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Questions to the Prime Minister.
Number one, Mr Speaker.
This morning, I had meetings with ministerial
colleagues and others.
In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such
meetings later today.
A very happy new year to you, Mr Speaker, and I would
like to extend that to everyone in this House.
It has been more than six months since the European referendum.
Embarrassingly for the Prime Minister, the Scottish government
are the only Administration on these islands to have published
a plan on what to do next.
Has she read it yet?
When will she be publishing her own plan?
I join the honourable gentleman in wishing
everybody in the House, not only members, but all the staff
of the House, a very happy new year.
As I said to the Liaison Committee when I appeared in front
of it before Christmas, I will, in a matter of weeks,
be setting out some more details of our proposals on this issue.
I would like just to remind him, when he talks about
the Scottish Government's plan, that of course it is his party,
the Scottish Nationalist Party, that wants to leave the United Kingdom
and therefore leave the European Union.
Westinghouse's Springfields site in my constituency employs more
than 1,200 people in highly skilled jobs manufacturing nuclear fuel,
which generates 15% of the UK's electricity.
Does my right honourable friend agree that the nuclear industry
is of crucial importance to the north-west economy?
Will she continue to support the construction of a new generation
of nuclear power stations to guarantee jobs in the region?
I certainly agree with my honourable friend that new nuclear does
have a crucial role to play in securing our future energy needs,
especially as we are looking to move to a low-carbon society.
The industrial strategy that the government will be setting
out will have a strong emphasis on the role of regions in supporting
economic growth and ensuring that the economy works for everyone.
Like him, I very much welcome the proposals from NuGen and Toshiba
to develop a new nuclear power station at Moorside in Cumbria.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
continues to work closely with NuGen and other developers as they bring
their proposals forward.
I call Jeremy Corbyn.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
It is nice to get such a warm welcome, and may I wish all members,
as well as all members of staff in the House, a happy new year?
I hope the whole House will join me, I am sure it will, in paying
tribute to 22-year-old Lance Corporal Scott Hetherington,
who died in a "non-combat" incident in Iraq last Monday.
I am sure the whole House will also join in sending its heartfelt
condolences to the family and friends of seven-year-old
Katie Rough, who tragically died in York earlier this week.
I think it is right that we send condolences to her family.
Last week, 485 people in England spent more than 12 hours on trolleys
in hospital corridors.
The Red Cross described this as a "humanitarian crisis."
I called on the Prime Minister to come to Parliament on Monday,
but she did not, she sent the Health Secretary.
But does she agree with him that the best way to solve
the crisis of the four-hour wait is to fiddle the figures so that
people are not seen to be waiting so long on trolleys
in NHS hospitals?
First, may I join the right honourable gentleman
in sending our condolences to the family of Lance Corporal
Hetherington, who, as he said, died in a non-combat
incident in Iraq?
From everything I have seen and read about Lance Corporal Hetherington,
he was a very fine young man.
He delighted in being in the armed forces, and we are proud that
such a fine young man was in our armed forces.
I also join the right honourable gentleman in expressing condolences
to the family and friends of little Katie, who died so tragically.
The right honourable gentleman talks about the pressures on the NHS,
and we acknowledge that there are pressures on the
National Health Service.
There are always extra pressures on the NHS
during the winter but, of course, we have at the moment
those added pressures of the ageing population and the growing complex
needs of the population.
He also refers to the British Red Cross's term, "humanitarian crisis."
I have to say to him that I think we have all seen humanitarian
crises around the world, and to use that description
of a National Health Service that last year saw 2.5 million more
people treated in accident and emergency than six years ago
was irresponsible and overblown.
Some 1.8 million people had to wait longer than four hours in A
departments last year.
The Prime Minister might not like what the Red Cross said,
but on the same day the British Medical Association said
that "conditions in hospitals across the country are reaching
"a dangerous level."
The Royal College of Nursing has said that NHS conditions
are the worst ever.
The Royal College of Physicians has told the Prime Minister
that the NHS is "under-funded, under-doctored and overstretched."
If she will not listen to the Red Cross, who will she listen to?
I have said to the right honourable gentleman that I of course
acknowledge that there are pressures on the National Health Service.
The government have put extra funding into
the National Health Service.
The fact is that we are seeing more people being treated in our NHS:
2,500 more people are treated within four hours every day
in the National Health Service because of the government putting
in extra funding and because of the hard work of medical
professionals in our National Health Service.
It is not just a question of targets for the health service,
although we continue to have a commitment
to the four-hour target, as the Health Secretary
has made clear.
It is a question of making sure that people are provided
with the appropriate care for them, and the best possible care for them
in their circumstances.
The right honourable lady seems to be in some degree
of denial about this.
She will not listen to professional organisations that have
spent their whole lifetimes doing their best for the NHS,
but will she listen to Sian, who works for the NHS?
She has a 22-month-old nephew.
He went into hospital, but there was no bed.
He was treated on two plastic chairs pushed together with a blanket.
Sian says that "one of the nurses told my sister that it's always
"like this nowadays."
She says to us all: "Surely we should strive
"to do better than this."
Do the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary think
that is an acceptable way to treat a 22-month-old child
in need of help?
I accept that there have been a small number of incidents
in which unacceptable practices have taken place.
We do not want those things to happen, but what matters
is how you deal with them, which is why it is so important
that the NHS looks into the issues when unacceptable incidents have
taken place and learns lessons from them.
I come back to the point that I was making earlier: the right
honourable gentleman talks about the hard-working health care
professionals, like Sian, in the National Health Service,
and indeed we should be grateful for all those
who are working in the NHS, but on the Tuesday after Christmas
we saw the busiest day ever in the National Health Service,
and over the few weeks around Christmas we saw the day
on which more people were treated in accident and emergency
within four hours than ever before.
That is the reality of our National Health Service.
We all thank NHS staff and we all praise NHS staff,
but the Prime Minister's government are proposing, through
sustainability and transformation, to cut one third of the beds
in all of our hospitals in the very near future.
On Monday, she spoke about mental health and doing
more to help people, particularly young people,
with those conditions, which I welcome, except that last
night the BBC revealed that, over five years, there had been
an 89% increase in young people with mental health issues having
to go to A departments.
Does she not agree that the ?1.25 billion committed to child
and adolescent mental health in 2015 should have been ring-fenced rather
than used as a resource to be raided to plug other holes
in other budgets in the NHS?
If we look at what is happening with mental health treatment
in the National Health Service, we see 1,400 more people every day
accessing mental health services.
When I spoke about this issue on Monday, I said
that there is of course more for us to do, this is not a problem that
will be resolved overnight.
I have set out ways in which we will see an improvement in the services
in relation to mental health, but it is about the appropriate
care for the individual.
As I mentioned earlier, that is not just about accident and emergency.
When I was in Aldershot on Monday, I spoke to service users with mental
health problems who said that they did not want to go to A
The provision of alternative services has meant that the A
locally has seen its numbers stabilising rather than going up.
It is about the appropriate care for the individual.
We want to see that good practice spread across the whole country.
Nobody wants people with mental health conditions to go to A
departments, the A departments do not want them to go there.
Under this government, there are 6,000 fewer nurses and 400
fewer doctors working in mental health.
It is obvious that these people will go somewhere to try to get
help when they are in a desperate situation.
Our NHS is under huge pressure.
Much of that is caused by cuts to social care,
which the Royal College of Physicians says "are pushing more
"people into our hospitals and trapping them there for longer."
Will the Prime Minister do what my honourable
friend the member for Leicester South Jonathan Ashworth
has called for and bring forward now the extra ?700 million allocated
in 2019 and put it into social care so that we do not have this problem
of people staying too long in hospital when they should be
cared for by a social care system?
The right honourable gentleman asked me those questions in the last
PMQs before Christmas.
He may find it difficult to believe that somebody will say the same
thing that they said a few weeks ago, but we have put extra
money into social care.
In the medium term, we are ensuring that best practice
is spread across the country.
He talks about delayed discharges.
Some local authorities, which work with their health service
locally, have virtually no delayed discharges.
Some 50%, half of the delayed discharges, are in only 24
local authority areas.
What does that tell us?
It tells us that it is about not just funding, but best practice.
If he comes back to me and talks to me about funding again,
he should think on this: we can only fund social care and the NHS
if we have a strong economy, and we will only have that
with the Conservatives.
I am sorry to have to bring the Prime Minister back
to the subject of social care, which I raised before Christmas.
The reason I did so, and will continue to do so,
is that she has not addressed the problem.
The government have cut ?4.6 billion from the social care budget.
The King's Fund says that there is a social care funding
gap of almost ?2 billion this year.
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister said
that she wanted to create a "shared society."
Well, we certainly have that: more people sharing hospital
corridors on trolleys, more people sharing waiting
areas in A departments, and more people sharing
in the anxiety created by this government.
Our NHS is in crisis, but the Prime Minister is in denial.
May I suggest to her that, on the economic question,
she should cancel the corporate tax cuts, and spend the money
where it is needed, on people in desperate need in social care
and in our hospitals?
The right honourable gentleman talks about a crisis.
I suggest he listens to the right honourable member
for Don Valley, Caroline Flint, a former Labour Health Minister,
who said that, with Labour, "It's always about crisis,
"the NHS is on its knees.
"We've got to be a bit more grown up about this."
And he talks to me about restoring the cuts in corporation tax.
The Labour party has already spent that money eight times.
The last thing the NHS needs is a cheque from Labour that bounces.
The only way that we can ensure that we have funding
for the National Health Service is with a strong economy.
Yesterday, the right honourable gentleman proved
that he is not only incompetent, but that he would destroy
our economy, and that would devastate our
National Health Service.
Cyber-bullying, sexting and revenge pornography are part
of British teenage life today, so is a rapid increase in mental
health problems among our teenagers.
How is the Prime Minister helping to tackle the pressures that
teenagers face in Britain today?
My right honourable friend raises an important point.
One of the things I spoke about, when I spoke about mental health
on Monday, was trying to ensure that we can provide some better
training for staff and teachers in schools to identify the early
stages of mental health problems for young people,
so that those problems can be addressed.
Something like half of all mental health problems start
before the age of 14, so this is a real issue
that we need to address.
We are going to look at how we can provide that training.
We will also review the mental health services provided for young
people to ensure that we can identify what is working and make
sure that good practice is spread across the country.
May I begin with a tribute to Father George Thompson,
who died shortly before Christmas?
He led a remarkable life as a teacher, as a priest and as
the Scottish National Party Member of Parliament for Galloway.
We extend our sympathies to his family.
All of us in this House and across these islands care
about the peace process and about the democratic
institutions in Northern Ireland, so may I wish the Prime Minister
well and the Taoiseach, the Northern Ireland Secretary
and the political parties all the best in trying
to resolve the serious political difficulties there?
Will the Prime Minister tell us what the consequences will be if no
agreement can be found?
First, may I join the right honourable gentleman in offering
condolences to the family and friends of
the Rev George Thompson, who, as he says, was the MP for Galloway
between 1974 and 1979 and, I believe, was the first former MP
in modern times to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest.
On the issue that the right honourable gentleman raises
about the political situation in Northern Ireland,
we are obviously treating this with the utmost seriousness.
As he will know, my right honourable friend the Northern Ireland
Secretary made a statement in the House earlier this
week on this issue.
He has spoken to the First Minister and the former
Deputy First Minister, and he is urging all parties to work
together to find a way forward.
I have also spoken to the Taoiseach about this issue, so we are putting
every effort into this.
The legislation says that if, within seven days,
we do not have a nomination for a Deputy First Minister,
the matter would go to an election.
The Prime Minister has indicated that she wants to take the views
of the elected representatives and the devolved institutions
on Brexit seriously.
So it stands to reason then that if there is no
Northern Ireland Assembly and no Northern Ireland Executive for much
of the time before the March timetable that she has set
for invoking article 50, she will be unable to consult properly,
to discuss fully and to find agreement on the complex
issues during this period.
In these circumstances, will the Prime Minister postpone
invoking article 50...
Or will she just plough on regardless?
As the right honourable gentleman says, we want to ensure that we do
hear the views from all parts of the United Kingdom.
That is why we have established the JMC European committee
specifically to take views, and the JMC plenary,
which is also obviously meeting more frequently than previously.
I am clear that, first of all, we want to try to ensure that,
within this period of seven days, we can find a resolution
to the political situation in Northern Ireland,
so that we can to see the Assembly government continuing.
But I am also clear that, in the discussions that we have,
it will be possible, it is still the case that Ministers
are in place and that, obviously, there are executives in place,
that we are still able to take the views of
the Northern Ireland people.
Closed question, Mr Michael Fabricant.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
The fundamentals of the UK s economy are strong,
including in Staffordshire and the West Midlands.
Employment in Staffordshire has risen by over 20,000 since 2010.
We have protected schools and police budgets.
We see more doctors and more nurses in the Burton hospitals trust.
Of course, we are going further than this in the West Midlands
by giving new powers to the West Midlands
with the devolution deal
and with the election of a directly elected Mayor.
I have to say that I think Andy Street, with his business
and local experience, would be a very good Mayor
for the West Midlands.
I thank my right honourable friend the Prime Minister for that answer.
Unemployment in my constituency, my beautiful Lichfield
constituency, is around 0.7%, and that is fantastic,
but I want it even lower.
I found out that 24% of my constituents work in the area
of the West Midlands Combined Authority, so can I press my right
honourable friend just a little further about what she thinks
is needed in the West Midlands Combined Authority to improve
employment still more.
I thank my honourable
friend, and, of course,
I have had the advantage of having visited his beautiful constituency.
But in relation to the Midlands, we have a very strong ambition
to make the Midlands an engine for growth in the UK.
That is why we have plans for the Midlands engine
that demonstrate that, when we say we are going to build
an economy that works for everyone, we actually mean it.
In the autumn statement, my right honourable friend
the Chancellor confirmed things such as the ?5 million for a Birmingham
rail hub and a ?250 million Midlands engine investment fund,
and we will shortly be publishing a strategy for the Midlands engine.
But I repeat the point that I made - for the West Midlands,
having the devolution deal, having the Mayor and having
the right person elected as Mayor, who I think will be Andy Street,
is absolutely crucial.
Happy New Year, Mr Speaker.
Sir Ivan Rogers, in his resignation letter, said that people may
have to deliver messages to the Government that ministers
may find disagreeable.
So here is a message that the Prime Minister may find
Her lack of priority for the single market
is putting jobs in Scotland and the economy at risk.
That means her Government are as big a threat to the Union as the SNP.
Her Government are not worthy of the trust of Scots,
let alone their blind trust, so will the Prime Minister take this
opportunity to apologise for threatening the Union and give
a solemn promise to every single person in this country
that they will not be a penny worse off after a Tory Brexit?
The honourable gentleman will be very well aware
that I want to see the best possible trade deal for the United Kingdom
with the EU and the best possible deal for trading with and operating
within the single European market.
When we enter the negotiations, obviously, that is one of the issues
that I have said that I want to see, and we will be out there
and be delivering on it.
Unlike the sort of downplaying that he
does about the approach that we are taking, I have
to say that it is this Government that is ambitious
for the opportunities that are available to this country once
we leave the European Union.
Cheshire schools in areas of rurality and areas of high
deprivation will receive some of the lowest per-pupil funding
rates in the country under the new proposed funding formula.
Does the Prime Minister agree that these discrepancies must be
addressed to ensure that Eddisbury pupils get the best
possible start in life?
I think everybody recognises that the way that schools
have been funded in the past has been unfair and many pupils
have been missing out.
That is why I think it is right for us to look at bringing forward
a new fair funding formula, making sure that funding is attached
to children s needs.
Of course we recognise the particular issues
of rural areas in this, and that is why, within the fair
funding formula, additional funding for such schools has been included.
But, of course, the Department for Education has this out
for consultation at the moment, and I would urge my honourable
friend to make her representations as part of that consultation.
Dewsbury hospital A is set for a downgrade this year.
Over Christmas, I had constituents who were waiting 20 hours for a bed
in a facility that might not even exist next year.
Would the Prime Minister please face reality and act now
to stop this vital A service from disappearing?
What the honourable lady
is referring to, of course, is the plans that are being put
forward at local level to consider...
There is far too much noise.
I must say to the honourable member
for Dewsbury that if she were behaving like this
in another public place she would probably be subject
to an antisocial behaviour order.
I return to the point, Mr Speaker.
Decisions about services in the local area are rightly taken
by the local National Health Service, because we believe
that it is local clinicians, and also local patients and leaders,
who know what is best for their areas.
So it is about trying to tailor the services to provide the best
possible services for the needs of local people, modernising
the care and facilities, and making services appropriate
to the local area.
This trust has an extensive improvement plan to ensure that both
hospitals within it can care for patients attending
accident and emergency in as timely a way as possible.
Next Thursday evening, I will host the first session
of the Bedford Community Business School, free of charge and open
to all, with 250 local people sharing a passion
for entrepreneurship and learning tips about business from national
and local business leaders.
Will my right honourable friend ensure that her forthcoming
industrial strategy has at its heart the passion and the interest
of Britain s small business leaders and entrepreneurs?
I can absolutely give my honourable friend that commitment.
What is important is that the industrial strategy will be
looking to the economy of the future - what is the sort of economy
we want in this country?
Crucial to that will be the growth that is generated by entrepreneurs
and by small businesses, by the very passion that he has spoken about.
We want to see an environment in which those who can grow can
emerge and develop to provide future jobs for people and contribute
to the strength of our economy.
That is what the industrial strategy is about.
I absolutely agree
with my honourable friend.
The Prime Minister, I am sure, will understand,
despite the reassurances, that there are genuine and really
serious concerns among staff across the NHS and the care system,
and patients and their families, about the pressure
that they are under.
For that reason, MPs from her own party, from the Labour
party and from my party have come together to call for the Government
to establish an NHS and care convention to engage
with the public, so that we can come up with a long-term settlement
for the NHS and care.
Would the Prime Minister be prepared to meet us to discuss it,
so that she can hear our case?
I recognise, obviously, the interest
and the attention that the right honourable gentleman has
given to these issues and of course, he is a former
Health Minister himself, and I would be happy to meet him
and others, as he suggests.
There can be nothing as distressing for a parent
as the death of their child, particularly where that
child has been murdered.
That is what happened to the two ladies, one of them
a constituent of mine, who set up Justice After Acquittal,
successfully campaigning for voluntary national standards
of support by the Crown Prosecution Service and by the police
for the families of murder victims following an acquittal.
Those standards are due to be launched here next Tuesday.
Would the Prime Minister join with me in paying tribute
to the determination and energy with which they have
campaigned for their cause, and will she continue to ensure,
as she always has done, that the voices of the victims
of crime and their families are always listened to?
My honourable friend raises a very important point.
I am very happy to join him in paying tribute
to these two campaigners.
Indeed, I am sure that the whole House would want to pay tribute
to the work that they are doing.
As he says, I remain committed to ensuring that the voices
of victims are heard.
That is what I did when I was Home Secretary,
if we look at issues such as introducing new measures
to tackle modern slavery, strengthening the Independent Police
Complaints Commission and legislating in relation
to police complaints and discipline systems to strengthen public
confidence in policing, and a number of other actions that
I am very pleased to say that my right honourable friend
the current Home Secretary is taking that same passion to ensuring
that the voices of the victims of crime are heard and is
taking that forward.
Across the United Kingdom, many banks are accelerating
their closure of local branches, with adverse effects on vulnerable
and older people and adverse effects on the high street.
The Royal Bank of Scotland is closing down branches
across Scotland, including those at Juniper Green and Chesser
in my constituency.
Local convenience stores are taking the strain of processing bills
and often face exorbitant bank charges for the privilege
of doing that.
Will the Prime Minister meet me to discuss how we can realise
a situation where banking across the UK services customers
and the real economy?
The issue of bank branches and, indeed, of the accessibility
of bank services is one that is for individual banks
themselves to take and consider, and of course there are many ways
in which people are now accessing bank services other
than by going physically into an actual bank branch,
but I will certainly look
at the issue that the honourable and learned lady has raised.
Building a country that works for everyone means doing even more
to tackle the economic and social deprivation that has come to afflict
pockets of seaside towns such as Rhyl in my constituency.
Will my right honourable friend therefore support Growth Track 360 -
a locally developed plan to invest in rail infrastructure to help
unlock the true potential of the north Wales and Mersey-Dee
economic region as an integral part of the northern powerhouse,
connected to the rest of the country via the proposed HS2 hub at Crewe?
Can I say to my honourable friend that I welcome
the establishment of the north Wales
and Mersey-Dee rail taskforce and the work that it is doing.
The plan that my honourable friend
mentions sets out an ambitious programme
of improvements for the area, and I am sure it will be
prioritising the most promising options.
I can say to him that the Department for Transport will continue to work
closely with the taskforce and with the Welsh Government
to consider what can be jointly accomplished.
As Pensions Minister, Steve Webb misled the public about the value
of the single-rate pension.
He also gave us the Pensions Act 2011.
He was rightly booted out by the voters, yet is now deemed
suitable for a knighthood.
Does the Prime Minister not understand that,
unless this Government take action to help the struggling WASPI women,
that knighthood is the final insult to these women?
Action has been taken on the issue in relation
to women s pensions.
The Government took action to ensure that the number of people
who were affected and the period for which they were affected
would be reduced, and money was put in to ensure that that was possible.
If the honourable gentleman looks at the new structure
that is being put in place for pensions, he will see that women
will actually be some of the greater beneficiaries of the new structure.
I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister has raised awareness
of the importance of child mental health this week, not least
because 65% of young people requiring mental health support
in south Warwickshire last year had to wait over 12 weeks
before starting treatment.
Can my right honourable friend outline how the new proposals
will improve our support network for such vulnerable young people?
Well, my honourable friend raises an important issue,
which was of course alluded to earlier in this session
We are investing more in mental health than ever before - we
are spending a record ?11.4 billion a year -
and it was of course the Conservative-led Government that
introduced parity of esteem
between mental and physical health, but as I said earlier,
there is more for us to do in ensuring that appropriate care
is available for people.
I cited an example earlier of where I saw excellent work
being done to provide care and support for people in
the community, which was relieving pressure on accident and emergency,
but also ensuring that people were getting the best
possible care for them, and that is obviously
what we want to see.
The strained accident and emergency provision
in my constituency is under review, and the community further up
the Cumbrian coast risks losing 24-hour access to accident
and emergency and to consultant-led maternity from its local hospital.
I understand that the Prime Minister will say that these decisions
are to be made locally, but will she at least say
that she can understand the anxiety of expectant mums who face a 40-mile
journey on difficult roads, which are often blocked,
if they have a difficult birth?
Can I say to the honourable gentleman that I think the problems
that are facing the health service
in Cumbria are widely recognised, and I do understand the concerns
of local people about the services that will be available for them.
We have put robust national support in place to address some
of the long-standing challenges in Cumbria, and we are developing
a lasting plan to deliver the high-quality, sustainable
services that patients rightly expect.
He is right that these specific decisions
are being taken locally, and no final decisions
have been taken.
I recognise the concern that he has raised previously,
particularly about services at West Cumberland Hospital.
There will be considerable involvement in taking those
decisions, but as I say, we do recognise the local concerns
about some of the long-standing challenges for health service
provision in Cumbria.
I know from my career in medicine that the men and women
of our East Midlands ambulance service do a brave and sterling job
for the people of Sleaford and North Hykeham and others,
saving people s lives every day.
East Midlands ambulance service responded to a total of 11,662
999 calls over the Christmas bank holiday weekend alone,
2,500 of which were in Lincolnshire.
Will the Prime Minister join me in paying tribute
to their dedication, particularly over the busy winter
period, and tell the House what more the Government can do
to support our ambulance services and improve response times in rural
areas like Sleaford and North Hykeham?
Can I thank my honourable friend for her question,
and also for bringing her personal experience as a medical
professional in relation to this issue?
I am very happy to join her in paying tribute to the men
and women of the ambulance service for the dedication and
commitment that they show.
She asks what the Government have been doing.
We recognise that ambulance services are very busy.
That's why we see over 2,000 more paramedics now compared with 2010,
and we are increasing paramedic training places by over
60% this year.
Also, the Department of Health, NHS Employers and ambulance
unions have agreed changes to the compensation for paramedics,
potentially giving them a pay increase of up to ?14,000
as they progress.
But we recognise the excellent work that they do.
Can I commend the Prime Minister
for her considered statement last night and, indeed, for the words
that she has given this afternoon?
She knows our commitment to the institutions
in Northern Ireland, but would she agree that nothing
can be, or should be, gained from threatening the peace
process, the progress that we have made or the institutions
that we have fought so hard to sustain in Northern Ireland?
Well, the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland
has been hard won, and we must all recognise that we don't want
to put that progress in jeopardy.
That is why it is so important for the Government,
and for all parties, to work as hard as we can to see
a resolution to this issue, so that we can see a return
to the power-sharing institutions and ensure,
as we say, that the hard-won progress can be continued.
Can I warmly welcome what my right
honourable friend said
health earlier this week, but may I draw her attention
to another burning injustice?
My constituent Paula Edwards has been battling cancer for four years.
She is recovering from an operation and has taken 28 weeks off work.
She is still employed and is on half pay, yet her working tax
credits have been stopped, which means that she is worrying
about how she's making ends meet rather than on her recovery.
Will my right honourable friend ask the Treasury to look at this,
perhaps in the course of Budget preparations?
I thank my right honourable friend for her comments
about the mental health announcements that I have made.
I'm sorry to hear of the particular difficulties that her constituent
is experiencing and the distress that they have caused her.
Of course, working tax credits provide support for low-income
families in work and are designed to incentivise people
to increase their working hours.
We will be, obviously, with the new universal credit system,
have a system of benefits with single, streamlined payments
that encourages work, but I am sure the Financial Secretary
to the Treasury would be happy to look at the individual case
that my right honourable friend has raised and the issue
that she has set out.