Prime Minister's Questions 16/05/2018
- Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are going head to head from noon
- The Tories have announced they will publish a major new Brexit paper next month
- It was also revealed last night that 63 Windrush citizens may have been wrongly deported
16/05/18 Reverse order Timestamp format
Hello and welcome to the PoliticsHome PMQs liveblog, serving all your political needs over the next hour or more. Stay tuned for minute-by-minute coverage, including all the best tweets and full quotes of the vital exchanges. Before 12.00 I'll be noting down what I think is most likely to come up, but in the meantime here's the list of MPs waiting to needle the PM.
WHAT COULD JEREMY CORBYN ASK THERESA MAY ABOUT?
Sajid Javid handed Jeremy Corbyn a bit of a gift yesterday when he revealed some 63 Windrush migrants (aka British citizens) may have been wrongly deported under the illegal immigration crackdown. The Labour leader was fairly strong on the Windrush stuff few weeks ago at the height of the saga and the Government remains without doubt on the backfoot. There are numerous angles of detail he could probe and a range of attack lines he could take.
The PM could obviously argue that those deportations are since 2002 - so some may have been kicked out of the country under the previous Labour government. But it's the clean-up operation that matters now and the Government should be fully in charge.
Labour MP David Lammy (thought of as yet another Shadow Shadow Home Secretary alongside Yvette Cooper) was on the airwaves this morning saying many of those sent back overseas to Jamaica will have ended up "dead or destitute". The stage has been well and truly set for Corbyn.
There are also questions to ask about the number detained in immigration centres. Asked about that at the Home Affairs Committee yesterday Sajid Javid said he did not know the answer. The Home Office says it has not yet come across any cases.
WHAT ELSE COULD JEREMY CORBYN ASK ABOUT AT PMQs?
The Labour leader had a good showing last week when he asked about Brexit - and since it went so well might want to try his hand on that one again. However things are looking a little tricky for the Labour leader after both his Shadow Brexit Minister Paul Blomfield and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said EEA membership was not off the table after Brexit. This seems to fly in the face of what a spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said on Monday. Check our story out here.
Other options include: Corbyn could well bring up the slaughter in Gaza after more than 50 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and thousands were injured. The Israel/Palestine conflict is one of his favourite foreign policy issues and no doubt he will be eager to put more pressure on the PM to stand up to Israel. It's also one of the things he speaks most passionately about, so good headline soundbites are possible.
Two powerful Commons committees today laid into Carillion bosses over the collapse of the country. A good opportunity for the Labour leader to take a swipe at big business?
It's mental health awareness week this week and it's a strong topic for the Labour leader. However those kinds of sessions can always degenerate into stats-trading that goes nowhere.
WHAT COULD IAN BLACKFORD ASK THERESA MAY ABOUT?
Blackford will all but definitely ask about the 'constitutional crisis' after the Government announced it would railroad over the will of Holyrood and impose its Withdrawal Bill on the Scotland alongside the other home nations. MSPs voted 93-30 not to give legislative content to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which the Government says is essential to prevent legal chaos on day one of Brexit. The Scottish government has accused the Conservatives of a "power grab" because it will mean some areas which are currently devolved will initially come under Westminster control when they are returned from Brussels. Read our story here.
It's too good an opportunity for Blackford not to take up to push the independence cause.
PMQs is just about to start. Speaker John Bercow announces that the two police officers who apprehended Thomas Mair when he attacked and killed Jo Cox are watching in the chamber. MPs give them a great round of applause.
The PM is on her feet and she wishes her best to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their wedding this weekend. She pays tribute to Harry's work on mental health (it's mental health awareness week) and pays tribute to the two watching police officers.
JEREMY CORBYN QUESTION #1
Jeremy Corbyn is on his feet. He thanks the Speaker for welcoming the two police officers and pays tribute to them as well as all police officers across the country. He also wishes Harry and Meghan all the best and thanks the Prince for his work on mental health.
The Labour is asking about BREXIT. He wants to know if 'as little friction as possible' is a reference to EU trade or the next Cabinet meeting. His question gets the house roaring and even Theresa May has to crack a smile. Liam Fox is not smiling.
"Mr Speaker when the Prime Minister wrote at the weekend that she wanted 'as little friction as possible' was she talking about EU trade or the next Cabinet meeting?"
The PM lays out the Government lines but digs in on Labour Brexit woes. She says top Labour figures appear to have been backing a second referendum and asks him to rule one out.
"Can I say to the - I think the Rt Hon Gentleman knows full well that this government has a policy of leaving the customs union... and of ensuring that as we do so we have as frictionless trade as posisble with the EU, that we have a solution which ensures we have no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. And also that we have an independent trade policy.
"But if he's talking about friction perhaps he could reflect on the fact that this month the shadow health minister in the Lords voted for a second referendum, that at the weekend the shadow Brexit secretary refused to rule out a second referendum and on Monday the shadow international development minister tweeted in favour of a second referendum. So perhaps when he stands up he could put the minds of the British people and this house at rest and rule out a second referendum?"
JEREMY CORBYN QUESTION #2
The Labour leader ignores her and hits out at Cabinet splits. He asks how much trade friction she is willing to accept, arguing the issue is key for business.
"Mr Speaker the divisions i nthe cabinet mean there's been no progress in negotiations for five months. The reality is the cabinet is more interested in negotiating with each other than it is with the European Union. Mr Speaker the Prime Minister's promise of as little friction as possible is in stark contrast with the earlier commitment that it would be friction-free. So could the Prime Minister explain how much friction she is willing to accept? Businesses and workers in those companies need to know."
The PM responds that the Government wants as little friction as possible and the notion trade is currently friction-less is incorrect. She notes that the Government will be publishing its Big Brexit White Paper in the coming weeks.
"Can I say to the Rt Hon Gentleman that we want to ensure that we are able to continue to trade in as frictionless a way as possible? And the suggestion... that trade at the moment is entirely frictionless is actually not correct. But we have set, we have set three very simple objectives for a future customs union.
"Now I will say to this house that achieving those objectives which I've just set out is not easy. It is difficult. There will be some who will say, 'Actually forget about an independent trade policy'. That is not the position of this government.
"There may be some who say, 'don't worry about the Northern Irish border'. That is not the position of this government. It is absolutely right that we are aiming to achieve those three objectives. And when he talks about progress we'll be publishing a white paper in a few weeks which will show how much progress we are making on these issues."
JEREMY CORBYN QUESTION #3
Corbyn says uncertainty is putting jobs and investment at risk. He's really going for it to show Labour is on the side of business. He repeats warnings by Airbus that it could leave the UK and asks how many other businesses are thinking about upping sticks.
"Well Mr Speaker they're no nearer to agreeing a white paper than they are on the strategy for going forward. I would remind the Prime Minister that the UK is the slowest of the major economies and slower than the Eurozone in growth as a whole. The uncertainty and recklessness of government is putting jobs and investment at risk.
"Last week Airbus confirmed their space contract will move abroad post-Brexit. And the company has gone on to say it's considering its overall position in the UK because of the government's complete lack of clarity. How many other businesses have warned the Prime Minister that they too are considering their future in this country?"
The PM mocks Corbyn for calling for the immediate triggering of Article 50 after the referendum, and says Labour would have "sold Britain out".
"The Right Honourable Gentleman talks about preparations in the negotiations and the white paper. Let's just remember what his position was. His position was that we should have triggered Article 50 immediately after the referendum, with no work having been done in preparation for the negotiations. He wouldn't even have had a white page, let alone a White Paper to base his negotiations on. And what would that have led to? What Labour do every time in government - they'd have sold Britain out."
JEREMY CORBYN QUESTION #4
The Labour leader says the problem is the Cabinet don't agree, and he lists of some car manufacturers who are worried about the future.
He notes Michael Gove saying the 'customs partnership' option preferred by the PM is "flawed". He says if the Cabinet can't be convinced how will the EU 27 be convinced?
"The Problem is Mr Speaker the Prime Minister's own position isn't even supported by her Cabinet. Rolls Royce have said: 'we're worried about border checks, we need to be thoughful and careful' about future investments. Ford: 'Any sort of border restrictions and customs frictions is going to be an inhibitor to us continuing'. Vauxhall: 'We cannot continue to invest in a world of uncertainty'.
"Mr Speaker, businesses are understandably frustrated by this government. This week the Environment Secretary gave his view on the Prime Minister's preferred customs partnership model. He said: 'There have to be significant question marks over the deliverability of it on time, as it has flaws'. Well at least he didn't call it 'crazy' like the Foreign Secretary.
"But Mr Speaker - if the Prime Minister cannot even convince her own Cabinet of her strategy, what chance does she have of convincing 27 other European countries?"
The PM goes with the line that the Government has managed to strike deals against the odds at each step of the way so far. Then she boasts about jobs stats.
"Can I say to the Rt Hon Gentleman that he has taken this view of our position in negotiations before. Before December he said we wouldn't get a joint report and we did. Before March he said we wouldn't get an implementation period and we did. And we continue to negotiate.
"But if he's asking about what British businesses are doing, I'll tell him what British businesses are doing. They're creating more jobs in this country, so we now have records of employment in this country. What did we see under Labour? Half a million more people unemployed because Labour governments always leave office with more people out of work than when they went in."
JEREMY CORBYN QUESTION #5
Corbyn has a response: He "congratulates" her on zero hours contracts and more people in poverty.
He congratulates her on having a divided Cabinet.
After an intervention by Bercow to quiet things down he wants to know how many HMRC officials have been recruited to work on Brexit.
"Can I congratulate the Prime Minister on record numbers of zero hours contracts, record numbers of people in in-work poverty? And a record of wages lower today than they were ten years ago.
"And can I also congratulate the Prime Minister on formally dividing her cabinet into rival camps - as if it needed doing - to look at two different models? And as a process, Mr Speaker, of Parliamentary scrutiny I hope both sub-committees will be reporting directly to this House so we can all make up our minds on the rival factiuons in her own cabinet?
"Mr Speaker, while her government dithers, the Dutch govt has now begun training the first batch of extra customs officials to deal with the reintroduction of customs checks for British goods at Dutch borders...
It's a very straightforward question - how many HMRC additional staff have been recruited in order to deal with Brexit?"
The PM fails to answer but hits back on the zero hours contracts issue - insisting many new jobs are not zero-hours.
"As he knows we are indeed making preparations for all contingencies, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced money which has been allocated to departments to make those necessary preparations. But can I just correct him on what he said at the beginning of his question? Because at the beginning of his question he referred to zero hours contracts?
"In fact if we look at the increase in employment almost two-thirds of the rise in employment over the last year has been from full-time work. Over three-quarters of the growth in employment since 2010 has been in full-time work. And around 70% of the rise in employment since 2010 has come from high-skilled work so perhaps when he stands up he will welcome the jobs that have been created under this government."
JEREMY CORBYN QUESTION #6
Corbyn says any boosts to HMRC won't match recent cuts anyway.
He says just 10 months to complete negotiations and the Government is in disarray. He paints a pretty bleak picture of the future, turning the anger on for his Facebook clip. He wants to know why the PM doesn't "step aside" and let Labour have a go. The House goes wild.
"Mr Speaker the question I asked the Prime Minister was how many more HMRC officials are being recruited? She hasn't answered it. Can I help her to say that the claims that they're recruiting more won't even make up for the cuts made in the last eight years. It seems that the Dutch government is more prepared for dealing with Brexit than the British government is.
"Mr Speaker we've had 23 months since the referendum. We have just ten months to complete negotiations. And the government is in complete disarray. On both sides of the negotiations the reality is dawning that deadlines are at risk of not being met. More and more jobs are at risk as more and more businesses openly consider the options of relocating their jobs elsewhere.
"The Government is so busy, so busy negotiating with itself it cannnot negotiate with anybody else. Mr Speaker, if the Prime Minister cannot negotiate a good deal for Britain why doesn't she step aside and let Labour negotiate a comprehensive new customs union and living standards backed by trade unions and business in this country? Step aside and make way for those who will."
The PM insists things are on track on Brexit and says the public "cannot trust a word" Labour says. She says they went back on promises on free trade deals, student debt and tackling anti-Semitism.
"Mr Speaker what he have seen under this government is more jobs being created, more high-paid jobs being created. We have seen us delivering on our December joint report on Brexit and on our March report with the implementation period.
"But let's actually look to see what we would see from the Labour Party. Because from Labour you simply cannot trust a word that they say. They promised, they said they'd strike new trade deals. But what do they want? They want to be in a customs union that ensures they cannot strike new trade deals. Promise broken.
"They said that they would scrap student debt, yet after the election they went back on that. Promise broken.
"They said they would tackle anti-Semitism. Promise broken.
It is only the Conservative Party that can be trusted by the British people to deliver a Brexit that is in the interests of British people to deliver opportunity for all and a Britain that is fit for the future."
ANALYSIS: That wasn't a bad exchange but we didn't learn anything particularly new. What's interesting is that Corbyn is feeling increasingly emboldened to try to pile the pressure on over Brexit. What's even more interesting is he's being spurred on to do it by splits in the Cabinet. Something in the past he was reluctant to exploit.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford is, as expected, talking about Holyrood rejecting the EU Withdrawal Bill last night.
He wants the Government to work with the Scottish Government to amend the bill.
The PM says the bill respects devolution but allows the UK to respect the integrity of its own market. She notes that other assemblies have agreed.
Blackford says the PM should respect the vote if she respects the Scottish parliament. He says the Tories are trying to "veto" Holyrood and breaking the 20-year-old devolution settlement.
The PM says, in short, 'no'.
Labour MP Jenny Chapman wants to know why half of people referred for mental health treatment by GPs are not getting care.
The PM says the Government has boosted cash and training for mental health but admits there is more to do because for too many years mental health was not treated as it should have been.
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock hits out at plummeting foreign investment in steel. He asks the PM to "keep an open mind" on the UK joining Efta and staying in the EEA.
Bercow cuts in to stop Kinnock banging on ... he was asking his question for a good while.
The PM lays out the Government position on Brexit.
THERESA MAY COMMITS TO FUNDING FOR FLAMMABLE CLADDING REPLACEMENTS IN WAKE OF GRENFELL TRAGEDY
Tory MP Bob Blackman says the anniversary of the Grenfell tragedy is approaching but too few of the survivors have homes of their own. He wants an update on how the Government is making sure buildings are safe.
The PM says 210 households are still in a new home while 201 have accepted temporary of permanent accommodation officers. She says fire experts have been checking buildings and local authorities are urged to replace dangerous cladding.
BREAKING: She says the Government will fund the replacement of cladding at a cost of £400m.
Tory MP Owen Paterson is back after breaking his back in a horse riding accident. Wearing a neck brace, he pays tribute to the hospital where he was treated.
He urges the PM to quit the single market, "any customs union" and the remit of the ECJ. He says voters will be rather angry if not.
The PM welcomes him back and says the Government is delivering on the referendum result and will get "the best deal" it can for the UK.
Tory MP Giles Watling notes the votes against Leveson 2.
The PM says doing so is an "important underpinning of democracy". She says high standards are expected of the press. She says MPs don't have to agree with what gets printed but freedom is vital.
Tory MP Helen Whately raises uni students killing themselves due to mental health issues. She wants a focus on mental health in higher education as well as in schools.
The PM says she will look into it.
Labour MP Gordon Marsden wants the PM to commit to the Erasmus programme for after Brexit.
She says the Government "may wish to remain part" of the scheme - but there's a negotiation going on.
Tory MP Huw Merriman notes the Arsenal tie the Speaker is wearing. He asks about Brexit, trade and Africa.
The PM offers some warm words about trade in Africa after Brexit.
Tory Alex Shelbrooke wants to know about royal navy funding.
The PM says defence funding is "significant".
Labour MP Karen Buck says the "time is rapidly running out" to get the closest possible relationship with the single market after Brexit. she wants a vote on the EEA ASAP.
The PM says there are bills coming before the House that PMs will get to vote on.
Superfast broadband klaxon. Matt Hancock has woken up.
Tory MP Ross Thomson says Scottish Labour and Lib Dems have become the "midwives of the SNP's crusade" to tear up the union.
The PM says the Government has worked hard on its Brexit devolution proposals and it was a "shame" the SNP could not agree.
DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds asks about the constituency boundary reviews. He wants to know if the PM has thought about the way it would change the proportion of MPs in Government and notes the stalemate at Stormont.
The PM says she wants the issues at Stormont to be resolved.
Lib Dem MP Tim Farron (remember him?) is complaining about train connection issues in the north.
He wants the PM to agree it's an "outrage" as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling looks unimpressed.
The PM says Grayling is looking into issues with Northern Rail.
Tory Kevin Hollinrake wants to ensure bankers at Lloyds, RBS and HBOS are held to account for failures.
The PM says the FCA is looking into the matters arising from both cases.
Labour MP Siobhhain McDonagh sings "in the money" in the Commons after Sainsbury's boss Mike Coupe was caught doing the same as the firm prepared a tie-in with Asda. She says constituents are in line for pay cuts at the hands of the firm.
The PM says the hard work of such staff is recognised and she will look into the issue. However she adds that such decisions are commercial.
And that's the end of PMQs for another week. I'll post a summary shortly.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED AT PMQs?
- Theresa May announced that the Government would spend £400,000 replacing flammable cladding on tower blocks around the country in the wake of the Grenfell disaster
- Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn clashed over Brexit for the second week in a row
- The two party leaders exploited splits in each others' parties over their approaches to leaving the EU
- They also traded blows over zero-hours contracts
- Speaker John Bercow accused the Government of an "abuse" of parliament for tabling statements in time allocated for opposition debates.
- Scottish Tory MP Huw Merriman accused Labour and the Lib Dems north of the border of acting as "midwives to the SNP crusade" to tear up the union, amid a row over devolved powers after Brexit.
That's it for this week. Come back for more live action next week, and in the meantime keep an eye on PoliticsHome.com for all the major updates.