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Last Week in the Commons

Questioning Jeremy Hunt at the Health Select Committee: video. The full session can be viewed online here.

On leaving the EU:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

When the Secretary of State met John Kerry recently, did he have the opportunity to discuss the American chamber of commerce report, which will apparently land in the Cabinet Office this week and which warns that American companies with $600 billion-worth of investment in Britain are currently reviewing the situation because of uncertainty about our future unfettered access to the single market? Next time the Brexit Sub-Committee of the Cabinet meets, will the Secretary of State support the Chancellor in standing up to the hard Brexiteers, who seem to want to do such untold damage to our economy?

Boris Johnson

I have not yet seen the American chamber of commerce report because, by the right hon. Gentleman’s own account, it has not yet been published. I have no doubt that American companies, in common with all companies around the world outside the UK and the EU, will find the UK in future an even better place to invest in and to bring their corporations to, because of the natural advantages of time zone, language and skills that this country enjoys.

On the liberation of Mosul:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Will the Secretary of State say a little more about how he hopes the liberation of Mosul will impact on the campaign against Daesh in Syria, to which Parliament quite rightly extended consent for RAF involvement last year?

Sir Michael Fallon

Daesh regards Mosul as one of the two centres of the caliphate, alongside Raqqa, so we expect its defeat there to be a body blow more generally. It will sever the lines of communication between the two cities, and as a result, Raqqa will become more isolated as the border is increasingly sealed. The Daesh fighters who remain in Raqqa will have no other place to go. There will certainly be a military impact, but I hope that the liberation of Mosul will go further by helping finally to banish the mystique of Daesh, because it is not a successful organisation; it is a failing organisation that can and will be defeated.

On the European customs union:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Does the Secretary of State agree with the International Trade Secretary that we should leave the European customs union, or with the Business Secretary and the Chancellor that we should not do so?

Mr Davis

I gave the answer to that some moments ago.

On community pharamacies:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Are not these cuts the latest evidence of the unprecedented financial pressure the national health service is under? Is it not the case that cutting community pharmacy services is the very last place we should begin, as they take pressure off GP surgeries and hospitals and offer an excellent service? The Government should be investing more in them, not cutting them.

David Mowat

This year we invested a further £5 billion in the NHS, three times the rate of inflation. In June the OECD noted we are now above average in terms of NHS and social care spend in the OECD. However much we spend, it is right we look to do it as efficiently and effectively as possible, to modernise this service and make it better for patients, and that is what we are doing.

On South West agriculture and fisheries:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I will endeavour to stick to that time limit, Mrs Moon.

I congratulate the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann) on securing this debate. As he rightly says, leaving the EU has massive potential implications for agriculture and fisheries. I was very pleased by the assurance given by the Secretary of State in the House last week, in response to my question, that she would guarantee the current standards in environmental protection, so I will put those issues to one side for a moment.

The hon. Gentleman pointed, very rightly, to the importance of free trade within the European Union to both our agricultural and fisheries sectors. We export almost 40% of our lamb to the rest of the EU. He mentioned that we export 80% of the fish caught off the ​south-west. In my view, the best shellfish, crab and lobster in the world comes from the coast around Devon and Cornwall, but sadly, most of it goes straight to markets in France and Spain. I was not surprised when I saw the headline in the Western Morning News this week, which made very clear that our farmers’ main priority in the whole debate is that we remain members of the single market.

My first question for the Minister, therefore, is whether she is committed, as her first priority for the UK, to remain as a member of the single market. That is vital not only for tariff-free trade, but for access to the important labour mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, on which a lot of our farming and food industry completely depends.

If the Minister and the Government are not to accord importance to staying in the single market, I would like to know why not. If, as seems to be the case, the Government have already given up any hope of staying in the single market because of their wrong-headed and self-damaging obsession with cutting migrant labour, what levels of tariffs would she expect to be imposed on the sorts of the goods that we have been talking about, both agricultural and from fisheries, and what level of damage does she anticipate that that will do to our farming and fisheries sectors?

We have heard worrying reports that the Secretary of State for International Trade wants us to leave the European customs union. That would be an absolute disaster for our agriculture and fisheries sectors, and hit our economy with a fall of 4.5% in our overall GDP and a far worse fall for agriculture and fisheries. Has the Minister assessed the impact that leaving the customs union would have on our fishing and farming sectors? I will also be grateful if she could give us some idea of the expected impact on consumer prices, and imported food prices in particular, not only from the collapse in the value of the pound owing to uncertainty about our access to the single market, but from the increased prices that west country consumers will pay for goods if we leave the European Union, or are outside the single market or, even worse, outside the customs union.

Finally, given the importance of all those questions to the future of the important sectors that we are discussing, will the Minister guarantee to publish a full cost-benefit analysis of the possible and potential options for our future relationship with the rest of Europe and the world, so that the public and Members of the House may make a considered judgment before we are asked to vote on anything? Does she agree that it would be absolutely unacceptable for the Government, without consulting Parliament, precipitately to invoke article 50 as soon as March before we have clear answers to those important questions on which the future of our farming and fishing industries depend?

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