Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Monday 9 January, presented by Kristiina Cooper.
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Hello and welcome to Monday in Parliament.
The main news from Westminster.
Winter pressures in the NHS.
The Health Secretary calls for an honest discussion
about A and E departments.
We are going to protect our four hour standard.
We need to be clear it is a promise to sort out all urgent
health problems within four hours, not all health problems, however
Plans to stop domestic abusers from questioning
ex-partners in family courts.
As a result of the family court process this extremely
vulnerable woman needed weeks of medication and months
of counselling to recover.
She has now suffered this ordeal three times.
And peers rally to the defence of England's universities.
Universities have changed the world because of
what they are.
Because they are different and they are distinctive.
It was the first day back at Westminster for MPs
after the Christmas break.
They returned to news that the National Health Service
has not, however, had much of a break.
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Commons that it had been
a tough Christmas and that, with cold weather on the way,
the winter pressures were likely to continue.
Jeremy Hunt also said it was time to rethink the NHS target that
all patients attending Accident and Emergency should be
seen within four hours.
Tuesday after Christmas was the busiest day
in the history of the NHS.
Some hospitals are reporting that A attendances are up to
30% higher compared to last year.
I therefore want to set out how we intend to protect the service
through an extremely challenging period and sustain it for the
He said the NHS had made more extensive winter
preparations than ever before.
The result has been that this winter has already seen days
when A have treated a record number of people within four hours.
And there have been fewer serious incidents declared that many
As Chris Hopson, head of NHS Providers said, although there
have been problems at some Trusts, the system as a whole is doing
better than last year.
However there are a number of Trusts where the
situation has been extremely fragile.
All of last week's A diverts happened happened at 19
Trusts, of which four are in special measures.
It is clear we need to have an honest discussion with the
public about the purpose of A departments.
There is nowhere outside the UK that commits to all
patients that we will sort out any health need within four hours.
If we are going to protect our four hour standard we
need to be clear that it is a commitment to sort out
all urgent health problems
within four hours, but not all problems, however minor.
Labour said the NHS was in a worse state than the Health
Secretary had suggested.
15 hospitals ran out of beds in one day
Several hospitals have warned they can't offer
Elderly patients have been left languishing on
hospital trolleys in corridors sometimes for over 24 hours.
And he says care is only falling over in a
couple of places.
I know La La Land did well at the Golden Globes last
night but I didn't realise the Secretary
of State was living there.
Perhaps that is where he has been all weekend.
Can he now confirm that the NHS is facing a winter crisis
and the blame for this lies at the door of Number
Ten Downing Street?
With my background I know exactly what it is like when
A is swamped, when you do not have anywhere to put people.
I do not think that the staff across NHS in
England are afraid of us discussing this topic and weaponising it.
They are in tears.
They are exhausted.
They are demoralised.
They have never experienced a winter like
Perhaps the Secretary of State could explain why his figures
suggest 19 diverts and only two Trusts in serious problems, whereas
what we are hearing, from the Nuffield Trust is 42 or 50
Trusts who are diverting, which is a third.
That means it is widespread.
The minister seems to blame the public for overcrowding
A departments when
he himself knows the reason the public go to A is because they
can't get to see their GP and social care is in crisis.
Will he confirm that he has just announced another
significant watering down of the four hour
A target following the
watering down by the Coalition in their first year in office in 2010?
And what is he personally doing to address the chronic long-term
underperformance of hospitals like that at Worcester where two people
died on trolleys, and Plymouth, one of the hospitals
that had to call in
the Red Cross over the Christmas period?
Let me just say to him I think probably because of the forum
that we are in now he is misinterpreting what I have said.
But it needs to be put right.
Far from watering down the target I
have today recommitted the Government to that four hour target,
in just the answer before he spoke.
Maybe he was not listening but I said this was one of the best things
about the NHS, that we have this four hour promise.
But the public will go to the place where it is easier to
get in front of a doctor quickly and if we don't
recognise that there is an
issue with the fact that a number of people
who don't need to go to A
are using those A, if we don't recognise that problem
and address it then we won't make A better for his
constituents and mine.
In her first speech of the year, the Prime Minister Theresa May chose
to focus on mental health services.
She said mental health had been dangerously disregarded
and announced plans to improve the capacity of schools to support
children with mental health issues.
Theresa May also said nearly ?70 million would be invested
in online services which enable people to carry
out symptom checks.
And there will be a review on how to support people with mental
illnesses in the workplace.
During the Health Secretary's statement on the NHS, MPs
had a chance to ask questions
about the announcements on mental health services.
We welcome measures to improve mental health
services in this country as
indeed we welcomed such announcements 12 months ago
when the then Prime Minister made similar promises.
But does the Secretary of State not agree that if this Prime Minister
wants to shine a light on mental health provision she should aim her
torch at the Government's record?
6,600 fewer nurses working in mental health.
A reduction in mental health beds.
400 fewer doctors working in mental health and perhaps most
disgracefully of all the raiding of children's local mental health
budgets in order to plug funding gaps in the wider NHS.
I welcome the statement and also the Prime Minister's focus in
the speech on mental health today.
She spoke of holding the NHS leadership to account for the extra
billion that we will be investing in mental health.
Will the Secretary of State set out in further detail how
CCGs will be held to account for ensuring
that that money gets to the
front line, so that we can deliver progress on parity of esteem?
Yes, I can absolutely do that.
And it is important because we have had a
patchy record in the NHS of making sure that money promised for mental
health reaches the front line.
The way that we intend to address this
is by independently compiling Ofsted style ratings for every CCG
in the country that actually highlights where mental health
provision is inadequate.
Now, the Government has promised to change the law
so that the perpetrators of domestic abuse lose the right
to question former partners during proceedings in family courts.
The practice has been banned in the criminal courts.
A Labour MP Peter Kyle said allowing it to continue in family courts
was wreaking untold devastation.
I have spoken to numerous survivors of abuse whose accounts
of torment under cross-examination, often
by convicted rapists, in the
family court are devastating to hear, but impossible
for most of us to
I have spoken to a woman who was cross-examined by the
man who was in jail for numerous counts of rape and abuse that left
her unconscious and hospitalised.
As a result of the family court process
this extremely vulnerable woman needed weeks of medication and
months of counselling to recover.
She has now suffered this ordeal three times.
I have spoken to the sister of a woman who was abused so
greviously it resulted in her death.
The convicted murderer then sued for custody of their child from
prison where he was serving a life sentence for murder.
He directly cross-examined the sister of the
woman he murdered, even having the grotesque nerve to ask,
what makes you think you can be a parent to my
Mr Speaker, abuse is being continued, perpetuated, right under
the noses of judges and police, the very institutions that should be
protecting the vulnerable with every
sinew of state power.
The Government agrees that the law needs to be changed.
I want to make family court process
safer for victims so they can advocate effectively for themselves
and for the safety of their children?
This cannot happen while a significant number of domestic abuse
victims face cross-examination by their abusers.
The Lord Chancellor has requested urgent advice on how to
put an end to this practice.
This sort of cross examination is illegal
in the criminal courts.
I am determined to see it banned in family courts too.
We are considering the most comprehensive
and efficient way of making that happen, that will help family courts
to concentrate on the key concerns
for the family and always put the children's interests first.
Some MPs said changes to legal aid meant that increasing numbers
of people were forced to represent themselves.
Members on both sides of the House have
constituents who have been left devastated by the experience.
That the Government is doing something to
now end this practice is
But this is a clear admission that the legal aid cuts
have caused this situation.
Victims of domestic violence struggle to provide
evidence of their abuse because frequently they're not believed.
And in some cases medical evidence is
difficult to obtain.
And the experience is made worse still
because the abuser, also unable to get representation, is allowed to
Please look at rules in relation to legal
aid because there is certainly strong anecdotal evidence from
former colleagues of mine at the family bar and indeed
the judiciary that there is a direct consequence
and link between the rise in litigants in person
and the changes to
legal aid actually begun under the last Labour Government.
But it's this link between litigants in
person that is causing so many of this.
If he would at least look at it it may provide some of
As my honourable friend has rightly said this is a
long-standing issue but it's one which has become particularly
urgent, and where the cries for help from the judges and others have
become more urgent.
That's why the Government is tackling this issue.
As regards litigants in person it is necessary to find a way
of stopping them using proceedings to continue
the abuse, and that's what we are aiming to do.
The Commons also paid tribute to Jill Saward,
who died of a stroke last Thursday.
She became a campaigner on behalf of sexual assault victims
after being raped during a burglary at her father's vicarage
in West London in 1986.
Her local MP said she was instrumental in securing
a ban on defendants accused of rape from cross-examining
victims in criminal courts.
We were all shocked and saddened by the death of my
constituent Jill Saward who campaigned tirelessly on behalf of
victims of rape and sexual violence following her own
horrific personal ordeal.
The Minister called Jill Saward a wonderful person and said
he wanted the law to change in family courts.
You're watching Monday in Parliament with me, Kristiina Cooper.
The government has been defeated in the House of Lords over plans
to change the way England's universities are run, set out
in the Higher Education Bill.
Peers from different parties combined to vote in favour
of an opposition proposal for the bill to define the powers
and aims of universities.
The bill is designed to make it easier for new colleges to award
degrees and will introduce a regulator called
the Office for Students.
A succession of peers praised the achievements
of England's universities.
They are not one size fits all.
They are not beholden to the state.
They are not looking forward to launching
themselves on the FTSE 100.
They are, to use a phrase of Alan Bennett's, just keeping on,
keeping on, at a higher level in different but effective ways
with fertile variations with their primary purpose,
which is scholarship.
So we must, from the start, and throughout the consideration
of this bill, reassert and defend the prime values of our university
sector and resist the government's controlling plans to seek central
control via its own appointed, unhappily-named Office for Students.
Could it be, my lords, that our universities have
flourished and retained world rankings because they have
not been subjected to government interference?
Within education, schools and colleges have suffered
from changes imposed by different governments and by the churn
of ministers seeking to make their mark, regardless
of advice from professionals in the sector.
Universities, for some years, had been relatively free of such
assistance and they have flourished as a result.
But one peer thought teaching standards in some
universities was poor.
It is clear that in arts subjects, too often, large classes are taught
by Ph.Ds from overseas whose first language is not English and can't be
understood and that, in the arts, there is a lack of proper framework,
two or three essays per term for a student to prepare,
otherwise to be left to read around in the library.
The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, said he had a quote.
Well, somebody who wrote to me, my lords, about this debate said,
"I am effectively paying ?9,000 per annum for the use
"of a good library."
I think there are major shortcomings in accountability
in our universities.
There is a climate of lassitude in many of our universities
on the path of academics in terms of their duties and obligations
to their institution and to their students,
and I think the government has quite correctly addressed
that as an issue in putting this legislation before us.
Universities have changed the world because of what they are,
because they are different and they are distinctive,
and that is why dictatorial governments take them over
and close them down.
It's why people care so much about how government deals
with them, and we should make it clear what we believe
a university is.
This is the first major bill on higher education for a generation.
It's going to have far-reaching consequences.
One of its aims, as we've heard, is to extend university
It's a matter of great concern to me that this piece of legislation has
so far made no attempt to define what a university is or its role
in society more widely and particularly what we expect
these new universities to do.
But a former minister thought defining a university wouldn't work.
My personal view is that the way in which we should be protecting
universities is by putting obligations on governments
and regulators to respect the autonomy of universities,
not trying to define universities and put obligations on them.
It is ordinary for institutions to compete, not to be the best
or to have the best offerings, but to make the greatest profit,
to do it in the most cheap, cheerful and economical way and,
as we move, as the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, said,
through a technological revolution, of which books will be a series
part, I think we need to think very hard about what is not a university.
And that, my lords, might be rather easier than defining
what is a university.
The government spokesman said there were dangers in setting out
a definition of a university that could be challenged in the courts.
If a disgruntled business partner or rival institution brings a legal
challenge and convinces a court that a university does not offer,
for example, an extensive range of high-quality academic subjects,
then is it no longer a university?
But that is what accepting this legislation, and we're not
aware of this in itself, that has led to particular
problems in the system.
At the end of the debate, peers voted narrowly in favour
of the proposal for the bill to contain a definition
of a university.
To the Communities Committee now, where Dame Louise Casey has said
immigrants have to make more effort to fit in.
The author of last month's Casey review on integration told MPs that
Britain needed to be less shy about telling immigrants
what was expected from them.
A Labour MP asked her how she defined integration.
Do you consider it to be a two-way process or do you feel that some
groups need to make more effort than others?
I didn't realise I was heading into these controversial
territories so early but, in terms of the two-way street, no,
I don't think it's a two-way street.
I think that's a sound bite that people like to say,
which is integration is a two-way street.
I would say, if we stick with the road analogy,
that I think integration is more like you've got a bloody big
motorway and you have a slip road of people coming
in from the outside, and what you need to do
is people in the middle, in the motorway, need to accommodate
and be gentle and kind to people coming in from the outside lane,
but we are all in the same direction and we are all heading
in the same direction.
I think it gets into this place where we have this idea that
it's a two-way street.
To some degree, it's a two-way street but,
to some degree, it is not.
There is more give on one side and more take on the other,
and I think that's where we have successively made a mistake,
which is we've not been honest about that.
And I think that's partly what I'm trying the terms of leadership,
which is I understand what people are saying when they say
integration's a two-way street, of course it is, but only
to some degree.
So the majority doesn't have to change?
The majority doesn't have to adjust very much?
What you'll note I said is that I think the people in the middle,
the people in the motorway, of course they have to adjust
a little bit, but the general thing moves in the same direction.
She was also asked about the so-called Trojan Horse scandal.
The allegation - that a group of extremist Muslims
was taking control of some schools in Birmingham.
I'm just wondering, in terms of the Trojan Horse scandal,
whether or not he think that's a tip of the iceberg
or a one-off?
In terms of...
We are very honest in their review about this, which is in terms
of some of the things that we are seeing during what's
called the Trojan Horse, we didn't have to find it very
difficult to find things like segregation of girls, some
of the sort of what I would describe as anti-equal opportunities
or antiliberal values.
I again think that, that there's too much...
Because there are court cases and various things going on,
I don't want to go into too much detail over the actual Trojan Horse.
But is it happening elsewhere?
But, yes, it's happening elsewhere.
One idea in the Casey review was for immigrants to swear
an integration oath.
Dame Louise said symbolic acts could have a powerful impact.
The rights and wrongs of immigration are for other people to judge
but what is clear is that we ought to be more on integration,
we should have been and we need to be and again, one
of those moments...
In fact, I hope the chairman won't mind, but we were jointly
in a meeting in your constituency were actually I felt,
in one of those meetings, we were kind of explaining the rules
of the game to some of the people that were at that meeting
from Eastern Europe, who had never really been engaged
with that way before.
It's the local MP, so they got a different...
They had me.
But I thought it was interesting that the said that nobody has
talked to them about...
They arrived, they didn't get jobs when they thought
they were getting jobs, they hadn't been treated that
well, as it happens, and on we go from there.
But also, nobody had talked to them about our way of life here,
about when to put rubbish out.
Let's take it as a real detail that would be a real issue
for a local authority.
You put rubbish out on the wrong day, it costs a lot of money.
So there are basics that we hadn't even run through.
Nobody had told them to queue, nobody had told them to be nice,
all those sorts of things.
We hadn't been on it and I think, as part of the package,
that would be no bad thing.
We had a sort of joke in the review that we thought it was quite British
to be too polite to tell people what we expected them to do
but to then get cross when they didn't do it!
Before we go, time to catch up with the latest news on Brexit.
In a TV interview on Sunday, the Prime Minister, Theresa May,
said the UK would not keep bits of membership.
Some Brexit watchers took that to mean that the UK would not try
and stay in the single market.
In the Lords, there were some suggestions on how to
approach the negotiations.
We all try to understand why the government wishes to keep
a close hand on its negotiating objectives with Europe.
We must remain very hush-hush about this in case Johnny Foreigner
understands what we are up to.
But would the noble Lord, the Minister, like to hazard a guess
on the negotiating objectives of the 27 countries,
the European Commission and the European Parliament?
Surely, that's not a matter on which we cannot comment.
It's very tempting, my lords!
Not on my first time back, I think.
All I would say, in seriousness, the noble Lord makes
a very good point.
And what I would say on reflection of his question,
which is a very fair one, is I would like to think
that our European partners would see that a smooth,
orderly and timely Brexit is as much in their interests as it is in ours.
Could the noble Lord, the Minister, clarify whether the government
actually thinks it's important that we are within the single
market, not just trading with the single market?
Could he also explained to us precisely by the well-being
of the country is being held hostage to squabbles within
the Conservative Party and Cabinet?
I totally dispute the second part of the noble Baroness'
question, I'm sorry to say!
I really can't agree with that at all.
And as regards the single market, my right honourable friend,
the Prime Minister, set out our thinking on this
yesterday and, as she said, what we are looking for here
is the best possible deal for trading with and operating
within the single European market, and we want that prosperity
for all businesses.
Thank you, my lords.
Since the EU does so much better out of our membership of the EU
than we do in pretty well every sphere of our national life,
trade and job security, mutual residence, agriculture,
fish, the single market and, not to mention, the ?10 billion
in cash we give them every year, why don't we just tell them
that we are taking back our law and our borders and that we will be
reasonably generous about the rest of it if they behave
themselves and agree?
My lords, wouldn't that be a nice clean Brexit and it needn't
take very long at all?
The noble Lord has a very unique way of putting things,
which I note but I don't necessarily think the government would adopt
quite that phraseology.
It is clear, the government has set out at numerous occasions over
the last few months, our intention to take
control over our borders, our money and our laws whilst
achieving the best possible access for businesses in the single market.
So I think that that is the position, my lords.
The first and rather light-hearted discussion about Brexit of 2017.
Well, that's it from Monday in Parliament.
Alicia McCarthy will be here for the rest of the week but,
from me, Kristiina Cooper, goodbye.