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House of Commons

Monday 22 February 2016

The House met at half-past Two o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Home Department

The Secretary of State was asked—

Draft Investigatory Powers Bill

1. Philip Boswell (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (SNP): What assessment her Department has made of the cost implications for private businesses of compliance with the proposed requirements of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill. [903659]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): The draft Investigatory Powers Bill has been drafted in close consultation with industry, and the estimated cost to the public purse of implementing its provisions will continue to be refined as we hold more detailed discussions with industry on implementation. It would not be appropriate to expect telecommunications companies to meet the costs themselves and, as now, full cost recovery will apply to operational costs, including those associated with new obligations under the Bill.

Philip Boswell: The Select Committee on Science and Technology warned that the Bill risks undermining our strongly performing tech sector because of uncertainty about the costs of complying with the new legislation. Will the Secretary of State assure us that UK businesses will not be placed at a commercial disadvantage compared with overseas competitors?

Mrs May: I can assure the hon. Gentleman of that and, as I said in my answer to his initial question, we will ensure that full cost recovery applies to operational costs for any companies that have, for example, notices issued to them. It is clear that that is what we have done as a Government in the past and what previous Governments have done, and we will continue to do it.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): Will the Home Secretary look carefully at the recommendations from the Joint Committee on the draft Investigatory Powers Bill on the definition of internet connection records? We were very clear that greater clarity is needed on the definition to allow the private sector fully to cost its proposals.

Mrs May: I thank the right hon. Gentleman and the other right hon. and hon. Members of this House and of the other place who sat on the Committee and did an excellent job of producing a well-thought-through and careful report. We will of course carefully consider the issue of definition. We are looking at all three of the reports from the Science and Technology Committee, the Intelligence and Security Committee and the Joint Committee and we will make revised Bill proposals in due course.

Ms Margaret Ritchie (South Down) (SDLP): On the specific issue of private businesses, will the Home Secretary outline what recent discussions she and her Ministers have had on that subject with the devolved Administrations?

Mrs May: Discussions with the devolved Administrations have gone on throughout the preparation of the draft Bill. They have continued and will continue, as will discussions between Ministers and officials with companies and private businesses.

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Family Visas

2. Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP): If she will make it her policy to reduce the financial threshold for family visas. [903660]

10. Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (SNP): If she will make it her policy to reduce the financial threshold for family visas. [903669]

The Minister for Immigration (James Brokenshire): The minimum income threshold of £18,600 for sponsoring a partner under the family immigration rules ensures that couples wishing to establish their family life in the UK do not place burdens on the taxpayer and helps promote integration. It has been considered by the courts and upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Margaret Ferrier: The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has said that these rules discriminatorily affect women, 55% of whom earn less than £18,600, compared with 27% of men. The rules also disadvantage young people. What action will the Home Secretary take to reduce these unfair rules?

James Brokenshire: The threshold was set as a consequence of advice from the Migration Advisory Committee, which carefully considered the level of income in terms of it not being a burden on the taxpayer. The gross median earnings of all employees in Scotland in 2014 were £21,725—higher than that threshold. Issues of legal challenge have obviously been raised by the Court of Appeal. They were considered carefully and the threshold was upheld.

Martyn Day: The Secretary of State will have seen Amira’s story, reported by the BBC this morning. She fled Syria and gave birth to her son in the UK, but under the Government’s family visa rules, her husband, a Syrian national, is unable to join them here simply because they cannot afford the visa fees. Will the Secretary of State tell us where this British national should go to enjoy her family life? Her husband’s home country of Syria?

James Brokenshire: Various different routes could be available. We have the family reunion route, which might apply in these circumstances. Obviously, I am not familiar with all the issues he highlights but, equally, the Government are under certain duties regarding the protection of the welfare of children. This was considered by the court and upheld.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Although I take the point made so eloquently by my right hon. Friend about the burden on the taxpayer, to what extent do we take into account charges made by other countries to British nationals hoping to emigrate to them?

James Brokenshire: My hon. Friend makes the point about different immigration systems in different parts of the world. We have taken considered advice from the Migration Advisory Committee, looking at costs and at those burdens to see that someone does not place a burden on the UK taxpayer. Obviously, it is for other countries to assess what is appropriate in their own systems.

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Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab): The financial threshold for family visas is causing particular distress to one of my constituents, who cannot work the hours required because she is a carer for her vulnerable child. This means my constituent is living without her husband and the child is living without his father. Does the Minister acknowledge that he is at risk of creating a generation of children whose only contact with one of their parents will be via Skype?

James Brokenshire: No, I do not accept that, and these issues of the welfare of the child are absolutely part of the consideration we take. This matter was considered by the Court of Appeal and our approach was firmly upheld. When the threshold was set back in November 2011, the MAC gave the lower threshold of £18,600 but also advised that the threshold could have been set as high as £25,700. The Government reflected and set the current level, which has been upheld by the courts.

Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP): The Minister mentions the Court of Appeal, but of course the matter is not entirely settled because this week the Supreme Court will hear the cases of two British nationals who cannot meet the tough financial rules that would allow their non-European Union spouses to come to live with them. The hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) mentioned Skype. According to the Children’s Commissioner for England, 15,000 British children are growing up in Skype families, where the only contact they have with one parent is via Skype. How can the Minister justify the stress and anxiety caused to these children by the inflexible and unjust rules?

James Brokenshire: I do not accept the characterisation that the hon. and learned Lady presents—indeed, I do not recognise the number she proffers. This is about ensuring good integration, which is part of the overall requirement in relation to language. This is about not only not imposing a burden on the taxpayer but about promoting integration, and we believe the policy is effective in doing that.

Joanna Cherry: Last year, the Conservative think-tank, Bright Blue, called on the Government to change these rules, noting

“the significant contribution millions of low paid Britons make to our economy and society, as well as the value of having families living together in the same country.”

If the Minister will not listen to the Opposition, will he at least listen to a think-tank from his own party and get rid of these rules, which discriminate against hard-working families?

James Brokenshire: I say again that we do not believe the rules are discriminatory in the way the hon. and learned Lady suggests. The system is in place to ensure good integration. It ensures that people are not a burden on the taxpayer, and I would have thought she recognised that as being a positive aspect of the policy. If people come here, contribute and settle, we welcome that, but the rules have been set in the way they have, this has been upheld by the courts and we will continue to underline those key themes.

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Port Security

3. Anna Turley (Redcar) (Lab/Co-op): What resources her Department provides for security measures at UK ports. [903661]

16. Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): What resources her Department provides for security measures at UK ports. [903675]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Border Force carries out 100% checks of all arriving passengers on scheduled services. It works closely with other law enforcement organisations to deliver effective and intelligence-led responses to a range of security threats. Officers use high-tech equipment and an array of search techniques to combat immigration crime, and detect banned and restricted goods.

Anna Turley: I thank the Home Secretary for that answer. Last September, seven men and five children were found in a container in Teesport in my constituency, just three weeks after 20 illegal immigrants were found in South Shields. My local Border Force is facing cuts of about a quarter of its front-line staff, so how can she reassure me that these cuts are not damaging the safety and security of ports outside London and the south-east?

Mrs May: I can reassure the hon. Lady about that, because the approach we are taking comes across in a number of ways. We are looking not only to introduce new technology in Border Force but to ensure that it can operate flexibly and base its activities much more on an intelligence-led approach, so that we can target where the staff need to be. This Government have also enhanced our ability to deal with organised immigration crime through the creation of the organised immigration crime taskforce. The National Crime Agency, set up by the last coalition Government, is also taking this issue seriously and is acting on it.

Mike Kane: There are 10 electronic passport gates at Manchester airport in my constituency. The Department is unable to tell me how many people travel through them, how many rejections there have been and how often they malfunction. Does the Home Secretary agree that that is one of the gaps identified by the National Audit Office, which should be looked into?

Mrs May: Increasing the number of e-gates for checking passports was a very good move by this Government, especially as it provides enhanced security at our border.

20. [903679] David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): I have been trying to find out for a very long time through written questions how many people arrive at UK airports without valid travel documents, and I am very surprised that nobody seems able to give me an answer. Can the Minister give me an answer today, and, if not, will she take action to find out that important information?

Mrs May: I can tell my hon. Friend that 18,000 individuals were refused entry at the border in 2014, and that they included those who were travelling on invalid documentation. When someone comes to the UK border they are subject to a range of checks. Officers at the border are trained to detect forged documents.

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Steps are also taken to intercept those who do not have the correct documents before they travel so that they do not actually reach the border in the first place.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): May I congratulate the Home Secretary on her wise words about the value of EU membership in protecting the safety and security of this country? Even though that is the case—and I agree with her—may we have more specific focus on the quieter ports and airports that are used by smuggling gangs?

Mrs May: As I said in response to the hon. Member for Redcar (Anna Turley), Border Force takes a more intelligence-led approach to such issues, which means it can be flexible in deploying staff at different ports. That is precisely because it recognises that we need not only to focus on one or two ports, but to have that flexibility across a range of ports.

Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab): One of the most powerful arguments for the UK remaining in the EU is that we need and rely on a strong EU co-ordinated approach to security, including at our borders and our ports. As the Secretary of State and I know well, we rely 24/7 on EU criminal justice and security measures. In those circumstances, I assume that the Home Office has carried out a risk assessment of the impact of UK withdrawal from the EU on security at UK ports. Where can members of the public who have not yet decided how to vote in the forthcoming referendum access the conclusions of that risk assessment?

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): You mischievous monkey!

Mrs May: I am not sure whether that is parliamentary language for me to repeat in relation to the hon. and learned Gentleman. None the less, he can rest assured that arguments in relation to those matters will be fully set out for people over the coming months. He will know from his involvement in a different capacity before coming to this House one of the arguments that I put regarding issues such as the operation of various justice and home affairs measures. As a Government, we have set out very clearly the benefits of being part of those measures.

Keir Starmer: Tony Smith, interim head of the UK Border Force from 2012 to 2013, said today that a vote to leave the EU would pose significant policy and operational issues for Border Force, which is already under huge pressure, not least because of budget cuts, year on year, for many years. In particular, he highlighted the fact that Border Force staff would have to carry out more stringent checks on EU citizens. Will the Secretary of State confirm today that, far from reducing those levels of concern, Border Force will in fact face even more cuts, year on year, for the foreseeable future?

Mrs May: What I am happy to say to the hon. and learned Gentleman is that anyone who comes to the UK border will be stringently checked. We are doing that on a much more intelligence-led basis in looking at individuals who might be of concern. Yes, he is right: we have interactions with other member states in the European Union through the use of things such as Schengen Information System II to ensure that we are able to identify people of concern who are coming

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across the border. Border Force’s other operations are not about people but about restricted and illegal goods being brought into the UK. The intelligence-led approach can be particularly helpful in identifying areas of concern and whether action is being taken appropriately.

Police and Crime Commissioners

4. William Wragg (Hazel Grove) (Con): What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of police and crime commissioners in reducing the level of crime. [903662]

13. Alberto Costa (South Leicestershire) (Con): What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of police and crime commissioners in reducing the level of crime. [903672]

Mrs May: Elected police and crime commissioners are providing accountable visible leadership and making a real difference to policing locally. Overall, PCCs have presided over a reduction in crime of more than a quarter since their introduction, according to the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales.

William Wragg: I thank my right hon. Friend for her reply. What assessment has her Department made of the possibility of conflicts of interest arising if police and crime commissioners hold high office in local government, including that of mayor, and what steps have been taken to safeguard against that?

Mrs May: A good scrutiny process is available through police and crime panels to look at potential conflicts of interest. That process is enshrined in law and is undertaken. It is important that when any area looks at the potential for amalgamating roles, such as the amalgamation in the Greater Manchester area of the role of police and crime commissioner with, it is predicted, that of mayor, it is important that there is full discussion and consideration of all aspects to ensure that, whatever role the individual or individuals play, they can continue to do so properly without conflict of interest, and ensure that the best service is delivered.

Alberto Costa: My local Leicestershire police force recently received a positive inspection report from Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary. Will my right hon. Friend join me in praising the work of the Leicestershire chief constable, Simon Cole, and the Conservative police and crime commissioner, Sir Clive Loader, in their efforts to fight crime, specifically the chief constable’s national work on the Prevent programme?

Mrs May: I am happy to extend congratulations, as I am sure everyone in the House is, on the excellent work by the police in Leicestershire, under both the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner, Sir Clive Loader, who has done an excellent job but is sadly stepping down at the forthcoming election. I would like to thank him for the work he has done in his first term as police and crime commissioner.

19. [903678] Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): The main problem that the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner faces is the shortfall in his budget, which will lead to 250 police jobs being lost in 2016-17 as a result of police cuts, but it is made worse by the

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lack of certainty about future budgets, which makes rational planning difficult. Does the Home Secretary agree that PCCs could do their job better if their budget was set for the remainder of this Parliament, and what will she do about it?

Mrs May: The picture that the hon. Gentleman has set out of the South Yorkshire force is not one that I recognise. We have protected, if we take the police precept into account, police budgets across the period of the comprehensive spending review. I should have thought that he welcomed that, given that his Front-Bench team proposed that police budgets could be cut by 10%.

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab): One type of crime that has not reduced is violence and abuse against retail staff. In fact, a recent report by the British Retail Consortium found that those crimes had gone up by 25%. Any level of violence against retail staff is unacceptable, but what steps will the Home Secretary take to enable police and crime commissioners to act to reduce that?

Mrs May: We are all concerned when we see violent acts of any sort, but for those retail staff who are subject to them that is a matter of serious concern. The operational response to those crimes and to the potential for such crime is for chief constables to look into. As I have seen in my own constituency, a number of retail chains have worked closely with local police to try to ensure that they provide extra support and security for their staff.

Karl McCartney (Lincoln) (Con): Although I have had my differences at times with Alan Hardwick, the Lincolnshire police and crime commissioner, does my right hon. Friend agree that his record, along with that of Lincolnshire police, in reducing crime is exemplary, and is an example to all?

Mrs May: Again, I extend congratulations and welcome the work of the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner in reducing crime in Lincolnshire. It is not the only area where crime has fallen, but the fall in Lincolnshire is particularly significant.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): Given the Home Secretary’s reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), has she seen the statement from the Northamptonshire police and crime commissioner to his police and crime panel on 2 February in which he says of the new funding formula:

“It is expected that this will transfer funding from the urban areas to more rural areas and Northamptonshire may benefit”?

Does that reflect Government policy, or is he just letting the cat out of the bag?

Mrs May: As I would have thought the hon. Gentleman would be aware, we have clearly said that the funding formula changes that we were proposing before Christmas are not going ahead. We are pausing that process and looking again at how we can develop a funding formula that reflects needs. If the hon. Gentleman looks at police forces across England and Wales, he will see that everybody—including the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, who is sitting next to him—has been very clear that the funding formula needs to change.

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Emergency Services (Duty to Collaborate)

5. Mr Alan Mak (Havant) (Con): What assessment the Government have made of the potential merits of the proposed duty on emergency services to collaborate. [903663]

9. Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): What assessment the Government have made of the potential merits of the proposed duty on emergency services to collaborate. [903668]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice (Mike Penning): There are examples across the country of excellent collaboration between the emergency services, particularly the H3 project in Hampshire, where collaboration between the emergency services has driven efficiencies and a better service for the public. Police and crime commissioners will have a duty to collaborate when the Policing and Crime Bill currently before the House becomes law.

Mr Mak: Hampshire fire service and Hampshire police service share a joint headquarters building, resulting in financial efficiencies and a more joined-up service for my constituents. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating both Hampshire emergency services on taking the lead in collaborative working?

Mike Penning: I had the honour and privilege of being in Hampshire recently and saw for myself the brilliant work being done between the emergency services. That is a result of the collaboration between the chief fire officer and the chief constable, as well as the police and crime commissioner doing excellent work to see that we have the right sort of emergency service for the 21st century.

Damian Green: Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important that the new generation of police and crime commissioners who will be elected in a couple of months get behind this very important reform? Will he join me in welcoming the commitment of the excellent Conservative PCC candidate in Kent, Matthew Scott, and his strong desire to implement these vital reforms?

Mike Penning: I have seen what Matthew Scott is proposing to do when, as we on the Conservative Benches all hope, he becomes the police and crime commissioner. We need to ensure that we spend taxpayers’ money efficiently and well, and collaboration is the best way forward for that.

Mr Speaker: I call Kate Hoey.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Me?

Mr Speaker: The hon. Lady looks so surprised. She is rarely a shy or retiring soul. If she is, she must overcome her shyness.

Kate Hoey: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Minister is well aware that the fire and rescue services collaborate well all over the country, particularly with the ambulance trusts. Why does he consider it necessary for police and crime commissioners to take control of the fire services

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under the Bill? Surely the two organisations are so different in so many ways that collaboration is possible without the PCC running our fire services.

Mike Penning: The truth of the matter is that someone duly elected to run the service, as the PCC would be, is better than anybody seconded on to any committee. I am sure we all want efficient emergency services, and the fire service working closely with the ambulance service and the police is the way we would like to do that.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Critical to collaboration between emergency services will be their communications networks. How much will the new emergency service communications network cost and when will it be in place?

Mike Penning: We are currently going out to contract. There are bids out there, which are confidential. We know that the excellent Airwave system that we have had for many years needs replacing. It was very expensive and the replacement will be cheaper than Airwave.

Royston Smith (Southampton, Itchen) (Con): Shortly the police and crime commissioners will be able to put forward a business case to take over the governance of fire and rescue services. My hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr Mak) pointed out what Hampshire already does. At present we have a commercial trading arm which completely pays for the governance of the fire and rescue authority. What business case can a police and crime commissioner put forward that would allow him to run that service?

Mike Penning: The local community may want a more efficient service, which could be the case in Hampshire. I accept that Hampshire is particularly good, but that is not the case all over the country. Even when I was in Hampshire, there were people asking me for more collaboration and more work done together, and that request came particularly from the front-line operatives, who are probably the most important people in all this.

Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab): Given the funding cuts to the police service and the fire and rescue services already budgeted for by this Government, can the Minister guarantee that placing fire and rescue services under PCC control will not lead to further cuts in the number of front-line firefighters?

Mike Penning: Thank goodness the Chancellor did not listen to Labour Front-Bench Members when we looked at police funding to 2020, because they wanted a 10% cut, and there will be no cut. We must make sure that we have an efficient service—the sort of efficient service I would have liked to have had when I was in the fire service—and that will be going forward.

Knife Crime

6. Will Quince (Colchester) (Con): What assessment she has made of trends in the level of knife crime. [903664]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Karen Bradley): Tackling knife crime is a priority for the Government. Latest police recorded

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crime figures show that knife crime is 14% lower than it was in June 2010. However, we recognise that there is more to do, and new actions to tackle knife crime will be set out in the forthcoming modern crime prevention strategy.

Will Quince: In Essex, the number of serious offences involving a knife rose 21% in the last recorded year. What action is my hon. Friend’s Department taking to tackle knife crime and address the gang violence that fuels it in so many cases?

Karen Bradley: I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I also congratulate him on the arrival of new baby Quince, in whose delivery I believe he was very involved. I am very aware of the concerns about knife crime in Essex, and I recently had a meeting with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Sir Simon Burns)—I would be more than happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss precisely this issue. We are taking a range of steps, and earlier this month we supported 13 police forces, including Essex, that undertook co-ordinated action against knife crime.

Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab): Knife crime, like much other crime, is best dealt with pre-emptively and at the community and neighbourhood level. In Sussex, crime has gone up 8%, but Government inspectors said today that front-line neighbourhood and local policing is “routinely” being taken away. Will the Minister please look again at the issue of the 1,000 police officers and staff who are being taken from the frontline, which will further impact neighbourhood policing?

Karen Bradley: May I start by congratulating Katy Bourne, who has been an excellent police and crime commissioner in Sussex? I met her recently, and we discussed the many steps she is taking to deal with crime. Obviously, the deployment of operational resources is a matter for the chief constable, in consultation with the police and crime commissioner. However, the hon. Gentleman should remember his vote in this House to cut police resources by 10%—something that Government Members disagreed with.

Amanda Solloway (Derby North) (Con): Recently in Derby, a young man lost his life following a fatal stabbing in the city centre. Last year, knife crime rose across the UK for the first time in four years. What steps is the Department taking to tackle the issue and to discourage young individuals from carrying knives?

Karen Bradley: My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we need to educate young people and show them that carrying knives is not cool and not something they should be doing. They should understand that it is dangerous and that it can result in the loss of life. That is why we legislated in the last Parliament so that someone caught with a knife twice has a mandatory prison sentence. We are doing more work, and I would be more than happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the specific issues in Derby, where I know there are concerns.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Has the Minister considered an amnesty? Amnesties have been implemented in the past to invite people to hand in their knives or other weapons, and that was very successful in the west midlands some years ago.

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Karen Bradley: That is a matter for chief constables to determine. However, as I said, we have worked with 13 forces, and included in that work were knife amnesties.

Fraud and Cybercrime

7. Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con): What recent discussions the Government have had with banks and industry bodies on steps to reduce fraud and cybercrime. [903665]

The Minister for Security (Mr John Hayes): Discussions with banks and industry bodies have led to the recently announced Joint Fraud Taskforce. This is the first time that banks, police and Government have joined together to ensure that the public are aware of, and protected from, fraud. The taskforce’s mission is to counter the wicked work of fraudsters.

Sir David Amess: While I absolutely understand the difficulties in effectively policing the internet, financial scams—judging by my own parliamentary account—seem to be completely out of control, and the most vulnerable people are being targeted. Will my right hon. Friend therefore have another look at this issue to see whether there is some way we can bring these criminals to account?

Mr Hayes: Because we have taken a fresh look at this, as my hon. Friend recommends, we have launched the joint taskforce; we are continuing to support the Cyber Streetwise campaign, which makes people more aware of, and therefore more guarded about, fraud; and we invested £90 million on cyber-security in the previous Parliament and will invest £1.9 billion over the next five years. We take this seriously, not least, Mr Speaker, because, as you know, in the cyber-age I am a cyber-Minister—up to the minute, up to the mark and up to the job.

Mr Speaker: We would expect no less of the right hon. Gentleman.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): Since the cyber-Minister is up to the mark, may I ask him about the activities of a website called Bestvalid, which was discovered recently selling the stolen bank details of 100,000 British citizens? Can he explain, as an up-to-the-minute cyber-Minister, how it was possible for this website to carry on for six months before being closed down, and how much of the £1.9 billion that he is targeting on cybercrime will be used proactively to close down sites of this kind?

Mr Hayes: The right hon. Gentleman knows, because his Select Committee has drawn attention to this in the past, that it is critically important that the Government work with all other agencies, including banks and private sector organisations, and the taskforce will be missioned to do that. It may be worth saying that this is summed up by the fact that the National Police Chiefs Council has publicly signed up to

“commit our full support to the objectives and actions of the…Taskforce”


“work in partnership to…protect the public from becoming victims of fraud and fraud scams, maximising opportunities to stop fraudsters from operating”,

in exactly the way he recommends.

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Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): The cyber-Minister will know that people are more likely to be mugged online than in the street, with serious consequences for victims. After five years of the Government saying, “We cut police but we have cut crime”, will he confirm that, when 6 million cybercrimes are included in the statistics, the truth will be told that far from falling, crime is changing, and that our country now faces crime doubling just as this Government continue to cut the number of police officers?

Mr Hayes: The hon. Gentleman will be disappointed that I am going to say that he is right to draw attention to the scale of this problem. I remind him that we were the Government who made the decision to publish these statistics and to designate cybercrime in the way that we have, because until we appreciate the scale of the problem, we will not develop the solutions necessary to deal with it. As he will know, we are using some of the extra resource to set up the national cyber centre to co-ordinate work in this area.

Police and Crime Commissioners

8. Mr Graham Allen (Nottingham North) (Lab): What steps she is taking to encourage police and crime commissioners to support early intervention programmes; and if she will make a statement. [903666]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice (Mike Penning): The Government have supported the first police early innovation leadership academy and provided grant funding for the Early Intervention Foundation. This is really interesting work being done to protect young children. Naturally we will help and encourage chief constables and PCCs up and down the country to help to reduce crime, support victims, and closely engage with their partner agencies, such as the foundation.

Mr Allen: The American comedian Eddie Cantor said, “If those currently on the most-wanted list had been the most wanted as children they would no longer be on the most-wanted list.” In that context, will the Minister welcome the work that his Department is doing with the Early Intervention Foundation in creating police leaders’ academies on early intervention, and will he ensure that funding is available so that every police and crime commissioner elected this year can attend such courses, as this is the best crime prevention measure we know?

Mike Penning: I praise the work of the Early Intervention Foundation; the work it does is very important. Other agencies also do really important work. We all know that if we can catch them young we can prevent people from turning into the types of criminals that sadly this society sees too often in our prisons.

Sir Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con): Following the Government’s troubled families programme, there can be no doubt that early intervention works—it reduces petty crime, encourages school attendance, and gets people into jobs. However, it has become clear—this is why what the Minister is saying is very welcome—that without the active participation of the police such programmes are somewhat ineffectual, so I hope that we will ensure that every chief constable and every commissioner will regard this as a high priority.

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Mike Penning: I am sure that every chief constable, police and crime commissioner and PCC candidate has heard exactly what my right hon. Friend has said. That is why we have put the money into the foundation and why we are doing a review of the early intervention academy for police leaders, so that we can have proof of the outcomes and let the money follow good resources.

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab): Humberside police has 500 fewer officers than five years ago, across north-east Lincolnshire we have had a 38% rise in violent crime, and sexual offences are up 18%. Is it not the reality that early intervention is not a priority for the police on the ground and that it is being pushed on to ill-resourced local authorities?

Mike Penning: I am sure that the Whips Office wrote the hon. Lady’s question, because every single time we hear from the Labour party, it wants more money, and yet its Front Benchers want to cut funding to the police force—[Interruption.] That is the reality.

TrackMyCrime Service

11. Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con): What the take-up of the TrackMyCrime service among police forces has been up to date. [903670]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice (Mike Penning): As I wrote earlier, four police forces currently use TrackMyCrime—Avon and Somerset, Kent, South Yorkshire and Humberside—with more to come. According to Minerva IT consortium, it will be made available to 22 forces, including Northampton.

Tom Pursglove: How successful has TrackMyCrime been in supporting victims of crime and keeping them up to date with investigations?

Mike Penning: I wrote my previous answer earlier, because I did not know what was going to be asked. The truth is that if all victims know exactly what is going on once they have reported a crime, they will have confidence to believe in the criminal justice system. TrackMyCrime will help in that regard.

Psychoactive Substances Act

12. Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab): What progress her Department has made on reviewing the status of poppers within the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. [903671]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Karen Bradley): The evidence-gathering stage of the review has begun. The Government are considering the next steps to ensure that the health and relationship benefits of poppers, and their risks, are fully assessed in an open and transparent manner.

Jeff Smith: Eighteen thousand police officers have been cut in the past five years. Is it really sensible to waste scarce police resources on enforcing a ban on poppers and unnecessarily criminalising users of a relatively harmless substance, particularly when the ban may be revoked in a few months?

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Karen Bradley: I hope that the hon. Gentleman welcomed the Psychoactive Substances Act, because we do not know what effect such substances have on young people—they may cause death—so the blanket ban on them is incredibly important. We are committed to reviewing the benefits of poppers against the harms, to see whether they should be included.

Modern Slavery Act

14. Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. [903673]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): The Modern Slavery Act received Royal Assent on 26 March 2015. It is too early to make a full assessment of the effectiveness of the Act, but I am pleased that key provisions are already having an impact. The ports have already been using the slavery and trafficking prevention orders to stop offences occurring, and some businesses have already published statements setting out what steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their global supply chains.

Jeremy Lefroy: In the “Strategic Plan 2015-2017”, the independent anti-slavery commissioner writes:

“The role that the private sector can play in the fight against slavery should not be underestimated.”

What assessment has the Home Secretary made of the effectiveness of the Act’s transparency and supply chain provisions for companies with turnovers of £36 million or more?

Mrs May: First, the independent anti-slavery commissioner is absolutely right, because this is not just about law enforcement and Government taking action in this area; it is also about working with the private sector and businesses. I am pleased that, although the first set of declarations in relation to supply chains will only be compulsory from 31 March, a number of companies have already made those declarations. In a month or so, I will hold an event with companies to share good practice among them so that we can ensure that we are getting the best information out there, and then consumers can make their decisions.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): Despite some of the good measures in the Act, child trafficking is still taking place across the European Union, hidden within the scandal that is the migration crisis, which is engulfing the entire continent. What work is the Home Secretary doing with her colleagues across the European Union to make sure that the issue is adequately tackled across all 28 member states?

Mrs May: I am encouraging other member states to take the step that we took with the Modern Slavery Act and introduce new legislation. We and other member states are working on organised immigration crime and human trafficking. We have put resources into that and are working with a number of countries to identify the traffickers and to ensure that proper action is taken. The independent anti-slavery commissioner has made his expertise available to a number of countries across the European Union. That is of enormous benefit, because he is expert in this area.

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23. [903682] Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con): Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), will my right hon. Friend set out in more detail the importance of the transparency in supply chains provision in the Modern Slavery Act, and how it will be monitored?

Mr Speaker: Yes, but not too much detail, given the time.

Mrs May: The measure has two important impacts. First, it makes companies think about whether there is slavery in their supply chains. Secondly, their declarations of the action they have taken—or of the fact that they have taken no action—will be available to consumers, who will be able to make choices about which companies to do business with as a result. We are looking at a number of options for ensuring that that information is publicly available in one place.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): May I make the right hon. Lady aware of the excellent work of the Palm Cove Society in Headingley, in my constituency? I was shocked to hear about the extent of modern slavery in this country. Does she think that people are sufficiently aware of that, and what more can she do to highlight it?

Mrs May: We are aware of the work that the Palm Cove Society does. The hon. Gentleman is right; I think that most people are shocked to know that slavery takes place in this country, and they would be even more shocked to see the degree and extent of it. It is up to everybody in this House, not just the Government, to make people aware of that and aware of the action that they can take to stop it.

Daesh Propaganda

15. Ben Howlett (Bath) (Con): What assessment the Government has made of the effectiveness of steps to tackle Daesh propaganda. [903674]

The Minister for Security (Mr John Hayes): The Government are removing more than 4,000 pieces of terrorist-related content a month. We are also supporting community-based initiatives that provide credible, positive alternatives and challenge Daesh’s core communications. Those campaigns have generated online viewings of more than 15 million.

Ben Howlett: Daesh commits atrocities every day against Christians, gay people and others who do not agree with its way of life. What are the Government doing to communicate accurately those atrocities across the UK to prevent the spread of extremism, particularly among young people?

Mr Hayes: My hon. Friend is right. Yeats said:

“All empty souls tend toward extreme opinions.”

We have to challenge those extreme opinions at every turn. The UK Government’s “UK Against Daesh” Twitter channel highlights the hypocrisies, hyperbole and wicked calumnies of Daesh. We work with the community organisations that I described a moment ago, and 130 community-based projects were delivered in 2015, reaching 25,000 people. More than half those projects were delivered in schools and aimed at the young people whom we need to safeguard.

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Mr Speaker: I am glad that even on this most solemn of matters, the right hon. Gentleman has been able, as always, to provide us with a poetical flourish.

Topical Questions

T1. Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con): If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities. [903684]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Last week, I was in Washington at the five-country ministerial with my counterparts from the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to discuss the threat we all face from extremism and terrorism—a threat that is real and growing. In 2014, Daesh in Syria and Iraq directed, inspired or enabled some 20 attacks in other countries worldwide. In 2015, there were almost 60 such attacks, as well as more than 200 attacks carried out by Daesh branches including those in Libya and Egypt.

This is a fight that cannot be won by acting in isolation. It is a global threat, which requires a global response. We must be more open to sharing intelligence with our partners and more proactive in offering our expertise. We must work at an international level to counter the twisted narrative peddled by Daesh and other terrorist organisations, and we must organise our own efforts more effectively to support vulnerable states and improve their ability to respond to the threat from terrorism. At the five-country ministerial, we made commitments to strengthen information sharing, enhance efforts to prevent the movement of terrorists and encourage social media companies to work more with Governments. This is the challenge of our generation, and it is one that we will win by working together.

Chris Green: I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer. Does she agree that the creation of the police and crime commissioner role was a great step in the right direction, and that it ought to change radically in future and take on more responsibilities?

Mrs May: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. It was important to create the role of a directly elected individual who is accountable to the public for local policing, but we called such individuals police and crime commissioners precisely because we wanted to see the role evolve. My right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary and I are already in discussion about how the role might evolve in relation to the rest of the criminal justice system.

Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab): May I commend the Home Secretary for her announcement this weekend and for her decision to put the national interest before self-interest, unlike others? When she began as Home Secretary, she took a Eurosceptic stance, opting out of dozens of EU measures, but she has since opted back in to many—most recently, on the sharing of fingerprinting and DNA. Is it fair to say that the realities of office have shown her the value of EU co-operation in tackling crime and terrorism, and changed her mind on Britain’s membership of the EU?

Mrs May: I have always been very clear about the value of co-operation when it is in the British national interest. We decided to propose to the House that we

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should opt back in to 35 measures in relation to protocol 36—justice and home affairs measures—precisely because we believed that they were in the national interest.

Andy Burnham: I think I will take that as a yes. Yesterday, on the “The Andrew Marr Show”, the Prime Minister was explicitly clear that our membership of the EU helps Britain fight terrorism, but within minutes he was directly contradicted by one of his own Cabinet Ministers, who claimed the UK’s EU membership made a Paris-style attack here more likely. This would be bad coming from UKIP, but coming from one of our most senior members of the Cabinet, it is downright irresponsible. Will the Home Secretary take this opportunity to reaffirm Government policy on this crucial issue and condemn this baseless scaremongering?

Mrs May: The Government’s position on this issue is very clear. As I have just indicated in answer to the first question the right hon. Gentleman asked me, I am very clear that there are many areas in which co-operation with other member states in the European Union is to our benefit in terms of the national security of this country and dealing with criminal matters. As I indicated in response to earlier questions, we do of course take security at our border very seriously, and that is why we have the checks we do at our border.

T3. [903686] Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): The Government have agreed to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to create a new initiative to help resettle unaccompanied children from conflict regions. Will the Minister confirm when the initiative will begin and say which organisations the Government will work with to help identify those children?

The Minister for Immigration (James Brokenshire): Yes, we are working with the UNHCR on the development of a new initiative to settle unaccompanied children from conflict regions outside the EU. Discussions are ongoing with the UNHCR—we have had a roundtable meeting already with a number of non-governmental organisations—and we will obviously come back to the House shortly, when our consideration has concluded.

T2. [903685] Hannah Bardell (Livingston) (SNP): Following on in the trafficking vein, I want to ask a question about a constituent of mine. I cannot name her because of her vulnerability. She was human trafficked from Nigeria to the UK and held in domestic slavery in London, but escaped to my constituency over 10 years ago. She now has a family and a husband—her children were born in Scotland—but she cannot get indefinite leave to remain. The Home Office has not been at its most helpful. Will the Minister meet me to discuss this issue and see what can be done to help this family settle in Scotland?

James Brokenshire: The hon. Lady has raised what appears to be a very serious individual case. If I may, I will speak to the hon. Lady after this session to obtain more details, and we will obviously respond to her formally.

T4. [903687] James Heappey (Wells) (Con): I have met a number of police officers in my constituency who have witnessed extreme trauma while on duty and have been diagnosed as suffering from mental illness or

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injury as a result. Yet the arrangements for their sick pay and their medical discharge and pension seem to be strikingly different from that of those who have suffered physical injury in the course of their duties. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, given the Government’s pursuit of parity of esteem between mental illness and physical illness, police forces should ensure that all injuries or illnesses attributable to service are supported in the same way?

Mrs May: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Police officers are entitled to exactly the same sick leave and pay arrangements whether they suffer a mental or physical illness. Any requests for ill-health retirement are, similarly, subject to exactly the same test. It is the responsibility of chief constables to provide for that in their local policies. I am pleased to say that in October 2014, the Government allocated £8 million to the blue light programme to support the mental and physical wellbeing of emergency services personnel.

T5. [903688] Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): The Government have always justified their cuts to policing on the basis that crime has not gone up. Since 2010, Greater Manchester police force has lost 1,664 officers, which is more than any other force. Recorded crime in Greater Manchester is now going up, and it is doing so faster than in any other metropolitan area. If crime continues to rise, will the Government reconsider their reductions in the number of front-line police officers, as would be reasonable?

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice (Mike Penning): Let us go over this again. The Government have not reduced the number of police officers on the frontline. Actually, the percentage on the frontline has gone up. The one party that wanted to cut the police budget at the last election was the Labour party—a group of people we did not listen to.

T7. [903691] Dr Matthew Offord (Hendon) (Con): What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that police services continue reforms to better protect the public?

Mrs May: We are taking a number of steps. A piece of work is being undertaken to look at where capabilities would best lie in terms of police reform. I addressed a conference of chief constables and police and crime commissioners earlier this year about this matter. I am happy to say that I have had discussions on precisely this matter with my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith). If he becomes Mayor of London, I am assured that he will continue the reforms in the Metropolitan police.

T6. [903689] Mr Douglas Carswell (Clacton) (UKIP): The Europol chief, Rob Wainwright, has warned that up to 5,000 ISIS fighters are already in the EU. How does the Home Secretary feel that being in the EU makes us safer?

Mrs May: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that what is important for the United Kingdom in this respect is that we can be in the European Union and continue with the border controls that we have, unlike the countries that are in Schengen. We will never be in Schengen. We will maintain security checks at the border, which is the right thing for us to do.

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Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): The Prime Minister has claimed that he has delivered on his promise that

“if an EU jobseeker has not found work within 6 months, they will be required to leave”—

a promise that he made to JCB workers on 28 November 2014. However, in reply to my written question, number 17574, in December last year, the Immigration Minister admitted that EU migrants can

“keep the status of jobseeker for longer than six months”.

Will the Home Secretary clarify who is right—the Prime Minister or the Immigration Minister?

James Brokenshire: I think we can safely say that the Prime Minister is right. In a few moments, my hon. Friend will hear precisely how the Prime Minister has set out the agenda in relation to welfare benefits.

T9. [903693] Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab): I was proud to join Housing for Women last week to celebrate the first anniversary of its operating the women’s refuge in Merton. It supported 38 women and 45 children in 2015. Unfortunately, not all refuges are in the same position, with 30 closing over the last year and 42% of rape crisis centres not having money beyond next month. Will the Home Secretary do everything she can to ensure that no woman is forced to return home to a violent partner and, possibly, to her death?

Mrs May: I remember the days when the hon. Lady and I served on the council of the London Borough of Merton. She took an interest in domestic violence and support for its victims and survivors then, and she continues to do so now. Of course, the Government have put extra money into refuges and supported money for various domestic violence services. It is a terrible crime and we need to deal with it.

Mike Wood (Dudley South) (Con): What assessment has been made of the number of connections police forces have made to the child abuse image database since it launched?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Karen Bradley): My hon. Friend raises the very important issue of the child abuse image database, which was introduced by the Government and is leading the world in tackling online indecent images of children. We now have all 43 forces connected to the image database and are starting to see real results in protecting children.

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): Where police and fire and rescue services decide to amalgamate regionally, will the Secretary of State give a guarantee that she will not in any way, shape or form allow the services they provide to be mutualised or privatised?

Mrs May: The reason for enabling police and crime commissioners to bring together policing and fire and rescue services is to be able to offer enhanced services. In looking at a decision to be taken at a local level, a business case will have to be made for bringing them together.

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European Council

3.30 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the agreement reached in Brussels last week, but first let me say a word about the migration crisis which was also discussed at the European Council. We agreed we needed to press ahead with strengthening the EU’s external borders to ensure that non-refugees are returned promptly, and to back the new mission to disrupt the criminal gangs working between Greece and Turkey, who are putting so many people’s lives at risk. I made it clear that Britain will continue to contribute, and will step up our contribution, in all these areas.

Turning to Britain’s place in Europe, I have spent the past nine months setting out the four areas where we need reform, and meeting all the other 27 EU Heads of State and Government to reach an agreement that delivers concrete reforms in all four areas. Let me take each in turn.

First, British jobs and British business depend on being able to trade with Europe on a level playing field, so we wanted: new protections for our economy; to safeguard the pound; to promote our industries, including our financial services industries; to protect British taxpayers from the costs of problems in the eurozone; and to ensure that we have a full say over the rules of the single market while remaining outside the eurozone. We got all those things. We have not just permanently protected the pound and our right to keep it, but ensured that we cannot be discriminated against. Responsibility for supervising the financial stability of the UK will always remain in the hands of the Bank of England. We have ensured that British taxpayers will never be made to bail out countries in the eurozone. We have made sure that the eurozone cannot act as a bloc to undermine the integrity of the free trade single market and we have guaranteed British business will never face any discrimination for being outside the eurozone. So, for example, our financial services firms—our No. 1 services export, employing over a million people—can never be forced to relocate inside the eurozone if they want to undertake complex trades in euros, just because they are based in the UK.

These protections are not just set out in a legally binding agreement. All 28 member states were also clear that the treaties would be changed to incorporate the protections for the UK as an economy inside the EU but outside the eurozone. We also agreed a new mechanism to enable non-eurozone countries to raise issues of concern, and we won the battle to ensure that this could be triggered by one country alone. Of course, none of these protections would be available if we were to leave the EU.

Secondly, we wanted commitments to make Europe more competitive, creating jobs and making British families more financially secure. Again, we got them. Europe will complete the single market in key areas that will really help Britain: in services, making it easier for thousands of UK service-based companies, like IT firms, to trade in Europe; in capital, so UK start-ups can access more sources of finance for their businesses; and in energy, allowing new suppliers into our energy market, meaning lower energy bills for families across the country.

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We have secured commitments to complete trade and investment agreements with the fastest growing and most dynamic economies around the world, including the USA, Japan and China, as well as our Commonwealth allies India, New Zealand and Australia. These deals could add billions of pounds and thousands of jobs to our economy every year. And, of course, they build on the deals we already have with 53 countries around the world through which Britain has benefited from the negotiating muscle that comes from being part of the world’s largest trading bloc.

Country after country has said to me that of course they could sign trade deals with Britain, but they also said that their priority would be trade deals with the EU. By their nature, these EU deals would be bigger and better, and a deal with Britain would not even be possible until we had settled our position outside the EU. So, for those Members who care about signing new trade deals outside the EU, we would be looking at years and years of delay.

Last but by no means least, on competitiveness one of the biggest frustrations for British business is the red tape and bureaucracy, so we agreed there will now be targets to cut the total burden of EU regulation on business. This builds on the progress we have already made, with the Commission already cutting the number of new initiatives by 80%. It means that the cost of EU red tape will be going down, not up.

Of course, if we were to leave the EU but ultimately achieve a deal with full access to the single market, like Norway, we would still be subject to all of the EU’s regulation when selling into Europe—but with no say over the rules. As the former Europe spokesman for the Norwegian Conservative party said:

“If you want to run Europe, you must be in Europe. If you want to be run by Europe, feel free to join Norway in the European Economic Area.”

Thirdly, we wanted to reduce the very high level of migration from within the EU by preventing the abuse of free movement and preventing our welfare system from acting as a magnet for people to come to our country. After the hard work of the Home Secretary, we have secured new powers against criminals from other countries, including powers to stop them coming here in the first place, and powers to deport them if they are already here. We agreed longer re-entry bans for fraudsters and people who collude in sham marriages, and an end to the frankly ridiculous situation where EU nationals can avoid British immigration rules when bringing their families from outside the EU.

This agreement broke new ground, with the European Council agreeing to reverse decisions from the European Court of Justice. We have also secured a breakthrough agreement for Britain to reduce the unnatural draw that our benefits system exerts across Europe. We have already made sure that EU migrants cannot claim the new unemployment benefit, universal credit, while looking for work. Those coming from the EU who have not found work within six months can now be required to leave. At this Council, we agreed that EU migrants working in Britain can be prevented from sending child benefit home at UK rates. This will apply first to new claimants, and then to existing claimants from the start of 2020.

We also established a new emergency brake so that EU migrants will have to wait four years until they have full access to our benefits. People said it was impossible

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to achieve real change in this area and that a four-year restriction on benefits was completely out of the question—yet that is what we have done. Once activated, the emergency brake will be in place for seven years. If it begins next year, it will still be operating in 2024 and there will be people who will not get full benefits until 2028. All along, we have said that people should not be able to come here and get access to our benefits system straight away—no more something for nothing, and that is what we have achieved.

I am sure that the discussion about welfare and immigration will be intense, but let me make this point. No country outside the EU has agreed full access to the single market without accepting paying into the EU and accepting free movement. In addition, our new safeguards lapse if we vote to leave the EU, so we might end up with free movement but without these new protections.

The fourth area in which we wanted to make significant changes was to protect our country from further European political integration and to increase powers for our national Parliament. Ever since we joined, Europe has been on the path to something called ever closer union. It means a political union. We have never liked it; we have never wanted it. Now Britain will be permanently and legally excluded from it. The text says that the treaties will be changed to make it clear that

“the Treaty references to ever closer union do not apply to the United Kingdom.”

So as a result of this negotiation, Britain can never be part of a European superstate.

The Council also agreed that ever closer union, which has been referred to in previous judgments of the European Court of Justice, does not offer a legal basis for extending the scope of any provisions of the treaties or EU secondary legislation. People used to talk about a multi-speed Europe; now we have a clear agreement that different countries are not only travelling at different speeds but ultimately heading to different destinations. I would argue that is fundamental change in the way this organisation works.

We have also strengthened the role of this House and all national Parliaments. We have already passed a referendum Act—the European Union Referendum Act 2015—to make sure that no powers can be handed to Brussels without the explicit consent of the British people in a referendum. Now, if Brussels comes up with legislation that we do not want, we can get together with other Parliaments and block it with a red card. We have a new mechanism finally to enforce the principle that, as far as possible, powers should sit here in Westminster, not in Brussels, so now, every year, the European Union must go through the powers that it exercises and work out which are no longer needed and should be returned to nation states.

In recent years, we have seen attempts to bypass our opt-out on justice and home affairs by bringing forward legislation under a different label. For example, attempts to interfere with the way the UK authorities handle fraud were made under the guise of EU budget legislation. The agreement at last week’s Council ensures that that can never happen again.

The reforms that we have secured will be legally binding in international law, and will be deposited as a treaty at the United Nations. They cannot be unpicked

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without the agreement of Britain and every other EU country. As I have said, all 28 member states were also clear that the treaties would be changed to incorporate the protections for the UK as an economy outside the eurozone, and our permanent exclusion from ever closer union.

Our special status means that Britain can have the best of both worlds. We will be in the parts of Europe that work for us, influencing the decisions that affect us, in the driving seat of the world’s biggest single market, and with the ability to take action to keep our people safe; but we will be out of the parts of Europe that do not work for us. We will be out of the euro, out of the eurozone bailouts, out of the passport-free, no-borders Schengen area, and permanently and legally protected from ever being part of an ever closer union.

Of course, there is still more to do. I am the first to say that there are still many ways in which this organisation needs to improve, and the task of reforming Europe does not end with last week’s agreement. However, with the special status that this settlement gives us, I do believe the time has come to fulfil another vital commitment that the Government made, and hold a referendum. Today I am commencing the process set out under our European Union Referendum Act to propose that the British people decide our future in Europe through an in/out referendum on Thursday 23 June. The Foreign Secretary has laid in both Houses a report setting out the new settlement that the Government have negotiated. That fulfils the duty to publish information which is set out in section 6 of the European Union Referendum Act. As the Cabinet agreed on Saturday, the Government’s position will be to recommend that Britain remain in a reformed European Union.

This is a vital decision for the future of our country, and I believe we should also be clear that it is a final decision. An idea has been put forward that if the country voted to leave, we could have a second renegotiation and perhaps another referendum. I will not dwell on the irony that some people who want to vote to leave apparently want to use a “leave” vote to remain, but such an approach also ignores more profound points about democracy, diplomacy and legality. This is a straight democratic decision—staying in or leaving—and no Government can ignore that. Having a second renegotiation followed by a second referendum is not on the ballot paper. For a Prime Minister to ignore the express will of the British people to leave the EU would be not just wrong, but undemocratic.

On the diplomacy, the idea that other European countries would be ready to start a second negotiation is for the birds. Many are under pressure for what they have already agreed. Then there is the legality. I want to spell out this point carefully, because it is important. If the British people vote to leave, there is only one way to bring that about, namely to trigger article 50 of the treaties and begin the process of exit, and the British people would rightly expect that to start straight away. Let me be absolutely clear about how this works. It triggers a two-year time period to negotiate the arrangements for exit. At the end of this period, if no agreement is in place, then exit is automatic unless every one of the 27 other EU member states agrees to a delay.

And we should be clear that this process is not an invitation to re-join; it is a process for leaving. Sadly, I have known a number of couples who have begun

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divorce proceedings, but I do not know any who have begun divorce proceedings in order to renew their marriage vows.

I want to explain what happens with section 50. We should also be clear about what would happen if that deal to leave was not done within two years. Our current access to the single market would cease immediately after two years were up; our current trade agreements with 53 countries around the world would lapse. This cannot be described as anything other than risk, uncertainty and a leap in the dark that could hurt working people in our country for years to come. This is not some theoretical question; this is a real decision about people’s lives. When it comes to people’s jobs, it is simply not enough to say that it will be all right on the night and we will work it out, and I believe that in the weeks to come we need to properly face up to the economic consequences of a choice to leave.

I believe that Britain will be stronger, safer and better off by remaining in a reformed European Union: stronger because we can play a leading role in one of the world’s largest organisations from within, helping to make the big decisions on trade and security that determine our future; safer because we can work with our European partners to fight cross-border crime and terrorism; and better off because British business will have full access to the free trade single market, bringing jobs, investment and lower prices.

There will be much debate about sovereignty, and rightly so. To me, what matters most is the power to get things done for our people, for our country and for our future. Leaving the EU may briefly make us feel more sovereign, but would it actually give us more power, more influence and a greater ability to get things done? If we leave the EU, will we have the power to stop our businesses being discriminated against? No. Will we have the power to insist that European countries share with us their border information so we know what terrorists and criminals are doing in Europe? No, we won’t. Will we have more influence over the decisions that affect the prosperity and security of British families? No we won’t.

We are a great country, and whatever choice we make we will still be great. But I believe the choice is between being an even greater Britain inside a reformed EU and a great leap into the unknown. The challenges facing the west today are genuinely threatening: Putin’s aggression in the east; Islamist extremism to the south. In my view, this is no time to divide the west. When faced with challenges to our way of life, our values and our freedoms, this is a time for strength in numbers.

And let me end by saying this: I am not standing for re-election; I have no other agenda than what is best for our country. I am standing here today telling you what I think. My responsibility as Prime Minister is to speak plainly about what I believe is right for our country, and that is what I will do every day for the next four months. And I commend this statement to the House.

3.48 pm

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): I thank the Prime Minister for advance notice of this statement. It obviously took him a long time to write it, because I only received it at eight minutes past 3 this afternoon.

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The people of Britain now face an historic choice on 23 June on whether to remain part of the European Union or to leave. We welcome the fact that it is now in the hands of the people of this country to decide that issue. The Labour party and the trade union movement are overwhelmingly for staying in because we believe that the European Union has brought investment, jobs and protection for workers, consumers and the environment, and we are convinced that a vote to remain is in the best interests of the people.

In the 21st century, as a country and as a continent—and, indeed, as a human race—we face some challenging issues: how to tackle climate change; how to address the power of global corporations; how to ensure that they pay fair taxes; how to tackle cybercrime and terrorism; how we trade fairly and protect jobs and pay in an era of globalisation; how we address the causes of the huge refugee movements across the world; and how we adapt to a world where people of all countries move more frequently to live, work and retire. All these issues are serious, pressing and self-evidently can be solved only by international co-operation.

The European Union will be a vital part of how we, as a country, meet those challenges, so it is therefore more than disappointing that the Prime Minister’s deal has failed to address a single one of those issues. Last week, like him, I was in Brussels meeting Heads of Government and leaders of European Socialist parties, one of whom said to me—[Hon. Members: “Who are you?”] [Laughter.]No. What they said—[Interruption.] The Conservative party might care to think for a moment about what is going on. One person said to me, and I thought it was quite profound, “We are discussing the future of a continent and one English Tory has reduced it to the issue of taking away benefits”—from workers and children. The reality is that this entire negotiation has not been about the challenges facing our continent or about the issues facing the people of Britain. Indeed, it has been a theatrical sideshow about trying to appease—or failing to appease—half of the Prime Minister’s own Conservative party.

That is not to say that there have not been some worthwhile changes. The red card system to strengthen the hands of national Parliaments is something that we on the Labour Benches have long backed. Indeed, it was in the Labour manifesto for the last general election; it was not in the Conservative manifesto, but we welcome a conversion when it takes place. We also welcome the symbolic amendment on ever-closer union. Britain’s long-standing decision not to join the euro or Schengen has been settled and accepted a long time ago. However, we see the influence of Tory party funders on the Prime Minister’s special status not for Britain but for City of London interests. It is the same incentive that caused his friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to rush to Europe with an army of lawyers to oppose any regulation of the grotesque level of bankers’ bonuses. It is necessary to protect the rights of non-eurozone states, but not to undermine EU-wide efforts to regulate the financial sector, including the boardroom pocket stuffing in the City of London.

Labour stands for a different approach. That is why our Members of the European Parliament are opposing the dangerous elements of the very secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which threatened to undermine national sovereignty, push the privatisation

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of public services, and drive down standards for workers, consumers, the environment and public health. Human rights ought to be part of that treaty. Indeed, I believe they should be a feature of all trade treaties.

Then there is the so-called emergency brake. We support the principle of fair contribution to social security, however, the evidence does not back up the claim that in-work benefits are a significant draw for workers who come to Britain from the European Union. The changes that the Prime Minister has secured do nothing to address the real challenges of low pay in Britain and the undercutting of local wage rates and industry-wide pay agreements. They will not put a penny in the pockets of workers in Britain, stop the grotesque exploitation of many migrant workers or reduce inward migration to Britain.

Will the Prime Minister tell us what discussions he had to get European rules in place to protect the going rate and to stop agencies bringing in cheap labour to undercut workers in Britain while exploiting the migrant force? Did he speak to other EU leaders about outlawing the so-called “Swedish derogation” from the agency workers directive, which threatens to undermine one of the key achievements of the last Labour Government by allowing unscrupulous employers to use temporary agency staff to undercut other workers? Those would have been positive and worthwhile discussions to tackle low pay, reduce in-work benefit costs and protect workers. We must, on all sides, be clear that Britain has benefited from migration—from EU workers coming to work in our industry and in our public services to fill gaps. For example, I think of the thousands of doctors and nurses who work in our NHS, saving lives every day they are at work.

The European Union has delivered protection for workers in Britain. It was Labour that made sure that Britain’s EU membership gave workers rights to minimum paid leave; protection on working time; rights for agency workers; paid maternity and paternity leave; equal pay; anti-discrimination laws; and protection for the workforce when companies change ownership It was Labour, working in partnership with sister parties and unions across Europe, that made sure the Prime Minister’s attempt to diminish workers’ rights was kept off the agenda for these EU negotiations. Labour has supported moves to reduce child benefit to non-resident children as a reasonable amendment, but we also welcome the protection for existing migrants until 2020, so that families have stability of income.

The Prime Minister’s deal includes elements we welcome and others that concern us, but it is largely irrelevant to the choice facing the British people; not one single element has a significant impact on the case we will be making to stay in. We welcome the fact that this theatrical sideshow is over, so that we can now get on with making the real case, which will be put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson), who will be leading our campaign. Labour believes the EU is a vital framework for European trade and co-operation in the 21st century. A vote to remain is in the interests of people, not only for what the EU delivers today, but as a framework through which we can achieve much more in the future. But to deliver these progressive reforms that I have referred to,

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we need to work with our partners in Europe, and therefore we must ensure that Britain remains a member. That is the case we are going to be making—it is for a Europe that is socially cohesive, and a Europe that shares the benefits of wealth and prosperity among all its citizens. That is the case we are making, as the Labour party, as the trade union movement in this country, and we look forward to that public debate.

The Prime Minister: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his contribution. He and I disagree on many, many things—economic policy, social policy, welfare policy and even the approach we should take within Europe, as he has just demonstrated in his response—but we do agree about one thing: Britain should be in there, fighting for a good deal for our country. I worry a little for him because he is going to be accused of all sorts of things, some of them fair, some of them unfair. I fear that if he takes this course, he will be accused of being a member of the establishment, and that would be the unfairest attack of all.

On what the right hon. Gentleman said about the deal, I will make two points about why he should welcome it. The first is that, as far as I can see, it implements almost every pledge on Europe in the Labour manifesto—I am looking at the former Labour leader when I say that. Labour pledged to complete the single market. It pledged “tougher budget discipline. It said

“we will ensure EU rules protect the interests of non-Euro members.”

That is absolutely right. The manifesto went on to say:

“People coming to Britain from the EU to look for work are expected to contribute to our economy, and to our society. So we will secure reforms to immigration and social security rules”.

I therefore hope Labour will welcome the things in this agreement. [Interruption.] I am just reminding my new friends what they said at the election. They said this:

“We will work to strengthen the influence national parliaments over European legislation, by arguing for a ‘red-card mechanism’ for member states”.

Excellent, that is another thing that has been achieved.

The right hon. Gentleman was unfair when he said that this deal was really all about Britain, and not about anyone else. The Slovakian Prime Minister said, good,

“the myth about ever-closer union has fallen.”

The Hungarian Prime Minister said:

“The UK managed to put an end to the practice of ‘creeping power withdrawal’ from national member states.”

Romano Prodi, the former President of the Commission, said this:

“The real consequence of the summit is extraordinarily important: Brussels has officially enshrined a multi-speed Europe.”

That is beneficial to Europe as well as to Britain.

Where I disagree profoundly with the right hon. Gentleman is that I think these trade deals are good for Britain and that the sooner we do the deal with America the better. He is wrong about financial services. There are more people working in financial services in our country outside the City of London than there are inside it. Crucially, what the single market means is that, with one establishment in Britain, we can trade throughout the European Union. If we lose that, we will see jobs going from Britain to other countries.

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Let me end on a note of consensus. Labour Governments and Conservative Governments standing here have all had their difficulties with Europe. We have all wanted to get the budget down. We have all wanted to get powers returned. We have all found that, because of our love for this House of Commons and for British democracy, this process can sometimes be trying, but, at the end of the day, we have always known that, when it comes to our economy, prosperity and security, we are better off fighting from the inside.

Mr Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): Does the Prime Minister agree—I am sure that he will—in referring to the continental press, that he has demonstrated the influence of a British Prime Minister, as he has forced some concessions that will be quite difficult for fellow Presidents and Prime Ministers to sell to their own political establishments? Does he agree that future generations will benefit from some of those concessions, particularly those on enlarging the single market, guaranteeing our access to parts of it, deregulating, and engaging in major trade deals with outside? Does he also agree that it is not the politics of fear to point out that those who advocate a no vote do not seem to know what a no vote means? They continually imply that all the benefits that flow from Europe in terms of jobs, investment and security will somehow continue to come here when they have swept away the obligations that previous British Government have always accepted.

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for what he has said. It has been interesting to see what some of the foreign newspapers have made of this. Let me give one example. A Spanish paper said:

“British exceptionality reached new heights yesterday. No other country accumulates so many exceptions in Europe.”

I am proud of the fact that we have a different status in Europe and that that status has become more special with the changes that we have made.

The point that my right hon. and learned Friend makes is absolutely right. I recognise that there are disadvantages to being in the European Union. I make no bones about that, but I can look the British people in the eye and say, “This is what it will be like if we stay in. It will be better because of the deal that we have done.” The people who are advising us to leave must spell out the consequences of leaving. The absolute lodestar is this: no country has been able to get full access to the single market without accepting either paying into the EU or accepting free movement. If people do not want to accept those two things, they have to start accepting that they will not get as good a trade and business position as we have today. People who want to leave must start making up their minds: do they want a Norway deal, a Switzerland deal or a Canada deal? Frankly, I do not mind which deal they go for, but they must start telling people because they deserve an answer.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): May I begin by thanking the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement? The referendum choice before the electorate is a huge one and it will define our relationship with the rest of Europe and indeed among the nations of the United Kingdom. Scotland is a European nation and the Scottish National party is a pro-European party. We will campaign positively to remain within the EU. Hopefully, the Prime

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Minister can confirm today that he will reject the tactics of project fear and that he will make a positive case for remaining part of a reforming European Union.

It is hugely important to be part of the largest market in the world and be able to influence its rules and laws. It really matters that we can co-operate with our shared challenges, from the environment to crime and security to workers’ and citizens’ rights. We should also never forget the lessons of European history and not turn our backs on our European neighbours who need help at this time to deal with huge challenges, including that of migration.

Public opinion in Scotland, by a majority, supports membership of the European Union. Every single Scottish MP supports our remaining in the EU, as does almost every Member of the Scottish Parliament and all Scottish MEPs bar one. Does the Prime Minister have any idea what the consequences would be if Scotland were taken out of the EU against the wish of the Scottish electorate? I want Scotland and the rest of the UK to remain in the European Union. However, if we are forced out of the EU, I am certain that the public in Scotland will demand a referendum on Scottish independence, and we will protect our place in Europe.

The Prime Minister: First, I can confirm that I will make, as I have done today, a positive case based on Britain being stronger, Britain being safer, and Britain being better off, but this is a choice. It is important that we set out the choice and the alternative to the British people, because this is potentially the most important decision that people will make on a political issue in their lifetime. I do not want anyone to take a step into the dark without thinking the consequences through properly.

I absolutely agree with the right hon. Gentleman about one thing. Although Brussels and the institutions can be frustrating, we should never forget what brought this institution into being in the first place. Even at the most frustrating times in talks, I look round the table and think of how these countries fought one another and killed one another’s people for so long, so the dialogue and action that we take together is positive. As for the vote in Scotland, this is one UK vote.

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): My right hon. Friend has spoken about national Parliaments, democracy and our sovereignty. In his Bloomberg speech, he made it clear that he regarded our national Parliament as the root of our democracy. Yesterday, he referred to the “illusion of sovereignty”. Will he explain and repudiate that statement, specifically in relation to the question now before us, our Parliament, our democracy and the making of our laws, which at this moment in time under the European Communities Act 1972, are made by a majority vote of other countries, are introduced by an unelected Commission, and are enforced by the European Court of Justice? Does he not accept that the only way of getting out of that and returning our democracy is to leave the European Union?

The Prime Minister: First, I have huge respect for my hon. Friend, who has campaigned on this issue for many years, and the one thing he will welcome is the fact that we are now allowing the British people a choice on whether to stay in or leave the European Union. Let me confirm that, yes, this Parliament is sovereign. We have chosen to join the European Union, and we can choose to leave it. Let me explain exactly what I meant when I

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said that there would in many cases be the “illusion of sovereignty” by taking one issue. We now have safeguards so that British banks and businesses cannot be discriminated against if we stay in the European Union because we are not in the euro. Were we to leave, we would not have that protection. They could discriminate against us. Frankly, I think they would discriminate against us, so we might feel more sovereign, but it would be an illusion of sovereignty because we would not have the power to protect the businesses that create jobs and livelihoods in our country.

Mr Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): Despite assurances, it is worth remembering that this referendum is about the future of our country, not the future of a divided Conservative party. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is not just about Britain’s place in the European Union but about Britain’s place in the world? President Obama has made it crystal clear that if Britain left the European Union that would weaken, not strengthen, the special relationship. The Indians and Chinese are mystified that we are even risking exit from the European Union. Does the Prime Minister agree that if in future Britain wants to stand tall in New Delhi, Beijing, Washington and other global capitals, it must continue to stand tall in our own European neighbourhood?

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman is right that we should make this decision ourselves as a sovereign nation and a sovereign people, but it is worth listening to our friends and listening to what they think is best for our country. Of all the leaders and politicians I have met around the world, I cannot think of any of our friends—not Australia, not New Zealand, not Canada, not America—who want us to leave the EU. The only person I can think of who might want us to leave the EU is Vladimir Putin. As for what the right hon. Gentleman, my former colleague, said about the need for this referendum, I make the slightly cheeky point that we are implementing the 2010 Lib Dem manifesto by holding it.

Boris Johnson (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) (Con): May I ask my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to explain to the House and the country in exactly what way this deal returns sovereignty over any field of lawmaking to these Houses of Parliament?

The Prime Minister: This deal brings back some welfare powers, it brings back some immigration powers, it brings back some bail-out powers, but more than that, because it carves us forever out of ever closer union, it means that the ratchet of the European Court taking power away from this country cannot happen in future. For those who worry—and people do worry—that somehow if we vote to remain in, the consequence could be more action in Brussels to try and change the arrangements we have, we have a lock in this House of Commons: no power can be passed from Britain to Brussels without a referendum of the British people. So we have a better deal, we have a special status, and we have a chance to make sure that we build on what we have, protect our people and enhance our prosperity, and that is the choice we should make.

Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab): Let me thank the Prime Minister for quoting and implementing parts of the 2015 Labour manifesto.

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I want to go to the big picture question, which is about how we influence things in our national interest. Let me draw the Prime Minister out on the powerful end to his statement. Of course, by being a member of the European Union, we do not always get out own way, but given what he said to the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), on all the major issues, whether it is trade, climate change or terrorism and security—he can tell us, because he has been the Prime Minister—does he believe we have more influence in the European Union or outside? Surely the answer is that we have more influence inside the European Union, not outside. That is why I passionately believe we must remain in the European Union.

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he says. I cannot promise to implement many other parts of the Labour manifesto, but I am glad to have been of assistance on this occasion. I absolutely agree with him. The big picture is this: when it comes to getting things done in the world that can help keep people safe in our country, or getting a bigger, better deal on climate change, do we get more because we are in the EU? Yes. Making sure we have sanctions against Iran that really work and get Iran to abandon its nuclear programme—do we do that through the EU and other bodies? Yes, absolutely. On making sure we stand up to Russian aggression in Ukraine, we have been the linchpin between the European Union and the United States of America in making those sanctions count. If we had been outside the European Union during that period, we would have been waiting at the end of the phone to find out what the decisions were going to be. Instead, we were making them, we were driving them, between Europe and America. That is how we get things done for our people.

Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) (Con): According to the Guido Fawkes website today, there is a letter appearing in The Times tomorrow which has been written by a Chris Hopkins on behalf of organisations across the UK supposedly wishing us to remain. Chris Hopkins is apparently a civil servant. Can the Prime Minister tell us who Chris Hopkins is, which Department he works for, and what authority he has as a civil servant to campaign for the remain lobby?

The Prime Minister: I can answer very simply. He is a civil servant working in No. 10 and his authority comes from me. He is doing an excellent job. This is not a free-for-all. The Government have a clear view, which is that we should remain in a reformed European Union, and the civil service is able to support the Government in that role. Members of Parliament, Ministers and Cabinet Ministers are able to make their own decision, but the Government are not holding back or hanging back from this. We have a full-throated view that we should put forward in front of the British people so that they can make their choice.

Alan Johnson (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab): I am tempted the ask whether the Prime Minister thinks blonds have more fun, but I will actually ask whether he remembers the analysis his Government did in 2014 of the European arrest warrant. It concluded that the European arrest warrant acts as a deterrent to offenders coming to this country. Will he point that out to his Work and Pensions Secretary, and will he ask the

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Home Secretary to brief the Work and Pensions Secretary on all the other reasons why Britain is safer and more secure in the European Union?

The Prime Minister: The European arrest warrant is a good case in point. All of us who have this concern about sovereignty and the rest of it had our concerns about the arrest warrant, but look at what has happened in practice. When, in 2005, terrorists tried to bomb our city for a second time, one of them escaped and was arrested and returned to Britain within weeks under a European arrest warrant. Before that, it could have taken years. So I think we can all see that the practical application of these changes definitely keeps us more safe.

When it comes to this question of fighting terrorism and cross-border crime, obviously people are going to have different opinions. I would urge people, though, to listen to the head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, to listen to the former director of MI5, to listen to the head of Europol. These are people who know what they speak of, and they are very, very clear: these measures help us to stay safe.

Mrs Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (Con): Having spent the best part of the recess in the Arctic circle with the Royal Marines, I am extremely conscious of the need to ensure that every one of our serving military personnel can cast their vote—to leave or to remain—in the forthcoming EU referendum, which the Prime Minister has worked so hard to get on to the statute books for us. Will he please confirm that every serving member of our armed forces, wherever they are in the world, will be entitled to vote? Will he guarantee that they will receive their ballot papers in good time, and will he confirm how we will ensure that everyone is counted?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend clearly had a more entertaining recess than I did—I am rather jealous. There were moments when I wished I was in the Arctic circle, I can tell you. I believe that the arrangements are absolutely the same as for a general election. We have now four months until the referendum, so there is plenty of time to put in place the arrangements that she seeks.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): I pay credit to the Prime Minister for delivering a referendum to the British people. I well remember the time he came to this House and argued against a referendum, but I am glad he came round to supporting those of us who believed that holding one was the right thing to do. He will know that we on the Democratic Unionist party Benches are extremely disappointed that we do not have, as a result of his deal, control over our sovereignty, over our borders or over our finances.

The Prime Minister said in his statement that it is “simply not enough” for those on the leave side “to say that it will be all right on the night and we will work it out”—he wants definite facts. When, therefore, will migrants coming to the United Kingdom begin to be eligible for some benefits? He should not tell us he is going to work it out; he should tell us when they will first become eligible for any kind of benefit.

The Prime Minister: What we have is a phased approach, so that, over four years, they get access to benefits. There is no access to benefits to start with, and full access only after four years. That is a huge advance.

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Compare that with the lack of certainty that we are being offered from people who want to leave, who cannot tell us whether they favour a model like Norway or Switzerland, or whether they want a trade deal like Canada, or, as some do, just want to reclaim a purely World Trade Organisation position. We need to know the answer to that, because, frankly, it is only when we know that that people can make a proper judgment about the security of staying in and the dangers of getting out.

Mr Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): Last week’s decision requires treaty change to be both irreversible and legally binding. When will the ratification procedure begin?

The Prime Minister: I am afraid that my right hon. Friend is not right. It is already legally binding and irreversible, because this is a decision of 28 Governments to reach a legally binding decision that is then deposited as a legal document at the UN, so this could be reversed only if all 28 members, including the UK, were to come to a different decision. But the document sets out very clearly that two specific areas—the changes that we need to the treaty on ever closer union, and safeguards for businesses and countries outside the eurozone—will be put into the treaty as well.

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): The Mayor of London, who has been touted as the leader of the leave campaign, said yesterday that Britain would easily be able to

“negotiate a large number of trade deals at great speed”

because we

“used to run the biggest empire”

the world has ever seen. Will the Prime Minister invite the Mayor to wake up to the 21st century, in which the European economy is six times larger than the British economy and in which it took seven years for Canada to get a trade deal? Does he agree that with so much uncertainty in the world economy, it would be deeply disruptive to increase the risks for British exporters, British manufacturers and British jobs?

The Prime Minister: Where I share the frustration of many of those who are questioning whether we should stay in is that Britain does need trade deals to be signed rapidly, and we do find it frustrating that Europe is not moving faster, because the Korean free trade agreement has been excellent, and we want to push ahead with Japan, with Canada, with America, and with China—and because of this document, all those things are more likely. Where I think the right hon. Lady has a good point is that you cannot sign trade deals with other countries until you have determined the nature of your relationship with the EU from the outside. That would take at least two years, and then you have to think, how long does it take to sign trade deals? The Canada deal is now, I think, in its seventh year and is still not put in place, so I worry that this is a recipe for uncertainty and risk. Businesses literally would not know what the arrangements were for year after year, and British business, British jobs and our country would suffer as a result.

Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): My 1998 pamphlet calling for us to address the question of our role in the world via a referendum on our EU membership may have escaped the Prime Minister’s attention, but he will understand why I am absolutely delighted that he has

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now provided us with an opportunity to resolve this question for a generation. Does he agree that if the country votes to remain, we must positively commit to the institutions of the European Union to best ensure its success and to move on from the grudging tone that has so dominated our discourse, and that equally the establishment he leads must positively engage with a potential decision to leave and undertake reasonable contingency planning now?

The Prime Minister: Let me make a couple of points to my hon. Friend. First, one of the things this renegotiation does is to address some of the principal grudges that I think this country has rightly had: too much of a single currency club, too much political union, too much in terms of migration and lack of respect for welfare systems, not enough competitiveness and removing bureaucracy. Having dealt with some of these grudges, yes, it may be possible to make sure that we get more things done that suit us. I would also agree with something that the Mayor of London said, which is that we need to make sure that we have high-quality British officials in every part of the organisation so that we can help to drive its agenda. My hon. Friend is right that this should be done to settle the issue for a generation. He is also right that we will be publishing the alternatives to membership so that people can see what they are and that there are plans that could be made.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): The Prime Minister said that great reform has been granted in the renegotiation. Why, then, did the French President say that the European Union has not granted the United Kingdom any special dispensations from its rules in the deal that has been struck, and go on to say that the Prime Minister had accepted that the City of London would not have special status compared with Europe’s other stock exchanges? Why is there such a difference between what the French President is saying and what the Prime Minister is saying?

The Prime Minister: The French Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said:

“The agreement with the British is a recognition that there is a differentiated Europe”.

I have already quoted the Slovakian and Hungarian Prime Ministers and the former Italian Commissioner, and François Hollande said:

“We have recognised Britain’s position—not in Schengen, not in the Euro Zone, she does not subscribe to the Charter of Fundamental Rights”.

They are recognising that Britain has a special status in Europe.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Although the referendum decision—in or out—is a matter for the British people, as the leader of an Atlanticist party, does the Prime Minister recognise and acknowledge the concerns of the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and international players that have already been mentioned that Britain and Europe need to stand together in an unsafe world?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes an important point. I do not believe that the American view is based simply on, “Well, it’s easier to make one phone call rather

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than many.” I think it is based on the fact that they believe that Britain will be a stronger partner and more able to get things done and to bend the will of other countries in our and America’s direction when it comes to solving great crises. If we ask ourselves how we have managed to massively reduce pirate attacks off Somalia, and how we are going to try to fix the problem of Libya’s border, then we see that yes, we can act unilaterally, and yes, there are valuable partnerships in NATO, but EU partnerships are worth a lot too.

Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op): Given that the pound has slid to its lowest level for seven years on the news that the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) has joined the leave campaign, are we not just getting a glimpse of the major economic upheaval that could follow if we leave the European Union? Is that not a timely reminder that the long-term best interests of our country should come ahead of party politicking and personal ambition?

The Prime Minister: It is important that we look in detail at the full economic impacts of either staying in or choosing to leave the EU. We will set out that approach in the weeks and months to come so that people can see what the dangers and risks are and what the case is.

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Do not the common agricultural, fishing and energy policies do damage to domestic producers and add to the colossal deficit we always run with the rest of the EU while running a trade surplus with the rest of the world? What can we do about those unfairnesses if we stay in the European Union?

The Prime Minister: We have made a lot of progress in recent years. The wine lakes and butter mountains are a thing of the past. We have made big reforms to the common fisheries policy. I know that my right hon. Friend studies these things very closely, but although we have a deficit with the EU on goods, we have a substantial surplus when it comes to services. We have to think about the future and how we safeguard the services industries as well as making sure that our position in the single market is open.

Liz Kendall (Leicester West) (Lab): Opening up EU markets in areas such as energy and digital services could create hundreds of thousands of jobs in future. Does the Prime Minister agree that remaining part of the EU would give the UK a strong voice in making sure that the completion of that single market happens, and would get the best deal for British business and jobs?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady makes an important point, which is that Britain has a strong voice in the EU to get these single markets completed. The declaration on competitiveness from the EU Commission is worth reading. She also points out that, if we were not there, not only would the EU continue to exist and have a very big impact on our lives, but it would probably head in a very different and more protectionist direction, and that would affect us, in many ways quite badly.

Dr Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con): My right hon. Friend will no doubt have been deluged with advice on EU law during his negotiation, so on the subject of ever closer union, can he give us a concrete example of a

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single European Court of Justice case that would have had a different outcome if the measures he agreed last week had been in place at the time?

The Prime Minister: Ever closer union has been mentioned in a series of judgments by the European Court of Justice, and there are two things in what we have agreed that I think will have an impact. Obviously, the most eye-catching of those is in paragraph 1 on page 10, which states that the substance of the agreements

“will be incorporated into the Treaties at the time of their next revision”

and will

“make it clear that the references to ever closer union do not apply to the United Kingdom.”

That is obviously a carve-out for us, but just as significant—and this is something that many other countries did not want—is the content of the next paragraph, which states:

“The references in the Treaties and their preambles…of creating an ever closer union…do not offer a legal basis for extending the scope of any provision of the Treaties or of EU secondary legislation.”

That redefinition of ever closer union is a fundamental change to the way in which the organisation has worked. One way to think of it is that there have been two threats to our sovereignty. The first came from treaty change passing powers from Britain to Brussels, but that cannot happen now because of our lock. The second is the use of terms such as “ever closer union” to make sure that the EU grows its powers, but that cannot be done now that we have that change. One of the reasons why the deal took 40 hours of all-night negotiations is that not everybody likes it. The deal is not meaningless words; it is words that mean something, that matter and that make a difference. That is why I was so determined to secure it.

Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP): The Prime Minister was elected on 37% of the vote. Even if half those people were to vote in, the referendum can be won only on the basis of people who voted Labour, Scottish National party, Liberal, Plaid Cymru and Green. Is it not a reasonable supposition to make that those people will be more interested in a positive articulation of the case for Europe than in the factional arguments of the Conservative party, entertaining though they are? When will the Prime Minister put forward that positive case for Europe?

The Prime Minister: I do not want to upset the right hon. Gentleman, because I am hoping that he will be supportive. In the speech that I made today, I set out a positive case. Yes, it is the case of someone who is Eurosceptical in the genuine sense: I am sceptical about all organisations and about all engagements. We should always question whether organisations work for us, and we should be doubtful about such things. That is what being sceptical means.

I come at this as someone who has their doubts about Brussels and doubts about the EU, but I have an absolutely clear eye about what is best for Britain. If others want to argue from a more positive stance about the nature of the EU, fine—go for it. It is up to everyone to make their own case, but I am going to make my case in a clear-eyed determination of what is in Britain’s interest, and I think I did that today.

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Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): The Prime Minister has centred much of the renegotiation on immigration, so can he tell the House, in his estimation, by how much the welfare changes will reduce immigration from the EU in the coming year?

The Prime Minister: Anyone who knows that, at the moment, someone can come from the EU and get up to £10,000 of in-work welfare benefits in the first year knows that that is a big incentive to come to Britain. Many people said that we would never be able to get changes to in-work benefits, but we have got those changes. If we pass this legislation we will see, in 2017, a seven-year period up to 2024 in which we will be restricting these welfare claims. That, plus all the changes that the Home Secretary helped to secure—in many cases reversing ECJ judgments—will actually restore to our country powers over welfare and powers over immigration that can make a real difference.

Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): Plaid Cymru supports our membership of the EU. We also support further reform, and we will campaign accordingly. Were we to leave, what would happen to measures such as convergence funding, which has provided large amounts of money for the poorer areas of west Wales and the valleys?

The Prime Minister: The short answer is that if we were to leave the EU, we would not be able to get those funds, which have made a big difference in parts of Wales, in parts of England—for instance, in Cornwall—and in other parts of our country. I am someone who wants to keep the EU budget down, and we achieved the historic decision to cut it, but I think we should be frank that some of the work that the EU has done in poorer countries in other parts of the EU has helped those economies to grow. They are all customers of ours, so whether it is Bulgaria, Romania, Greece or wherever, their economic development is in our interests.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): In January, I introduced a Bill to try to protect our children from flammable costumes—to protect children from going up in flames. I pulled the Bill this month after discussions with officials from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, who told me that the matter comes under harmonised legislation. Thousands of directives are spewed out from Brussels every year with which the Government have to comply. We cannot even protect our own children on something so fundamental, because we do not have control without the permission of Brussels.

The Prime Minister: I will look carefully at the case my hon. Friend has mentioned, because I know that such things can be frustrating. In the area of foam-filled furniture and foam-filled mattresses, we have taken steps over and above what other EU countries have done, and that has kept our own people safer. The other thing I would say is that a lot of different figures are bandied about on the matter, but if she looks in the House of Commons Library, she will see that far from the very high figures quoted by some, more like 13%, 14% or 15% of laws come to us from that direction.

Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD): May I commend the Prime Minister for his statement and congratulate him on successfully persuading his European

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counterparts to sign up to the renegotiation. He has of course been less successful in persuading half the Conservative party to support him. Will he accept that although his renegotiation may have been successful, it is not central to how most people will make up their minds? When we belong to a European single market that is worth £80 billion a year to this country, the real question is are we better off in or out? When we are facing huge insecurities and dangers in this world, are we better off alongside our friends and neighbours, or outside on our own? When we face huge international challenges, such as climate change and the refugee crisis, are we better off working with others, or isolated on our own? Will he join me in our shared ambition for a Britain in Europe, not the blond ambition behind him?

The Prime Minister: The renegotiation was aimed at dealing with some of the legitimate grievances that we have had in the UK for many years about the way in which the EU works. We felt it was too much of a single currency club and too much of a political union, and was not enough about competitiveness and had not enough protections in terms of welfare and immigration. I believe the renegotiation and agreement go a long way to dealing with each of those problems.

Now is the time, as the hon. Gentleman says, for the even bigger argument about the future of our country and about what sort of country we want to live in for ourselves, and our children and grandchildren. It is a huge issue, and on the points he makes about Britain being strong in the world and able to get things done, I would argue that our membership of NATO matters and our membership of the UN matters, but our membership of the EU also gives us force and power to get things done in the world.

Sir Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con): On these Benches we are rightly proud of our record on the drop in unemployment, the record growth—best in the G7—and the reduction in our deficit. During my right hon. Friend’s many meetings, did he find anybody, even a single person, who suggested we might get better terms, on our exit, to achieve even better outside the European community?

The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend makes an important point. There is good will towards Britain because of the contribution we make to the EU. There is understanding of the problems and difficulties that we have had. Therefore, with a huge amount of diplomacy —travel and meetings and everything else—it has been possible to get, I think, a good agreement for Britain. As I said in my statement, if we were somehow to kick over the table and ask for a second one, I do not think that would be remotely feasible.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): May I particularly welcome the equalisation of the spouse visa rules, which discriminated unfairly against British citizens? May I also ask the Prime Minister to recognise the work of the Minister for Europe? I managed only two years in the job; he has done six, and he has still retained his sanity—almost.

On the other big issue, the migration crisis, the British head of Europol said today that 5,000 jihadists are now within the European Union area. Many of them have

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come in through the external border of the EU. What additional help is being given to Greece and Italy, in particular, to try to deal with protecting the external border, with the support of Frontex?

The Prime Minister: First, let me thank the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks about the Europe Minister, who was with me in Brussels for this marathon negotiation —I thought his eyes were shutting for a minute there. He has been doing the job for six years, and has done it extremely well.

The point about spousal visas is important. For many years, we argued that this needed to be sorted out, and for many years the EU said back, “Well, if you want to equalise the rules, change your own rules.” Now, we have in effect managed to change its rules, so it is a real breakthrough.

In terms of the help that we are giving to Italy and Greece, the discussions in Brussels were very intense because the numbers really have to be reduced, and reduced radically. That is why I strongly support, and Britain will contribute to, the maritime operation—it will have strong NATO support, as well as EU support—to try to bring together Greece and Turkey, with a common information picture or common intelligence about what is happening, so we can stop so many of these criminal gangs operating in the area. Without that, there will not be the right chance of getting this situation under control.

Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): For decades, British Ministers who have had involvement with Europe—I include myself in this—have been tempted to exaggerate the influence we bring to bear and conceal our inability to achieve British interests. Is that why it took a freedom of information request to establish that over the last two decades, Britain has voted against 72 measures in the European Council and been defeated 72 times, and that the pace of defeat is accelerating? If we make the mistake of taking the risk of remaining in the EU, how many defeats does the Prime Minister expect over the next two decades?

The Prime Minister: I do not for one minute underestimate the frustrations and challenges of being a member of this organisation. The research that I have seen—perhaps I will write to my right hon. Friend with a copy of it—states that deep analysis of whether a country achieves its position shows that Britain does so in 90% of cases, which even, I think, outranks the Germans. I have seen for myself that when we work hard and form alliances, we can get things done.

The other point I make to my right hon. Friend is that if we are outside the single market, the same countries will write the rules, but without us. We will have to comply with them when we sell into Europe, but will have absolutely no say over what they are. That, to me, is the illusion of sovereignty, rather than real sovereignty.

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): I accept the symbolism of removing the phrase “ever closer union”, but if we are to believe that it will have legal consequences, the Prime Minister owes it to the House to give at least one or two examples of where that was the sole legal basis for a decision.

The Prime Minister: I am happy to write to the right hon. Lady with the details because those words have been used in a whole series of cases. That is why the point was so hard-fought.