12/07/2017 Prime Minister's Questions

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Live coverage of questions in the House of Commons to first secretary of state Damian Green, standing in for Theresa May, from Wednesday 12 July.

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we have led the way in humanitarian and emergency food assistance, given


help to over 2.4 million people. Questions to the Prime Minister.


Caroline Flint. Question number one. Mr Damian


Green. My right honourable friend is


welcoming the king and queen of Spain on their state visit to the


United Kingdom and I am sure the whole House wishes them well. Isn't


today's report that the National Grid made ?3 billion profit in 2016


at the expense of households further evidence the Government is not


delivering their energy prices? Will the Government agreed to an


immediate rebate for overcharging, and will the Government now commit


and energy price cap for the households on the most expensive


tariffs? The right honourable lady is right to identify the issue and I


am sure she will welcome the announcement in the Queen's Speech


that the Government will ensure there are markets for consumers and


this will include bringing forward measures to help tackle unfair


practices in the energy market to help produce energy bills. I am sure


this is an issue on which we can work across the House together. Mr


Speaker, yesterday you kindly hosted discussions on the future of health


and social care and their funding, including one by Mike honourable


friend. My right honourable friend knows that NHS in Staffordshire and


Stoke is delivering fine carer but under great financial pressure along


with other parts of the country. Can I encourage the Government to bring


together people from across this House to make this Parliament one


that puts the NHS and social care on a firm foundation. I am grateful to


my honourable friend and I know he has been campaigning vigorously on


behalf of the health service in his constituency, including his local


hospital, and he is absolutely right to do so. He and I I am sure both


welcomed the fact that the Government has committed an extra ?8


billion over this Parliament to the NHS, and are also committed to


having a full debate across the House and indeed much wider with


people about how to improve our social care system because this is


indeed one of the big issues facing this country. Emily Thornberry.


Thank you, Mr Speaker. Let me welcome the first secretary to his


new role. By my reckoning in the 20 years since he first joined this


House ease the 16th member of the party opposite to be represented at


prime ministers questions, so how about I give him until the end of


this session to be able to name all the others?


LAUGHTER In the meantime I am sure he and a


whole House will join me in congratulating the British and Irish


Lions on their historic achievement in recent days. Mr Speaker, on the


subject of British and Irish cooperation, the secretary has huge


expertise on the practicalities of the Common travel area. On that


basis can he tell the House what will happen to the Irish land border


if no deal is reached between Britain and Europe by the end of


March 2019? I am grateful to the Saffie for her kind remarks -- I am


grateful to the right honourable lady for her kind remarks. I might


pick up the offer in the tearoom later rather than disturb the House


no. Many distinguished people, of both sexes, who have dealt with this


in this party, because we of course elect women leaders. I am also... I


also absolutely share her view about the British and Irish Lions, though


it strikes me as a particularly British thing to do to celebrate and


drawn series quite as hard as we have, but nevertheless that is the


way we do sport, and I know you, Mr Speaker, will be very keen in


following Joe contact's progress through Wimbledon, as well as Andy


Murray. -- Johanna Konta through Wimbledon. Let's hope we have two


finalists over the weekend. On the question of the Irish border, she


will know it is the aim of this Government to make sure we get the


best deal for Britain, and as the prime ministers set out in her


Lancaster house speech, one of the key issues we want to bring forward


and have brought forward at the start of the negotiations is


precisely the issue of the Irish border, because it is extremely


important, not just for our own citizens in Northern Ireland, but


for the Irish Republic, that we get that right, and indeed I have


already had meetings with my opposite number on this and other


matters. I mentioned at the outset he is the 16th member to represent


his party in jaw-mac since beginning and seven. Only three of those have


been women and the last before the current Prime Minister was 16 years


ago -- his party in the House since 1997. If I might turn to the


question, it was not what deal do we hope to get, but what happens if we


get no deal at all? This isn't some sinister nightmare drugged by


Remains. It was the Prime Minister who first floated the idea of no


deal -- this is not some sinister nightmare


dreamt up. Well the first Secretary clear this up? Are ministers just


making it up as they are going along? Or is it still the


Government's clear policy that no deal is an option? I recommend the


right honourable lady read the Prime Minister's Lancaster house speech,


the principle on which we are negotiating. Also seeing it is


conceivable we would be offered a kind of punishment deal that would


be worse than no deal. That is not our intention because we want a good


deal. It is for a leader and her party's position that whatever is on


offer they will accept it, can I point out? That is a terrible way to


go into a negotiation, and all I can congratulate them on is their


consistency. They have been consistently in favour of unilateral


disarmament, but they don't only apply that in military matters, they


clearly applied in matters of negotiation on Britain's future


prosperity as well. The first secretary apparently did not get the


Prime Minister's mammal. You are supposed to be building consensus,


mam. -- man. And if we ignore the political bluster, I think what we


heard was that no deal is indeed still an option, and if that is the


case, can we turn to what I might call the East India club question?


Before the member for Newton Abbot suddenly turned herself into Nick


Griffin, this was the question she was trying to ask. What does no deal


mean for our people, our businesses, and for issues such as the Irish


land border? Can the first secretary addressed this question now? What


does no deal look like in practice? I am very happy to address her first


point of it consensus. Am always, as she knows, a moderate person keen on


consensus, so I very much look forward to sharing the Labour


Party's view this morning on the unemployment figures. Unemployment


is now down to its lowest level since the early 70s. There are many


members of this House who were not born when unemployment was as low as


this Government has made it. I would hope that she can bring herself in


the course of her questions actually to welcome lower unemployment. On


the substance of her question, as she knows, we are seeking a good


deal for Britain that will enable us to trade as freely as possible with


the European Union to protect our prosperity, at the same time as


getting trade deals with other important markets around the world.


In the last week alone, both the United States and Australia have


said they would like to sign trade deals with Britain as fast as


possible. So I am happy to report to her and that negotiations are going


well and that her fear of no deal is probably overstated. If he wants to


talk about unemployment, let me ask him, specifically, will he publish


the Treasury's assessment of the impact of what they're no deal


outcome would have on jobs and growth in Britain? -- the impact of


what they know deal outcome would have. I didn't think so. Let's


continue. If the first secretary will not tell the House... Order.


Honourable lady must be heard, and she will be, as well first secretary


Green. Members must calm themselves. Emily Thornberry... Thank you, Mr


Speaker. If the first secretary will not tell the House what no deal


means can he is least clear up the confusion over whether a plan for no


deal actually exists? Yesterday the Foreign Secretary told me that


indeed there was no plan for no deal. Two hours later, Number ten


for it back and said there was a plan. That Brexit secretary might be


laughing, but I am turning to him next.


LAUGHTER The Brexit secretary was so busy


fighting with himself, that on March the 12, he said that there was a


plan, and on March 17th he said there was not. On May 19th he said


he spent half his time thinking about it, and yesterday he said he


was not prepared to comment. So can the first secretary clear up the


confusion today? Is there a contingency plan for no deal, or is


there not? If there is, will you undertake to publish it?


The honourable ladies says she is happy to talk about an employment,


but you cannot bring herself to welcome the figures. --


unemployment. We will have to work harder to establish consensus on


something that I would hope genuinely unites all sides of this


House. On the report, the OBR is publishing its fiscal risks report


tomorrow, so if she can be patient, she will see the report she wants.


Emily Thornberry! So let's be clear, the First Secretary seems to be


saying that no deal is still on the table, but he won't say what it


means, and there is a no deal contingency plan that he will not


publish. This is two steps forward and two steps back. After all, if


the Government seriously once open, cross-party debate about the best


way forward for Brexit, surely they have to spell out what all the


options look like. So can the First Secretary at least provide some


clarity on one issue, and let's try to make some progress today. He has


said repeatedly that we want to avoid a cliff edge Brexit. But and a


no deal scenario, he knows that must be impossible, because the Prime


Minister can hardly storm out of the negotiating room saying she will not


accept the deal, then pop her head around the door and say, can she


have two more years to prepare, because that is not how it works.


Does he accept that no deal means no transitional arrangements? That me


try harder to establish consensus with the right honourable lady. We


both want a deal, I hope we will agree to that, a deal at the end of


this, and the reason why I am optimistic because of our negotiated


stands and the position set out by the Prime Minister we will get a


deal, is that we have, for example, paid a fair and realistic offer


about citizenship to try to remove that problem from the equations.


That is a first indication of how we will approach these negotiations, we


approached them in a positive state, and we believe that it is not just


in the interests of Great Britain but also in the interests of the


other member states of the European Union to reach a deal with what is


one of their biggest trading partners. Though it is in everyone's


interest to reach this deal, and frankly she said nothing


constructive to contribute to a deal so far, but I will give her another


chance. Emily Thornberry! I know the right honourable gentleman is new to


this, but the way the rules work... Order! I do not know whether it is


spontaneous or orchestrated, and I don't really care which, but


whichever it is, the idea that it is going to stop the honourable lady


asking her questions is for the birds. Members are wasting their


vocal chords, we will carry on as long as necessary to accommodate the


backbench members who I wish to accommodate. Emily Thornberry. I


know that the honourable and is new to this, but I ask the questions and




And I quite happy to swap places with them! Frankly, if he doesn't


want to continue under these rules, plenty of other people on the front


bench would love the opportunity to audition as Prime Minister. But I do


appreciate, I do appreciate the first Secretary's answers, but they


just serve to illustrate what a mess the Government has got itself into


by threatening to walk away even before talks began. Isn't the truth


now that we have a no deal option on the table but they will not tell us


what it means, contingency plans that they will not let the public


see, a Chancellor demanding transitional arrangements, which a


no deal option makes impossible, a Foreign Secretary making it up as he


is going along, we have got a Brexit Secretary so used to overruling his


colleagues that he has started overruling himself! And we have got


a Prime Minister who is so be reft of ideas that she started putting


suggestion boxes around Parliament! But as a country, as a country, we


have got 20 months until Brexit. We absolutely have got to get a grip,


and if the party opposite hasn't got the strength or the task, then we


have absolutely got to get rid of them.


I think there may have been a question somewhere in that! Can I


issue at the right honourable lady of two things? First of all, that is


Government is already in the negotiations, she will have seen


that, we have started negotiations, they are going well. We said the


first thing we wanted to do was negotiate citizens' writes, that was


the first item on the agenda of the first meeting. We want to make sure


that European citizens in this country and, British citizens living


in other European countries have as much certainty about their rights as


soon as possible, and that is what we are negotiating, that is the sign


of a practical, pragmatic government getting on with work in the


interests of the British people. What we would have, as we have seen


from the Labour Party, they have so far had nine different plans on


Europe. They want to be both in and out of the single market, in and out


of the customs union, they said they wanted to remain, they voted for


Article 50, they split their party on that, and she made a point about


whether she would prefer to be at this despatch box rather than as


that despatch box. I would also remind her of the other event that


has happened recently, where the Conservative Party got more votes


and more seats than the Labour Party, and won the election. David


Morris! Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I welcome the jobs that


have been announced today. Furthermore, Mr Speaker, at the 65


years in my constituency of talking about a link road, one actually


occurred on my watch, and furthermore there is an enterprise


zone stroke business park that we are trying to retain, and we have


had a very productive meeting with the minister, and the First Minister


of the Isle of Man, who I believe is here today. Would my right


honourable friends help to ensure that this business park does become


a reality to create more jobs in Morecambe and Lunesdale?! I agree


with my honourable friend, he will be interested to know that, in the


north-west of England, employment has increased by 2.5% over the past


year, and the Labour benches may wish to welcome that. He is


absolutely right to highlight the importance of having business parks


and enterprise zones as tribe is for economic growth. I wish him well,


and I'm sure my right honourable friends the Business Secretary would


be happy to look into the matter. Thank you, Mr Speaker, I am sure the


whole House would want to join with me and my colleagues in marking the


anniversary of the sad events in Srebrenica and thank those who held


the memorial in London to make sure we never forget. Mr Speaker, will


the First Secretary of State confirmed that the devolved


administrations will not face a day munition of powers as a result of


the Repeal Bill? I joined the honourable gentleman in


commemorating the dreadful events at Srebrenica, and I am happy to


reconfirm what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and others


have said, that yes, under the terms of the Brexit deal that we will


negotiate, there will be no diminution of the devolved


administrations' powers, and indeed that we look to devolve more powers


during the process. I thank the Secretary of State for that answer.


Order! Thank you, Mr Speaker. I thank the Secretary of State for


that answer. Would he confirm that there will be a cast-iron guarantee


that all powers that come back to the United Kingdom on devolved


matters will be returned? Furthermore the, does the UK


Government intends to meet schedule five of the Scotland Act to change


any aspect of the devolved compensations with the approval of


the Scottish referendum in 1997? Answer that! I can only keep


repeating the assurances we have already given. I am slightly


surprised at the Scottish nationalist approach in that my


understanding of their position is that they want power is taken from


London to Edinburgh so that it can give them back to Brussels! As I


understand it, that is their position. But perhaps their


inability to explain the logic of that position might explain the


recent general election results they had. Thank you very much, Mr


Speaker. Earlier this year, a brilliant new hospital opened in my


constituency. The old cottage Hospital which it replaces contains


an important and unique warble Morrill. Will the First Secretary


agree with me that however the NHS we developed the site, it is vital


that that war memorial is preserved in a fitting way so that future


generations can remember the sacrifices of those who came before


us? I think perhaps particularly at the moment, when we are about to


commemorate the centenary of the terrible battle of Passchendaele, it


is very important that we consider the issue of war memorials like the


one he mentions, they call on us to remember the horrors of war and


honour the memories of those who died. In this case, I understand the


war memorial is protected by an historic England great two listing


so specific planning consent would be required to move it. I hope that


will provide the protection that he and his constituents need. My


constituent has had over 50 admissions to psychiatric care, she


requires regular monitoring to prevent her condition worsening, and


she could access a board and at the labour stands to lose ?110 under the


new regime. Will he look urgently at this case and change this to ensure


that people have the support they need to remain safe? The House will


be concerned to hear about the case of a constituent, as I am, and she


will know that one of the effects of the transition from DLA to PIP is


that more people are eligible for support, particularly those with


mental health problems, but the Secretary of State for Work and


Pensions will have heard her point, and I have no doubt, if she contacts


in, he will look into the case personally. Mr Speaker, some of the


most distressing cases that I and other members see in my constituency


surgery are those involving domestic violence. The Queen's Speech has


promised a bill to help strengthen our confrontation of this problem,


so I wonder if the First Secretary could tell us when we can expect the


legislation, urgently needed as it is, and what the Government is doing


about this problem while we await it? I agree, this is a hugely


important issue, and he is right that we have committed in the


Queen's Speech to introduce a domestic abuse bill in this session,


which I hope will be a landmark in this very important area. What we


want to do in the bill is set in motion a transformation not just to


protect and support victims, but to recognise the lifelong impact


domestic abuse can have on children, and to make sure that the agencies


respond effectively to domestic abuse. We will of course be


consulting with the relevant professions and voluntary groups on


this, but we are absolutely determined to press ahead with this


very, very important legislation. Max Johnson is nine, he is in


hospital and urgently waiting for a heart transplant. His mum Emma and


brother Harry join us today to support Max, but also 10,000 people


around the country who need an organ transplant. We can do more to help


them. In Wales, they have already moved to an opt out system, as


Scotland plan to do the same. Can the First Secretary say whether he


agrees with me that, in England, we should change the law to one of


presumed consent for organ donation to give Max and people like him the


best chance of light? I am sure that the thought of numbers across the


House are with Max and his family at this incredibly difficult time, and


I agree with him that organ donation is clearly a hugely important part


of our system, and I am pleased that there are now more than 23 million


organ donors on the register, and over the past year we saw the


highest ever donor and transplant rates in the UK. But of course there


is more that can be done, and as he says, the law is different in other


territories inside the UK. And absolutely I can commit the


Department of Health is looking at the impact of those changes to see


whether that can give rise to further improvements in the number


of available organs we have. Is my friend aware that the Greater


Manchester Chambers, in the course of their economic survey, predicts


economic growth that 3.25% annually, as it has been broadly since 2013?


Is he further aware that Manchester Airport is planning a ?1 billion


investment in the coming years? Doesn't this indicate a welcome


rebalancing of the economy, underpinned by sound economic


management? And will he undertake to continue that sound economic


management that is so necessary to our country? My honourable friend


makes a number of important points, particularly about Manchester


Airport, which I know has been a significant driver of the excellent


growth figures of the increasingly excellent economy of Manchester, and


the surrounding areas. Everything he says is true, and I think it is a


tribute to the work that is being done on the Northern Powerhouse that


we are now spreading that prosperity across the North of England. Thank


you, Mr Speaker. The First Secretary said the other day that we need to


have a national debate on tuition fees, and he admitted that student


debt is a huge issue. With the PM touting for ideas, can I recommend


page 43 of our manifesto? Can I ask that they adopt Labour's pledge to


abolish tuition fees? I don't remember the contents page 43, so I


would quite like to hear this! Mr Speaker, can I recommend that they


consult page 43 of our manifesto and commit to Labour's policy of the


abolition of tuition fees? People often stand at this despatch box and


say I am pleased she raised that question, I am genuinely pleased,


because it allows me to point out the very slight problem with their


arguments which is that her own education spokesman has admitted


that the tuition fees policy has a ?100 billion... She has admitted


that there is a ?100 billion hole, black hole in Labour's student fees


policy. That is as much money nearly as we spend on the NHS in a year,


two years worth of disability benefits. Labour, in this area, were


particularly incredible at the general election, I am astonished


they want to bring it up at Prime Minister's Questions, and I would


remind them that misleading students and young people is a very dangerous


thing to do. If they don't believe me, they can ask the Liberal


Democrats. Just one in five of our public arts sculptures is of a


woman, to mark the anniversary of Jane Austen... Will my right


honourable friend join me in calling for more people to do what business


to has done and celebrate their famous daughters?


I welcome this call for the statue in Basingstoke. I am genuinely


astonished there is not a statue of Jane Austen anywhere else around the


country, one of our greatest authors, and still popular 200 years


since her birth, and I would be very happy also to echo her desire for


more statues for great women spread around the country. Mr Speaker,


politicians are said to be here today and gone tomorrow, but


whatever tomorrow may bring the Prime Minister is not even here


today to mark the first -- end of her first year in power. Listen, you


might like to hear this. For the first time since she has become


Prime Minister image has now been removed from the page of the


Conservative Party website. Can the first secretary tell us why she has


gone from being the next Iron Lady to the Lady vanishes? The honourable


gentleman is ingenious in asking personal questions and I commend him


for it. Unfortunately he has his own record on the subject. As recently


as June last year the members said the leader of the Labour Party is


not destined to become Prime Minister and he called on him to


resign. I suggest he makes peace with his own front bench before


turning to ours. Today's jobs figures show we have the highest


employment rate since compatible records began. We have more people


in full-time employment and we are touching on the lowest youth


unemployment since records began. In light of the Matthew Taylor review


and the modern working practices, what more can be done to ensure this


record continues and that low youth unemployment continues and that we


read this country of that scourge? -- and that we rid this country of


that scourge. Yes, one of the particularly welcome figures of the


consistently low and falling unemployment figures over which this


Government has provided, youth unemployment figures. It is now at


historically low levels and lower than many other comparable


economies. We will continue this not just with our moves on more


apprenticeships in this parliament but also with the introduction of


new and better technical and vocational education, which is key


to providing long-term prosperity, not just for the economy as a whole,


but for everyone in this country. Thank you, Mr Speaker. How can the


Government continue to justify not providing fair and equitable funding


arrangements for West Lancashire to support drainage boards, to help


protect homes and agriculture and horticulture industries, critical to


the local economy, instead of causing threats to turn off the


pumping station? V Saffie raises a reasonable point -- the Saffie


raises a reasonable point about the Environment Agency and it is the


Environment Agency's duty to ensure water supplies are good and safe and


I am sure if she wishes to bring this up with my right honourable


friend, he will be happy to talk to her about it. Zero energy Bill


Holmes at market prices are being built with the support of the


building research Establishment. Given that the potential to help


people find affordable housing, what more can the Government do to help


expand this type of housing, as part of our commitment to both enterprise


and social justice? I know my honourable friend is an energetic


campaigner for social justice and this is a very good example of how


having a dynamic and flexible economy is not just good for the


economy but is actually good for the whole of society, and I am happy to


join him in welcoming this type of innovation. This firm is a good


example of such innovation, and I know it has been supported by the


Government's enterprise investment scheme, so the Government is doing


its best to support this type of measure, and with stimulating the


growth of the off-site construction sector which enables homes to be


built through our accelerating construction programme and the whole


building fund, another very important issue to make sure that we


spread the benefits of prosperity around this country. Mr Speaker, I


wonder if the first secretary might imagine what it feels like to be a


parent forced to up their children from their settled home to flee war


and persecution, as millions of refugees around the world have done.


And then would he imagine further how it might feel for those who had


become separated from their family members, with one family member


making it, for instance, to the United Kingdom, needlessly kept


apart from their families due to cruel and unnecessary barriers to


family reunification? Will the Government today endorse the


Baroness's bill in the other place to bring those desperate families


back together? The right honourable gentleman raises an important issue


and he will be aware that this Government, this country, has done a


huge amount, particularly in the region, but also here at home to


help refugees from countries such as Syria. We have expanded the


vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, so we make sure our doors


continue to remain open to people who most need our help, and in


particular we work very closely with the UNHCR to identify and refer the


most vulnerable refugees. That is the most sensible humanitarian way


we can help these very desperate people. Can also say, since I should


visitors last question, I suspect, as leader office party, can I wish


him a fond farewell from that job? And say I am delighted the Liberal


Democrats have taken so seriously the Government's full working life


strategy which is about providing more jobs for older workers, and


they are about to skip a generation...


LAUGHTER -- since I assumed that this is his


last question, I suspect. At the recent T20 meeting the Prime


Minister had excellent and constructive trade discussions with


the leaders of India, China, Japan and America -- at the recent G20


meetings. These represent 43% of the world population, these countries,


and six times the population of the European Union. Would my right


honourable friend agree with me that this demonstrates the potential for


a positive future for Britain post-Brexit, and it really is time


for the pessimists to look at the cup being half full rather than half


empty? I am happy to endorse my honourable friend's approach and


just to emphasise to him in the house it is important to do both. We


need a good trade deal with the European Union, still a hugely


important trading partner for us, but also we need to take the


opportunity to strike trade deals with economies round the world, not


just currently advanced economies, but those that are growing very fast


as well. That is the route to future global prosperity to this country.


Thank you, Mr Speaker. We have had to make general elections where the


Government has promised investment to the northern powerhouse, and yet


again within weeks they have made a U-turn on the electrification of the


trans-Pennine. Is the ?1 billion deal to keep the Prime Minister in


power with the DUP being funded at the expense of the North? No, not at


all. The money that has gone for infrastructure in Northern Ireland


is richly needed there. We have signed for example city deals in


England, Scotland and Wales, but none yet in Northern Ireland. I


would hope... I mean, she is right about the importance of the northern


powerhouse, and we will continue with that programme which is hugely


important, and as she has already heard in this session, what we see


is unemployment falling consistently in the north of England, as a sign


of how the economy in that part of England is going as well as anywhere


else in the country, and we are determined to continue that. Mr


Speaker, I know the title might first secretary will be delighted to


see Parliament Square now displays every flight of every British


Overseas Territory to welcome the king of Spain this week, including


the flag of Gibraltar. Would he as my right honourable friend the Prime


Minister to remind the King of Spain that Gibraltar is British and their


sovereignty will remain paramount? I am happy to assure my honourable


friend that the Government's position on Gibraltar and the


privacy of the wishes of its inhabitants which are overwhelmingly


to stay British will be respected by the Government. What assessment has


the Government made of the effect on radiotherapy for cancer patients of


its decision to withdraw from the deal given the Royal College of


radiologistss said this week that half a million scans per year are


done using imported radioisotopes, and that thousands of patients could


be affected by this decision? I am genuinely again happy to answer this


question because it is a very important issue, and there has been


some unnecessary worry caused to cancer patients by speculative on


this. Let me set out the position. The import or export of medical


radioisotopes is not subject to any particular licensing requirements.


Euratom places no restrictions on the export of medical isotopes to


countries outside the EU, so after leaving Euratom our ability to


access military isotopes produced in Europe will not be affected. So I


hope that clears it and I hope that reassures cancer patients around the


country that the scaremongering going on is unnecessary.