UK Parliament Update
Last weeks main topic at Prime Minister's Questions (PMQ's) was dedicated to the Governments response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The Prime Minister made it clear that the investigation into the cause and response was a major priority.
The PM said previously in the 28 June PMQ's:
'As of this morning, the cladding from 120 tower blocks across the country, in 37 local authority areas, has been tested and has failed the combustibility test. Given the 100% failure rate, we are very clear with local authorities and housing associations that they should not wait for test results; they should get on with the job of the fire safety checks—indeed, they are doing that—and take any action necessary. The Government will support them in doing that. The Communities Secretary has set up an independent expert advisory panel to advise on the measures that need to be taken. The panel is meeting this week.'
As for re-housing residents who lost their homes opposition leader Jeremy Corbin-Labour stated:
'I hope she is able to stick to her promise of everyone being rehoused within three weeks. At the moment, it does not look anything like that target will be achieved. I hope she understands the fear that so many people have living in tower blocks at the present time all around the country. In 2014, the all-party fire and safety group wrote to the Department for Communities and Local Government, warning:
'Today’s buildings have a much higher content of readily available combustible material.'
The topics for this weeks PMQ'S were more diversified with one of the first enquiries being about genital mutilation.
Hannah Bardell-Scottish National Party: 'Her face smashed with an iPad, her body beaten, and forced to abort a baby girl: that is only some of the domestic abuse that my constituent Lola Ilesanmi has suffered from her estranged husband because she has refused to allow the genital mutilation of her daughter. Lola is educated, has a mortgage, and had a good job with Royal Bank of Scotland until the Home Office revoked her right to work. I have been writing to the Home Office since March, and have got nowhere. Will the Prime Minister now intervene to prevent the family from being deported, and to prevent that three-year- old girl from being subjected to genital mutilation?'
The Prime Minister responded:
'The Home Secretary has obviously heard the case that the hon. Lady describes. The issue of female genital mutilation is one on which I think all of us, throughout the House, are agreed. It is an abhorrent activity; it should not be taking place. Great efforts have been made in recent years in strengthening the law on female genital mutilation, getting information out about the issue, and trying to support people in communities where FGM is practised. The message must go out from the House today that we will not accept FGM in this country.'
Another question discussed was the situation on reconstruction in areas like Mosul, Iraq and the containment of radicalisation of the Islamic State.
James Morris- Conservative:
'In the last few days Iraqi security forces, assisted by coalition airstrikes, have made significant progress in eradicating ISIL fighters from Mosul. That is a significant step forward in the military conflict against ISIL in Iraq, but does the Prime Minister agree that the United Kingdom and the United States, in a broad international alliance, need to work with the Iraqi Government to ensure that there is reconstruction in places such as Mosul, and also to ensure that they are sufficiently strong to withstand the poisonous ideology of ISIL as we seek to defeat it?'
The Prime Minister responded:
'My hon. Friend is absolutely right: in order to keep the streets of Britain safe, we must continue to attack Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and the UK is playing its part as one of the 71 members of the coalition. The RAF has conducted over 1,400 strikes, and over 500 British soldiers are on the ground providing further assistance, but he makes the very important point that it is not just about the military action that takes place; it is about how we ensure there is sustainable reconstruction and rebuilding afterwards. Our troops have helped to train over 55,000 Iraqi security forces personnel, and we are providing more than £169.5 million in humanitarian aid and a further £30 million to help Iraq to stabilise these liberated areas. Together, we must also work not just in Iraq but internationally to ensure that the hateful ideology of extremism is not able to poison the minds of people.'
National Health Service (NHS)
Not surprising was the topic of the NHS and the situation regarding nurses and other staff cuts.
Jeremy Corbin-Labour asked:
'We have had seven years of tax cuts for the richest and tax breaks for the biggest corporations. Last year, there was a net loss of 1,700 nurses and midwives to the NHS, and in the first two months of this year alone, 3,264 have left the profession altogether—not a great birthday present for the NHS, is it? Last week, the
“We all value our public services and the people who provide them to us.”—[Official Report, 29 June 2017; Vol. 626, c. 797.]
He went on to laud his own economic record by saying that we had a “fundamentally robust economy”. The Prime Minister found £1 billion to keep her own job; why cannot she find the same amount of money to keep nurses and teachers in their jobs? After all, they serve all of us.'
Prime Ministers response:
'The right hon. Gentleman talks about the number of nurses. In fact, I think he was talking about the number of nurses who are registered in the United Kingdom. There are about 600,000 nurses registered in the United Kingdom; about half of them—300,000—work in the NHS in England. Contrary to what he says, we have 13,000 more nurses working in the NHS today compared with 2010. I understand that it has been hard for people who have been working hard and making sacrifices over the years as we have been dealing with Labour’s mismanagement of the economy, but let me remind the right hon. Gentleman of what happens when you do not deal with the deficit. This is not a theoretical issue. Let us look at those countries that failed to deal with it. In Greece, where they have not dealt with the deficit—[Interruption.] What did we see with that failure to deal with the deficit? Spending on the health service cut by 36%. That does not help nurses or patients.'
The situation of low income wages and its effects on workers was raised by Jeremy Corbin-Labour:
'When Tories talk of tough choices, we know who suffers: the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Young people employed on zero-hours contracts are more likely to have worse mental and physical health. Students who have worked hard at university graduate with £57,000 of debt that will stay with them until they retire. Let me spell it out to the Prime Minister: this is the only country in which wages have not recovered since the global financial crash; more people are using food banks; 4 million children are living in poverty; there is record in-work poverty; young people see no prospect of owning their own home; and 6 million people are earning less than the living wage. The low-pay epidemic is a threat to our economic stability. Will the Prime Minister take some tough choices and instead of offering platitudes, offer some real help and real support to those in work and to young people, who deserve better and deserve to be given more optimism, rather than greater inequality?'
'We actually now see that the proportion of people in absolute poverty is at record lows. The right hon. Gentleman asks for help for those who are low paid, and I reiterate to him the help that we have given to people who are low paid: we introduced the mandatory national living wage—the lowest earners’ fastest pay rise in 20 years; we have cut taxes for basic-rate taxpayers and taken people out of paying income tax; and we are doing what is important for this country, which is ensuring that there are jobs and an economy providing those jobs for people, because the best route out of poverty is being in work. I know that he has taken to calling himself a “Government in waiting”. Well, we all know what that means: waiting to put up taxes; waiting to destroy jobs; and waiting to bankrupt our country. We will never let it happen.'
More next Wednesday.