Oral Answers to Questions

Wednesday 1st July 2020

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

Cabinet Office

The Secretary of State was asked—

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson (Gordon) (SNP) - Hansard

What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Government’s plans to support economic recovery as the covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased. [903964]

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP) - Hansard

What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Government’s plans to support economic recovery as the covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased. [903966]

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby (Lewisham East) (Lab) - Hansard

What steps he is taking to support the recovery of the Scottish economy as the covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased. [903969]

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab) - Hansard

What assessment he has made of the prospects for the recovery of the Scottish economy as the covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased. [903971]

Mr Alister Jack Portrait The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr Alister Jack) - Hansard

I would like to take a few moments to pay tribute to Glasgow’s emergency services for the enormous courage they showed in dealing with last week’s shocking knife attack. Our thoughts are with all those who were caught up in that terrible incident. In particular, I know that the whole House will join me in wishing Constable David Whyte a speedy recovery from the injuries he sustained in trying to help others.

I have regular discussions with my Cabinet colleagues, including the Chancellor, on all aspects of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland. As we emerge from tackling this global crisis, we are determined to get Britain’s economy back firing on all cylinders, and as we do, protecting people’s health remains our top priority. However, just as we entered lockdown together, the best way to ensure the recovery of our economy is by working together across the United Kingdom.

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson - Hansard

May I associate myself with the Secretary of State’s opening remarks?

In his insipid word salad of a speech yesterday, the Prime Minister committed barely more money to rejuvenate the British economy post coronavirus than we have committed to refurbishing the Palace of Westminster. The Scottish Parliament lacks the powers to properly borrow and invest that other tiers of government take for granted. Will the Secretary of State commit to look again at the fiscal framework and giving Scotland the borrowing and investment powers it needs for the future?

Mr Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack - Hansard

As the hon. Gentleman will know, the fiscal framework is due to be reviewed in 2021. In the interim, we have given huge support to Scotland from the British Exchequer, with £3.8 billion in business support for the covid crisis, and the furlough scheme, which has supported almost 800,000 jobs. There is a capital budget for Scotland this year of £5.4 billion, and there is no shortage of projects that need to be done, so I ask him to encourage the Scottish Government to get on with them.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry [V] - Hansard

Some people are facing much more than just a financial meltdown as we emerge from this crisis. A year ago tomorrow, the all-party parliamentary group on terminal illness published a report on heartless Department for Work and Pensions rules that mean terminally ill people can only access fast-track benefits if they can prove that they have six months or less to live. Under pressure from the APPG, Marie Curie, the Motor Neurone Disease Association and others, this Government launched their own review, yet we have had only silence since. In the meantime, thousands of people have died waiting for support. The Scottish Government have already committed to scrap the arbitrary six-month rule when they take over the personal independence payment, but universal credit and employment and support allowance are reserved. Will the Secretary of State urge his colleagues to finally end this pernicious policy?

Mr Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack - Hansard

As the hon. Gentleman knows, universal credit support has been increased during the covid crisis, but the point he makes about the last six months of life is one that I would like to raise with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. If he writes to me on the subject, I would be pleased to push the case for him.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby [V] - Hansard

Mr Speaker, I do not need to tell you that Scotland has some of the most beautiful landscapes across our country. My nephews are Scottish, and like many young people, they rely on the tourism and hospitality industry for work. Those industries are likely to take a lot longer to recover. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ensure that businesses and young people employed in those sectors will continue to receive the Government support they need?

Mr Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack - Hansard

As the hon. Lady will know, the Chancellor is making a statement a week today. I have had discussions with him about the support. The furlough will continue for another four months, until the end of October, and there is a variable element to it now, so that people can go back to work part time. The tourism and hospitality industry will effectively go through three winters unless we get it up and running this summer. It is deeply regrettable that the First Minister has encouraged reckless talk. This talk of quarantining people from other parts the United Kingdom is disappointing and divisive, and it is not the language we should be hearing from a First Minister because it undermines the joint efforts we have made in tackling covid-19, and it is bad for business—especially the tourism business.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood [V] - Hansard

Unemployment very often causes misery and can lead to a downward spiral of opportunity. With the unemployment rate in Scotland the highest in the UK, what steps will the Secretary of State take to protect and create jobs in Scotland?

Mr Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 11:39 a.m.

The unemployment rate is going up faster than anywhere else in the United Kingdom, and we are proving in Scotland to be slower at reopening our economy—something I regret. It is important that we get our economy reopened as quickly as possible, because that is the best way to save jobs. As I say, we are currently supporting almost 800,000 jobs through the self-employment support scheme and through the job retention scheme. It is important that once we get back to near-normal, our economy bounces back as quickly as possible. The best way to achieve that is to keep money in people’s pockets, and the 80% furlough has done just that.

Ian Murray Portrait Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab) - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 11:40 a.m.

I echo the Secretary of State’s remarks about our heroes in the public services in Glasgow who responded to the stabbings last Friday. I am sure that he, and the whole House, would wish to join me in expressing our deepest sympathy and all our thoughts to the family and friends of the three-year-old boy who was tragically killed yesterday when a car went out of control and mounted the pavement in Morningside Road in my constituency—a very young life taken far too soon.

As lockdown measures are eased, some sectors of the Scottish economy, as we have heard, will take much longer than others to return to some sort of normality, particularly tourism, hospitality and the creative industries. It is vital that both Governments continue to protect jobs and support businesses by extending the current furlough support to those hard-hit sectors. Even now, far too many are falling through the cracks of Government schemes—for example, many freelancers working through pay-as-you-earn contracts. With many taxpayers in this situation going from full income to no income, will the Secretary of State commit to raising in Cabinet the need for Government to support those taxpayers who have received nothing, and for an extended sectoral furlough scheme for Scottish industries?

Mr Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 11:41 a.m.

Let me start by echoing the hon. Gentleman’s remarks about the shocking incident on the pavement in Morningside Road yesterday.

The Chancellor acknowledged right at the beginning that we cannot save every business and we cannot save every job, but there has been a huge rapid response from the United Kingdom Government to covid-19, with unprecedented sums going to Scotland in the form of £3.8 billion for business support and, as I mentioned, the 800,000 jobs that have been supported. I have raised this with the Chancellor and we have talked about how we go through to the next stage. He will be addressing that when he speaks to the House a week today.

Ian Murray Portrait Ian Murray - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 11:44 a.m.

I appreciate that answer from the Secretary of State, but there are still too many people who have gone from full income to no income while paying full taxes.

The former SNP finance spokesperson and author of the First Minister’s Growth Commission report has said that Scotland will have the worst performing economy in the developed world post covid. The response by the SNP Finance Minister was to reignite the demand for full fiscal autonomy, which would have the effect of creating a multi-billion-pound black hole in Scotland’s public finances. First, has the Secretary of State undertaken any analysis of the impact that this policy would have on post-covid recovery in Scotland? Secondly, rather than both Governments playing politics, will he work collaboratively with the Scottish Government to seek solutions to the immediate post-covid budget challenges so that we can save as many jobs, businesses and public services as possible?

Mr Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack - Hansard

The Scottish Finance Minister, Kate Forbes, has questioned the Barnett formula and has raised full fiscal autonomy as a preference. I would say to the people of Scotland that, for £100 of spending per head in England, the Barnett formula guarantees £125 per head of spending in Scotland. The Barnett formula has produced the extra £3.8 billion of covid support. Last year, the Barnett formula plugged a £12.6 billion deficit in Scotland’s spending. Along with the furlough scheme, these things would not have been possible under full fiscal autonomy. In fact, had the Scottish Government imposed that on the Scottish people, I would call it full furlough absence.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 11:44 a.m.

We now go to the SNP spokesperson—[Interruption.] Order. Who is clapping? We do not clap. We want to hear the SNP spokesperson, Mhairi Black.

Mhairi Black Portrait Mhairi Black (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) (SNP) [V] - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 11:44 a.m.

I would like to echo the remarks of the Secretary of State with regard to the events in Glasgow. Our thoughts are with all those affected.

The Secretary of State says that the Chancellor will be updating the House with regard to the furloughing scheme, so I will note that with interest, but could he tell us specifically what recommendations and requests he has made to the Treasury with regard to Scotland?

Mr Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, midnight

Discussions that we have with the Treasury ahead of a statement are confidential, but I have highlighted the threats around tourism and hospitality, and I say again to the hon. Lady that the First Minister’s remarks about the border are irresponsible. If we think back to 26 April and “The Andrew Marr Show”, she admitted that it was a border that she had no control over, so let us not undermine the Scottish economy by moving too slowly as we come back—we need to crack on—and let us not undermine Scottish business by talking about keeping people from other parts of the United Kingdom out of Scotland.

Mhairi Black Portrait Mhairi Black - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, midnight

Let us also not undermine public health when it comes to the decisions that we make. Scotland has sought to trial universal basic income in four separate locations. Given that the Scottish Government would be providing the funding for this, does the Secretary of State know why the UK Government are blocking it, and what assistance will he provide in unblocking it?

Mr Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack - Hansard

On the hon. Lady’s first remark about public health, it is absolutely imperative that we protect lives, but we must also protect livelihoods. On universal basic income, we do not believe it is the best way to deliver social security because it is not targeted at those who need it most. We believe universal credit is the best thing because it gets people back into work, and getting people back into work gets them out of poverty. Countries such as Finland and Canada have tried universal basic income and walked away from it. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation also found that it can increase poverty and it said that it is not the way forward in the report that it released two years ago, so we will not be moving towards a universal basic income.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con) - Hansard

What steps his Department is taking to support the Scottish fishing sector. [903965]

David Duguid Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Duguid) - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 12:04 a.m.

At the end of 2020, we automatically take back control of our waters as an independent coastal state. We will be out of the common fisheries policy and we can decide who can fish in our waters and on what terms. This Government will maintain funding throughout this Parliament to support both our seafood industry and the regeneration of coastal communities in Scotland and around the United Kingdom.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, midnight

The Minister will be aware that taking back control of our waters and regaining our status as an independent coastal state was one of the reasons why 1 million Scots voted to leave the European Union, so can he confirm that the UK Government will not sign up to anything that will take away those provisions and put that status at risk?

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, midnight

Yes, I can indeed confirm that. For the first time in 40 years, we will be free to decide who can access our waters and on what terms. Any access by non-UK vessels to fish in UK waters will be negotiated annually, as is standard practice in many cases between independent coastal states such as Norway, the Faroes or Iceland. We continue to engage with the EU constructively, but we will be making sure our position is understood. We will always defend our rights under international law, just as any other independent coastal state does.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con) - Hansard

What discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on the ending of the transition period in relation to Scotland. [903967]

Mr Alister Jack Portrait The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr Alister Jack) - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, midnight

I have regular discussions with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on EU transition matters, including the end of the transition period and the benefits to Scotland of once again being able to control our own laws, our own trade and our own fishing waters.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, midnight

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that while it is outrageous that even last month the Scottish Government were wasting resources on fighting the battles of the past with regard to the transition period, the UK Government are focused on delivering the benefits of free trade not just for Scottish businesses but for all businesses in our United Kingdom?

Mr Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, midnight

Yes, I agree. I think Scottish Ministers need to wake up to the fact that we have left the European Union and we will leave the transition period on 31 December. I know that the Scottish Government do not like the outcomes of referendums when they do not go their way, but this is another one we are delivering on.

Pete Wishart Portrait Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP) - Hansard

An opinion poll recently found that 63% of the Scottish people back a Brexit extension—that is on top of the overwhelming majority who oppose the Brexit disaster in its entirety—and the Secretary of State has probably seen an opinion poll that found that 54% of the Scottish people now want an independent Scotland. What does the Secretary of State believe links those opinion polls, and what does that tell him about where our country is heading?

Mr Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack - Hansard

I was going to say I was pleased that for once that the hon. Gentleman had not made it all about independence, but he managed to weave it in. I think the whole House would like to congratulate him on giving up his own independence by getting engaged last weekend.

The answer is that we had a general election and we had a resounding majority across the United Kingdom for a manifesto that said we would honour the result of the referendum. We are going to honour that result: we are going to take back control of our laws, borders and money and we are going to leave the hated common fisheries policy and become—here is the independent bit for the hon. Gentleman—an independent coastal state.

Mr Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab) - Hansard

If he will publish a comparative assessment of the availability of covid-19 testing for (a) care home residents, (b) home care recipients and (c) care home staff in Scotland and England. [903970]

David Duguid Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Duguid) - Hansard

The UK Government, assisted by the British Army, have through six fixed testing sites, 13 mobile testing units and the Glasgow Lighthouse mega-lab significantly increased testing capacity in Scotland to respond to covid-19, in addition to NHS Scotland’s own capacity. It is for the Scottish Government to determine policy for the use of that capacity, including in respect of testing for care home residents, recipients and staff.

Mr Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Perkins - Hansard

Some 1,431 people were discharged from Scottish hospitals into care homes by the Scottish Government. In Scotland, the proportion of care home deaths is much higher than that in England, where it is also too high. Will the Minister assure the House that when the inevitable public inquiry happens, the question of Scottish care home deaths is not lost in the wider questions about the Government’s response but is given very serious attention, because thousands of families will demand that those Scottish care home deaths are investigated?

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid - Hansard

Based on the latest figures that I have seen, although the number of covid-19 deaths in care homes in Scotland has been falling in recent weeks, it still represents around 41% of the total. That is compared with the proportion in England, which is closer to around 32%. Both of those proportions are still far too high, but what any inquiry will say is a matter for that inquiry.

Chris Elmore Portrait Chris Elmore (Ogmore) (Lab) - Hansard

When the First Minister is questioned about the high rate of care home deaths in Scotland, she merely replies that England does not count in the same way, which is not an answer. The number of care home deaths in Scotland is a national scandal. Despite that, care home staff are still not receiving the level of testing that they have been promised. The Scottish Health Minister said that all care home staff would be tested every week, yet in no week has that happened, and only around a third of staff are receiving tests. Given the fact that the UK Government deliver part of the testing regime in Scotland, will the Minister inform the House of what work is going on across both Governments to ensure that care home staff are receiving the weekly tests they were promised?

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid - Hansard

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will join me in acknowledging the excellent work done by all our frontline staff, whether in the NHS, care homes or elsewhere. I encourage the Scottish Government to actively promote the fixed testing sites and the mobile testing sites that I mentioned earlier, to ensure that all care homes and care home staff can access the testing that they need.

Cherilyn Mackrory Portrait Cherilyn Mackrory (Truro and Falmouth) (Con) - Hansard

What steps his Department is taking to support the Scottish agricultural sector. [903973]

Rob Roberts Portrait Rob Roberts (Delyn) (Con) - Hansard

What steps his Department is taking to support the Scottish agricultural sector. [903981]

David Duguid Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Duguid) - Hansard

The Government have provided unprecedented levels of support to the sector, and, to the credit of all involved, the UK’s food supply chain has remained secure throughout this crisis. Farmers across the UK produce some of the best food in the world, and to the highest environmental, welfare and safety standards. Our farmers have what it takes to compete with the rest of the world, and they can be confident that this UK Government will back them all the way in securing new global markets while protecting those standards.

Cherilyn Mackrory Portrait Cherilyn Mackrory [V] - Hansard

I thank the Minister for his answer. What assessment has my hon. Friend made of the opportunities that might arise for the agricultural sector in Scotland and the wider United Kingdom—including my local farmers here in Truro and Falmouth—once the EU transition period ends?

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid - Hansard

There are great opportunities for farmers right across the UK, in Scotland and in my hon. Friend’s constituency in Cornwall. Outside the common agricultural policy, we can provide our food and farming sectors with the opportunity to become more competitive, productive and profitable, while—importantly—taking into account each nation’s unique geography and heritage. We can create our own system of farming support, with each part of the UK being able to meet the specific needs of its farmers.

Rob Roberts Portrait Rob Roberts [V] - Hansard

I welcome my hon. Friend to the Dispatch Box. I represent a constituency which is 75% agricultural land here in north Wales, so he can understand how important our farmers are across the United Kingdom. Recently I met a load of local farmers who are concerned about support for the industry, so may I ask him what steps he and his team are taking to support the agricultural industry once we leave the economic institutions of the EU?

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid - Hansard

I thank my hon. Friend for his welcome to the Dispatch Box. This Government have guaranteed the current annual budget for every year of this Parliament, giving significant certainty on funding in the coming years not just for Scottish farmers, but for Welsh farmers and around the UK. As I said in an earlier response, we can agree ambitious new trade deals around the world while protecting our own world-class standards.

John Stevenson Portrait John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con) - Hansard

What progress his Department has made on delivering growth deals for every region in Scotland. [903974]

Iain Stewart Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Iain Stewart) - Hansard

We have made a commitment to deliver a deal for every part of Scotland. Five deals are now fully agreed and four are agreed in principle. We are in discussion with the Treasury to agree the parameters of the final two deals and the role that the deal programme as a whole can play more generally in our economic recovery.

John Stevenson Portrait John Stevenson - Hansard

The Minister will be aware that the Borderlands is considered a great success. However, to ensure that such initiatives are truly successful and properly implemented requires timely decisions by all parties involved, and that is something the Prime Minister certainly wants to see happen. Will the Minister commit to doing everything he can at UK level and the Scottish parliamentary level, particularly with regard to the Treasury, to ensure that the Borderlands initiative proceeds quickly and effectively?

Iain Stewart Portrait Iain Stewart - Hansard

Yes, absolutely, and I should add that my hon. Friend has been an excellent champion of the Borderlands deal. We are making good progress with it, including the consideration of individual projects such as the dairy innovation centre. We hope to be able to agree the terms of a full deal later this year. I should also mention that I am meeting the Campaign for Borders Rail team later this month to discuss that project, and I would greatly welcome his thoughts on that.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD) - Hansard

What recent discussions he has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) Ministers of the Scottish Government on establishing air travel corridors as covid-19 restrictions are eased (i) within Scotland, (ii) between Scotland and the rest of the UK and (iii) between Scotland and the rest of Europe. [903975]

Iain Stewart Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Iain Stewart) - Hansard

The Government have been working closely with the devolved Administrations throughout the covid-19 pandemic to ensure a coherent UK-wide approach. The Government will shortly announce further details on regulations, including a full list of countries and territories from which arriving passengers will be exempted from the self-isolation requirements.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine - Hansard

Edinburgh Airport is not just one of the largest employers in my constituency when taken together with all the cargo handlers and the shops on site, but a linchpin of Edinburgh’s economy and Scotland’s economy. During this crisis, 80% of its staff have been furloughed, and it has gone from having 40,000 passengers pass through it on an average day to fewer than 200, and on some days none. Although I am deeply concerned about the airport, the airlines and the directly related jobs, they also feed into the tourism industry, which is worth an estimated £10.5 billion a year to Scotland. With the loss of the Edinburgh Festival, the Royal Highland Show, the incomplete Six Nations this year, and now the loss of tourism, potentially every job in Edinburgh is under threat. Will this Government use their—

Iain Stewart Portrait Iain Stewart - Hansard

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. I do know the importance that Edinburgh Airport in her constituency has not just for the airport but for the wider economy. I would be very happy to meet her to discuss her specific points in further detail, but the global airline industry is facing a huge challenge, and it will require considerable efforts to get it back on its feet.

Karl McCartney Portrait Karl MᶜCartney (Lincoln) (Con) - Hansard

What steps his Department is taking to strengthen the Union. [903976]

Miss Sarah Dines Portrait Miss Sarah Dines (Derbyshire Dales) (Con) - Hansard

What steps his Department is taking to strengthen the Union. [903979]

Paul Bristow Portrait Paul Bristow (Peterborough) (Con) - Hansard

What steps his Department is taking to strengthen the Union. [903982]

Iain Stewart Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Iain Stewart) - Hansard

The Government have always stressed the importance of the Union, and the current crisis demonstrates the value in responding collectively. We have world-leading expertise and the economic strength to support jobs and business with generous financial packages. It is the strength of our Union that will enable us to rebuild our economy quickly and fairly.

Karl McCartney Portrait Karl MᶜCartney - Hansard

I thank my good friend the new Minister and congratulate him on being at the Dispatch Box. Devolution in Scotland has given the Scottish people a localised legislative body. It gives Scottish people greater powers over their own affairs and is replicated in Northern Ireland and Wales. Does my hon. Friend agree that this has caused a democratic deficit for England, and as devolution is now being revisited in my own constituency county of Greater Lincolnshire, what lessons can be learned from Scottish devolution to give the people of Lincolnshire greater powers over their own affairs?

Iain Stewart Portrait Iain Stewart - Hansard

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the considerable powers that are being devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but England has also seen significant devolution and that is a process that continues with further deals in the pipeline and the Government’s commitment to a White Paper on devolution in England. I suggest that devolution has given Scotland the best of both worlds: localising decision making, but being able to access the collective resources of a strong United Kingdom.

Miss Sarah Dines Portrait Miss Dines - Hansard

More than 60% of Scottish exports go to the rest of the UK. That represents three times more than the rest of the EU. Does my hon. Friend agree that, as we emerge from this pandemic, trade between all four of the home nations is going to be critical not only to Scotland, but to the rest of the UK?

Iain Stewart Portrait Iain Stewart - Hansard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight these figures. We do not need the barriers and division that separation would bring, nor do we need the reckless talk of effectively closing the border when tourism in Scotland needs all the help it can get.

Paul Bristow Portrait Paul Bristow - Hansard

I welcome the Scottish Government’s decision to put off their preparations for a second Scottish referendum on independence while dealing with the coronavirus. Does the Minister agree that, once this pandemic is over, those plans will still be unnecessary and still be unwanted by the people of Scotland?

Iain Stewart Portrait Iain Stewart - Hansard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: the last thing Scotland needs is the uncertainty and division that another referendum would bring.

The Prime Minister was asked—

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con) - Hansard

If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 1 July. [904104]

The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) - Hansard

May I start by commending the Together initiative for organising this coming Sunday what will hopefully be the nation’s biggest ever Thank You Day to mark the birthday of the NHS? It will provide the perfect moment to thank not just our amazing NHS and care workers, but also those key workers who have helped in the national effort throughout our fight against coronavirus and, indeed, all those across the country who have gone the extra mile for their local communities in these challenging times. I am sure we can agree across this House that the NHS represents the very best of us, and that we will always be there to support it.

This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham - Hansard

As the Prime Minister says, today is the 72nd anniversary of the NHS and a good moment for us all to appreciate the immense role of the NHS in all our constituencies—perhaps especially, the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, which has put up with me as a summer volunteer for the last 10 years.

The Prime Minister’s launch of the UK new deal yesterday paves the way for exciting new projects. May I highlight for his attention the proposed eco park and green energy park in Gloucester, which may need a little of the Chancellor’s oil? May I also highlight, should it be approved, the shovel-ready new Gloucester to Cheltenham cycleway, which I hope he might accept an invitation to come and open, with my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) and me, when it is ready?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

I thank my hon. Friend very much for that question. I congratulate him on what he is doing to support the wonderful new eco and green energy park, and I look forward to joining him on the new cycleway in due course.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab) - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 12:04 a.m.

May I, too, celebrate the birthday of the NHS, as we all will this Sunday, particularly at this time?

At the daily press conference on 18 June, the Health Secretary said, “There’s an outbreak of covid-19 right now in parts of Leicester”, yet it was only on Monday evening this week that the Government introduced restrictions. That is a delay of 11 days, during which the virus was spreading in Leicester. Why were the Government so slow to act?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

Well, actually, the Government first took notice and acted on what was going on in Leicester on 8 June, because we could see that there was an issue there. We sent mobile testing units—four more mobile testing units—shortly thereafter. We engaged actively with the authorities in Leicester, with public health in Leicester and with everybody responsible in Leicester in the way that we have done with other areas that have had similar issues. Unfortunately, in Leicester, it did not prove possible to get the results that we have seen elsewhere, so on Monday we took the decision, which I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman approves of, to go into lockdown in Leicester. I have been absolutely clear with the House and with the country that we are going forward. We have made huge progress, but, where necessary, we will put on the brakes. We acted decisively, and I think it was the right thing to do.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer - Hansard

I do support the Government’s decision of Monday, but I think the 4,000 businesses and 160 schools that are now shut might take some persuading that the Government acted quickly enough. One of the problems in Leicester was that the local authority had only half the data. It had data for pillar 1 covid tests—NHS and care worker tests, and tests in hospitals—but not for pillar 2 tests, which are the wider tests in the community. That may sound technical, but it meant that the local authority thought there were 80 positive tests in the last fortnight when the real figure was 944. The local authority was given the real figure only last Thursday, so there was a lost week while the virus was spreading. There are now real fears of further local lockdowns across the country. Can the Prime Minister give a cast-iron guarantee today that no other local authority will ever be put in that position again?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

I am afraid the right hon. and learned Gentleman is mistaken, because both pillar 1 and pillar 2 data have been shared, not just with Leicester, but with all authorities across the country. We did in Leicester exactly what we did, for instance, in Kirklees, Bradford, Weston-super-Mare or other places where very effective whack-a-mole strategies have been put in place. For reasons that I think the House will probably understand, there were particular problems in Leicester in implementing the advice and getting people to understand what was necessary to do. But, let’s face it: we have had to act and the Government have acted. He wants to know whether we will act in future to ensure that we protect the health of the entire country, and I can tell him that we will, absolutely.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer - Hansard

I spoke to the Mayor of Leicester this morning, and I know the Prime Minister spoke to him yesterday, and he was absolutely clear that he did not get that data until last Thursday—I doubt he told the Prime Minister something different yesterday. The Prime Minister cannot just bat away challenge; these are matters of life and death, and people’s livelihoods. For example, last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Peter Kyle) asked the Prime Minister, “How can seaside towns be expected to cope with the likely influx of visitors to beaches and parks during the hot weather?”. The Prime Minister replied, “Show some guts”. Two days later, Bournemouth beach was closed; there were 500,000 visitors and a major incident was declared. Does the Prime Minister now regret being so flippant?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

I really think the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not distinguish himself by his question, because I was making it absolutely clear that as we go forward with our cautious plan for opening up the economy, it is very, very important that people who do represent seaside communities, places where UK tourists will want to go, should be as welcoming as they can possibly be. That was the message that I think it is important to set out. But it is also vital that people behave responsibly. That is why the scenes in Bournemouth were completely unacceptable and it is why we stick to the advice that we have given. I made it absolutely clear that if people are going to travel to the seaside and take advantage of the easing of the lockdown, they must observe social distancing, and it is everybody’s responsibility to ensure that that is the case.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer - Hansard

The Prime Minister must understand why this is of such concern. There is a nationwide lifting of restrictions this weekend, without an app, and without clear data for local authorities or the world-beating system we were promised. [Interruption.] I do support it, but I am not blind—[Interruption.] I support the easing of restrictions but, unlike the Prime Minister, I am not blind to the risks, and I do not think anybody else should be. Last week, I pointed out to the Prime Minister that two thirds of people with covid-19 are not being reached and asked to provide their contact details. The Prime Minister, typically, said it was all a stunning “success”. The updated figures now show that things have got worse; of the 22,000 new cases of covid infections per week in mid-June, just 5,000 were reached and asked to provide details. So now three quarters of people with covid-19 are not being reached. How does the Prime Minister explain that?

The Prime Minister - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 12:10 p.m.

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well, the test, track and trace operation is reaching huge numbers of people and causing them to self-isolate in ways that I do not think he conceivably could have expected a month ago when the system was set up. It has now reached 113,000 contacts who have undertaken to self-isolate to stop the disease spreading, and that is why the number of new infections has come down for several days running to below 1,000, and the number of deaths continues to come down. That is a great achievement on the part of the entire population and their willingness to support test and trace.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 12:10 p.m.

If the Prime Minister cannot see that three quarters of those with covid-19 are not being contacted and asked for their own contacts, that is a real gap in the system. He cannot just brush it away by referencing those that are contacted. It is a real problem and it is growing; it is going to have to be addressed. The Prime Minister did this at phase 1, brushing away serious concerns.

I want to turn to the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday, if I may. Amid the normal bluster, there was a really striking line in that speech. The Prime Minister said:

“We…know the jobs that many people had in January are…not coming back”.

I fear that this is the equivalent of the line in the Prime Minister’s speech of 12 March when he said:

“I must level with you…Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”

We know what happened next. That is why there needs to be a laser-like focus on protecting jobs, so how many jobs does the Prime Minister think yesterday’s announcement will protect?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

The right hon. and learned Gentleman might first pay tribute to the work of this Government in protecting 11 million jobs throughout this crisis. He might draw attention to the fact that we have supported huge sectors of the UK economy at a cost of £120 billion. I am not going to give a figure for the number of job losses that may or may not take place, but of course the risk is very serious, as he rightly says. That is why we are proceeding with the new deal, the fair deal for the British people, which will be not just massive investment in our national health service— £34 billion in our NHS—and £14 billion more into our schools but an investment in infrastructure going up to £100 billion. We are going to build, build, build and deliver jobs, jobs, jobs for the people of this country.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 12:12 p.m.

The reality is that the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday was investment equivalent to less than £100 per person across the United Kingdom—0.2% of GDP. Not much of his announcement was new, and it certainly was not much of a deal. Meanwhile, as the Prime Minister was speaking, Airbus announced 1,700 job losses, easyJet announced 1,300 job losses and T. M. Lewin and Harveys announced 800 job losses. That was just yesterday. There was nothing in the Prime Minister’s speech for the 3.2 million people in hospitality or the 2.9 million in retail. Next week’s financial statement could be the last chance to save millions of jobs. Will the Prime Minister start now by extending the furlough scheme for those parts of the economy that are still most at risk?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

Let me repeat and remind the House that, overall, the package represents a £600 billion package of investment in the UK economy. The best single thing we can do is get our economy back to health by getting our people back into work and getting the virus defeated and under control, and the best thing that the Opposition could do is stop equivocating—doing one thing one week and one thing another week—and decide that they emphatically support ending the lockdown and emphatically support kids being back in school rather than being bossed around by the unions. We are the builders; they are the blockers. We are the doers; they are the ditherers. We are going to get on with it and take this country forward.

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew  Bowie  (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (Con) - Hansard

Does my right hon. Friend not share my anger and the frustration of the Scottish tourist sector that, just as it is getting back on its feet, it is having the legs pulled out from under it by deeply irresponsible, damaging and divisive talk of arbitrary border closures and the quarantining of visitors from across the rest of the United Kingdom? [904105]

The Prime Minister - Hansard

I must say I find the suggestion absolutely astonishing and shameful. There have been no discussions with the Scottish Administration about that, but I point out to my hon. Friend what he knows very well: there is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

Talking of which, we now come to the leader of the Scottish National party.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (SNP) [V] - Hansard

I am sure that the thoughts of everyone in the House will, like mine, be with those who were caught up in the terrible incidents in Glasgow last Friday, and in particular with PC David Whyte and those who went to do their duty. We hope that everyone makes a speedy recovery from their injuries.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister delivered his self-proclaimed relaunch speech, but when asked at the daily press briefing what new money will be given to the Scottish Government, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson laughed—laughed, Mr Speaker. That is what this Government think about funding for the Scottish economy, jobs, families and livelihoods: they think it is a joke. Is the Prime Minister capable of answering a direct question? I do not want the usual waffle. It is a straightforward question: what are the new Barnett consequentials coming to Scotland as a result of yesterday’s speech?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

To start with, the right hon. Gentleman probably does the spokesman in question a serious injustice, because I do not believe he would have taken this issue anything other than seriously. The right hon. Gentleman should wait till next week to have the full Barnett consequentials for what we are outlining from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. I really do hope that he and all his SNP colleagues go around brandishing the fact that not only has this crisis seen the British Army and the British armed services being absolutely indispensable in Scotland and elsewhere in helping us get through it, but we have seen the UK Treasury step up to the plate and get furlough funding across all four parts of our United Kingdom. It was a massive success. Let me tell him that the Barnett consequentials already amount to £3.8 billion for Scotland.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford - Hansard

The Prime Minister simply could not answer the question, because the question was about the Barnett consequentials from yesterday. We know that there was not a single penny for Scotland in the supposed reset speech from the Prime Minister yesterday. It was a speech devoid of action, devoid of ambition and devoid of any support for the most vulnerable in our society. The Prime Minister has set the UK on a two-tier recovery. On the same day he delivered his speech, this Tory Government reintroduced their benefits sanctions regime after a three-month freeze. That is not levelling up; it is heartless, cruel and unnecessary. Will the Prime Minister announce right now that he will keep the freeze on benefits sanctions, or will we have to wait until he is shamed into yet another U-turn?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

I beseech the right hon. Gentleman just to think that he may be mistaken. The UK Government are absolutely dedicated to supporting people of all incomes across the country. That is why we have actually increased spending on benefits by £7 billion with universal credit, and we stand ready to do more, but I can tell him that there will be plenty of wonderful things that we want to do, working with him and with the Scottish Administration, to improve transport and other infrastructure across the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland. I really hope he will co-operate.

Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con) [V] - Hansard

My constituency sits at the heart of our great metropolis. Cities of London and Westminster is the home of the west end, whose theatres and cultural venues, such as the Royal Albert Hall, the London Palladium and the Barbican Centre, attract visitors from across the globe and will help power our economic recovery. Does my right hon. Friend share my aspiration to see these venues open as soon as it is safe to do so, ensuring that the show must go on? [904110]

The Prime Minister - Hansard

Yes, the show must go on. I know the power of the theatres of London’s west end and the entire cultural industry in London, not just as a magnet for our country, but for the sheer revenues they deliver. We want that to get going as fast as we possibly can, and we want life for theatres and theatregoers to get back to normal as fast as we possibly can, but to do that we have to defeat the disease, and that is what this Government are engaged in.

Stephen Farry Portrait Stephen Farry (North Down) (Alliance) - Hansard

Exactly six months from today, the Northern Ireland protocol will sadly come into operation. The Government have already recognised that it will involve checks and infrastructure with regard to regulation, which the Prime Minister knows is different from customs. The business community is desperately seeking answers as to how the processes will work in detail. Will he commit to providing that clarity before the end of the summer?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

It is very clear from the existing text of the protocol that Northern Ireland is, and remains, a part of the customs territory of the United Kingdom. There should be unfettered access between all parts of the United Kingdom, and that is what we are going to ensure.

James Sunderland Portrait James  Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con) - Hansard

  What message might the Prime Minister have for the people of Hong Kong following the passage this week of China’s new national security law? [904111]

The Prime Minister - Hansard

We stand for rules and obligations, and think that they are the soundest basis for our international relations. The enactment and imposition of this national security law constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British joint declaration. It violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and is in direct conflict with Hong Kong Basic Law. The national security law also threatens the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration. We made it clear that if China continued down this path, we would introduce a new route for those with British national overseas status to enter the UK, granting them limited leave to remain with the ability to live and work in the UK, and thereafter to apply for citizenship; and that is precisely what we will do now.

Claire Hanna Portrait Claire Hanna (Belfast South) (SDLP) [V] - Hansard

This morning and last week the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee heard from victims and survivors about the Government’s troubles legacy proposals. Whether they were injured or bereaved by the IRA, loyalist paramilitaries or security forces, those victims have rejected the proposals, which they say close the door on truth and justice. The proposals depart from those agreed by all parties, including the UK Government, who had embedded the principle that all are equal before the law. The written statement on 18 March said that the proposals sought to put “victims first” and to build a “broad consensus” among victims. It is clear from our evidence sessions that these proposals can do neither. Will the Prime Minister please resile from the March statement and return to the principles embedded in the Stormont House agreement, and, indeed, in January’s Stormont deal? [904106]

The Prime Minister - Hansard

The victims have waited too long for these payments, and the way to unblock the progress is through the designation of a department to provide support for the victims’ payments board. The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer), has indicated that she is prepared to take on that role, so the Executive must now move formally to designate and to prevent any further delay for victims.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD) - Hansard

There are 3 million people in this country who get no support at the moment because they are self-employed or on contract. Our black, Asian and ethnic minority communities have an unemployment rate that is twice the national average and women are disproportionately affected by covid-19. The Prime Minister said a few minutes ago that he stands ready to help. Will he look at a universal basic income so that these people can get the help that they need now? [904107]

The Prime Minister - Hansard

The hon. Lady raises a very important point about the self-employed. As she knows, we have provided very considerable support as part of the overall package of £120 billion—I think we have given £22 billion altogether through the furlough scheme for employed and self-employed people. Her further suggestion for a universal basic income is one that we have looked at. The best way forward for our country is to get the disease under control in the way that we are doing; get our people back into work; build, build, build; and take this country forward.

Shaun Bailey Portrait Shaun Bailey (West Bromwich West) (Con) - Hansard

It was great to have my right hon. Friend in the Black Country announcing his new vision yesterday. Perhaps next time he is in the Black Country, he will come five minutes down the road to Tipton, where we can sort him out a pint in the pie factory. I was recently contacted by two students in my constituency, Elliot Wilkes from Sandwell Academy and Will Gill from Q3 Academy Tipton. They want reassurance from the Prime Minister that his announcement yesterday means that, after years of neglect and being overlooked, our communities in Wednesbury, Oldbury and Tipton will finally get the recognition that we deserve. [904117]

The Prime Minister - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, midnight

I am trying to stick off the pies at the moment, but my hon. Friend can tell his communities in Tipton that we are investing massively not just in education, with, as I say, £14 billion more into our schools, but in infrastructure that will reach every corner of the country, particularly the west midlands. I am delighted that West Bromwich will receive at least £500,000 from the Stronger Towns Fund this year to support its high street and local community.

James Daly Portrait James Daly (Bury North) (Con) - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 12:03 a.m.

The Met arts centre in my constituency is rightly proud of the work that it has done during lockdown, responding to the needs of young people and disability theatre groups in Bury, but its income has been decimated due to the fact that it is unable to stage events. Will the Prime Minister continue to do everything possible to support the cultural and creative sectors in Bury, Ramsbottom, Tottington and elsewhere to ensure that important community assets such as The Met have a bright future?

The Prime Minister - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 12:03 a.m.

Absolutely; I thank my hon. Friend for making those representations. We will do everything we can to get all those sectors going as fast as we can and get life back as close to normal as possible for as many people as possible in this country. But the way to do that, at the risk of repeating myself, is to continue to defeat the virus and take the country forward.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab) - Hansard

Enfield, Southgate is home to Chickenshed Theatre, an inclusive youth theatre company that has been open for more than 40 years but is now struggling financially. Despite the arts sector’s contributing more than £5.2 billion each year to our economy, the Government have failed to assist it as it hurtles towards the brink of collapse due to the coronavirus pandemic. Will the Prime Minister heed the calls from the Musicians Union, the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union and Equity, and provide the financial support to ensure the survival of the arts sector? [904108]

The Prime Minister - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, midnight

This is becoming quite a theme this morning, and quite rightly too. I am a fan of Chickenshed Theatre and I know its work. We will do everything we can to assist; the economic case for doing so is overwhelming. I would just say to people, “Keep supporting your workers with the furloughing scheme. It is much better now to wait for times to get better rather than laying people off.” That is my message.

Dr Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Neil Hudson (Penrith and The Border) (Con) [V] - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 12:03 a.m.

Newton Rigg College is a land-based further education college in Penrith that has been listed for possible closure next year by its host institution. Will my right hon. Friend ask Government Departments to work with me and local stakeholders to secure a sustainable future for this vital institution, and, if we are successful, may I invite the Prime Minister to come to Penrith to see this fantastic college and the opportunities it provides to upskill, strengthen rural economies and support this Government’s levelling-up agenda?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I know that this will be a difficult time for the community and all those who care about this Penrith college. May I propose that he and I have a proper conversation about what we can do to help, with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education, and see whether we can find an appropriate solution? I thank him very much for the work that he is doing.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

The Prime Minister does not want to talk about the numbers of job losses, so let me give him some: British Airways, 12,000 jobs potentially to go, including in the Vale of Glamorgan, in Llantrisant and in Blackwood; GE, 1,400 jobs potentially to go at Nantgarw; Rolls-Royce, nearly 6,000 to go in Derby, Solihull, Glasgow, Rotherham; and, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, Airbus, with 1,700 jobs potentially to go in north Wales and in the south-west, affecting my own constituents. Workers at those plants do not want to hear slogans. They do not want to hear bluff and bluster. They want to know from the Prime Minister what he is going to do to save those jobs in the long term. They have had the furlough scheme; what is he going to do to protect them going forward? [904109]

The Prime Minister - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I do not wish to accuse the hon. Gentleman of failing to listen to what I have been saying over the past few days, but in addition to the £120 billion of support that we have put into the economy, we have to recognise that people now are, as he says, worried about their jobs. That is why we have a plan to build, build, build with a £600 billion programme of investment and to deliver jobs, jobs, jobs. For sectors across the country where we need to keep young people in particular in employment we have offered, as he knows, an opportunity guarantee so that they will have either an apprenticeship, an in-work placement or the opportunity for training.

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con) - Hansard

The pubs are reopening, but we still will not be able to go to the Marsden jazz festival, the Slaithwaite Philharmonic, the Holmfirth Picturedrome, the Lawrence Batley theatre or even a Honley male voice choir concert. Will the Prime Minister, in an effort to support the thousands of musicians, actors and dancers across the country who are struggling, look at replenishing the Arts Council funds that have been redirected to the emergency covid response so that we can have vibrant creative industries coming out of this crisis?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

The House is speaking with pretty much one voice this afternoon. I totally share people’s sense of urgency about wanting to get our wonderful creative culture and theatrical sector open as fast as we can, but the House will also remember that what we are trying to do now involves striking a balance. It is very important, as we open up the economy, that we do not go too far and risk a second spike and further outbreaks. People can see what is happening in Leicester, for instance. We need to be very careful that we do this in a prudent way. As we open the theatres, which we will, we want to make sure that we can do it in a covid-compliant and covid-secure way, and I am sure that is what the House would want.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP) - Hansard

It was excellent to see the Prime Minister participating in the Christians in Parliament event yesterday. I thank him for the kind remarks he made about our answered prayer for his own health, and I wish him continued good health.The Prime Minister said yesterday in a major speech that he wants the economy to “build, build, build”, and he announced that there will be 4,000 zero-emissions buses for the United Kingdom. Will he ensure that those 4,000 new zero-emissions buses, or hydrogen buses, will produce jobs and deliver a new green economy for the whole of the United Kingdom, and will he invest, invest, invest in hydrogen? [904112]

The Prime Minister - Hansard

We will certainly invest massively in hydrogen. I cannot make any particular undertakings now about where those contracts will go, but as the hon. Gentleman knows well, I am a big fan of buses made in Ballymena.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con) - Hansard

Following the publication on 8 June of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government report on the risks of fraud and corruption in local government procurement, does the Prime Minister agree that procurement fraud betrays the taxpayer? It erodes public trust in our democratic systems, and we should take firm action against those who waste our public money.

The Prime Minister - Hansard

I certainly do. Fraud is corrosive of public trust and wasteful of public money. It is vital that all councils learn the lessons of that report, and I thank my hon. Friend for drawing it to the attention the House.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab) - Hansard

At year 6, children on free school meals are nine months behind their better-off classmates. By GCSE year, that has extended to 18 months. Some 700,000 children have had no access to the internet for schoolwork during the lockdown. If the Prime Minister is sincere about wanting to level up and make this country good for everyone, will he give Government time to pass a cross-party Bill giving internet access and devices to all children on free school meals? [904113]

The Prime Minister - Hansard

I passionately support the objective of making sure that there is IT fairness and that all kids have access to the technology that they need. We have rolled out huge numbers of laptops across the country to pupils on free school meals. But the most important thing that I think should happen now is that all pupils in year 6 should now be back in school, and it is still very disappointing that we have not had an unequivocal declaration of support for the safety of schools from the Labour party.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con) - Hansard

Enterprise zone status at Silverstone Park and Westcott in my constituency has been critical in bringing high-tech innovators to Buckinghamshire across 5G, rocketry, automotive and motorsport. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating those wealth creators, innovators and entrepreneurs, and commit to extending their enterprise zone status and business rates relief period from 2021 to 2024 to ensure that they continue to be an engine of economic growth?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

I will certainly look at the proposal that my hon. Friend makes, and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will want to study it, but I also congratulate everybody involved with the Aylesbury Vale enterprise zone on the cutting-edge technology that exemplifies the very best of this country and shows the way to our future.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen  Timms  (East Ham) (Lab) - Hansard

  The Government were right to raise universal credit by £20 a week at the start of the crisis, but other benefits, such as employment and support allowance, claimed by other people in identical circumstances, were not raised. The all-party Select Committee on Work and Pensions recommended unanimously last week that those legacy benefits should be brought back in line with universal credit and raised. That has since been endorsed by the former Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb). Will the Prime Minister endorse it too? [904114]

The Prime Minister - Hansard

We have done a huge amount. The right hon. Gentleman is a tireless campaigner on this matter, but the House will accept that we have done a huge amount to increase support for people on benefits. I remind him of the increase in universal credit and working tax credit of up to £1,040 a year, which is benefiting 4 million families across the country.

Mr William Wragg Portrait Mr William Wragg (Hazel Grove) (Con) - Hansard

Given the state of us, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I will be among the first in the socially distant queues as barbers and hairdressers reopen this weekend. Neither of us is likely to be queuing for an appointment at a beauty salon, however, as much needed as it may be, and sadly, neither will anybody else, because many of those much-loved businesses remain closed. Will the Prime Minister review that decision, so that the likes of Lush Beauty in Romiley in my constituency can reopen safely as soon as possible?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

I am sure that one day I will go with my hon. Friend to Lush Beauty, but it is a sad reality for many of those excellent businesses that they cannot yet open in the way they want. I certainly share his sense of urgency, which I know people feel across the country. People feel a sense of unfairness when they look at hairdressers opening, but I repeat to the House the need to strike the balance that we have described—I believe that is understood by the Labour party—and the need to open up in a way that is covid-secure. As soon as we are sure that nail bars and beauty salons can open in a way that is covid-secure, we will do that.

Allan Dorans Portrait Allan Dorans (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (SNP) - Hansard

On 17 April 1984, I was a serving police officer in the Metropolitan police, when WPC Yvonne Fletcher was shot and killed while on duty policing a demonstration outside the Libyan embassy in London. No one has ever been charged in connection with her death. In the light of reports at the weekend about a civil case being brought by her former colleague, PC John Murray, against one of the main suspects, will the Prime Minister pledge to reopen the criminal inquiry into the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher? [904115]

The Prime Minister - Hansard

I thank the hon. Gentleman very much for his service in the police, and for raising an important subject that I have followed for many years. The murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher was sickening and cowardly. The best thing I can say to the hon. Gentleman today is that I would welcome the opportunity to talk to him in person about the issue he has raised, and see what we can do to take the matter forward.

Scott Mann Portrait Scott Mann (North Cornwall) (Con) - Hansard

I thank the Prime Minister for confirming that the virus has receded far enough to open tourism in Cornwall next week. Will he join me in politely asking visitors to Cornwall to follow the example set by local people over the past three months, and strictly to respect distancing guidance? We want people to come and have a fantastic holiday in Cornwall, but we want to them to be sensible when they are visiting.

The Prime Minister - Hansard

My hon. Friend brilliantly sums up the approach that we want to take. We want our seaside communities and fantastic national tourist areas to feel confident about welcoming visitors this summer. We want loads of staycations—I think we will get loads of fantastic staycations—but we want people to observe the rules and keep defeating the virus.

John Spellar Portrait John  Spellar  (Warley) (Lab) - Hansard

  The way the disclosure and barring scheme is operating is damaging and discriminatory. When I raised the matter with the Prime Minister last week, I got the usual Home Office guff that the Government were “considering the Supreme Court judgment.” That judgment was in January 2019— 18 months ago. The Lammy report highlighted the problem in 2017. Can we have no more dithering? Will the Prime Minister sort out that scandal now? [904116]

The Prime Minister - Hansard

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on returning so fast to the fray on that issue. He is absolutely right, and the best thing I can do is write to him immediately, setting out what we propose to do. There are issues with the DBS scheme, and every MP will have received representations from people who feel that they have been unfairly treated by it. The scheme needs looking at, and we shall do so urgently.

Mr Mark Harper Portrait Mr Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con) - Hansard

The Education Secretary has confirmed that he will set out this week a comprehensive plan to get every child back to school in September. I know that the Prime Minister strongly supports that, as do I. The Prime Minister is a great fan of buses. Can he confirm that that plan will also include the significant number of children who depend on buses to get to school, so that they can go back to school in September as well?

The Prime Minister - Hansard
1 Jul 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I can certainly confirm that, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education has been working with the Department for Transport on that very matter.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for three minutes.

Sitting suspended.