Jeremy Corbyn | Prime Minister’s Questions | 01 February 2017

Filed under: Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs)

Questions to the Prime Minister

Jeremy Corbyn

I join the Prime Minister in offering condolences to all those who died in the horrific attack, fuelled by hate, in Quebec, and we should send our solidarity to everyone in Canada on this sad occasion.

May I also associate myself with the Prime Minister’s tribute to the former Member for West Lothian, and later Linlithgow, Tam Dalyell? A Labour MP and former Father of the House, he doggedly fought to expose official wrongdoing and cover-ups, from the miners strike to Iraq. I am sure the Prime Minister would agree that Tam’s scrutiny and contributions made this House a better place, and may I recommend to all Members his autobiography “The Importance of Being Awkward”? [Interruption.] And I am quite happy to offer my copy to the Secretary of State for Brexit to have a good read of it. I am sure that he has probably already read it.

At last week’s Prime Minister Question Time, the Prime Minister told the House:

“I am not afraid to speak frankly to a President of the United States”.—[Official Report, 25 January 2017; Vol. 620, c. 288.]

What happened?


The Prime Minister

First, let me say that I was not aware of Tam Dalyell’s book “The Importance of Being Awkward”, but given the number of resignations that the right hon. Gentleman has had from his Front Bench, I suspect that some of his colleagues have indeed read it.

I am pleased to say to the right hon. Gentleman that when I visited the United States, I was able to build on the relationship that we have with our most important ally and get some very significant commitments from President Trump. Crucial among those was a 100% commitment to NATO—NATO which keeps us safe and keeps Europe safe too.


Jeremy Corbyn

Downing Street has not denied that the Prime Minister was told by the White House that the Executive order on travel to the US was imminent, so let us be clear: was the Prime Minister told about the ban during her visit, and did she try to persuade President Trump otherwise?


The Prime Minister

On the policy that President Trump has introduced, this Government are clear that it is wrong. We would not do it. In six years as Home Secretary, I never introduced such a policy. We believe it is divisive and wrong. If the right hon. Gentleman is asking me whether I had advance notice of the ban on refugees, the answer is no. If he is asking me if I had advance notice that the Executive order could affect British citizens, the answer is no. If he is asking if I had advance notice of the travel restrictions, the answer is, we all did, because President Trump said in his election campaign that he was going to do this. The question is how you respond. The job of Government is not to chase the headlines; the job of Government is not to take to the streets in protest; the job of Government is to protect the interests of British citizens, and that is exactly what we did.


Jeremy Corbyn

On the day after the Executive order was made to ban refugees and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries, why did the Prime Minister three times refuse to condemn the ban?


The Prime Minister

I have made it very clear that we believe that this policy is divisive and wrong, and that it is not a policy that we would introduce. I have also made it very clear when asked about this that this Government have a very different approach to these issues. On refugees, this Government have a proud record of the support that we have given to them, and long may it continue.


Jeremy Corbyn

The Prime Minister said:

“The United States is responsible for the United States’ policy on refugees.”

But surely it is the responsibility of all of us to defend the 1951 refugee convention, which commits this country, the United States and 142 other states to accept refugees without regard to their

“race, religion or country of origin.”

President Trump has breached that convention. Why did she not speak out?


The Prime Minister

First, I have made absolutely clear what the Government’s view on this policy is. Secondly, as I have just said, this Government and this country have a proud record on how we welcome refugees. In recent years, we have introduced a very particular scheme to ensure that particularly vulnerable refugees in Syria can be brought to this country, and something like 10,000 Syrian refugees have come to this country since the conflict began. We are also the second biggest bilateral donor, helping and supporting refugees in the region. That is what we are doing. I have said that the US policy is wrong. We will take a different view, and we will continue to welcome refugees to this country.


Jeremy Corbyn

I also wrote to the Prime Minister on this issue and received her reply this morning. I hold in my hand her piece of paper. She makes no mention of the refugee convention and does not condemn US action in that respect.

Last week, I asked the Prime Minister to assure the House that she would not offer up our national health service as a “bargaining chip” in any US trade deal. She gave no answer. She also refused to rule it out when asked in the US, so let me ask her a third time: will she rule out opening up our national health service to private US healthcare companies—yes or no?


The Prime Minister

I could give a detailed answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s question, but a simple and straightforward reply is what is required: the NHS is not for sale and it never will be.


Jeremy Corbyn

I hope that that includes not having US healthcare companies coming in to run any part of our national health service.

President Trump has torn up international agreements on refugees. He has threatened to dump international agreements on climate change. He has praised the use of torture. He has incited hatred against Muslims. He has directly attacked women’s rights. Just what more does he have to do before the Prime Minister will listen to the 1.8 million people who have already called for his state visit invitation to be withdrawn?


The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman’s foreign policy is to object to and insult the democratically elected Head of State of our most important ally. Let us see what he would have achieved in the last week. Would he have been able to protect British citizens from the impact of the Executive order? No. Would he have been able to lay the foundations of a trade deal? No. Would he have got a 100% commitment to NATO? No. That is what Labour has to offer this country—less protection for British citizens, less prosperity, less safety. He can lead a protest; I am leading a country.