Ben Bradshaw

Working Hard for Exeter


On the Bishops' Report

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

8. What discussions she has had with Church leaders on the vote by the General Synod to reject the bishops’ report on human sexuality; and if she will make a statement. [909032]

Dame Caroline Spelman

The majority of members of the General Synod voted to take note of the report of the House of Bishops, but the motion did not pass because a small majority was against it in the House of Clergy. Following that, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a statement committing them to find a way forward.

Mr Bradshaw

Was it not very significant that it was the clergy, who are in the frontline of providing pastoral care to their parishioners, who voted down the bishops’ paper? Is it not increasingly untenable for our Church, which enjoys significant privileges in this country because of its established status, to continue to discriminate against its own members simply because they happen to be gay?

Dame Caroline Spelman

There was a narrow margin in the House of Clergy vote—93 in favour of taking note to 100 against—but a majority is required in all Houses. The way forward, as outlined by the archbishops, is that the pastoral oversight group led by the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rev. Christine Hardman, will now work on how to be as generous as possible to welcome all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people into the Church and to include them in the work of the pastoral oversight group.

On the fishing industry

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

The Secretary of State knows that our fish processing industry is more important to our economy than the catching sector, and that it is very dependent on imports. We export more than 80% of what we catch, so is not maintaining tariff-free and other barrier-free access to the single European market more important than sterile arguments about fishing rights that could result in battles or worse?

​Andrea Leadsom

I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. Our fishing communities around the UK provide a vital vibrancy to local communities and the rural economy, so I do not agree with the suggestion that processing is somehow far more important. We will seek the freest possible access to European markets, but when I was in China last year I signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese worth £50 million, which included UK seafood. It will be very important for us to be able to find new export markets.

On a posthumous levy on estates

Mr Bradshaw

Will the Minister clarify the Government’s position on the idea of a posthumous levy on estates? The Chancellor ruled that out, yet we read in the newspapers that the Prime Minister slapped him down over that. Are the Government ruling it out or not?

Mr Dunne

I will not pre-empt anything in the Green Paper, and it is not for me to give the right hon. Gentleman any comfort on discussions that might or might not have happened around the Budget.

We recognise that the NHS and social care face huge pressures and that there is more for us as a Government to do. However, we can be confident that we have plans in place both to cope with the pressures that we currently face—winter, A&E pressures and delayed discharges—and to sustain the system for the future. We have a long-term plan in place through the “Five Year Forward View” and the efficiency work being undertaken and rolled out progressively this year. We have given extra funding to both the NHS and social care to support those plans, and we have plans to bring forward a Green Paper on social care. I am pleased that that was broadly welcomed and recognised by hon. Members and distinguished parliamentarians in the debate, and I am grateful for that support.​

Commons Interventions 2nd - 14th March

On the Bishops' Report Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) 8. What discussions she has had with Church leaders on the vote by the General Synod to reject the bishops’ report...

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I think there is a consensus in Westminster Hall, informed by multiple Select Committee reports that have highlighted the crisis in our health and social care system. My clinical commissioning group is facing a £40 million deficit. My local hospital, which is one of the best run in the country, is facing a £20 million deficit. It is obvious that that simply is not sustainable.

As other colleagues have pointed out, accident and emergency figures are deteriorating, waiting times are lengthening and there are increasing difficulties in seeing a GP. In Devon, we face controversial plans to close community hospital beds and to close a number of community hospitals completely. That is not an accident; it is the result of seven years of the most stringent restraint on NHS investment in its history, combined with 40% cuts to social care when we have a growing elderly population and increasing demand. The issue was exacerbated by the disastrous Lansley reforms in the Health and Social Care Act 2012—the biggest structural upheaval in the NHS’s history— implemented at the same time as maximum spending restraint.

As well as that organisational upheaval, we face a workforce crisis in health and social care, as the Chair of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) pointed out. That has been exacerbated by the uncertainty over Brexit. Until recently, the Government have appeared pretty oblivious to all that. The £2 billion extra in the Budget was welcome, but it is a drop in the ocean compared with the amount of money that is needed.

I welcome the commitment in the Green Paper to look root and branch at a sustainable funding solution for health and social care. I worry, however, that a Green Paper is often a euphemism for kicking an issue into the green grass. I would like to see a policy announcement or a White Paper. As colleagues have pointed out, we have had much cross-party support. One proposal was scuppered in the run-up to the last general election. I worry that to grapple with the issue in the second half of a Parliament is not sensible timing. Governments need to get a grip on the issue at the beginning of a Parliament so that there is maximum time for cross-party working to get something in place. I am not optimistic that the Green Paper will come to a conclusion.

We also need to have an honest conversation with the British public about how we fund health and social care. I share Members’ regret that the Chancellor seems to have ruled out any sort of posthumous levy on people’s estates. We need to look at all options, including the excellent sugar tax that was recommended by our Select Committee. It is already having a dramatic effect in getting drinks manufacturers to reduce the sugar in their products and therefore improve public health.

Finally, we would like the Government to end the uncertainty over EU nationals working here in our health and social care system. They could do that today when the Prime Minister stands up in the House and gives her statement on article 50. That would give a huge boost to morale and end the uncertainty. People are already leaving, and the system is not able to recruit. That workforce crisis will do more damage in the short term than anything else.​

Health and Social Care Speech

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) I think there is a consensus in Westminster Hall, informed by multiple Select Committee reports that have highlighted the crisis in our health and social...

On diesel emissions:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

The penalty is going to be the millions of pounds of fines faced by our constituents because of the Government’s failure to act. When are we going to hear about some practical action from the Government to reduce the number of diesel vehicles? The Minister has not answered the question. Air pollution is the second biggest avoidable killer after smoking.

​Mr Hayes

Let us be clear: we have made real progress to date. In 2016, the UK was the largest market for ultra-low emission vehicles in the EU and a global leader in this development.

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, in the spirit of bipartisan generosity that characterises all he does in the House, will welcome the announcement in the autumn statement setting out a further £290 million of funding for ultra-low emission vehicles. He says that he wants action, but what more action does he want than the policy, the legislation and the resources—we are taking action. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is feeling grumpy because it is Thursday morning, but he really ought to welcome that.

On Jamal al-Harith:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

It is not good enough for the Minister, as the Prime Minister’s official spokesman did yesterday, simply to hide behind intelligence as an excuse for not answering the most basic questions about this dreadful case, so let me try a policy question: what assessment has he made of the impact of the ​coalition Government’s disastrous decision to scrap Labour’s control orders and his ability to monitor people like this?

Mr Wallace

The right hon. Gentleman forgets the position of Labour’s control orders before the courts. Funnily enough, as I pointed out earlier, his Government did not seem to have quite the right regard for the Human Rights Act 1998 or the rule of law that they should and were constantly seeing their measures struck down. We do believe that TPIMs are a good policy—one of the tools in the toolbox to enable us to monitor these people. We will use them wherever we can and whenever we need to do so, to make sure that we do everything to keep people who pose a threat under control. So far, we have not abandoned them or failed to use them when the need presents itself.


Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I raised my concerns about the contracting out of the patient record service to SBS back in 2011, and I was told by the Secretary of State’s predecessor that this was about saving money. Will he tell us how much money has been saved, given all the problems, and how many of the 708,000 patients affected are in the south-west?

Mr Hunt

The south-west was one of the regions affected, as I mentioned in my statement. I am happy to write to the right hon. Gentleman to tell him exactly how many patients I think were affected in the south-west. I gently say to him that the use of the private sector was championed when his Government were in office and when he was a Health Minister. I know that this is not ​very fashionable in his party at the moment, but on this side of the House, we think that if we want the NHS to be the safest and best in the world, we should be open—

On cider duty:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

When considering beer duty, will the Minister maintain, or at least not further erode, the differential with cider duty? Labour’s lower cider duty has led to a fantastic renaissance in both cider drinking and orchard planting in England, but if the differential is narrowed any further I am afraid it will do untold damage to our cider makers.

Jane Ellison

I am well aware of the sensitivities around the duty bands, on which we have received a number of representations, and of the renaissance not just in the industry to which the right hon. Gentleman refers but, for example, in respect of the number of microbreweries and the flourishing investment in that area. There have been a number of good news stories in this sector in recent years.

Commons Interventions 23rd - 28th February

On diesel emissions: Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) The penalty is going to be the millions of pounds of fines faced by our constituents because of the Government’s failure to...

On EU Referendum debate

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Does not my hon. Friend’s point show, as does the fact that hon. Members are now restricted to just three minutes per speech, how outrageous it is that the Government are allocating just three days for detailed scrutiny of the most important Bill this country has faced in our lifetimes?

On the National Funding Formula

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

4. What representations she has received on the effect of the proposed funding formula on schools in Devon; and if she will make a statement. [908589]

The Minister for School Standards (Mr Nick Gibb)

We received 6,000 responses to the first stage of the consultation on the national funding formula, which sets out the principles and factors to be used in the formula. We continue to receive representations on the second stage of the consultation, which closes on 22 March. Our proposals for funding reform will mean that schools will, for the first time, receive a consistent and fair share of the schools budget, addressing the anachronistic unfair funding system that has been in place since 2005.

Mr Bradshaw

Exeter schools already suffer a double whammy—they are in one of the lowest funded counties in England, and they have to subsidise the high cost of providing school transport and keeping open small rural schools—yet the new funding formula will actually make them worse off. How will the Minister explain that to my constituents and to the schools themselves?

Mr Gibb

In Devon, as a result of the new funding formula and on the basis of the figures for 2016-17, school funding would rise from £377.2 million to £378.7 million, an increase of 0.4%. In the right hon. Gentleman’s Exeter constituency, there will be no overall change in the level of funding, although there will of course be changes between schools. Whenever we introduce a new national formula and illustrate it on the basis of the current year’s figures—in this case, 2016-17—some schools will inevitably gain and others will lose. Overall, 54% of schools across the country will gain under the new national funding formula.

On Russian Interference

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

What did the Prime Minister say to her fellow European leaders about her assessment of the Trump-Putin relationship, and specifically about Russian interference in western democracies, including our own?

The Prime Minister

Concern has been expressed both at this Council meeting and at others about the role that Russia is playing, in a number of ways, with its interference.

On the EMA

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

The Health Secretary told the Health Committee the other day that he had already thrown in the towel on the EMA—that we were leaving it and giving up the headquarters in London, along with hundreds of jobs, meaning far slower approval of vital drugs in this country and the loss of all our influence and all those jobs.

Chris Leslie

Yes, and, again, we have heard no strategic alternatives from the Government and have no idea what their plan will be.

On NHS Funding

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Is it not a coincidence that, whenever we hear about disastrous figures for NHS performance and a huge deterioration in waiting times, as we did at the weekend, the Government re-announce yet another measure to crack down on health tourism? Is not the main problem with our health and social care system the fact that it is chronically underfunded, and that this Government are doing nothing about it?

Mr Hunt

I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what we are doing about the underfunding. We are raising three times more from international visitors than when he was a Health Minister, and that is paying for doctors, nurses and better care for older people in his constituency and in all our constituencies.

On EU Negotiations

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I welcome, as my hon. and learned Friend does, the concession from the Government Benches, but does he agree that, as well as the timing, it is the scope of that vote that will be absolutely vital? As the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) says, if we are faced with a choice ​between a hard Brexit and World Trade Organisation rules, that is no choice—the Government will have to go back and renegotiate.

Keir Starmer

At the moment, I agree that we should have as big a say as possible on all of this, but I do not want to understate what has been conceded in the last 10 minutes. I do take the point, but where we have made significant progress on scrutiny and accountability, we should recognise where we have got to.

On EU Withdrawal

Mr Bradshaw

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for tabling and speaking to this new clause, which I think is important in view of the concerns expressed on all sides of the Committee about the so-called concession offered earlier by the Government Front-Bench team. Will my hon. Friend confirm that she will press her new clause to a vote?

Helen Goodman

I may wish to test the will of the Committee on this new clause when we reach the end of the debate.​
I think most rational people would say that the new relationship is more important than the terms of withdrawal.

On EU Withdrawal Debates

Mr Bradshaw

Does that not make it even more important for the House of Lords to take its time to consider everything that we have not been able to discuss here, and indeed much of what we have?

I do not wish to give advice to the other place, because it is possible to get into trouble if we do that. I simply say that it is fortunate for democracy and accountability that there is an opportunity for the other place to give more consideration and time to these matters, without being subjected to programme motions in the same way as we are.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to these amendments. I shall support new clause 2 and a number of other amendments, but particularly my amendment 29.

Commons Interventions 1st - 9th February 2017

On EU Referendum debate Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) Does not my hon. Friend’s point show, as does the fact that hon. Members are now restricted to just three minutes...

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

On 23 June, the British public voted to leave the European Union. Leaving the single market and the customs union was not on the ballot paper, and nor was the even worse option of falling back on World Trade Organisation rules, yet that is what this Conservative Government are now pursuing with no mandate.

Yesterday, the Centre for Cities published a report showing that Exeter, which voted remain, is the most dependent community in Britain on exports to the rest of the European Union. We send 70% of what we export to other EU countries and just 7% to the United States. My neighbouring city of Plymouth, which voted leave, is second on that list, sending 68% of its exports to the European Union. The south-west of England as a whole is the most dependent region in the United Kingdom on exports to the rest of the EU.

Full and unfettered access to the single market is crucial to thousands of businesses and the people whom they employ in my constituency and the south-west of England. Falling back on WTO rules would mean tariffs of up to 51% on the goods that we currently export, as well as tariffs on imports, which would put up prices in the shops even higher for the hard-pressed consumer.

Let us be clear that there is no going back once article 50 is triggered. Unless there is a successful challenge to the current interpretation, this is a one-way street out of the EU to the hardest of hard Brexits.

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)

I have the greatest respect for the right hon. Gentleman, who is making his argument powerfully, but does he not believe that the time for such arguments was during the referendum campaign and that now we should focus on a positive future using our entrepreneurial flair, our trading skills and our inventiveness to make a success of what lies before us?

Mr Bradshaw

Yes, that was the time for arguing the principle. This is the time for arguing about the type of Brexit that we believe is in the best interests of our country. I am afraid that some of my colleagues are clinging to the straw of the vote that the Government have promised on any deal at the end of the two-year negotiation process, yet the Government have made it absolutely clear that the only choice will be between their hard Brexit and WTO rules. This could be our only chance to prevent the hardest of Brexits or to soften its blow, and I cannot and will not vote to destroy jobs and prosperity in my constituency.​

I fully accept that it is easier for me to vote against article 50 because my constituency voted remain. I have been overwhelmed by the support for my position that I have received from my constituents and Labour party members, but I completely understand that some colleagues, particularly those in areas that voted heavily to leave, will find it more difficult to do this. In the end, however, as the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) so ably reminded us, we are elected representatives who are called upon to use our own judgment about what is in the best interests of our constituencies and the country. Do we really believe that cutting ourselves off from our closest friends and main trading partners will hurt or help our constituents and our country? Do we honestly think it is in our national interests to hitch ourselves instead to this American President? We will all be judged in the future on how we voted on this Bill.

Finally, let me say that I am disappointed and saddened by the decision of my party’s leadership to try to force Labour MPs to support this Tory Bill. Even more, I regret that we are being whipped to vote to curtail our detailed debate to just three days—and this on the biggest issue of our lifetimes, which will have repercussions for generations to come. Scores of amendments to this Bill have been tabled, yet there is no chance of most of them being debated or voted upon. The situation is completely unacceptable and this is a dereliction of our duty as parliamentarians and as an Opposition.

Mr Winnick


Mr Bradshaw

If my hon. Friend does not mind, I will finish now.

I will therefore vote against the Government’s programme motion to curtail debate. For the first time in nearly 20 years in this place, I will be voting against my party’s three-line whip on a Bill. In doing so, I am reflecting what I believe to be the majority view of those who elected me, and the view of millions of others in Britain who oppose this Government’s choice to pursue the worst and most destructive form of Brexit, and all the negative consequences that that will bring.

Article 50 Speech

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) On 23 June, the British public voted to leave the European Union. Leaving the single market and the customs union was not on the ballot...

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I congratulate the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir Hugo Swire) on securing this debate. However, although it is very important that we discuss and focus on the Government’s new proposed funding formula and its impact on Devon, we should not lose sight of the big picture, which is that funding for all schools in England will fall dramatically in this Parliament. The National Audit Office has confirmed that by 2020 English schools will suffer overall a cut of 8% in real terms in their funding.

As the right hon. Member has already said, huge expectations were raised when the Government said they would consult on the new formula. At the time, I warned Ministers in a meeting with them that changing any funding formula when overall funding levels are falling is a risky business, because it inevitably creates more losers than winners. My assessment of what is being proposed for Devon rather mirrors that of the right hon. Gentleman, namely that we are just fiddling around the edges here. Overall, Devon would gain a tiny amount—a 0.38% rise in overall schools funding—but many schools would lose out. As he has already pointed out, that minuscule improvement would be more than wiped out by the cost to our schools of the increase in the apprenticeship levy, although that is only a 0.5% increase and is dwarfed by the overall cut of 8% in school funding in this Parliament that I referred to a moment ago.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about a “triple whammy”. If Devon faces a triple whammy, Exeter will suffer a quadruple whammy, because—like many cities in shire counties—we are already at a double disadvantage. Devon schools are already among the worst funded in England, receiving £270 per pupil less than the England average, but Exeter schools lose out even more badly because they subsidise the huge cost of providing school transport in a largely rural county and the cost of keeping open small rural schools. Two of my high schools, St James School and Isca Academy, have each lost £300,000 a year since 2014.​
Despite Exeter’s position, under the Government’s new proposed formula we will lose out by 0.14%. All the Government seem to be proposing for my constituency is to take money away from primary schools, the majority of which would lose out in the new formula, to give a tiny bit more to most, but not all, of my high schools. That is not robbing Peter to pay Paul; it is more like robbing Peter to pay Peter. The overall impact will be that by 2020 the average student in Exeter will suffer a £420 cut in annual funding compared with 2015-16, and that is after seven years of coalition and Conservative Government. That will have very serious consequences for children’s education in my constituency.

Two of my primary schools in the least well-off parts of Exeter will actually lose funding. I have been told by a headteacher that one primary school in Exeter is planning to move to class sizes of 45 to cope with the funding squeeze. Under the Labour Government, we got class sizes down to a maximum of 30. We are losing teaching assistants, school counsellors and support for children with complex and special needs at a time when the Government claim they are concerned by the deterioration in young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Since the Labour Governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown invested significant extra resources in all our schools, attainment in Exeter’s schools has risen significantly. We have also benefited from five brand-new high schools, which replaced the dilapidated schools that I inherited in 1997, and new and improved primary schools. That has given a huge boost to the life chances of my constituents’ children, and that progress has been maintained despite the funding freeze since 2010. However, that quality will not survive the sort of cuts our schools now face. As the right hon. Gentleman has already said, Conservative-run Devon County Council is proposing to raid the schools budget even further, to the tune of £2.22 million, because of the big deficit it faces in the budget for children with special needs. I am sure we all agree that Devon must fulfil its legal obligation to some of our most vulnerable young people, but that will mean a further cut of £33 per pupil cut to schools funding across the county.

There is widespread reporting in the media and discussion in this place about the crisis in our health and social care system, but we are also seeing the beginning of if not a crisis, then a serious deterioration in education. We have a recruitment, retention and teacher morale crisis, even in an attractive place like Devon, where people like to live and work. But the Government, as the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged, focus on irrelevancies, such as their ideological obsession with free schools, forced academisation and the reintroduction of selection. I hope that we see real opposition from Devon’s Conservative MPs to some of those damaging Government policies, rather than just warm words. They should stand up and fight for the interests of Devon’s children and families and vote against their Government’s damaging policies.

School Funding Speech

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) I congratulate the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir Hugo Swire) on securing this debate. However, although it is very important that we discuss...

Today I told the Express and Echo that I would vote against Article 50 - you can read my full comments here.

Article 50 Ruling

Today I told the Express and Echo that I would vote against Article 50 - you can read my full comments here.

On Aleppo:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

The shadow Foreign Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), said that what is happening in Syria shames the Assad regime, Iran and Russia; it shames all of us in this House and every political party in this country. It shames the democratic world, the United States, and the United Nations, and if we do not do anything about it—let us not kid ourselves that Assad will stop here; Idlib will be next—that will be the end of the rules-based global order we thought we ​had achieved after the horrors of Srebrenica, with all the grave consequences that will entail for our future peace and security.

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Bradshaw

I will not give way for the moment.

There have been so many missed opportunities. As the former Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Tatton (Mr Osborne), said in his excellent speech, many people across the world have been calling for action against Assad since he started slaughtering his own people five years ago. In August 2013, after the international outrage at his use of chemical weapons, we had the chance, but we blew it; the Conservatives blew it, we blew it—every political party in this House blew it. The former Chancellor was absolutely right when he said that that had a direct impact on what the United States did then, with President Obama fatally withdrawing from the red line he had drawn on the use of chemical weapons, with absolutely horrendous consequences, not just now in Syria, but for the future of our world to come.

At any stage since that calamity, the Government could have come back to this House with proposals for safe areas, no-fly zones and, most recently, aid drops, but they did not. Just two weeks ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury made it quite clear that we would support airdrops. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), hid behind the excuse of not having parliamentary authority, but he did not even seek it, which has been a pattern of this Government over the past few years. As a desperate aid worker told the BBC yesterday, it might now be too late.

We now have the disgusting spectacle of a combination of far right and far left from around the world, united only in their contempt for democracy and human rights, celebrating what they call a “liberation”. Why do we constantly forget the lessons of appeasement, whether from the 1930s or more recently from the Balkans? Statements on Syria from Conservative Ministers have sounded just like the ones I remember from when they were dealing—or not dealing—with Milosevic as he rampaged through Bosnia. When will we understand that dictators such as Assad and Putin only respect strength and the credible threat or use of force? When will we realise that Russia’s strategy is to weaken and divide the free world and that driving the biggest refugee flows into Europe since world war two is a deliberate part of that plan? When will we admit that Putin is already achieving what he cannot achieve militarily through cyber-warfare and propaganda?

The motion that we are debating is welcome, but it is pathetic. It refers to the House considering “international action” in Aleppo. There will no international action, because there is no political will, either here or in the other countries where such will is necessary.

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab)

Is my right hon. Friend as anxious as I am? With Putin and Russia linked to interference in the American election, with the bombing of Syria leading to a refugee crisis in Europe and with many central European countries looking inward, like we are, Putin’s expansionist tendencies and ​desire for a warm port should make the Foreign Secretary think carefully about the actions from this point on onwards.

Mr Bradshaw

I completely agree. We have not even begun to wake up to Russia’s cyber-warfare. Its interference in the American presidential elections is now proven. It probably interfered in our own referendum—we do not have the evidence for that yet, but it is highly probable. It will certainly be involved in the French presidential election. There are already serious concerns in the German secret service that Russia is already interfering in the upcoming elections. We have to wake up to this, but when?

Finally, the tragedy today is the tragedy of the benighted people of Aleppo issuing desperate, and probably futile, last-minute appeals for help to the outside world. The tragedy tomorrow will be all of ours for failing to stop this happening and for the consequences. Shame on us.

On Russia:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Did the Prime Minister discuss with fellow leaders interference by Russia in the political processes of western democracies, including our own, through the use of propaganda and cyber? What action is she taking to investigate what may already have happened in this country, and what is she doing to prevent it from happening in future?

The Prime Minister

I think that everyone is aware of the way in which Russia is currently operating, and of the more aggressive stance that it is taking in a number of respects. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not expect me to go into detail about how we look at these matters, particularly cyber-related matters—which were mentioned earlier by the right hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson)—but I assure him that we take the issue of state-sponsored intervention and cyber attacks very seriously indeed.

On NHS Funding:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I associate myself with the Secretary of State’s comments about Berlin, my one-time home.

Does the Secretary of State accept that we have the best clinical leaders anywhere in the world? The challenge facing the NHS is not one of clinical leadership, or the dedication or skill of staff, but one of chronic underfunding by this Conservative Government.

Mr Hunt

We do indeed have superb clinical leaders, such as Marianne Griffiths at Worthing, which was recently given an outstanding rating. We also have superb non-clinical leaders, such as David Dalton at Salford Royal. I would gently say to the right hon. Gentleman that if he is worried about funding, why did he stand in the election on a platform that would have seen the NHS have £1.3 billion less this year?

On the NHS:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

The Secretary of State seems to be blaming the public for overwhelming A&E departments, when he well knows that the reason they go to A&E is that they cannot get to see their GP and social care is in crisis. Will he confirm that he has just announced another significant watering-down of the four-hour A&E target, following the watering-down by the coalition in their first year in office back in 2010? What is he personally doing to address the chronic long-term underperformance of hospitals, such as that at Worcester, where two people died on trolleys, and Plymouth, which is one of the hospitals that had to call in the Red Cross over the Christmas period?

Mr Hunt

I think—probably because of the forum we are in now—the right hon. Gentleman is misinterpreting what I have said, and it needs to be put right. Far from watering down the four-hour target, I have today recommitted the Government to that four-hour target. In just the answer before he spoke—maybe he was not listening—I actually said I thought it was one of the best things about the NHS that we have this four-hour promise. But the public will go to the place where it is easiest to get in front of a doctor quickly, and if we do not recognise that there is an issue with the fact that a number of people who do not need to go to A&Es are using them, and we do not try to address that problem, we will not make A&Es better for his constituents and mine. If he asks what we are doing to turn around hospitals in difficulty, we have introduced the new Care Quality Commission inspection regime and a chief inspector of hospitals—the most rigorous inspection regime in the world, which the Labour party tried to vote down.

Latest Commons Interventions

On Aleppo: Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) The shadow Foreign Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), said that what is happening in Syria...

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

It gives me great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), who has been incredibly brave and, as a result of her courage, has faced hideous threats. I am sure that the whole House will want to wish her a happy birthday.

I shall try to focus my remarks on the motion and the Government amendment. I fully support Labour’s motion, but for the same reasons as my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith), I cannot support the Government amendment. In effect, it gives a blank cheque for us to invoke article 50 by March without any of us being any the wiser about the Government’s intentions today.

The Government promise to publish a plan, but it has been clear to me from Government statements and from statements of Conservative Members outside this Chamber in the last 24 hours that that plan will not be the White Paper that the Brexit Secretary once promised. It will not answer the big questions about our vital access to the single market, the rights of UK citizens abroad and EU citizens here, or issues such as tariffs. All the signals from the Prime Minister’s speech to her party conference and since have been that the majority of the Government want and are heading for a hard Brexit. In my view, that would be disastrous for jobs and prosperity in my constituency.

In the Labour party conference just a couple of months ago, we agreed as a party:

“Unless the final settlement proves to be acceptable, then the option of retaining EU membership should be retained. The final settlement should therefore be subject to approval, through Parliament and potentially through a general election or referendum.”

I accept that that does not specifically mention article 50, but it is surely explicit that, unless we start arguing now that article 50 is reversible, we should not support its invocation without having any confidence that the Government’s Brexit would be acceptable—and I have no such confidence.​
I also happen to believe that the timescale that the Government have imposed on themselves is unnecessary, unrealistic and unwise. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said yesterday that it would be completed in 18 months, but the French and German elections mean that no meaningful talks will happen until the autumn of next year. That means that, under the current plan, the talks will have to be completed within 12 months—the most complicated negotiations that this country has ever faced completed in just 12 months.

Geraint Davies

Given that the French and the German elections provide a case to delay article 50 and given that we can only negotiate before article 50—because, afterwards, we just give in our membership card and the Government decide—does my right hon. Friend agree with me that we should delay article 50 until November and then perhaps have a referendum on it?

Mr Ben Bradshaw

I do not agree with everything that my hon. Friend has said, but I do think it would make sense for the Government to delay the invocation of article 50 until after the German elections, to give themselves more time to secure a good deal.

The Government have prayed in aid a motion that was agreed by the House, without a Division, on 12 October. The Secretary of State for Brexit prayed it in aid in his speech as well, without making clear that it had said nothing about a March deadline. It is worth my putting that motion on the record. It said:

“this House recognises that leaving the EU is the defining issue facing the UK; believes that there should be a full and transparent debate on the Government’s plan for leaving the EU; and calls on the Prime Minister to ensure that this House is able properly to scrutinise that plan for leaving the EU before Article 50 is invoked”.

There was nothing in the motion about a 31 March deadline. It was completely different from today’s Government amendment.

I know it is relatively easy for me, as one who represents a “Remain” seat, to oppose the Government in the Division Lobby tonight, but all of us, as Members of Parliament, are called upon to exercise our judgment on what we believe to be in the best interests of our constituents and the nation. I am afraid that I will not submit myself to a straitjacket of a timetable—an artificial timetable—to suit the Conservative party and deal with its internal problems when that would not be in the national interest, which is why I will oppose the Government amendment tonight.

My Speech on Brexit

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) It gives me great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), who has been incredibly brave and, as a result of...

On the Chilcot Inquiry

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

It gives me great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Witney (Robert Courts). I congratulate him most warmly on an excellent maiden speech. He talked with great descriptive beauty about his constituency. He used humour and he was serious. He talked about his own family’s political journey in having a Labour grandfather. My family has had a political journey in the opposite direction: of my two grandfathers, one was Liberal and one was Conservative. I noticed, however, that he did not talk about the political journey of his predecessor but one—an interesting journey that took place rather more recently than his grandfather’s. I thought that what he said about his predecessor was absolutely right, at a time when a lot of people are saying not very nice things about the previous Prime Minister. I am really pleased that the hon. Gentleman said what he did and put it on the record. I thank him for that.

Before addressing the motion itself, I would like to consider what we might be debating today instead. We could be debating the crisis in the national health service and social care. We could be debating the devastating impact on living standards of the Government’s autumn statement. We could be debating what the Scottish National party Government in Scotland might be doing with the powers they have, but resolutely refuse to use, to mitigate that. Or we could have used this precious debating time to put pressure on the Government to drop food and medicine to the people of Aleppo, who, as the French Government said today, are facing the worst massacre of civilians since the second world war.

But no, we are debating the motion before us—and why? SNP Members are furious, livid and incandescent with rage that Sir John Chilcot did not find that Tony Blair lied. After seven years and five independent inquiries, the lie that our former Prime Minister lied has finally been laid to rest, and SNP Members cannot stand it. The motion, of course, does not talk about lying. However, the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), who supports the motion, let the cat out of the bag when she told The Observer on Sunday

“The Chilcot report confirmed Tony Blair lied to the public, parliament and his own cabinet in order to drag us into the Iraq war.”

She has clearly not read the Chilcot report; it did no such thing.

Without going over the detail as we did in a very full debate on this back in the summer, let me remind the House briefly of what the Chilcot report did say. Volume 4, paragraph 876, says clearly that there was no falsification or improper use of intelligence. Volume 5, paragraph 953 ​says that there was no deception of Cabinet. Volume 1, paragraph 572 onwards, says that there was no secret commitment to war either at Crawford in April 2002 or anywhere else. Although outside the body of the report, as a number of hon. Members have pointed out, Sir John Chilcot himself, in his appearance before the Liaison Committee, said:

“I absolve him”—

Tony Blair—

“from a personal and demonstrable decision to deceive parliament or the public—to state falsehoods, knowing them to be false.”

Some people just cannot give up. Some people do not seem able to accept the possibility that reasonable people can come to different views on a difficult subject but do so in good faith. Some people cannot accept—

Alex Salmond

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Bradshaw

No, the right hon. Gentleman had half an hour and a lot of Members want to speak.

Some people cannot accept that however much one disagrees with a decision taken, it can still have been taken in good faith. So here we are debating a motion that seeks to distort and rewrite Chilcot and, in effect, put Tony Blair back in the dock. I am delighted that my own party is having none of this nonsense and that we will be voting against this mendacious opportunism in an hour and a half’s time.

I think there may be another reason why some people persist in trying to claim falsely that there was deliberate deceit in all this. They are more than a little nervous that as we look at what has happened in Syria, and is still happening in Syria today, where there was no intervention and we left a brutal dictator to continue to slaughter his own people, history will prove our former Prime Minister right.

On the letter from the NFU

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

In his discussions with the Home Office, has the Minister talked about the letter written to it by the National Farmers Union warning that British fruit and veg will go unpicked this winter because of the current labour crisis in the horticultural and agricultural industries, and what is he doing about that?

Mr Jones

The right hon. Gentleman is entirely right: the agricultural industry has traditionally relied on seasonal agricultural labour. These are matters that we are giving close attention to. Indeed, I discussed them only yesterday with representatives of farming unions.

On the UK Fishing Industry

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Let me begin, like a number of other Members, by taking a moment to remember all the fishermen who have left their families, ​friends and harbours this year, not to return. The pain in those communities is always palpable, and we must do more than we have in the past to ensure that we do not begin our fisheries debates every year by remembering people who have been lost. Let me also pay tribute to the work done by the Fishermen’s Mission and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in helping to keep our fishermen safe.

On a happier note, there is good news in our fishing industry, which is often not reported. It comes after many years of decline. In 2005, for example, 90% of the stocks around UK waters were overexploited, but that has now fallen to 45%. A great deal of progress has been made in the last 10 years. The story of cod recovery in the North sea is thanks to some of the difficult decisions that we took when we were in government, and plaice and sole are doing well too. We need to spread that good news around the rest of our waters, because it translates into real people’s lives and incomes in regions such as mine. In the last 12 months, the markets of Brixham and Plymouth experienced record landings in terms of value.

First, I should like the Minister to assure all of us that he will continue the successful policies that have led to this improvement—policies which, to give him credit, he has continued since we were in office—whether from inside or outside the EU. Secondly, I should like him to reassure us that the overall environmental objectives that successive UK Governments have fought to achieve for sustainable fisheries will be continued and embedded in UK law. We need to complete the network in marine protected areas. We also need to fully embed the birds and habitats directive, the bathing waters directive, the urban waste water treatment directive, the water framework directive, and the marine strategy framework directive in UK law through the great repeal Bill that the Government are proposing. I hope that the Minister will reassure us that that will be done.

I also hope that when the Minister goes to the Council in December, he will take a very tough line on bass. The state of bass around our waters is catastrophic, although that was completely avoidable. We have done far too little, too late. I cannot understand why we in this country do not adopt the policy that operates in the Republic of Ireland, where bass is treated solely as a recreational species. Many Members may not realise this, but if we look at the big picture, it is clear that recreational angling contributes more to our overall economy than the commercial catching sector. However, it does not have such a loud voice in the negotiations. The commercial sector will be breathing down the Minister’s neck when he is in Brussels, but I hope he will remember the words of the millions of anglers in the country—as well as those who run bed and breakfasts, and all the other services that anglers support—who say that they want a better deal on bass. We need a complete moratorium on commercial bass catching with no exemptions next year, with some allowance made for the recreational catching need.

I hope the Minister will not forget about the good progress that the Government have made on marine litter. That may not appear to be a big issue, but it is a huge issue for the marine environment. I commend the Minister for his successful plastic bag charge and on the proposed microbeads ban, but that ban must include detergents and other household products, not just cosmetics.​
I do not doubt that many catchers in the UK commercial fishing sector did vote to leave the EU, partly based on a long-time grievance that they got a terrible deal under the then Conservative Government when we joined the Common Market, but my fear, which I think is shared by many in the industry, is that just as they were done over on our way in, they may be done over on our way out. There are two main reasons why they worry about that.

First, there is the simple arithmetic of 26 against one in the negotiations, which will obviously make the Minister’s job very difficult. There will be an early test of that at the forthcoming Fisheries Council, where he knows as well as I do that it is those late night deals that matter, and the relationships built up with fellow Ministers over the years are what enable us to get the good deals for our own industry. I cannot help thinking that some of the chaos and antics and confusion around the Government’s messaging on Brexit will not be helpful in that endeavour. I wish him well in those negotiations, however, in a couple of weeks’ time.

The second reason why the industry is nervous is the level of priority the Government will be prepared to give this sector, which after all represents a relatively small part of our economy compared with all the other sectors referred to—the manufacturing sector, the financial services sector and even the farming sector. There is a real worry that the fisheries sector will lose out because the Government will not take it seriously enough.

Another interesting long-term trend in fisheries is that, as several other Members have pointed out, it is now more of an import-export industry than a pure catching industry. Both imports and exports have grown exponentially and steadily over recent decades, partly because of our taste for white fish—cod and haddock—and partly because of our relative lack of enthusiasm, which I regret, for some of our more exotic, but not terribly exotic, species, which we therefore export in large quantities to the continent. I do not know whether anyone can guess what the main catch in terms of value is in the south-west at the moment. It is cuttlefish, a non-quota species, and almost all of it goes straight to the fish markets of Italy, to grace the tables of our Italian friends and relatives, and I am sure they enjoy it very much. We catch the best crab and lobster in the world off the south Devon coast; it almost all goes straight to France and Spain in salt tanks—what a waste.

We need to eat more of our own produce, but the point I am making is that because the export of fish is in many ways more important economically than catching, and more jobs and livelihoods rely on it, the issue of tariffs is very important. I have asked several times in this Chamber already in recent weeks for some clarity from the Government about tariffs, because if we cannot have tariff-free access for those exports to the continent, what kind of future will there, not just for the markets, merchants and processors but for the catchers themselves? I would like the Minister to give some clarity on how he will reconcile situations where the interests of the catching sector and the exporters are not aligned, which may sometimes arise. If, for example, we declare our unilateral 200-mile limit, how does he expect that to influence the mood of the 26 other countries we will be negotiating with over tariffs? I am rather nervous that it might antagonise them.​
I want to ask the Minister about enforcement as well, as that is a matter of great concern that has not been raised yet in this debate. Regrettably, there has been a huge cut in enforcement under this Government. In 2010, there were 1,500 at-sea inspections; that figure halved by 2015. In fact there is less enforcement now than there has ever been. There were 40 foreign boats fishing off the coast of Devon and Cornwall this week alone, as they are perfectly entitled to, and of course under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea rules boats are entitled to come through our waters, but how is the Minister’s 200-mile limit going to be enforced when we do not even currently enforce the rules as they stand? What naval assets can he assure the House will be available to do this work? What access will we have to the vital EU monitoring system? Have we got guarantees that we will still be able to participate in that, or will we have to invent a whole new system or rely on a different sort of satellite system? This is crucial, because it is about fair play for the fishermen, and also confidence for the consumer that the fish being caught is caught legally and sustainably.

The point my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) made so excellently is that there are huge expectations, and hopes have been raised not just by the Minister but by the other Brextremists in this whole fisheries debate. My worry is that the recipe for what they are proposing is also a recipe for potential conflict, a race to the bottom and environmental degradation. I hope the Minister can give some clarity and demonstrate that he will have a sensible approach to the fishing industry that will not lead to that, and that he can give us some outline of a realistic long-term plan that recognises the need to collaborate over a finite and mobile resource, that catching will continue to have to be restricted in order for stocks to recover and thrive, and that that is what is really in the interests of our fishing industry, not conflict and a return to some mythical golden age that some imagine might be the case.

Commons Interventions 30th November - 2nd December

On the Chilcot Inquiry Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) It gives me great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Witney (Robert Courts). I congratulate him most warmly on an...

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