Prime Minister’s Questions: 12 February 2020
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Prime Minister’s Questions: 12 February 2020

February 16, 2020


>>Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 12 February.>>The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson)
The whole House will want to join me in sending our deepest sympathies to all those affected
by the weekend’s flooding. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing,
Communities and Local Government has announced the activation of the Government’s emergency
Bellwin scheme to provide financial support for qualifying affected areas in the north
of England, and we continue to work closely with our partners to help those affected and,
above all, to keep people safe. This morning, I had meetings with ministerial
colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall hold further such meetings
later today.>>Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
If he will take steps to ensure that the security, defence and foreign policy review is completed
before the comprehensive spending review.>>The Prime Minister
We will continue to transform the UK economy through the Budget in March and the comprehensive
spending review later this year. The timing of that integrated review will be announced
shortly.>>Dr Lewis
I am grateful for that reply. May I urge the Prime Minister to recall what happened to
the last combined security and defence review, which was done within a straitjacket of fiscal
neutrality? It meant that every extra pound spent on cyber or security was a pound to
be cut from the conventional armed forces. Therefore, will he try to ensure that the
next attempt at a combined security and defence review will not face such a straitjacket and
will be concluded before rather than after the comprehensive spending review?>>The Prime Minister
I understand very well the point that my right hon. Friend makes. I can assure him that the
integrated review will be the deepest review of Britain’s security, defence and foreign
policy since the cold war. I can also assure him that by transforming this country’s
economy and by raising productivity, we will ensure that both defence and security are
amply provided for.>>Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab)
I join the Prime Minister in expressing sympathy and support to the victims of flooding and
thank the Environment Agency and all the emergency services that are doing their best to help
people. Our thoughts are also with those who suffer
from the coronavirus and with the Chinese community in this country, who are, I am sorry
to say, facing increasingly alarming levels of racism within our country. As this virus
spreads, I also thank public health workers who are helping those affected and raising
awareness of the danger of the virus. Does the Prime Minister think that someone
who came to this country at the age of five, was the victim of county lines grooming and
compelled to carry drugs, was released five years ago and has never reoffended deserves
to be deported?>>The Prime Minister
I think the whole country would agree that, while I cannot comment on individual cases,
it is entirely right that foreign national offenders should be deported from this country
in accordance with the law.>>Jeremy Corbyn
The Government have learned absolutely nothing from the Windrush scandal. This cruel and
callous Government are trying to mislead the British people into thinking that they are
solely deporting foreign nationals who are guilty of murder, rape and other very serious
offences. This is clearly not the case. Take the example of a young black boy who came
to the UK aged five and is now being deported after serving time for a drugs offence. If
there was a case of a young white boy with blond hair who later dabbled in class A drugs
and conspired with a friend to beat up a journalist, would the Prime Minister deport that boy;
or is it one rule for young black boys from the Caribbean and another for white boys from
the United States?>>The Prime Minister
Quite frankly, I think the right hon. Gentleman demeans himself and besmirches the reputation
of the Windrush generation, who came to this country to work in our public services, to
teach our children and to make lives better for the people of this country. He has no
right to conflate them with the foreign national offenders we are deporting today.>>Jeremy Corbyn
The Windrush generation have been disgracefully treated by a Government who deliberately created
a hostile environment. While the Government were fighting to deport people who legally
came to this country as children, the Foreign Secretary refused to tell the family of Harry
Dunn the reason the US is blocking the extradition of the woman who is alleged to have killed
him. I now ask the Prime Minister straight: is Anne Sacoolas being shielded from justice
because she is a former CIA officer?>>The Prime Minister
The whole House will know that the Foreign Secretary and I, and the Government at every
level, have tirelessly sought the extradition of Anne Sacoolas for justice in this country,
and we will continue to do so.>>Jeremy Corbyn
It is widely reported that Anne Sacoolas is in fact a CIA operative. Now we know that
the Foreign Secretary misled the Dunn family, who are being denied justice by the US Government,
will the Prime Minister commit to his removal from office tomorrow in his reshuffle?>>The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the Foreign Office has been told that Anne
Sacoolas was notified to the UK Government as a spouse with no official role. We will
continue, without fear or favour, to seek justice for Harry Dunn and his family, and
we will continue to seek the extradition of Anne Sacoolas from the United States.>>Jeremy Corbyn
This morning Charlotte Charles, Harry’s mum, said: “We thought we had bridged the
gap with the Government. But they have not been honest with us”. This is only the latest
case of our country’s one-sided extradition treaty with the USA. This lopsided treaty
means the US can request extradition in circumstances that Britain cannot. While the US continues
to deny justice to Harry Dunn, will the Prime Minister commit today to seeking an equal
and balanced extradition relationship with the United States?>>The Prime Minister
To be frank, I think the right hon. Gentleman has a point in his characterisation of our
extradition arrangements with the United States. I do think that elements of that relationships
are unbalanced, and it is certainly worth looking at, but that is totally different
from the case of Harry Dunn and Anne Sacoolas. We continue to seek the extradition of Anne
Sacoolas to face justice in this country.>>Jeremy Corbyn
It has everything to do with the relationship with the USA that Anne Sacoolas has not been
extradited back to Britain, because the US refuses to do it because of this lopsided
treaty. I am glad the Prime Minister at least acknowledges that point about the treaty.
This deep disparity with the US is about to be laid bare, when the courts decide whether
the WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange will be extradited to the US on charges of espionage
and for exposing war crimes, including the murder of civilians and large-scale corruption.
Does the Prime Minister agree with the parliamentary report that is going to the Council of Europe
that this extradition should be opposed and the rights of journalists and whistleblowers
upheld for the good of us all?>>The Prime Minister
I am not going to comment on any individual case, but it is obvious that the rights of
journalists and whistleblowers should be upheld, and this Government will clearly continue
to do that.>>Paul Howell (Sedgefield) (Con)
My wife is a volunteer with the local branch of the Samaritans, and my right hon. Friend
will know what good work they do in helping to keep people safe online in Sedgefield and
the rest of the UK. Does he agree that today’s announcement that we are putting Ofcom at
the helm of a strong regulatory regime shows that we are delivering on our commitment to
make the UK the safest place in the world to be online?>>The Prime Minister
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. As we deliver gigabit broadband to every part
of this country, including to the people of Sedgefield, we will also ensure that the UK
is the safest place to be online.>>Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber)
(SNP) In northern Syria, displaced women and their
children are literally freezing to death. There are reports of babies dying as a result
of the extreme conditions, and 45,000 people remain stranded with nowhere to go. The Syrian
war is considered to have caused the biggest wave of displacement since the second world
war. Can the Prime Minister tell the House what responsibility his Government have taken
for this humanitarian crisis?>>The Prime Minister
As I think the whole House will know, and as I have said several times in the House,
the UK leads the world in supporting humanitarian relief efforts in Syria. This country has
committed £3.2 billion to that cause.>>Ian Blackford
My question was about the children who are literally freezing to death. That was not
an answer from the Prime Minister. In 2017, as Foreign Secretary, this Prime
Minister enacted a policy of accepting the Syrian dictator Assad’s rule over the country.
Assad has delivered death and destruction to his people—a man who has gassed his own
civilians. The humanitarian situation has reached crisis point, and there are now fears
of all-out war. Is the message that the Prime Minister wants to send from the House today
that the UK Government are washing their hands of the Syrian people, and that he is content
for Assad’s regime to continue enacting these atrocities?>>The Prime Minister
I really think the right hon. Gentleman needs to consult his memory better. He would find
that this country and this Government have persistently called for the end of the Assad
regime, and indeed have led the world in denouncing the cruelty of the regime towards Assad’s
own people. That has continuously been the policy of the British Government.>>Dean Russell (Watford) (Con)
Will the Prime Minister join me in supporting a new initiative I am launching in my constituency
to train mental health first aiders in schools, workplaces and the community throughout the
constituency to tackle loneliness and challenge mental health stigma, and may I ask whether
he could find time in his diary to join me at the launch?>>The Prime Minister
I thank my hon. Friend for what he is doing to champion mental health services in Watford.
We are massively increasing support for good mental health in schools, and, if I can, I
will do my best to attend the launch event.>>Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)
After three years of extensive evidence-gathering and research, on 26 March the Youth Violence
Commission will publish its final recommendations. The overwhelming verdict of victims, youth
workers, community leaders and other stakeholders is that short-term solutions do not work.
Violence reduction units are a welcome first step, but they need long-term funding and
leadership from the top. Will the Prime Minister commit to that funding, and will he attend
our report launch to hear directly from victims and experts how we can get to grips with this
crisis?>>The Prime Minister
I think the hon. Lady is right: we have to do both, which is why we are putting £200
million into the Youth Endowment Fund as well as supporting violence reduction units. We
are also putting 20,000 police on the streets of this country, and giving them the powers,
which the Leader of the Opposition opposes, to take knives off the streets with stop and
search.>>Damien Moore (Southport) (Con)
The Prime Minister has made transport connectivity a priority for the Government. Does he agree
that connecting my constituency of Southport with Preston through the Burscough curve link
would not only give my constituents more access to the rail network, but help us to unleash
our economic potential?>>The Prime Minister
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his campaign for the restoration of the Burscough curves.
That sounds to me like a great idea. What he needs to do is put forward a costed business
plan, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary will look at it very
carefully.>>Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland
West) (Lab) Does the Prime Minister agree with me and
the 10,800 of my constituents who have signed petitions that the building of a gasification
plant in Washington would be terrible for the people of Sunderland due to public health
and air quality concerns, and that it would be a blot on the landscape of Sunderland?
Now that he is a frequent visitor to Sunderland, I am sure he shares my concerns on this matter.
Will he therefore support me and my constituents who oppose the building of this plant?>>The Prime Minister
I will certainly look into the matter that the hon. Lady raises. We will ensure, of course,
that if there is a problem with the gasification plant that she describes, Sunderland will
continue to prosper and to lead the UK economy.>>Ian Levy (Blyth Valley) (Con)
Blyth has the potential to become one of the most strategically important ports in the
UK for the export of renewable technology as well as wind turbines. Would my right hon.
Friend consider visiting Blyth, where I am sure he would get a warm Northern welcome—
rose— —and see for himself the strength of Blyth to become a freeport?>>Mr Speaker
I think the Prime Minister had the answer ready.>>The Prime Minister
The answer was in the question, Mr Speaker. My hon. Friend makes an excellent point about
the potential of Blyth, although I must remind him that the allocation of free ports will
be decided in an entirely fair and transparent way.>>Alex Norris (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)
Every day, an estimated 280 shopworkers will be victims of violence at work. At my local
Co-op, a staff member was hit with a glass bottle. The Co-op is a good employer, and
it wants this to stop, so it and other local retailers engaged with the Government’s
call for evidence on violence towards shop staff. Seven and a half months later, they
are awaiting a response. Prime Minister, will you commit today to publishing your response
to the call for evidence, and will you meet me and a group of shopworkers who have experienced
violence at work to hear about what happened to them?>>The Prime Minister
I certainly will make that undertaking to the hon. Gentleman. I am glad that he has
raised this matter. We should not tolerate crimes of violence against shopworkers or
indeed anybody else. I therefore find it paradoxical that the leader of his party is soft on the
deportation of serious violent offenders.>>Alan Mak (Havant) (Con)
This year, we mark the 75th anniversaries of VE-day and VJ-day. As we honour those who
have served our country, will my right hon. Friend outline how his new Office for Veterans
Affairs is giving our veterans and their families the support they deserve?>>The Prime Minister
Our new Office for Veterans Affairs is helping veterans to transition to new jobs and to
secure homes. A discount railcard will be rolled out by Armistice day, and veterans
will get guaranteed interviews for civil service jobs so that we have more veterans bringing
their talents to government.>>Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith)
(SNP) The Prime Minister’s junior Scotland Office
Minister told the National Farmers Union last week that substandard food would be allowed
into the UK under a US trade deal, but that it would have to be labelled as such. The
Prime Minister has denied this in the past, so who is telling the truth and which of them
does not know what is coming?>>The Prime Minister
I can assure the hon. Lady that the UK has and will continue to have the highest standards
in the world for our food.>>Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
In Greater Manchester, frontline police officers are increasingly having to resort to using
a pen and paper because of the failing iOPS computer system. This is putting the police
at risk and undermining their ability to protect residents and vulnerable children. Will my
right hon. Friend the Prime Minister intervene to solve this problem?>>The Prime Minister
My hon. Friend is, I am afraid, entirely right. We know that there are concerns about this
system, and that is why I have asked the Minister for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service,
my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse), to ask Her Majesty’s inspectorate
of constabulary for an independent review of the operation of the system. We will ensure
that my hon. Friend is kept informed.>>Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op)
Northwick Park Hospital, which serves my constituents, has not met its four-hour A&E target since
August 2014. It has been starved of capital investment and it is short of intensive treatment
unit beds. It is expected to have close to a £100 million deficit by the end of the
financial year—one of the highest in the NHS. When does the Prime Minister expect Northwick
Park to receive a little Government love and attention?>>The Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, but as he will know, the highest-ever number
of people attended A&E in this country last month—2 million people. The demand
is exceptional, and I pay tribute to the work of NHS staff. As he knows, we in this Government
are responding with a record investment in the NHS of £34 billion, and we are recruiting
50,000 more nurses, which will help to deal with that crisis.>>Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield) (Con)
In the past week, Storm Ciara has wreaked havoc along West Yorkshire’s Calder Valley,
affecting the constituencies of Members across the House. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime
Minister seek to find time to visit my constituency? Horbury Bridge, where “Onward Christians
Soldiers” was penned, has been acutely affected. Will he see for himself the terrible damage
done to people’s homes, lives and businesses? Will he tread where the saints of our communities
and emergency services have trod and continue to toil undivided towards recovery?>>The Prime Minister
I pay tribute to the emergency services for what they are doing in my hon. Friend’s
constituency and, indeed, in all flood-affected areas. As he knows, we have activated the
Bellwin scheme to protect homeowners, and we are putting £4 billion into flood defences.
I certainly will do what I can to take up his offer to visit his constituency and see
the scene for myself.>>Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
The new daily allowance for the unelected and unaccountable Peers being stuffed into
the House of Lords by the Prime Minister is set to rise to £323. The monthly allowance
for a single person over 25 on universal credit is £317.82. Is that the levelling up that
the Prime Minister keeps talking about?>>The Prime Minister
I hate agreeing with these people, but I do find it odd that the House of Lords has chosen
to do that, but it is a decision for them.>>Mrs Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con)
The Prime Minister was instrumental in banning the trade in ivory in this country. Will he
be equally decisive in getting rid of the importation of hunting trophies into this
country, particularly of endangered animals?>>The Prime Minister
Yes, I thank my hon. Friend for her campaign against illegal wildlife trading and trophy
hunting, and we mean to end the import into this country of trophies hunted elsewhere.>>Richard Thomson (Gordon) (SNP)
In 2018, Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of Vladimir Putin’s former deputy Finance Minister,
paid £20,000 for lunch with the then Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, who we
believe is soon to be ennobled. Will the Prime Minister remind the House once more why his
Government are yet to publish the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report into alleged
Russian interference in UK politics?>>The Prime Minister
As I think the hon. Gentleman knows very well, the report will be published as soon as the
Intelligence and Security Committee is reconvened. As I have told the House several times, those
of a conspiratorial cast of mind will be disappointed by its findings.>>Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con)
May I commend the Prime Minister for his belief in Britain and the massive boost to infrastructure
investment around the country? However, the cost of a landing visa at Heathrow airport
is £25 per passenger, and those fees will rise with a third runway, leading to Heathrow
becoming the least competitive airport on the entire planet. Given the delays and the
escalating costs, does the Prime Minister agree that it may well be time to review progress
and perhaps to deploy the bulldozers elsewhere in the country?>>The Prime Minister
The House of Commons voted effectively to give outline planning consent to the third
runway. It was supported by people across the Chamber—not by me, as it happens. I
wait to see the outcome of the various legal processes that are currently under way to
see whether the promoters of the third runway can satisfy their legal obligations under
air quality and, indeed, noise pollution.>>Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland
South) (Lab) Since 2015, the number of GPs working in Sunderland
has fallen by 16%—much higher than the national average. After almost a decade of Tory control,
our GP services are inadequate and getting worse, so who does the Prime Minister hold
responsible?>>The Prime Minister
We are, of course, responsible, and we take full responsibility, but overall GP numbers
are up and we are now recruiting 6,000 more. We are able to do that because we are running
a sound economy and investing massively in our NHS across the whole country.>>Robert Courts (Witney) (Con)
As the coronavirus hits the headlines every day, will the Prime Minister join me in thanking
and paying tribute to the supreme professionalism of those at Public Health England and, in
my area, to RAF Brize Norton for bringing home people who have been affected? Their
work often goes unremarked, but it has the admiration of all of us.>>The Prime Minister
My hon. Friend puts it beautifully, and I salute everybody involved in bringing home
the victims and potential victims of coronavirus for the difficulties and risks they face.
Indeed, our NHS has so far done an outstanding job in preparing and informing the country.>>Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton)
(LD) When Kevin Simpson’s partner of over 12
years died and his two children lost their mother, the family received no bereavement
support payments at all. Because the parents were unmarried, the law denied that support
to the two grieving children. The High Court ruled last Friday that this breached the children’s
human rights, so when will the Government obey the rule of law and legislate to respond
both to that ruling and to the similar ruling by the Supreme Court in the McLaughlin case
in 2018? Will there be no further delay so that we can start supporting the thousands
of similar children across our country every year who lose their mother or father?>>The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman has raised this with me before, and I have undertaken to meet him
on the matter. We will certainly look at the case he mentions to see what exactly our response
should be. He is right to draw attention to this injustice, and we will do all we can
to remedy it.>>Jacob Young (Redcar) (Con)
On Thursday last week, two people were stabbed in Redcar in broad daylight. Another person
was injured in a horrific knife crime on Saturday evening outside a busy nightclub. Figures
released by the Ministry of Justice in January show that the Cleveland force area has the
highest number of knife and offensive weapon offences per head of population in all of
England and Wales. What additional support can my right hon. Friend give to Cleveland
police to tackle this problem, and when will we start to see more police on the streets
of Teesside?>>The Prime Minister
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this. Knife crime is intolerable, and its recent rise
must be combated. That is why we brought in knife crime prevention orders, which give
police the powers, where they suspect a knife crime is about to be committed, to make the
interventions that are needed. That is why we are putting 20,000 more police on our streets,
with the encouragement and the political support they need to carry out stop and search.>>Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
The Oxford-Cambridge so-called expressway is a 20th-century roadbuilding solution to
a 21st-century challenge, and at the election Labour rightly pledged to scrap it. I wonder
whether the Prime Minister has caught up with us. Will he announce today whether the expressway
has finally been put to rest and scrapped?>>The Prime Minister
I must ask the hon. Gentleman to wait and contain his impatience until the Budget, when
he will learn more about the national infrastructure plan.>>Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)
I support the Prime Minister’s decision yesterday to go ahead with HS2, although I
have to tell him there is little enthusiasm among my constituents because it does nothing
to improve connectivity to Cleethorpes. To build up enthusiasm among the people of Cleethorpes,
may I urge him: to instruct London North Eastern Railway to reintroduce the direct train service
from Cleethorpes through to King’s Cross; to make the Gainsborough-Brigg-Cleethorpes
service, which at present runs one day a week, into a seven-day service; to manufacture the
rails at Scunthorpe; and, of course, to reopen Suggitts Lane level crossing?>>The Prime Minister
The voice of Cleethorpes has been heard, and my hon. Friend makes a vivid and compelling
case. As I stood up to answer, the Chancellor whispered in my ear that we will certainly
be looking at it in the infrastructure review.>>Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)
The prosperous future of our young people all too often depends on their family wellbeing
and their school readiness, which requires investment in early years. Does the Prime
Minister regret the Conservative cuts to around 1,000 Sure Start centres, including in my
constituency? Will he commit to greater funding and support for early years development, particularly
in our most deprived communities?>>The Prime Minister
The hon. Lady raises an important point, and this is why we are putting record sums into
early years funding—£14 billion is going into education. It is under this Government
that people will see the biggest improvements, because it is under this Government that we
have a robust, strong, dynamic economy—the third fastest growing in the G7. We are able
to make those investments in early years precisely because of our sensible management of the
economy.>>Lee Anderson (Ashfield) (Con)
Does the Prime Minister agree that the private finance initiative deals signed by the last
Labour Government to build hospitals such as King’s Mill in Ashfield, at a cost of
£1 million a week, are nothing short of a national scandal? Will he please ensure that
this never happens again?>>The Prime Minister
It was one of the many scandals of the last Labour Government. From memory, the PFI deals
that they did saddled the taxpayer with £80 billion-worth of debts in exchange for £12
billion-worth of hospital assets. That is how Labour runs government. That is how Labour
runs the economy. Let’s not let it happen again.>>Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
Will the Prime Minister bring to an end the sickening outrage of a witch hunt against
former police officers who served Ulster through the heat of the troubles and who will now
face the most odious prosecutions for non-criminal misconduct? That would not be tolerated in
this part of the United Kingdom and it should not be tolerated in mine.>>The Prime Minister
We will make sure that we give support for all those who face unnecessary prosecution,
and I am well aware of the issue that the hon. Gentleman raises.

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