Another hat-trick of Lib Dems question the Prime Minister

Three Lib Dem MPs questioned Rishi Sunak today. In addition to Ed’s semi-regular slot, Wera Hobhouse and Richard Foord got places in the weekly ballot. Watch each of them here, with the text of the exchanges below the tweets.

First up, Ed asked the PM to do more to classify Russia as a terrorist state:

I associate my party with the comments on the unfolding human tragedy in Turkey and Syria and with the warm words to welcome our ally President Zelensky. He will know that this country and this House totally support Ukraine’s resistance to Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion, and it is a source of great pride that the British people have stood firm, united and unwavering in supporting the brave heroes of Ukraine.

When President Zelensky addressed this House last year, he asked that we treat Russia as a terrorist state. Since then, the Liberal Democrats have urged the Government to fulfil that request by proscribing the mercenary Wagner Group, which is doing Putin’s bidding and carrying out atrocities against Ukrainians daily. On this symbolic day, will the Prime Minister finally commit to proscribing the Wagner Group, which would be a crucial part of treating Russia as the rogue state it is?

The Prime Minister replied:

We have taken a lead from the beginning of this conflict in sanctioning and taking action against those entities connected with the war effort in Russia and beyond. The right hon. Gentleman will know that we have already sanctioned the Wagner Group in its entirety, as well as taking specific action against particular leaders. Proscriptions are not something on which we routinely comment in public, but rest assured that we continue to keep all our proscriptions under review.

Next up, Wera Hobhouse asked about the crisis in social care and asked the PM to commit to Lib Dem call for a £2 per hour rise in the minimum wage for social care workers:

We now have more than 50% more social care staff vacancies than last year. People are stuck in hospital beds with nowhere to go. In my constituency, the Liberal Democrat council and our local hospital, the Royal United Hospital, are trying their level best and trying innovative solutions to tackle the social care backlog, but the Prime Minister knows that this is a workforce crisis. We must recruit and retain social care staff. So I ask him: will he support the Liberal Democrat proposal to pay a higher minimum wage to social care workers to tackle the social care shortages that underpin the NHS crisis?

The Prime Minister’s response was, unsurprisingly, out of touch with reality and did not answer the question:

We recently announced £14 billion more for health and social care. Part of that money will go to a new discharge fund to speed the discharge of people from hospital back into their homes and communities. That money is already making a difference on the ground. We can see the numbers of people unnecessarily in hospitals are already reducing, easing the burdens in our accident and emergency departments. That comes on top of the money we have invested to improve the training, recruitment and development of our valued social care staff, and that will make sure that we can reduce vacancy rates, increase retention and get the workforce that we know we need.

Finally, Richard Foord raised the fact that many people in rural areas who rely on heating oil and other off-grid fuels, are still waiting for help with their heating costs:

The Government will want to help to maintain popular backing in the UK for our support to Ukraine, including by helping people with their energy bills. More than 40,000 people across Devon live in homes that are off the gas grid; they are on the rural equivalent of pre-payment meters. They need the money upfront to pay for their heating oil and alternative fuels. The Government announced an alternative fuel payment last September, but people in Devon are still waiting. What will the Prime Minister say to people who are off the gas grid and waiting for their alternative fuel payment five months later?

The Prime Minister had nothing tangible to offer:

We specifically considered people who are off the gas grid when designing the energy support schemes that we have put in place, which is why the bulk of the support was delivered to those who had electricity meters to ensure that it reached people such as those the hon. Member mentioned, including many of my own rural constituents as well. That money should be getting to them. I shall make sure that it moves as quickly as possible. We also put in place the local household support fund to provide discretionary funding that local councils can give to those households most in need.

As a bonus, we missed Christine Jardine’s question from last week. She wasn’t on the list, but got picked randomly by the Speaker. Christine had been moved by an exhibition in her constituency about Breast Cancer and asked the PM to do more to help those suffering. She had started off by being so surprised at being called that she called the Speaker the Deputy Speaker.

Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. [Interruption.] Can I blame the painkillers? Apologies, Mr Speaker.

This past weekend, I visited a charity that was hosting an exhibition in my constituency about metastatic breast cancer, which claims 31 lives each day in the United Kingdom. The women there asked me to convey to the Government the need for more awareness, more support, more research and more drug availability. Will the Prime Minister help to bring about that support? I have also written to the Scottish Government, asking for their support. In his next meeting with the First Minister, will he mention it to her?

For once, the PM was pretty sympathetic.

I pay tribute to the charity that the hon. Lady mentioned for the work it does. She is absolutely right: awareness is key in tackling and identifying breast cancer symptoms early. That is one of the reasons why we are investing more in diagnostic screening tools to make sure that we can detect more cancers earlier, treat them and, ultimately, save people’s lives. I would be happy to pick up this particular topic with the First Minister when I next speak to her and ensure that we are working together to improve cancer services for everyone, regardless of where they live in the UK.

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One Comment

  • It seems to me to be a little sad that asking 3 questions is a dramatic event. Still better than no questions I suppose.

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