Ben Bradshaw

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Commons Interventions October 2017

On Hurricane Irma

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

My constituent Mark Wilson has been stuck on St Martin since the hurricane, his house completely demolished, with no access to food and water, and increasingly frightened about roving mobs. He finally managed to get off the island last night under his own steam. I am sorry to have to tell the Minister that he and his family in Exeter have been extremely angry and frustrated by what they see as the inadequacy of the British Government response, particularly compared with that of the French and Dutch Governments. However, my question is on the longer term. These territories receive significant European Union help. Will the Minister guarantee that, if and when we leave the European Union, this will continue?

Sir Alan Duncan

I have taken a close interest in the calls to the centre, particularly from Members of Parliament. I saw the right hon. Gentleman’s name among those who had called a specific helpline and investigated the plight of his constituent and confirmed that he had come off the island. As I said earlier, we have about 70 British people on St Martin, but I would ask the House to understand that it is not one of our overseas territories. It is half Dutch and half French. That is why we have been working with them, as they are best equipped on an island that is one of theirs, to help the British. I would like to send warm words of gratitude to the French and the Dutch for the co-operation they have shown in helping British citizens as much as they have helped their own.

 

On Article 50

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Is it the Prime Minister’s understanding that, if necessary, it is possible to halt the article 50 process?

​The Prime Minister

The position was made clear in a case that went through the Supreme Court in relation to article 50. The Government have made it clear that we have no intention of revoking that. We will be delivering on the vote of the British people.

 

On nursing

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

University admissions departments have reported an 8% fall in the number of people accepted on to nursing courses this autumn, so the situation is getting worse, not better as the Secretary of State claims. What contingency does he have in place, in the event that we crash out of the European Union, to address a further haemorrhaging of European Union staff from the NHS, and when will he review his disastrous decision to abolish nurse bursaries, which has had such a negative impact?

Mr Hunt

Let us be clear: we took the difficult decision on nurse bursaries precisely so that we could have the biggest expansion in nurse training places we have ever had. When we had the higher education reforms in 2011, which the right hon. Gentleman’s party opposed, we also saw a drop in initial applications, but then we saw them soaring to record levels. That is what we want to happen with nurses, because we need more nurses for the Royal Devon and Exeter, and all the hospitals that serve our constituents.

 

On border facilities

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

10. What contingency (a) funding and (b) planning her Department has for new customs check-points and other border facilities in the event that negotiations with the EU do not result in a deal.

The Minister for Immigration (Brandon Lewis)

We are confident that a positive deal can be reached, but we are of course preparing for every outcome. Although we cannot comment on the detailed planning, Departments are working together across a range of complex issues to develop our future approach to the border, including for a possible no-deal scenario. Those options will be subject to the outcome of our negotiations with our partners in the EU.

Mr Bradshaw

The Minister’s former immigration director, David Wood, said last week that, with current resources, the challenge of Brexit “can’t be met”, and that is with a minimum two-year transition, let alone the chaos of a no-deal scenario. Given all the other demands on his budget that we have heard about today, is it not grossly irresponsible for some of his Cabinet colleagues to be running around talking up the prospects of a no deal, instead of being level with the public about any trade-offs that will inevitably result in a Brexit deal?

Brandon Lewis

I am optimistic that we will get a good deal both for the UK and for our partners in Europe, so that we can work together as forward-looking partners, but we are also actively monitoring work flows at the border to ensure that we have sufficient resources in place to meet demand. As my colleagues across the Government and in the Cabinet have said, it is absolutely right that we do plan for all eventualities.

 

On Brexit

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Does this episode not illustrate the folly of breaking from our natural friends and allies in Europe and throwing in our lot with an unpredictable and irrational American President? That would be the outcome of the extreme hard Brexit that the Minister’s boss and the other hard Brexiteers on his Benches are pursuing.

Alistair Burt

I might be the wrong Minister to answer all the details of that question. I simply want to make it clear that I get no indication from my friends in the EU who have been connected with this agreement that any distinction is made between our relationship before the referendum and our relationship now or in the future in relation to these matters. We are firm colleagues and we will remain firm colleagues. This matter override those considerations, and I am absolutely sure that those strong friendships and the way in which we see the world will remain the same.

 

On Vauxhall

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) said, the company’s statement makes it clear that uncertainty over our future relations with EU is jeopardising future investment in the plant. The Minister is a reasonable person—she was one of a small band of brave Conservatives to rebel during the article 50 process—so I ask her to acknowledge that the Government’s boneheaded determination to leave the single market and customs union is already costing jobs, livelihoods and prosperity up and down Britain.

Claire Perry

Just to clarify, the company’s statement about this change relates to sales of the model, which are not reaching its forecast potential, but that is something that, with the best will in the world, can always happen if a company gets the design or marketing wrong. The House has to work together to deliver the best possible ​deal for the country in the EU negotiations, and that is what the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are doing—[Interruption.] I have avoided making any political points in this statement, but it would be nice to hear just one position from Labour that its Members felt they could get behind for longer than 24 hours.

 

On the Intelligence and Security Committee

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier this afternoon, my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) asked the Home Secretary an important question about why the Intelligence and Security Committee had not been reconstituted since the election, and indeed had not met since April. I do not think that she can have heard or understood the question correctly, because she did not give my hon. Friend an answer. This is incredibly serious—as I am sure you appreciate, Mr Speaker, as the champion of this place—because that Committee scrutinises the important work of the Government and the intelligence services. We have had a number of dreadful terrorist attacks and all sorts of allegations about Russian interference in our democratic process, and the Committee needs to get on with its job. Will you please ensure that my hon. Friend gets a proper response from the Home Secretary or the relevant Secretary of State? It is unacceptable for the ISC not to be doing its work for such a long time?

Mr Speaker

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I certainly agree that the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) ought to have an answer to the question that he did ask, rather than perhaps to one which he did not. If there was a failure to answer, I am sure that it was inadvertent rather than calculated. More widely, I point out to the House that the method of composition of the Intelligence and Security Committee is different from that of other Committees. It is a Committee of Parliament, but it is not a Select Committee, so it was not constituted in the same way or at the same time as the other Committees. However, its work is just as important and as pressing as the work of any of the Select Committees of Parliament, so I agree that it is important that it should be constituted and up and running as quickly as possible. This is a point that I am happy to mention to the Leader of the House myself, but I rather hope that Members who feel strongly about it might be inclined to raise the matter with the Leader of the House, perhaps at the upcoming business questions, at which time I eagerly anticipate that the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) will be in his seat and leaping up and down with enthusiasm from it.

 

On the openDemocracy report

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Has the Leader of the House seen the very worrying series of openDemocracy reports this week on the role of dark money in the EU referendum, including revelations of illegal donations to the Democratic Unionist party and new questions today over the real wealth of Arron Banks, the main financial backer of Leave.EU? Given the widespread public concern about foreign, particularly Russian, interference in western democracies, will she assure the House that the Government and the Electoral Commission will examine these reports very carefully, and reassure our country that all the resources spent during the referendum were from permissible sources?

​Andrea Leadsom

The right hon. Gentleman raises an incredibly important point. Of course, any specific information should always be raised with the Electoral Commission to ensure that any wrongdoing is caught. I absolutely share his concern that we need to make sure that all donations are indeed permissible and legal.

 

On Valproate

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Given what the right hon. Gentleman has said, is it not even more extraordinary that, even now, this information and these warnings are not getting through effectively to pregnant women and their families? My constituent David Tout’s son has been affected by this, as have 20,000 children across the country in every one of our constituencies. There is no sense of urgency from the MHRA—Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency—or from the Government.

Norman Lamb

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that, and he is right in what he says; I, too, feel that there is a sense of inertia. For goodness sake, for as long as women are not getting told about this, more such babies are being born. That is the awful horror of this.

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