me that the Government will keep an eye on price differentials between different urban areas and intervene if necessary?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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As ever, my hon. Friend champions his constituency in this House. I completely agree. That is why the monitoring function is so important in tandem with transparency. We have to make sure that people can see the prices. We know that consumers are prepared to travel but, if they do not know that there is a cheaper price available 2 or 3 miles down the road, they will not access it. That is something that we aim to put right.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
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People across Britain are facing the highest mortgage costs in Europe, the highest inflation among advanced economies, and the highest tax burden in 70 years. They are paying the price for 13 years of Conservative failure.

In that context, it is more important than ever for the Competition and Markets Authority to do all it can to help to bring down prices. Effective competition in the interests of consumers must be at the heart of our economy. That is why we firmly support the CMA’s proposals to help to bring down the cost of fuel.

‘Filling up the tank at supermarkets is an essential part of everyday life for families and small businesses across the country, so the fact that the average annual supermarket margins on fuel increased by 6p per litre between 2019 and 2022 is deeply worrying.

I am pleased to see that the Secretary of State has accepted the recommendations from the CMA to stop retailers artificially inflating petrol prices during a cost of living crisis; as he says, transparency is very important. However, given that the then Business Secretary wrote to fuel retailers and the CMA more than a year ago to highlight apparent unfairness in fuel prices, why has it taken so long for the Government to take action on this issue? Motorists did not need a report to tell them that they were being fleeced by fuel retailers; they see it every time they fill up at the pump. Why did the Government need to wait for the CMA to tell them what everyone else knew before they took action?

In Northern Ireland, the Consumer Council published a fuel price checker in September 2020, which has helped to keep fuel costs below those in England. Why have the Government taken almost three years to agree to do the same in England? Once again it is too little, too late from a Government, who have again sat on their hands. I note what the Minister said about an interim voluntary scheme and about consulting as soon as possible, but can he give a clear indication of when the Government will introduce the change in the law that is needed to make this permanent?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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The hon. Lady is right to highlight the cost of living crisis and the level of taxes. That, of course, is why her party getting into power would be such a disaster for ordinary consumers and motorists throughout the country. We have come through the pandemic and made sure we have kept the country afloat; for instance, the Government supported paying nearly half of everyone’s energy bills through the last winter. A Labour Government would be a threat to markets such as this, which we need to function properly, not in the way they would under Labour.

As for why this has taken so long, the hon. Lady ought to know, having seen the disaster of her £28 billion energy borrowing package, which dematerialised: it was a great announcement, but it did not survive contact with reality.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I think we need to help the Minister. The subject of the urgent question is road fuel prices and I think we should stick to that. I call the Chair of the Treasury Committee.

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)
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When the Chancellor announced that he was cutting fuel duty by 5p a litre, which cost the Exchequer billions of pounds, little did he expect that, as outlined so persuasively today by the CMA, it would feed through immediately into the profits of fuel retailers—although cynical British motorists may not be surprised, because they observed it themselves on a day-to-day basis. I welcome the steps that the Minister has announced, and urge him to act with greater speed in implementing them, but is he as surprised as I am that he has been asked this urgent question by the Liberal Democrats, who voted at their conference to hike fuel duty sharply?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I would like to say I was shocked or surprised, but I am not because—as everyone in the House knows, except the tiny number who sit on the Liberal Democrat Bench—hypocrisy is their main method of behaviour. The initial Government cut in fuel duty of 5p per litre represented savings for consumers worth about £2.4 billion. We on the Conservative Benches are on the side of the motorist. We are going to make sure that the market works and motorists are properly served by it.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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The Minister says he will not stand for motorists’ being ripped off, but that is exactly what Ministers have done. The Government have been complacent the whole time, following the 5p fuel duty cut.

Why has it taken the CMA so long to establish that motorists are being gouged by 6p per litre compared with 2019? It reported that diesel prices are an astonishing 13p per litre higher this year alone than they should have been. That is symptomatic of the “cost of greed” crisis. Asda received a fine for not complying with the CMA investigation. That shows an astonishing level of arrogance on the part of supermarkets that are ripping off their own customers. It is estimated that we are paying nearly £l billion a year in additional fuel costs due to the lack of competition. How does imposing an initial fine of £30,000 on Asda work as a deterrent when it is making so much money?

I am all for an open data fuel finder scheme, but really, is that it? I already use an app to shop around for cheaper fuel prices, so this open data will not necessarily bring competition in all areas of the UK, and reliance on an app obviously will not help those who are digitally excluded. What are the Government’s actual plans to ensure competition and reduced fuel prices, especially at motorway service stations, which are between 20p to 30p per litre more expensive? When will we see these fuel prices come down?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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That is the closest I have ever seen the hon. Gentleman come to welcoming a Government response, so I shall take that with me. I do not mean to try your patience any more than I already do, Mr Speaker, but, as I said to the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), whether it is major energy packages or shipbuilding, we find that doing the work first leads to better long-term outcomes.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con)
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Given corporation tax, carbon taxes, the windfall tax, fuel duties and VAT, is not the bulk of the price at the pump, and of other fuels, now tax-based? Will my right hon. Friend remind us of how much is tax and urge the Chancellor to reduce some of those taxes to cut the cost of living?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I thank my right hon. Friend for championing the consumer, as he always does. As he will be well aware, tax is a matter for the Chancellor, but the whole House will have heard his passionate call to make sure that taxes are held down to the lowest amount they possibly can be. That is one more reason why we cannot have the Labour party taking control of the country.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab)
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In March, the RAC revealed that retailers are making a three times bigger margin on diesel than they were at the beginning of last year, and motorists are seeing absolutely no benefit from the Chancellor’s fuel duty cut. Given the Government’s dither and delay on taking any sort of action, how does the Minister feel when the Government’s flagship policy to help motorists is having little to no impact?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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We are furious that these price cuts have not been passed on to consumers. That is why we asked the CMA to investigate and to get further into the detail, and it is why we will implement its findings in full.

Laura Farris Portrait Laura Farris (Newbury) (Con)
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As my right hon. Friend is aware, I have been campaigning on the issue of fuel prices in west Berkshire for about a year and a half. One thing that has been particularly disappointing is the fact that fuel prices in every single neighbouring constituency are 5% to 8% lower. I wrote to the CMA and I am pretty disappointed to read its response today, which tells us a lot.

I welcome the introduction of a real-time fuel price comparator, but such a tool already exists, albeit in a slightly clunky form. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that it is not enough just to tell people what the prices are at different pumps in their local area. It must be transparent to consumers whether they are in a general area that has higher or lower prices, so that their MP can make representations on what the supermarkets may be doing in that area and the CMA can intervene properly.

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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My hon. Friend has been assiduous and, as she has shown with her question, focused and detailed in trying to rectify a problem that the CMA has fully displayed today. It is an unusual way round, but I would be happy to meet her to discuss the matter further to make sure we put in place all the right elements, so that this transparency genuinely gets through to the consumer.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP)
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There is no doubt that fuel costs are driving up inflation, especially in rural areas. I think the fuel price checker has had a dampening effect in Northern Ireland because the supermarkets are always aware that that they are being looked on. However, does the Minister accept that his Government also have a responsibility? Net zero policies, with all their associated taxes—whether it is the emissions trading scheme, green levies or fuel duties—drive up prices, too. The Government have a role to play in reducing inflation as well as in transparency on supermarket prices.

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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The right hon. Gentleman is drawing the wrong conclusion from the sky-high prices of the past year or two. It is sky-high international fossil fuel prices that caused the enormous squeeze. The faster we can move to cleaner and cheaper sources of energy, the sooner we can ensure that our constituents save money and contribute to dealing with what is an ever more serious threat.

Mark Garnier Portrait Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest) (Con)
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Having brought a ten-minute rule motion on this subject some eight years ago, I am delighted that patience has finally paid off. One issue I was raising at that time was the inequality between the prices in towns and those on motorways, which the Scottish National party spokesman has mentioned. Is my right hon. Friend confident that the measures being brought in today will reduce those 15p or 20p premiums on road fuel prices at motorway service stations compared with normal areas?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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As so often, my hon. Friend has been ahead of me. The issue he raises is part of the picture; like him, I have observed that the captive market along motorways is subject to higher prices than elsewhere. I hope that can be part of our consideration to make sure we have a system that works at its best for everybody.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab)
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May I respectfully point out to the Minister that this is not a town versus country or urban versus rural issue? The RAC has identified that some retailers are grossly profiteering, taking a three times bigger margin than they were at the beginning of last year, particularly on diesel sales. For the avoidance of doubt, will he confirm that the Government scheme he has outlined today will apply to all fuel retailers, not just those at supermarkets?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I will write to the hon. Gentleman with the precise details of everybody who will be included. He is right to highlight that this is not just an issue in urban areas. However, in those areas there tends to be more competition and easier transparency than there can be in rural and coastal areas.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
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A couple of weeks ago, I drew the House’s attention to the fact that the same supermarket tanker would unload fuel at 10p a litre cheaper in one place than it would if it came 10 to 15 miles up the road to my constituency. If today’s report does not fix that, it will not have been good enough and the Government will have more work to do. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give me some reassurance on that point.

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have to make sure the market works. Transparency is our biggest single weapon, and we need to be doing this in a way that reaches people, be they digitally enabled or not; we are wrestling with those details. Let us look at the alternative to a market-based system—other countries have tried it, as it is a populist measure. It does not work, it leads to a shortage of supply and it ends up creating the very dominance that we seek to ensure is not exploited in systems such as we have seen in this CMA report.

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
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The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) asked a good and apposite question. In February, I wrote to all the major supermarkets that have outlets in Chesterfield asking them why they were retailing petrol for 10p more a litre there than they were selling it for just 10 miles up the road in Sheffield. They were very transparent and honest about this, saying, “ It’s a market where we think we can make more money out of Chesterfield residents than we do out of Sheffield residents. That’s why we charge you more.” That is despite the fact that there is no additional cost to getting the fuel there. Although I welcome the greater transparency, making it easier for consumers, what they will see in Chesterfield is that they are paying more than they would up the road in Sheffield. Is there anything in what the Minister is announcing today that will empower people in Chesterfield to bring their prices down?

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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The good people of Bridport and Dorchester in West Dorset have had to pay up to 20p a litre more than those in towns not far away. The Liberal Democrats have been silent about that throughout the entire duration, so it is somewhat hypocritical of them to bring this matter to the House today, particularly given that they voted to increase the price per litre. Although I welcome what the CMA has had to say in its report today, it does not really deal with the issue we are seeing of rigorous yield management by supermarkets with their petrol prices. That is not a matter of competition; that is where they believe they can get more money out of a particular group people or community. I would be very pleased if the Minister would meet me to look at how we can take this forward and grasp that issue.

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would be delighted to do so.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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Now that we know that competition on fuel prices has weakened in recent years and that that has led to inflated prices, particularly in my constituency where, despite a campaign for fair prices led by Stuart McMillan MSP, we have been paying over the odds for years, may I seek a guarantee that supermarket food prices are not following the same pattern?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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Following this report, the CMA has decided to look into the supermarkets and will report back as soon as next month.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the CMA for its report and the Government for accepting the recommendations, although I think we are putting too much faith in price transparency to solve the market problem. I was interested to see in the trend profit margins for supermarket retailers and non-supermarket retailers that supermarkets are consistently increasing their margins while non-supermarket retailers are not. Will the Minister follow up with retailers, in the light of this report, to make sure that we check that the margins come down next year and in the following year?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his typically penetrating question. As I said, one of the recommendations is to maintain a monitoring function, which will help to give us the market intelligence so that if further intervention is required, we will have the data on which to base it.

Liz Saville Roberts Portrait Liz Saville Roberts (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC)
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Patchy public transport contributes to high costs for rural households, as many people have no choice but to use their cars for essential journeys. Despite this, the rural fuel duty relief scheme does not apply to a single area in Wales. Will the Minister commit to pressing the Treasury to reconsider the scheme to take into account access to local public transport networks, as well as providing a guarantee of inclusion for Welsh areas?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the right hon. Lady for her question and will ensure that His Majesty’s Treasury is aware of it.

Holly Mumby-Croft Portrait Holly Mumby-Croft (Scunthorpe) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The good people of Scunthorpe spotted this issue some time ago, so I thank my right hon. Friend for his work on it and the measures he is recommending. Has the similar open-data scheme that has been trialled in Germany resulted in a boost in competitiveness? If so, when does my right hon. Friend think we will start to see the results at the pumps here?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hope from as soon as next month, under a voluntary scheme. My hon. Friend gives me the perfect opportunity to repeat how determined I am to see the companies provide the data so that we have something far less clunky, as it has been called, and far more comprehensive than what we have today, and so that that can lead to the benefits that have been found elsewhere.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not certain that the seriousness of the situation that faces rural constituencies is being taken appropriately into account. My Angus constituents live in towns and landward areas that are miles away from supermarket fuels. They pay the highest prices for fuel, they have no public transport to speak of so have to use their cars and vehicles, they pay the highest delivery prices and they are often on the lowest wages. If the Minister thinks that greater transparency over fuel prices is going to help, he is stretching the point. My constituents in Angus know how expensive their fuel is and they know how far they have to travel to get cheaper fuel. This announcement will not fix the situation. We need the Treasury to get its act together and intervene in what is essentially critical national infrastructure, which is what road fuel is.

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will take that as a further representation to His Majesty’s Treasury.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Motorists in and around Kettering have long suspected that petrol and diesel forecourt retailers have been inflating prices well above where they should be. Prices go up far too quickly and come down far too slowly. Given the fact that the petrol and diesel forecourt retailers effectively ignored the letter from the Business Secretary in May 2022, will the Minister assure my constituents that the Competition and Markets Authority will continue to monitor the market closely to ensure that does not happen again?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is quite right. Urging them to behave properly is not enough, which is why we will not only put in place a mandatory system to ensure that the data is there but ensure ongoing monitoring so that, as I said to our hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller), we have the data on which to base further intervention should that be required.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is a very welcome announcement, especially in respect of the information on fuel-price competition that will allow drivers to look for fuel at petrol stations that are closer and have better prices, thereby enabling them to save money. On any potential fuel fund offers, there is an older generation—I am probably one of them—who perhaps do not use apps and therefore do not understand how they work; what steps will the Minister take to ensure that they have access to information on fuel funding that is accessible for them and easily understood so that they, too, can take advantage of what is on offer?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I would not want to finish without mentioning that, as of Monday 26 June, unleaded petrol is 143.43p per litre, and that has reduced, on average, by 47.5p from June last year, and diesel is 145.6p per litre, and that has reduced by 53.3p per litre on the previous year. I will write to the hon. Gentleman to make sure that I can properly inform him in answer to his question.

Antony Higginbotham Portrait Antony Higginbotham (Burnley) (Con)
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This report clearly shows that residents in Burnley and Padiham and our villages have been overcharged for their fuel for too long. Does my right hon. Friend think that the Competition and Markets Authority now needs to relook at the ownership changes at Asda?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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As the Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero, that perhaps stretches slightly beyond my brief, but, as those on Treasury Bench will have heard my hon. Friend’s question, I am sure that he will be able follow up with others who have direct responsibility.

NHS Long-term Workforce Plan

Monday 3rd July 2023

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I wish to thank the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care for coming to the Chamber to make his statement. It is a pity that the Prime Minister did not do so on Friday when the world heard what he had to say before we did. The Prime Minister is a Member of Parliament. He is answerable to the Members of Parliament from all political parties. I have to say that his behaviour was not acceptable. He may be the Prime Minister, but the Members of Parliament should hear first. I am very pleased that the Secretary of State is doing it the right way.

16:11
Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Steve Barclay)
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The Government note the comments that you have made from the Chair, Mr Speaker.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I would love them to take what I have said on board.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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That is also noted, Mr Speaker.

May I, on behalf of the Government, note the passing of the former head of the civil service, Lord Kerslake? He had a distinguished career in public service, including as chief executive of Sheffield Council and chair of King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, as well as being head of the civil service. We send our condolences to his family and friends both in Whitehall and across the civil service.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement on our long-term workforce plan for the NHS.

This week marks the 75th birthday of the NHS. We should celebrate its achievements, its founding principles and its people. From doctors and dentists to pharmacists and physios, NHS staff devote their lives to caring for others. I am sure the whole House would agree that the NHS holds a special place in our country due to the care offered by the people who work for it.

It is said that, in 1948, the NHS had fewer than 150,000 staff and a budget of around £11 billion. Today, the NHS employs closer to 1.4 million people with a budget of more than £160 billion. The transformation of the care offered by the NHS through advances in medicine is reflected in the fact that people now live 13 years longer than on average in 1948.

Today, alongside the increase in the number of staff, the range of treatments and the improved patient outcomes, demand on the NHS has also increased. People live longer, they live with more complex medical conditions, and we are also dealing with the challenges left behind by a once-in-a-generation pandemic.

One in four adults lives with two or more health conditions. Although our population is forecast to grow by around 4% over the next 15 years, the number of those over 85 is forecast to grow by more than 50%. In addressing the challenges both of today and of the longer term, it is right that we have a recovery plan focused on the immediate steps as we rebuild from the pandemic, and longer-term plans to ensure that the NHS is sustainable for the future. This will ensure that the NHS is there for future generations in the way that it has been for us and our families over the past 75 years.

We have already set out detailed recovery plans to reduce long waits for operations, improve access to urgent and emergency care and make it easier to see GPs and specialists in primary care. On electives, we have virtually eliminated the two-year wait, which we did this summer, and cleared more than 90% of 80-week waits from their peak at the end of March—in marked contrast to the much longer waits we see in Wales, where the NHS is run by Labour.

On urgent and emergency care, we are investing £1 billion in 5,000 additional permanent beds, alongside expanding virtual wards to improve discharge from hospital and investing in community services to prevent admissions, especially for the frail and elderly. On primary care, we are investing more than £600 million, including in improving technology to address the 8 am rush. We have already exceeded our manifesto target by 3,000, with 29,000 additional roles in primary care to enable patients to access specialists more quickly, and we are reducing burdens on GP surgeries through the development of the NHS app and improving the range of services offered through Pharmacy First, enabling pharmacists to prescribe drug treatments for seven minor illnesses.

Alongside the recovery plans, we are taking action to improve prevention through early diagnosis of conditions, whether through the 108 community diagnostic centres that are already open, or the 43 new and expanded surgical hubs planned for this year. Our national roll-out of our lung cancer screening programme has helped to transform patient outcomes, turning on its head the previous position where 80% of lung cancers in our most deprived communities were detected late, with 76% now being detected early.

Alongside the immediate measures we are taking to deal with demand in the NHS, as we celebrate the 75th anniversary we are also investing in the NHS to make sure it is sustainable for the future. Last month, I announced to the House the largest-ever investment in the NHS estate, with more than £20 billion committed to our new hospitals programme.

Today I can confirm to the House that, for the first time in the NHS’s history, the Government have committed to publishing a long-term workforce plan, setting out the largest-ever workforce training expansion in the NHS’s history, backed by £2.4 billion of new funding. The plan responds to requests from NHS leaders and has been developed by NHS England. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of NHS England and her team, Gavin Larner and colleagues within the Department of Health and Social Care, and the more than 60 NHS organisations that have engaged closely in the plan’s development, including many of our Royal Colleges.

The plan sets out three priorities: to train more staff, to retain and develop the staff already working for the NHS and to reform how training is delivered, taking on board the best of international practice. Let me deal with each in turn. We will double the number of medical school places, increase the availability of GPs being trained by 50%, train 24,000 more nurses and midwives and increase the number of dentists by 40%.

When it comes to improving retention, we recognise the importance of flexible working opportunities, especially for those approaching retirement. The plan will build on proposals in the NHS people plan and build on steps already taken by the Chancellor at the spring Budget on pension tax reform.

In respect of reform, the plan sets out policies to expand the number of associate roles, which provide greater career progression for existing staff and in turn reduce the workload of senior clinicians, allowing them to focus on the work that only they can do. Both measures will improve productivity by enabling more staff to operate at the top of their licence. A constant theme across the long-term workforce plan is our focus on apprenticeships and vocational training, including a commitment to increasing the number of staff coming through apprenticeships from 7% today to 22% by 2031-32. That reflects the strong commitment of the Secretary of State for Education and myself to facilitate greater career progression through apprenticeships. It will also help to recruit and retain staff in parts of the country that often find it harder to recruit

In the week in which we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NHS, today’s announcement confirms the Government’s commitment to the first ever comprehensive NHS long-term workforce plan. The plan sets out detailed proposals to train more staff, offers greater flexibility and opportunity to existing staff, and embraces innovation by reforming how education and training are delivered across the NHS. The plan will be iterative; we will return to it every couple of years to enable progress to reflect advances in technology such as artificial intelligence so that the numbers trained can be best aligned with patient services. It also reflects a growing need for more general skills in the NHS, as patients with more than one condition require a more holistic approach.

The NHS long-term plan, backed by £2.4 billion of new funding, comes in addition to our record investment in the NHS estate. It ensures that we put in place the funding required for a sustainable future for the NHS, alongside the steps that we are taking in the immediate term to reduce waiting lists and ensure that the NHS is there for patients. As the chief executive of NHS England has said herself, the long-term workforce plan is a truly historic moment for the NHS. As such, I commend this statement to the House.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

16:21
Liz Kendall Portrait Liz Kendall (Leicester West) (Lab)
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I thank the Health Secretary for advance sight of his statement. I say “statement”, but what I really mean is “admission”—an admission that, after 13 long years, the Conservatives have run out of road, run out of ideas, and turned to Labour to clear up the mess that they have made. Make no mistake: at its heart, this is Labour’s workforce plan. It is a plan that we have called for since last September; a plan that we have begged the Government to adopt again and again. They say that imitation is sincerest form of flattery, and I, for one, am relieved that the Government have finally seen sense, but the question that the Health Secretary and Conservative Members need to answer today is: what on earth took them so long?

This week, the NHS celebrates its 75th anniversary as it faces the biggest crisis in its history—a crisis that has been building for years under this Government: a staff shortage of 154,000, 7.4 million patients stuck waiting for treatment, people across the country finding it virtually impossible to see a GP, and families desperately worried that if they need an emergency ambulance, it just will not arrive on time. Ministers constantly blame covid for those problems, but the truth is that waiting list numbers were rising and staff shortages increasing long before the pandemic struck.

Patients now want to know when they will finally see a difference. Can the Health Secretary confirm that, under his proposals, the NHS will not have the staff that it needs for at least eight years? Does he now regret the cut in medical school places that his Government brought in in 2013? Does he regret the decision taken last summer to cut the number of medical school places by 3,000 just when the NHS needed them most?

The Health Secretary claims that this is the first long-term NHS workforce plan, but let me set the record straight. In 2000, the last Labour Government produced a 10-year plan of investment and reform—a plan that delivered not only 44,000 more doctors and 75,000 more nurses, but the lowest-ever waiting times and the highest-ever patient satisfaction in the history of the NHS. That was a golden inheritance that Conservative Members can only dream of and that they have squandered through a decade of inaction and incompetence.

Let me turn briefly to what is missing from the proposals. Without a serious strategy to keep staff working in the NHS, Ministers will be forever running to catch up with themselves. Yet the Secretary of State has completely failed to put forward a proper plan to end the crippling strikes that are having such a huge impact on patient care. Six hundred and fifty thousand operations and appointments have been cancelled because of industrial action. Next week, junior doctors will walk out for five days, followed by two days of consultants’ strikes. After seven months of disruption, can the Health Secretary tell us when he and the Prime Minister will finally do their job, sit down and negotiate with staff, and bring an end to this Tory chaos?

The one part of Labour’s workforce plan that Ministers have not stolen is our plan to fund it by scrapping the non-dom tax status. In fact, when the Health Secretary was touring the media studios yesterday, he was asked nine times how he was going to pay for the plan and he completely failed to answer. He has had a little more time to prepare, so I am going to try again. Will he fund it through higher taxes, when we already have the highest tax burden for 70 years, or will he fund it through higher borrowing, when our nation’s debt is at record levels? Labour will introduce plans only when we can show how they will be paid for, because that is what taxpayers deserve. It is high time that Conservatives did the same.

From the windfall tax to help for mortgage holders to a proper plan for the NHS workforce, where Labour leads, the Conservatives only follow. This tired, discredited Government have had their day. The public know that it is time for change, and in their hearts Government Members too know that it is time for change. It is time for them to move aside and let Labour finally deliver.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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Well, that really was a confused response. The hon. Lady began with reference to Labour’s proposals and the claim that our plan followed them. I took the precaution of bringing Labour’s announcement with me to the Chamber. Members can look at it in their own time, but it does not use the word “reform” once, despite the fact that “Train, retain, reform” is a key part of our proposals. Proposals for reform include moving from five-year to four-year medical undergraduate training; the expansion of roles such as physician associate; a significant expansion in the use of apprenticeships; and flexibility for retiring consultants, so that they can return to roles in, for example, out-patient services. A wide range of reforms came about as a result of the consultation with 60 different NHS organisations and are a key feature of the plan, but in Labour’s proposals reform is not mentioned once.

In addition, Labour’s proposals are for a 10-year period. Our plan covers 15 years. Its proposal covered 23,000 additional health roles; our proposal deals with 50,000. I could go on and talk about the fact that the Labour proposal does not even mention GP trainees. Labour Members keep coming to the House and saying that primary care is important, but their proposals did not even touch on the workforce with regard to GPs. They did not even mention pharmacists, even though, as part of a primary care recovery plan, a key chunk of our proposal is Pharmacy First. It is extremely important that we can deliver services to patients in innovative ways. The ultimate irony is that the shadow Health Secretary, in one of his many interviews, including interviews to promote his book, said that the NHS “must reform or die”. He said that it must reform, yet Labour’s proposals do not mention reform at all.

Labour welcomes the plan, but it goes on to say that it will take too long to implement, while claiming that it is its plan, which, again, points to the confusion among Labour Members. Let me remind the House of what has been done. We had a manifesto commitment for 50,000 additional nurses—we are on track to deliver that, with 44,000 in place. We had a manifesto commitment to have 26,000 additional roles in primary care, and we have met that, with 29,000 roles in place. In 2018, we made a commitment to five new medical schools in parts of the country where it is hard to recruit. We have delivered that—a 25% expansion in the number of medical students, who will come on stream in hospitals next summer. However, as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NHS, it is right that we also look beyond that to the longer-term needs of the NHS. That is exactly what the plan does with its doubling of medical places, but alongside that, it innovates by embracing things like a medical apprenticeship so that we can look at different ways of delivering training.

The hon. Lady talked about strikes, which is a further area of confusion on the Labour Benches. Labour Members say that they do not support a 35% pay rise for junior doctors, on the grounds that the shadow Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves), says that they should not. Either Labour Members want to support the junior doctors, or they do not—once again, their position seems confused.

I will finish with one final area of confusion on the Labour Benches. The hon. Lady talked about the elastic non-dom revenue raiser, despite the fact that the former shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, has said that it would not raise the funds that are claimed. He has said that it would do quite the opposite: it would deter investment in the UK. In addition, Labour has already spent those funds on a range of measures, such as the breakfast clubs that Labour Members come to the House and talk about. The reality is that it would not fund Labour’s proposals, whereas we have made a commitment to back our plan with £2.4 billion of funding from the Treasury.

This is a historic moment as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NHS. It is a long-term commitment from a Government who are backing the NHS through the biggest investment in the NHS estate—over £20 billion —and a series of recovery programmes, expanding our diagnostic capacity and our surgical hubs. That is why the workforce plan is truly innovative. It does not just train more staff or offer opportunities to retain more staff; it reforms as well—something that is sadly lacking in Labour’s proposals.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Select Committee.

Steve Brine Portrait Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con)
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This is a serious piece of work, and it is very welcome. Despite calls from people like me to get on with it, it was right for the Government to take their time and get it right. The Select Committee will scrutinise it—as we do—on 12 July.

The training piece is very strong. Doubling the number of medical school places has to be right, and I am glad that the Secretary of State thought of it. On retention, if we are saying—rightly, I would contest—that it is not all about pay, what role does he envisage the integrated care systems and, therefore, the trusts having in supporting staff as he makes the “one workforce” that is mentioned in section 5, with which I agree, come to pass?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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Characteristically, my hon. Friend the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee makes an extremely pertinent point about the role of the ICSs. As we move to place-based commissioning and look to integrate more, the interplay between the workforces in the NHS and in social care will be a key area where the ICSs will be extremely important.

The ICSs will have a particular role in the apprenticeship and vocational training, which are key retention tools in those parts of the country where it is hard to recruit, as well as in offering more flexibility to staff. When I talk to NHS staff, they often talk about having different needs at different stages of their career—whether for childcare commitments, which relate to the measures the Chancellor set out in the Budget, caring for an elderly relative, or wanting to retire and work in more flexible ways—and the ICSs have a key role to play in that. I welcome my hon. Friend’s comment that this is a serious and complex piece of work, and that it was right that we took our time to get it correct.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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Despite the significant desert of dentists, I note from the plan that we will not see an increase in dental training places next year, the year after or the year after that, meaning that we will not see more dentists for nearly another decade. We have a crisis now, so what is the Secretary of State going to do about it?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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We are already seeing a fifth more work than last year, due to the flexibilities that the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Neil O’Brien) announced, including the ability for dentists to take on more work within their commission and the changes to the units of dental activity pricing to better reflect more complex work. Of course, we have 6.5% more dentists than in 2010, but we also recognise that within the £3 billion budget, we want to go further. That is why we are looking at proposals to go further than the measures announced, but progress is being made, with a fifth more activity than last year.

Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup (Erewash) (Con)
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I welcome the workforce plan and applaud NHS England’s ambition. However, for the plan to be successful, it is vital that we promote career options that often go unseen. I therefore urge my right hon. Friend to work with the Education Secretary and NHS England to ensure that young people are better informed about the myriad opportunities in the allied health professions and as healthcare scientists before choosing GCSE, A-level or university options.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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My hon. Friend raises a brilliant point. I do not know if Members know, but there are 350 different types of role in the NHS. It is really important that we get the right information to children whose parents are perhaps not informed about those opportunities. One point on which I slightly take issue with my hon. Friend is that it is not just those at the start of their career who need to be aware of the opportunities. This is about offering opportunities to people throughout their careers to progress and to take on more advanced roles. I strongly believe that we should not define people’s future career by where they are at 21 or 22; they should have the opportunity to progress. That is a key part of the workforce plan, and I think it is a key Conservative principle that they have that ladder of opportunity throughout their time in the NHS.

Valerie Vaz Portrait Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab)
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I associate myself with the remarks the Secretary of State made about Bob Kerslake. He was a true public servant, and his death is our loss.

What is the point of a workforce plan if the Secretary of State is not actually talking to the workforce? When will he talk to the junior doctors and the consultants? Can I also ask whether the work on the workforce plan will start forthwith or sometime in the future?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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The fact that we are talking to the workforce is shown by the fact that we have reached agreement with the largest workforce group in the NHS.

Valerie Vaz Portrait Valerie Vaz
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indicated dissent.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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The right hon. Lady, for whom I have a huge amount of respect, is shaking her head, but it is a fact that the largest workforce group in the NHS are those on “Agenda for Change”, which covers more than 1 million healthcare workers from nurses, midwifes and paramedics through to porters, cleaners and many others. We have reached agreement with the NHS Staff Council, and those sums—the 5%, plus the lump sum in recognition of their tremendous work—is going into pay packets this month. So we have reached agreement, notwithstanding discussions with the junior doctors. They still demand 35%, and that is not affordable.

James Morris Portrait James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con)
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I welcome this long-term plan, particularly its recognition that the skillsets required in the NHS over the next 10 or 15 years, with the requirement for multidisciplinary working and generalised clinical skills, are going to change. Does my right hon. Friend agree that two things are needed for implementation? One is to improve the sense of culture in the NHS, which could lead to better retention. The second element is to ensure that digital innovation, particularly the use of artificial intelligence to improve clinical skills and other skills, is rolled out more generally in the NHS. We need to diffuse that innovation a lot more to support the critical new skillsets that are required for a modern health service.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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My hon. Friend is exactly right. As a former Health Minister, he knows these issues extremely well. There is a requirement—this is something the chief medical officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, has spoken about—for more generalist skills in the NHS, not least given that one in four adults now has two or more health conditions. We need flexibility to respond to changes not just in technology, but in service design, which will evolve as well.

My hon. Friend is also right about the wider issues of culture. I think the whole House was concerned about recent reports of sexual assaults linked to the NHS. One of the key features of the agreement we have reached with the NHS Staff Council is to work more in partnership on violence against members of NHS staff. I know there will be consensus in the House that that is unacceptable, so we are working with trade union colleagues on how we tackle it. Again, with racism, we still have too many cases of concern. There are a number of areas of culture that we are working constructively with trade union colleagues and others to address.

Paul Blomfield Portrait Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab)
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I thank the Secretary of State for his comments about Bob Kerslake, whose spell in public service included his time as chief executive of Sheffield City Council. He continued to have many roles in the city, where he will be much missed.

After this Government’s 13 years in charge, morale in the NHS is clearly at rock bottom, with the value of pay falling, pressures increasing and a record number of staff—almost 170,000—leaving the NHS last year. The CEO of NHS Providers said that that must be reversed, but all the Secretary of State talks about is a little bit of working flexibility. Does he recognise that he has to address the crisis in morale to stem the tide of people leaving the NHS?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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It is simply not correct to say that this is simply about flexibility—for example, look at the very significant changes made on pension tax. That was the No.1 demand of the British Medical Association consultants committee, and the Government agreed to it. A significant amount of work is going on. The NHS people plan talked about not just flexibility but some of the cultural points that are important. Some roles that have been introduced need to expand, such as some of the advanced positions like advanced clinical nurse or physician associate, where there are opportunities for people to progress their careers. It is worth pointing out that, once again, not a single Welsh Labour MP has turned up to defend their party’s record in Wales. As we set out a long-term workforce plan, we are setting out that ambition for England, but we see very little from the Labour party in Wales.

Damian Green Portrait Damian Green (Ashford) (Con)
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I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this welcome announcement. I was happy to join his celebration of the 75th anniversary in the most practical way by visiting the new children’s emergency department at the William Harvey Hospital in my constituency. It is opening for patients this week and will be extremely welcome. He will be aware that some of the problems of the NHS can be solved only if we solve problems in the social care system as well. I urge him to follow up this extremely useful and welcome workforce plan for NHS workers with a similar idea for the social care system, because unless we fix one, we will not fix the other.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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My right hon. Friend makes a valid point about the integration between health and social care, and that was a flagship part of the reforms in 2022, which brought the NHS and social care together through the integrated care system. I join him in welcoming the news about William Harvey Hospital, which is extremely important to the local area. On social care more widely, we must also be cognisant of the differences. The NHS and social care employ roughly similar numbers at around 1.5 million people, but one is one employer and the other is 15,000 employers, so the dynamics between the two are different. The prioritisation of that integration is exactly right. That is why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced up to £7.5 billion for social care in the autumn statement, recognising that what happens in social care has a big impact on discharge in hospitals and hospital flow, which in turn impacts on ambulance handovers.

Daisy Cooper Portrait Daisy Cooper (St Albans) (LD)
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After promises of new hospitals that have not got off the ground and 6,000 more GPs that never came to pass, it is fair to say that the British public will judge the Government on their actions not their words. Let me press the Secretary of State further on social care. He will remember that at the start of this year, people were dying in the back of ambulances and in hospital corridors, in part because people could not be discharged from hospitals into social care. If the Government believe, as I do, that we cannot fix the NHS if we do not fix social care, will he also bring forward a workforce plan for our social care sector?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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That repeats the previous question, so I will not repeat the answer. It is slightly ironic to call for a plan for a new hospital programme and for a long-term workforce plan, and then criticise us when we deliver on both of those, as we have done with more than £20 billion of investment in the new hospitals programme, which we announced last month, £2.4 billion in the first ever long-term workforce plan and the biggest ever expansion of workforce training in the history of the NHS. Of course we need to take action in the short term to deal with the consequences of the pandemic. That is what our recovery plan does. The urgent emergency care plan that I announced in January takes specific action on demand management in the community. There are measures upstream on boosting capacity in emergency departments and downstream on things such as virtual wards. A huge amount of work is going on. We are putting more than £1 billion into 5,000 more permanent beds to get more bed capacity into hospitals. On social care, in the autumn statement the Chancellor committed up to £7.5 billion of further investment over two years, and it was part of our reforms to better integrate health and social care.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
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I welcome the NHS long-term workforce plan and in particular its emphasis on training, retention and reform. At the moment, about a quarter of NHS staff are recruited from abroad. Can the Secretary of State confirm to the House and my constituents that this plan enables the development of a strong pool of homegrown talent, so that we can reduce foreign recruitment more towards 10%, which would be a lot more sustainable for the long-term future of the NHS?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As we boost our domestic workforce training, there will be scope to reduce the number recruited internationally. From 1948 onwards, international recruitment has always played an important role in the NHS, and we are hugely grateful for the service offered by those recruited internationally, but we also recognise that as demography changes in other countries, there will be increasing competition for healthcare workers around the world, so it is right that we boost our domestic supply. That is what this plan does, and it is why this is a historic moment for the NHS in making that long-term commitment that will in turn reduce the demand on the international workforce.

Clive Efford Portrait Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab)
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I, too, add my condolences to the family of Bob Kerslake, who did excellent work in my borough tackling poverty. I would congratulate the Secretary of State on this announcement if it did not come 13 years into a Conservative Government. It is a bit like Bobby Ewing coming out of the shower, the way the Secretary of State is saying, “I’ve just realised there’s a crisis in the NHS.” We went into covid with 2.4 million people on waiting lists, which was a record. It is now up to 7.4 million. The report itself says that we have 154,000 fewer staff than we need today in the NHS. After 13 years in government, if the Tories really cared about the NHS, it would not be in the state it is in, would it?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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The hon. Gentleman ignores the fact that since 2010, there has been a 25% increase in the NHS workforce. More than a quarter of a million more people now work in the NHS than was the case in 2010. There is a 50% increase in the number of consultants working in the NHS today compared with 2010, but the reality is that demand has increased as a result of an older population, advances in medicine and in particular the demands of the pandemic, and that is what we are responding to. We are also taking measures in parallel. We are on track to deliver our manifesto commitment for 50,000 more nurses, with 44,000 now in place. We also have beaten our manifesto target on primary care, with 29,000 additional roles in place. That means that people can get to the specialist they need, which in turn frees up GPs for those things that only GPs can do and ensures that patients can access care much more quickly.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
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According to the King’s Fund, the proportion of GDP taken by the NHS has increased in the past 50 years from 3.4% to 8.2%. On the same trajectory, in 50 years’ time, it will take a fifth of all our GDP. That is totally unsustainable, especially as someone’s only right, despite the fact they are paying ever increasing amounts of tax, is to join the back of the queue. I ask again: will the Secretary of State launch a study—and, if necessary, appoint a royal commission—on fundamental reform of the whole nature and funding of our health system, so that we can learn from every other developed country, such as Australia, France, Italy and Germany, where they unleash private sector investment into healthcare and give people rights to their healthcare, while ensuring that those who need it get free healthcare at the point of delivery?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I hope my right hon. Friend is pleased to see the measures we are taking with the Lord O’Shaughnessy review on clinical research trials to make it easier and faster to do research in the NHS. That in turn attracts private investment to the NHS. He will have seen the announcement I made on Tuesday of £96 million for 93 different research projects, such as at Great Ormond Street Hospital, where we have allocated £3.5 million for research into rare conditions in children. That translates into research that is then deployed, usually in adults. We are investing there, and we are screening 100,000 children through Genomics England. We have got a deal with Moderna and BioNTech so that we can have bespoke cancer vaccines. On Monday, we rolled out national lung cancer screening. Previously, in our most deprived communities we were detecting lung cancer late—80% were diagnosed late—but in those pilots we turned that on its head with 76% detected earlier.

I know that my right hon. Friend, as a former Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, will agree that by detecting earlier, not only are patient outcomes far better but treatment is far cheaper, whether that is for lung cancer or through our innovation on HIV screening in emergency departments picking up HIV in people who do not realise that they have it. When we treat it early, the patient outcomes are better, and it is fiscally much more sustainable. That is how we will address some of his concerns.

Stella Creasy Portrait Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op)
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The Secretary of State could do something now—not in eight years’ time—to relieve the pressure on our NHS, and it has nothing to do with pension funds. Figures from the Royal College of General Practitioners show that 53% of GPs think they cannot work in a flexible way to balance family and work commitments. It is little wonder that GPs aged 35 to 44 are the biggest group on the retention scheme who are leaving the profession—it does not take a rocket scientist to work out that it is the mums.

When I asked the Secretary of State’s Department what he was doing to monitor flexible working and whether we are getting roles that people can do—not just sitting with their 16 hours but finding ways to work and balance family—it said that it did not monitor the situation. It was not even looking at it. We are losing brilliant staff and wasting billions of pounds, and we will have a delay before our constituents see the benefit of any workforce plan unless that changes. I have listened to him and looked at the statement that does not make a single mention of childcare, although he did refer to it in passing. What will he actually do not just for retirees but for doctors with families to get them back into the NHS so that we can all benefit?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I think there is actually a lot of agreement between the hon. Lady and I. She talked about the plan, and having read it a number of times—that is part of my role—I know that childcare is specifically referred to in the summary, no less, in terms of the key issues that it goes on to set out. It goes into detail about our proposals, including linking up to the NHS people plan and greater flexibility in terms of roles and people retiring. One aspect of the NHS Staff Council deal is the expansion of pension abatement rules. So there is a huge amount.

The hon. Lady calls for more flexibility. I set out a number of the areas, and she does not seem to realise that there are three sections to the plan, with the second being all about giving greater flexibility to help retain our staff. So the plan addresses the points she raises; that just does not seem to be the answer she wants to hear. As for flexibility being important to mums, yes it is, and the NHS has a largely female workforce, but it is also important to dads. It is important to all NHS staff that we have that flexibility.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
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The NHS today, at 1.4 million employees, is the fifth-largest employer in the world, and if the ambitions in this welcome plan are met, it will be the largest employer in the world. That raises the question of how effective the management of those human resources is. It is a little disappointing that there is so little commentary in the plan on two important management issues: the ambitions on improving the quality of management systems, and particularly clarification of decision rights and responsibilities; and the quality of accounting control systems and how the NHS seeks to improve them. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the NHS looks at those two important matters?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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Those are both fair points. I know that my hon. Friend comes at this with great commercial experience, and I hope he knows that I have an interest in those issues. Just to reassure him, the plan is iterative; it is not a one-off. It is a framework from which we will do further work. Indeed, one of the areas that I am often criticised for is my interest in data and variation in data across the NHS—he and I probably agree on that more than some of those who are critical. That speaks to his point—the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee’s point relates to this—that in a system the size of the NHS, data on the performance of the integrated care boards and their role in terms of the workforce is one area that the House will want to return to.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab)
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We know a Government are out of ideas when they copy the Opposition’s plan to train the doctors and nurses that the NHS so desperately needs. The majority of those policies will not be implemented until after the general election—long after the British public have booted the Conservatives out of power because of their industrial-scale incompetence, which included crashing the economy.

The Secretary of State will be aware that the NHS is short of more than 150,000 staff right now. Will he take responsibility for those shortages and admit that, had the Government acted more than a decade ago, the NHS would have the staff that it needs right now?