May 26, 2021
Boris Johnson Questioned on COVID-19 Response PMQs Transcript May 26
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced PMQs on the government’s COVID-19 pandemic response on May 26, 2021. Read the transcript of his speech remarks here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Tell me if the Gender Equality Advisory Council will be working to improve women and girls’ participation in STEM Education and industries.
Elizabeth Truss: (00:11)
Well, I’m pleased to say that the GEAC is packed with inspirational STEM leaders, such as Professor Sarah Gilbert, who spearheaded the Oxford vaccine and the CERN Director-General, Dr. Fabiola Gianotti. These are leading figures and a key aim of the GEAC is to make sure that more girls and women are involved in those industries of the future, like technology and science, so they can get those well-paid jobs, but also help drive forward progress across the world.
Speaker 2: (00:44)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. At the G7 summit in August 2019, the government made three commitments for domestic progress on gender equality. Delivery of the Domestic Abuse Bill, reform of parental leave and action on workplace sexual harassment. But, last year just 3.5% of fathers took shared parental leave. And the TEC found that one in two women experienced sexual harassment at work, and we are still waiting for the government to respond to consultations on both of these issues. So, what does the minister think it says about her record, that only one of those commitments have so far been completed? And when will she bring forward reforms to these schemes?
Speaker 3: (01:29)
Secretary [inaudible 00:01:30].
Elizabeth Truss: (01:29)
Well, as she points out, we have brought forward and have enacted a leading Domestic Abuse Bill. And my honorable friend, the minister for safeguarding, is on the front bench and she’s done a fantastic job on that. We will shortly be bringing forward the response on sexual harassment. And moreover, I want to make sure that at this year’s G7, leaders across the world are held to account on their record in protecting women and girls.
Speaker 3: (01:57)
Joe Anderson: (01:58)
Elizabeth Truss: (02:05)
The UK is using our presidency of the G7 this year to champion women’s and girls’ rights at home and around the world, with an independent Gender Equality Advisory Council to bring fresh ideas and new voices to the heart of G7 discussions. The council met for the second time last week, and I look forward to hearing their recommendations to G7 leaders in June. It’s important that women and girls are at the heart of our plans to build back better.
Joe Anderson: (02:33)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the recent Queen’s speech, there were many opportunities to level up across the country, including my great constituency of Wolverhampton, Southwest. What is my right honorable friend doing to see that we can unleash the potential of some of our more deprived areas to build back better after COVID?
Elizabeth Truss: (02:54)
Well, we are determined to tackle the scourge of geographical inequality. That’s why we have taken on responsibility for the social mobility commission. They are going to focus on the three E’s, employment, education, and enterprise. And we’re currently recruiting a chair to spearhead this agenda.
Joe Anderson: (03:13)
Speaker 4: (03:13)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, can the Secretary of State tell me how she will ensure that the voices of survivors of so-called conversion therapy and the people who support them will be heard in the consultation in bringing it about a Bill to outlaw all conversion practices? Because, conversion therapies have no place in all settings and all LGBT plus statuses, regardless of whether someone is consenting, or coerced.
Elizabeth Truss: (03:39)
Well, my friend, the minister for equality has already met survivors of conversion therapy and we determined that they should be closely involved in the consultation we’re holding on the forthcoming legislation. I completely agree with her.
Elizabeth Truss: (03:53)
This is an [inaudible 00:03:54] practice that we need to stop in the United Kingdom.
Speaker 3: (03:57)
Jacob Young: (03:58)
Thank you Mr. Speaker, in [inaudible 00:04:00] Cleveland and across the country, the pandemic has left many people without the certainty of work, but in particular, those disabled and differently abled people who already feel disadvantaged in the jobs market. We’ve announced an ambitious plan for jobs, but can the minister point to specific interventions he is making, to help more disabled people into work in [inaudible 00:04:17] Cleveland and the wider Tees Valley?
Speaker 5: (04:20)
Well, Mr. Speaker, there’s been an 800% increase in disability-confident employers in the Durham Tees Valley area. And I know that the newly re-elected Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and our new Hartlepool MP are utterly committed to ensure more disabled people get into work and use access to work to assist that.
Speaker 3: (04:40)
Let’s go to Angela Crawley. Angela.
Angela Crawley: (04:45)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the UK, two weeks parental leave MP is in place after stillbirth. Haven’t read there is no such support for anyone who’s experienced a miscarriage before 24 weeks of pregnancy. Well, the minister support my calls to the UK government and allow families to grieve for their profane loss by legislating for paid leave, for everyone that experiences miscarriage.
Speaker 6: (05:11)
I’m thankful for the honorable lady for raising this point. And we have looked at seeking to change the rules about neonatal leave, clearly. And any grieving situation is incredibly difficult, but as we work towards the Employment Bill to make sure that we can come up with a rounded view for anybody that is grieving.
Speaker 3: (05:33)
Let’s go to Crispin Blunt. Crispin.
Crispin Blunt: (05:38)
Mr. Speaker my right honorable friend yesterday at the select committee, said she ended the role of her LGBT Advisory Panel, because of a basic disagreement over the rights of trans people to self ID. Argentina, our co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition whose conference we host next June, legally accommodates it’s self ID for trans people since 2012 without a problem. As are now more members of the coalition, following Argentina’s example, without a problem. How is she going to find a new panel, that has both authority and agrees with her in the continuing refusal to accept the rights of trans people to self ID? And can she explain how Britain can host a conference entitled, Safe To Be Me without supporting the right to be me?
Speaker 7: (06:28)
I thank the honorable gentleman for that question. Before my LGBT Advisory Panel’s tenure ended on the 31st of March, 2021, I am grateful to its members for their important insights, that they’ve provided on important policy areas, such as ending conversion therapy and the impact of COVID on LGBT people. The PM has appointed Lord Herbert, as Special Envoy for LGBT rights. This role will have an international and domestic focus, and I am confident that we will be able to work with our international partners on this issue. We believe the current provisions within the act allow for those who wish to legally change their agenda to do so. It is safe to be them and they do have the rights to be themselves. And we’ve therefore decided, as we said before, to the honorable gentleman that the gender recognition act will not be changed.
Speaker 3: (07:13)
Let’s go to Jeff Smith. Jeff.
Jeff Smith: (07:17)
Speaker, my constituent Julia was breastfeeding her child in a park, when a stranger started taking long lens photos of her. And she and I was shocked that there was nothing that could be done about this unwelcome intrusion. Does the minister think this is an acceptable situation? And if not, would she support action to prevent this voyeurism?
Speaker 8: (07:38)
I thank the honorable member for raising this very, very important topic. Of course, this is totally unacceptable behavior, and I hope he will welcome the government’s forthcoming Violence Against Women And Girls strategy that we will be publishing later this year, drawing in the views of more than 180,000 members of the public to help shape our policies for the coming decade. This is unacceptable and we will deal with it.
Speaker 3: (08:04)
Well, that ends the questions. We’re now going to go to questions for the prime minister. With which, I will first call the prime minister to answer the engagement question. And then, I will then call Dan Poulter to ask his supplementary virtually. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (08:26)
Mr. Speaker, the thoughts of the House will be with the family and friends of the Hillsborough 96 and the hundreds more who are injured, following the decision by the court this morning. I know that the CPS has said they will meet with the families again, to answer any questions they may have. Mr. Speaker, I know colleagues from across the House, who want to join in paying tribute to our former colleague, Mike Weatherly, who sadly died last week. He was a dedicated parliamentarian and a fantastic servant to the people of Hove. Mr. Speaker, this morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, in addition to my duties in this house, I shall have further such meetings later today.
Speaker 3: (09:04)
Let’s go to Dr. Dan Poulter. Dan.
Dan Poulter: (09:08)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I draw the House’s attention to my declaration of members’ interests as a practicing NHS doctor, who’s been working on the front line of the NHS during the pandemic. Now, my right honorable friend will be aware of the 2012 Health And Social Care Act resulted in local authority commissioning of addiction services. And 10 years later, almost all addiction services are now run by non-NHS providers. The result is that the numbers in alcohol treatment have fallen. Many alcohol detoxes take place in an unplanned manner and both opiates and alcohol deaths are at record levels. Would my right honorable friend agree with me that for the sake of patients, we must bring commissioning and provision of addiction services back to the NHS? And will he meet with me and experts in this field, to discuss how we can get this right?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (09:52)
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my honorable friend for everything that he’s done throughout this pandemic in the NHS, but also for raising this vital issue. And of course, I’m proud that we’re seeing the biggest increase under this government in treatment for substance abuse for 15 years, but the specific points he raises, we will make sure that we address with Dame Carol Black, who is undertaking a review on drugs and treatment. And we will make sure that his point is fitted.
Speaker 3: (10:22)
Let’s go to the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer.
Keir Starmer: (10:25)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, can I join the Prime Minister’s comments about Hillsborough Mike Weatherley. Mr. Speaker, this morning, the Prime Minister’s former closest advisors said, “When the public needed us most, the government failed.” Does the Prime Minister agree with that?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (10:43)
Mr. Speaker, the handling of this pandemic has been one of the most difficult things this country’s had to do for a very long time. And none of the decisions have been easy. To go into a lockdown is a traumatic thing for a country, to deal with a pandemic on this scale has been appallingly difficult and we’ve at every stage tried to minimize loss of life, to save lives, protect the NHS. And we have followed the best scientific advice that we can Mr. Speaker.
Keir Starmer: (11:11)
Mr. Speaker, can I remind the Prime Minister that one year ago, almost to the day, he described his former advisor as, in his words, “In every respect, acting responsibly, legally, and with integrity.” This morning, that same advisor has said, that CDM ministers felt, his words, “Disastrously short at the standards that the public has a right to expect of its government and that lives were lost as a result.” Does the Prime Minister accept that central allegation and that his inaction led to needless deaths.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (11:48)
No, Mr. Speaker, and of course all those matters will be reviewed in the course of the public inquiry that I have. And Einstein, I noticed that he’s fixated as ever on the rear view mirror. Mr. Speaker…
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (12:02)
… On the rear view mirror, Mr. Speaker, whiles we, on this side of the House, are getting on with our job of rolling out the vaccines, making sure that we protect the people of this country. And that I think has been the decisive development on which I think people are rightly focusing. And I can tell the House that in spite of the continuing concern that we have about the Indian variant, we are increasing our vaccination program at such a rate that we can now ask everybody over 30 to come forward, Mr. Speaker, and get vaccinated.
Speaker 9: (12:36)
Pierce [inaudible 00:12:37].
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (12:37)
Mr. Speaker, it’s no good the Prime Minister attacking me. It’s his former Chief Advisor who is looking back and telling the world how useless the Prime Minister was in taking key decisions, his former advisor. One of the most serious points made this morning is that the Prime Minister failed to recognize the severity of this virus until it was too late. Dismissing it as, quote from this morning, “Another scare story, like the swine flu.” Does the Prime Minister recognize that account of his own behavior? And if so, will he apologize for being so complacent about the threat that this virus pose?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (13:16)
Mr. Speaker, I don’t think anybody could credibly accuse this government of being complacent about the threat of this virus because at any point, we have worked flat out, Mr. Speaker, to minimize loss of life, to protect the NHS, while they have flip-flopped, Mr. Speaker, from one position to another. Backing curfew one day, opposing it the next, backing lock downs one day, opposing it the next, calling for tougher border controls one day, and then say that quarantine is a blunt instrument. This, Mr. Speaker, we have got on with the job of protecting the people of this country from one of the worst pandemics in living memory, if not the worst in living memory. We have turned the corner and it is no thanks, Mr. Speaker, to the loyal opposition opposite.
Speaker 9: (14:01)
Keir Starmer: (14:01)
Mr. Speaker, I can see that the evidence of his former advisor is really getting to the Prime Minister this morning in that response.
Speaker 10: (14:08)
Keir Starmer: (14:08)
Another incredibly serious statement from the Prime Minister’s former advisor this morning concerns the conduct of the Health Secretary, including an allegation that the Health Secretary misled other ministers and officials on a number of occasions. Now I don’t expect the Prime Minister to respond to that, but can he confirm from this morning’s evidence-
Speaker 10: (14:28)
Keir Starmer: (14:28)
Can the Prime Minister, can he confirm, did the Cabinet Secretary advise him, the Prime Minister, that he, the Cabinet Secretary had, “Lost faith in the Health Secretary’s honesty?”
Speaker 10: (14:44)
Speaker 11: (14:44)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (14:45)
The answer to that is, “No,” Mr. Speaker. And I’m afraid I haven’t had the benefit of seeing the evidence that he’s bringing to the House. But I must say that I think what the people of this country want us all to do is to get on with the delicate business now of trying to reopen our economy and restore people’s freedoms, get back to our way of life by rolling out the vaccine. I would have thought that was a much more profitable line of inquiry for the right honorable gentlemen today. And that’s what I think the people of this country want us to focus on.
Speaker 11: (15:22)
Speaker 9: (15:23)
Keir Starmer: (15:23)
Speaker, the Prime Minister can’t have it both ways. Either his former advisor is telling the truth in which case the prime Mister should answer the allegations. Or the Prime Minister has to suggest that his former advisor is not telling the truth, which raises serious questions about the Prime Minister’s judgment in appointing him in the first place.
Speaker 10: (15:44)
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:15:45].
Keir Starmer: (15:46)
There’s a pattern of behavior here. There was clearly a lack of planning, poor decision making, and a lack of transparency, and a Prime Minister who was absent from the key decisions, including five early COBRA meetings and who was, to quote his former advisor, “1,000% too obsessed with the media.”
Speaker 10: (16:04)
Keir Starmer: (16:06)
But another central allegation briefed overnight is that the Prime Minister delayed the circuit break over the autumn half term because, “COVID was only killing 80 year olds.”
Speaker 10: (16:18)
Yeah. True. [crosstalk 00:16:20].
Keir Starmer: (16:19)
Can I remind the Prime Minister that over 83,000 people over 80 lost their lives to this virus? And that his decision to delay for 40 days, from the SAGE guidance on the 21st of September until the 31st of October, will be seen as one of the single biggest failings of the last year? Now having been told the evidence, does the Prime Minister accept that he used the words, “COVID was only killing 80 year olds”? Or words to those effect?
Speaker 9: (16:51)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (16:52)
Mr. Speaker, we saw what happened during the pandemic and particularly he talks about the September lockdown and my approach to it, and the very, very difficult decision that the country faced. And of course, this will be a matter for the inquiry go into, but we have an objective test, Mr. Speaker, in the sense that there was a circuit breaker of the kind he describes in Wales, it did not work. I’m absolutely confident that we took the decisions in the best interest of the British people. And when it comes to hindsight, Mr. Speaker, I could just remind the right honorable gentlemen that he actually denied this at the time, and then had to correctly it, but he voted to stay in the European Medicines Agency, Mr. Speaker, which would’ve made it impossible for us to do the vaccine rollout at the pace that we have.
Speaker 10: (17:52)
Speaker 9: (17:52)
Keir Starmer: (17:54)
Mr. Speaker, it’s not me giving evidence this morning, it’s his former advisor. And I note the Prime Minister’s careful not to refute these allegations.
Speaker 11: (18:02)
Speaker 12: (18:02)
Keir Starmer: (18:03)
Mr. Speaker, what we’re seeing today is the latest chapter of a story of confusion, chaos, and deadly misjudgments from this government, from a Prime Minister governing by press release, not a plan. In the last 24 hours we’ve seen the same mistakes made again with the ridiculous way, 1.7 million people in Bolton, Burnley, Bedford, Blackburn Kirklees, Hounslow, Leicester and North Tyneside have been treated. In the light of the drip of these very serious allegations and the failure of the Prime Minister to provide even basic answers and continuing mistakes affecting millions of people, does the Prime Minister now recognize he must bring forward the timing of the public inquiry into COVID? And that it should start this summer and as soon as possible?
Speaker 12: (18:50)
Speaker 11: (18:50)
Speaker 9: (18:50)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (18:51)
No, Mr. Speaker, as I’ve said before, I’m not going to consecrate valuable, official time on that now, whilst we’re still battling a pandemic. And I thought, actually, that was what the House had agreed on. And, Mr. Speaker, he continues to play these pointless political games whilst we get on with delivering on the people’s priorities, 14 new hospitals, 8,771 more police on our streets. Now we’re getting on with sorting out the railways, Mr. Speaker, we’re giving the young people the opportunity of home ownership in a way they’d never had before with 95% more mortgages. And we’ve vaccinated, we’ve delivered 60 million vaccinations across this country. And he loves these European comparisons, Mr. Speaker, more than any other European country, including 22 million second doses. And that, with great respect to the right honorable gentleman, I believe that is the priority of the British people. That’s really what they’re focused on whilst he voted to stay in the European Medicines Agency. They vaccinate, Mr. Speaker. We vaccinate. They deliberate. We deliver.
Speaker 10: (19:58)
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:19:59].
Speaker 9: (19:59)
Speaker 13: (19:59)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’m sure my right old friend, the Prime Minister, remembers with great fondness his trip of July last year to the Discovery School in Kings Hill. But he probably remembers best his meeting with Tony Hudgell, an amazing and inspirational young boy, who had at that point already raised a million and a half pounds for charity and been awarded by my right honorable friend, the Points of Light Award that he so generously hands out to those who have achieved so much.
Speaker 13: (20:25)
Will he join Tony and Tony’s parents, Cora and Mark, and me, and many others around the country in campaigning for Tony’s Law, new clause 56, so the Policing Crime and Sentencing Bill. This is a very minor change to a very important bill that would bring child abuse sentencing in line with that of adult abuse. I know he has put his heart into this place and I’m sure we can all look forward to his support.
Speaker 9: (20:54)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (20:54)
I thank my old friend, and of course, I remember Tony very well. I remember his incredible campaign and the amount of money he raised and I thank him for it. And all I can say is it is very, very important that cases like that, injustices, such as that suffered by Tony, do receive the full force of the law and people who commit serious offenses against children can receive exactly the same penalties as those who commit serious offenses against adults. But we will keep this under review, Mr. Speaker, if there is a gap in the law, I will study his [inaudible 00:21:34] very closely. If there is a gap in the law, we will make sure that we remedy it.
Speaker 9: (21:39)
[inaudible 00:21:39], Ian Blackford.
Ian Blackford: (21:40)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And can I associate myself with any remarks of Prime Minister for those seeking justice for Hillsborough. To quote the song, “You’ll never walk alone.” Mr. Speaker, 120,000 people have died of Coronavirus in the United Kingdom. This morning, the Prime Minister’s most senior former advisor, Dominic Cummings, apologized on behalf of the UK government. He said, “When the public needed us most, we failed.” We know that the Prime Minister made a series of catastrophic errors throughout the crisis. He went on holiday when he should have been leading efforts to tackle the pandemic. He was too slow to go into lockdown. He failed to secure our borders. He sent millions of people back to their offices prematurely. There is no doubt that these mistakes cost many thousands of lives. But even a disgraced figure like Dominic Cummings is willing to own up and apologize. Isn’t it time that the Prime Minister does the same?
Speaker 11: (22:43)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (22:44)
Mr. Speaker, I take full responsibility for everything that has happened. And as I’ve said before, and he will recall, both in this house and elsewhere, I’m truly sorry for the suffering that the people of this country have experienced. But I maintain my point that the government acted throughout with the intention to save life and protect the NHS and in accordance with the best scientific advice. That’s exactly what we did.
Speaker 9: (23:11)
Ian Blackford: (23:12)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The evidence we’ve heard this morning is extraordinary, but sadly not surprising. It paints a familiar pattern of behavior, a negligent Prime Minister, more concerned with his own self-interest than the interest of the United Kingdom. When people were dying, the United Kingdom Government was considering chicken pox parties and joking about injecting the Prime Minister with COVID live on TV. We had a circus act when we needed serious government. Isn’t it the case that when the country needed leadership most the Prime Minister was missing an action? Thousands of paid the ultimate price for his failure. When will the Prime Minister finally accept responsibility for the failures of his government?
Speaker 12: (23:59)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (24:01)
Mr. Speaker, as I’ve said repeatedly in this House, I take…
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (24:03)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (24:03)
Mr. Speaker, as I’ve said repeatedly in this house, I take full responsibility for everything that the government did, and I will continue to do so. And one of the reasons we’ve set up an independent public inquiry is I believe the people in this country do deserve to have daylight shown on all the issues he raised. I must say, I don’t recognize the events that he describes, but I do think that we acted throughout with the intention of saving life, of protecting the NHS, and of taking the country through the worst pandemic for 100 years. I think it’s also true that we’re in a much more fortunate position now, thanks to the efforts of the British people and the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe. And I’m grateful for that as well.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (24:50)
Speaker 14: (24:52)
Mr. Speaker, I spent Monday morning at the Fitz Country House in [inaudible 00:24:56] with an alpaca called Boris. Cumbria sees significant numbers of tourists in any normal year, but Cumbria is not just lakes. We have some real gems in my constituency of Workington outside the national park. We have a real opportunity for the UK this year, for the UK hospitality industry this year, as people choose to holiday here. Will my right honorable friend consider a short break in my constituency where I might facilitate an introduction to Boris?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (25:21)
Well, I’m so grateful to my honorable friend. I would love to come and meet the alpaca called Boris. But more importantly, we want to support the tourism in his constituency, which is why we so far have provided over 25 billion in support, including 1.5 billion to support projects such as the Carnegie Theatre Trust. And since this week is English Tourism Week, Mr. Speaker, I encourage everyone to make the most of the tourism on their doorstep.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (25:51)
Let’s go to Stephen Farry. Stephen.
Stephen Farry: (25:54)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The EU settlement scheme closes on the 30th of June. While the home office has finally published guidance on debt applications, the government is failing to provide clarity. What will happen to those who miss the deadline and then fall under the remit of illegal working legislation? So can the Prime Minister assure the House that EU citizens or non-EU family members who’d missed the deadline will not face potential criminal liability if they continue to go into work?
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (26:26)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (26:26)
Mr. Speaker, I’m sure that the law will be extremely merciful to anybody who finds themselves in a difficult position. But I would just remind the honorable gentlemen that so far 5.4 million EU nationals have applied successfully for the EU settlement scheme. Which is about, as far as I remember, about two million more EU nationals than we thought were in the country in the first place.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (26:48)
Simon Baynes: (26:49)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Would the Prime Minister join with me in praising Wrexham and Devonshire Councils for the dynamic proposals that they are putting forward in their joint bid for the leveling up fund in Clwyd South? Including regeneration of the Trevor Basin, improvements for Churkin [inaudible 00:27:06], and investment in Corban Station and the surrounding area?
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (27:10)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (27:10)
Can I tell my honorable friend what a joy it is to hear him campaigning for [inaudible 00:27:16] and Corwin and [Clandofin 00:27:18] after I tramped around those beautiful places, entirely fruitlessly, many, many years ago in search of a conservative vote. Thank you for what you’ve done. Thank you for continuing to champion those wonderful, wonderful, and beautiful spots.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (27:33)
Gerald Jones: (27:34)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When any member of this House is suspended for 10 days or more because of a Standards Committee report, constituents can then recall that member. When the independent expert panels suspend a member, this can’t happen. The Prime Minister, a moment ago, was talking about closing loopholes in legislation. So will the Prime Minister introduce emergency legislation to close this particular loophole? And does he agree that it would be completely dishonorable for any member to exploit that loophole, and should instead do the decent thing and resign?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (28:07)
Mr. Speaker, I will take that point very sincerely. I will study what the implications of what he says. I think if he’s referring to any conservative member who’s recently had the whip taken away, then he can take it to that member who’s already had a condign punishment.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (28:25)
[crosstalk 00:28:25] Fletcher.
Ms. Fletcher: (28:27)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And last Thursday, at about one o’clock in the morning, three young people popped out to [Mickey D’s 00:28:36], as you do. And they noticed a [Leyland 00:28:39] shop massively on fire. And did they drive past? No, they rang the fire brigade. They stopped. They recruited a passer-by. They climbed over fences and walls to raise the alarm for the residents living in the flats above them.
Ms. Fletcher: (28:52)
Now during the pandemic, community spirit’s been really important to all of us keeping going. So does the Prime Minister share my admiration for Kim, Zack, Shania, and Robin? And will you join me in thanking them for showing British community spirit and true Lancaster grit?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (29:08)
Yes. Mr. Speaker, I thank my wonderful friend for singling out this intrepid act of quick thinking and selflessness. And I pay tribute to Kim, Zack, Shania, and Robin. And I hope that they got their Micky D’s.
Speaker 15: (29:29)
There are over 4.3 million children, Mr. Speaker, and rising, growing up in poverty, including some 18,000 in [inaudible 00:29:37]. So will you agree to put right to the era of a previous prime minister and commit to publish a strategy to tackle child poverty and ensure that no child is left behind.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (29:49)
Mr. Speaker, it’s vital that we tackle child poverty. And that’s why we are uniting and leveling up across the country with the biggest program of investment for a generation, if not more. But we’re also seeing fewer households now with children in poverty than 10 years ago. But I perfectly accept that there is more to be done.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (30:12)
Speaker 16: (30:13)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I very much welcome the fact that government is investing heavily in upgrading the rail networks across the country, including opening lines that have previously been closed. But as a conservative government, we’ve got a particular responsibility to the taxpayer to ensure value for money. East West Rail and my constituency’s business case is largely based on commuting, but the pandemic means we’re in the middle of a workplace revolution.
Speaker 16: (30:36)
If people work from home on average two days a week in future, that means a 40% reduction in commuting. Will my right honorable friend, the Prime Minister, commit to doing a review of the business place of East West Rail to ensure it remains value for money, and to take into account the long-term impact of the pandemic?
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (30:54)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (30:58)
Mr. Speaker, I think my honorable friend is a great campaigner for Cambridgeshire and the rights of the people of Cambridgeshire. However, my strong feeling is it would be a mistake now to go slow on investment in infrastructure, purely on the basis that we think people will start working from home. In my long experience of this is that people need to travel. They will travel. The commuter bustle will come back, Mr. Speaker, and it needs to come back.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (31:22)
Speaker 17: (31:22)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A global minimum rate for corporate tax would help tackle tax avoidance by large multinational corporations and online giants. It would stop them undercutting British businesses who pay their fair share, and it would make a transformational difference to high streets and town centers at the heart of communities across the UK. Why is the Prime Minister the only G7 leader not to support this proposal? Why is he on the side of tax avoiders instead of British businesses and communities?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (31:57)
Mr. Speaker, it was only a few months ago that the labor party, labor front bench, opposed the corporation tax increases that we put in. They’re now opposed to the government’s ability to cut corporation tax. Which side are they on? They got to make their minds up.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (32:13)
Let’s go to Sir Robert Neill. Robert.
Sir Robert Neill: (32:16)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Like me, the Prime Minister represents the constituents in London’s commuter land. So he’ll be well aware of the small businesses, sole traders, many of them, who operate the coffee stores and news agents and so on, on our railway stations. Their incomes have been absolutely decimated during the pandemic, but they’re finding, like my constituents [inaudible 00:32:40] station that when they seek to get a reduced level of rent to reflect their reduced turnover, their train operating companies claim that the funding agreement put in place with the Department of Transport doesn’t give them the discretion to do so. The department appears to say differently, and they’ve been going around in circles for months, trying to get an answer. Will the Prime Minister use the authority of his office, please, to bang heads together and get a solution for them. Because if they go broke and we have empty units, that’s no income for anybody.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (33:11)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my right honorable friend. We provided… We put injuries policy to provide rent relief for station businesses in March of last year. All train operators, including [Southeastern 00:33:23] in his constituency, are able to offer business support to their stations. I understand the point he makes about the discrepancy views. Can I undertake to him to arrange a meeting with him and the relevant minister to take it forward.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (33:37)
Let’s go to Rachel [Muskel 00:33:39]. Rachel.
Rachel Muskel: (33:41)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have asked the Prime Minister a series of questions about charities. In November, he promised support. By March, he turned his back. But this month, he broke that promise, giving them nothing this winter. His words and deeds are as unfaithful as his principles and beliefs. [inaudible 00:33:59] the commitment to honor his word, the capacity to care, nor the compassion to act. Does the Prime Minister really believe that charity is all about supporting him and his lifestyle or recognize charities now 10 billion in debt and struggling to survive need government support to help people in real need?
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (34:17)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (34:18)
Mr. Speaker, I think charities perform an amazing and invaluable role in our society and in our lives. And we need them. And that’s why we’ve supported charities shops throughout the lockdown with grants and with restart grants. And the roadmap means those shops are now able to open again.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (34:39)
But in addition, we had a 750 million pound targeted package of support for charities, helping more than 14,000 organizations across the country, including funding for hospices, homelessness charities, and shelters for victims of domestic abuse and many others, Mr. Speaker.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (34:59)
Speaker 18: (34:59)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The fishing industry in East Anglia has had a hard time of it in recent years. However, with Brexit done, albeit in a way that left many disappointed, there is now an opportunity to turn the corner. The reef that’s the main source of East Anglian fisheries strategy sets out an exciting and ambitious program for the future. Is the Prime Minister able to say how the government will work with fishing communities, such as that in Lowestoft, to revive the industry in East Anglia?
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (35:27)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (35:29)
Yes, Mr. Speaker. I thank my honorable friend for what he’s doing to champion the fisheries industry in East Anglia. I like his reef plan. I think it’s got lots of interesting ideas, which we will take forward as part of our 100 billion pound package to support the fishing industry and get ready to take advantage of those opportunities, which are coming very, very swiftly down the track towards us.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle: (35:51)
Ben [inaudible 00:35:53].
[inaudible 00:35:53] Mr. Speaker. NHS and social care staff in Wales are due to receive a 500 pound bonus in recognition of their hard work during the pandemic. But staff on universal credit stand to lose out if through the waiting-
… but staff on Universal Credit stand to lose out, due to the way in which the reward is recognized in regulations as earned income. So instead of receiving a thank you bonus at the end of the month, many NHS and social care staff will be punished with a deduction of up to 63% to their Universal Credit. Will the prime minister look to amend Regulation 55 of the Universal Credit regulations, to create an exemption to ensure that all NHS and social care staff in Wales benefit fully from this well-deserved bonus?
Mr. Speaker: (36:28)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (36:28)
I’m grateful to him for raising that point, and of course, I want to repeat my gratitude to the nurses of this country, the NHS and social care staff who’ve done incredible work throughout this pandemic. He makes a particular point about the UC, the tapering in Universal Credit, and I will make sure that he has a meeting with the relevant minister who will set out the detail on the issue he’s raised.
Mr. Speaker: (36:53)
Let’s go to Jonathan Lord. Jonathan.
Jonathan Lord: (36:57)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On behalf of my constituent, Seema Misra, and other wrongly convicted sub postmasters, I’m grateful that the vital inquiry of Sir Wyn Williams into this scandal has now been given more teeth. However, there is widespread concern shared by Post Office CEO, Nick Read, that the compensation received by the sub postmasters who were party to the civil litigation at the High Court was simply not fair. Can I urge the prime minister to ensure that these civil litigant sub postmasters will be included in the anticipated government compensation scheme.
Mr. Speaker: (37:36)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (37:38)
I thank you for raising this issue. And I might say a tragic case of injustice, and I’ve met some of the postmasters and sub postmasters who’ve been affected by this miscarriage of justice, as he knows. The government wasn’t party to the initial litigation, nor the settlement that was agreed, but we are determined to ensure that postmasters, sub postmasters, are fairly compensated for what happened.
Mr. Speaker: (38:09)
Angus Brendan MacNeil.
Angus Brendan MacNeil: (38:11)
Mr. Speaker, Brexit and Scottish independence are indeed very definitely, but referendums are much the same. Now in 2016, without interference, the European Union respected the UK in the Brexit referendum process. Unfortunately the last Scottish referendum did not see Scotland get the same respect. London politicians promised Scotland their place in the European Union. Clearly they won that referendum very clearly on broken promises. In the autumn when the Scots government has dealt with the health effects of the pandemic, the economic part will require independence as Norway and Ireland prove. So prime minister, will Scotland be shown the same respect in the UK as the UK got in the EU? And this time, can our democracy not be interfered with and our referendum certainly not blocked.
Mr. Speaker: (38:54)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (38:55)
Mr. Speaker, we respected the referendum result of 2014, which was a very substantial majority in favor of remaining in the UK, keeping our wonderful country together, not breaking it up. That was what the people of Scotland rightly voted for. And they did so in the belief that it was a once in a generation event.
Mr. Speaker: (39:21)
Alicia Kearns: (39:21)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. For almost 500 years, the Royal Navy has protected our country from foes and the freedom of our friends around the world. The pride of our navy, HMS Queen Elizabeth, sailed this week with her strike group. Within her, she carries the British values of freedom, justice, and democracy. So can my right honorable friend tell me, as she makes her way from the Mediterranean to the South China Sea, what are his plans for the future of her white ensign?
Mr. Speaker: (39:46)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (39:47)
It was fantastic to be aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is a vessel longer than the Palace of Westminster itself, Mr. Speaker, and forms a more eloquent statement in many ways than many of the speeches or indeed interventions that we’ve heard this afternoon about Britain’s role in the world. And our determination to expand shipbuilding and expand our naval presence, which not only is good for the UK and good for the world, but good for jobs and growth around the country.
Mr. Speaker: (40:20)
Speaker 19: (40:21)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. COVID has now triggered the first global rise in extreme poverty this century. But at the G7, the prime minister could act. He can ask leaders to reallocate the IMF’s $1 trillion worth of special drawing rights and restock the World Bank’s 83 billion pounds worth of IDA fund. This is a multi-billion pound package of support for the world’s poorest. So will the prime minister today commit to leading this argument at the G7, so a pandemic of disease doesn’t now become a pandemic of poverty?
Mr. Speaker: (40:59)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (40:59)
I thank him, it’s great to see him in his place I say, Mr. Speaker. And actually, I’ve already had, always great to see him in his place, I’ve had conversations on that very matter already with Kristalina Georgieva.
Mr. Speaker: (41:16)
Laura Trott: (41:17)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. One of the many awful things about the past year has been the inability to visit family and friends in hospital. It’s caused immense anguish for many of my constituents. We’re seeing some progress locally, and I hope with the brilliant rollout of the vaccine, we will see more. But can the prime minister inform the house when we will see normal visiting hours resumed for all hospitals nationwide?
Mr. Speaker: (41:40)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (41:41)
I know she speaks for many, many millions of people who have wanted to visit loved ones, Mr. Speaker, and I know the anguish that they have felt. We need to balance those feelings, which are wholly legitimate and right, with the need to manage the risk of infection. As I know, she understands very well. And we’ll be updating the guidance as soon as it’s possible to do so.
Mr. Speaker: (42:04)
Zarah Sultana: (42:05)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Tallah 00:42:07], 13; [Rula 00:42:09], just five years old, her big sister, [Yara 00:42:11], aged nine, three Palestinian children killed in an Israeli airstrike. The Israeli military murdered 63 other children and 245 Palestinians in its recent assault on Gaza. The call for Palestinian freedom has never been louder. But this Conservative government is complicit in its denial. It has approved more than 400 million pounds in arms to Israel since 2015. So can the prime minister look me in the eye and tell me that British made weapons or components weren’t used in the war crimes that killed these three children and hundreds of other Palestinians?
Mr. Speaker: (42:48)
Speaker 20: (42:48)
Prime minister, we shouldn’t use props, just to remind members.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (42:51)
Mr. Speaker. I think that the whole house understands that nobody wants to see any more of the conflict, of the appalling conflict that we’ve seen in Israel and Gaza. And everybody wants to … I think we’re all glad that there’s now a ceasefire and a deescalation. And as for the position of the British government, I think that it’s probably common ground across most members of this house, that what we want to see is a two state solution, Mr. Speaker. That is what the UK government has campaigned for many, many years. And that continues to be our position.
Mr. Speaker: (43:27)
I’m now suspending the house for three minutes to enable necessary arrangements to be made for the next business. Order.