There have been 34 exchanges between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn
|1||Mon 11th May 2020||
|3 interactions (345 words)|
|2||Wed 25th March 2020||
|30 interactions (3,686 words)|
|3||Wed 18th March 2020||
Oral Answers to Questions
Northern Ireland Office
|13 interactions (2,067 words)|
|4||Wed 11th March 2020||
|13 interactions (1,413 words)|
|5||Wed 4th March 2020||
Oral Answers to Questions
|13 interactions (1,592 words)|
|6||Wed 26th February 2020||
|13 interactions (1,458 words)|
|7||Wed 12th February 2020||
Oral Answers to Questions
|13 interactions (962 words)|
|8||Tue 11th February 2020||
|2 interactions (2,401 words)|
|9||Wed 5th February 2020||
|13 interactions (1,512 words)|
|10||Wed 29th January 2020||
|13 interactions (1,659 words)|
|11||Wed 22nd January 2020||
Oral Answers to Questions
|13 interactions (1,437 words)|
|12||Wed 15th January 2020||
Oral Answers to Questions
|13 interactions (1,408 words)|
|13||Wed 8th January 2020||
|13 interactions (1,456 words)|
|14||Fri 20th December 2019||
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
|2 interactions (362 words)|
|15||Tue 17th December 2019||
Election of Speaker
|2 interactions (1,414 words)|
|16||Wed 30th October 2019||
|17 interactions (2,600 words)|
|17||Wed 30th October 2019||
Grenfell Tower Inquiry
|2 interactions (735 words)|
|18||Tue 29th October 2019||
Early Parliamentary General Election Bill
|2 interactions (1,247 words)|
|19||Mon 28th October 2019||
Early Parliamentary General Election
|9 interactions (1,407 words)|
|20||Wed 23rd October 2019||
Oral Answers to Questions
|14 interactions (2,005 words)|
|21||Tue 22nd October 2019||
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
|5 interactions (830 words)|
|22||Sat 19th October 2019||
Prime Minister’s Statement
|5 interactions (2,218 words)|
|23||Sat 19th October 2019||
European Union (Withdrawal) Acts
Department for Exiting the European Union
|2 interactions (392 words)|
|24||Mon 14th October 2019||
Debate on the Address
|2 interactions (1,340 words)|
|25||Thu 3rd October 2019||
|3 interactions (2,466 words)|
|26||Wed 25th September 2019||
Prime Minister's Update
|9 interactions (1,023 words)|
|27||Mon 9th September 2019||
Early Parliamentary General Election (No. 2)
|11 interactions (1,426 words)|
|28||Wed 4th September 2019||
Early Parliamentary General Election
|2 interactions (984 words)|
|29||Wed 4th September 2019||
|19 interactions (1,885 words)|
|30||Tue 3rd September 2019||
|2 interactions (1,602 words)|
|31||Tue 3rd September 2019||
Points of Order
|2 interactions (456 words)|
|32||Thu 25th July 2019||
Priorities for Government
|5 interactions (2,457 words)|
|33||Tue 29th January 2019||
European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018
|2 interactions (89 words)|
|34||Tue 4th December 2018||
European Union (Withdrawal) Act
|2 interactions (266 words)|
(3 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
Does the Prime Minister recognise that the covid crisis has exposed grotesque levels of inequality in our society? His statement yesterday has given carte blanche to many employers to try to force people to come back to work, without proper consideration of their health and safety and the dangers they will suffer in travelling to work. Does he recognise that, while the death rate is so high and the reinfection rate continues, his statement will probably make the situation worse, not better? Will he reconsider carefully and not lift the restrictions and the lockdown until it is absolutely clear that we have the corona crisis under control? It is affecting the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society the worst, and I believe his statement will make the inequalities in this country even worse at the centre of this crisis.
(2 months, 1 week ago)Commons Chamber
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for making the best arrangements possible today to ensure not only that as many Members as possible can ask questions, but that the Government are held to account, which is the function of Parliament.
Many more people will be mourning the loss of loved ones as a result of coronavirus this week. Our hearts go out to all of them and to those suffering from the disease at the present time. Across our country people are working day and night to keep us safe, fed and warm: our wonderful NHS staff; police; firefighters; prison and probation workers; teachers; civil servants; local government staff; and social care workers. All of them are showing the value of public service. They are the unsung heroes, keeping the transport system running, the post delivered, utilities running and our supermarkets properly stocked. I wish to give a special mention to one group who are usually ignored, forgotten and decried as “unskilled workers”—cleaners. All around the country, and in this building, they are doing their best to keep our places hygienic and safe.
Over the past few weeks, I have asked the Prime Minister many times what action is being taken to ensure that testing is being prioritised, and I have received assurances that everything that could be done was being done. Yet a leaked email shows that it was just three days ago that the Prime Minister wrote to UK research institutes to ask for help, saying that there were “no” testing machines “available to buy”. Why was that not done weeks ago, if not months ago, when the Government were first warned about the threat of a global pandemic? What action is now being taken to get testing machines?
I thank the Prime Minister for his very kind remarks. I believe in a decent, socially just society. He was talking as though this was a sort of obituary—just to let him know: my voice will not be stilled, I will be around, I will be campaigning, I will be arguing and I will be demanding justice for the people of this country and, indeed, the rest of the world.
We can protect the health of us all only if we protect the health of our carers, yet the Sue Ryder charity, which provides care to people with neurological conditions, has said that its workforce is depleting daily as it has no access to tests. When will all social care staff have access to regular testing? They are very important and obviously very vulnerable in this crisis.
Obviously, if carers have to self-isolate because they suspect they have the disease and cannot get a test, their work is lost for a week and those who need care and support do not get it during that time.
There are reports that care-home workers are being turned away from supermarkets in relation to priority shopping and not being allowed to buy more than certain items that they desperately need to feed their residents. What is the Prime Minister’s plan for making sure that care workers can get the vital food and supplies that they need for the people they are caring for?
I hope the Prime Minister will, because care workers are on the frontline looking after the most vulnerable people in our society. Keeping our care homes safe and well should be, and must be, an absolute priority.
The Prime Minister has been saying for quite a long time that NHS staff will get the equipment they need, yet the Health Care Supply Association—get that: the Health Care Supply Association—has been forced to use Twitter to ask DIY shops to donate protective equipment to NHS staff. This is an appalling situation. When will NHS staff, social care staff and community nurses, and all other staff relating to healthcare, get the PPE equipment that they absolutely, desperately need?
It is important that they get that equipment because, yesterday, 77% of NHS chiefs who responded to a survey said that the lack of staff testing and staff shortages were the two biggest areas of concern for them.
Last week, the Prime Minister stood in this Chamber at the Dispatch Box and said that he would
“protect private renters from eviction.”—[Official Report, 18 March 2020; Vol. 673, c. 995.]
He absolutely said that, yet some renters will be getting eviction notices as early as next week. The Prime Minister appears to have gone back on his word. Will he now, finally, absolutely ban evictions for six months in line with the renewal period of the emergency legislation, which is going through its parliamentary process at the moment?
Unfortunately, that is not the reality on the ground, as many of my colleagues will point out. Constituents are getting in touch with us, saying that they are being threatened with eviction now. They are in rent arrears because they cannot work during this shutdown over coronavirus. To be absolutely clear about this, will the Prime Minister make sure that it is legislated that nobody can be evicted from the private rented sector during the first six-month period of this emergency?
I will continue my questions shortly in the second part of this session, but I just want to ask this question of the Prime Minister. Many British people abroad feel a bit abandoned by their Government, with many fast running out of medicines, with the host countries in lockdown, with flights and accommodation being cancelled, and with insurance either about to expire or not covering the much-needed costs until they are able to return home. These British citizens have a right to turn to their own Government for help. Hour-long delays on phone calls are not acceptable. These people feel abandoned. Will the Prime Minister update the House, as the Foreign Secretary was asked to do yesterday, on what his Government are doing to bring people home and to provide the emergency costs for the medical needs that many British residents abroad have at the present time?
Break in Debate
I thank you again, Mr Speaker, for making these arrangements today, so that more colleagues can come into the Chamber. It is a little odd, however, that we are having to have a double session of Prime Minister’s Question Time to question the Prime Minister, when he himself should have volunteered to come here and make a statement at some length on the subject, rather than just doing it through press conferences and television addresses. This House is the place where the Government should be held to account.
Construction sites are still operating and still working on non-emergency work, despite the new rules. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said yesterday that sites will continue to stay open. We heard this morning on the radio a call from a self-employed construction worker who said that he had contracted coronavirus and was suffering from it—he knew he had got it—but he had no option other than to get on the London tube and go on to a site to work, putting himself at greater risk and putting all other passengers and all other workers on that site at risk. Why was he doing it? Because his site had not been closed down, and he had no other source of income to feed his family, so he is going to work, putting all of us more at risk as a result. Can the Prime Minister be absolutely clear and give unequivocal guidance now that non-emergency construction work should stop now?
Obviously people should stay at home and protect others, but if they have no other source of income, then these very difficult, very personal choices are going to be made, and we are all put at greater risk as a result of it. The self-employed are having to choose whether they go to work or stay at home and face losing their entire livelihood, relying instead on an overstretched welfare system, which could pay as little as £94 per week. One self-employed person said that they need to pay for baby food, rent, council tax and insurance for the car they use for work, being “faced with a decision to feed your family and pay your bills, or stay at home and not get paid”. Why has it taken the Prime Minister so long to guarantee income for all self-employed workers? There are millions of them—our economy has changed.
I am asking questions about the self-employed, those on zero-hours contracts and those with no recourse to public funds, who have no support. They are in a very difficult situation, and the Prime Minister should understand that many of our constituents —constituents of every Member of this House—lead a hand-to-mouth existence. A few days’ pay lost is catastrophic for them.
Time and again, Government Ministers have told us that workers affected by the crisis could get help via universal credit. Last night, there were queues of over 110,000 people trying to get on to the Department for Work and Pensions system in order to register to apply for universal credit. Will the Prime Minister now put in extra resources and funding to boost DWP capacity and relax the often quite draconian requirements on people claiming, so that money gets where it is needed quickly—to those people who have got to feed the kids, got to pay the rent, got to survive somehow.
We are not asking for the entire UK economy to be closed down. We obviously want people to be safe, but clearly things have to go on. My question was about the DWP resources, which the Prime Minister did not answer. [Interruption.] Well, it was not an answer that was satisfactory to me. [Interruption.] One of his colleagues is claiming it was a yes. I will take that, so that means more staff now for the DWP quickly so we do not have 110,000 people waiting.
Hang on, I have not finished yet. My question, while he is about it—and this will give him time to think of the answer—
This is not a time for levity.
The statutory sick pay level is £94.25 a week, which the Health Secretary admitted he could not live on, and despite the Prime Minister promising he would ensure workers get the support they need, we still have not seen action on that. Unless we increase statutory sick pay and give protection and access to benefits for those on zero-hours contracts, the dangers we are all aware of—of people going into work or trying to work when they should not—are going to continue. We do need very urgent action on this.
I do not want to appear totally negative, but it would be better if the whole place had been better staffed in the first place. But I will take it from what the Prime Minister said that there is going to be an increase in DWP staff in order that people can access universal credit more quickly.
It is right that Parliament be virtually closed today, and that the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers continue to deliver daily public information sessions. That is absolutely correct. However, I understand that it may be some time before the House meets again. There has to be scrutiny of what Governments do. That is what Parliament is for and what Oppositions exist for. I would therefore be grateful if the Prime Minister could indicate how, over the weeks until Parliament opens again, he will make himself open to some form of scrutiny—electronic or whatever it happens to be—so that Parliament can hold Government to account, given the levels of stress and concern of all the constituents we represent.
All I can say to the Prime Minister is: please make sure you make yourself available for scrutiny by this House and everybody else, because we represent people who are desperately worried about their health and economic wellbeing. If you are living in a small flat and you are told to isolate, when you have a large family with a large number of children, the levels of stress are going to be huge. The levels of stress throughout our society are huge. It is up to all of us to do what we can to reduce those levels of stress and bring this whole situation to a conclusion as quickly as we can. We need clarity, not confusion; we need delivery, not dither.
This crisis shows us how deeply we depend on each other. We will come through this as a society only through a huge collective effort. At a time of crisis, no one is an island, no one is self-made. The wellbeing of the wealthiest corporate chief executive officer depends on the outsourced worker cleaning their office. At times like this, we have to recognise the value of each other and the strength of a society that cares for each other and cares for all.
(2 months, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
Thank you for your statement, Mr Speaker. I thank MPs for the very responsible approach they have taken to today’s Question Time by sitting a suitable distance apart to avoid cross-fertilisation of this horrible disease.
I also want to join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Lance Corporal Brodie Gillon, who was killed in Iraq last week. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.
Today people are mourning the loss of loved ones, and many more will be suffering from the effects of coronavirus, including those already losing work or losing their jobs who are worried about whether they can keep a roof over their head. Our greatest thanks must go to the frontline medical and public health staff who are fighting to combat the spread of the disease, to the public servants, particularly postal workers, who have made such sacrifices today, and to the cleaners who are providing vital support. We must also thank those working round the clock to make sure our shops and warehouses are stocked with the essential food supplies that everybody needs.
We on these Benches will do our duty to hold the Government to account. Together, we need to ensure that the most effective action is taken to protect people, and it is in that spirit that I ask questions of the Prime Minister today.
Every member of the public will make sacrifices in the effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, but those on low pay, self-employed workers and small business owners are understandably worried. Sue wrote to me this week. Her family is in isolation, and she says the current £94.25 a week statutory sick pay is
“not enough to pay for their food shopping.”
Can the Prime Minister do what the Chancellor repeatedly refused to do yesterday and pledge to increase statutory sick pay to European levels?
UK sick pay levels lag far behind those of European counterparts. The Scandinavian countries are giving many people 100% of wages during this crisis, and I hope that when the Prime Minister brings forward proposals on this they will reflect the reality of people’s lives—you cannot feed a family on 90-odd quid a week. Those people are therefore putting everybody at risk because they have to go out to work in order to put food on the table. In order to claim statutory sick pay, workers need to prove that they earn a minimum of £118 per week, so I hope that when the Prime Minister brings forward proposals he will give confidence to the millions of people who work in low-income jobs, are in insecure work or are self-employed, and will commit to extending very much enhanced statutory sick pay to all workers.
What it takes is a recognition of the social injustice and inequalities that exist in this country, and I hope that when the Prime Minister makes the proposals on statutory sick pay levels that will be recognised. A quarter of the people who are most crucial to support us in the crisis, social care staff, and almost half of home care workers are on zero-hours contracts, so they are therefore automatically not entitled to sick pay. By not extending statutory sick pay to all workers, the Government are forcing social care staff—the people who could, unwittingly, be transmitting the disease among the most vulnerable in our community—to choose between health and their own hardship.
Yesterday the Chancellor, unfortunately, offered nothing to the 20 million people living in rented homes, including 3 million households with children. These people are worried sick that they will not be able to pay their rent if they get ill, lose pay or feel that they need to self-isolate. It is in the interests of public health, of the health of all of us, that people do not feel forced to go to work in order to avoid eviction when they know that they may be spreading this terrible disease, so will the Prime Minister now confirm that the Government’s emergency legislation will protect private renters from eviction?
We look forward to seeing the details of that, because we all represent private sector tenants in our constituencies and we know the stress that they are going through now. They need something to be said urgently about this issue, so I hope that the Government will say something as soon as possible. Today would be appropriate.
NHS staff and those who work in the care sector are on the frontline of caring for patients suffering from coronavirus. Sadly, however, those workers have no idea whether they are transmitting the virus themselves—they may not be obviously suffering from it, but they could still be transmitting it—whether they are ill or not, and what effect it will have when they return to work on the frontline. Will the Prime Minister please explain why the Government are not prioritising the testing of all healthcare staff—those in the NHS and those doing such a vital job in the care sector?
The World Health Organisation said “test, test, test.” We should be testing on an industrial scale. When I met the Prime Minister on Monday evening, he assured me that 10,000 tests were going on per day. That is better than none, obviously, but it is nowhere near even the number of people working in the NHS and the care sector. It is a massive undertaking and I wish there was a greater sense of urgency from the Government in getting testing available for all staff.
NHS staff are obviously on the frontline, and many are scared because the guidance has been changed to say that they do not need to wear full protective equipment when caring for patients. A senior doctor has said:
“The rest of the world is providing staff with full protective gear and we are restricting it”.
This is a doctor saying, “I am scared.” We should not be scaring doctors and nurses. Is there or is there not a policy for them to have full protective equipment? I believe that that should be the case.
Generations to come will look back on this moment and they will judge us—they will judge us on the actions we take now. Our response must be bold and it must be decisive. The market cannot deliver what is needed; only collective public action, led by Government, can protect our people and our society. That collective action must not allow the burden to fall most on those who lack the resources to cope, as happened after the financial crash. People across the country do understand the need for temporary restrictions on our way of life to protect us all, and we will work with the Government, but the Prime Minister must understand that that will require balancing action to protect the most insecure and vulnerable, in the interests of public health as well as of social justice. The health of us all depends on the health of the most vulnerable, so I ask the Prime Minister: will he step up now—not tomorrow—and give support to those vulnerable people who live on the margins of our society, who are vulnerable themselves and make us all vulnerable, and give them the support and the assurance that they are desperately searching for today?
(2 months, 3 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
Our thoughts are with the loved ones of those who have sadly died after contracting the coronavirus, and those who are still suffering from the disease, including the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Ms Dorries). I want once again to pay tribute to our medical staff, who are working so hard to combat the spread of this disease and care for those affected. I think we should all express our gratitude to the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser, who have shown exceptional leadership throughout, and we will continue to follow their advice.
Sunday was International Women’s Day—a day when we celebrate the achievements of women around the world, recognise the advances made in working towards a goal of gender equality and, most importantly, reflect on how far we have to go to achieve that. A quarter of social care workers, who are overwhelmingly women, are on zero-hours contracts. It is essential that care workers self-isolate if they experience symptoms of coronavirus, but many may feel they have no choice but to continue working. Will the Prime Minister finally bring in emergency legislation to guarantee sick pay for zero-hours workers to help contain the spread of the virus?
I hope that legislation comes rapidly, and that it does guarantee that people do not have to make a choice between spreading the virus because they have to go to work, and staying at home and self-isolating, as obviously they should do if they have the symptoms.
Can the Prime Minister explain why, according to a report by the Institute of Health Equity, life expectancy has gone down for the poorest women in our society?
I don’t think the Prime Minister answered my question. It is no surprise that life expectancy has gone down, when 86% of the cuts made by successive Tory Governments have landed disproportionately on the shoulders of women. We are one of the richest countries in the world, and it is mind-boggling that life expectancy should be falling in this country. [Hon. Members: “It’s not!] For the poorest people in our society, life expectancy is falling, and the Government should have an answer to that.
The Prime Minister supports the absolutely horrendous rape clause in the child tax credit rules. Why does he think it right that 200 mothers have to prove to the Government that their child was conceived as a result of being raped, so that they can keep their child tax credits?
Well, I would hope that means that the Prime Minister is going to introduce regulations to end the two-child policy in the benefits strategy, because that is exactly what happens—women who are victims of rape have to prove they have been raped in order to get benefits for their child.
Fifty years ago, the Labour Minister Barbara Castle introduced the Equal Pay Act, yet women are still paid 17% less than men. Under this Government, it is estimated that the gender pay gap will take another 60 years to close. Why has the Prime Minister not followed Labour’s lead and set a target for closing that gap by 2030?
There is a still a 17% gap. It is too big, too wide, and should be closed, and the Government should do something about it.
Every fortnight, three women are killed by their partner or ex-partner, and domestic violence is likely only to increase if large numbers of people have to self-isolate. Ten years of austerity has denied councils the funding they need to support victims of domestic abuse. Will the Prime Minister commit to the extra £173 million that is needed every year to ensure that survivors get the support they so desperately need?
Without funding, the Domestic Abuse Bill will simply be a piece of paper. There has to be funding to ensure that those who are victims of domestic violence get the support they need in the centres they need, which are underfunded by this Government.
The Prime Minister has made repeated offensive remarks against single mothers and their children. [Interruption.] Yes; he described them as
“ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate.”
He made remarks against Muslim women, saying that they look like “bank robbers”, and against working women, by suggesting that the best way of dealing with advice from a female colleague is to “just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way.” Words have consequences, and the Prime Minister’s offensive words are backed up with offensive and discriminatory policies, from the rape clause to dismantling local services on which women— particularly black, Asian and minority ethnic women, or disabled women—disproportionately rely. Will the Prime Minister apologise for his offensive comments, and ensure that those discriminatory policies are reversed by his Government?
(2 months, 4 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
I am sure the whole House will join me in congratulating the Prime Minister and his partner on the news that they are expecting a baby. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
I join the Prime Minister in wishing the people Salisbury well. It is a wonderful city and I have visited it many times, and what happened to them was of course utterly appalling. Their safety and security is paramount for all of us.
I pay tribute to all the medical staff and, indeed, expert public servants, here and overseas, who are doing vital work to combat the spread of coronavirus and are looking after those affected.
Yesterday, our part-time Prime Minister finally published the steps that his Government will take to tackle the outbreak of the disease. The strategy broadly has our support, but a decade of Tory austerity means that our national health service is already struggling to cope. Bed-occupancy levels are at 94% and hundreds of our most vulnerable people are being treated on trolleys in corridors. What additional funding will our overstretched and underfunded NHS be given to deal with this crisis?
I thank the Prime Minister for that, but I want to ask him a couple more questions on this subject. Is it true, as has been reported, that police forces are likely to become so overstretched by coronavirus that 999 response times will have to be extended and that even investigations into some murders will have to be halted as a result of this?
Under this Government, there are 2 million workers on low pay, many of them women in the care sector who are not eligible for statutory sick pay at the present time. It is not clear whether the Prime Minister’s statement just now covers them or not, and those on social security could face sanctions if they miss appointments and, therefore, they and their families will face terrible hardship. When the Prime Minister brings forward the emergency legislation, will he guarantee that workers’ rights to sick pay from day one—he has just indicated that that will apply on statutory sick pay—will apply to all claimants? Those people who are not currently eligible for statutory sick pay will have to make a terrible choice between health and hardship.
The Prime Minister is not being clear about this. The reality is that, if a person is on universal credit or has just been put on to it, they have a five-week wait before they get any benefits. Will he be absolutely clear that nobody—nobody—will have to choose between health and hardship, because it is a matter of public health concern for everybody?
Our part-time Prime Minister failed to turn up on Monday to answer a question about a breach of the ministerial code. In his own foreword to that code, the Prime Minister wrote:
“There must be no bullying and no harassment”.
Will he now commit to an independent investigation into the Home Secretary’s conduct, led by an external lawyer, and commit to a date when its findings will be made public?
This is about whether the Prime Minister will release the findings of an investigation into the Home Secretary’s behaviour. I repeat to him that a Government cannot be judge and jury over their own conduct; there has to be an independent element to that investigation. Overnight, further allegations have emerged that the Home Secretary repeatedly harassed and humiliated her private secretary while she ran the Department for International Development. If that is true, it suggests a shocking and unacceptable pattern of behaviour across three Government Departments. On each occasion, tens of thousands of pounds of hard-earned taxpayers’ money has been spaffed up the wall to buy their silence. Was the Prime Minister aware of these allegations about the Home Secretary? If he was, why did he appoint her?
The Prime Minister said, “If there are allegations”. Is he completely unaware of all the allegations that have been made over the last few days? Is he completely unaware of the resignation of a permanent secretary because of his treatment by the Home Secretary? We have a part-time Prime Minister who barely turns up but is determined a cover up for bullies in his Government. There cannot be one rule for workers across this country, and another for him and his Ministers. His Home Secretary has been accused of repeated bullying and harassment, leading to hard-working staff attempting suicide by overdose, and he has given her his full support. How can the people of this country have faith in a Prime Minister who cannot be bothered to turn up and, when he does, has no shame in defending bullying in his own Government?
(3 months ago)Commons Chamber
My thoughts are with those across the world who are suffering from the coronavirus. I praise medical and emergency staff all over the world for what they are doing to try to stop the spread of the disease. I hope that public health services in Britain will get the resources they need; there is an urgent question on this topic after Prime Minister’s Question Time—[Hon. Members: “It is a statement.”]
Thousands of people across the country are still struggling with the devastating impact of the floods. I pay tribute to the work of the Environment Agency, the Scottish and Welsh Governments, council staff, the fire service, and the huge number of community volunteers who have pitched in to help their neighbours. Does the Prime Minister agree with the Conservative leader of Derbyshire County Council that he has turned his back on the people affected by the floods?
“You can’t give local authorities the clear message you are going to support them and then turn your back on them”—not my words, but the words of a Conservative council leader. When I visited Pontypridd last week, I saw at first hand the damage and destruction that the floods have caused to people’s lives, homes and businesses, but the Prime Minister was silent, sulking in his grace-and-favour mansion in Chevening. After two weeks of flooding, memes are being produced, asking not, “Where’s Wally?” but, “Where’s Boris?” When is he going to stop hiding and show people that he actually cares, or is he too busy going about some other business? If he is too busy, he could send his chief adviser, Dominic Cummings. I am sure that he would be very well received in all the flooded areas.
During the election campaign, I wrote to the Prime Minister demanding that Cobra be convened to deal with the floods at that time. He very reluctantly agreed and eventually did call a meeting of Cobra. The situation across the country is now even worse than it was then, and no Cobra meeting has been called. Is he just pretending to care when he does not really care at all, because there are no votes on the line at this moment?
The issue is very serious for people around the country whose homes are being flooded. They need help and support. They do not need trite answers like that from their Prime Minister.
Time and again, communities and lives are being put at risk and the Government simply refuse to acknowledge the scale of the problem. Does he agree with his hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), who said the Government have done “precious little” to stop the floods happening again?
If that is the case, why are the Government investing less than half the money the Environment Agency of England says is necessary to improve flood defences across the country? It says that £5.6 billion is needed. So far as I am aware, the Government are investing less than half of that.
I have visited many areas and many households, and do you know what, I have learned a lot from visiting the victims of floods—the Prime Minister should try it one day. They have told me that they cannot afford the insurance on their homes, as costs have skyrocketed. Recent studies have shown that 20,000 homes are not protected by the Government’s insurance scheme and are also not protected by flood defences. That is 20,000 homes with no insurance and in danger of being flooded imminently. Is it not time that the Prime Minister found a very urgent solution to this problem?
Just imagine what it is like to live in a home that is in danger of being flooded when you cannot get it insured and, if you own it, you cannot sell it or cannot move—you are totally stuck. They are looking for the Government to help them out at their time of crisis.
The Welsh Government have done their best to step up to the crisis, despite the underfunding from Westminster. The Prime Minister was keen to pose for cameras when there was a crisis on during the election, but he often goes AWOL: he was late to respond to the London riots because he was on holiday; he was on a private island when the Iranian general was assassinated; and last week he had his head in the sand in a mansion in Kent. The hon. Member for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker), another of his colleagues, said that it “is not good enough”. How can the country trust a Prime Minister, a part-time Prime Minister, who last night was schmoozing Tory party donors at a very expensive black-tie ball instead of getting out there and supporting the people who are suffering because of the floods? This Government need to step up to the plate, invest in defences and ensure that there is real insurance for people whose homes are being ruined by these floods as we speak.
(3 months, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
I join the Prime Minister in expressing sympathy and support to the victims of flooding and thank the Environment Agency and all the emergency services that are doing their best to help people.
Our thoughts are also with those who suffer from the coronavirus and with the Chinese community in this country, who are, I am sorry to say, facing increasingly alarming levels of racism within our country. As this virus spreads, I also thank public health workers who are helping those affected and raising awareness of the danger of the virus.
Does the Prime Minister think that someone who came to this country at the age of five, was the victim of county lines grooming and compelled to carry drugs, was released five years ago and has never reoffended deserves to be deported?
The Government have learned absolutely nothing from the Windrush scandal. This cruel and callous Government are trying to mislead the British people into thinking that they are solely deporting foreign nationals who are guilty of murder, rape and other very serious offences. This is clearly not the case. Take the example of a young black boy who came to the UK aged five and is now being deported after serving time for a drugs offence. If there was a case of a young white boy with blond hair who later dabbled in class A drugs and conspired with a friend to beat up a journalist, would the Prime Minister deport that boy; or is it one rule for young black boys from the Caribbean and another for white boys from the United States?
The Windrush generation have been disgracefully treated by a Government who deliberately created a hostile environment. While the Government were fighting to deport people who legally came to this country as children, the Foreign Secretary refused to tell the family of Harry Dunn the reason the US is blocking the extradition of the woman who is alleged to have killed him. I now ask the Prime Minister straight: is Anne Sacoolas being shielded from justice because she is a former CIA officer?
It is widely reported that Anne Sacoolas is in fact a CIA operative. Now we know that the Foreign Secretary misled the Dunn family, who are being denied justice by the US Government, will the Prime Minister commit to his removal from office tomorrow in his reshuffle?
This morning Charlotte Charles, Harry’s mum, said: “We thought we had bridged the gap with the Government. But they have not been honest with us”. This is only the latest case of our country’s one-sided extradition treaty with the USA. This lopsided treaty means the US can request extradition in circumstances that Britain cannot. While the US continues to deny justice to Harry Dunn, will the Prime Minister commit today to seeking an equal and balanced extradition relationship with the United States?
It has everything to do with the relationship with the USA that Anne Sacoolas has not been extradited back to Britain, because the US refuses to do it because of this lopsided treaty. I am glad the Prime Minister at least acknowledges that point about the treaty. This deep disparity with the US is about to be laid bare, when the courts decide whether the WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange will be extradited to the US on charges of espionage and for exposing war crimes, including the murder of civilians and large-scale corruption. Does the Prime Minister agree with the parliamentary report that is going to the Council of Europe that this extradition should be opposed and the rights of journalists and whistleblowers upheld for the good of us all?
(3 months, 3 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of his statement.
Once again, we see the Government taking ideas from the Labour party, adopting our language, but falling a very long way short on the substance of it. This is a Government who are unwilling to make the scale of investment needed to revive parts of this country that have been decimated by successive Conservative Governments. This is a Government who have proved themselves unable to manage infrastructure projects properly and incapable of keeping a lid on the costs.
Today’s piecemeal announcements do not add up to a serious plan to rebalance the economy or to tackle the serious climate emergency that we all face. They do not even come close to repairing the damage done by a decade of Tory Government—[Interruption.] Well, it is true—they know it. The Prime Minister laments our inadequate infrastructure, yet it is his party that has been starving the country of investment over the past 10 years, resulting in the worst regional inequality in Europe. Today, the Prime Minister is selling his announcement as a prize for parts of the midlands and the north. I simply tell him this: people in those regions to whom he promised so much in the general election are going to be sorely disappointed when they see what actually happens.
Let us take HS2, for example. The Labour party supports HS2 as a means to boost regional economies and to reduce climate emissions. It is essential for boosting rail capacity and freeing up other lines for increased freight use and so on, but we do not see why the Government should get a slap on the back for announcing that it is going ahead. After all, it is only because of the abject failure of successive Conservative Governments to keep on top of the costs that the project’s future was put in doubt in the first place.
Today’s proposed boardroom shake-up comes far too late to avoid the public having to fork out tens of billions more than was forecast in the first place. It is money that has already been wasted because of the incompetence of this Tory Government and their predecessors. The leaked Oakervee review, which apparently will come out later, was correct to say that HS2 must be fully integrated as part of the modern railway system. It must extend to the great northern cities, linking up with Northern Powerhouse Rail, and eventually to Scotland to end the need for domestic flying in this country at the earliest possible opportunity.
We are concerned that the links to Manchester and Leeds are now under review and could, reportedly, be even downgraded. HS2 must be developed with more sensitivity to local communities and much more sensitivity to the environmental impact, particularly on modern and ancient woodlands across the country. If it is to have public support, the fares on HS2 must be affordable and comparable with the rest of the fare system on the railway network. Will the Prime Minister tell us where the trains will be built? Will those jobs and training be done in this country? What about other parts of the country such as, for example, the far south-west? When will the Prime Minister match the £2.5 billion commitment to upgrade the Great Western main line as our only train line into the south-west? We need better connectivity beyond Bristol to Devon and Cornwall.
We believe that the case is now unanswerable that our railways should be publicly owned and publicly run, to improve the service and to cut fares by 33%. Does the Prime Minister recognise that too many people are simply priced off the railways? The average commuter is now paying £3,067 for their season ticket, £873 more than when the Conservatives came into office in 2010. Why will the Prime Minister not cut the cost of travelling? Why should people in Britain have to pay so much for expensive fares—much more expensive than those in any other comparable country?
When I first raised the question of buses at Prime Minister’s Question Time, I was ridiculed by many Tory MPs and by many in our media. From the look of the front pages of our papers today, those same quarters now regard the focus on buses as a political masterstroke. Well, I will take the credit for it. It is fine. In reality, however, what the Government have said today about buses is frankly woeful. They have cherry-picked policies from the Labour manifesto but have underfunded them. That does not make up for the deep cuts since 2010. Funding for buses has fallen by £645 million a year in real terms since 2010, 3,300 routes have been cut or withdrawn, and fares have soared at two and a half times the rate of average wages.
It is councils that keep bus routes open. We need long- term funding for local authorities, which have suffered such severe cuts and now face a further £8 billion black hole over this Parliament because of underfunding. The Government are still refusing to give all councils the powers to improve local bus services and the option of public ownership of their services.
On cycling, all the Prime Minister is actually offering is 250 miles of cycle routes. Our manifesto promised 3,300 miles of cycle routes all across the country. Again, that is just plain inadequate from this Government.
Underinvestment by the Conservatives has created problems that they are forced to acknowledge, but they simply are not serious about fixing them. Is regional inequality going to be solved by 10 freeports? Is this not just a gimmick creating the storage spaces for the super-rich to dodge taxes and launder money?
The Prime Minister is clearly fond of announcing big shiny projects, such as the scheme to build a bridge over the Irish sea. Why not go the whole hog and make it a garden bridge, connected to an airport in the sea? It stands as much chance of actually being built as any of those failed projects put forward by the former Mayor of London. Or why not make it a cable car between Scotland and Northern Ireland, or better still a giant zip wire? The Prime Minister could be the first to try it out.
The saddest thing about today’s announcement is the high likelihood that so much of it will not be delivered, with the Prime Minister demanding 5% cuts in the very Departments that are supposed to carry out these policies. I fear that the communities that desperately need investment in new infrastructure will be let down when today’s headlines become yesterday’s news and they find that nothing has changed.
(3 months, 3 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
We were all appalled by the terror attack in Streatham on Sunday, and I want to join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the bravery and dedication of the police, security services and all the other emergency response staff for the way in which they dealt with a terrifying and terrible situation.
Last Friday, this country left the European Union. Britain’s place in the world is at a crossroads, and while there are different views across the country, we will be holding the Government to account as the negotiations begin. My hope is that we will now truly come together to shape our common future and build an internationalist, diverse and outward-looking country. Indeed, we will get an opportunity to do that when Britain hosts the UN climate change conference, COP26, later this year. Despite the fact that we are at the 11th hour to save the planet, the former Tory Minister and now ex-president of COP26 Claire O’Neill said that there has been a
“huge lack of leadership and engagement”
from this Government. What on earth did she mean?
The problem is, the Government’s own figures show that they are missing the carbon budget —let alone 2050, it will be 2099 before this country meets net zero.
We discovered this morning that two former Conservative leaders have also turned down the job formerly done by Claire O’Neill. It might be third time lucky if we make a joint approach to the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith)—perhaps he would like to take on that job. He is in the Chamber, ready for it.
The Prime Minister’s own former Minister said that we should have “clear actions”, “an agreed plan” and
“a roadmap for the Year of Action”,
but we do not. Why is the Prime Minister failing so spectacularly to measure up to the scale of the climate crisis that this country and this planet are facing?
This country is not meeting its target and it is not due to meet its target, and I think the Prime Minister should recognise that. Even the Paris targets are not enough. The UN says that we have just a decade to change course if we want to avert a climate catastrophe. Let us look at something else his ex-Minister said—that the Prime Minister promised to “lead from the front” and guaranteed there would be “money” and “people”, but these promises are not close to being met. What on earth could she have been talking about?
The Prime Minister’s former Minister said: “My advice to”—[Interruption.] Well, Government Members may not like it, but I am going to read it:
“My advice to anybody to whom Boris is making promises—whether it is voters, world leaders, ministers, employees or…family members—is to get it in writing, get a lawyer to look at it and make sure the money is in the bank.”
Not my words—hers. The Prime Minister’s failure in government means this country will not meet its net zero target until 2099. This Government have banned offshore wind, and this Government are funding billions on fossil fuel projects abroad. Is this what his ex-Minister means by the “absence of leadership”?
It was the Labour party that proposed the climate change emergency motion to this House on 1 May. The Prime Minister is quoting things that happened in 1990 and afterwards. During that time, of course, he was a climate sceptic who did not say anything about this at all.
Poor leadership is nothing new to this Prime Minister. When he was Foreign Secretary, he cut the number of climate attachés across the world by 60% in our embassies, and reportedly said to his staff, “You’re not going to spill this all out to the media, are you?” Considering his monumental failure in advance of COP26, is it not really just a continuation of his climate change denial statements that he was regularly making up until 2015?
I really do admire the Prime Minister’s very vivid imagination, but unfortunately his vivid imagination seems to have taken over from his memory, because he might recall saying that climate change is a “primitive fear…without foundation”. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh said:
“Any consequence of failure to deliver a climate action plan must fall equally on every country…the cost of our inaction is devastating for every living person”,
but our Prime Minister is failing on the biggest stage on the most important issue of our time. And now his former Minister has described preparations in Whitehall as
“Whitehall knot-tying, infighting and obfuscation, petty political squabbles and black ops briefings”.
No wonder the Prime Minister is shutting newspapers out of No. 10 because he does not like the briefings. When will he face up to the climate emergency and take the action necessary to turn Glasgow into the turning point when this world will stop the levels of pollution and climate change we are having and go forward to a sustainable future? Because his Government’s policies simply do not take us there.
(4 months ago)Commons Chamber
I am sure that the whole House will want to send our thoughts to the family and friends of the Royal Marines soldier who sadly died in a training incident earlier this week.
If you will forgive me, Mr Speaker, may we take just a minute to pay tribute to Nicholas Parsons, who passed away this week? We thank him for his work in broadcasting.
This Friday, the UK will be leaving the European Union. The actions that we take over the months and years ahead will shape our future role in the international community for generations to come. Britain’s role in the world will face one of its most important tests later this year when COP26 meets in Glasgow to discuss the need for drastic action to tackle the climate emergency. Given the scale of the crisis, does the Prime Minister think that we as a country should be financing billions of pounds-worth of oil and gas projects all around the world?
The report from the BBC and Unearthed investigation has revealed that a Government agency has helped to finance oil and gas projects that will emit 69 million tonnes of carbon a year—nearly a sixth of the total emissions from this country alone. The effects of climate change have been felt in this country, with flooding in Yorkshire and the midlands, and of course we have seen the wildfires in Australia. Despite pledging to reach net zero emissions by 2050, the Government are currently on track to meet that target only by 2099. Can we afford to wait another 79 years before we reach net zero in this country?
The right hon. Gentleman voted against every proposal to take action on climate change until he became Prime Minister. I hope, for the sake of our future, that he changes his mind before COP26 meets in Glasgow.
Speaking of failing to take a global lead on climate change, the US Secretary of State is visiting later today. President Trump’s latest middle east peace plan is not a peace plan. It will annexe Palestinian territory, lock in illegal Israeli colonisation, transfer Palestinian citizens of Israel, and deny Palestinian people their fundamental rights. When the Government meet the US Secretary of State later today, will they make it clear that they will stand for a genuine, internationally backed peace plan rather than this stuff proposed by Trump yesterday?
I have the greatest respect for President Abbas and those in the Palestinian Authority; I have met them many times—[Interruption.] This is actually a very serious issue. The Prime Minister should acknowledge that President Trump’s plan will not bring any move towards peace and that it has no support from any Palestinian anywhere in the world. Perhaps this would be a good opportunity for the British Government to say frankly and candidly to the US that, on this, it is wrong. There needs to be a two-state solution with international support.
The kind of test for this country for the future has to be how we work to end conflict abroad. The Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen has led to the needless deaths of innocent men, women and children, yet this Government have broken the ban on Saudi arms sales three times, while Donald Trump has vetoed a ban on arms exports three times. Will the Prime Minister confirm that he will respect his own ban and will he, when he meets the US later today, ask it to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia while it continues the bombardment of the people of Yemen?
Of course, attempts are being made to bring about a peace process, but it is not helped when one country supplies arms to Saudi Arabia, which has led to the deaths of 100,000 people in Yemen last year alone. According to Human Rights Watch, Saudi authorities have stepped up their arbitrary arrests, trials and convictions and the killing of peaceful dissidents and activists, including a large-scale crackdown on the women’s rights movement. When the Prime Minister heads to Riyadh later this year for the G20, will he make it clear that any future trade arrangement with Saudi Arabia will be dependent on an improvement of its human rights laws and its human rights record, particularly in respect of women in that country?
I condemn human rights abuses in every country in the world, including Iran, Russia and anywhere else where such abuses are committed. My question was: what is being done to ensure that our future trade deals are dependent on good human rights in the countries that we deal with? Nine women are in Saudi prisons at the present time, merely for standing up for equal rights for women. Four of them have received electric shock treatment during interrogation. Is that the kind of human rights we tolerate? I sincerely hope not.
Britain is at a crossroads. We are leaving the EU, and our place in the world is going to change. The question is what direction it will take. The signs are that this Government are prepared to sacrifice our country’s interests and values for short-term political advantage and a sell-out trade deal with Donald Trump. As Foreign Secretary the Prime Minister embarrassed this country, and as Prime Minister he shows every sign of being prepared sell it off. When will he accept that the only chance of a truly internationalist Britain is to work with our global partners to tackle the climate catastrophe, expand trade, fight human rights abuses and promote peace?
(4 months, 1 week ago)Commons Chamber
Next Monday, we will be commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day. It is a time for us all to reflect on the horrors of the past and to remind ourselves of the evils of Nazism, genocide, antisemitism and, indeed, all forms of racism, which we must always be implacably determined to root out wherever it appears.
This Saturday, hundreds of millions of people will be celebrating Chinese new year around the world, and I am sure that the Prime Minister will join me in welcoming the year of the rat and inviting all Chinese people to have a great time.
If a worker earning just over £12,500 a year receives a £300 bonus, how much of that bonus does the Prime Minister think that worker should be allowed to keep?
Greggs is currently giving 25,000 workers a £300 bonus, but some of those workers who are on universal credit will be allowed to keep only £75 of that £300. If the Prime Minister can answer my question and show me that that is just and fair, I will buy him a vegan roll from Greggs myself. The first aim of universal credit, which is set to affect 6 million people, was to make work pay, but when low-paid workers cannot even keep their own bonuses, it is clear that the Government are punishing, not supporting, people. Will the Prime Minister do something to ensure that workers at companies such as Greggs who are on low pay will be allowed to keep their bonuses?
The Prime Minister himself fought with unbelievable levels of energy to protect the bankers’ bonus. Why can he not do something about the low-paid on very low wages who need to be allowed to keep their bonuses? The Resolution Foundation report published yesterday highlighted the serious distress caused by the dysfunctional nature of the universal credit system. One claimant says, “Sometimes you are starving”, another said, “It was…horrendous”, and another said:
“It was very hard for me because I’m not very good at computers.”
Does the Prime Minister think that universal credit is meeting its second aim of making the social security system simpler?
The real issue is that many people in work are also in poverty and have to access universal credit, with almost 1 million on zero-hours contracts and more people rough sleeping than ever before. Those are the issues that ought to be concerning the Prime Minister. The third aim of universal credit, it was claimed, was to reduce poverty, but we know that it is having the opposite effect. Under this Government, 65 million meals were handed out by the Trussell Trust food banks over the past five years. The five-week delay for new claimants is leaving people without enough money to cover basic needs. Why is the Prime Minister not taking action to end this punitive and vicious five-week wait for benefits?
Wouldn’t it be truly wonderful if the Prime Minister answered a question about universal credit? He has dodged every question on it. The reality is that about half the people going on to universal credit are worse off as a result. The same is true of the very cruel and callous two-child limit under universal credit, which caps benefits for larger families. There are half a million more children living in poverty than there were in 2010 and the number of children in deprivation has soared in the last few years. Why does the Prime Minister just not have the guts to admit that there is a link between poverty and the two-child limit?
The Labour party will never abandon the poor of this country. The levels of child poverty are a national scandal. The Prime Minister seems unable, incapable or unwilling to answer that question.
Universal credit had three aims. It was meant to make work pay, but low-paid workers are not even allowed to keep their bonuses. It was meant to be simple, but it has created mind-numbing complexity. It was meant to reduce poverty, but it is driving people to food banks. As we have seen today, the Prime Minister is not able to answer questions on it. The fact is that this Government have baked in austerity for tens of millions of people. When will he finally accept that the universal credit system is broken, damaging and dangerous to people’s living standards, and that it should go?
(4 months, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
May I just put on record our pleasure at the return of the Northern Ireland Assembly and, hopefully, the restoration of the peace process in Northern Ireland? I know there is a statement coming on this after Prime Minister’s Question Time.
Will the Prime Minister let the British people know why, after almost 10 years of Tory Government, patients are waiting longer for essential NHS care, whether it is in A&Es, on waiting lists or for a GP appointment?
Well, passing legislation that will guarantee underfunding of the NHS, yes. The number of patients waiting more than four hours in A&E is now at its highest on record for the second month in a row. We have had months of promises, but people need action. There probably is not a family in the United Kingdom that has not been affected in some way by cancer, yet last year we saw one in four patients waiting more than two months for the start of their cancer treatment. How many more patients will face life-threatening delays because our NHS is understaffed and underfunded?
Twenty thousand of those 50,000 already work for the NHS, actually, Mr Speaker.
Delays in cancer treatment can reduce a patient’s chance of survival. The target of 85% of patients being seen within two months was last met four years ago, in December 2015. Action is needed urgently.
Last week, we heard of the heart-rending case of a 92-year-old RAF veteran in Leicester who had to go through the indignity of waiting almost 12 hours on a hospital trolley because there were no beds available. I want the Government to apologise to him and many others and to explain why, despite the extraordinary efforts of NHS staff all over the country, over 2,000 patients had to wait more than 12 hours before they could get into a hospital bed last month alone.
The A&E has already been rebuilt in Leicester, actually, as I understand it. The problem is that the Prime Minister promised 40 hospitals. In reality, it was 20 and then it became six. The issue of people waiting on trolleys is a very serious one. The number doubled in December and it is now at the highest ever level on record. The Prime Minister promised to put the Conservative party’s inadequate NHS funding pledge into law. Can he explain why it is necessary to cement into law a pledge that the Health Foundation has said is
“below the amount needed to maintain current standards of care”?
Well, I understand that another hospital has been closed to pay for it. The question is: why would the Government need to put into law an inadequacy of funding for our national health service? Health professionals have said that the NHS needs more money than the Government are saying in order to keep patients safe.
It has now been almost three years since the Government promised a Green Paper on social care and seven months since the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street and said he had prepared a clear plan to fix the crisis in social care. Well, what is the hold-up? Where is the plan?
I do not know if the Prime Minister had a chance to read the Labour manifesto in the election, but we made it very clear that we have a plan—a very clear one: free personal care, more funding and support for carers. I am very happy to send him another copy of our manifesto so he can read it.
The Prime Minister said many times that he is going to put the NHS funding issue into law, but all this gimmick means is even longer waiting lists, more delays for cancer patients and more A&E departments bursting at the seams, while patients continue to suffer while he continues to provide excuses. If he is really committed to fixing the crisis that his Government have created over the last decade, he should end the empty rhetoric and back our proposals to give the NHS the funding it needs, rather than putting into law an insufficiency of funding. The NHS is our most precious national institution. Fund it properly so that everyone can rely on it—those that cannot afford private healthcare.
(4 months, 3 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
I wish to start by paying tribute to Andrew Miller, the former Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston, who sadly died on Christmas eve. He is a sad loss to this place. He spent more than 20 years here, was an expert on science and technology, and made an enormous contribution to this House. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. He is deeply mourned by Labour Members because of the great contribution that he made.
I join the Prime Minister in sending sympathy and support to our friends in Australia, where the fires have claimed the lives of more than 20 people. Along with the loss of human life, hundreds of millions of animals have also been destroyed as a result of the fires. This is a warning about global warming and what it does to us all, and we must take the threat of climate change very seriously.
I also join the Prime Minister in sending our thoughts to the friends and families of those who sadly died in the Ukrainian plane that crashed in Tehran last night.
Following last night’s attack on the United States bases in Iraq, will the Prime Minister confirm that, in this situation, he opposes any further retaliation or escalation in violence, as the region is at real risk of going into a full-scale war?
Following the Government’s support for the United States over the assassination of General Soleimani, is the Prime Minister confident that United Kingdom troops and civilians are not at further risk in the region and beyond?
The Government have said that they are sympathetic to the assassination of General Soleimani. What evidence has the Prime Minister got to suggest that this attack on General Soleimani, and his death, was not an illegal act by the United States?
If we stand by international law, as I am sure the Government do and would want to, surely killing somebody in a foreign territory is an illegal act and should be condemned as such. If we believe in international law, it should be the solution to the problems in the world. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, could the Government say what representations have been made to ensure that the Iranian officials who want to attend the Security Council to try to bring about a resolution to the very dangerous situation in the region will be allowed to attend? In the event of the US Administration blocking them, what representations will the Prime Minister personally make to President Trump to ensure that the UN can operate in the way in which it should and must be able to?
The Iraqi Parliament passed a resolution calling for foreign troops to leave its country. Can the Prime Minister confirm that the British Government will respect any decision made by a sovereign Parliament and Government in Iraq that may make such a request in the future and will respect the sovereignty of Iraq as a nation?
My question was whether the Government would respect the sovereignty of Iraq, its Parliament and its Government, and the Prime Minister did not answer that question.
The actions of the United States have undoubtedly escalated the risk of a dangerous conflict in an already destabilised region, putting civilians, UK troops and nationals at risk and leaving the Iran nuclear deal in danger of being dead in the water. This Government’s response is not putting the interests of this country first but instead seems more interested in prioritising the Prime Minister’s relationship with President Trump over the security of the region and of this country. Is not the truth that this Prime Minister is unable to stand up to President Trump because he has hitched his wagon to a trade deal with the United States, and that takes priority over everything else that he ought to be considering?
(5 months, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
Over the past three and a half years, the Government’s mishandling of Brexit has delivered nothing but political gridlock, chaos and economic uncertainty. It has paralysed our political system, divided communities and nations, and become a national embarrassment on an unprecedented scale.
We recognise the clear message from the British public last week, however they voted in the referendum of 2016, and understand their determination to end the never-ending cycle of the Brexit debate, and get back to solving the day-to-day issues that challenge them in their daily lives. We must listen and understand that we cannot go on forever debating what happened in 2016. We have to respect that decision and move on.
However, understanding all that does not mean that we as a party and a movement should abandon our basic principles or ever give up the demand for a fairer and more just society. We warned before the general election that the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal was a terrible deal for our country, and we still believe that it is a terrible deal today.
(5 months, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
May I join the Prime Minister in remembering the horror of what happened at London Bridge just three weeks ago? It is the third time in the last two general election campaigns that we have witnessed appalling and depraved terrorist attacks on our communities. Our hearts must go out to the families of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt. When the Prime Minister and I attended a memorial event at the Guildhall, I had the honour of meeting many of the students who had been at college with Jack, and they were just devastated. In his memory, they wanted his work and his message to carry on. We should also remember the very good words of his father David about how proud he was of his son on that day. That attack was an attempt to damage our democracy, to halt the process. It did not succeed and it never should succeed, because we have to make sure that our democracy is fully intact.
I would like to offer my congratulations to the Prime Minister on winning the election and being returned to office, and I want to pay tribute to those Members, from my party particularly, who sadly lost their seats in the election and therefore will not be here. In particular, although many will be remembered, obviously Dennis Skinner is somebody who comes very much to mind on this occasion.
In the campaign, the Prime Minister made many promises and therefore has tremendous responsibilities to live up to. He will be judged on whether he keeps those promises by the communities that he has made them to. Our job in the Labour party will be to hold the Government to account and stand up for the communities we represent and for the more than 10 million people who voted for our party in the general election. Because that is what parliamentary democracy is about—holding the Government to account and representing the people who sent us here on their behalf.
I also offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) on taking up his position as Father of the House. I first encountered him at the Woolwich West by-election in 1975. I was a trade union organiser at the time, and I made a very strong recommendation to all the members of my union that they should vote for the Labour candidate, not him. I do not want to embarrass the hon. Gentleman, but some of them went to see him and said, “He seems such a very nice man. We might well vote for him.” I do not want to tarnish his reputation further, but whenever I was trying in the past to get an all-party consensus together on an early-day motion—sometimes a difficult task—he would often give it a Conservative character by supporting such moves. I thank him for that and wish him well as Father of the House.
May I take this opportunity to welcome all newly elected Members to the House? It is a very daunting day for them—their first day here after being elected to this place on behalf of their constituents, with all the responsibility that goes with that. There is no greater honour than to be elected to this House to represent our constituents, and one of the greatest strengths of our political system is that every one of us represents a community and every one of us has a constituency. We are here to represent the homeless and the desperate as well as those who are better off and lead more comfortable existences. We are here to represent all of them, and that surely ought to be the watchword of our House and our democracy.
This is the first time that a majority of Labour MPs are women, and I congratulate them all on being elected. Twenty of the 26 newly elected Labour MPs are women, which compares rather favourably to the Conservative party’s performance in that regard. This is also the most diverse Parliament in history, and I am proud that 41 of the 65 black and minority ethnic MPs are on the Labour Benches. I know they will do a fantastic job representing their constituencies and wider community interests.
Finally, Mr Speaker-Elect, I offer my warmest congratulations to you as you resume your place in the Speaker’s Chair. It is great to see you back. Your role goes beyond the pomp and ceremony, as you well understand. I am keen to work with you, as many others are, on all the issues facing this House. This House cannot function without Members’ staff and House staff—vsecurity, administration, caterers, cleaners and officials—who do so much good work here; they all make a contribution to ensure that our democracy functions properly. But there is also enormous pressure on MPs, staff and many others, and I know that you take very seriously the mental health and wellbeing of us all. I hope that we in this House ensure that that is taken seriously.
Mr Speaker-Elect, there are portraits of all your predecessors in Speaker’s House. One of the most famous, of course, is Speaker Lenthall, who resisted the autocracy of Charles I in support of the freedoms of Parliament. Our democracy needs you as a Speaker who will stand firm against abuses of power by the Executive or anybody else. In doing so, you are defending the rights not just of this House, but of millions of people who put their faith in a democratic system to elect a Parliament, and therefore a Government, who are answerable to them. Our rights and freedoms are always precious, but also often precarious. Democracy is not a given. It is something that we have to extend and defend. I am sure that you, in your role as Speaker-Elect—and hopefully Speaker very soon—will do exactly that. I congratulate you on your election and look forward to working with you.
(7 months ago)Commons Chamber
Mr Speaker, I hope you will indulge me one moment while a say a word about you—I am sure you will. I want to thank you for the way you have used your speakership over your decade-long tenure. You have done so much to reform this House of Commons, and our democracy is stronger for the way you have done it.
You have served for 10 years. You have given real power to Back Benchers, vastly expanded the use of urgent questions, which has been overwhelmingly popular with all Ministers, and opened up the number of emergency debates, which is even more popular with even more Ministers. In the traditions of the great Speaker Lenthall and others, you have stood up for Parliament when it has to be stood up for, and we thank you for that. You have also carried that message internationally in terms of the role of parliamentary democracy and Parliaments holding Governments to account. As we hope to form a Government in the future, we hope to be held to account by Parliament as well.
I also think, and I am sure the whole House would agree with me, that you have done excellent work in opening up Parliament to visitors, exhibitions and children. You have reduced some of the strange customs and strange garments that people wear in this building—[Interruption.] It’s all right. I know you are all jealous of my tie, but it is okay. You have used your office to increase diversity among the staff in the House and make this a much more LGBT-friendly place. You have taken it from being a gentlemen’s club that happens to be in a royal palace to being a genuinely democratic institution.
I want you to accept our thanks and pass on our best wishes to Sally, Freddie, Oliver and Jemima, your wonderful family, for the support they have given you. There will be a great celebration today—I am sure the whole House will join us in this—when you and I celebrate Arsenal beating Liverpool tonight. [Interruption.] The Labour party loves a debate and loves a bit of banter.
The Prime Minister’s planned sell-out deal with Donald Trump means yet more national health service money being siphoned off into private profit. Channel 4’s “Dispatches” reported that the cost of drugs and medicines has repeatedly been discussed between United States and United Kingdom trade representatives. Why did the Prime Minister previously say the health service was not on the table in any post-Brexit trade deal?
We all welcome the fact that Orkambi will now be able to be provided in this country under the NHS, and we thank those who campaigned for it. The shame is that we are not told what the deal is with the company concerned. As for the fabled 40 hospitals, that figure dropped to 20 and then finally dropped to six.
We learned this week that Government officials have met US pharmaceutical companies five times as part of the Prime Minister’s planned trade deal. The US has called for “full market access” to our NHS, which would mean prices of some of our most important medicines increasing by up to sevenfold. While the Government are having secret meetings with US corporations, it is patients here who continue to suffer. Can the Prime Minister explain why the number of people waiting longer for urgent cancer treatment has tripled over the past nine years?
Not for the first time, the Prime Minister is talking nonsense. Of course we need to import medicines from various places; I just want it to be done in an open and transparent way. I do not want secret talks between Government officials, on behalf of Ministers, and big pharma corporations in the USA.
Last year, 34,000 cancer patients waited more than two months for treatment. Although early detection is obviously very important, the longer people wait, the less chance there is of their surviving cancer. The Prime Minister knows that, I know that, the whole world knows that—why can he not get it, and put the necessary resources into the NHS to cut the waiting times?
If he could just be patient for 30 seconds.
The Prime Minister claims that the NHS is safe in his hands; why, then, has NHS privatisation doubled under this Government, with nearly £10 billion being spent on private companies in our NHS?
What we do not want is private companies like Virgin Care suing our NHS for contracts that they did not get. Our NHS should be focused on making people better, not making the wealthy few richer.
National health service A&E departments have just had their worst September on record. This morning, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said that this winter the NHS needs more than 4,000 extra beds. Will the Prime Minister explain why, under his Government, the number of people in England waiting for an operation has now reached a record high of 4.4 million?
I am surprised that the Prime Minister can keep a straight face saying that, while his Government have cut so much from the Welsh Government’s budget. And that from a Government who have cut 15,000 beds from the NHS and who have cut £7 billion from social care. I do not know how he has the brass neck to say what he has just said. The reality is that his words are hollow. That is clear to anyone who has tried to get a GP appointment, who sees how overworked our NHS staff are when they visit a hospital and who sees the stress that NHS staff go through when they cannot deal with all the patients who are coming in. He needs to think about this.
Let me give an example. A lady called Gillian wrote to me this week. [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] Yes, it is a real case of a real person, and I will quote her letter if I may, Mr Speaker. Gillian says:
“My mother died in February as a direct result of the GP shortage in the UK. Her last years were marred by long waits for treatments and for interventions…Whenever she got care, it was given by overstretched but dedicated people, but it always came after painful and debilitating delays.”
Why should that happen to Gillian’s mum or anybody else’s mum? The problem is the shortage of GPs, the shortage of nurses and the excessive waiting time for people with very difficult conditions and deep pain. They should be sympathised with and supported.
Coming from a Prime Minister who withdrew his own Bill, that seems a bit odd. My question was about somebody whose mother had died and who believes that that is because of the shortage of staff within the NHS. I had hoped that the Prime Minister would have shown some empathy and answered that question, because GP numbers are falling, there is a 43,000-nurse shortage in the NHS, and the NHS has suffered the longest spending squeeze ever in its history. The choice at this election could not be clearer. People have a chance to vote for real change after years of Conservative and Lib Dem cuts, privatisation and tax handouts for the richest. This Government have put our NHS into crisis, and this election is a once-in-a-generation chance to end privatisation in our NHS, give it the funding it needs and give it the doctors, nurses, GPs and all the other staff it needs. Despite the Prime Minister’s denials, our NHS is up for grabs by US corporations in a Trump-style trade deal. Is it not the truth—[Interruption.]
Break in Debate
Despite the Prime Minister’s denials, the NHS is up for grabs by US corporations in a Trump trade deal. Is it not the truth—the Government may not like this—that this Government are preparing to sell out our NHS? Our health service is in more danger than at any other time in its glorious history because of the Prime Minister’s Government, his attitudes and the trade deals that he wants to strike.
(7 months ago)Commons Chamber
May I start by thanking the Prime Minister for the serious way in which he has approached this matter and for his speech today on the findings of Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s first report? I also thank you, Mr Speaker, for ensuring that we had a minute’s silence at the start of the debate for those who lost their lives on that terrible, terrible night.
I start by paying tribute to the survivors of the fire and their family members, who have campaigned with such dignity and determination for the past two years—two long years. Many of them are here today in the Gallery or watching the debate on television. For them, it is yet another horrible day of remembering a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a cousin, a nephew, a niece who they will never see again and who will never come back. Those memories will never go away. With sympathy we should have an understanding of our responsibility to ensure that everyone is able to live in safety, wherever they are in this country.
Seventy-two people lost their lives on that night in June 2017. That situation rocked the community and shocked the whole country. It brought together help from lots of people—people from local churches, mosques and synagogues, and from different community organisations. People rushed to Grenfell as the fire was still blazing with gifts of food and toys, and with support. That simple human understanding from so many people is something we have to cherish and begin to understand, because it demonstrates that there is a natural human instinct to help people.
I cannot forget going there straight after the fire and talking to dazed people who did not really understand what had happened and to exhausted firefighters, police officers and many others who were trying to comprehend the enormity of the situation. It was truly horrific. I pay absolute tribute to all those volunteers and others who turned out that day to help. Local government officers from all across London immediately volunteered to try to help, because the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea seemed to have difficulty in responding to the enormity of the situation—I say no more than that at the moment.
It was a tragedy, Mr Speaker, but it was an avoidable tragedy. A tragedy is when there is an earthquake, a tidal wave or a volcano that we cannot understand or predict. This was an avoidable tragedy. All the survivors—all of them—deserve a new home and safety and security in this country, as my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary demanded at the time. All those responsible for this avoidable tragedy must understand that justice must prevail. Every necessary measure must be put in place to prevent a fire such as Grenfell from ever happening again.
(7 months ago)Commons Chamber
Labour backs a general election because we want this country to be rid of this reckless and destructive Conservative Government. They are a Government that have caused more of our children to live in poverty, more pensioners to be in poverty and more people to be in work and in poverty, more families to be without a home and more people to sleep rough on our streets. They are a Government that have cut and sold off so much of our important public services.
(7 months, 1 week ago)Commons Chamber
This is a Prime Minister who cannot be trusted. Having illegally prorogued Parliament for five weeks for his Queen’s Speech, he now abandons that Queen’s Speech. He got his deal through on Second Reading, then abandoned it. He promised us a Budget on 6 November, and then he abandoned that too. He said he would never ask for an extension, and he said he would rather die in a ditch—another broken promise! Every promise this Prime Minister makes, he abandons. He said he would take us out of the European Union by 31 October—[Interruption.]
Break in Debate
I think this section is very important, so I will go through it again. Thanks to a Channel 4 “Dispatches” programme we learn that secret meetings have taken place between UK Government officials and representatives of US pharmaceutical firms at which the price of national health service drugs has been discussed.
We have a Prime Minister who will say anything and do anything to get his way. He will avoid his responsibilities and break his promises to dodge scrutiny. And today he wants an election and his Bill. Well, not with our endorsement. He says he wants an election on 12 December. How can we trust him to stick to that date when we do not yet have legal confirmation of the extension? The Prime Minister has not formally accepted, and the other 27 have not confirmed following that acceptance. The reason I am so cautious is quite simply that I do not trust the Prime Minister.
Break in Debate
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention, and for the stoic way in which she has dealt with the most appalling abuse that has been thrown at her. After the threats that she and other colleagues have received, the damage that has been done to MPs’ offices and the abusive language that has happened in so many parts of this country, I would be happy to give way to the Prime Minister now if he wants to get up and apologise to my hon. Friend for what he said about her during that debate. Mr Speaker, the Prime Minster has an opportunity to apologise for the language he used, but he seems unable to do so. The treatment she received was disgusting by any standards. I would also point out that numbers—
Well, sorry seems to be the hardest word, doesn’t it?
(7 months, 1 week ago)Commons Chamber
I join others who have expressed their deep sadness at today’s news that 39 people have been found dead in a lorry container in Grays. Can we just think for a moment about what it must have been like for those 39 people, obviously in a desperate and dangerous situation, to end their lives suffocated to death in a container?
This is an unbelievable human tragedy, which happened in our country at this time. We clearly need to look at the whole situation and look for answers to what has happened. I do, however, also pay an enormous tribute to those in the emergency services who went to the scene to deal with it. All of us should just think for a moment about what it is like to be a police officer or a firefighter and about what it was like to open that container and have to remove 39 bodies from it and deal with them in an appropriate and humane way. We should just think for a moment about what inhumanity is done to other human beings at this terrible moment.
Yesterday, before the Prime Minister decided to delay his own withdrawal Bill, he promised to maintain—[Interruption.] Let me finish. Before he decided to delay his own withdrawal Bill—[Interruption.] If Members care to look at Hansard, they will see what it says. The Prime Minister promised to maintain environmental, consumer and workers’ rights. Why, then, did he have those commitments removed from the legally binding withdrawal agreement?
The Prime Minister does not answer the question that I put to him, which was about environmental, consumer and workers’ rights. I am not surprised, because he once said that “employment regulation” was “back-breaking”, and he voted for the anti-Trade Union Act 2016, which stripped away employment protections. The provisions in the Bill offer no real protection at all.
Yesterday, during the debate on the Bill, the Prime Minister pledged that the NHS was safe in his hands. If that is the case, will he be backing our amendment in the Queen’s Speech debate tonight, which would undo the very damaging privatisation of so much of our NHS?
Break in Debate
Two questions and we are still waiting for an answer, although we could do with a translation of the first part of the Prime Minister’s response.
I hate to break it to the Prime Minister, but under his Government and that of his predecessor, privatisation has more than doubled to £10 billion in our NHS. There are currently 20 NHS contracts out to tender, and when he promised 40 hospitals, he then reduced that to 20, and then it turns out that reconfiguration is taking place in just six hospitals. So these numbers keep tumbling down for the unfunded spending commitments that he liberally makes around the country.
The Prime Minister continues to say that he will exclude our NHS from being up for grabs in future trade deals. Can he point to which clause in the withdrawal agreement Bill secures that?
I actually asked the Prime Minister which clause in the Bill protects our NHS, and obviously there is time for him to help us with an answer on that. He should also be aware that no public capital allocations have been made for the funding commitments that he has announced; all he is said is that there is seed funding. I am not sure what seed funding is, but it does not sound like the commitment we were seeking, and it sounds awfully like private finance going into the NHS to deal with the issues it faces.
Less than one year ago, the Prime Minister said that any
“regulatory checks and…customs controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland”
“the fabric of the Union”.
Given that this deal clearly does damage the fabric of the Union, does he still agree with himself?
The Prime Minister has a habit of not answering any questions put to him. Northern Ireland will remain on single market rules within the EU on goods and agricultural products, and the rest of the UK will not. As the right hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) pointed out yesterday, that will create a very real border down the Irish sea, which the Prime Minister told a DUP conference, in terms, he would never do—and it was not that long ago; it might have been when he was trying to become the Tory party leadCowaner.
The Prime Minister told the House on Saturday there would be no checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, yet yesterday the Brexit Secretary confirmed to the Lords European Union Committee that Northern Irish businesses sending goods to Britain would have to complete export declaration forms. Is the Prime Minister right on this, or is the Brexit Secretary right? They cannot both be right.
I really do wonder whether the Prime Minister has read clause 21 of his own Bill. The Good Friday agreement was one of the greatest achievements of this House, led by a Labour Government at that time. The Prime Minister unlawfully prorogued Parliament. He said he would refuse to comply with the law. He threw Northern Ireland under a bus. He ripped up protections for workers’ rights and environmental standards, lost every vote along the way and tried to prevent genuine democratic scrutiny and debate. He once said that “the whole withdrawal Bill, as signed by the previous Prime Minister, is a terrible treaty”, yet this deal is even worse than that. Even if he is not that familiar with it, does the Prime Minister accept that Parliament should have the necessary time to improve on this worse-than-terrible treaty?
(7 months, 1 week ago)Commons Chamber
On Saturday, we warned that, if the House passes the Government’s deal, it would be a disaster for our country. Now, as we look through the details of the Bill, we see just how right we were: page after page of what amounts to nothing less than a charter for deregulation and a race to the bottom; a deal and a Bill that fail to protect our rights and our natural world, fail to protect jobs and the economy, and fail to protect every region and nation in the United Kingdom. The Bill confirms that Northern Ireland is really in the customs union of the EU and goods will be subjected to tariffs. On Saturday, the Prime Minister said there would be no checks, but yesterday the Brexit Secretary confirmed to the Lords European Union Committee that under the Government’s proposals Northern Irish businesses that send goods to Great Britain will have to complete export declaration forms, and today the Government estimate—this is the Government’s estimate—that exit declaration forms will be between £15 and £56 per customs declaration. So the Prime Minister was at best—I am being generous here—mistaken on Saturday. The more divergence, the harder that border will become and the greater danger and risk it will put on the historic Good Friday agreement.
Break in Debate
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Saturday, this House emphatically rejected the Prime Minister’s deal. [Interruption.] Conservative Members are too hasty; I have not finished yet. Tonight the House has refused to be bounced into debating a hugely significant piece of legislation in just two days, with barely any notice and no analysis of the economic impact of this Bill. The Prime Minister is the author of his own misfortune. I make this offer to him tonight: work with us—all of us—to agree a reasonable timetable, and I suspect that this House will vote to debate, scrutinise and, I hope, amend the detail of this Bill. That would be the sensible way forward, and that is the offer I make on behalf of the Opposition tonight.
(7 months, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
I join you, Mr Speaker, in thanking all the staff—cleaning staff, catering staff, security staff, officials and our own staff—who have come into the House this morning. They have given up a weekend to help our deliberations. I also thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of his statement.
The Prime Minister has renegotiated the withdrawal agreement and made it even worse. He has renegotiated the political declaration and made that even worse. Today, we are having a debate on a text for which there is no economic impact assessment and no accompanying legal advice.
The Government have sought to avoid scrutiny throughout the process. Yesterday evening, they made empty promises on workers’ rights and the environment—the same Government who spent the last few weeks negotiating in secret to remove from the withdrawal agreement legally binding commitments on workers’ rights and the environment.
This Government cannot be trusted, and the Opposition will not be duped; neither will the Government’s own workers. Yesterday, the head of the civil service union Prospect met the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and, at the conclusion of that meeting, said:
“I asked for reassurances that the government would not diverge on workers’ rights after Brexit… He could not give me those assurances.”
As for the much-hyped “world-leading” Environment Bill, its legally binding targets will not be enforceable until 2037. For this Government, the climate emergency can always wait.
This deal risks people’s jobs, rights at work, our environment and our national health service. We must be honest about what it means for our manufacturing industry and people’s jobs: not only does it reduce access to the market of our biggest trading partner, but it leaves us without a customs union, which will damage industries across the country in every one of our constituencies. From Nissan in Sunderland to Heinz in Wigan, Airbus in Broughton and Jaguar Land Rover in Birmingham, thousands of British jobs depend on a strong manufacturing sector, and a strong manufacturing sector needs markets, through fluid supply chains, all across the European Union. A vote for this deal would be a vote to cut manufacturing jobs all across this country.
This deal would absolutely inevitably lead to a Trump trade deal—[Interruption]—forcing the UK to diverge from the highest standards and expose our families once again to chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef. This deal—[Interruption.]
Break in Debate
This deal fails to enshrine the principle that we keep pace with the European Union on environmental standards and protections, putting at risk our current rules on matters ranging from air pollution standards to chemical safety—we all know the public concern about such issues—at the same time that we are facing a climate emergency.
As for workers’ rights, we simply cannot give the Government a blank cheque. Mr Speaker, you do not have to take my word for that. Listen, for example, to the TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, who says—[Interruption.] She represents an organisation with 6 million affiliated members, and she says:
“This deal would be a disaster for working people. It would hammer the economy, cost jobs and sell workers’ rights down the river.”
Listen to Make UK, representing British manufacturers, which says—[Interruption.] Government Members may care to listen to its comments on the deal. Make UK says that
“commitments to the closest possible trading relationship in goods have gone. Differences in regulation between the UK and the EU will add cost and bureaucracy and our companies will face a lack of clarity inhibiting investment and planning.”
Listen also to the Green Alliance, which says that the deal amounted to a
“very sad Brexit read from a climate perspective.”
The message is clear that this deal is not good for jobs and is damaging for our industry and a threat to our environment and our natural world. It is not a good deal for our country, and future generations will feel the impact. It should be voted down by this House today.
I also totally understand the frustration and fatigue across the country and in this House, but we simply cannot vote for a deal that is even worse than the one that the House rejected three times. The Government’s own economic analysis shows that this deal would make the poorest regions even poorer and cost each person in this country over £2,000 a year. If we vote for a deal that makes our constituents poorer, we are not likely to be forgiven. The Government are claiming that if we support their deal, it will get Brexit done, and that backing them today is the only way to stop a no-deal exit. I simply say: nonsense. Supporting the Government this afternoon would merely fire the starting pistol in a race to the bottom in regulations and standards.
If anyone has any doubts about that, we only have to listen to what the Government’s own Members have been saying. Like the one yesterday who rather let the cat out of the bag by saying that Members should back this deal as it means we can leave with no deal by 2020. [Hon. Members: “Ah.”] The cat is truly out of the bag. Will the Prime Minister confirm whether that is the case? If a free trade agreement has not been done, would that mean Britain falling on to World Trade Organisation terms by December next year, with only Northern Ireland having preferential access to the EU market?
No wonder, then, that the Foreign Secretary said that this represents a “cracking deal” for Northern Ireland, which would retain frictionless access to the single market. That does prompt the question: why is it that the rest of the UK cannot get a cracking deal by maintaining access to the single market?
The Taoiseach said that the deal
“allows the all-Ireland economy to continue to develop and… protects the European single market”.
Some Members of this House would welcome an all-Ireland economy, but I did not think that they included the Government and the Conservative and Unionist party. The Prime Minister declared in the summer:
“Under no circumstances… will I allow the EU or anyone else to create any kind of division down the Irish Sea”.
We cannot trust a word he says.
Voting for a deal today will not end Brexit, and it will not deliver certainty. The people should have the final say. Labour is not prepared to sell out the communities that it represents. We are not prepared to sell out their future, and we will not back this sell-out deal. This is about our communities now and about our future generations.
(7 months, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
(7 months, 3 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
Freedom of movement has given opportunities to millions of British people to live, work and retire across Europe. It has benefited our economy immensely, with European Union workers playing a key role in sustaining many of our industries and public services. No responsible Member would vote to rip that up, unless there is a proper plan in place. In the shadow of the Windrush scandal, the settled status scheme for European Union citizens risks another round of wrongful denial of rights and shameful deportations. I look forward to the Prime Minister assuring those European Union citizens, who have made such an enormous contribution to our lives and our society, that they will have a secure future in this country.
The Government say that they will be at the forefront of solving the most complex international security issues and global challenges, yet they are playing precisely no role in stopping the horrors unfolding in the Kurdish areas of northern Syria, ending the war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen, or standing up for the rights of the Rohingya, the Uighurs, or the people of Palestine, Ecuador or Hong Kong. They are continuing to cosy up to Donald Trump, and sitting idly by as he wrecks the world’s efforts to tackle climate change and nuclear proliferation.
As the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) said in an intervention, the crisis of our age is the climate emergency as declared by this House in May, but there is no action announced in the Queen’s Speech. I pay tribute to the climate school strikers and to Extinction Rebellion. Sadly, the Government have not listened. The Prime Minister derided them as “nose-ringed…crusties”, although I note that their number included a Conservative former Member of the European Parliament, who I believe is related to the Prime Minister. So many people are concerned about bad air quality, the failure to invest in renewable energy, the pollution of our rivers and seas, and the loss of biodiversity. Only this Government have the power and resource to tackle the climate emergency if they wanted to, but they are missing with inaction. It is Labour that will bring forward a green new deal to tackle the climate emergency.
The legislative programme is a propaganda exercise that the Government cannot disguise. This Government have failed on Brexit for over three years. They are barely beginning to undo the damage of a decade of cuts to our public services. It does nothing for people struggling to make ends meet. It does nothing to make our world a safer place or tackle the climate emergency. The Prime Minister promised that this Queen’s Speech would dazzle us. On closer inspection, it is nothing more than fool’s gold.
(8 months ago)Commons Chamber
I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of his statement, but what we have before us is a rehashed version of previously rejected proposals that would put the Good Friday agreement at risk and trigger a race to the bottom on rights and protections for workers, consumers and our precious environment. Given the seriousness of this issue and the vagueness of the proposals so far, will the Prime Minister tell the House if and when he plans to publish the full legal text that he must submit to the EU?
These proposals would lead to an even worse deal than that agreed by the former Prime Minister. The Prime Minister signed up to the backstop in Cabinet, and as a Back Bencher he voted for the withdrawal agreement. His letter to the President of the Commission yesterday claims that both are now unacceptable, so perhaps he can tell us what has changed. Why did he support the agreement then but oppose it now? The letter makes his intentions clear: it rejects any form of customs union—something demanded by every business and industry body in Britain, and by every trade union.
The Government want to ditch EU standards on workers’ rights, environmental regulations and consumer standards and engage in a race to the bottom. Deal or no deal, this Government’s agenda is clear: they want a Trump deal Brexit that would crash our economy and rip away the standards that put a floor under people’s rights at work and protect our environment and consumers. No Labour MP could support such a reckless deal that would be used as springboard to attack rights and standards in this country.
The truth is that after three years this Government still have not found an answer to solving the issue of the Irish border and the Good Friday agreement. Where once they were committed to having no border in Ireland, they now propose two borders in Ireland, ripping up the UK-EU joint report from December 2017. Will the Prime Minister confirm that the Government have now abandoned their commitment to the people of Northern Ireland, which was to ensure no
“physical infrastructure or related checks and controls”
on the island of Ireland? [Interruption.] I am sorry, but I am only quoting what the Government said.
While EU leaders have been lukewarm, the response from businesses in Northern Ireland has been stark. Glyn Roberts, the head of Retail NI, said that the proposal would lead to north-south tariffs with “huge negative impacts” on farmers and the agrifood sector. He went on:
“It would also mean two borders requiring renewal after four years, surveillance in border communities without their consent, and checks north-south and west-east.”
Tina McKenzie, chair of the Federation of Small Businesses Northern Ireland, was absolutely clear:
“All the promises of unfettered access have been abandoned… Northern Ireland is a small business economy and this is a death knell for some of those businesses.”
These plans are simply unworkable. What we have before us is not a serious proposal to break the deadlock. Instead, the proposals are nothing more than a cynical attempt by the Prime Minister to shift the blame for his failure to deliver. We can conclude only that his political adviser was telling the truth when he called negotiations with the EU a “sham”. Will the Prime Minister give a clear answer to one question: if he does not get a deal at the October Council summit, will he abide by the law of this country and the European Union (Withdrawal) (No.2) Act 2019 and request an extension to avoid a disastrous no deal?
The Government’s proposals are neither serious nor credible. Labour consulted with UK industry, businesses and unions about the need for a comprehensive customs union, close single market alignment and robust protections for workers’ rights and environmental standards. We need an extension for a serious negotiation towards the sort of deal that Labour has set out, and then let the people decide whether to leave with a sensible deal or remain.
The current proposals would damage the whole UK economy, and the Northern Irish economy especially, and would undermine the Good Friday agreement. They would lead to a race to the bottom on workers’ rights and environmental rights and strip back even the limited protections that the Prime Minister’s predecessor had agreed to.
Instead of spending the last few months building consensus in Parliament and across the EU, the Prime Minister has put forward proposals he knows will not be acceptable either in Brussels or Westminster and that would damage UK industry, people’s jobs and living standards. The only people who would not suffer are the Prime Minister’s hedge fund donors who are currently betting against the pound and running down our fragile economy. He is doing nothing but seeking to divide and risking this country’s future for his own political gain—an America first deal with President Trump. The proposals are unrealistic and damaging, and they will be—as I think the Prime Minister knows full well—rejected in Brussels, in the House and across the country.
(8 months, 1 week ago)Commons Chamber
I thank the Prime Minister for giving me an advance copy of his statement. Unfortunately, it was like his illegal shutting down of Parliament—“null” and
“of no effect and should be quashed”,
in the words of the Supreme Court. This was 10 minutes of bluster from a dangerous Prime Minister who thinks he is above the law, but in truth he is not fit for the office he holds. I am glad to see so many colleagues back here doing what they were elected to do: holding the Government to account for their failings. Whether it is their attempt to shut down democracy, their sham Brexit negotiations, their chaotic and inadequate no-deal preparations, the allegations of corruption, their failure on climate change or their failure to step in to save Thomas Cook, this Government are failing the people of Britain, and the people of Britain know it—[Interruption.]
Break in Debate
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Quite simply, for the good of this country, the Prime Minister should go. He says he wants a general election. I want a general election. It is very simple: if he wants an election, get an extension and let us have an election.
Break in Debate
(8 months, 3 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
The only point of any importance that the Prime Minister has just included in his speech is his clear indication that he does not intend to follow the law that has just been passed that requires him to ask for an extension in certain circumstances. He also gave no answer on the two decisions this House has already made today concerning the publication of Yellowhammer documents and his own behaviour as Prime Minister in respect of laws agreed by this House. He seems to have failed to grasp that those on the Opposition Benches have actually been very clear and that the House has expressed its will: until the Act has been complied with and no deal has been taken off the table, we will not vote to support the Dissolution of this House and a general election.
I want an election, as the Prime Minister pointed out, and the Conservative party has very generously broadcast footage of me and my friends saying that we want an election. I do not retreat from that at all; we are eager for an election, but as keen as we are, we are not prepared to risk inflicting the disaster of no deal on our communities, our jobs, our services, or indeed our rights. [Interruption.]
No deal would not be a clean break. It would not mean just getting on with it. It would start a whole new period of confusion and delay, but this time set against a backdrop of rising unemployment, further de-industrialisation and deepening poverty all across this country. [Interruption.]
Break in Debate
First, where are the Prime Minister’s proposals for the renegotiations? Where are they? When were they published? What is their content?
Secondly, if the Prime Minister seeks no deal, why does he not argue for it and seek the mandate for it that the Government do not so far possess? There is no mandate for no deal. [Interruption.] No, I am not giving way. Thirdly, if, as he claims, the Prime Minister is making progress—
Break in Debate
We are the responsible party in this room, and we do not want to crash out with no deal. There is also the issue of trust in a Prime Minister who is unable to answer any questions and is desperate to suspend Parliament to avoid any scrutiny.
Thirdly, if the Prime Minister is making progress, as he told the House last week, why did the Taoiseach tell him only this morning that he was yet to receive realistic, legally binding and workable plans. That was only this morning, so the Prime Minister must be able to remember it. Perhaps he could explain why the Taoiseach felt the need to say that. [Interruption.] I realise the desperation of the Tory party when all it can do is rearrange the mics on the Titanic.
Finally, since the Prime Minister did not bother to turn up—[Interruption.] With great respect, I inform Conservative Members that I have no intention of giving way to any of them, okay? Since the Prime Minister did not bother to turn up for the previous debate, will he respect the law and implement the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 if he has negotiated an agreement that is backed by this House on 19 October?
This Parliament is not a platform for the Prime Minister’s games. It is a Chamber in which the elected representatives of the people hold the Executive to account. That is what parliamentary democracy is about. The Prime Minister has been asked four simple questions—[Interruption.] I am not giving way.
The Prime Minister is talking up no deal to one wing of his party and talking up getting a deal to another. The sad reality is that he is not preparing adequately for the first and not negotiating at all for the other. Sunday 15 September is International Day of Democracy, when the UN celebrates Governments being held accountable to their national Parliaments in a democracy. This Government are only interested in shutting down Parliament to avoid any scrutiny. The Prime Minister’s obfuscations and evasions are being rumbled both at home and abroad, and that is why he does not answer questions and is so keen to avoid any scrutiny.
Tonight the Prime Minister will be attempting to prorogue Parliament for one of the longest Prorogations there has ever been—shutting down Parliament, shutting down democracy, avoiding questions, and taking this country over the cliff of a no-deal exit, with all the damage that will do to many of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in our society and all the damage it will do to trade and jobs, and all because he wants to take this country in the direction of a trade deal solely with the USA rather than anybody else. We are not walking into traps laid by this Prime Minister.
Break in Debate
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption.] I think we have had quite enough playground politics from the Conservative party this evening. The one thing the Prime Minister did not say was that he was going to obey the law of this country. He did not say that he acknowledged or accepted three votes that have taken place in this Parliament. At his request, the House is now apparently due to be prorogued this evening for one of the longest prorogations in history simply in order to avoid any questioning of what he is doing or not doing, simply to avoid discussion about Yellowhammer, and particularly to avoid any discussion about the proposals that have been put to the European Union that he has or does not have or that do or do not exist. This Government are a disgrace, and the way the Prime Minister operates is a disgrace—[Interruption.]
(9 months ago)Commons Chamber
This is the second time I have replied to a Conservative Prime Minister who has sought to dissolve Parliament and call an election because they did not have a deliverable Brexit policy. Although I am not condemning the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) by comparing her to her successor, she at least made detailed speeches setting out her Brexit policy—even if we fundamentally disagreed with them. This Prime Minister claims he has a strategy, but he cannot tell us what it is. The bigger problem for him is that he has not told the EU what it is either.
At Prime Minister’s Question Time today, as in the statement yesterday, the Prime Minister was unable even to say whether he has made any proposals whatsoever to the EU. Basically, the policy is cloaked in mystery because, like the emperor’s new clothes, there really is absolutely nothing there. The naked truth is that the reality is deeply unpalatable: a disastrous no-deal Brexit to take us into the arms of a trade deal with Donald Trump that would put America first and Britain a distant second.
The Prime Minister knows there is no mandate for no deal, no majority support for it in the country and no majority for it in this House. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—the co-convenor of the Vote Leave campaign—said in March this year that
“we didn’t vote to leave without a deal.”
Even the leaders of the leave campaign are absolutely clear that the referendum conferred no mandate for no deal. No deal is opposed by every business group, every industry body and every trade union—and by this House, as today’s vote and others have shown.
We want an election because we look forward to turfing this Government out.
(9 months ago)Commons Chamber
I start by paying my deepest respects to PC Andrew Harper, who died in the line of duty. It is a reminder of the risks that he faced and that police officers face all the time trying to protect communities. We send our sympathies to his family, colleagues and friends.
I also send our condolences to those affected by Hurricane Dorian, which hit the Bahamas at the weekend. I hope and am sure that the Government and the Department for International Development will do all they can to send all the help that is necessary.
Yesterday, it was revealed that the Prime Minister’s negotiating strategy was to run down the clock and that the Attorney General told him that his belief that the EU would drop the backstop was a complete fantasy. Are these reports accurate, or can the Prime Minister provide the detail of the proposals he has put forward to the EU?
My first question to the Prime Minister, and no answer given! I asked what proposals had been put to the EU. We asked yesterday—many colleagues asked—and he seems utterly incapable of answering. Any rational human being would assume therefore that none have been put and there is no answer. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues have said he is making progress. The EU’s chief negotiator, the Chancellor of Germany and the Taoiseach of Ireland say that no proposals have yet been made by the UK. If the Prime Minister thinks he has made progress, will he publish the proposals he has put forward to replace the backstop?
Break in Debate
I really fail to see how I can be accused of undermining negotiations, because no negotiations are taking place. The right hon. Gentleman has been Prime Minister for six weeks, and he promised to get Brexit sorted. In six weeks, he has presented nothing to change the previous Prime Minister’s deal, which he twice voted against. The negotiations that he talks about are a sham. All that he is doing is running down the clock.
At the weekend, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that food prices would go up under no deal. Will the Prime Minister publish the Yellowhammer documents so that people can see which food prices will go up and by how much?
Perhaps the Prime Minister will tell us what the negotiating position actually is.
The Prime Minister may have forgotten the question that I asked, given his rather lengthy peroration. When the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster denied that there would be shortages of fresh food, the British Retail Consortium said that that was “categorically untrue”.
I hope that no more young female staff are going to be frogmarched out of Downing Street, because there was another Government leak at the weekend, concerning disruption of our ports. The leaked documents, written by the Government in the last fortnight, show that no deal would lead to shortages on the shelves and shortages of medical supplies in hospitals. People need to prepare. So I ask the Prime Minister again: will he publish the Yellowhammer documents in full, so that people can see which foodstuffs are not going to be available, which medicines are not going to be supplied and what will happen given the shortages of vital supplies in every one of our hospitals all over the country?
Break in Debate
The Prime Minister failed to answer my questions about food supplies, about medicine supplies and about the problems in hospitals. He refuses to publish the Yellowhammer documents. He talks about scaremongering. Where does the information come from, other than his office in his Government? He is obviously so confident of the position that he has adopted that he is now prepared to spend £100 million of our money on an advertising campaign to try to persuade people that everything is fine. He knows it is not, and they know it is not. He is hiding the facts.
The Government have refused to publish their impact assessments on how a no-deal Brexit would affect poverty in this country. They received a request under the Freedom of Information Act from the Glasgow-based Poverty Alliance; the DWP replied that the public interest would not be served by that disclosure. Will the Prime Minister publish that analysis? If he won’t, what has he got to hide?
Mr Speaker, you don’t have to go very far from the portals of this House to see real destitution: people begging and sleeping on the streets; child poverty is up compared with 2010; pensioner poverty is up; and in-work poverty is up. The Prime Minister will not give us any of the information of the assessments of increased poverty that could come from his Government’s proposals.
We are less than 60 days away from leaving the EU with no deal. The Prime Minister had two days in office before the summer recess and then planned to prorogue Parliament. Yesterday, he lost one vote—his first vote in Parliament—and he now wants to dissolve Parliament. He is desperate—absolutely desperate—to avoid scrutiny. [Interruption.] In his third day in office, after five questions from me, we have not had an answer to any of them. I can see why he is desperate to avoid scrutiny: he has no plan to get a new deal—no plan, no authority and no majority. If he—[Interruption.]
Break in Debate
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
If the Prime Minister does to the country what he has done to his party in the past 24 hours, a lot of people have a great deal to fear from his incompetence, his vacillation and his refusal to publish known facts—that are known to him—about the effects of a no-deal Brexit.
(9 months ago)Commons Chamber
I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of his statement. I join with him in recognising the great human suffering of world war two and the great human bravery that took place during that awful conflict that began 80 years ago, which was essential in defeating the disgusting ideology of the Nazis and of fascism at that time.
The Prime Minister met EU leaders over the summer and EU Council President Tusk at the G7 summit. After those meetings, the Prime Minister struck an optimistic note, saying that the chances of a deal were, in his words, “improving”. His optimism was not shared by those who had been at the same meetings. The Prime Minister may claim that progress is being made, but EU leaders report that the Government have so far failed to present any new proposals. Can the Prime Minister clear this up? Can he tell us whether the UK has put forward any new proposal in relation to the backstop? If it has, will he publish them so that these proposals can be scrutinised by Parliament and by the public?
It is becoming increasingly clear that this reckless Government have only one plan: to crash out of the EU without a deal. The reality is exposed today in the in-house journal of the Conservative party—otherwise known as The Daily Telegraph—which reports that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff has called the negotiations “a sham”, that the strategy is to “run down the clock”, and that the proposal to alter the backstop is “a complete fantasy”—and those are the words of the Attorney General.
No deal will mean food shortages, reduced medical supplies and chaos at our ports. It is not me saying that; it is the Government’s own leaked analysis that says that, and it warns of chaos across the board. Today, we had expected the publication of the Government’s no deal preparations. The Government are hiding from scrutiny and hiding from the people and they are trying to hide us from their true intentions. This is not just a Government in chaos, but a Government of cowardice. Thankfully, some in Whitehall are putting those vital documents into the public domain, but we should not have to rely on sporadic leaks. Will the Prime Minister set out today when these documents will be published so that the people and Parliament can scrutinise and debate them? Many on the Government Benches would relish a no deal. They see it as an opportunity to open up Britain to a one-sided trade deal that puts us at the mercy of Donald Trump and United States corporations and that will increase the wealth of a few at the expense of the many.
When it comes to the crunch, too many on the Government Benches who once opposed a no-deal outcome are now putting their own careers before the good of the people of this country. Just look at all those Tory leadership candidates who said that it would be wrong to suspend Parliament in order to make no deal more likely, but who sit passively as their principles of just a few short weeks ago are cast aside—I do not know what they were doing over their summer holidays, but something has changed. And it gets worse, because not only have they all stood by while the Prime Minister launches his latest attack on democracy, but some have repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility of the Government ignoring any law passed by Parliament that attempts to stop a no-deal Brexit. Will the Prime Minister therefore take this opportunity, when he responds in a moment, to assure the country that his Government will abide by any legislation passed by Parliament this week?
The attack on our democracy in order to force through a disastrous no-deal Brexit is unprecedented, anti-democratic and unconstitutional. Labour will do all we can to protect our industry, protect our democracy and protect our people against this dangerous and reckless Government.
I condemn the rhetoric that the Prime Minister used when he talked about a “surrender Bill”. I really hope that he will reflect on his use of language. We are not surrendering because we are at war with Europe; they are surely our partners. If anything, it is a no-deal exit that would mean surrendering our industry, our jobs, and our standards and protections in a trade deal with Donald Trump and the United States.
The UK should be using its position in the G7 to promote policies to tackle the climate emergency. The climate emergency is real, but instead of standing up to President Trump, it was in fact agreed this time, in order to save his blushes, that there would be no joint communiqué on this at the G7. That is not leadership; that is fiddling while the Amazon burns. The situation across the Amazon should be a wake-up call to the Prime Minister, who once described global warming as a “primitive fear…without foundation”. As we watch fires rage, and not only across the Amazon but in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, does he stand by those sentiments?
While funds to protect and restore the Amazon rain forest are welcome, the Prime Minister knows that this is merely a drop in the ocean, so will more money be pledged for the Amazon, and are additional funds being made available to tackle fires in sub-Saharan Africa? Will he be introducing measures to stop UK companies aiding, abetting and profiting from the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, and indeed rain forests in west Africa? On 1 May the UK Parliament became the first state Parliament anywhere in the world to declare a climate emergency, and I was proud to move that motion. We must continue to show global leadership on the issue.
On Iran, it is notable that the Prime Minister fails to condemn President Trump’s unilateral decision to tear up the internationally agreed Iran nuclear deal, creating a crisis that now risks a slide into even deeper conflict. Does the Prime Minister plan to work with European partners to restore the Iran nuclear deal and de-escalate tensions in the Gulf? We are clear that in government Labour would work tirelessly through the UN for a negotiated reinstatement of the nuclear deal, and to defuse the threat of war in the Gulf. Effective diplomacy, not threats and bluster, must prevail. Will he call on the Iranian authorities to end the unjust detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and what actions has he taken so far to ensure her release from the terrible situation that she has been plunged into?
We are all concerned about the situation in Hong Kong. No Government anywhere should get to shut down rights and freedoms, or to pick and choose which laws they adhere to. Will the Prime Minister urge the Chinese Government to stick to the joint declaration of 1984 and stand up for the rights of citizens in Hong Kong?
Later today, this House has a last chance to stop this Government riding roughshod over constitutional and democratic rights in this country, so that a cabal in Downing Street cannot crash us out without a deal, without any democratic mandate and against the majority of public opinion. The Prime Minister is not winning friends in Europe; he is losing friends at home. His is a Government with no mandate, no morals and—as of today—no majority.
(9 months ago)Commons Chamber
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I welcome tonight’s vote. We live in a parliamentary democracy. We do not have a presidency; we have a Prime Minister. Prime Ministers govern with the consent of the House of Commons representing the people in whom sovereignty rests. There is no consent in this House to leave the EU without a deal. There is no majority for no deal in the country. As I have said before, if the Prime Minister has confidence in his Brexit policy—when he has one he can put forward—he should put it before the people in a public vote. So he wants to table a motion for a general election. Fine—get the Bill through first in order to take no deal off the table. [Interruption.]
(10 months, 1 week ago)Commons Chamber
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his position and thank him for an advance copy of his statement.
No one underestimates this country, but the country is deeply worried that the new Prime Minister overestimates himself. He inherits a country that has been held back by nine years of austerity that hit children and young people the hardest. Their youth centres have closed, their school funding has been cut and their college budgets slashed, and with the help of the Liberal Democrats, tuition fees have trebled. Housing costs are higher than ever, and jobs are lower paid. Opportunity and freedom have been taken away. Austerity was always a political choice, never an economic necessity—[Interruption.]
Break in Debate
The office of Prime Minister requires integrity and honesty, so will the Prime Minister correct his claim that kipper exports from the Isle of Man to the UK are subject to EU regulations? Will he also acknowledge that the £39 billion is now £33 billion, due over 30 years, and has been legally committed to be paid by his predecessor? This is a phoney threat about a fake pot of money, made by the Prime Minister.
We also face a climate emergency, so will the Prime Minister take the urgent actions necessary? Will he ban fracking? Will he back real ingenuity like the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon? Will he increase investment in carbon capture and storage? Will he back our solar industry and onshore wind—so devastated over the last nine years? Will he set out a credible plan to reach net zero?
I note that the climate change-denying US President has already labelled the Prime Minister “Britain Trump” and welcomed his commitment to work with Nigel Farage. Could “Britain Trump” take this opportunity to rule out once and for all our NHS being part of any trade deal—any trade deal—with President Trump and the USA? Will the Prime Minister make it clear that our national health service is not going to be sold to American healthcare companies? People fear that, far from wanting to “take back control”, the new Prime Minister would effectively make us a vassal state of Trump’s America.
Will the Prime Minister ask the new Foreign Secretary to prioritise the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and is he working with European partners to restore the Iran nuclear deal and de-escalate tensions in the Gulf?
The challenge to end austerity, tackle inequality, resolve Brexit and tackle the climate emergency will define the new Prime Minister. Instead, we have a hard-right Cabinet staking everything on tax cuts for the few and a reckless race-to-the-bottom Brexit. He says he has “pluck and nerve and ambition”; our country does not need arm-waving bluster; we need competence, seriousness and, after a decade of divisive policies for the few, to focus for once on the interests of the many.
(1 year, 4 months ago)Commons Chamber
Obviously a customs union would be negotiated, would be inclusive and would be designed to ensure that our jobs and investment are protected, that there is frictionless and seamless trade with the European Union, and that we have a say in future trade arrangements—something the Prime Minister has absolutely failed to achieve. The fault for not achieving it lies absolutely with the Prime Minister. She claimed she would have a deal agreed by October, then she delayed the vote by a month, and she still suffered the worst—
(1 year, 6 months ago)Commons Chamber
I have given way a great many times, and I will draw my remarks to a close soon.
The responsibility for the state of anxiety lies solely with the Government. Two years of botched negotiations have led us here. Members of this House have a very important decision to make one week today. To vote for the deal would be to damage our economy, to make our constituents poorer and to take a leap in the dark with the future of this country. Do not take my word for it—the Government published their own economic assessment, which found that the Chequers proposals would make our economy nearly 4% smaller than it would otherwise be, thus knocking £100 billion out of our economy within 15 years. For those who like to break down those sorts of figures into weekly amounts, that is nearly £2 billion a week less. That definitely was not seen on the side of a bus.
Labour will vote against this deal. It is a bad deal for Britain, a bad deal for our economy and a bad deal for our democracy. Our country deserves better.