There have been 13 exchanges between Sir Gary Streeter and Cabinet Office
|Tue 23rd June 2020||Covid-19 Update||3 interactions (58 words)|
|Fri 20th December 2019||European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill||17 interactions (92 words)|
|Thu 19th December 2019||Debate on the Address||3 interactions (6 words)|
|Wed 4th September 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (96 words)|
|Wed 20th March 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (44 words)|
|Wed 13th February 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (44 words)|
|Wed 19th December 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||9 interactions (147 words)|
|Mon 26th November 2018||Leaving the EU||3 interactions (74 words)|
|Wed 4th July 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (53 words)|
|Wed 28th March 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (51 words)|
|Wed 21st February 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (50 words)|
|Wed 17th January 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (54 words)|
|Wed 11th October 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (66 words)|
I make no comment on the blessed amnesia that has descended on the First Minister of Wales, except to say that, actually, when we look at the facts and what the UK is doing together, we can see that we are in much closer harmony than someone would suspect from what the hon. Lady says. One detail—one wrinkle—to which I respectfully draw her attention is that I am not sure that the five-mile limit rule is entirely necessary; perhaps that needs to be rethought.
Yes, indeed—although, as my hon. Friend already knows, we are doing a massive amount to support businesses of all kinds, particularly by getting rid of business rates for the whole of next year. One thing that I would say, respectfully, to all those who represent tourist areas of this country, is that now is perhaps the time to send out a welcoming signal to those from other parts of our country and to roll out the welcome mat, rather than the “Not welcome here” sign. That is something that we could do together.
(7 months, 4 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
That was the year of the referendum. In that one single year, we were a net beneficiary to the tune of £395 million. In every other year, we have been paying dear to bear this regulatory burden.
In addition to those reasons for my opposition to the European Union and all its excesses, I have a more fundamental reason. It is this: when power is exercised detached from the people it affects, it first becomes careless and ultimately becomes capricious. When people lose the ability to hold to account those who make decisions for them, democracy is undermined. That, in the end, is the reason why I campaigned with such vigour to leave the European Union in the referendum and have consistently argued so from my boyhood into my middle age, which I am now about to enjoy.
The denial that I described earlier is a test of character for Opposition Members. The test of character in victory is humility and the test of character in defeat is wisdom. The test for those who have adopted the position to vote against the Bill today—many of whom I respect, by the way, as individual Members of this House—is whether they will exercise such wisdom, for to vote against this Bill is not merely implausible; it is fundamentally unwise.
You will be glad to know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that that brings me to my concluding remarks. [Hon. Members: “No!”] I know that that will disappoint more Members than it pleases. None the less, I must make room for others to contribute. G. K. Chesterton wrote:
“How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win.”
I simply say to Opposition Members that how they behave now will determine how they are thought of now and into the future.
Let me finish on this note. I have spoken about my consistent position. There are critics of me—here and more broadly. [Hon. Members: “No!”] Not many, I acknowledge, but there are critics. However, one thing I cannot be criticised for is inconsistency. C. S. Lewis said that consistency is the mark of greatness. I just hope that if I remain consistent, one day I might be great, too.
What a joy it is to follow the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes). My quotes are normally a bit more Jarvis Cocker and Bill Shankly than G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis, but the right hon. Gentleman made a good contribution, and it is his point about undermining democracy that I really want to begin with. But first, I must thank my constituents in Wirral South because not only did they take the decision to re-elect me for the fourth time, but even those who I know for a fact were definitely not voting for me were incredibly kind. That is the quality of the people in the Wirral; I thank them all.
When it comes to undermining democracy, I think we need to step back from some of the language in this debate. It is perfectly legitimate to be triumphalist in victory. I take nothing for granted, but if my team wins the league this season, I will certainly be triumphalist. However, this is not football; this is incredibly important. Although the Prime Minister has a mandate for his manifesto, we are still a democracy, and in a democracy we take pride in listening to dissenting voices. It is that voice of dissent that we are at risk of crushing in this debate because this Bill has huge problems. Worse, many Members, including Labour colleagues who voted for the Bill, worked hard to place ameliorations against the worst aspects of Brexit in the Bill that we debated before the election, but some of those ameliorations have now been removed.
First, no deal is firmly back on the table. Clause 33 reintroduces the huge jeopardy that we might leave the European Union without a deal, and the consequences of doing so are grim. There is a risk to peace from our having no agreement with the European Union, given where that would leave the relationship for those on the island of Ireland. No deal could create significant problems for medical supplies on cross-channel routes, which would have an immediate impact on the health and lives of people in Britain, and we know what no deal would do to food supplies. Reintroducing that risk through the Bill is a massive mistake. I will not rehearse all the reasons why the idea that it is necessary for our negotiating position is wrong, because we know that it is wrong. The Prime Minister wants to do it, but I am afraid that if he thinks the days of hearing objections to that negotiating stance are over because we have a new Parliament, he is very much mistaken.
Secondly, from discussing a hard border on the island of Ireland, we will now be discussing a hard border for Merseyside. The impact of a border in the Irish sea is significant for my constituents in the Wirral and people who live in Sefton and Liverpool, where the port is, with ferries going between Birkenhead and Belfast. If people in this House think that because Merseyside votes somewhat counter to the national trend, it will be forgotten, I can tell them that they are wrong. The people of Merseyside want to know that Brexit will not do irreparable damage to our relationships—both commercial and of friendship —with people on the other side of the Irish sea, so we will be making our objections clear. I want to know what economic assessment has been carried out on the impact of this policy. The hon. Members for Belfast South (Claire Hanna) and for North Down (Stephen Farry) made these points clearly in their great maiden speeches. To us, Brexit is not just a risk to our economy, but a risk to our identity, and we will not allow that point to go unheard.
Finally, on parliamentary sovereignty, the efforts of the former Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central, Gareth Snell, to give us in this House a say and to get a parliamentary lock on the future relationship have unfortunately failed. The Prime Minister has ripped up commitments that he made to people who were prepared to vote for his deal. That is an unworthy thing to do; he should have kept those parliamentary locks in the Bill.
By any economic measure, the consequences of this Bill are grim, and the democratic consequences are worse. The Conservative party won the general election, but they won some crucial seats by a few hundred votes. They should not use those votes as a mandate to forget all the people who did not vote for them in those areas. The Prime Minister has control of the House now, so he can drum his Brexit through, but the question is how he can do that when there are nations in our Union and cities in our country that do not consent, and for which he has shown little care. If his future is one in which it is his way or nothing, my party will need to plan an alternative future, and that is the work that we will now get on with.
Break in Debate
I thank the hon. Member for his intervention, but I do not accept that that is the case. Nor do I accept that the Bill does anything other than leave those rights to the mercy of any future Government. I do not trust this Prime Minister to maintain the standards we have derived from the EU.
It is about the protection of our woodlands, rivers and coastal habitats at a time when the environment could not be more important. It is about the practical expression of our values in the way that we treat the world’s most vulnerable children.
I understand that the Prime Minister has a majority that means he will pass the Bill and we will leave the European Union, but my constituents will not be denied a voice in that debate. Make no mistake: the Bill will deliver nothing but damage to the UK on many fronts. I will oppose it, I will stand up for my constituents’ values and interests, and I will hold the Government to account for the consequences of their reckless actions.
It is an honour to be back in this House almost two and a half years to the day I was first elected. I would like to thank the good people of Chelmsford for re-electing me to this place.
There have been two and a half years of endless squabbling and going round in circles. This afternoon, we will be able to put that squabbling to an end, get Brexit done and move on.
For some of us, this has been a very long journey. I first campaigned for a referendum more than a decade ago. Ten years ago, I stood for and was elected to the European Parliament on a platform calling for reform, as Europe needed to modernise. Five years ago, I stood with a gentleman who is now my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt) on a platform for the European Parliament, saying that it needed to reform, that we needed to renegotiate and that we would have a referendum. We then had that referendum.
I must admit that, as a Brit in Brussels chairing a major committee in that Parliament after the referendum, it was not easy. I was a major target for anyone who wanted to throw political abuse at Britain. There were days when I literally felt that the arrows to my front had met the knives in my back, but I also felt that there were friends across Europe who wanted to help us to move on, to avoid an acrimonious divorce and to move on into a new, deep and special partnership. That partnership has been outlined by the Prime Minister again today and it is a partnership that also respects democracy.
It was democracy that came up again and again on the doorsteps in this general election. Our country has a proud reputation of standing up for democracy across the world. How do we stand firm with the people of Hong Kong, with Zimbabwe, with the Rohingya from Burma and with the people in Venezuela if we do not respect democracy in our own country?
In his first speech after the election, the Prime Minister called for healing. It is time to stop putting people into those pigeonholes of leave and remain. It is time to move on. Today, when I vote for the agreement, it will be the first step towards moving on. Yes, we need to get a trade deal. We need to get a trade deal with the EU and it needs to get one with us; the EU is our largest trading partner, and we are the EU’s largest trading partner. We can get a trade deal within the year, and we must get a trade deal within the year. It can be done, because so much of the detail has already been agreed not only by us, but by all 27 other countries as well. They have agreed tariff-free, quota-free trade. They have agreed a deal that works for our fishing and our farming and a deal that can work for our financial services. Members should remember that 10p in every pound that we spend as taxpayers comes from the financial services. We have agreed a deal that works for the environment and, crucially, as a supporter of a science, a deal that works for ongoing co-operation in science, security and student exchanges.
Much of this election was about one nation Conservativism—[Interruption.] I am winding up. One nation conservatism is not only about holding our United Kingdom together, which is crucial, but about working for all sectors of our economy. It is a conservatism that is committed to well-funded public services, funded by a strong economy; a conservatism that believes that we must protect our environment and put it in a better state for future generations; and a conservatism that is committed to our role in the world and believes that every single person in this country has an equal right to a fair chance in life. That is the conservatism that we will be supporting when we vote for this crucial step this afternoon.
Sadly, we live in a very divided country. I have listened in vain to those on the Government Benches to hear whether they have any understanding of the 16 million people who voted to remain in the European Union—in my city last week, people voted 44,000 to 9,000 to remain. I have no sense that the Government understand those people, and that is a very dangerous situation, because people are proud to be citizens of the European Union. We do not welcome the erosion of the rights that we currently enjoy, so when there is celebration in a few weeks’ time by some, there will be real grief and anger from others. They will have a good reason to be angry, because in the previous Parliament there was a real prospect of securing a confirmatory referendum. The Prime Minister knew that, which is why he was so desperate to get to his election. He was on the ropes, but to everyone’s astonishment the Liberal Democrats came to the rescue—of course, they are not here. They took a huge gamble with the future of this country, and of course it failed and they have paid a heavy price, but sadly, so, too, has the whole country. What I will say is that their role in this will not be forgotten. [Interruption.] No, I did not vote for the election; I voted against it, which actually got the biggest cheer in the hustings in Cambridge—no elections in December ever again, please.
I am an optimist and I say to remainers: there is hope. We have seen that the Prime Minister, despite the bluster, folds under pressure. He folded when the Irish issue looked to be derailing his progress and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) explained so well, he buckled and did what he and the previous Prime Minister said they would never do: create a border down the Irish sea. Less commented on is how he buckled under pressure from Farage when he threatened to put up candidates in every seat. That was when no deal was brought back: by that promise to not allow an extra extension of the transition period. We know it is all a stunt and negotiating ploy, but it shows that pressure works, so I say: keep the pressure on the Prime Minister.
A so-called skinny trade deal might keep goods flowing, and that is important, but so are the flows of people and research collaboration, and however hard we try, we will no longer be a voice in the room in those important negotiations. Instead, we will have an army of people in Brussels trying to persuade others to make the argument on our behalf—a delicious irony that we will come to see. We will have to follow rules over which we have no influence in making. That is the future. People will come to say, “Wouldn’t it be better if had some influence and a say?” That debate will come, but in the meantime we will have to live with what is a Brexit fiction, because in reality there is no Brexit. We always have to have a relationship with our neighbours. The question is how we manage and negotiate that: do we have endless negotiations and arguments, or do we live within a civilised set of institutions and rules that make it so much better?
I, too, extend my congratulations to Mr Speaker, on this my first time speaking after the election, although of course he is not in the Chair at the moment. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) on his speech. As always, I think he argued his case with eloquence and courtesy, even if I did not agree with quite everything he said.
This has been a challenging election for us all—the hon. Member referred to it being a December election—and I give my thanks above all to the people of West Oxfordshire for having returned me again. I am very humbled and grateful for the trust they have put in me. Not only did they have to endure a December election, but it was the third general election in three years for them and me. In every electoral contest since 2015, we have promised to do as we were instructed on the question of Britain’s place in the EU, and that is what we have a chance to do today: to show that we will do as were told and what we said we would do.
Now is also an important time for us to put to bed the question of this country’s place in Europe. That question has bedevilled and tormented this country for longer than I have been alive. I am clear, from speaking to people in my constituency and around the country, that while the people of this country warmly welcome a relationship of trade, co-operation and culture, they never wanted to be part of a political union, but inexorably that is the direction in which the EU has been heading for many years, certainly since the advent of the euro. We have a chance tonight to bring the country together by putting this question to bed.
The free trade agreement destination, which the Bill leads to, will unify the British people by giving them the chance to step outside ever closer political union while maintaining the strong links of culture, friendship, co-operation and trade that we all warmly welcome. The hon. Member for Cambridge asks how we represent and recognise the concerns of those who voted to remain. That is how I propose we do that—by ensuring close links of trade, friendship, culture and co-operation.
There is something else we can do to show that we are not just a talking shop in his House, arguing and bickering among ourselves and failing to make decisions, but that we can actually move the country forward. If there is one other thing I have heard that people desperately want, it is for us to move on and stop the endless bickering, arguing, changing our mind and failing to show leadership and decision. Ultimately, that leadership is what we are here for; we are sent here to take decisions. We have the chance to do that today.
When I listened to the Leader of the Opposition earlier, it was so dismaying to realise that there is a cold vacuum at the heart of Labour where there should be a policy. He seems to have learned nothing from the preceding six weeks; if you do not keep the promises you make to the electorate at an election, they punish you. He fell back on the same tired scapegoating about how we are going to sell the NHS to Donald Trump—we are not—and how we are going to lead a charge to the bottom on safety standards. We heard the scaremongering about maggot-infested orange juice that the Leader of the Opposition has been using for months and which has already been comprehensively debunked. Again, he fell back on tired old scaremongering, because the Opposition have nothing else to offer.
Instead, we have a return to full democratic self-government, which should be welcomed by everybody, no matter which side of the argument they hail from. That is something to welcome and cherish, no matter which side of this argument people come from. I urge everybody, when they go through the Lobby this afternoon, to welcome that and to look forward to the future with positivity and hope.
It is with deep sadness and loss that I stand here, knowing that we will now be leaving the EU. I regret that we will not be able to hear the voices of the many people who have changed their mind and would now vote to remain in any final-say referendum and of all those young people who would get a chance to have a real say on their future. For that, I am truly concerned. I am concerned for the country and for those people’s futures.
We are here, however, to scrutinise this legislation, which does not even begin to meet the challenges that Brexit poses and which has taken out all the elements that matter. Importantly, this Prime Minister is stripping Parliament of its voice and therefore denying the people and the country a say on their future. By scrapping powers for MPs to scrutinise future trade deals, we risk being forced to accept lower standards as a price for future trade agreements. Those trade deals will now be conducted behind closed doors and without proper scrutiny. The deals will have an impact on our communities, our businesses and our people, risking workers’ rights, environmental regulation and food standards. Denying Parliament a voice means that we are being denied democracy and people are being denied a voice. They cannot call themselves a “people’s Government” if the first thing they do is ignore the people’s representatives. As MPs, we are here to ensure that our communities, people’s livelihoods, businesses, jobs and futures are looked after and safeguarded. This Government are taking away that opportunity. This deal fails to guarantee the future of our environmental standards. The binding part of the agreement contains nothing about environmental standards across the UK, and the non-binding political declaration just notes that the parties should maintain those important environmental standards. With only 11 months in which to negotiate a trade deal with the EU, the risk of no deal has significantly increased, and that is the worst of all scenarios.
What of our EU citizens? They should never become the victims of Brexit. I speak to many of them in Cardiff North, and they are living in fear and anxiety over their future. Some of them have lived here most of their lives, with children born here and lives rooted firmly here. EU citizens must be assured of their rights and they should be immediately granted the full rights that they enjoy today—the EU will reciprocate in respect of UK citizens living in the EU. By taking away Lord Dubs’s amendment to safeguard child refugees, the Prime Minister and his party, the one apparently founded to conserve, are eroding the rights and values we hold so dear, selling out the things that make this country great. This has become an exit not only from the EU, but from our responsibilities and from common decency, and I shall be voting against it today.
Finally, let me end by saying that the Bill will not strip me of my European identity. I will always be both European and Welsh in equal measure. My values and my identity have been formed from being part of the European Union—the values of openness, tolerance, inclusivity, equality and trust in the public good. Those values are now under threat, from this Trumpian, populist Government, from right-wing populism and from bigots everywhere. For me and many of my constituents, leaving the EU will be a profound and deep loss. There is a reason why many millions of us marched on the streets and have gone out of our way to fight for a future within the EU. Being European is an identity that we want to keep. Allow us to keep it.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. That means that if I take an intervention, I get an extra minute, does it not?
Break in Debate
It is clear that the Conservatives overwhelmingly won the election for a variety of reasons, but on the Brexit front it is also the case that 16.5 million people voted for remain parties, compared with 14.5 million people who voted for leave parties. In fact, including the parties that do not support a particular deal—namely, the Brexit party—there are 18.1 million people who do not support this oven-ready deal that we are being served up and asked to consume very quickly today. On that basis, there still should be a public vote on the deal, because this is about the long-term future of Britain. [Interruption.] I know that people do not agree with me, but my judgment is that we are going to be poorer, weaker, more divided and isolated.
People in my constituency who voted leave—many did, of course—voted for more money, more control and more jobs, and they will judge this deal on whether the Government deliver that. I say to Members who have taken Labour seats on the back of “Get Brexit done” that if we do not deliver those things that leave voters asked for, they will be very unhappy. In fact, they will not just be unhappy; they will have lost their jobs, and I assume that they will come back to the Labour party.
We are leaving the single market, one of the primary architects of which was, of course, Margaret Thatcher, who saw it as probably the most perfect free and fair trade market in the world. Today we are saying not just that we will have no alignment—or that we will not have dynamic alignment—but that we will have dynamic misalignment. In other words, as the European Union changes its rules, we will change our rules in a different way. That means the prospects of agreeing a deal within 12 months will become vanishingly small, and the prospects of knowing that we will agree a deal in six months—by June—are even smaller.
China, the United States and other countries will look at us and see that we are increasingly turning our back on our biggest markets, and that gives them more power in negotiations. We stand alone, turning our back on the EU, and when we talk to the United States they will say that they do not want any environmental or climate change considerations in the trade deals, as they already have. They do not really care that much about food standards; they want hormone-impregnated meat and chlorinated chicken. They want our NHS database and to enforce patents so that drugs will be more expensive. They also sell asbestos and all the rest of it. As we move away from the regulatory protection of the EU, we are in their hands.
When we have trade talks with China, we will obviously have to be on bended knee. They will say, “Don’t mention human rights, Hong Kong and all that sort of stuff. Just stick to the point and do what we say.” They are already building HS2 and a lot of other infrastructure here. If this is about democracy, it is important that Parliament has greater scrutiny of these trade deals and that we go into these things with our eyes open.
Finally, on human rights, I am very concerned about the issue of unaccompanied minors. Frankly, it has a strange echo of Donald Trump, who has separated children from their parents who are refugees and put them in detention camps—our great friend, Donald Trump. At the same time, we see in the Queen’s Speech the abolition of the BBC, and the civil service and the judiciary are also under threat. Our fundamental values shared across Europe of democracy, human rights and the rule of law are under threat. All new Members must think carefully about what is in the balance here. I know that they are driving through in great merriment on the back of “Get Brexit done”, in pre-Christmas pantomime mode, but we need to think about what is best for Britain and best for democracy, and that means proper scrutiny of this Bill.
Thank you, Sir Gary. It is a great pleasure to be the tail-ender in a debate that has had a very welcome change in tone from that of previous debates on this topic. First, I thank the voters of Rugby and Bulkington for returning me for the fourth time with an increased majority, which I think is the case for almost all Conservative Members and is an endorsement of our party’s attitude. I will be supporting the Bill to leave the European Union this afternoon, as I have done on four previous occasions.
I want to reflect on the effect on business. On the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, we looked at the impact of leaving the EU on the automotive, aerospace, food and drink and pharmaceutical sectors, and in each case, business leaders told us of few benefits of leaving the EU and their concerns that what benefits there were would be outweighed by the harm. Much of the harm has been the uncertainty that business has had to go through over the past two and a half years. Businesses want to see frictionless trade, to be able to continue with just-in-time supply chains and to retain access to a market of 500 million consumers on their doorstep. I know from my business career before arriving here that it is easiest to deal with our closest neighbours, and that will be very important in the comprehensive trade deal that we conduct with the EU once we have left. It will be important not to neglect what is on our doorstep.
The business view about the need to get Brexit done is just as strong as the one that all of us encountered on the doorsteps. As a west midlands MP, I am very concerned about the impact on the automotive sector. Many of my constituents work for Jaguar Land Rover, and many of the companies in my constituency are in the supply chain. It is of concern that the figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show UK output down year on year, partly because of shutdowns that were put in place to deal with concerns about the disruption caused by potentially leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October. It is important that we have now got that uncertainty out of the way, and businesses will be able to grow and develop.
We will start to see substantial investment. In fact, over the last couple of years, despite the uncertainty of Brexit, there has been substantial private sector investment in my constituency. Meggitt, which is involved in making components for the aerospace market, is currently building the biggest factory that has been built in the UK for 10 years. Moto is building a new motorway service area at junction 1 of the M6 in Rugby, and local builder and developer Stepnell has just delivered a whole range of medium-sized industrial units ready for existing businesses to expand into. Developments on that scale at a time of great uncertainty lead me to be extremely confident that there is a pipeline of new projects that can now get started, because we are on our way to leaving the European Union, and that will benefit communities and workers across the UK.
In my last minute, I want to refer to the effect on democracy. I noted the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green). I, too, talked to many constituents on the doorsteps during the campaign who said that they would not be voting; they wanted to opt out. That is not unusual, because many people have a low opinion of politicians, but I sensed that at this election, more people were intending not to vote or to waste their vote because they had voted in the referendum, and the politicians had not delivered on what they voted for. We in this place cannot choose which votes we wish to respect, and we are now able to deliver for all those who voted in the general election and the referendum.
I worry that the hon. Gentleman never seems ready to listen to what the Scottish people have said. In 2014, Scottish people said they wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom, but he refuses to listen to them. Respect the people of Scotland. Listen to them. Honour the referendum result,
On Brexit, the language of this one nation Prime Minister is that this is not the time when we become fortress Britain; it is the time when we become global Britain. We will be more open, more welcoming, more internationalist, more tolerant. That is the direction that we need to go in.
The second element of the Queen’s Speech—such an important, striking element—relates to the NHS. In the election campaign, so much nonsense was talked about privatisation of the NHS. The problem was that sometimes, mischievously, the word “privatisation” was used to mean two different things. It is important to emphasise that the principle of healthcare being provided free at the point of need, regardless of ability to pay, is sacrosanct. It is simply not up for discussion and it never was going to be up for discussion. It is an article of faith for this nation, part of what marks us out in the community of nations. I am so proud that I was able to stand in Cheltenham on the record of what the Government had achieved for Cheltenham and for Cheltenham General Hospital. We had had more money put into our A&E services and saved our A&E. We had delivered the new £2 million Apollo surgical theatre for the hospital, £1 million for Gloucestershire air ambulance, linear accelerators and so on and so forth.
What is exciting about the Queen’s Speech is the pledge to invest yet more in our hospitals and the NHS in general. I want to see in Cheltenham a Gloucestershire cancer institute, and I will support the oncologists who do such a fantastic job and provide health services not just in Cheltenham and not just in Gloucestershire, but as far afield as Wales, Warwickshire, Herefordshire and still further afield. The Queen’s Speech rightly focuses on recruiting more staff, and on ending the injustice of the parents of a small child who has to be cared for overnight, or people with disabilities, or out-patients who require repeated treatments having to pay car parking charges. The Queen’s Speech also addresses the issue of doctors’ pensions and the fact that too many clinicians, particularly senior clinicians, are feeling priced out of going back to work because of the law of unintended consequences and the way it applied to pensions. That issue will be resolved.
I am excited about what will happen to our schools. One thing that did not really surface enough in the election campaign is how standards in our schools have risen, and risen relentlessly. The situation we inherited in 2010 was that our schools were on a downward trajectory, and we were slipping down the league tables in respect of the international comparisons. That is no more: we are now heading up the league tables and are ahead of France, Germany and the United States in reading and mathematics. That is something to be celebrated and we should be paying tribute to our teachers, the parents who support them and the school governors who are doing it time and again. In Cheltenham in particular, the results being achieved in our secondary schools—in Balcarras, in Bournside, in Pate’s, in All Saints’ and in all the other schools—are absolutely fantastic.
The Government have indicated that we will provide more funding. It is a fact that schools have delivered services despite the fact that the cost base and cost pressures have been going up, not least in respect of teachers’ pensions and so on. Whereas in 2015 the schools in my constituency received about £4,200 per head as a minimum, that will go up next year to a minimum of £5,000 per head. In fact, the average in Cheltenham will be closer to £5,300 per head. That is going to empower and turbo-charge our schools to continue the fantastic work that they are doing.
One point ably made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) was about our environment. As I said when I introduced my private Member’s Bill on net zero carbon, we need a new radicalism, but although we need to proceed with our heart, we also need to proceed with our head. I was delighted to hear of the new independent office for environmental protection, which will provide legal targets, including on air quality. There are important measures on planting more trees—the great Northumberland forest—and on new national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, but also a clear and hard-headed commitment to phase out coal completely by 2025 and to ensure that newly built houses no longer have fossil-fuel heaters. As we build more homes in Cheltenham as part of the cyber-park project, on any view they should no longer have gas boilers—I think they should be carbon neutral. That is what we need to focus on and the Queen’s Speech does so.
In summary, I could talk for a long time, but this Queen’s Speech can deliver a future for our country that is healthier, with children who are better educated, a country that is cleaner and an environment that is better protected. I am delighted to support the Gracious Speech. The future for our country can be very bright indeed.
I have been returned to Parliaments often enough to know that in the first few days it is supposed to be friendly, collegiate and jovial. There is barely a human being on the planet who I do not wish well, but I cannot feign joviality simply because some Conservative Members get irritated and would rather we in the SNP cheered up or just shut up. I cannot feign it when I represent many people who have long since lost the energy or reason to smile because of what successive Tory Governments have put them through. I cannot pretend that there is anything collegiate about this place when I have sat through debates in Committees, spoken up for constituents and talked about the real pain and distress that many of them have felt because of UK Government policies, yet the policies are still railroaded through and their pain and distress are ignored and intensified. There is nothing collegiate about that, so I will not be feigning anything. I will just be sticking up for my constituents and for Scotland.
During this long debate, I was softening, because I am a very soft-hearted person, until the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) got up to speak. I am going to pick up on just two of the many things he said that absolutely enraged me. The first was when he talked about somebody—I missed who it was—who had posted the number for the Samaritans in response to the Conservative Government getting their big majority. If he does not understand that thousands of people are in a really bad way and are very distressed that they will have to go through another five years of even worse policies and the impact they will have on them, he does not understand even his constituency.
The hon. Gentleman then talked about how the absolute priority must be letterboxes. Now, I am a letterbox anorak as much as anybody else in here, but he talked about how he was constantly damp and frozen during the election campaign and how he had to deal with all these horrible letterboxes, and he said that had to be an absolute priority. I am sorry, but I have loads of constituents who are constantly damp and frozen because they cannot afford to heat their homes, and he will have plenty of them as well. If they had heard him say that, they would feel extremely let down by him.
I will be collegiate about my predecessor. Paul Sweeney was a tough opponent, mainly because we agreed on so much and shared so many political interests. He is passionate about urban regeneration, restoring civic pride and the built heritage of Glasgow, particularly Glasgow North East, from where he hails. He considered it a huge honour to represent the area he grew up in. Politics can be really tough. It is not just a job we lose, and it is not just us who lose our jobs, so I wish him and his team well for the future.
I would like to redress a terrible faux pas that I made when the results of the election were announced in Glasgow. I paid tribute to my opponents’ campaigners and completely omitted to mention my own team. This has been pointed out to me once or 25 times in the past week, so now, from the bottom of my heart, I thank not just the voters of Glasgow North East, whom I do thank, but my brilliant campaign team, who were determined to move heaven and earth to get me elected—and they did. If it is not stretching it a wee bit too much, can I just say that one of them, Esther, celebrates her birthday today? Happy birthday, Esther.
What is in the Queen’s Speech for the constituents of Glasgow North East? [Interruption.] “Hee haw” I hear my colleagues say. Let us look at some of the issues facing some of my constituents. What is in the Queen’s Speech for people being forced to use food banks as they wait weeks for universal credit—support to which they are entitled—to arrive? Nothing. What is in the Queen’s Speech for the WASPI women, who should not have to be fighting but whose fight will continue, alongside many of us, until justice is done? Nothing.
What in the Queen’s Speech for people such as my constituent Donna from Carntyne, who is due to give birth in March but will do so alone because she does not earn enough for this heartless Government to allow her Tunisian husband to join her? Donna was a residential childcare worker—not highly paid but highly valued and absolutely necessary. She did that work by day and DJed by night and she still did not meet the minimum income threshold. What is in the Queen’s Speech for her? Absolutely nothing.
What is in the Queen’s Speech to help to stem the rising number of drugs-related deaths in Scotland—I refer to measures over which the Scottish Government have no control? Absolutely nothing. What is in the Queen’s Speech for EU citizens living in my constituency who have been stuck in limbo for the last three years? Nothing but more fear, more uncertainty and more hostility.
What is in the Queen’s Speech for children, often born here, whose parents cannot afford the £1,000-plus fee to apply for citizenship? Nothing, although now that the High Court has ruled these charges on children to be illegal, I look forward to the Government’s response. Finally, what is in the Queen’s Speech to help communities to transition to be greener and more sustainable? Nothing.
Let me elaborate on some of the aforementioned. I assume that information on the green energy deal to aid communities to become greener and more sustainable will be forthcoming at some point. I urge the Government to be very careful about how whatever it is they plan to do is implemented. Nothing should discourage people from participating but, unfortunately, the last attempt by the Government to do this, the last green deal, left many people penniless and mistrusting. Putting right what happened to those people will go some way—some way—to lifting the suspicion that many now feel.
Not long before losing my seat in the 2017 election, I was made aware of the issue of green deal mis-selling in the Barmulloch and Balormock areas of my constituency. A constituent who I have come to know very well— Mr Dougie Wilson—turned up at every surgery to update me on what was by then coming to light. That started me on a road that I am still on—a road that I stayed on, in solidarity with the 60 constituents affected by this, when I lost my seat. I am a little further along in terms of getting justice for people, but truth be told we have got nowhere near as far as we should have done because of the shambolic response from previous Governments. If this truly is a clean slate and fresh start, as the Prime Minister alluded to, I urge the Government to do what the SNP Government have to do as part of their day job, which is to mop up the mess left behind by the last UK Government.
Let me read something that one of those constituents said to me. This is important. May is 84 years old and she is widowed. She was told by a company approved by the UK Government that the cost of her green deal products would be nominal, that she should not worry, it was a Government scheme and they would pay the bulk; she would have pennies to pay. That was followed up by, “Hurry up and sign, or you will lose out.” This is what she said to me:
“When I got the paperwork with the figures on it I was so shocked I had an asthma attack. I was very distressed and panicked to see that I had somehow signed up to a loan of £10,000 with interest of £8,000. I am from a generation of people who save up if they want something. Other than my mortgage, I have never taken out debt, and although that sum might seem low to some people, it was horrifying to me.
At the time, I did not say anything because I was too shocked, too embarrassed. I am 84 years old, I felt stupid for not knowing what I was signing. I felt ashamed and I felt vulnerable. I did not feel in a position to complain. I thought I had no choice and I blamed myself. I don’t blame myself any longer.”
She does not blame herself any longer because she has the support of the fantastic Green Deal Action Group in Glasgow North East, which is made up of 60 of her neighbours, all of whom have different mis-selling stories to tell, all of whom this Government have heard from, but most of whom have been ignored or fobbed off. Let me be clear: they will not be getting fobbed off any longer. Apologies, cancelled credit agreements, refunds and compensation are what I am asking for. This is an issue that affects people not just in my constituency, but across Scotland. I am very grateful to those of my colleagues, particularly on these Benches, who carried on the fight and formed the all-party group on green deal mis-selling, for which I provided the secretariat.
I said that there was nothing in the Queen’s Speech on drug deaths. Last year, in Scotland, we lost 1,187 of our citizens to drug-related deaths. The Scottish Government have set up a drugs death taskforce, which is made up of a range of experts, including those with lived experience. They are looking at the changes that they can make, but some changes cannot be made without the permission of the UK Government. The Scottish Government want to allow injecting drug users to use a safe and supervised health facility so that, if they go into overdose, someone is there to get help, but they—the grown-up, democratically elected Government of Scotland—are not allowed to do that.
I join the calls of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) who has led the charge on this in the way that only she can. I join in her calls for the devolution of powers to enable Scotland to provide safe injecting facilities, and I will say more about that on a future occasion, but I am one of those people with lived experience of drug addiction. I lost a family member to a heroin overdose. He died, yes, because he injected heroin, but also because when he went into overdose, instead of calling for medical assistance his friends took fright and fled the scene because they were scared that they would be arrested. It is absolutely clear to me that he could still be with us today if those facilities had been available, as he would have been allowed to feed his terrible addiction in relative safety. Disappointed as I am not to see anything in the Queen’s Speech to help people in that position, I will work with other families, with drug users in Glasgow North East and with campaigners such as Faces and Voices of Recovery UK to fight for whatever measures are necessary to preserve lives and to make those lives worth living.
I said at the start that I would not feign joviality. I talked about the fact that no matter what we say and no matter how good a point we make, the UK Conservative Government are not listening, but that will not stop me, because I learned a very valuable lesson when I was elected in 2015. I met a group of women in Springburn in my constituency, and they were excited because two days earlier they had watched me speak in a debate on benefit sanctions. I told them how I felt that I had wasted my time and that I was banging my head against a brick wall because it changed nothing as nobody on the Government Benches was listening. They told me never to think like that. Yes, they want us to change things for them, but they told me that just knowing that someone who understood what they were going through was in this place, speaking up for them and fighting on their behalf, and being able to see and hear me do that meant so much to them. It made them feel that they were not voiceless.
So I will fight for the justice that my constituents need and deserve, but even if this Government are not listening, never again will I feel like I am wasting my time. Speaking up for the constituents of Glasgow North East is what I will do every day until the day we all walk out of here for the last time and head home to Scotland to build the socially just, compassionate and independent Scotland in which they deserve to live. We know that it will happen. This Government may be in denial, but deep down they know it, too. Independence is coming very soon, and Members should be sure of that.
Order. In the remaining minutes of this session, I appeal to colleagues to take account of the fact that we are visited by a distinguished group of Lebanese parliamentarians, at the invitation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the all-party group on Lebanon, which is chaired by the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes). We would like to set them a good example; I am not sure at the moment how impressed they will be.
First, the House should pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, who is one of a number of Members who have a background in that sort of work. We are in the hon. Gentleman’s debt for the experience that he has brought to the House’s discussions on the work that needs to be done. We recognise the need to keep the fund at a reasonable level, but we want to do even more, and I will of course meet him and other colleagues to discuss the matter.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has done invaluable work in boosting the small charities fund. It will indeed be more accessible for charities around the country that are doing great work in these fields, and we see it as a valuable addition to the work of DFID and the UK’s international contribution.
What a pleasure to call a west country knight, no less—Sir Gary Streeter.
My hon. Friend is absolutely correct that the way in which the world will end poverty is by having sustainable and inclusive economic growth. To achieve the sustainable development goals, we need to crowd in not just development finance, but $2.5 trillion annually for development.
The Home Office and other Departments with the responsibilities for security interests are in constant touch with the police and other relevant agencies about those matters. I say to the hon. Lady, as I have said to others in the House, that what is needed is for every Member in the House to take seriously his or her responsibility and not to keep ducking the question—[Interruption.] The challenge that she has to answer is that if she does not like the deal that has been negotiated with the 27 Governments of the EU, what is her alternative and that which the Opposition are proposing?
We are committed to supporting economic growth across the United Kingdom. We have established the Places for Growth programme to relocate civil service roles into the regions and nations. That creates a presumption that newly created public bodies will be located outside London.
I know, thanks to my hon. Friend and other hon. Members, that Plymouth is a great place to work and do business. A number of potential hub locations are under active consideration. I would of course be delighted to meet a delegation from Plymouth, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster intends to visit Plymouth shortly.
Break in Debate
There are many actions that the Government are taking in relation to the wider issue that the hon. Gentleman has raised about people saving lives over the winter—action is being taken in the NHS and elsewhere. Of course, for people to be able to heat their homes and to have confidence that they can afford to heat their homes, it is important that we help those who find themselves stuck on tariffs that are not right for them—that are higher than they should be. That is why our energy price cap is an important step in this. It will help 11 million households. On average, £76 a year will be saved and for some £130.
I thank my hon. Friend. He is absolutely right. The need to ensure that we are providing for children with special educational needs is very important. We are already seeing £6 billion this year going towards children with complex special educational needs; that is the highest level on record. We are also investing £265 million through to 2021 to create new school places and improve the existing facilities for children with special educational needs and those with disabilities. But it is also about the programme we have with our free schools; 34 special schools have opened so far with a further 55 in the pipeline. That is providing for children with special educational needs and we will continue to do so.
The hon. Gentleman will have heard a number of individuals around the House, including some of his colleagues on the Labour Benches, clearly expressing the view that they believe that remaining in the European Union is preferable to leaving it. I believe that it is important for us to deliver on the vote that the people took and to deliver Brexit.
It is absolutely the case that we have not seen an alternative proposal put forward that meets the needs of the British people in terms of the Brexit vote and does so in a way that protects jobs, our security and our United Kingdom. As I have said previously, when it comes to the vote, we will all need to consider our duty to deliver on the vote of the British people and deliver Brexit.
The hon. Lady touches on a subject close to my heart. When I was an aid worker in the former eastern bloc, I worked in the hospitals and orphanages there. Many of the children were not orphans as we would understand the term; they had families. We believe that the best way to care for and develop children, whatever their circumstances and whether they have a disability or not, is in a family or community setting. The disability summit that is coming up will afford us the opportunity to focus on the needs of the specific group that the hon. Lady refers to.
I know the hon. Lady’s commitment to this cause. As a result of the changes made under this Government, we allow contracts to take into account factors such as the local sourcing of food, as long as it is provided to all businesses.
Today we are publishing the Government’s state of the estate report for 2016-17. That report demonstrates the progress that we have made in transforming the use of the estate and in freeing up property receipts of £620 million to be reinvested in supporting local and national services.
This Government are committed to locating economic activity outside London and the south-east. Since 2016, 12 new public bodies have been located outside London, and indeed in the south-west to which my hon. Friend refers. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has set up a regional centre in Bristol, which employs 1,600 people.
I am always genuinely interested to hear what is happening in Rochdale Council, but I draw the hon. Lady’s attention to the fact that 26 of our 27 EU partners, as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, all have a voting age that begins at 18. I do not think that those countries can fairly be said to be not in the 21st century.
One of my first actions, which I set out this week, is to establish a new team to help countries that we are seeking to develop and that are transitioning out of poverty to improve tax collection systems and set up public services. We need to focus on that as well as on alleviating crises and immense poverty. I will be happy to discuss the matter further with the hon. Lady, and it will be one of my priorities.
The hon. Lady could not be more wrong. First of all, we are not ramping up a no-deal scenario; we are actively working in negotiations with the European Union to ensure that we get a good deal—the right deal for Britain—for a brighter future for this country, which is what I believe we can and will achieve. It is what I set out in my Florence speech. I recommend the speech to the hon. Lady.
On the second point, I made very clear—perhaps I need just to explain it again to members of the Opposition—that when we leave the European Union in March 2019, we will cease to be full members of the single market and the customs union. That will happen because you cannot be full members of the single market and the customs union without accepting all four pillars—free movement; continued, in perpetuity, European Court of Justice jurisdiction. During the implementation period, we will be looking to get an agreement that we can operate on much the same basis as we operate at the moment—under the same rules and regulations—but that will not be the same as full membership of the customs union and the single market.
First, I absolutely agree that we can commend and applaud the contribution that the Royal Marines and our amphibious fleet have made to the defence of this country and, indeed, the defence of others. It is absolutely right that, as we look at how threats are changing, we look at how we should best spend the rising defence budget to support our national security. We have committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence every year of this Parliament. We are spending £178 billion between 2016 and 2026 on equipment for our armed forces. Naturally, we do not always discuss the specific operational details, but if I might just say to my hon. Friend, I understand that the claims he has referred to are pure speculation at this stage.