COMMONS

Today's House of Commons debates - Wednesday 29 June 2016

Version: Uncorrected | Updated 21:12

House of Commons

Wednesday 29 June 2016

The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock

Prayers

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

International Development

The Secretary of State was asked—

Global Fund to Fight AIDS , Tuberculosis and Malaria

1.

What her policy is on the investment case for the replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.[905508]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Justine Greening):

Before I answer Question 1, may I briefly offer my voice to the many tributes that have been made in this place to Jo Cox? I know that I speak for the entire development community when I say that she was an incredibly impressive Member of the House. We also had the chance to work together on Syria. Indeed, the Order Paper does not show it but she should have been asking topical question 5. I believe that the House is much, much poorer place for not hearing from her today.

I also welcome the shadow Front-Bench team and welcome the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor), to her role. I wish her well. In response to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile), we welcome working through the global fund. This country has helped to keep 8.6 million people alive with HIV therapy. We have distributed 600 million mosquito nets and have treated 15 million cases of TB. We are actually the third largest funder. The UK is planning to support a successful replenishment of a strong, value for money global fund later this year.

Oliver Colvile:

Mr Speaker, as you can see from my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, I visited Zambia last year with RESULTS UK and saw for myself the excellent work that global fund investment is doing, particularly on TB-HIV co-infection. Will the Minister do everything possible to ensure that the fund’s replenishment target of $13 billion is met as a minimum?

Justine Greening:

Yes we will. The global fund is a novel but powerful model for delivering improvements on AIDS, TB and malaria at scale. We therefore want to see it do better. It still needs to focus on delivering value for money, but we will be lobbying other Governments, countries and organisations to continue supporting it.

Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op):

May I press the Secretary of State on whether she accepts the case for a 20% increase in the UK’s contribution to the global fund, something which the global fund has specifically asked us to contemplate and which several other countries are doing? Might she also take the opportunity to make a speech on the continuing worldwide HIV and AIDS crisis?

Justine Greening:

That is an important question. Following the announcement of the multilateral aid review, which is coming out shortly, we are looking at how we approach the forthcoming replenishment. The key thing is to ensure that we lobby other countries and players to provide support alongside the UK, but, as the hon. Gentleman says, it is important that we show leadership ourselves.

Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP):

Before I ask my question, may I express our solidarity with the people who were involved in the bombing in Istanbul last night?

The cap is a bizarre self-limitation. If Britain wants to give £1.2 billion to the global fund, why do we set a cap that prevents us from doing so?

Justine Greening:

It has been done precisely to incentivise others and to make it clear that the fund will work best if it is supported by a broad donor base. While we have always been key supporters of the global fund, it is important that countries such as the UK do not let up on challenging other players and countries to play their role. Although we are a strong supporter of development and can be proud of our work, we want other countries to follow our lead, not lag behind.

Kate Osamor (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op):

I would first like to congratulate the Secretary of State on coming out over the weekend. I look forward to future exchanges across the Dispatch Box.

The global fund replenishment conference in September presents an incredibly important moment for the fund, which provides more than three quarters of all international finance to the fight against TB. Without renewed commitment, we will not realise the global plan’s targets, so when exactly will the UK commit to the global fund?

Justine Greening:

We will make an announcement following the publication of the multilateral aid review. I can assure the hon. Lady that two things are being focused on: ensuring that the global fund offer is strong so that countries are persuaded to invest in it and having a smart investment ourselves, as we have had in the past, to encourage other countries to join us.

Kate Osamor:

The global fund has a remarkable record, having saved more than 70 million lives and treated over 13 million people for TB. Notwithstanding that record, Canada, Italy and Japan have each significantly increased their contributions to the fund by at least 20%. Will the Secretary of State ensure that the UK also increases its contribution?

Justine Greening:

As I have said before, we will finally announce what we are doing on the replenishment after our multilateral aid review. I can assure the hon. Lady that we are very keen to see a successful replenishment for the global fund. Our country has supported that for a number of years now. Looking at the progress on malaria, TB and AIDS, it is clear that we need to keep our foot on the pedal if we are to eradicate these diseases, because, in the end, they are holding back their countries from developing.

Burundian Refugee Safety

2.

What assessment she has made of the safety of people from Burundi in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.[905509]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Nick Hurd):

May I associate myself with the remarks of the shadow Secretary of State about the Secretary of State, and with the remarks about standing in solidarity with Istanbul?

More than a quarter of a million Burundians have fled their country since 2015. We remain very concerned about their wellbeing, which is why we are the second largest bilateral donor to the regional refugee appeal.

Stephen Phillips:

My hon. Friend will be aware of reports over recent months of Burundian refugees being followed over the border into camps and attacked by those from whom they have tried to flee, often to punish remaining family members or silence those with stories of abuse. What are the Government doing to offer support to authorities and non-governmental organisations running refugee camps in Rwanda, Tanzania and other neighbouring countries to ensure that those fleeing Burundi are safe?

Mr Hurd:

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that question. We are aware of the reports. Indeed, I have spoken personally to a number of Burundian refugees in camps, and we have made it very clear to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that we expect it to protect all refugees, and in Rwanda we have funded it to provide additional protection in the Mahama region refugee camp.

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op):

May I welcome what the Secretary of State said about Jo Cox? We particularly miss her today, as she had a track record on these important issues. There is concern in all parts of the House about the crisis in Burundi. Can either the Department for International Development or the Foreign Office come to the House soon with a full statement on the crisis and how we can best address it?

Mr Hurd:

If that is the wish of the House, I am sure that both Departments will listen to it carefully. We are extremely concerned about the situation and have been for very many months. I am in regular contact with the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge), who has responsibility for Africa, about what he is doing on the diplomatic front and what we are doing in terms of planning contingencies in the event of an escalation of the humanitarian crisis.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con):

Young people from specific communities are being taken from their homes, tortured and then killed. We have a deep crisis in Burundi: a President in denial who refuses to accept the validity of the Arusha peace process. What can the UK Government do to encourage other neighbouring African countries to take this matter even more seriously than they appear to be doing at the moment?

Mr Hurd:

I share my hon. Friend’s concern and passion about this situation. I assure him that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and I work together extremely closely to put whatever pressure we can on countries that may have influence, and to ensure that we are in a position to do the right thing in providing support for the Burundian people.

Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab):

May I too associate myself with the remarks about showing solidarity with Turkey?

In 2012, the UK Government closed DFID’s office in Burundi despite the history of electoral turmoil in the country and an understanding that the next election would be just three years away, in 2015. The election was identified as a key possible flashpoint for future violence by many NGOs and the International Development Committee, which criticised DFID’s decision to close the office. As the refugee crisis in Burundi escalates, will the Minister assure me that DFID has in place clear and effective measures to ensure that it identifies where crises may occur and is fully able to react and respond to them?

Mr Hurd:

Yes, I think I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. This has been an issue that has been glowing red on our radar screen for some time now. As I have said, we are the second largest bilateral donor to the regional appeal. We have contingency plans in place. We have announced an additional £15 million to support Tanzania in its preparedness for an escalation and we have released money and technical expertise to be deployed in Burundi to support any escalation in the humanitarian crisis.

Food Insecurity: Eastern and Southern Africa

3.

What steps she is taking in response to food insecurity in eastern and southern Africa.[905510]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Nick Hurd):

DFID has provided an additional £200 million since mid-2015 to respond to the impact of El Niño-related climate shocks in Africa. More than 4 million people have already been supported by DFID programmes in the horn of Africa and southern Africa.

Carol Monaghan:

The drought in Africa is affecting millions of people and is predicted to continue until November and possibly beyond. If the rains do come, there will be a hunger gap for families across the region while they wait to see whether there is anything to harvest in the next three to five months, so what steps are the Government taking now to make sure that food and other essentials are ready to be delivered then if it becomes necessary?

Mr Hurd:

I thank the hon. Lady for throwing a spotlight on a humanitarian crisis that is under-reported and underfunded. I am proud to say that the UK has shown genuine leadership in making large amounts of funding available early—as I said, £200 million in the past year alone—and we are reviewing what more needs to be done, but critically we are also picking up the phone and speaking to all the other donors in the international community to encourage them to do more, as well as working very closely with domestic Governments such as Ethiopia’s to make sure that they have the right plans in place to protect their people.

Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con):

I congratulate DFID on the support that it is giving, particularly to Ethiopia. On a recent visit to that country, I learned of the work that is being carried out and also of the funding gap in the support programme. I also learned that there is a need for donors to be there on a long-term basis because the problems are not going to go away. Will the Minister redouble his efforts to bring in more donor countries and make sure that they are there for the medium to long term?

Mr Hurd:

Yes, I can reassure my hon. Friend of that, and I thank him for his letter after his visit. We are making those calls and encouraging other donors. I should place on record our respect and recognition for the work that the Ethiopian Government have done in making domestic resources—$700 million—available to be part of this response.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP):

In many instances charitable institutions are doing great work in trying to provide clean, plentiful water supplies in sub-Saharan Africa, which allows those nation states to produce food on a much greater scale. What is being done to supplement those efforts and help those institutions provide that much needed water supply?

Mr Hurd:

DFID is extremely proud of its co-operation and partnership with NGOs in many areas. In the context of making sure that people have access to clean water and sanitation, we have a manifesto commitment to support 60 million people achieve that, so partnership working is fundamental to our approach. A large amount of that £200 million funding has been to help people access the most basic services.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab):

I am pleased to hear the Minister acknowledge that climate change is having a huge impact on food security in the region. What efforts is his Department making to look at the impact on fish stocks, which very many people in that region depend on?

Mr Hurd:

The hon. Lady is entirely right that we have to factor in climate change, not least because on our assessment there is a 75% probability of La Niña following El Niño. A large part of the work that we are doing involves doing the best we can to help people now, as well as to plan for the future and build in greater resilience so that those countries and those populations are better protected in the future.

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP):

May I associate those on the SNP Benches with the good wishes and congratulations that have been extended to the Secretary of State in recent days, and also welcome the new Labour spokesperson to her post?

Will the Minister recognise the role of faith and civil society organisations in developing countries in the delivery of food and emergency aid? Given the need for forward planning mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan), what steps is he taking to make sure that DFID can support such organisations in responding to the food crisis?

Mr Hurd:

The key thing is to act early and to act decisively. The British Government have made a lot of money available and have acted early, which is critical to being cost-effective. Fundamental to our approach is working through other organisations. That includes the best NGOs, which are passionate about trying to provide basic services and keep people alive.

Bilateral and Multilateral Reviews

4.

When her Department plans to publish the findings of its bilateral and multilateral aid reviews.[905511]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Justine Greening):

The reviews will ensure that we allocate our budget to the right places and in the right ways based on solid evidence, translating our UK aid strategy into a set of delivery plans for DFID that are ambitious in driving development and tackling poverty, but also deliver value for money. That is in our UK national interest. We are planning to publish the outcome of the bilateral and multilateral aid reviews in the early summer.

John Nicolson:

May I, too, congratulate the Secretary of State on her recent announcement? In a time of great political uncertainty, surely these reviews should not be delayed any further, so may I ask her what impact she thinks Brexit will have specifically?

Justine Greening:

Part of our work has been through the European development fund, so work is now under way to understand where the end point of Brexit is and, critically, the transition plan in the meantime. That work is under way, but I emphasise that overwhelmingly our work is not through the EDF, and that, of course, is unaffected.

15.[905522]

I am proud of our international aid record, but we have to take the public with us. Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the target were to apply over a longer period, thereby allowing for annual variations to reflect need, taxpayers could have the greatest possible comfort that they were seeing value for money?

Justine Greening:

Value for money comes from how we take decisions and monitor their impact in the Department, and less from how we structure the budget. We have a commitment to invest 0.7% of our gross national income in international development each year, and we are going to stick to that.

Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con):

Will the Secretary of State reassure the House that following the withdrawal of our overseas aid portion given through the EU, the absolute percentage that we spend on the world’s poorest people will be maintained?

Justine Greening:

This Government came in on a manifesto of maintaining the 0.7% commitment. Under the coalition Government that we led, it was brought in and achieved for the first time. We legislated for it, and we stand by that.

Palestinian-Israeli Co-existence Projects

5.

What support her Department provides to projects facilitating peaceful co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis.[905512]

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Sir Desmond Swayne):

We support projects that bring Palestinians and Israelis together, to which end we have made provision for funding through our conflict, security and stability fund to support co-existence projects, but I am keen to identify what more we can do.

Stephen Metcalfe:

As I am asking my question in slot No. 5, which would have been taken by Jo Cox, may I, too, add my tribute to her excellent work in this area? Why do my right hon. Friend and his Department think that it is a good use of taxpayers’ money to continue to support the Palestinian Authority?

Sir Desmond Swayne:

I agree with my hon. Friend about Jo Cox. The reason why we think it is a good idea to support the Palestinian Authority is that they deliver essential public services, not least healthcare and the education of 770,000 pupils. I believe that it is in our national interest to build up Palestinian institutions so that in a future Palestinian state, they can be reliable and effective partners for peace.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab):

I endorse the tributes that have been made to the work of Jo Cox for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine. Will the Minister join me in recognising the contribution to peaceful co-existence of Israelis who speak uncomfortable truths, whether that be the Mayor of Tel Aviv speaking out against occupation, the veterans of Breaking the Silence speaking out against the reality of occupation, or Peace Now mapping settlements that are undermining the chances of a two-state solution?

Sir Desmond Swayne:

Yes, and I am concerned about any potential closing of space for non-governmental organisations.

Mr Speaker:

I will call the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) if he undertakes to ask a single, short-sentence question.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con):

Has my right hon. Friend examined Save a Child’s Heart, an initiative by the Israeli Government to treat Palestinian children and save their lives?

Sir Desmond Swayne:

Yes, I hosted a delegation of Members from across the House who brought this excellent organisation to my attention recently, and my officials are conducting due diligence.

T2.[905524]

If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Justine Greening:

Alongside visiting refugee camps in Kenya, at the end of May I headed the UK delegation at the world humanitarian summit where we helped to secure widespread agreement on the need to reform the humanitarian system. I committed £30 million of support to a new joint fund for education in emergencies to help to make sure that no child misses out on an education. Our commitment to international development is, and will continue to be, firmly in our national interest as well as the right thing to do.

Dr Mathias:

I note we have UK advisers in the refugee camps in Europe. I hope they will remain. What steps is the Department taking to ensure that the best people do this essential work? Will the Secretary of State look into a Teach First-style scheme so that we get the best graduates?

Justine Greening:

Britain is working with Greece, Turkey and others in Europe. The first UK team has arrived in Greece, and it includes experts in supporting vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and those trained to tackle people trafficking. My hon. Friend raises an interesting point, and I will certainly take it up with my colleagues at the Home Office and the Department for Education.

T3.[905525]

Given what the Overseas Development Institute has called the misrepresentation of its recent report on state-building grant to Palestine, will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to confirm that UK aid to the Palestinian Authority is for wholly legitimate purposes and is essential to peace-building in the region?

Justine Greening:

I believe the hon. Gentleman is right in his assertion. Indeed, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has just set out, the work we are doing is helping to provide not only health facilities for people in that area but, critically, education for children who so badly need it. [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker:

Order. There are a lot of very noisy private conversations taking place. It is incredibly discourteous to the Secretary of State and discourteous to Members treating of matters affecting some of the most vulnerable people on the face of the planet, and I rather doubt it does much good to the reputation of the House at this important time, so if Members who are chattering away privately could stop doing so, that would help.

T5.[905529]

Tanzania saw some great progress against the millennium development goals, but areas of the country still lack access to basic services such as water. I am glad that the Secretary of State met Councillor Louise Richardson, but will she comment on how her Department is working with Tanzania on those vital areas?

Justine Greening:

I very much appreciated the time that my hon. Friend’s local councillor took to meet me and to talk about the work she has been involved in. DFID is helping Tanzania to improve access to clean water in rural areas and rural water sustainability. Alongside that, we have a strong focus on improving electricity access, off-grid energy solutions and, of course, rural road infrastructure, which is so important.

T4.[905528]

Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the appointment of Dr Alasdair Allan as the new Scottish Government Minister for International Development and Europe? As she never managed a one-on-one with his predecessor, will she make it a priority to meet Dr Allan?

Justine Greening:

I regularly visit our joint headquarters office in East Kilbride, Glasgow. We work alongside the Scottish development programme, which very much focuses on Malawi. I am very happy to meet the new Minister.

T6.[905530]

Encouraging business growth in developing countries helps to cut poverty and to create new markets for British exports. Will the Secretary of State update the House on what the Government are doing to help entrepreneurs in developing countries?

Justine Greening:

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we will end aid dependency through creating jobs. DFID has doubled its bilateral work on economic growth. That includes supporting entrepreneurship through expanding access to finance and easing the cost and risk of doing business.

Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab):

Given the support that the Government provide to the Government of Sri Lanka for reconciliation and human rights, will the Secretary of State give a commitment that her Department will make the strongest representations to the Government of Sri Lanka that there will be no peace or reconciliation without international involvement in the prosecution of historic war crimes during the Sri Lankan civil war?

Justine Greening:

The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point, and I will certainly relay it to my colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

T7.[905531]

Will the Secretary of State update the House on what she is doing to bring economic empowerment to women, especially in the world’s poorest countries?

Justine Greening:

What a very important question my hon. Friend asks. I am very proud to be a founding member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, which will report in September. This is central to DFID’s work. Indeed, since 2011 we have helped 2.5 million women to improve their land rights and 35 million women to access financial services. With financial independence comes much broader independence, so this is absolutely vital.

Mr Graham Allen (Nottingham North) (Lab):

Even in the United Kingdom, adverse childhood experience is a major cause of dysfunction in families. In conflict zones, it will of course be much worse, particularly where a family have suffered a bereavement. Will the Secretary of State look at a package to include mentoring, parenting, and child development, as well as all the other good work that her Department does?

Justine Greening:

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that in our Syria response we very much focused on children, not least in making sure that there is no lost generation of children out of school. The broader point about understanding the impact of conflict on children in the longer term is extremely important. Mentoring, psychosocial support, and counselling need to be in place to help children get through situations that would be hard for most of us adults, let alone small children.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—

Engagements

Q1.[905448]

If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 29 June.

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron):

I know the whole House will join me in condemning the horrific terrorist attacks in Turkey last night. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were killed and injured, and their families. As yet, there are no reports of any UK casualties, but the Foreign Office is working urgently with the Turkish authorities to establish the full facts. I spoke to President Erdoğan this morning to express the UK’s condolences and to offer assistance. Details are still emerging, but we stand as one in our defiance against these barbaric acts.

This week marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, and there will be a national two-minute silence on Friday morning. I will attend a service at the Thiepval memorial near the battlefield, and it is right that the whole country pauses to remember the sacrifices of all those who fought and lost their lives in that conflict.

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.

Mr Carmichael:

May I first associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks of condolence to all those who have been affected by the dreadful attack in Istanbul?

May I offer my personal best wishes to the Prime Minister and his family for life after Downing Street? He has served his country, but he has not done it alone. It is right that we should acknowledge the support that he has had, as we all have, from our families in public service.

Before the Prime Minister goes, though, will he attend to one matter that, when he was in opposition, he described as doing enormous moral damage to the moral authority of our country—the involvement of our security services in rendition? Now that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided that it is not going to prosecute Sir Mark Allen for what he did, will the Prime Minister reconstitute the Gibson inquiry so that we can know what was done in our name, and on whose authority?

The Prime Minister:

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his generous remarks. I am very proud to have served this country, and proud to be the first Prime Minister for, I think, 30 years to get to both Shetland and Orkney to make sure that I fully looked into his constituency.

The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the Libya rendition issue. The Government co-operated fully with the police investigation. The CPS set out its position recently, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. I would say—I can say these things now—that very few countries in the world would have had such an independent and thorough investigation into an issue like this. The right approach, as Sir Peter Gibson has finished the report on what he was able to do, is that the Intelligence and Security Committee has agreed to look at the issues raised in his report, and it should continue to do so.

Q3.[905450]

As my right hon. Friend has said, perhaps putting current events into perspective, at 7.30 am this Friday we will start the process of commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Will he join me in thanking all those involved in organising the Forget Never project in Basildon, who have done so much to ensure that our young people will learn the lessons of the past? Forgetting our current challenges, will he join me in encouraging everyone to remember, salute and commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice?

The Prime Minister:

I certainly join my hon. Friend in commending all those who are organising these important events, particularly the event he mentions in his constituency, but also the events up and down the country. It is important, not only because of this appalling slaughter—57,000 people were killed or wounded on the first day of this battle—but because so many people are learning so much about their own family’s involvement. In many ways, there is a link between the current events we are discussing and what happened 100 years ago: the importance of keeping peace, security and stability on our continent. It was noticeable at last night’s European Council dinner that the French President mentioned the Somme commemorations and how proud he was that we would be standing together to remember those sacrifices all those years ago.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab):

I echo the words of the Prime Minister concerning the 36 who died and the 100 injured in the vile terrorist attack at Ataturk airport. I am sure that our consular services will be doing everything they can to assist those affected. I thank him for referring to the memorial service in the Somme on Friday; I look forward to being with him for the memorial service for those who died in that dreadful battle.

I think it would be appropriate to pay tribute to Lord Patrick Mayhew, who died last weekend. As Northern Ireland Secretary, he was the driving force behind the Downing Street declaration in 1993, which led to the first ceasefire. I think the relative peace we have now in Northern Ireland is in part thanks to him and of course his successor Mo Mowlam, who achieved so much.

What people in the country are worried about is the extra insecurity for their living standards, jobs, wages and pensions following the EU referendum. In recent days, we have heard uncertain words about the future of some of the major companies in Britain, such as Siemens, which has been here for a very long time. What meetings has the Chancellor had with major companies—Siemens, Visa, Vodafone and others—to try to stabilise the situation?

The Prime Minister:

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to mention Patrick Mayhew, who played a huge role in the delivery of the peace process, and he was also a brilliant Attorney General. He exuded a belief in public service in the national interest, and he was a kind and goodly man. I was very sad to hear of his passing. I sent a message to him via his wife shortly before he died, and I know that many people in the House will want to send their good wishes to his family.

The Leader of the Opposition rightly asked what conversations we are having with business and what preparations we are making to deal with the economic challenges we face. We are in a strong position to meet these challenges, because we have paid down so much of our deficit and we have had strong growth and job creation, but I do not at all belittle the fact that the consequences will be difficult. There are going to be very choppy waters ahead—I do not resile from any of the warnings I gave during the referendum campaign—but we have to find the best way through them.

One of the things we must do is to talk to businesses and reassure them about the stability that there is today and the strength of the British economy. The Business Secretary has met a whole range of businesses already. I have a meeting of my business advisory group tomorrow, and I am inviting other companies to it, including Siemens, which plays a huge role in the British economy. We need to discuss the reassurances about stability that we can give now and the fact that our circumstances do not change until we leave the European Union, and then I will want to hear from them—as we draw up possible blueprints for Britain’s future position with Europe—what they think will be the right answer.

Jeremy Corbyn:

The credit rating agencies have cut the UK credit rating to double A from double A plus. The Chancellor pledged to keep the triple A rating. What estimate have the Government made of the cost to the Exchequer of this downgrade in borrowing costs and risks to pension funds?

The Prime Minister:

The Leader of the Opposition is absolutely right that the credit rating of one agency has been taken down by several points and another has put us on watch. To answer his question directly, the cost to the Exchequer and to the taxpayer will depend on what happens to the interest rates in the market at which Britain can borrow, and it is absolutely right to draw attention to that.

As I have said—Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank, confirmed this last night—all the warnings were that if we voted to leave the EU there would be difficulties in our own economy, growth rates and instability in markets. We are seeing those things, and we are well prepared for them in the reaction of the Bank of England and the Treasury, but there is no doubt in my mind that these are going to be difficult economic times. We must make sure we maintain our strong economy so we can cope with them, but we should not belittle the challenges: they are going to be difficult and we are going to have to meet them.

Jeremy Corbyn:

All Members of the House should be concerned about indications from business and investors that suggest they see the UK as less attractive, thus putting current and future jobs at risk. In those circumstances, will the Prime Minister consider suspending the Chancellor’s fiscal rule, which is in effect preventing investment?

The Prime Minister:

I do not believe that would be the right approach. Business, consumers, investors, and those concerned about our economy want to hear that we have taken huge steps over the past six years to get the budget deficit down, to make the British economy more competitive, and to make us an attractive destination for investment. They want those things to continue, and one way to react to economic difficulties is to ensure that our public finances and economy remain strong. We should not have taken all the steps of the last six years to get the deficit down just to get us on to a more difficult path. I do not think it would be right to suspend fiscal rules and, as I have said, there are three phases: first, volatility, which the Bank of England and Treasury must cope with; secondly, uncertainty about Britain’s future status, which we must bring to an end as fast as possible by examining alternative models and by my successors choosing which one we should go for; and, thirdly, we should bear in mind that long-term damage to the British economy will be based on how good our trading relationship is with the European Union. For my part, I think we want the closest possible trading relationship with the European Union, and that can be discussed and debated in this House as well as by the next Government.

Jeremy Corbyn:

This week, sadly, there has been more evidence that racist incidents are increasing. Evidence collated by monitoring groups shows that in the past three or four days alone there have been attacks and abuse from Stoke to Stockton, and from Dorset to the Clyde. What monitoring systems have the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary put in place, what reports have they received from the police, and what extra resources will go to communities that have been targeted in those vile racist attacks?

The Prime Minister:

I agree that those attacks are appalling. They need to stop, and it is right that all Members of the House, and on both sides of the referendum debate, utterly condemn them. That is not what we do in Britain, and at last night’s meeting I reassured the Prime Ministers of countries such as Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic, who were concerned about the issue. We do monitor these attacks. The Home Secretary receives regular reports, and we will soon publish a new action plan on tackling hate crime to step up our response. We want new steps to boost the reporting of hate crime and to support victims, new CPS guidance to prosecutors on racially aggravated crime, a new fund for protective security measures in potentially vulnerable institutions, and additional funding for community organisations so that they can tackle hate crime. Whatever we can do we will do to drive those appalling hate crimes out of our country.

Jeremy Corbyn:

I thank the Prime Minister for that answer. The vote last Thursday was a rejection of the status quo—a status quo that clearly is not delivering. There are now 13.5 million people living in poverty in Britain, which is up by 300,000 over the last year. Some 4.5 million people in England and Wales are in insecure work, and two thirds of children in poverty are living in households where at least one adult is in work. The Prime Minister has two months left. Will he leave a one-nation legacy that includes the scrapping of the bedroom tax, banning zero-hours contracts, and cancelling cuts to universal credit?

The Prime Minister:

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that of course we need to do more to tackle poverty and to spread wealth and opportunity. However, to try to pretend that last Thursday’s vote was a result of the state of the British economy is complete nonsense. The British economy is incomparably stronger than it was six years ago. We must all reflect on our role in the referendum campaign. The right hon. Gentleman says that he put his back into it; all I say is that I would hate to see him when he is not trying.

Jeremy Corbyn:

Government figures released yesterday show that the number of children in this country who are living in poverty has jumped by 200,000 in a year to a disgraceful total of 3.9 million. Should the Prime Minister at the very least apologise to them and to parents who have been failed by his Government, and do something about it so that we reduce child poverty in this country?

The Prime Minister:

If the right hon. Gentleman wants to deal with the figures, let me give them to him. Income and inequality have gone down. Average incomes have grown at their fastest rate since 2001. He asks about poverty. There are 300,000 fewer people in relative poverty since 2010 and half a million fewer people in absolute poverty since 2010. If he is looking for excuses about the referendum and the side that he and I were on, frankly he should look somewhere else. I have to say to him—he talks about job insecurity and my two months to go—it might be in my party’s interests for him to sit there; it is not in the national interest. I would say: for heaven’s sake man, go!

Q8.[905456]

While media attention seems to be focused elsewhere, all of us in this House have constituents who have problems that need to be addressed. For weeks and weeks, my constituents have been struggling with the impact of unofficial industrial action on our railways—not over jobs, not over wages, but over who gets to press a button. Will my right hon. Friend condemn this in the strongest possible terms and help to resolve those issues?

The Prime Minister:

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Our transport infrastructure is a crucial part of our economy. I condemn any industrial action that disrupts the travelling public, and rail passengers will not thank the RMT and ASLEF for their recent unnecessary disruption. Frankly, the performance of Southern has been unacceptable and passengers deserve better. I can tell the House we will be providing more generous compensation to passengers affected by the latest strike and the Transport Secretary will be announcing further details soon.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP):

We on the Scottish National party Benches join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the official Opposition in our condemnation of the terrorist tragedy in Turkey, and we send our condolences to the people of Turkey.

A strong majority voted for Scotland to remain in the European Union. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is in Brussels today, where she is meeting the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Parliament. Yesterday, there was a standing ovation in the European Parliament when the case was made to protect Scotland’s place in Europe. What will the UK Government do to protect Scotland’s place in Europe?

The Prime Minister:

First of all, let me thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he says about the terrorist attacks and how we should stand together against them.

On the United Kingdom’s future and our relationship with the European Union, we need to negotiate the best possible deal for the United Kingdom and the closest possible relationship. That will also be the best possible deal for Scotland. That is what we need to focus on. That is what needs to be done.

Angus Robertson:

On the contrary, the Prime Minister is wrong. Yesterday, the Scottish Parliament, including the Labour party, the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Greens, passed a motion that

“mandates the Scottish Government to have discussions with the UK Government, other devolved administrations, the EU institutions and member states to explore options for protecting Scotland’s relationship with the EU, Scotland’s place in the single market and the social, employment and economic benefits that come from that”.

Every party in the Scottish Parliament voted for that except the Conservative party, which abstained. When will the Conservatives finally join all the other parties in Scotland in protecting Scotland’s place in Europe?

The Prime Minister:

The best way to secure Scotland’s place in the single market is for the United Kingdom to negotiate the closest possible relationship with the European Union, including, in my view, the closest relationship with the single market. Our membership of the European Union is a UK membership and that is where we should take our negotiating stance.

Q11.[905459]

Market traders in Rossendale and Darwen make a huge contribution to our local economy. With that in mind, will my right hon. Friend call, with me and literally thousands of Darreners, to stop Blackburn Council going ahead with its plan to bulldoze Darwen’s three-day market?

The Prime Minister:

Let me join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to all the hard-working market traders across the country who provide us with their excellent goods, often locally produced and sourced. I know how important these markets are. I certainly hope the local council will listen carefully to my hon. Friend’s campaign and make sure this historic market is not lost from Darwen altogether.

Q2.[905449]

The Prime Minister will recall visiting the Vauxhall car plant in my constituency as part of the referendum campaign. Now that we have voted to leave the EU, we face a fight to keep those jobs in this country, so I will urge General Motors to recognise its responsibility to build vehicles where many are bought. I ask the Prime Minister to ensure that there are early talks with General Motors and the wider motor industry, so that it is given the reassurance needed that it will still be able to export motor vehicles to the EU at a competitive price.

The Prime Minister:

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The story of the automotive industry in Britain over the past decade has been a remarkably positive one: 150,000 people are directly employed, and another 300,000 people are in the supply and components industry, more of which has been coming onshore in recent years. I remember my visit to his constituency very well. We need to secure the best possible deal for Britain and to ensure that we have that full access to the single market, because one of the reasons why so many companies, including General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and Jaguar Land Rover, have invested in Britain is access to that market. I urge General Motors and others to make their voices heard, and we will certainly be listening to them in the weeks ahead.

Michelle Donelan (Chippenham) (Con):

Yesterday, a former member of my staff was verbally abused and attacked while out shopping in London because of the colour of his skin—he is of Pakistani origin. He was chased down the road by a lady shouting about how we had voted out, and that people like him shoot others and blow people up. Will the Prime Minister reiterate the commitment he has given this morning to do everything in his power to eradicate that evil hatred, and reiterate that leaving the EU should not be used to breed racism but, in fact, the opposite—it should provide us with an opportunity to be much more international rather than just European?

The Prime Minister:

We have many imperfections in this country, but we do have a claim to be one of the most successful multi-race, multi-faith and multi-ethnic democracies anywhere on earth, and we should do everything we can to safeguard that. That means having the clearest possible statements from all our political leaders, which we have heard today and should go on hearing. More to the point, we want action by the police and the prosecuting authorities. The laws are there to prosecute people, they should be used, and we will strengthen the guidance in the way that I have suggested. We should absolutely not put up with that in our country.

Q4.[905451]

Turning to the Chilcot report, is the Prime Minister satisfied with the arrangements announced for prior access for the service families of soldiers who died in Iraq, given that Mr Blair has had months to prepare his PR defences and that he has seen the relevant passages? What are the parliamentary arrangements for secure prior access, so that the House can properly examine the findings and express any relevant views concerning future suitable accommodation for Mr Blair?

The Prime Minister:

First, in terms of members of service personnel families, we have ensured that they will not face the cost that they originally were going to face to access the report. I will check the details on the time they get to access the report and write to the right hon. Gentleman. On the parliamentary process, I can put that in a letter to him so that we are absolutely clear about what time the statement will be, how much time people, including the Leader of the Opposition and other right hon. Gentlemen, will have to study the report in advance. I remember how important having access was to me when I was Leader of the Opposition.

As for those people who could be criticised in the report, the right hon. Gentleman will know that there is a process—letters have to go out so that people have a chance to respond to what is in the report. That is entirely independent of the Government. Ministers have not seen it and I have not seen it—it has been dealt with by the Chilcot report under long-standing conventions. Again, I will put that in my letter to the right hon. Gentleman.

Sir Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con):

Moving to more cheerful matters, would my right hon. Friend educate the House from his experience as Prime Minister on how, in terms of their countries’ reputation and success, he would compare the undemonstrative, competence and dignity of Angela Merkel with the theatrical and comical antics of Silvio Borisconi?

The Prime Minister:

Fortunately for my answer, neither of the people my right hon. Friend is talking about is a candidate in the election—an election that I will stay firmly out of. I was given lots of advice on becoming Prime Minister, and one was not to go to a party with Silvio Berlusconi. That is one piece of advice I took and stuck to.

Q5.[905452]

I thank the Prime Minister for giving us last week’s great exercise in democracy—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker:

Order. The hon. Gentleman will be heard. It is about us and this place, and he will be heard.

Mr Carswell:

We on the leave side should recognise that although we won, it was a narrow mandate and plenty of decent, patriotic people voted for remain. Does the Prime Minister agree that both sides now need to come together to achieve a new post-EU national consensus, whereby we have close links with our friends and allies in Europe and beyond, while reclaiming our sovereignty?

The Prime Minister:

Let me thank the hon. Gentleman for making the point that there were people with a deep sense of patriotism on both sides of the argument. I also agree that it is time for people and our country to come together. What is more, he is right that we now have to work very hard on the alternatives. Of course, they were discussed and debated in the referendum campaign, but they were hypothetical alternatives; they are now real alternatives, and one of the roles for the Government in the next few months is to set out the different blueprints—the Canada blueprint, the Swiss blueprint, the Norway blueprint and any other blueprints—and to look at the costs and benefits. That way, people can make a reasoned assessment, now that this is a real choice, rather than a hypothetical one.

Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con):

I know that all Kent’s Members of Parliament will wish to be associated with my right hon. Friend’s tribute to the memory of Paddy Mayhew. He was a scholar, a gentleman and a great friend to his younger colleagues.

There are hundreds and thousands of expat United Kingdom citizens living around Europe who did not vote in the referendum. Many are elderly and frail and live on UK pensions and benefits. Will my right hon. Friend seek to ensure that his successor defends their interests?

The Prime Minister:

Let me add to my hon. Friend’s comments about Sir Patrick Mayhew. He was a wonderful man and a great public servant, and I know he meant a lot to my hon. Friend and many others.

On the issue of British citizens living overseas, we should reassure people that until Britain leaves the EU, there will be absolutely no change in their status. In the coming weeks, this unit at the heart of Whitehall can go through these issues very methodically and work out what might need to change in all the different scenarios in order to give these people certainty about their future. It is obviously very important that we do that.

Q6.[905453]

London is the greatest city in Europe and in the world—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker:

Order. I have enjoyed listening to the hon. Gentleman for 25 years, and I want to continue to hear him. Let us hear Mr Gapes.

Mike Gapes:

Its prosperity and tax revenue are vital for the whole of the United Kingdom. London voted remain. Does the Prime Minister agree with the Mayor of London—a Labour winner, Sadiq Khan—that London now needs to remain in the European single market, and that it needs additional devolved powers to deal with the problems caused by the vote last week?

The Prime Minister:

I certainly agree with the Mayor of London not only that London is the greatest city on earth but that London needs to make its voice heard in these vital negotiations. Obviously, there are many vital industries in London, but it is the capital not only of the UK’s financial services but of Europe’s financial services, and securing the best possible access to the single market will be a very important challenge in these negotiations. So London should have its voice heard. This is a UK negotiation, but we should listen to the nations of the UK as well as to the cities and the regions.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con):

May I take this opportunity to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for his premiership and for the many achievements of his Government, of which we can be proud? I also commend his condemnation of the vile racist attacks that have been reported from all over the country. Will he take this opportunity to condemn the ridiculous and revolting behaviour of a certain MEP in the European Parliament yesterday and make it clear that that MEP does not represent this country and he does not represent—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker:

Order. We cannot have people adding their own take on these matters. [Interruption.] Order. The hon. Gentleman has the Floor—[Interruption.] Order. I do not need any help from the Scottish National party Benches; I am perfectly capable of discharging my responsibilities. The hon. Gentleman will be heard, and that is all there is to it.

Mr Jenkin:

I am grateful, Mr Speaker. That MEP does not represent this country and he does not represent even the vast majority of patriotic and law-abiding people who voted leave in the referendum.

The Prime Minister:

Let me thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks and congratulate him on the role he played in the campaign. As for what MEPs and others have said, people should judge them by the remarks they make. I have made clear what I felt about Nigel Farage and that appalling poster in the campaign. I think the motive was absolutely clear and everyone can see what he was trying to do.

Q7.[905455]

My constituency of Torfaen has received substantial amounts of EU funding. The leave campaign in the referendum promised that that funding would continue even if we left the European Union. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that if my constituency loses a penny piece of its funding under his successor, that would be a gross betrayal?

The Prime Minister:

It is the case that Wales as whole is a net beneficiary of EU funds. As I said throughout the campaign, if the vote was a no vote, I would want to do everything I could to make sure that we continued to help disadvantaged regions and our farmers. Obviously it is difficult for anyone to give guarantees, because we do not know exactly what will happen to our economy in the event of a leave vote, and our economy does face challenges. It will be a matter for my successor as we leave the EU to make good on what they said at the time.

Maggie Throup (Erewash) (Con):

I am pleased to announce that residents from across Erewash have chosen the Rocking Horse nursery entry as the winning card for my “design a birthday card for the Queen” competition. Will the Prime Minister congratulate the 207 children who entered the competition—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker:

Order. I want to hear about these pupils—[Interruption.] Order. I want to hear about these pupils who should rightly be congratulated. Let us hear the hon. Lady.

Maggie Throup:

Will the Prime Minister congratulate the 207 children who entered the competition on their amazing designs, and will he agree to present the cards to Her Majesty at his next audience?

The Prime Minister:

There are many ways in which Members of Parliament are able to interact at a more human level with our constituents, and getting them to make birthday cards and Christmas cards is an excellent idea. I once got it slightly wrong. Having Brize Norton in my constituency, someone did a Christmas card with Santa letting presents out of the back of a C-17. I thought it was excellent, but some of my constituents felt that Santa was carpet bombing rather than handing out largesse. With that proviso, it sounds a very good idea, and I am sure Her Majesty will be delighted to receive these cards.

Q9.[905457]

Sheffield city region was set to receive £180 million in European structural funds through to 2020. Much of that money is now at risk. Those leading the leave campaign did give guarantees that no area and no sector would lose out as a result of Brexit. We know that those promises were worthless, but will the Prime Minister join me in urging his successor to ensure that Sheffield city region is compensated by the UK Government for every pound of funding lost as a result of last Thursday’s decision?

The Prime Minister:

Obviously, as we negotiate our way out of the EU, a whole range of decisions will have to be made. What a future Government must do is make sure that we help our universities, the sciences and disadvantaged parts of the country and continue to support farmers. There is going to be a challenge, but we will be able to judge for ourselves whether we will have more money to do this because we have left the EU or less money because of the impact on the economy. But that is something that we will all be able to judge for ourselves in the years ahead.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con):

Unfortunately, earlier this morning the Supreme Court ruled against a right of return for the Chagos islanders to their homeland. I know that my right hon. Friend will be pleased that I will not be pestering him much more on this issue, but may I suggest that a fine legacy of his premiership would be to allow these British citizens to return to their homeland?

The Prime Minister:

The National Security Council has been considering the issue. We have looked at the options and the costs and benefits of the various things that we could do, and we will make an announcement in the coming months.

Q10.[905458]

Grade I listed Rochdale town hall has been described as possessing a “rare picturesque beauty”, but a bid to renovate that iconic building was rejected by the Heritage Lottery Fund in April. All five of the projects that were awarded grants are based in the south of England. Would the Prime Minister consider supporting the renovation of this fantastic municipal building?

The Prime Minister:

The hon. Gentleman is right. It is a beautiful building, and it is an historic town that he represents. As for what he said about the Heritage Lottery Fund, I think he was being a little unfair in focusing on those last five projects. If he looks more broadly, he will find that, for instance, the Blackpool Museum—I think—received a grant of more than £13 million. I believe that the position is fairly balanced across the country, but I will look into it further, and, perhaps, write to the hon. Gentleman about both the general point and the specific issue of his town hall.

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con):

As well as Brits living abroad in the European Union, there are a number of EU nationals living in this country—including my constituency—who are working hard and paying their taxes, entirely legitimately. What reassurance can the Prime Minister give them that their position is secure? I know that a number of them are very concerned.

The Prime Minister:

I think that the first thing we should do is appraise the contribution that those people make to our country. There are 50,000 EU nationals working in our NHS and 60,000 working in our care sector, looking after our elderly as they approach the end of their lives. There are also many working in education.

As I said quite exhaustively on Monday, we can obviously say that all rights are guaranteed, as we are members of the European Union. In the future, we will have to make sure—and I have heard members of the leave campaign make this point—that people who are already here, people who are already studying or working, must have their rights and their access guaranteed. However, we cannot say that now; we will have to say it as part of the negotiation that will shortly take place.

Q12.[905460]

May I join in the tributes paid to the Prime Minister for all that he has done during his time in office? Does he agree that, whatever the disagreements about the European Union—he was in the remain camp, while my party and I were part of the leave campaign—the Union that really matters is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and preserving it should be of the utmost importance? It works, and it is staying together. What is being done to ensure that that continues during the Prime Minister’s remaining time in office?

The Prime Minister:

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. I agree with him that keeping the United Kingdom together is an absolutely paramount national interest for our country. Because of the decision that has been made about Europe, there need to be exhaustive conversations between officials in Whitehall and in Northern Ireland, and we need to have very strong relations with the Republic of Ireland, so that we can keep the benefits of the common travel area.

The hon. Gentleman has always supported one blue team, Leicester City. I hope that one day he will support another blue team, but there we are.

Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con):

Having been members of the single market for more than four decades, many businesses have deeply embedded supply chains and customer relationships throughout the European Union. Does the Prime Minister agree that any future deal with the EU must include access to the single market?

The Prime Minister:

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but, obviously, the term “access to the single market” has many potential meanings. Countries that are outside the EU have access to the single market, some through a trade deal and others through World Trade Organisation rules. Obviously the best access is through membership of the single market. What the country will have to decide—and what the next Prime Minister will have to decide—is what sort of access we want, and what are the costs and benefits of that access. I am sure we will talk about that in a moment when I make my statement on the European Council.

Q13.[905461]

The Prime Minister will be aware that Terex Trucks in my constituency is consulting its staff and unions this week about the shedding of a sixth of its workforce. The company has approached the UK Government for support from UK Export Finance, but from a £40 billion fund it has received only a guarantee to the value of one of its trucks. Will the Prime Minister commit himself to meeting me to discuss the perilous position of the company and its workforce, and what support his Government can provide?

The Prime Minister:

I am aware of the recent announcement about the further job losses. This is obviously going to be a difficult time for the workers and their families. I understand that both the Scottish and UK Governments have been working closely together with the company over the past couple of years as part of the partnership action for continuing employment scheme. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is also keeping a close eye on the situation, and I am happy to arrange a meeting between him and the hon. Gentleman to talk about what more can be done.