Prime Minister’s Questions – Climate Change & Elimination of Violence against Women

Jeremy Corbyn: On behalf of the Opposition, may I also express my condolences to the family of Chris Martin on his death? The Prime Minister told me how ill he was on Remembrance Sunday, and I am pleased that he was able to visit him at that time. Also, on behalf of the many Members who worked with Chris Martin when we were in government, I would like to say how much we appreciate the professional work that he did in the very highest and best traditions of the civil service in this country. It would be very helpful if our condolences could be passed on.

This week, 55 Labour councils have made a commitment for their areas to be run entirely on green energy by 2050. With the Paris climate talks just days away, will the Prime Minister join me in commending those councils, and will he call on all Conservative councils to do the same?

The Prime Minister: I certainly commend all councils for wanting to promote green energy, and we have made that easier in our country by having the feed-in tariffs and the other measures, particularly solar power and wind power. We will be taking part in the Paris talks because it is absolutely vital to get that global deal, but we have to make sure that we take action locally as well as globally. I would make the point that if you compare the last Parliament with the previous Parliament, we saw something like a trebling of the installation of renewable electricity.

Jeremy Corbyn: The commitment of those Labour councils is a bit of a contrast with the Prime Minister’s performance, because he used to tell us that his Government were the greenest Government ever. Does he remember those days? Does he agree with the Energy Secretary that Britain is likely to miss its target of getting 15% of our energy from renewables by 2020?

The Prime Minister: First of all, I believe that the previous Government does rightly claim that record: the world’s first green investment bank pioneered in Britain; a trebling of renewable energy; a meeting of all our climate change targets; contributing to an EU deal that means we go to the climate change conference in Paris with a very strong European record; and the ability to say to other countries that they should step up to the plate. Also, in the previous Parliament we spent record sums helping developing countries to go green. In the next five years, we will be spending $9 billion on helping other countries, which will be crucial in building the Paris deal next week.

Jeremy Corbyn: The problem with the Prime Minister’s answer is that the gap between Britain’s 2020 target and our current share of renewable energy is the biggest in the European Union. Some of the decisions he has made recently include cutting support for solar panels on home and industrial projects, scrapping the green deal, cutting support for wind turbines, putting a new tax on renewable energy, increasing subsidy for diesel generators. Is it any wonder that the chief scientist of the United Nations environment programme has criticised Britain for going backwards on renewable energy?

The Prime Minister: The facts paint a different picture. As I said, the trebling of wind power in the previous Parliament is an enormous investment. The right hon. Gentleman makes a point about solar panels. Of course, when the cost of manufacturing solar panels plummets, as it has, it is right to reduce the subsidy. If we do not reduce the subsidy, we ask people to pay higher energy bills, something I seem to remember the Labour party in the previous Parliament making rather a lot of. If you look at the speech by the Secretary of State for Climate Change, you can see the right balance between affordable energy and making sure we meet our green targets. That is what we are committed to. In addition, we are building the first nuclear power station in our country for decades, something that the Labour party talked about a lot in government but we are putting into action now that we are in government.

Jeremy Corbyn: In the past few weeks, 1,000 jobs have been lost in solar companies in Britain as they have gone bust. I have a question from some apprentice solar fitters at Banister House, a large community energy project. Ziggy, Israel and Jay say that cutting feed-in tariffs means stopping solar projects that are needed to help our environment and to give us jobs. They asked the Prime Minister this: “Why do you want to throw all this away?”

The Prime Minister: We are doubling investment in renewable energy in this Parliament. As for solar panels, I think I am right in saying that in the previous Parliament over 1 million homes were fitted with solar panels. It is right that we go on supporting that industry, but we should do it recognising that the cost of manufacturing solar panels has plummeted. Therefore, the subsidy should be what is necessary to deliver solar power, not what is necessary to pump up the bills of hardworking families.

Jeremy Corbyn: That is not much help to those who are losing their jobs in the solar industry at the present time.

I would like to ask the Prime Minister something else. Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. On average, two women a week are killed by a current or former partner, and domestic violence accounts for up to a quarter of all violent crime. Will the Prime Minister please explain why one third of those referred to women’s refuges in England are now being turned away?

The Prime Minister: We have put more money into refuges and the Chancellor will have something to say in his autumn statement about funding women’s charities. The fact is that when it comes to rape crisis centres, which we have protected, or domestic violence centres that we help to fund, the Government have a good record on helping women and making sure that the crime of domestic violence is properly investigated by the police and prosecuted in our courts.

Jeremy Corbyn: The late Denise Marshall, who was chief executive of the domestic violence charity Eaves, put this very well when she said:

“If you are a woman who has experienced some form of violence, I believe you have the right to the very best service and the community owes you an opportunity to recover”.

In 2012, the Prime Minister’s Government signed the Istanbul convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. This would make women’s support services statutory and would have stopped the closure of Eaves. Can the Prime Minister please tell the House when he will ratify the Istanbul convention?

The Prime Minister: We are going one further than that, and in the autumn statement the right hon. Gentleman will hear in a minute that we are actually going to be putting more money into women’s charities, including charities that fight domestic violence, that fight rape and that make sure that we cut out these appalling crimes in our country. In addition to that, we have done more than any previous Government to help prevent forced marriage and prevent the horrors of female genital mutilation, which do not just happen in Nigeria and countries in north Africa—they happen here in our country, too. I do not think any Government before this one have got a stronger record on those grounds.