COMMONS

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

Version: Uncorrected | Updated 21:12

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.