15/03/2017 Prime Minister's Questions

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Coverage of questions in the House of Commons to the prime minister Theresa May, from Wednesday 15 March.

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like to meet and discuss this further I am more than willing to do


that. Questions to the Prime Minister.


I am sure minsters will want to join me in wishing people around the


world a happy St Patrick's Day on Friday. This morning I had


ministerial meetings with my colleagues and will have further


today With my Irish blood can I also wish a happy St Patrick's Day. Mr


Speaker, I welcome the announcement from this Government that we will


abide by the letter of our manifesto and also the spirit. CHEERS AND




WE MUST SURE THAT WE HAVE A sustainable tax system in place. I


would like to thank my honourable friend for this question. We made a


commitment not to raise tax and we put our commitment into the tax


lock. The measures we put forward in the Budget last week were consistent


with those locks. But, as a number of my parliamentary


colleagues have been pointing out in recent days, there is... THE


SPEAKER: Order. This is intolerable, the answers from the Prime




I do take a view on the importance of hearing the questions and the


answers from the Prime Minister As a number of my Parliamently colleagues


have been pointing out the trend towards greater self-employment


creates a structural issue on the tax base on which we will have to


act and we want to ensure that we maintain, as they have said,


fairness in the tax system. So we are going to awhich the the report


from Matthew Taylor on the future of employment, we will consider the


Government's overall approach to employment status and rights to tax


and entitledment. We will bring forward further proposals but we


will not bring forward increases to ni. -- NICs later this this


Parliament Can I wish everyone a very be happy St Patrick's Day for


the 17th in my constituency, in Ireland and around the world. We


have just heard the Prime Minister is about to drop the national


insurance hike announced only a week ago. It seems to me like a


Government in a the bit of chaos here. SHOUTS AND JEERS


A Budget that unravels in seven days, a Conservative manifesto with


a very pensive Prime Minister on the front page saying there would be no


increase, a week ago an increase was announced. If they are to drop this


increase, as they are indicating, then this is a time that she should


thank the Federation of Small Businesses and all those that have


pointed out just how unfair this increase would be. But, also, how


big business evades an awful lot of national insurance through bogus


self-employment. I have to say to the right honourable gentleman, I


don't think he actually listened to the answer I gave to my honourable


friend, the member from Bexhill and Battle. I normally stand at this


despatch box and say I don't take any lectures from the honourable


gentleman, when it comes to lectures on chaos, he'd be the first person I


would turn to. Mr Speaker, I think the Prime Minister should offer an


apology for the chaos that her Government has caused during the


past week and the stresses caused to the 4.8 million self-employed people


in this country. Will she offer that apology? Her friend, the member for


Conway said so a week ago. It's time she joined in and said that as well.


This measure, if carried through, will create a black hole in the


Budget, what is she going to do to fill that black hole? If the right


honourable gentleman is so concern about balancing the books, why is it


Labour Party policy to borrow half a trillion pound and bankrupt Britain?


? Mr Speaker, Mr Speaker, coming from a Government that proposes to


borrow more between now and 2020, than the entire borrowing of all


Labour governments put together, we don't need lectures from them on


this. I hope that in his statement later today, the Chancellor will


address the question of injustice of many people forced into bogus


self-employment by unscrupulous companies. Because many of them


force their workers to become self-employed, thus avoiding


employers' national insurance contributions. It is a grossly


unfair system, where those in self-employment pay some national


insurance, employers do not benefit from it. That is a gross injustice


that has to be addressed. The right honourable gentleman obviously


hadn't noticed that one of the first things I did when I became Prime


Minister was to commission Matthew Taylor from the RSA to conduct a


review to look at the employment market, to look at employment rights


and status, precisely because we recognise that the employment market


is changing. He talks about the self-employed. Let's look at what we


have done for the self-employed. Our increase in personal allowance means


they now keep more of their earnings. They will have access to


both tax-free childcare and 30 hours of free childcare, just like


employees and now they have access to the new state pension worth over


?1,800 more a year. But what we know from the Labour Party's policies is


that their policies would bankrupt Britain, they put firms out of


business and people out of jobs. We have a Government U-turn, no apolicy


and we have a Budget that -- apology and we have a Budget that falls most


heavily on those with the least broad shoulders. Cuts to schools,


cuts to social care and cuts to people with disbabilities. That is


the agenda of her Government and everybody knows it. I'm not sure - I


don't think the right honourable gentleman has quite got the hang of


this. He is supposed to ask questions to me when he stands up.


Let's talk... THE SPEAKER: Order. Order. Let's hear the answer, Prime


Minister. He talks about schools. What have we done? We've protected


the core schools budget. We introduced the pupil premium. This


budget delivers money for over 100 new schools, delivering on good


school places for every child this. Budget delivers on skills for young


people. We want them to be equipped for the jobs of the future. The


Budget delivers ?500 million for technical education and on social


care, we recognise the pressure on social care. This Budget delivers ?2


billion more funding for social care. Funding that wouldn't be


available with Labour's economic policies. Mr Speaker, it would be a


very good idea if the Prime Minister listened to headteachers all over


the country, desperately trying to work out how to balance the books in


their schools, losing teachers, losing teaching assistants, losing


support for their children because the schools' budgets are being cut.


She knows that, we all know that, everybody out there knows that. They


also know that according to IFS figures, average working families


will be 1,400 pounds worse as a result of her Budget that was


produced last week. Can she say what she is doing to help the worst-off


and poorest in our society, rather than continuing cutting local


government expenditure, schools expenditure and underfunding social


care? I'll tell the right honourable gentleman what we have delivered for


the low paid. We have frozen VAT and fuel duty and every basic rate


taxpayer have had a tax cut of at worst ?1,000 and we have taken 3


million people out of paying income tax altogether. That's what we have


done for the low paid. On schools we now see 1.8 million children in good


or outstanding schools. I want a good school place for every child.


We have done it with free schools and academies and the changes we


have brought forward in edge education, all opposed to the Labour


Party. Now they want to oppose us giving a good school place for every


child. What do we know about the Labour's policies? Let's see what


the former Shadow Chancellor, the member for Nottingham East said,


"Labour's policies would mean doubling national insurance,


doubling VAT and doubling council tax as well." That wouldn't help the


low paid or ordinary working families.


Mr Speaker, the difference is, we want a good school and a good place


for every child in every school in every community. Selective


education, reintroduction of grammar schools does not achieve that. We


want a staircase for all. Not a ladder for the few which is what the


Conservatives policies actually are. What she hasn't addressed, also, is


the unfairness of a Budget that cuts tax at the top end, continues to


introduce corporation tax, encourages bogus self-employment.


What she has to do is address the issues of injustice and inequality


in our society and a Government that is dedicated towards widening the


gap, not helping the hard-up or those that are working self-employed


to try to make ends meet and not getting access to any benefits at


the same time. Inequality has gone down under this Government. This


Budget shows that the top 1% of earners will actually be


contributing 27% in terms of the income they are providing. But let


me address the issue, also, of schools. You see the problem with


what the right honourable gentleman says is that on every single


education policy that this Government has brought forward, that


has been delivering more good school places for children, the Labour


Party has opposed it and they continue to oppose it. Because the


Labour Party's approach is that parents will take what they are


given, good or bad. We believe in listening to parents. If he looks


ahead to what his policies would produce for this country, half a


trillion pounds of borrowing, 500 billion more borrowing under the


Labour Party. More taxes, more spending, more borrowing, a bankrupt


Britain that wouldn't give money for public services or help ordinary


working families. It's the Conservative Party that is helping


ordinary working families. It is the Labour Party that is failing to


address the needs of the people of this country. Inhe is just sitting


there and going on protest marches. Thank you, Mr Speaker. As the tax


changed, I changed my question. May I congratulate my right honourable


friend on proposing the most radical reform of technical education in a


generation and also delivering fair funding for all our schools but may


I also her, as part of that consultation, to ensure a minimum


level of appropriate funding for all schools?


I thank my honourable friend, because he's raised an important


point. One of the issues with addressed in the budget is to put


more money into skills training, further education and technical


education for young people. I think one of the most important things we


can do is equip young people for the jobs of the future so they can get


on in life. We are investing an extra half ?1 billion a year in


England's technical education system to do this. My honourable friend has


referred to the issue of a minimum funding levels. The Education


Secretary confirmed last month that the DFE have heard representations


on this issue and are considering the issues. But in relation to the


funding formula, it is complex and has needed addressing for some time.


We will look at it carefully. We once had a Prime Minister who


said that the lady's not for turning. My, goodness. Isn't it


welcome that the Prime Minister today has announced that she is


returning with her screeching, embarrassing U-turn? Only days


remain until the Prime Minister is going to invoke Article 50 on


leading the European Union. And last July, she promised to secure a UK


wide approach - an agreement between the devolved administrations between


Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the UK Government before


triggering Article 50. So when will be Prime Minister announced the


details of the agreement? As I said to the Right Honourable


gentleman yesterday, and to others asking the questions on the


timetable, we will trigger Article 50 by the end of March. There will


be an opportunity for further discussions with the devolved


administrations over that period. When the right honourable gentleman


looks at the issue of membership of the European Union, and his view of


Scotland not being a member of the United Kingdom, I say this to him.


He is comparing membership of an organisation that we've been a


member of four 40 years with our country. We have been one country


for over 300 years. We have fought together, we've worked together,


we've achieved together. And constitutional gameplaying must not


be allowed to break the deep bonds of our shared history, and our


future together. The Prime Minister can wag her


finger as much as she likes. Last year, she made a promise. She


promised an agreement. I asked her about it yesterday. She didn't


answer. I asked her about it now. She hasn't answered. When will she


reach an agreement? Not discussions, an agreement with the Scottish


Government before triggering Article 50.


HECKLING I recognise the passions. Calm yourself, I'm perfectly capable


of doing that without your assistance. The right honourable


gentleman will be heard, however long it takes. Carry on, Mr


Robertson. The Prime Minister promised an


agreement. There is not an agreement. When will there be an


agreement? Because does she not understand that if she does not


secure an agreement before triggering Article 50, if she is not


prepared to negotiate on behalf of the Scottish Government and secure


membership of the single European market, people in Scotland will have


a referendum, and we will have our...


We have been in discussions with the Scottish Government and other


devolved administrations about the interest that they have. As we


prepare as the United Kingdom government to negotiate a deal on


behalf on the whole United Kingdom. A deal which will be a good deal,


not just for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but for the people


of Scotland as well. And as we go forward in negotiating that deal, I


think the right honourable gentleman should remember this - Scotland will


be leaving the European Union. It will leave the European Union either


as a member of the United Kingdom, or were independent, it's very clear


with the document that it would not be member of the European Union.


What we need now is to unite, to come together as a country and to


ensure that we can get the best deal for the whole of the United Kingdom.


This government is working with councils and other partners to grow


the economy. But despite being in the prosperous south-east, the Isle


of Wight is 339th out of 379 in the UK competitive index. Will my right


honourable friend ensure that more growth funding is targeted at rural


areas, like the islands, with many small and micro businesses, to


deliver a country that works for all?


My honourable friend speaks well on behalf of his constituents, and he's


right to do that. I know that he has consistently put forward the unique


characteristics of the Isle of Wight. We've already been able to


support the island's economy through the local growth deal for the


Solent, and supporting the Isle of Wight rural SME programme. I want to


make sure that we make the best of the diverse strength of Britain's


cities, regions and Islands. I'm sure that on the island, the


business community will work together to create the best possible


conditions. It is our two single market that are


the backbone for our economy. And yet the Prime Minister wants to rip


us away from one, and they want to break up the other. Can she tell me,


is it really a price worth paying, the risky and reckless approach she


is taking to Brexit, to foster the break-up of Britain?


The honourable gentleman is wrong when he uses the term that I want to


rip the United Kingdom away from the single markets. What we wanted


you... No, this is... I'm sorry to say to honourable members on the


Labour benches, this is the same answer that I have given


consistently in this house. We want to ensure that we get a good free


trade agreement which gives us the maximum possible access to the


single market to enable us to trade with the single market and operate


within the single market. Can I welcome the support of


business rates, which is being given by the budget to local high streets,


which also crucially valued in places like my constituency in


Barnet. With the Prime Minister agree that we can give more help to


small businesses if we can secure the international agreement that we


need to ensure that all big businesses pay their taxes?


This is a very important issue. It's one on which I think this government


has a record of which we can be proud. Of course, there's more to


do. We have, since 2010, in the work we've done on tackling tax evasion,


avoidance and noncompliance, we have secured an additional 140 billion in


compliance yields since 2010. Internationally we've driven the


global agenda and we now have several companies signed up to the


global exchange. -- global exchange information. We have pushed for the


G7 nanograms eight. -- G7 and G8. There is more to be done and I want


to see an economy that works for everyone. That means that the


company should be paying their tax as well as everybody.


An answer to my honourable friend from Murray, the Prime Minister


called for respect. But that is a two-way street. The Scottish


Government's compromise proposal has been ignored in these negotiations.


Where is your respect? The proposal has not been ignored.


It has been discussed by ministers. There are many areas within that


proposal on which we agree. As I've said before, such as on ensuring our


securities and maintaining and protecting workers' rights.


Colchester Hospital's A department has excellent staff but suffers from


poor layout and patient flow. Does the Prime Minister agree with me


that the ?100 million set aside for triage in the budget last week will


allow hospitals like mine to address this issue and improve patient


outcomes? My honourable friend is right to


recognise, and we should all recognise, the hard work and


dedication of our excellent staff throughout the NHS. What we're


seeing in the NHS is that A are treating more people than ever


before. We are spending half ?1 trillion on the NHS in England


during this Parliament. The NHS will see that increase in its funding of


?10 billion in real terms. But there is an issue about the consideration


of A, and enabling changes to take place to help the flow, and to help


in dealing with patients as they come in. That's why my right


honourable friend the Chancellor announced last week 425 million in


new capital investment in the NHS, which includes 100 million to help


manage the demand on A services, enabling hospitals to make changes


to ensure that people are treated in the most appropriate way possible.


Over 200 staff at the pension fund in my constituency face an uncertain


future as they have been told they have to relocate to other areas over


the next few years. Does the Prime Minister realise the impact this has


on staff and the local economy? Will she meet me and representatives of


the workforce to see what can be done to save the pension centre?


I recognise the concern raised for staff at that particular pension


office. I recognise this is an issue. I'm sure it is an issue which


the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will look at very closely.


But of course the Government is looking to ensure that we both use


our resources effectively, but also provide the proper and appropriate


service for the recipients of those particular benefits.


Last weekend, thousands of people across Lincolnshire came to the


races in my constituency to enjoy the racing and the delicious local


food - including award-winning Lincolnshire sausages. As the


Government prepares to strike new trade deals, international trade


deals, will my right honourable friend ensure that the high


standards we expect of our food producers and farmers will be met


and maintained in these deals, and will this government continued to


back British farming? I can assure my honourable friend


that we will certainly do that. I remember when I visited her prior to


the general election in 2015, sampling some of the excellent


Lincolnshire sausages that has come from her constituency. But we do


have an opportunity to build a new future for our food and farming


industry when we leave the European Union. We will maintain high


standards of food safety and animal welfare, that will be a priority.


Any trade deals we enter into will need to be right for consumers,


businesses, farmers. They will need to ensure our food safety,


environmental protection and the animal welfare standards I've just


referred to. We recognise the need for certainty for businesses and


have provided guarantees for support for farmers up to 2020. We will


continue to back British farmers. The UK has one of the worst


performing currencies in the world. It has a trade deficit of ?133


billion, and a national debt approaching ?1.7 trillion. Does the


Prime Minister really believe that the UK can afford to be an


independent country? If he wants...


Honourable members on those benchers are very overexcited individuals. I


want to hear the Prime Minister's reply.


If he wants to talk about figures in relation to the UK economy, the UK


economy is the world's sixth-largest economy. The Government has reduced


the deficit by two thirds. If he cares to look at the employment


figures we see today, employment at a record high, and unemployment


which hasn't been lower since 1975. Today is the Ides of March. Yet


again, Brutus opposite missed badly. So can the Prime Minister take the


opportunity to stick the knife into the ridiculous European Court that


ruled yesterday that employers can ban their staff from wearing signs


of religious or political belief, and reiterate that reasonable


freedom and expression should never be snuffed out politically. We have


a strong tradition in this country of freedom of expression. It's the


right of all women to choose how they dress, and we don't intend to


legislate on this issue. He's raised to be broader issue of symbols, but


this case came up in relation to the wearing of the Vale. There will be


times when it's right for Israel to be asked to be removed, perhaps in


border security law courts. Institutions can make their own


policies, but it is not for government to tell women what they


can and cannot wear. We want to continue the tradition of freedom of


expression. Our First Minister was voted with


the largest vote in Scottish parliamentary history on a manifesto


which stated that the Scottish Parliament... THE SPEAKER: The


question will be heard. Thank you, Mr Speaker, I will start again. Our


First Minister was elected with the largest vote in Scottish


parliamentary history, on a manifesto pledge which stated that


the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold an independence


referendum if there was a significant and material change of


circumstances like Scotland being taken out of the EU guest our will.


My question to the Prime Minister is simple - does she agree that


Government's should stick to their manifesto promises and if so, she


cannot object to the First Minister sticking to hers?


I, of course, recognise that there was a vote that took place in the


Scottish Parliament and the First Minister was returned as the First


Minister of a minority Government. But I would refer the honourable


lady to two other votes that took place. The Scottish people were


given the opportunity to vote to whether or not they wished to remain


in the United Kingdom. They choose that Scotland should remain part of


the United Kingdom. That was described by the right honourable


member for Gordon, as a once in a generation vote. And the other vote


to take note of is that on June 23rd last year, the people of the United


Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, and that is what we are going


to do. Mr Speaker, with 80% of SMEs reluctant to export, does my right


honourable friend agree that the prospect of Brexit gives those firms


a golden opportunity to use the great British entrepreneurial spirit


to go out into the world, particularly those firms in


Scotland, to go out into the world and to sing? My honourable friend is


absolutely right about this. Small businesses and the intren airs are


essential for an economy that is working for everyone. --


entrepreneurs. But the opportunity that comes from Brexit is to see


those firms going out across the world, exporting across the world


and doing the trade deals that will be of benefit to them and their


communities and of benefit to our economy. We divoont to encourage


more businesses to go out there. That's exactly what my right


honourable friend the Secretary of State for International trade is


doing. This is anp important part of building a stronger, fairer Britain


for the future. -- an important part. Thank you, Mr Speaker. HRMC


employed over 1,000 staff in my Livingston constituency. Despite


widespread criticism from the NEO or Public Accounts Committee and the


staff at Livingston being most engaged and productive this Prime


Minister's Government is determined to move jobs from Livingston toad


inborough whose staff don't want to move and rental costs would be


higher. And to compound this, another 400 jobs are to go at


another Livingston site. Will the Prime Minister change her mind on


the is jobs in Livingston and meet with me to make sure that vital


public sector jobs to Livingston will stay there. The HRMC are


relocating 170 outdated offices to 13 large and modern regional


centres. These new centres will be equipped with the digital


infrastructure and facilities needed to build a more highly-skilled and


flexible workforce to enable modernisation of ways of working, to


make tax collection more efficient and effective and it'll bring


significant improvements to HMRC's customer services.


-- HRMC's. People moo my can constituent voted


in favour of Brexit and I was proud to be here in the House on Monday to


vote no sport withdrawal of the EU bill. Can my honourable friend, the


Prime Minister confirm that she shares my commitment that Brexit


should work in the best interests of everyone in our country?


THE SPEAKER: Prime Minister? I think, I have to say be... THE


SPEAKER: Order. I say to the honourable gentleman for pert and


North pertshire. Order, order, the for Perth ander North Perthshire.


The honourable gentleman was shouting from beyond the bar, which


is very disorderly, on top of the fact that a few moments ago he was


gesticulating in a most eccentric manner. I'm becoming concerned about


the honourable gentleman, he must now calm himself. The Prime


Minister. Thank you, Mr Speaker. My honourable


friend is absolutely right. She had, as she said a condition


constituencicy that voted overwhelmingly to leave the European


Union. The point is that the people of the United Kingdom voted by a


majority to leave the European Union. As we do, that we will be


ensuring that the deal we achieve in our negotiations, will be the right


deal for the United Kingdom, the whole of the United Kingdom and for


people across the UK, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern


Ireland. Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister's


just done a ?2 billion Budget U-Turn in the space of a week. Last year


the Government did a ?4 billion U-Turn in the space of five days. Is


that why they want to abolish Spring Budgets? Because they just keep


ripping them up? I welcome the measure that is were


in this Spring Budget, to improve school places for children in this


country, to ensure that we put money... THE SPEAKER: Mr Fabricant


you are another eccentric fellow shouting loudly but you mustn't


shout down your own Prime Minister. Let's hear the Prime Minister. Thank


you, Mr Speaker, I welcome the measures in the Spring Budget to


ensure that we are putting money... LAUGHTER


Money into schools, into skills and into social care and I would've


thought The Right Honourable lady would accept that money into


schools, skills and social care is good for this country.


Thank you Mr Speaker, would the Prime Minister join with me in


welcoming the news today that Sergeant Blackman's murder


conviction has been downgraded to manslaughter, in part, thanks to the


release of previously unheard evidence. This is fantastic news for


his wife Claire, who lives in my constituency and who has complained


so unstintingly on this and my honourable friend the member for


South Dorset who I believe is turning to the chambers provided a


very worthy advocate for this case and I commend his hard work. And


would the Prime Minister agree with me that within the correct legal


framework, those who defend our peace, protect our world from evil,


be treated with fairness and understanding and given the adequate


resources, including for mental health support they deserve. THE


SPEAKER: I'm extremely grateful. Prime Minister. We respect the


court's decision, the Ministry of Defence will be looking closely at


the judgment but I can assure the House that the Ministry of Defence


has cooperated fully at each stage of Sergeant Blackman's case and will


continue to provide support to the family as they have done since the


charges were first brought. What I would just say on a generalp point


is that our Royal Marines have a worldwide reputation as one of the


world's elite fighting forces. They make an incredible contribution to


our country and we should pay tribute to them all for that. The


Disasters Emergency Committee have launched its East Africa crisis


appeal. In the context of that crisis, does the Prime Minister


share my concern that President Trump is considering major cuts to


spending by the United States on aid? Will this Government take every


opportunity to press the Americans to remain fully part of the global


humanitarian system? I can assure the right honourable gentleman we


recognise the severity and urgency of the crisis that is taking place


in the East Africa. More than 20 million people face the risk of


dying from starvation because of war and drought and again it is this


country that is leading the way in delivering life-saving support.


We've announced we'll match pound for pound the first ?5 million


donated by the public to the Disasters Emergency Committee's new


appeal and I can assure him we take every opportunity to ensure that


countries around the world recognise the importance of international aid,


the importance of supporting countries when we see terrible,


terrible disasters like this famine coming to place and it is the UK's


record on what we do on this, that enables us to say to others that


they should do more. Henry Smith? It is my honour to


chair the all parliamentary group on blood cancer and today we launched


an inquiry into greater awareness of the condition can I take assurance


from my honourable friend that the additional ?10 billion going into


the NHS in this Parliament will in some way be spent on ensuring we


tackle this third biggest cancer killer? High honourable friend is


right to raise a subject like that, which is a cancer of which many


people have not heard much and probably are not awhich are of that


as a particular issue. I can assure him that -- aware of that particular


issue. I I can assure him what the NHS is doing. Over recent years we


have seen a significant improvement in cancer survival rates. We have


seen significant improvement in the increase of the number of people who


are being referred on because of potential cases of cancer and the


number of people being treated for cancer