PMQs – Snap verdict
PMQs – Snap verdict: PMQs used to be one of the political highlights of the week. Increasingly that has become less and less true (partly because Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are both relatively uninspiring performers in this arena), but today it felt like a particularly diminished event, that did not shed much light on the crisis facing the country, or even resonate with much drama. With the exception of Scottish questions, it may be the most boring half hour in the Commons today. Corbyn devoted all his questions to Brexit, and he started by challenging May to explain what was wrong with a customs union – a pertinent question given that is where the indicative votes process may lead. But May rebutted his question without much difficulty, and his attack on the government over its unwillingness to commit to accepting the result of the indicative votes process did not get very far because May was able to reply, correctly, that Labour’s position is much the same. The most awkward question for May on Brexit came from her own colleague Andrew Bridgen, who declared that she had now forfeited the trust of his constituents. (See 12.05am.) But even that did not discomfort May much, and some observers were left speculating that perhaps a private decision to stand down soon has lightened her mood.
May’s response to the SNP leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, also fuelled speculation that she is not planning to stay in office for long.
For the record, this is what Blackford asked:
It is becoming increasingly clear that the cost the prime minister will pay to force her disastrous deal through is the price of her departure. Yet again another Tory prime minister is willing to ride off into the sunset and saddle us with a crisis in the UK and an extreme right-wing Brexiteer coming into Downing Street. Does the prime minister feel no sense of responsibility for what she is about to do?
It is my sense of responsibility and duty that has meant I have kept working to ensure Brexit is delivered.
It is the sort of answer you might expect from someone who thinks their days as PM are numbered.
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, says global climate emissions have hit their highest levels. Will May back calls for a green new deal?
May says Lucas should have noted what the government is already doing. It is committed to clean growth.
Labour’s Chris Bryant asks about skin cancer (for which he was recently treated). He calls for a major public health campaign to get people to check out their bodies for suspicious moles, and to use sunscreen. The government can save lives, he says.
May agree. She says Matt Hancock, the health secretary, will have heard Bryant’s request.
Nigel Dodds, the DUP leader at Wesminster, says the Belfast city deal was signed yesterday. Will May ensure that this will go forward even without the Northern Ireland executive sitting?
May says she can commit to ensure that the city deal goes ahead even without the power-sharing executive being in place.
The DUP’s Jim Shannon asks about dementia funding.
May says increasing numbers of people are living with dementia. The UK is playing a significant part in the international effort to find better treatment, she says.
Sir Bill Cash, the Tory Brexiter, says lawyers are convinced that May’s deal with the EU extending article 50 is unlawful. Did May get legal advice before agreeing that? And will May publish it? And will she withdraw this evening’s motion changing Brexit date?
May says Brexit date has already changed under international law. She says the Commons voted to seek an extension to article 50. She says, if the statutory instrument being voted on tonight is not passed, that will cause legal confusion.
Labour’s Chi Onwurah says she used to be opposed to a second referendum because it would be so divisive. But the country is paralysed. Will May consider the possibility she is making a terrible mistake?
May says, if Onwurah wants to deliver on the referendum result in an orderly way, she should back May’s deal.
Labour’s Diana Johnson says the north needs an industrial renaissance.
May says she wants an industrial policy that works for every region. There has been significant investment in the north, she says.
Kirstene Hair, a Scottish Conservative, says more than 7,000 members of the armed forces based in Scotland have to pay more in tax because of the Scottish government’s tax rates. Will the UK government compensate them?
May says a majority of armed forces personnel based in Scotland are affected by differential tax rates. She says the UK government will again compensate them in the coming year.
Sir Peter Bottomley, a Conservative, says the PM’s deal has not passed parliament because of those who want to stay in the EU, hardline Brexiters and Labour. But most people in the country want it to pass.
May says that is the message she gets from the public too.
Labour has now put out a statement effectively confirming that it is backing the Becket confirmatory referendum amendment. (See 9.33am, 10.58am and 11.58am.) A spokesperson said:
In line with our policy, we’re supporting motions to keep options on the table to prevent a bad Tory deal or no deal.
The Beckett amendment actually goes further than the Labour statement it implies. It says any amendment should be subject to a referendum. It says:
That this house will not allow in this parliament the implementation and ratification of any withdrawal agreement and any framework for the future relationship unless and until they have been approved by the people of the United Kingdom in a confirmatory public vote.
The SNP leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, asks May if she has a sense of responsibility for what she is doing on Brexit.
May says she is trying to deliver Brexit.
Blackford says he was at the march for a second referendum on Saturday. Some 6m people have signed the petition calling for article 50 to be revoked. Will May accept the will of parliament, or will she continue to be held hostage by the hard right and the DUP?
May says she is delivering on the referendum result. Blackford wants to stay in the EU. That means staying in the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy, which would not be in the interests of Scottish farmers or Scottish fishermen.
May says epetitions are subject to checks to ensure they are not manipulated by foreign powers.