Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 2 February, presented by Alicia McCarthy.
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Hello and welcome to Thursday in Parliament.
The Government sets out its Brexit policy paper.
The Transport Secretary says expanding Heathrow
will be good for Britain post-Brexit.
a former minister talks about growing up
I know what it's like to feel that cold nausea
when you find the empty bottles hidden around the house.
But first, the Government has published its 75-page
Brexit policy document, laying out what its objectives
are in the forthcoming negotiations on extracting the UK
The principles were contained in the Prime Minister's
keynote speech last month, so there were few surprises.
The Secretary of State, David Davis, said it confirmed
the Prime Minister's vision of an independent, truly global UK.
The Government recognised the need for clarity and certainty.
The white paper also sets out we will take control of our own laws
so they are made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast,
and ensure that we will control the number of people coming
And the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice
It will be for Parliament and the devolved legislatures
to determine significant changes to reflect our new position.
I've said this at the dispatch box before, there will be
any number of votes on substantive policy choices.
To that end, the white paper makes clear that we expect to bring
forward separate legislation in areas such as customs
Delivering smooth, mutually beneficial exit, avoiding
a destructive cliff edge will be the key.
Whatever the outcome of our negotiations,
we seek a more open, output looking, confident and fairer UK
The white paper is available on the Government website,
and I've arranged for copies to be available in the libraries
Mr Speaker, I would normally thank the Secretary of State
A week ago, at Prime Minister's Questions,
the Prime Minister said there would be a white paper.
Yesterday, she said there would be a white paper tomorrow.
The Secretary of State now makes a statement,
But the white paper has not been delivered until a few minutes ago
so that we can meaningfully actually ask him questions about it.
He repeated a demand for a vote in the commons on the final deal
Otherwise, all honourable members will have to watch on their screens
as the European Parliament debates our deal
before we get to express any views on it.
That is completely unacceptable, and it's demeaning of this House.
There's no point in having a vote after he's already signed it off
treating Parliament as some sort of afterthought.
So can he rule out now the Government
showing such contempt for Parliament?
This is now my sixth statement in this House
The House will have the opportunity to vote on any number of pieces
of legislation before we get there, and it will have the vote at the end
to decide whether or not it is acceptable.
I can't see how you can make it more meaningful than that.
Mr Speaker, the Secretary of State is more experienced
It's very striking that we get a white paper after the second
reading, and two sitting days before the committee stage.
Now, we have just got this before he got on his feet.
Is that respectful to Parliament, to be able to question him on it,
when it only goes out just as he goes on?
I find that an astonishing disrespect of Parliament.
It's going to have an impact on each and every one of us,
On page 49 of this white paper, the Government said, and I quote,
"we have an open mind on how we can implement new customs
Just for the avoidance of doubt, because it I think it is important
to be clear so that everyone knows where we stand,
will the Secretary of State confirm today
that we are not only leaving the EU and single market,
we are definitely leaving the customs union?
If he reads the rest of that chapter, he will see we exclude
ourselves from the common commercial policy and the common external
tariff, which amounts to exactly what he said.
A former Defence Minister has welcomed the decision
of a disciplinary tribunal which has struck off a human rights lawyer
who brought claims of murder and torture against British soldiers
It found that Phil Shiner had acted dishonestly
and upheld 12 charges of misconduct against him.
He'd admitted acting without integrity at an earlier hearing.
Phil Shiner - who founded the firm, Public Interest Lawyers -
was accused of drumming up false abuse claims,
and paying thousands of pounds to a fixer to find Iraqi clients.
Speaking in the Commons during a debate on the armed forces,
the MP for Aldershot and a former defence minister,
Sir Gerald Howarth, gave his reaction.
I felt at the time that that man, Phil Shiner, was a disgrace.
He was a dreadful man, engaged in a cowardly
and unacceptable activity of trying to find people
who would stand up and accuse his fellow countrymen
who had gone to relieve the people of Iraq from their suffering,
and he went to try and do down those people.
I'm very pleased to hear today he has been struck off.
Frankly, I don't think that's enough.
But then I always was a supporter of capital punishment.
We need to do more to protect those who have done the most for us.
Because what the covenant should be about is to ensure
that those who have served, who have risked all,
safe in the knowledge that they are safe
and they are not going to be pursued by charlatans
and liars like Philip Shiner, who has been struck off today
by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority for his deceit,
dishonesty and absolute treason to this country,
in the way he has pursued fine people.
If people like that had been around
in the aftermath of the Second World War,
and if our troops in the Second World War
had known that they would have to face the duplicity
and the manoeuvrings and the outrages perpetrated
on a subsequent generations of soldiers by people like that,
then I do not think they could possibly have fought
with the valour that they did, in the defeat of Nazism and fascism.
A third runway for Heathrow Airport was approved by the Government
in October, but we've still not had the very final decision.
to actually build the runway is now underway.
The Transport Secretary has launched a four-month consultation
and set out planning and infrastructure proposals.
a staunch supporter of leaving the EU -
couldn't resist making a connection with Brexit.
By backing the north-west runway at Heathrow airport,
and publishing our proposals today, we are sending a clear signal
that when we leave the EU, Britain is open for business.
So, Mr Speaker, today I lay before Parliament
a draft Airports National Policy Statement
and begin a period of extensive public consultation
There is an increasing concern regarding air-quality,
which is linked to 40,000 early deaths a year.
David Cameron's former aide, now Baroness Camilla Cavendish,
claimed existing policy on air-quality underwhelms
Given this inadequacy, what further and stringent measures
will be imposed to mitigate expected expansion at Heathrow?
Of course, some of the things we are consulting on today,
Mr Speaker, for example, smarter use of airspace,
one of the things we will be able to achieve through airspace reform
and through the technology that's now available to us
is to avoid - to anything like the degree we expect
at the moment - planes stacking over the south-east of England,
emitting additional emissions into the atmosphere,
That's one of the benefits that comes from smarter use of airspace
that will help contribute, as will cleaner, newer generation,
more efficient aircraft that we will see, I think, extensively
in this country over the coming years.
The Secretary of State will be aware that on the 23rd of January,
we had a black alert in air pollution in London,
and 12 local authority areas signalled red alerts.
That means toxic air, and it is at crisis point in London.
So I think if you're going to reassure the people
of London to continue to support this decision,
we need a much more comprehensive air pollution strategy,
not the Government's current plans that the courts have said
Will he explain what he will do if the airport cannot be
delivered with the legal air obligations limits?
Proceed anyway, change the air-quality objectives,
Well, Mr Speaker, it's very clear the airport will not be able
to secure its development consent order if it cannot demonstrate
It is binding, it will have to achieve those.
In terms of our broader strategy, after we have
left the European Union, the air-quality standards in place
this country will be UK air-quality standards,
but it is not the intention of the Government to reduce
It is our intention to deliver a strategy that cleans up our air.
How can you consult on airspace strategy when you don't
have a credible policy of how to address
How can you offer a consultation National Policy Statement
when you have no credible or legal plan of how to reduce air pollution?
How can you have consultations ending on the 25th of May
with no credible or legal plans of addressing critical noise
I know how strongly my honourable friend feels about this,
I do know about the concerns in her constituency,
and I very much respect her for what she's doing.
This is one of the difficulties of a big strategic decision like this.
It's impossible to take it without some impacts.
I give her simply my assurance that we will take all steps we can
inevitable though it is that there will be some.
This is going to be an investment of something not far off
?20 billion, which is a great boost to post-Brexit Britain,
on top of the expansion at London City Airport.
Can he give his best estimate as to when he believes
the first plane will take off from the north-west runway?
Well, Mr Speaker, both of us would share the aspirations to do
But the working assumption is that the first plane
will take off in the middle of the next decade.
Of course, we perhaps should have come to this
At the very least, we are doing it now.
We will get on with it as soon as possible.
We have to do it in the right way, we've got to do it in a sustainable
way, and we've got to do it with great care with
The National Health Service in England is still failing
to learning from its mistakes, MPs have heard.
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee
has published a report on how the NHS deals with complaints.
It calls on the NHS to move from a culture of blame
The committee also urged the Department of Health to build up
The purpose of complaints is not just the redress of grievances...
Which I have to say in the NHS is extremely unsatisfactory anyway,
Complaints are a tool by which public services
When medical professionals are forced early to be concerned
with avoiding liability and responsibility and are trapped
in a culture of blame, there can be no learning.
There is an acute need for Government to follow
through on its commitment to promote a culture in which staff
will be able to speak out and which the emphasis is placed
The committee also recommended legislation to ensure
the new complaints body is truly independent.
Clearly from the candid completion this morning, there is a long way to
go before we eradicate the culture of defensiveness that he has
described. The Minister said the Healthcare
Safety Investigation Branch - or HSIB - would be up
and running in April. The committee has called for it to
be statutorily independent. We agree that it should be as independent as
possible if it is to discharge its functions fully and effectively. We
would not rule out the option of legislation. His committee also
raised in this week report various recommendations and its role. We
will be responding to that in due course. We are committed to making
sure that the NHS is committed to learning from its mistakes.
You're watching Thursday in Parliament, with me,
The Government's been told to rethink its alcohol strategy
and bring in a minimum unit price for alcohol in England and Wales.
The call came from across the chamber as MPs debated
ways to tackle the harm caused by drinking.
One MP focused on the damage done when pregnant women drank,
revealing his own adopted children were both affected by
a condition called foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
The debate was opened by the chair of the all-party
There are currently over 10 million people drinking at levels
which increase their risk of health harm.
Among those aged 15-49 in England, alcohol is now the leading risk
factor for ill-health, early mortality and disability.
In England, the average age of death of those dying
More working years of life are lost in England as a result
of alcohol-related deaths than from cancers of ?
and there are many of these ? the lung, bronchus,
trachea, colon, rectum, brain, pancreas, skin,
ovary, kidney, stomach, bladder and prostate combined.
But she argued the Government had done little since the last
In the foreword to the 2012 strategy, the then Prime Minister
We're going to set a minimum unit price.
But five years on, this has still not been done.
Two MPs turned to the impact of drinking during pregnancy -
foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD.
FASD causes learning disabilities, Balliol problems.
FASD also causes learning difficulties, behavioural problems,
and a high proportion of people convicted of crimes in our prisons
Research by the Medical Research Council has concluded that even
moderate cringing in pregnancy has an impact on IQ and
If we all knew that 35,000 children were born every year in this country
with brain damage that could be prevented completely,
we would of course do everything in our power to prevent it.
And yet, worrying evidence is emerging that that may be
what is happening in this country every year and the figures
As an adoptive parent, I discovered just how common this
Including amongst my own two children.
I don't know if he can recall, when we were receiving evidence
in our all-party group about the impact of foetal
alcohol syndrome on adopted and fostered children,
but one survey done indicated that of the cohort of adopted and foster
children who were assessed, up to 70% of them were
There is now a suggestion that many, many children put up for adoption
And we heard a description from one adoptive parent that adoption is now
a family finding service for children with foetal
An SNP MP moved on to the scale of the problem in Scotland.
I have a very personal stake in this debate.
By all accounts, my own father, of whom I have no memory,
But that was not readily talked about in 1960s working-class
I did not witness his heavy drinking because he died
Not least because of his heavy drinking.
My own husband's father was an alcoholic as well, and that
In Glasgow, where both my husband and I grew up, this was not unusual.
And even today, it is still more common than you would think.
The Scottish Government has lowered the drink-driving unit and is trying
to bring in a minimum price. What else could kill 22 people
in Scotland each week, cause 600 the hospital admissions
each week, cost ?3.6 billion each A Labour MP and former minister had
spoken previously about growing up For much of my life,
I have grown up with that gnawing insecurity that is all too common
for many children of alcoholics. That constant feeling of guilt,
constantly asking yourself whether you're doing enough,
why is it that you can't do more to stop your mum
or dad from drinking? I know what it is like to feel that
cold nausea when you find the empty I know what it is like to feel sick
when you hear your parent being sick first thing in the morning
because they have drunk too much. He said the children of alcoholics
often fell through the gaps in provision.
The Shadow Health Minister said his alcoholic father had moved
to Thailand and not come home for his wedding.
His friends that he had made over there told me
he was drinking a bottle of whisky a day, over there.
They told me he could not come to the wedding because he did not
Because we were from a working class family in Salford.
You know, I had gone to university, I had become a politician.
"Posh people" would be at the wedding.
He felt he would embarrass me by being there.
And that was... I will always regret that.
So, look, I am the Shadow Health Secretary, I am going to do
lots of criticising the Tories because that is my job.
But can I say to the minister, I will work with Government to put
in place a proper strategy for supporting children of
Because, quite simply, 2 million children are suffering,
let's send them a message that they should no
The minister said there were grounds for optimism.
People under 18 are drinking less. Attitudes are changing. There has
been a steady reduction in alcohol-related road traffic
accidents. We are seeing real progress in Government working in
partnership with industry. Industry removed 1.3 billion units of alcohol
from the market through improving consumer choice of law alcohol
products, annually 80% of bottles and cans now his plate unit content
and pregnancy warnings on labels. As to minimum pricing... We are
considering minimal unit pricing in England and will. But we are waiting
for the outcome of the court case in Scotland because until we are the
result of the Supreme Court decision, which is still unknown,
and we are supporting the process of that case, we cannot proceed with
any policy decision in the UK. She had an emotional moment at the end
of speech. I do take courage from today's
debate, because great social change requires three things,
I think. It requires long-term
political will, it requires nonpartisan partnership,
and it requires bravery. And I have heard all
three of those today. And I hope that each member who has
spoken here today will continue to work with me as we fight
on to tackle this social injustice. The Health Minister, Nicola
Blackwood. The Government's being urged to do
more to secure the release of a British-Iranian woman
being held in Iran. A court there has rejected an appeal
against a five-year prison sentence given to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe,
who has dual British The charity worker has been accused
of security offences and was detained while trying
to leave the country with her baby daughter
after visiting relatives in April. Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe,
who is from London, said his wife's detention was a "stain" on Iran
and her family denies Mr Ratcliffe was in the Lords
gallery as the Foreign Office minister explained
what the Government Officials are in regular contact
with her family and we continue to do everything we can for the family.
I thank the noble lady. Unlike Mr Trump, we seek improved relations
with Iran. Here we have a mother, British Iranian citizen imprisoned
after visiting her family there with her daughter. And her daughter is
solely a British citizen. Surely the time has come for the UK to call for
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release before she, her little daughter and
her husband, yet today with his own mother, suffer any more. The
suffering of the family can barely be imagined. And regardless of some
of the extraordinary claims made on the internet, we should remember
this is a loving father who simply wants his family to be reunited. I
wholly respect that. That is why, my Lords, we are urgently seeking
information on what further legal actions are available to Nazanin
Zaghari-Ratcliffe. We will continue to offer support to the family both
here in London and Iran. I am a Government trade envoy to Iran. Is
she aware they have raised this issue with the Iranian government
and they associate wholly with the question asked? Has the Minister
noticed the statement by the president of Iran, the moderate
president there who has said that if Iran is to attract more investment
and commercial engagement with the wider world, it needs to make people
who visit Iran both welcome and safe?
Does the noble Baroness understand the disappointment felt by those who
supported the nuclear agreement and have welcomed the improving
relations between Iran and the United Kingdom? Would it not be
unfortunate, to say the least, if the fact this matter is not resolved
should sully or undermine that improving relationship. The child, I
understand, is entirely British. What is the Government doing about a
British subject being held in Iran? We have made it clear, here in this
dispatch box and colleagues in other places, we are ready to facilitate
the return of Gabriela to this country. She is solely a British
citizen and we stand ready to assist in the family ask us to do so.
And that's it from me for now, but do join me on Friday night at 11
for a round-up of a busy week here at Westminster that's been
dominated by Brexit and the UK's relationships with the US.
But for now, from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.