LIVE Prime Minister’s Questions: 8 January 2020

LIVE Prime Minister’s Questions: 8 January 2020


>>Andrew Lewer (Northampton South) (Con):
If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 8 January.>>The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson):
I should begin by saying that, of course, we condemn the attack on Iraqi military bases
hosting coalition forces. Iran should not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks,
but must instead pursue urgent de-escalation. I know that the thoughts of the House are
also with our friends in Australia, as they tackle the bushfires, and with the families
of those killed in the Ukrainian air crash. 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.>>Andrew Lewer:
Motor neurone disease is a terrible terminal illness, with a third of people dying within
a year and more than half within two years of diagnosis. The last thing that terminally
ill people and their families should be worrying about are their finances. The Scrap 6 Months
campaign by the Motor Neurone Disease Association, which is based in my constituency of Northampton,
South, has managed to bring the important issue of payments to those with terminal illnesses
to the fore. I welcome the Department for Work and Pensions review of the special rules
for terminal illness announced last July, but may I ask the Prime Minister to join me
in pressing the DWP to complete its review and to scrap six months?>>The Prime Minister:
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that he is doing for those suffering from
motor neurone disease, which is indeed a terrible illness. We are doing everything that we can
to ensure that the welfare system works for sufferers of that illness. That is why the
Department for Work and Pensions is indeed looking at how it can change the way that
we help people nearing the end of their life with the most severe conditions, including
motor neurone disease. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work
and Pensions will be only too happy to meet my hon. Friend at the earliest opportunity.>>Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab):
I wish to start by paying tribute to Andrew Miller, the former Member for Ellesmere Port
and Neston, who sadly died on Christmas eve. He is a sad loss to this place. He spent more
than 20 years here, was an expert on science and technology, and made an enormous contribution
to this House. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. He is deeply mourned by Labour
Members because of the great contribution that he made. I join the Prime Minister in sending sympathy
and support to our friends in Australia, where the fires have claimed the lives of more than
20 people. Along with the loss of human life, hundreds of millions of animals have also
been destroyed as a result of the fires. This is a warning about global warming and what
it does to us all, and we must take the threat of climate change very seriously. I also join the Prime Minister in sending
our thoughts to the friends and families of those who sadly died in the Ukrainian plane
that crashed in Tehran last night. Following last night’s attack on the United
States bases in Iraq, will the Prime Minister confirm that, in this situation, he opposes
any further retaliation or escalation in violence, as the region is at real risk of going into
a full-scale war?>>The Prime Minister:
Of course I can confirm that. Let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the United
Kingdom has been working solidly since the crisis began to bring together our European
allies in particular in their response. The House will have noted the E3 declaration that
was issued by France, Germany and the United Kingdom, in which we drew particular attention
to the baleful role played in the region for a very long time by Qasem Soleimani. That
is a collective European view, but it is a view that does not yet appear to be shared
by the right hon. Gentleman. I have been interested that, in all his commentary, he has not yet
raised that matter.>>Jeremy Corbyn:
Following the Government’s support for the United States over the assassination of General
Soleimani, is the Prime Minister confident that United Kingdom troops and civilians are
not at further risk in the region and beyond?>>The Prime Minister:
That is an important question. I can confirm that, as far as we can tell, no casualties
were sustained last night by the US and no British personnel were injured in the attacks.
We are of course doing everything we can to protect UK interests in the region, with HMS
Defender and HMS Montrose operating in an enhanced state of readiness to protect shipping
in the Gulf. As the House heard yesterday from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of
State for Defence, we have relocated non-essential personnel from Baghdad to Taji, and we will
do everything we can to prevent an escalation.>>Jeremy Corbyn:
The Government have said that they are sympathetic to the assassination of General Soleimani.
What evidence has the Prime Minister got to suggest that this attack on General Soleimani,
and his death, was not an illegal act by the United States?>>The Prime Minister:
Clearly, the strict issue of legality is not for the UK to determine, since it was not
our operation. I think that most reasonable people would accept that the United States
has a right to protect its bases and its personnel. I remind the House that the individual concerned—General
Qasem Soleimani—was, among other things, responsible over many years for arming the
Houthis with missiles with which they attacked innocent civilians; arming Hezbollah with
missiles, which again they used to attack innocent civilians; sustaining the Assad regime
in Syria, which is one of the most brutal and barbaric regimes in the world; and, of
course, supplying improvised explosive devices to terrorists who, I am afraid, killed and
maimed British troops. That man had the blood of British troops on his hands.>>Jeremy Corbyn:
If we stand by international law, as I am sure the Government do and would want to,
surely killing somebody in a foreign territory is an illegal act and should be condemned
as such. If we believe in international law, it should be the solution to the problems
in the world. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, could the
Government say what representations have been made to ensure that the Iranian officials
who want to attend the Security Council to try to bring about a resolution to the very
dangerous situation in the region will be allowed to attend? In the event of the US
Administration blocking them, what representations will the Prime Minister personally make to
President Trump to ensure that the UN can operate in the way in which it should and
must be able to?>>The Prime Minister:
The right hon. Gentleman is probably well aware that the United States has a duty under
international law to allow people to visit the UN, and that is indeed the position that
the UK supports.>>Jeremy Corbyn:
The Iraqi Parliament passed a resolution calling for foreign troops to leave its country. Can
the Prime Minister confirm that the British Government will respect any decision made
by a sovereign Parliament and Government in Iraq that may make such a request in the future
and will respect the sovereignty of Iraq as a nation?>>The Prime Minister:
As the House can imagine, I have spoken extensively to our friends around the world, including
our friends in Baghdad and Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi, who, like many people in Iraq,
has come to rely and depend on the support of coalition forces, not least from the UK.
As the right hon. Gentleman will know, there is a very significant NATO mission in Iraq
at the moment, helping in the fight against Daesh. It is my wish and the wish of this
Government—and it should be the wish of this House—that we do everything we can
to support the security and integrity of Iraq and the Iraqi people.>>Jeremy Corbyn:
My question was whether the Government would respect the sovereignty of Iraq, its Parliament
and its Government, and the Prime Minister did not answer that question. The actions of the United States have undoubtedly
escalated the risk of a dangerous conflict in an already destabilised region, putting
civilians, UK troops and nationals at risk and leaving the Iran nuclear deal in danger
of being dead in the water. This Government’s response is not putting the interests of this
country first but instead seems more interested in prioritising the Prime Minister’s relationship
with President Trump over the security of the region and of this country. Is not the
truth that this Prime Minister is unable to stand up to President Trump because he has
hitched his wagon to a trade deal with the United States, and that takes priority over
everything else that he ought to be considering?>>The Prime Minister:
I was waiting for the little green men thing to come out at the end about the trade deal.
This is absolute fiction. But what I will say is that the UK will continue
to work for de-escalation in the region. I think we are having a great deal of success
in bringing together a European response and in bridging the European response with that,
of course, of our American friends, and working both with the Iranians and with the Iraqis
to dial this thing down. The right hon. Gentleman should be in absolutely no doubt—this is,
of course, a Leader of the Opposition who has famously received £10,000 from the Iranian
Press TV—that we are determined to guarantee with everything that we can the safety and
security of the people of Iraq, whereas he, of course, would disband NATO. It is this
Government who will continue to stick up for the people across the middle east who have
suffered at the hands of Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian revolutionary guard Quds force
that he has led and whose terrorism he has promoted. I am very surprised at the end of
these exchanges that the right hon. Gentleman has yet to condemn the activities of Qasem
Soleimani and the revolutionary guard.>>Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North) (Con):
In the past 10 years, there have been volumes of reports, independent reviews and recommendations
calling for an end to inappropriate in-patient care for people with learning difficulties
or challenging behaviour. In the wake of the Winterbourne View scandal alone, there were
seven such reports. As we start a new decade, would my right hon. Friend state how many
people are still trapped in inappropriate care settings and instruct the Department
of Health to act on those recommendations and the asks of families of campaigners so
that these very vulnerable people can get the care they need and deserve?>>The Prime Minister:
I thank my right hon. Friend for the passionate campaign that she wages. I can tell her that
the current number is 2,190, which is patently unacceptable, but it is moving down. My right
hon. Friend the Health Secretary tells me that the number is coming down rapidly. We
have a pledge to reduce it by 50%, and I am sure that he will meet her very shortly.>>Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber)
(SNP): May I welcome you to your place, Mr Speaker,
and wish you, all Members and staff a good new year? I associate myself with the remarks of the
Prime Minister for our friends in Australia and on the tragedy of the Ukrainian airline
crash. We want to see a resumption of democracy in Iraq. We want to see a return to peace,
and of course we support all measures to make sure that diplomatic efforts can get us to
a better place. Prime Minister, who should determine the future
of Scotland—the Prime Minister or the people who live in Scotland?>>The Prime Minister:
I think the answer is very clear—it is the people of Scotland who voted decisively only
four or five years ago to stay members of the most successful political partnership
in history by a decisive majority in a once-in-a-generation choice.>>Ian Blackford:
This is about democracy. In 2016, the people of Scotland voted to remain in the European
Union, yet they are being dragged out of Europe against their will by this Prime Minister.
In 2019, the people of Scotland elected a majority of SNP MPs to Westminster. The Scottish
National party won the election on the premise of Scotland’s right to choose its own future,
rejecting the Prime Minister who lost more than half his seats in Scotland. Today, the
Scottish Parliament will decline legislative consent to the EU withdrawal Bill that we
are deliberating later today. Why are this Conservative Government dismissing the will
of the people of Scotland, ignoring their voice and disregarding our Parliament?>>The Prime Minister:
I think the real question is, why do the SNP keep going on about breaking up the most successful
union in history? It is to distract from their abundant failures in government. In spite
of getting £9 billion a year from the UK Exchequer, which of course they would lose
if they were so foolish as to break away, they are mismanaging their healthcare. It
is not the fault of Scottish pupils, but we are seeing Scottish schools falling behind
in educational standards. Concentrate on what you are doing and stop going on about breaking
up the Union.>>Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con):
Does the Prime Minister agree that at the heart of our one nation Government is our
manifesto commitment that “A strong society needs strong families”?After last week’s
£165 million boost to extend the troubled families programme, will he outline how the
Government will additionally fulfil our manifesto pledge to champion family hubs, to“serve
vulnerable families with the intensive, integrated support they need to care for children”?>>The Prime Minister:
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for all that she has done to campaign for families. It
was thanks to her, I think, that we put family hubs in the manifesto, so she should be in
no doubt that we are working with local authorities to champion and deliver family hubs.>>Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield) (Lab):
Finally, it appears that some action is being taken against Northern Rail. Will the Prime
Minister commit to stripping it of its franchise and to devolving the power and money to the
regions, so that local people have the power over their local transport and never have
to suffer the appalling catalogue of delays, overcrowding, cancellations and disruptions
that have gone on far too long?>>The Prime Minister:
I have to say to the hon. Lady that I share her outrage, and I understand what she says.
We are developing contingency plans for a replacement for Northern Rail. We are also
looking at the whole way that the franchising system operates, and she will have seen Keith
Williams’s very valuable report on that.>>Paul Holmes (Eastleigh) (Con):
My right hon. Friend has always been a vocal advocate of localism, so what advice can he
give to my constituents who are concerned about the local Lib Dem council’s unwanted
housing plan in Eastleigh, which would lead to even more overdevelopment without securing
the vital infrastructure that Eastleigh needs?>>The Prime Minister:
I am not surprised by what my hon. Friend says about the cavalier behaviour of the Lib
Dem council in Eastleigh. We will ensure that, in so far as we need to build many more homes,
which we do, we will supply the infrastructure necessary and do it on brownfield sites.>>Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC):
The Prime Minister is a man of vision, apparently. What is his vision for the constitutional
relationship between Wales and England in the event of Irish reunification and Scottish
independence?>>The Prime Minister:
Our relationship, like the relationship of the whole United Kingdom, will go from strength
to strength.>>Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton
North) (Con): American company Wheelabrator has a track
record of breaching environmental legislation in the USA and now seeks to build a massive
incinerator in the beautiful Test Valley. Local residents are looking to this Government
because of their concerns about emissions levels and are seeking reassurance from my
right hon. Friend that regulations on emissions from incineration will be further enhanced
and greener alternatives encouraged.>>The Prime Minister:
I see my right hon. Friend’s point with great concern. As we move to a net zero economy
by 2050 under this groundbreaking Conservative Government, it is vital that we tackle those
kinds of emissions. That is why we are establishing the Office for Environmental Protection, and
I will chair a new Cabinet Committee to drive forward action on climate change across the
whole of Government.>>Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab):
Happy new year to you and all your staff, Mr Speaker, and everyone in the House. The
Prime Minister knows that his “Get Brexit done” slogan was vacuous. He also knows
that it is not even the end of the beginning, with no deal firmly back on the table. Will
he now acknowledge that any job lost and any impact on British industry as a result of
his Brexit policy is firmly at his door?>>The Prime Minister:
Contrary to the predictions of the gloomsters, unemployment is at a record low—we have
put on about 800,000 jobs since the referendum—and we will indeed get Brexit done by 31 January.>>Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North
Poole) (Con): For social justice, for life chances, for
opportunities for the next generation, education is the key, and that is why the Prime Minister’s
pledge for additional funding is so welcome, especially for historically underfunded areas
such as Dorset and Poole; but equally important are discipline and standards. Will the Prime
Minister ensure that there is a continued focus on the most disadvantaged, especially
when it comes to vital literacy and numeracy skills?>>The Prime Minister:
Yes, indeed I will. I pay tribute, by the way, to my right hon. Friend the Member for
Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Nick Gibb)—where is he?—who campaigned for so long for synthetic
phonics, which has done such a huge amount to help kids to read in this country. This
is the only country in the G7 where the reading performance of disadvantaged pupils has actually
improved since 2009. We need to do more, and as my hon. Friend says, that is why we are
investing more now—record sums—in education.>>Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP):
Margaret Thatcher— Hurrah! Order. Thank you, Mr Speaker. Margaret Thatcher, John Major
and the right hon. Gentleman’s immediate predecessor all accepted that the Union of
the United Kingdom can only be maintained by consent. Yet despite winning three elections
seeking to test that consent, the Prime Minister insists that the SNP Government do not have
a mandate to hold another independence referendum, so could he tell me exactly what mechanism
is available to the Scottish people to give their consent or otherwise for maintaining
this Union, and how they should go about exercising that?>>The Prime Minister:
I can only repeat my point, which is that the Scottish people do have a mechanism. They
used it in 2014: it is a referendum. It took place, and as I think SNP Members all confirmed,
it was a once-in-a-generation event.>>David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale)
(Con): Mr Speaker, you, being a northern MP like
myself, would welcome the news that more money is going to be spent in the north of England.
I want to reiterate that Morecambe needs the Eden Project. Would my right hon. Friend the
Prime Minister like to come to Morecambe to see me and the Eden team about getting the
Eden Project back in Morecambe again, to make Morecambe the best place on the face of this
earth?>>The Prime Minister:
Indeed, the Eden of Britain—[Interruption.] I have just heard from my right hon. Friend
the Chancellor that he does indeed: the House should know that the Eden Project is now,
thanks to the Chancellor, very likely to come to Morecambe.>>Neil Gray (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP):
For more than two years, I have been campaigning on behalf of my constituents in Harthill and
4,000 other low-income Roadchef workers across the UK who have waited more than 20 years
to receive share ownership money that is rightfully theirs. In 2018 there was a breakthrough,
when Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs agreed to repay millions of pounds in wrongfully
paid tax. However, I understand that it is trying now to recoup tax on every penny possible
from those low-income workers. Given that the trust was set up as a non-tax employee
ownership scheme, does the Prime Minister think it is fair that HMRC would seek to run
roughshod over that, and will he now meet me to discuss this projected saga?>>The Prime Minister:
Yes, of course. I make a general point that we have done a huge amount to lift the burden
of taxation on the low-paid, and we are lifting the living wage by the biggest ever increase,
but I know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will welcome the opportunity to discuss the
particular matter that the hon. Gentleman raises in person.>>Mr Shailesh Vara (North West Cambridgeshire)
(Con): In the period 2018 to 2019, overseas companies
investing in Northern Ireland created nearly 1,500 new jobs. Does my right hon. Friend
agree that if Stormont were to be up and running again, then this year that number would be
considerably higher, and that it is important that no stone is left unturned in efforts
by the Northern Ireland parties to seek agreement so that the Northern Ireland Assembly can
be properly functioning again?>>The Prime Minister:
I am proud to say that the UK is now the third-highest recipient of foreign investment in the world,
but Northern Ireland could get even more than it currently does if, as my hon. Friend rightly
says, people took their responsibilities and got Stormont up and running again.>>Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP):
In the twilight of the last Parliament both the Scottish Affairs and Health Select Committees
produced reports on the drugs crisis. Both reports drew on international evidence and
recommended a change in the law to allow vulnerable addicts to be able to consume substances in
secure facilities under medical supervision. I know this is a complex and controversial
area and I am not expecting the Prime Minister to make policy on the hoof, but I want to
ask him whether he will consider, on a pilot basis, the establishment of overdose prevention
centres in order to gather evidence as to whether that could help prevent deaths in
this country, as it has in other countries.>>The Prime Minister:
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising a very important issue and a difficult problem.
The question is how do we, as it were, introduce consumption rooms without encouraging consumption;
that is the challenge we face. As he knows, we are having a drugs summit this year; it
will be held in Scotland, and we will be announcing a date shortly.>>Dehenna Davison (Bishop Auckland) (Con):
My local NHS trust is currently consulting on closing the stroke rehabilitation service
at Bishop Auckland hospital. Staff on the ward are rightly very concerned about the
proposed closure and the impact it will have on local residents, particularly those in
my rural communities, so may I ask the Prime Minister whether he is willing to work with
myself and the Health Secretary, take this matter seriously and prove to the residents
of Bishop Auckland that we are on their side?>>The Prime Minister:
I congratulate my hon. Friend on getting elected, and welcome her, and indeed all new colleagues,
to their first edition of Prime Minister’s Question Time. I thank my hon. Friend for
raising her concerns with me; I have heard just now from the Health Secretary, passing
the ball straight down the line, that he is indeed going to address the matter that she
raises as fast as possible. As she knows, we are putting record sums into the NHS and
it is our intention to help Bishop Auckland.>>Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East)
(Lab): As in much of the rest of the country, hospital
A&E waiting times in Coventry have been under constant pressure, with the latest figures
showing that almost a quarter of attendances are waiting four hours or more to be seen.
I am aware that the Government have made commitments to invest in the NHS, so will the Prime Minister
agree to meet a delegation from Coventry to discuss the prospect of opening a second walk-in
centre in the city to alleviate some of the pressure on our overstretched A&E department?>>The Prime Minister:
I thank the hon. Lady for raising that issue with me, and if I can’t do it I am sure
the Health Secretary can.>>Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford)
(Con): Does my right hon. Friend share my concerns
about the lack of educational achievement and aspiration among so many of our working-class
boys across the country? Will he make it a top priority for his Government to ensure
that all schoolchildren throughout the country are given the opportunities to maximise their
talents?>>The Prime Minister:
Yes I can; and not only are we investing record sums in primary and secondary education, but
we are also setting up a national skills fund to help those who do not necessarily think
that they are candidates for university but have a huge amount to offer the economy and
need every help they can get—they have massive, massive potential.>>Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab):
May I wish a happy new year to you, Mr Speaker, and everyone else in the Chamber? Can the
Prime Minister detail what steps he has taken, working in concert with Germany and France,
in helping to restore the Iran nuclear deal since he was appointed Prime Minister in July?>>The Prime Minister:
The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. As he knows, it is our view that the
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action remains the best way of preventing nuclear proliferation
in Iran—it is the best way of encouraging the Iranians not to develop a nuclear weapon—and
we think that after this crisis has abated, which of course we sincerely hope it will,
that way forward will remain. It is a shell that has currently been voided, but it remains
a shell into which we can put substance again.>>Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire)
(Con): In recent months, the performance of West
Midlands Trains for my constituents and for constituents across the region has been absolutely
woeful. Does the Prime Minister agree with Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, that
if it does not shape up by the end of January, it too should have an inspection by the Secretary
of State for Transport and potentially have its franchise taken away?>>The Prime Minister:
The House will have heard what I had to say to the hon. Member for Makerfield (Yvonne
Fovargue) about the performance of various franchise holders across our rail network.
We are looking at the whole issue and the bell is tolling for West Midlands rail, if
I hear my hon. Friend correctly.>>Douglas Chapman (Dunfermline and West Fife)
(SNP): During the festive season, I was thinking
about the Prime Minister basking in his hammock in Mustique, maybe contemplating his mandate.
But that mandate is absolutely nothing compared to the mandate won in Scotland by my colleagues
on the SNP Benches. Winning 45% of the popular vote and 80% of the seats, our mandate is
unassailable. The Prime Minister’s holidays are over and it is now time to deliver on
that mandate. The Scottish Government have an oven-ready Edinburgh agreement 2.0. When
will discussions begin?>>The Prime Minister:
I think I have given this answer a couple of times already. The people of Scotland had
the chance to decide, and they decided emphatically in favour of remaining in the UK. That decision
should be respected.>>Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con):
I warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s continued commitment to invest and level up across our
country. This will be particularly welcome in Cornwall, which continues to be one of
the poorest parts of the UK. Will the Prime Minister confirm to the people of Cornwall
that we will continue to be at the heart of his Government’s plans to invest in the
regions of the country?>>The Prime Minister:
Absolutely. I can confirm that. My hon. Friend and I have discussed this issue many times.
Not only will Cornwall continue to receive all the cash it gets through the shared prosperity
fund, but we will do extraordinary things with infrastructure—the A303, you name it—to
improve road and rail transport to Cornwall and the NHS. Truro and Penzance and virtually
every hospital in Cornwall—and St Austell—will be there.>>Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab):
In 2005, my constituent Steven Gallant did a bad thing for which he is serving a life
sentence in prison. However, on 29 November he was the third man on London Bridge. He
wrestled the knife-wielding murderous terrorist to the ground so that police marksmen could
shoot him dead. Steven is rightly serving life in prison, but will the Prime Minister
congratulate and pay tribute to Steven for his bravery that day, which no doubt saved
lives?>>The Prime Minister:
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and for making a very good point, on which
I think the whole House would agree. I am lost in admiration for the bravery of Steven
Gallant, and indeed of others who went to the assistance of members of the public on
that day and fought a very determined terrorist. Obviously, it is not for the Government to
decide these things, but it is my hope that that gallantry will in due course be recognised in
the proper way.

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