Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Prime Minister's Questions: 26 February 2020 - Immigration, flooding, Universal Credit and more

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>> Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con) If he will list his official engagements for

Wednesday 26 February.

>> The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) The whole House will want to join me in extending

our condolences to the families and friends of those who sadly lost their lives as a result

of Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis. We will also want to thank all those who are providing

support to tackle the impact of the storms, including the Environment Agency, local authorities,

our emergency services and our armed forces.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties

in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

>> Philip Dunne I associate myself with the Prime Ministers

thanks to all those helping in the aftermath of Storm Dennis—[Interruption.] It has brought

record high water levels in the Rivers Severn and Trent, and over 100 properties in my constituency

have been flooded, bringing misery to those affected. As we speak, the Severn has just

breached its banks at Bridgnorth. Will the Prime Minister use his influence in the Budget

and in the comprehensive spending review later this year to increase infrastructure spending

on flood defences for at-risk communities as part of his determination, in this year

of COP26, to show global leadership in taking action on climate change adaptation and mitigation?

>> The Prime Minister Indeed I can, and I thank my right hon. Friend.

We have been ensuring that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

is able to extend the Bellwin scheme where appropriate. Of course, we are also investing

massively in flood defences—£2.6 billion has already gone in and, as he knows, we have

pledged to commit another £4 billion to defend this country against flooding.

>> Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab) My thoughts are with those across the world

who are suffering from the coronavirus. I praise medical and emergency staff all over

the world for what they are doing to try to stop the spread of the disease. I hope that

public health services in Britain will get the resources they need; there is an urgent

question on this topic after Prime Ministers Question Time—[Hon. Members: “It is a


Thousands of people across the country are still struggling with the devastating impact

of the floods. I pay tribute to the work of the Environment Agency, the Scottish and Welsh

Governments, council staff, the fire service, and the huge number of community volunteers

who have pitched in to help their neighbours. Does the Prime Minister agree with the Conservative

leader of Derbyshire County Council that he has turned his back on the people affected

by the floods?

>> The Prime Minister Since the flooding began, this Government

have been working flat out night and day to ensure that the people of this country get

the support they need. We have activated the Bellwin scheme, ensured that businesses get

the rate relief that they need and, as I told the House just now, put £2.6 billion into

flood defences, with £4 billion more to come.

>> Jeremy CorbynYou cant give local authorities the

clear message you are going to support them and then turn your back on them”—not my

words, but the words of a Conservative council leader. When I visited Pontypridd last week,

I saw at first hand the damage and destruction that the floods have caused to peoples

lives, homes and businesses, but the Prime Minister was silent, sulking in his grace-and-favour

mansion in Chevening. After two weeks of flooding, memes are being produced, asking not, “Wheres

Wally?” but, “Wheres Boris?” When is he going to stop hiding and show people

that he actually cares, or is he too busy going about some other business? If he is

too busy, he could send his chief adviser, Dominic Cummings. I am sure that he would

be very well received in all the flooded areas.

>> The Prime Minister I am very proud of the response that the Government

have mounted over the past few days. We convened the national flood response centre on 14 February.

Since the flooding began, there has been a constant stream of ministerial activity led

by my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

and for Housing, Communities and Local Government. No one should underestimate the anguish that

flooding causes, and of course it is an absolute shock to the households that are affected,

but it is thanks to the measures that this Government have put in place that 200,000

households have been protected from flooding. We do not hear that from the right hon. Member.

>> Jeremy Corbyn During the election campaign, I wrote to the

Prime Minister demanding that Cobra be convened to deal with the floods at that time. He very

reluctantly agreed and eventually did call a meeting of Cobra. The situation across the

country is now even worse than it was then, and no Cobra meeting has been called. Is he

just pretending to care when he does not really care at all, because there are no votes on

the line at this moment?

>> The Prime Minister As the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly

well, there has been a stream of ministerial meetings since the flooding began. The national

flood response centre was convened on 14 February, and I have been directing things, as he perfectly

knows. Cobra is a reference to Cabinet Office briefing room A, which is not the only room

in which meetings can take place.

>> Jeremy Corbyn The issue is very serious for people around

the country whose homes are being flooded. They need help and support. They do not need

trite answers like that from their Prime Minister.

Time and again, communities and lives are being put at risk and the Government simply

refuse to acknowledge the scale of the problem. Does he agree with his hon. Friend the Member

for Shipley (Philip Davies), who said the Government have doneprecious little

to stop the floods happening again?

>> The Prime Minister Let me repeat for the benefit of the right

hon. Gentleman that this Government have a fantastic record of investing in flood defences

and will continue to do so. The reason we can do so, the reason we have been able to

commit £2.6 billion for flood defences and the reason we are able to pledge another £4

billion is because this Government are running a strong, successful and robust economy, which

he would ruin.

>> Jeremy Corbyn If that is the case, why are the Government

investing less than half the money the Environment Agency of England says is necessary to improve

flood defences across the country? It says that £5.6 billion is needed. So far as I

am aware, the Government are investing less than half of that.

I have visited many areas and many households, and do you know what, I have learned a lot

from visiting the victims of floodsthe Prime Minister should try it one day. They

have told me that they cannot afford the insurance on their homes, as costs have skyrocketed.

Recent studies have shown that 20,000 homes are not protected by the Governments insurance

scheme and are also not protected by flood defences. That is 20,000 homes with no insurance

and in danger of being flooded imminently. Is it not time that the Prime Minister found

a very urgent solution to this problem?

Just imagine what it is like to live in a home that is in danger of being flooded when

you cannot get it insured and, if you own it, you cannot sell it or cannot moveyou

are totally stuck. They are looking for the Government to help them out at their time

of crisis.

>> The Prime Minister The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right

in the sense that there are particular problems to do with insurance, as anybody who has visited

a flood-affected household will know. Flood Re, on the other hand, has provided cover

for over 164,000 households since 2018-19.

Since last Decembers events, we are now looking at what we can do to protect households

that do not have proper insurance, but the right hon. Gentleman also knows that there

are measures in place to ensure that householders get £500 and £5,000 to compensate themselves

for the worst damage that flooding can do. That is cash we can put in thanks to the investment

we have made in flood defences, which, believe me, would be beyond the capacity of any Government

led by the right hon. Member.

>> Jeremy Corbyn The Welsh Government have done their best

to step up to the crisis, despite the underfunding from Westminster. The Prime Minister was keen

to pose for cameras when there was a crisis on during the election, but he often goes

AWOL: he was late to respond to the London riots because he was on holiday; he was on

a private island when the Iranian general was assassinated; and last week he had his

head in the sand in a mansion in Kent. The hon. Member for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker),

another of his colleagues, said that itis not good enough”. How can the country trust

a Prime Minister, a part-time Prime Minister, who last night was schmoozing Tory party donors

at a very expensive black-tie ball instead of getting out there and supporting the people

who are suffering because of the floods? This Government need to step up to the plate, invest

in defences and ensure that there is real insurance for people whose homes are being

ruined by these floods as we speak.

>> The Prime Minister The right hon. Gentleman asks what this Government

have been doing in the past few days, so let me tell him. Not only have we been investing

massively in flood defences and compensating those who have suffered from flooding, but

we have been stopping the early release of terrorists; we have restored the nurses

bursary; we are beginning work on 40 new hospitals; and we are recruiting 20,000 more police officers.

We can do that because we have a strong and dynamic economy, with employment at record

highs, unemployment down to the lowest levels since the early70s, wages going up and

home ownership up. What are the Opposition doing? They are still deciding—[Interruption.]

Listen to them jabbering away.

>> Mr Speaker Order. I think we will have a little more

silence on the second row.

>> The Prime Minister Quite right, Mr Speaker. They are jabbering

away, because they still cannot decide whether or not they want to be in the European Union,

and the hottest topic of debate in the Labour party is what job the right hon. Gentleman

should have in the shadow Cabinet after the leadership election. They are engaging themselves

in narcissistic debate about the Labour party. We are getting on in delivering on the peoples


>> Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con)

The Prime Minister will be aware of the concern in settled rural communities such as those

in my constituency because of the intentional unauthorised development of Traveller sites.

That leads to large numbers of lorries and caravans coming on to land where there is

no planning permission and, subsequently, the ignoring of enforcement when the local

authority tries to intervene. The Government have said that they will bring forward measures

to try to tackle these planning issues. Will the Prime Minister put his authority behind

this and get it sorted out?

>> The Prime Minister I take that issue very seriously, and I thank

my right hon. and learned Friend for raising it. We are giving local authorities more powers

to reject intentional unauthorised development, and we will consulting on the details of those

proposals in a forthcoming White Paper. I hope he will contribute to those consultations.

>> Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (SNP)

This week, we learned that 40% of small businesses in Scotland employ more than one EU national.

Immigration is crucial for Scotlands economy, so it is no wonder that the Scottish Governments

proposals for a Scottish visa system have been universally welcomed by businesses and

charities alikeeven the Scottish Tories think it is a good idea. The Prime Minister

rejected these proposals within a few short hours. Does he now admit that that was a mistake?

>> The Prime Minister It was not only I who rejected the proposals,

but, of course, the Migration Advisory Committee. That is because we are bringing forward a

very sensible proposal, which the people of this country have long desired, whereby we

take back control of our immigration system with a points-based system. The right hon.

Gentleman has important concerns to raise, and we will ensure that everywhere in this

countryall businesses, all agricultural sectors and all the fishing communities of

this countrywill be able to access the labour and the workforce that is needed, under

our points-based system. But what would be the height of insanity would be to proceed

with the Scottish National partys solution of a border at Berwick between England and


>> Ian Blackford Once again, the Prime Minister shows that

he is utterly delusional. Let us look at the reality: Scottish Care has said that the Prime

Ministers damaging immigration plansshut the dooron enabling people to be cared

for in their own home. The general secretary of the GMB union says that the plans

could genuinely tip some businesses over the edge.”

Scotlands National Farmers Union says that its evidence has beendisregardedby

the UK Government. The Scottish Tourism Alliance says that the plans will have a devastating

impact on Scotlands workforce. Senior figures in the UK Government have said that what the

Scottish Parliament decidesdoesnt matter one jot”; if the Prime Minister thinks that

the Scottish Parliament does not matter, do Scottish businesses matter?

>> The Prime Minister Of course Scottish businesses matter, and

the way to do well by them would not be to tax them with the highest tax rates in the

UK; it would be to run a sound economy in Scotland and to have an educational system

that does not leave Scottish children lagging behind through no fault of their own. This

Government will get on and deliver a working immigration system for the whole of this country.

[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman shouts at me from a sedentary position, but he would

be better off getting on with delivering for the people of Scotland, rather than continuing

with his ceaseless and vain quest to break up the United Kingdom, because he will not


>> Laura Trott (Sevenoaks) (Con) This is a Government who are delivering for

the people, so I am sure the Prime Minister shares my concerns about the delay in the

delivery of the Maidstone East line, which runs through my constituency and others. Will

he intervene to ensure that there are no further delays on this vital railway line?

>> The Prime Minister I thank my hon. Friend for rightly raising

the issue of rail connections between Maidstone East and the City. In addition to the £48

billion we are putting into the railways, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State

for Transport has just indicated to me that those connections are his highest priority.

>> Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)

Graham was born with cerebral palsy, unable to talk, walk or feed himself. He brought

joy and love to all who knew him. Last week, one of the Prime Ministers advisers resigned

when a basic check of their internet history revealed that they had promoted eugenicist

policiesthe sort that would have ended my brother Graham Dochertys life before

it began. Will the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom advise the House and every disabled

person on this island why Andrew Sabisky remained at the heart of his Government and was not

removed from their position immediately when their abhorrent views became apparent?

>> The Prime Minister Let us be absolutely clear that I certainly

do not share those views, and nor are they the views of anybody in this Government. That

individual no longer works for the Government.

>> Saqib Bhatti (Meriden) (Con) Does the Prime Minister agree that through

the establishment of the Office for Environmental Protection, which will hold this and future

Governments to their environmental commitments, it is the Conservatives who are driving the

environmental agenda? Will he join me in commending the Conservative-led Solihull Borough Council

for its commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030?

>> The Prime Minister It of course brings me great joy to congratulate

Solihull Borough Council on its path-breaking leadership. The council is of course following

in the footsteps of the national Government and my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead

(Mrs May), who led the way in setting a target for carbon zero by 2050. This Conservative

Government are going to leave our country and our environment in a better state for

the next generation.

>> Mhairi Black (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) (SNP)

I have a pregnant constituent with her due date in the next couple of weeks. She is currently

on universal credit, and after deductions, including for an advance, she is left with

the grand sum of £111 a month to feed herself, heat her home and prepare for her child. I

know that the Prime Minister will likely want more details about this case, and we will

be happy to help, but I want to ask him whether, in principle, as the Prime Minister, he thinks

that £111 a month is enough for anyone to live on.

>> The Prime Minister I am of course very happy indeed to look at

that case and for us to do whatever we can to help with that individual case, but I must

say to the hon. Lady that, in the round, universal credit has helped and is helping 200,000 people

into work. An estimated 1 million disabled households will get around £100 more per

month as a result of universal credit. I am proud to stand by our record of helping people

into work and off welfare. As I said before, I am more than happy to look at the case

>> Mhairi Black Answer the question.

>> The Prime Minister The answer to her question, in a word, is


>> Ben Bradley (Mansfield) (Con) Does my right hon. Friend agree that the people

of Mansfield who, like many millions across the country, previously voted Labour but have

now put their faith in a Conservative Government to deliver are not, in fact, traitors, as

they were branded by members of the Opposition this week? In fact, this Government and Conservative

Members respect these hard-working people and their communities and respect their choices

and we will deliver for them.

>> The Prime Minister I am not going to comment on the vituperation

that is meted out by the Opposition party, but what I will say is that all voters should

be treated with respect and with humility. I congratulate my hon. Friend on the hard

work that he is doing for the people of Mansfield: £10 million for West Nottinghamshire College;

£20 million for road improvements; £5 million for proactive lung-health screenings; and

up to £50 million in a new town deal and future high streets fund. In my view, the

people of Mansfield are well served by him.

>> Kate Osborne (Jarrow) (Lab) Like many other sub-postmasters, my constituent

Chris Head was victim to the Post Office Horizon IT system scandal. These errors have resulted

in bankruptcies, imprisonment and even suicide. Will the Prime Minister today assure Chris

and others that he will commit to launching an independent inquiry?

>> The Prime Minister I am indeed aware of the scandal to which

the hon. Lady alludes and the disaster that has befallen many Post Office workersI

have met some of them myself. I am happy to commit to getting to the bottom of the matter

in the way that she recommends.

>> Miriam Cates (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Con)

For someone living in one of the rural villages in my constituency, it can take a whole day

to travel to and from a hospital appointment, because bus services are so few and far between.

As a fellow bus enthusiast, will my right hon. Friend assure me that some of the £5

billion in the pipeline for bus services will go towards improving routes in Penistone and


>> The Prime Minister My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the

vital importance of buses and their transformative power, but as for the detail about what will

happen in Penistone and Stocksbridge, she will have to await the upcoming national bus

strategy, which will be along very shortly.

>> Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD)

Before the previous successful climate change talks in 2015 in Paris, I led the British

preparations, including the delegations, of the three preceding UN climate talks. Global

action on climate change only happens when the host nation engages with the worlds

largest nations in advance at the highest political level. As the host of the 2020 climate

talks, will the Prime Minister today publicly commit himself to meeting President Xi of

China, Prime Minister Modi of India and US President Trump to secure for the Glasgow

talks global action on the climate emergency?

>> The Prime Minister I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman

for his question. I can tell him and the House that, of course, I have engagedjust last

weekwith President Xi of China, repeatedly with Prime Minister Modi of India and also,

of course, with President Trump on this subject, but there will be an intensifying drumbeat

of activity in the run-up to Glasgow.

>> Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con) My right hon. Friend will no doubt remember

with the same fondness the conversations that we had when he was outlining his plan for

global Britain. I welcome very much what he has been saying about the defence review that

is now planned and his priority on having a strategy first foreign policy-led review.

Will he please make a statement to this House so that the views of this House can be heard,

bringing together trade, aid, foreign affairs and, of course, defence?

>> The Prime Minister I can, of course, give that commitment when

the moment is right.

>> Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab) The Prime Minister has a laundry list of climate

promises. No doubt he will read them out shortly, but he cannot escape the fact that, on current

rate of progress, net zero will not be reached until 2099not the 2050 that he claims,

let alone the 2030 that we probably need. Even J. P. Morgan says that human life, as

we know it, is under threat. The Prime Minister cannot be a climate denier, can he, so when

will he take climate crisis seriously?

>> The Prime Minister These are not promises: these are what we

have already done. It is thanks to Conservative action on climate change that we have reduced

CO2 output by 43% on 1990 levels since 2010, and the economy has grown by 73%. Some 99%

of all the solar panels installed in this country have happened under this Conservative

Government. In 1990, this country was 70% dependent on coal: today, it is 3%—and Labour

would reopen the coalmines.

>> Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)

John Downey, the IRA terrorist responsible for the Hyde Park bombing in 1982, which killed

11 soldiers, received a letter of comfort from the Government and his trial collapsed.

Corporal Dennis Hutchings received a letter in 1974 saying that he would not be prosecuted

in connection with a shooting incident that took place in Northern Ireland. He was then

investigated again in 2011 and told there were no further grounds for taking any action.

Does the Prime Minister accept that if Dennis Hutchings goes to trial on 9 March, all the

assurances, promises and manifesto commitments will amount to nothing more than meaningless

empty platitudes?

>> The Prime Minister It is to rectify matters such as the one to

which my hon. Friend draws the Houses attention that this Government are finally bringing

in a law to prevent the vexatious prosecution of our hard-working, hard-serving veterans

when no new evidence has been produced.

>> Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab)

Yesterdays press showed the widening health inequalities between the richest and poorest.

The money promised to Epsom and St Helier trust could have addressed that issue in my

area, but instead the NHS is removing services from the poorest areas and sending them to

leafy Belmont, which has the longest life expectancy. St Helier Hospital will become

a glorified walk-in centreno A&E, no maternity unit, no childrens services and

62% of beds gone. Will the Prime Minister reassure me that he will look at this to show

that much does not have to always get more?

>> The Prime Minister In addition to the 40 new hospitals that we

are building—[Interruption.] Yes. As part of the £33.9 billion initial investment that

we are makingthe record investment that we are making in the NHSI can tell the

hon. Lady that Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust will receive £500 million

to redevelop its estate and world-class facilities on that site.

>> Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con) Will the Prime Minister promise to resist

in all circumstances the sell-out of our fishing communities, so that we can ensure that on

1 January next year we take back control of our fishing waters and become an independent

coastal state once again?

>> The Prime Minister I will indeed, and I hope that my right hon.

Friends words were listened to very carefully by members of the Scottish National party,

because they would hand back control of our fishing to Brussels.

>> Gerald Jones (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) (Lab)

There are families and businesses in my constituency who have been left devastated after Storm

Dennis tore through their properties. The strength of our Union is based on sharing

resources at peoples time of need, but so far not a penny announced by the United

Kingdom Government would benefit Wales, where the cost of repair will be hundreds of millions

of pounds. The Prime Minister talks the talk on the Union, but will he today give a cast-iron

guarantee that he will provide the major new funding that Wales needs to recover from the


>> The Prime Minister The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue

of flooding in Wales. Of course it is a devolved matter, but none the less the Government are

committed to working flat out with the Welsh Administration to ensure that everybody gets

the flood relief that they need. Yes, of course, that cash certainly will be passported through.

>> Marco Longhi (Dudley North) (Con) Dudley is set to receive £25 million investment

via the Governments towns fund, and we are looking to use the money to secure a university

campus near the town centre. Will the Prime Minister lend his support to this scheme in

order to level up and generate greater opportunity for Dudley people and the greater Black Country?

>> The Prime Minister I thank my hon. Friend for what he is doing

to champion Dudley and the Black Country, and I will certainly look at what I can dois

it to be there in person? Is that what he is asking for?

>> Marco Longhi indicated assent.

>> The Prime Minister Be careful what you wish for! I will look

at what I can do to be there in person and support what sounds like an excellent scheme.

>> David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP) As we have seen today, religious intolerance

in India is on the risewhether through the anti-Muslim citizenship laws, or Christians

whose prayer meetings are disturbed and who are then subjected to brutal beatings. Will

the Prime Minister agree to meet me and representatives from Christian Solidarity Worldwide to look

more closely at the issue and ensure that India upholds freedom of religion or belief?

>> The Prime Minister The hon. Gentleman raises a crucial issue

that I am particularly concerned to defend and advance. That is why I was pleased to

appoint my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti) as our special

envoy for freedom of religion or belief. I would be more than happy to meet the hon.

Gentleman to discuss protecting those of a Christian faith in India and around the world.

>> Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con)

The Prime Minister will know of the appalling misery that the residents of Shrewsbury are

facing, with the deluge of floods that have affected our town. I am pleased that the Under-Secretary

of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane

(Rebecca Pow), who is the Minister for flooding, is visiting Shrewsbury tomorrow; she is doing

an excellent job. Will the Prime Minister ensure that the proposals put forward to the

Government for a more holistic approach to managing the River Severn are looked at seriously

because Shrewsbury cannot continue to suffer this level of economic damage, with repeated


>> The Prime Minister My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise

the concerns of the people of Shrewsbury. Everybody can see how serious the problem

now is with the Severn. I will ensure that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural

Affairs, working with the Environment Agency, takes the necessary steps.

>> Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab) Sir Michael Marmots damning findings outline

the devastating impact that a decade of this Governments cuts has had on a constituency

such as mine in Gateshead. Since 2010, Gateshead Councils spending power has been cut in

real terms by around 50%, or £160 million a year. Our local safety net has been removed.

What does the Prime Minister intend to do as a matter of urgency to reduce the stark

and worsening health and life expectancy inequality between north and south, rich and poor, so

that people in the poorest areas of my constituency can expect to live as healthily and as long

as those in the most affluent areas of his constituency?

>> The Prime Minister Actually, I have the highest respect for Professor

Marmot and did a lot of work with him in Londonwe did a huge amount there to reduce health inequalities

and inequalities in life expectancybut I do not deny that there is more to be done.

That is why this Government are absolutely committed to uniting and levelling up across

our country, with the biggest ever investments in the NHS and massive investments in education

and early years provision. I make absolutely no apology for the campaign for levelling

up that we are about to undertake. Let me repeat this point to the House: there is only

one way we can fund and achieve this aim, and that is to have a strong and dynamic economy.

I would rather have a country and a society where we believed in hope, opportunity and

the importance of work, rather than welfare

and benefits, and

that is our approach.

The Description of Prime Minister's Questions: 26 February 2020 - Immigration, flooding, Universal Credit and more