09/01/2017 Monday in Parliament


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09/01/2017

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Monday 9 January, presented by Kristiina Cooper.


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Hello and welcome to Monday in Parliament.

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The main news from Westminster.

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Winter pressures in the NHS.

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The Health Secretary calls for an honest discussion

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about A and E departments.

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We are going to protect our four hour standard.

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We need to be clear it is a promise to sort out all urgent

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health problems within four hours, not all health problems, however

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minor.

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Plans to stop domestic abusers from questioning

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ex-partners in family courts.

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As a result of the family court process this extremely

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vulnerable woman needed weeks of medication and months

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of counselling to recover.

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She has now suffered this ordeal three times.

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And peers rally to the defence of England's universities.

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Universities have changed the world because of

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what they are.

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Because they are different and they are distinctive.

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It was the first day back at Westminster for MPs

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after the Christmas break.

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They returned to news that the National Health Service

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has not, however, had much of a break.

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The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Commons that it had been

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a tough Christmas and that, with cold weather on the way,

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the winter pressures were likely to continue.

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Jeremy Hunt also said it was time to rethink the NHS target that

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all patients attending Accident and Emergency should be

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seen within four hours.

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Tuesday after Christmas was the busiest day

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in the history of the NHS.

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Some hospitals are reporting that A attendances are up to

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30% higher compared to last year.

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I therefore want to set out how we intend to protect the service

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through an extremely challenging period and sustain it for the

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future.

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He said the NHS had made more extensive winter

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preparations than ever before.

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The result has been that this winter has already seen days

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when A have treated a record number of people within four hours.

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And there have been fewer serious incidents declared that many

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expected.

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As Chris Hopson, head of NHS Providers said, although there

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have been problems at some Trusts, the system as a whole is doing

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better than last year.

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However there are a number of Trusts where the

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situation has been extremely fragile.

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All of last week's A diverts happened happened at 19

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Trusts, of which four are in special measures.

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It is clear we need to have an honest discussion with the

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public about the purpose of A departments.

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There is nowhere outside the UK that commits to all

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patients that we will sort out any health need within four hours.

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If we are going to protect our four hour standard we

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need to be clear that it is a commitment to sort out

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all urgent health problems

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within four hours, but not all problems, however minor.

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Labour said the NHS was in a worse state than the Health

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Secretary had suggested.

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15 hospitals ran out of beds in one day

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in December.

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Several hospitals have warned they can't offer

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comprehensive care.

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Elderly patients have been left languishing on

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hospital trolleys in corridors sometimes for over 24 hours.

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And he says care is only falling over in a

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couple of places.

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I know La La Land did well at the Golden Globes last

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night but I didn't realise the Secretary

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of State was living there.

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Perhaps that is where he has been all weekend.

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Can he now confirm that the NHS is facing a winter crisis

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and the blame for this lies at the door of Number

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Ten Downing Street?

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With my background I know exactly what it is like when

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A is swamped, when you do not have anywhere to put people.

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I do not think that the staff across NHS in

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England are afraid of us discussing this topic and weaponising it.

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They are in tears.

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They are exhausted.

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They are demoralised.

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They have never experienced a winter like

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this.

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Perhaps the Secretary of State could explain why his figures

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suggest 19 diverts and only two Trusts in serious problems, whereas

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what we are hearing, from the Nuffield Trust is 42 or 50

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Trusts who are diverting, which is a third.

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That means it is widespread.

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The minister seems to blame the public for overcrowding

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A departments when

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he himself knows the reason the public go to A is because they

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can't get to see their GP and social care is in crisis.

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Will he confirm that he has just announced another

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significant watering down of the four hour

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A target following the

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watering down by the Coalition in their first year in office in 2010?

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And what is he personally doing to address the chronic long-term

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underperformance of hospitals like that at Worcester where two people

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died on trolleys, and Plymouth, one of the hospitals

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that had to call in

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the Red Cross over the Christmas period?

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Let me just say to him I think probably because of the forum

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that we are in now he is misinterpreting what I have said.

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But it needs to be put right.

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Far from watering down the target I

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have today recommitted the Government to that four hour target,

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in just the answer before he spoke.

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Maybe he was not listening but I said this was one of the best things

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about the NHS, that we have this four hour promise.

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But the public will go to the place where it is easier to

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get in front of a doctor quickly and if we don't

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recognise that there is an

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issue with the fact that a number of people

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who don't need to go to A

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are using those A, if we don't recognise that problem

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and address it then we won't make A better for his

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constituents and mine.

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In her first speech of the year, the Prime Minister Theresa May chose

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to focus on mental health services.

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She said mental health had been dangerously disregarded

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and announced plans to improve the capacity of schools to support

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children with mental health issues.

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Theresa May also said nearly ?70 million would be invested

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in online services which enable people to carry

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out symptom checks.

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And there will be a review on how to support people with mental

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illnesses in the workplace.

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During the Health Secretary's statement on the NHS, MPs

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had a chance to ask questions

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about the announcements on mental health services.

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We welcome measures to improve mental health

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services in this country as

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indeed we welcomed such announcements 12 months ago

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when the then Prime Minister made similar promises.

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But does the Secretary of State not agree that if this Prime Minister

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wants to shine a light on mental health provision she should aim her

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torch at the Government's record?

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6,600 fewer nurses working in mental health.

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A reduction in mental health beds.

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400 fewer doctors working in mental health and perhaps most

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disgracefully of all the raiding of children's local mental health

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budgets in order to plug funding gaps in the wider NHS.

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I welcome the statement and also the Prime Minister's focus in

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the speech on mental health today.

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She spoke of holding the NHS leadership to account for the extra

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billion that we will be investing in mental health.

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Will the Secretary of State set out in further detail how

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CCGs will be held to account for ensuring

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that that money gets to the

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front line, so that we can deliver progress on parity of esteem?

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Yes, I can absolutely do that.

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And it is important because we have had a

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patchy record in the NHS of making sure that money promised for mental

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health reaches the front line.

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The way that we intend to address this

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is by independently compiling Ofsted style ratings for every CCG

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in the country that actually highlights where mental health

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provision is inadequate.

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Jeremy Hunt.

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Now, the Government has promised to change the law

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so that the perpetrators of domestic abuse lose the right

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to question former partners during proceedings in family courts.

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The practice has been banned in the criminal courts.

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A Labour MP Peter Kyle said allowing it to continue in family courts

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was wreaking untold devastation.

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I have spoken to numerous survivors of abuse whose accounts

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of torment under cross-examination, often

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by convicted rapists, in the

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family court are devastating to hear, but impossible

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for most of us to

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even imagine.

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I have spoken to a woman who was cross-examined by the

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man who was in jail for numerous counts of rape and abuse that left

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her unconscious and hospitalised.

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As a result of the family court process

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this extremely vulnerable woman needed weeks of medication and

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months of counselling to recover.

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She has now suffered this ordeal three times.

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I have spoken to the sister of a woman who was abused so

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greviously it resulted in her death.

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The convicted murderer then sued for custody of their child from

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prison where he was serving a life sentence for murder.

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He directly cross-examined the sister of the

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woman he murdered, even having the grotesque nerve to ask,

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what makes you think you can be a parent to my

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child?

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Mr Speaker, abuse is being continued, perpetuated, right under

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the noses of judges and police, the very institutions that should be

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protecting the vulnerable with every

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sinew of state power.

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The Government agrees that the law needs to be changed.

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I want to make family court process

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safer for victims so they can advocate effectively for themselves

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and for the safety of their children?

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This cannot happen while a significant number of domestic abuse

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victims face cross-examination by their abusers.

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The Lord Chancellor has requested urgent advice on how to

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put an end to this practice.

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This sort of cross examination is illegal

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in the criminal courts.

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I am determined to see it banned in family courts too.

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We are considering the most comprehensive

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and efficient way of making that happen, that will help family courts

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to concentrate on the key concerns

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for the family and always put the children's interests first.

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Some MPs said changes to legal aid meant that increasing numbers

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of people were forced to represent themselves.

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Members on both sides of the House have

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constituents who have been left devastated by the experience.

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That the Government is doing something to

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now end this practice is

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welcome.

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But this is a clear admission that the legal aid cuts

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have caused this situation.

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Victims of domestic violence struggle to provide

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evidence of their abuse because frequently they're not believed.

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And in some cases medical evidence is

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difficult to obtain.

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And the experience is made worse still

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because the abuser, also unable to get representation, is allowed to

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question them.

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Please look at rules in relation to legal

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aid because there is certainly strong anecdotal evidence from

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former colleagues of mine at the family bar and indeed

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the judiciary that there is a direct consequence

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and link between the rise in litigants in person

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and the changes to

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legal aid actually begun under the last Labour Government.

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But it's this link between litigants in

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person that is causing so many of this.

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If he would at least look at it it may provide some of

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the solutions.

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As my honourable friend has rightly said this is a

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long-standing issue but it's one which has become particularly

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urgent, and where the cries for help from the judges and others have

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become more urgent.

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That's why the Government is tackling this issue.

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As regards litigants in person it is necessary to find a way

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of stopping them using proceedings to continue

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the abuse, and that's what we are aiming to do.

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The Commons also paid tribute to Jill Saward,

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who died of a stroke last Thursday.

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She became a campaigner on behalf of sexual assault victims

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after being raped during a burglary at her father's vicarage

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in West London in 1986.

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Her local MP said she was instrumental in securing

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a ban on defendants accused of rape from cross-examining

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victims in criminal courts.

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We were all shocked and saddened by the death of my

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constituent Jill Saward who campaigned tirelessly on behalf of

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victims of rape and sexual violence following her own

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horrific personal ordeal.

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The Minister called Jill Saward a wonderful person and said

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he wanted the law to change in family courts.

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You're watching Monday in Parliament with me, Kristiina Cooper.

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The government has been defeated in the House of Lords over plans

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to change the way England's universities are run, set out

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in the Higher Education Bill.

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Peers from different parties combined to vote in favour

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of an opposition proposal for the bill to define the powers

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and aims of universities.

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The bill is designed to make it easier for new colleges to award

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degrees and will introduce a regulator called

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the Office for Students.

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A succession of peers praised the achievements

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of England's universities.

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They are not one size fits all.

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They are not beholden to the state.

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They are not looking forward to launching

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themselves on the FTSE 100.

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They are, to use a phrase of Alan Bennett's, just keeping on,

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keeping on, at a higher level in different but effective ways

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with fertile variations with their primary purpose,

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which is scholarship.

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So we must, from the start, and throughout the consideration

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of this bill, reassert and defend the prime values of our university

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sector and resist the government's controlling plans to seek central

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control via its own appointed, unhappily-named Office for Students.

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Could it be, my lords, that our universities have

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flourished and retained world rankings because they have

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not been subjected to government interference?

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Within education, schools and colleges have suffered

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from changes imposed by different governments and by the churn

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of ministers seeking to make their mark, regardless

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of advice from professionals in the sector.

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Universities, for some years, had been relatively free of such

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assistance and they have flourished as a result.

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But one peer thought teaching standards in some

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universities was poor.

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It is clear that in arts subjects, too often, large classes are taught

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by Ph.Ds from overseas whose first language is not English and can't be

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understood and that, in the arts, there is a lack of proper framework,

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two or three essays per term for a student to prepare,

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otherwise to be left to read around in the library.

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The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, said he had a quote.

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Well, somebody who wrote to me, my lords, about this debate said,

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"I am effectively paying ?9,000 per annum for the use

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"of a good library."

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I think there are major shortcomings in accountability

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in our universities.

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There is a climate of lassitude in many of our universities

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on the path of academics in terms of their duties and obligations

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to their institution and to their students,

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and I think the government has quite correctly addressed

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that as an issue in putting this legislation before us.

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Universities have changed the world because of what they are,

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because they are different and they are distinctive,

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and that is why dictatorial governments take them over

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and close them down.

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It's why people care so much about how government deals

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with them, and we should make it clear what we believe

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a university is.

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This is the first major bill on higher education for a generation.

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It's going to have far-reaching consequences.

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One of its aims, as we've heard, is to extend university

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title considerably.

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It's a matter of great concern to me that this piece of legislation has

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so far made no attempt to define what a university is or its role

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in society more widely and particularly what we expect

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these new universities to do.

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But a former minister thought defining a university wouldn't work.

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My personal view is that the way in which we should be protecting

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universities is by putting obligations on governments

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and regulators to respect the autonomy of universities,

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not trying to define universities and put obligations on them.

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It is ordinary for institutions to compete, not to be the best

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or to have the best offerings, but to make the greatest profit,

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to do it in the most cheap, cheerful and economical way and,

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as we move, as the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, said,

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through a technological revolution, of which books will be a series

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part, I think we need to think very hard about what is not a university.

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And that, my lords, might be rather easier than defining

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what is a university.

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The government spokesman said there were dangers in setting out

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a definition of a university that could be challenged in the courts.

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If a disgruntled business partner or rival institution brings a legal

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challenge and convinces a court that a university does not offer,

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for example, an extensive range of high-quality academic subjects,

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then is it no longer a university?

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Surely not.

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But that is what accepting this legislation, and we're not

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aware of this in itself, that has led to particular

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problems in the system.

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At the end of the debate, peers voted narrowly in favour

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of the proposal for the bill to contain a definition

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of a university.

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To the Communities Committee now, where Dame Louise Casey has said

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immigrants have to make more effort to fit in.

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The author of last month's Casey review on integration told MPs that

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Britain needed to be less shy about telling immigrants

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what was expected from them.

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A Labour MP asked her how she defined integration.

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Do you consider it to be a two-way process or do you feel that some

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groups need to make more effort than others?

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I didn't realise I was heading into these controversial

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territories so early but, in terms of the two-way street, no,

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I don't think it's a two-way street.

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I think that's a sound bite that people like to say,

0:18:420:18:44

which is integration is a two-way street.

0:18:440:18:46

I would say, if we stick with the road analogy,

0:18:460:18:49

that I think integration is more like you've got a bloody big

0:18:490:18:52

motorway and you have a slip road of people coming

0:18:520:18:54

in from the outside, and what you need to do

0:18:540:18:57

is people in the middle, in the motorway, need to accommodate

0:18:570:19:03

and be gentle and kind to people coming in from the outside lane,

0:19:030:19:06

but we are all in the same direction and we are all heading

0:19:060:19:09

in the same direction.

0:19:090:19:10

I think it gets into this place where we have this idea that

0:19:100:19:13

it's a two-way street.

0:19:130:19:14

To some degree, it's a two-way street but,

0:19:140:19:16

to some degree, it is not.

0:19:160:19:18

There is more give on one side and more take on the other,

0:19:180:19:21

and I think that's where we have successively made a mistake,

0:19:210:19:23

which is we've not been honest about that.

0:19:230:19:25

And I think that's partly what I'm trying the terms of leadership,

0:19:250:19:28

which is I understand what people are saying when they say

0:19:280:19:31

integration's a two-way street, of course it is, but only

0:19:310:19:33

to some degree.

0:19:330:19:34

So the majority doesn't have to change?

0:19:340:19:36

The majority doesn't have to adjust very much?

0:19:360:19:39

What you'll note I said is that I think the people in the middle,

0:19:390:19:42

the people in the motorway, of course they have to adjust

0:19:420:19:45

a little bit, but the general thing moves in the same direction.

0:19:450:19:52

She was also asked about the so-called Trojan Horse scandal.

0:19:520:19:55

The allegation - that a group of extremist Muslims

0:19:550:19:57

was taking control of some schools in Birmingham.

0:19:570:20:02

I'm just wondering, in terms of the Trojan Horse scandal,

0:20:020:20:04

whether or not he think that's a tip of the iceberg

0:20:040:20:07

or a one-off?

0:20:070:20:08

In terms of...

0:20:080:20:09

We are very honest in their review about this, which is in terms

0:20:090:20:12

of some of the things that we are seeing during what's

0:20:120:20:15

called the Trojan Horse, we didn't have to find it very

0:20:150:20:18

difficult to find things like segregation of girls, some

0:20:180:20:26

of the sort of what I would describe as anti-equal opportunities

0:20:260:20:30

or antiliberal values.

0:20:300:20:34

I again think that, that there's too much...

0:20:340:20:37

Because there are court cases and various things going on,

0:20:370:20:39

I don't want to go into too much detail over the actual Trojan Horse.

0:20:390:20:45

But is it happening elsewhere?

0:20:450:20:46

But, yes, it's happening elsewhere.

0:20:460:20:48

One idea in the Casey review was for immigrants to swear

0:20:480:20:51

an integration oath.

0:20:510:20:53

Dame Louise said symbolic acts could have a powerful impact.

0:20:530:21:01

The rights and wrongs of immigration are for other people to judge

0:21:010:21:04

but what is clear is that we ought to be more on integration,

0:21:040:21:07

we should have been and we need to be and again, one

0:21:070:21:10

of those moments...

0:21:100:21:11

In fact, I hope the chairman won't mind, but we were jointly

0:21:110:21:14

in a meeting in your constituency were actually I felt,

0:21:140:21:18

in one of those meetings, we were kind of explaining the rules

0:21:180:21:21

of the game to some of the people that were at that meeting

0:21:210:21:25

from Eastern Europe, who had never really been engaged

0:21:250:21:28

with that way before.

0:21:280:21:32

It's the local MP, so they got a different...

0:21:320:21:34

They had me.

0:21:340:21:35

But I thought it was interesting that the said that nobody has

0:21:350:21:38

talked to them about...

0:21:380:21:40

They arrived, they didn't get jobs when they thought

0:21:400:21:42

they were getting jobs, they hadn't been treated that

0:21:420:21:44

well, as it happens, and on we go from there.

0:21:440:21:47

But also, nobody had talked to them about our way of life here,

0:21:470:21:50

about when to put rubbish out.

0:21:500:21:52

Let's take it as a real detail that would be a real issue

0:21:520:21:55

for a local authority.

0:21:550:21:56

You put rubbish out on the wrong day, it costs a lot of money.

0:21:560:21:59

So there are basics that we hadn't even run through.

0:21:590:22:02

Nobody had told them to queue, nobody had told them to be nice,

0:22:020:22:05

all those sorts of things.

0:22:050:22:06

We hadn't been on it and I think, as part of the package,

0:22:060:22:09

that would be no bad thing.

0:22:090:22:11

We had a sort of joke in the review that we thought it was quite British

0:22:110:22:15

to be too polite to tell people what we expected them to do

0:22:150:22:18

but to then get cross when they didn't do it!

0:22:180:22:21

Yeah, exactly.

0:22:210:22:22

Before we go, time to catch up with the latest news on Brexit.

0:22:220:22:25

In a TV interview on Sunday, the Prime Minister, Theresa May,

0:22:250:22:28

said the UK would not keep bits of membership.

0:22:280:22:32

Some Brexit watchers took that to mean that the UK would not try

0:22:320:22:37

and stay in the single market.

0:22:370:22:38

In the Lords, there were some suggestions on how to

0:22:380:22:41

approach the negotiations.

0:22:410:22:43

We all try to understand why the government wishes to keep

0:22:430:22:47

a close hand on its negotiating objectives with Europe.

0:22:470:22:52

We must remain very hush-hush about this in case Johnny Foreigner

0:22:520:22:56

understands what we are up to.

0:22:560:22:58

But would the noble Lord, the Minister, like to hazard a guess

0:22:580:23:01

on the negotiating objectives of the 27 countries,

0:23:010:23:05

the European Commission and the European Parliament?

0:23:050:23:07

Surely, that's not a matter on which we cannot comment.

0:23:070:23:13

It's very tempting, my lords!

0:23:130:23:16

Not on my first time back, I think.

0:23:160:23:19

All I would say, in seriousness, the noble Lord makes

0:23:190:23:22

a very good point.

0:23:220:23:23

And what I would say on reflection of his question,

0:23:230:23:25

which is a very fair one, is I would like to think

0:23:250:23:28

that our European partners would see that a smooth,

0:23:280:23:30

orderly and timely Brexit is as much in their interests as it is in ours.

0:23:300:23:35

Could the noble Lord, the Minister, clarify whether the government

0:23:350:23:37

actually thinks it's important that we are within the single

0:23:370:23:41

market, not just trading with the single market?

0:23:410:23:45

Could he also explained to us precisely by the well-being

0:23:450:23:48

of the country is being held hostage to squabbles within

0:23:480:23:51

the Conservative Party and Cabinet?

0:23:510:23:55

I totally dispute the second part of the noble Baroness'

0:23:550:23:57

question, I'm sorry to say!

0:23:570:23:59

I really can't agree with that at all.

0:23:590:24:01

And as regards the single market, my right honourable friend,

0:24:010:24:04

the Prime Minister, set out our thinking on this

0:24:040:24:07

yesterday and, as she said, what we are looking for here

0:24:070:24:13

is the best possible deal for trading with and operating

0:24:130:24:15

within the single European market, and we want that prosperity

0:24:150:24:18

for all businesses.

0:24:180:24:23

Thank you, my lords.

0:24:230:24:25

Since the EU does so much better out of our membership of the EU

0:24:250:24:29

than we do in pretty well every sphere of our national life,

0:24:290:24:33

trade and job security, mutual residence, agriculture,

0:24:330:24:36

fish, the single market and, not to mention, the ?10 billion

0:24:360:24:42

in cash we give them every year, why don't we just tell them

0:24:420:24:46

that we are taking back our law and our borders and that we will be

0:24:460:24:50

reasonably generous about the rest of it if they behave

0:24:500:24:53

themselves and agree?

0:24:530:24:55

My lords, wouldn't that be a nice clean Brexit and it needn't

0:24:550:24:59

take very long at all?

0:24:590:25:02

The noble Lord has a very unique way of putting things,

0:25:020:25:05

which I note but I don't necessarily think the government would adopt

0:25:050:25:08

quite that phraseology.

0:25:080:25:10

It is clear, the government has set out at numerous occasions over

0:25:100:25:14

the last few months, our intention to take

0:25:140:25:16

control over our borders, our money and our laws whilst

0:25:160:25:19

achieving the best possible access for businesses in the single market.

0:25:190:25:24

So I think that that is the position, my lords.

0:25:240:25:27

The first and rather light-hearted discussion about Brexit of 2017.

0:25:270:25:32

Well, that's it from Monday in Parliament.

0:25:320:25:34

Alicia McCarthy will be here for the rest of the week but,

0:25:340:25:37

from me, Kristiina Cooper, goodbye.

0:25:370:25:43