Live Cabinet Office Questions House of Commons


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Live Cabinet Office Questions

Live coverage of questions in the House of Commons to the Cabinet Office minister David Lidington and his team.


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service operations. Join me for a

round-up at 11am tonight but first

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we have questions to the new team at

the Cabinet Office.

I pay tribute to

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predecessors in these roles, in

particular my right honourable

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friend 's the member for Ashford and

the member for Derbyshire Dales.

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They have done great service for

their constituents, for this

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thousands for the country during

their time in office. I want to but

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my thanks on the record to them.

They also thank the right honourable

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friend the member for Kingswood for

the work they did in the Cabinet

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Office before moving on to other

responsibilities. The Electoral

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Commission 's report shows that

overall the 2017 general election

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was successfully do that by a

committed community of electoral

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administrators. We work with the

commission to ensure that returning

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officers are effectively supported

to run polls.

I thank the Minister

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for that response and welcome him to

his new role. But apart from this

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trap general election last year my

global authority last year presided

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over the greater magister combined

authority mayoral election is for

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which it received no central funding

which is surprisingly considering

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that one of the functions is to

replace a police and crime

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commissioners role which did receive

central funding. What action will

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the government take to help local

authorities like mine deliver

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well-run elections to these new

rules?

The Cabinet Office

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responsibility lies with reimbursing

local authorities returning officers

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for the cost incurred in

administration of national

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elections. The responsibility for

life with local authorities for the

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cost arising out of local elections

and local authority resources are

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going to be more than 200 billion

over the current spending review

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period for both 2018, 2019 and 20

20.

May I be the first to offer my

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right honourable friend from the

1992 intake congratulations on his

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latest appointment. Is your way of a

landmark ruling in the United States

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of the Supreme Court which has said

that the boundary changes in North

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Carolina are unconstitutional and

gerrymandering and will he join me

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in praising the work of the boundary

commissions despite their appalling

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recommendations ball a trail for at

least being transparent and

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nonpartisan?

It is always -- it has

always been an accepted strength of

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our Constitution arrangements that

we have Parliamentary boundary

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commission for each part of the UK

that is wholly independent of party

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politics and party influence. I hope

therefore that all parties in this

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House will rally behind the

Parliamentary boundary commission

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recommendations.

On behalf of the

opposition front bench I welcome the

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Minister to his new role. The chair

of the Electoral Commission has

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warned our system is facing a

perfect storm due to funding

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pressures. 43% of local authority

elections had experienced real term

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cuts since 2010 so can the Minister

outlined why the government

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engagement plan fails to address

these concerns and will be in short

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a full and conference review of the

delivery and funding in services is

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limited as a matter of urgency?

Can

I thank the honourable lady for

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their welcome to me to many

responsibilities but I have to

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repeat her what I said in my initial

response that the Electoral

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Commission concluded that while

there were problems that overall the

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2017 general election was

successfully delivered. The

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government is committed to

strengthening our electoral

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processes and we are planning as

part of that to run pilot schemes in

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a number of local authorities later

this year. So we will look seriously

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at recommendations from the

Electoral Commission.

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Every application to the electoral

register is now subject to identity

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verification checks. In late

December the government made that

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legislation aimed at improving the

registration process further.

Last

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month a 21-year-old man was

convicted of voting twice, firstly

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by post and then by voting in

person. He then bragged about it on

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Twitter. Over a thousand similar

complaints have been dealt with,

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most relating to students. What

steps is the government taking to

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deal with this?

I am glad he has

brought that example to life. I

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understand that following

examination of these reports the

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Electoral Commission has stated

there is a lack of evidence of

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widespread abuse but nonetheless we

will continue to work with the

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police and the Electoral Commission

to reduce the risk of double voting.

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I welcome the honourable lady to her

position. Will she agree with me

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that the electoral process in

Northern Ireland was severely

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corrupted eight months ago by

thousands of proxy vote applications

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and the previous member lost his

seat as a result of thousands of

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proxy vote applications that were

approved without any electoral

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identification and any photographic

identification.

I struggled to hear

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the gentleman but what I would say

to the honourable gentleman is that

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as he knows the electoral system in

Northern Ireland is devolved and my

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colleagues at the Northern Ireland

Office will be taking his concerns

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very seriously.

Can I add my welcome

to the front bench. I am delighted

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to see the strong team in the

Cabinet Office. Can I ask the

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minister if she has given any

consideration to restrict doing

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registration for elections to one

address which may help with the

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problem of double voting?

I think

the points to refer to hear is the

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breadth of the pickles review into

electoral fraud which gave us the

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basis for a number of reforms to our

electoral system all designed to

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reduce fraud and improve its

security. In that context I will be

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looking carefully at all of its

recommendations and the government

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has already accepted and will be

moving forward with a number of

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them.

One of the ways in which the

government could give more security

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is if they moved to automatic

registration when National Insurance

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them as I given out. It would

actually resolve any issues to do

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with registration.

I am aware of the

arguments although I confess that

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this point I have not yet had a

chance to study the particular

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private members bill. I will be

happy to do that and take up the

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conversation from that point.

May I

also welcome the minister to her

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post. She is the fourth that I have

had the privilege of facing in the

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last two years. The biggest threat

to the integrity of the electoral

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registration process is the fact

there are millions of our citizens

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who are not on the electoral

register. All of their predecessors

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promised they would bring forward

proposals to address this problem.

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We were told they would be a plan in

Easter last year, then the summer,

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then December and still nothing.

When will she bring forward

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proposals to make sure we can

increase the number of people on the

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register?

He will know that we have

near-record levels of participation

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in our democracy. For the turnout

has risen. Completeness has

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improved. There are 30 million new

registrations to vote since 20 14.

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75% of those use the website which

I'm sure he will agree is a rip --

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an important reform. The electoral

register for the 2017 election

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reached a record level. I don't

agree with his assessment.

Number

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three.

Thank you to honourable

members for that warm welcome. Small

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businesses are the backbone of our

economy and this government is

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committed to supporting them in

securing government contracts. We

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have already streamlined our

procurement process to assist small

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businesses. Our small business panel

is working to improve accessibility

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of government contracts and we've

focus on breaking down the barriers

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that might deter SME's.

Many small

businesses are put off from trying

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to get contracts by the emotive

information they have to go through.

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What can the government do to reduce

that information they need to

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supply?

I think he raises an

important point. It is vital that

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small businesses can access

government contracts so to achieve

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this we have taken action to ensure

business business bidding process is

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a simple fight. Conflict

prequalification crossing is

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abolished for low value contracts.

We will continue to look at ways to

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reduce burdens for small businesses.

What information does the Minister

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have that there has been an increase

in the number of small and

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medium-sized businesses accessing

contracts?

I thank the member for

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that question as I would point to

three pieces of information. Direct

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spend with SMEs is up 80% since the

Conservatives came to power in 2010.

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More small businesses than ever are

bidding for government business and

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government now spends directly

around £5.6 billion for SMEs.

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Can I congratulate as a fellow

Hertfordshire MP for his new role?

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Doing more to bring in the small to

medium-sized businesses,

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particularly in specialist areas

where Hertfordshire is so strong?

I

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think my honourable Hertfordshire

friend for his welcome. He raises an

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important point, I think there are

two aspects. Firstly, the direct

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spend, 5.6 billion around. We also

need we get spending in contracts

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lower down so the people who have

Government contracts spend with

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small businesses and that is

something we are committed to doing

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as a Government.

Too often, rather

than outsourcing to SMEs, large

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companies are employed. This is

subject to an investigation by the

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FCA. Karelian remains a major

supplier in terms of work

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procurement. -- Carillion. Does the

Government have such a contingency

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plan and what is the likely cost to

the taxpayer.

We of course make

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contingency plans for all

eventualities. If I could briefly

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update the House, as members will

know, Carillion is a major supplier

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to the Government with long-term

contracts. We are committed to

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maintaining a healthy supply

markets. I can tell the House that

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Carillion's performance continues to

move forward, including work on

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Crossrail over the Christmas period.

The central question is not

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answered. The Government has been

outsourcing public services to large

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companies on an industrial scale.

When these massive outsourcing

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companies fail, does the Minister

they failed that the costs stay with

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the taxpayer while the profits are

going to the shareholders?

Do not

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think there is anything wrong with

profits. Profit is a reward for

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investment made by businesses.

Perhaps of the honourable gentleman

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had recently has it he would not

have do read the pre-scripted

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question previously. I would gently

suggest that the honourable

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gentleman, this is something the

Government take seriously and for

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the first time as a Government

started measuring this, something

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that had not been done for 13 years

before, measuring small and

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medium-sized enterprises with

Government contract. We set a 25%

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target and have delivered, a record

of success for this Government.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. The first

duty of Government is to safeguard

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the nation and we take the security

and integrity of our democratic

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processes seriously. Other we have

not seen evidence... We will not be

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complacent and will continue to

protect ourselves.

In order to

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protect ourselves, the Chair of the

Electoral Commission has said we

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need new rules for online political

advertising to combat political

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influence particularly by Facebook

and Twitter. When will the

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Government bring forward legislation

we need?

One of the very first

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things to do in my new role is to

meet the Commission and discuss that

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with them.

I welcome the new

Minister. Though she agree with me

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that one of the ways of reducing

foreign influence in our democratic

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processes will be aged members of

this House did not go on Russia

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today and Sputnik and be paid money

for doing so?

To hear from the right

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honourable member reminds me of the

heady days in the Coalition

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Government where we served in the

Cabinet office or thereabouts

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together. His question today reminds

us that there are honourable members

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of this House here who seem to feel

the need to do as he says. I think

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it would be more helpful if we

recalled the words of the Prime

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Minister at Mansion House Speech, we

should be well aware of what Russia

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seeks to do and seek to protect the

UK from it.

Question number five.

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With your permission, I will answer

this and question eight together.

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The Government is considering the

responses to our call to evidence on

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the accessibility of the voter

registration system. We have

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recently released the plan for

Democratic engagement which includes

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strategies for disabled electors.

The Government has also implemented

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the findings of an accessibility

review of the register to vote

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website.

For those who are disabled

physically and visually who want to

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carry out a normal role to vote like

the rest of us, could the Minister

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outlined that those with wheelchairs

can gain access to the polling

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stations and that papers in Braille

are available to those who are

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visually disabled?

Notwithstanding,

Mr Speaker, the caveat that in

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Northern Ireland the system is

devolved and in some ways different

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to that in GB, in general terms I

will say certainly we should not

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regard people with disabilities,

restricted to voting in one way or

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another, polling stations are

equipped with tactile voting

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devices. More broadly there are some

arguments as to whether Braille

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brings some opportunity to identify

a voter but I welcome the question

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and welcome for the conversation.

I

would like to welcome my honourable

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friend to her new role. In

Southport, my constituency, three

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excellent school specialising in

teaching children with autism as

0:17:220:17:24

well as behaviour and learning

disabilities. Does my honourable

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friend agree with me that

encouraging children with these

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conditions to learn about our

political structure they will become

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more likely to engage with the

electoral systems as adults?

I do

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agree with my honourable friend and

am glad he raises these points. My

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predecessor in this role, member for

Kingswood, excellent work in the

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every voice matters project, social

justice. It should be that any

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citizen should be at the heart of

voting, their ability to cast their

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votes as a matter of public service.

Thank you. In November 2017 we

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published the 20 15th-16th figures

for central Government departments.

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The Government is fully committed to

supporting our small businesses

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which are of course the engine room

of our economy. We continue to make

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action to meet our targets of a

third opportunity being the small

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businesses by 2022.

Good to see the

Minister looking in a state of high

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excitement, as well he might.

In

those 2015-16th figures the level of

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procurement to SMEs shown to be

following from 17 to 24%. Direct

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procurement, the majority. Also

changes needed to a Government

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procurement system that just

delivers from large contractors to

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SMEs.

This is a challenging target,

that is right. We set a challenging

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target in 2010 and we met that

challenging target by the end of the

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parliament. I am confident we will

reach that target again and in

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particular taking the following

further measures in relation to

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SMEs, we will use transparency to

encourage large businesses to employ

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more SMEs and make prompt payments

part of the selection process. I can

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tell the House we will be bringing

forward proposals very shortly on

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that.

Question number seven.

The

Cabinet office is responsible for

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coordinating action to increase

social economic diversity. Within

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the civil service, delivering on all

recommendations recommended in the

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2016 report.

The recent Social

Mobility Commission 's report found

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the worst performing areas for

social mobility are no longer in

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city areas but remote, rural and

coastal areas and former industrial

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areas. What steps will the

Government take to retrace the

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funding imbalance, North faces and

tackle social mobility in

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post-industrial town such as leave.

-- Leigh.

Action on education and

0:20:260:20:38

housing an appointment at the key

steps to be taken, as the Prime

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Minister said. That is what the

Government and the premise is giving

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priority to. We have 1.9 more

children now in good or outstanding

0:20:450:20:51

schools than we did in 2010.

I am

delighted to see the honourable

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gentleman has been promoted from the

whips office. And cannot speak.

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CHEERING

Would my right honourable friend

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agree that social mobility is

essential to maximise the potential

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of individuals and our country.

While the Government has achieved a

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great deal so far, does he agree

that there is still more to be done?

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I completely agree with my

honourable friend and the Government

0:21:210:21:25

looks forward to delivering, in

full, on the social mobility action

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plan for education that my right

honourable friend the Member for

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Putney announced just before

Christmas.

Finally, briefly, Fiona

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Bruce.

Cabinet Office ministers and

officials meet regularly with

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colleagues across Government to

discuss security of private and

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public sector organisations.

Investing 1.9 billion as part of the

0:21:540:22:01

cyber Security strategy.

Protect

themselves against attacks on their

0:22:010:22:09

cyber security?

The National Cyber

Security Centre gives direct help

0:22:090:22:17

and advice to public sector

organisations and offers advice and

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guidance and help in responding to

attacks to private sector

0:22:230:22:26

organisations. I would encourage all

to use its services.

There is far

0:22:260:22:30

too much noise in the Chamber. Very

loud and persistent private

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conversations. Let's have a better

order, topical questions.

I intend

0:22:360:22:46

to continue the work of the Cabinet

office to deliver its purpose is to

0:22:460:22:51

maintain the integrity of the union

of the United Kingdom to coordinate

0:22:510:22:55

the security of the realm, to

sustain a flourishing democracy,

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ensure the delivery of the finest

public services and help implement

0:23:000:23:03

the Government 's pass policies and

the Prime Minister pass priorities.

0:23:030:23:10

The Government has put out a dozen

documents related to its European

0:23:100:23:17

policy in the early 1990s. What is

the Government trying to hide? What

0:23:170:23:22

embarrassment is the Tory party

trying to cover up, and will the

0:23:220:23:26

Minister released these documents?

I

am happy to look at the particular

0:23:260:23:32

case if the honourable gentleman

would like to write to me, but I can

0:23:320:23:37

assure him that the documents are

not withheld. Likely sometimes

0:23:370:23:47

individuals, information still

sensitive in diplomatic terms.

The

0:23:470:23:54

Dorset Knight himself, Sir Robert

Simmons.

One of the new

0:23:540:24:02

responsibilities of the Secretary of

State is important negotiations with

0:24:020:24:04

the devolved assemblies and

Parliament. When will the Secretary

0:24:040:24:11

of state take meetings for the

supporting -- important discussions

0:24:110:24:15

for the future of our country.

It is

true that the Prime Minister has

0:24:150:24:20

asked me to continue with my

predecessor's responsibilities

0:24:200:24:24

overall supervision of

intergovernmental relations in the

0:24:240:24:29

United Kingdom. I spoke last evening

to the Deputy First Minister of

0:24:290:24:33

Scotland and the First Minister of

Wales and I assured them that I hope

0:24:330:24:36

to visit both Scotland and Wales in

the near future. I have very much to

0:24:360:24:40

visit Northern Ireland as well.

The

other remark that the 20 17th snap

0:24:400:24:50

election had been well run. But they

felt the need to provide its members

0:24:500:24:57

with a free counselling service

following the election. What action

0:24:570:25:01

will be Government take to address

unsustainable workloads and staffing

0:25:010:25:06

pressures experienced by our

election staff?

One of the challenge

0:25:060:25:13

facing electoral staff this year is

an unprecedented amount of people

0:25:130:25:17

taking advantage of the opportunity

to register online and the

0:25:170:25:20

Administration had to sort out

duplicate registrations. We are

0:25:200:25:25

looking at the lessons to be learnt

by that but we should not fail to

0:25:250:25:31

acknowledge the fact that online

registration has made it easier for

0:25:310:25:34

people to register than in the past

and a great boon to many of our

0:25:340:25:37

citizens.

With over 25% of overseas

development being spent outside

0:25:370:25:44

of... Is there a role for Cabinet

Office encouraging more cross

0:25:440:25:50

departmental spend and better

reporting across all departments?

My

0:25:500:25:57

honourable friend with his expert

knowledge of Africa makes an

0:25:570:26:00

important point. The national

security adviser based in the

0:26:000:26:07

capital -- Cabinet Office

responsible for £3.2 billion of

0:26:070:26:12

cross departmental ODA spending and

I am looking forward to discussing

0:26:120:26:16

with them how that money can best be

spent and will certainly take

0:26:160:26:19

account of my honourable friend pass

views.

Lewisham has over 2000

0:26:190:26:26

residents in temporary

accommodation. Three quarters of

0:26:260:26:28

those who have been in contact with

me are not on the electoral

0:26:280:26:32

register. I am not happy with this,

is the Government? If you are not,

0:26:320:26:37

what is the Government going to do

about this?

Despite the success of

0:26:370:26:44

online registration, we accept there

is more to do and think it is

0:26:440:26:47

important we encourage all our

citizens of this country to take

0:26:470:26:50

advantage of the democratic rights

they have to cast a vote locally and

0:26:500:26:53

nationally.

I have a number of

constituents who have suffered

0:26:530:26:58

terribly as a result of the

contaminated blood scandal. Would my

0:26:580:27:02

right honourable friend please

update the House and the process

0:27:020:27:05

towards an appointment of the chair

and timescales of enquiry?

The

0:27:050:27:12

contaminated blood scandal was an

appalling tragedy from which

0:27:120:27:20

individuals and their families are

still suffering. I regard this as a

0:27:200:27:26

very high priority for me. We

approached the Justice, asked him to

0:27:260:27:34

nominate a judge to chair the

enquiry and they had to make an

0:27:340:27:37

announcement of the name of that

judge soon.

After the Prime Minister

0:27:370:27:43

pass painful and protracted

reshuffle clearly failed to ensure

0:27:430:27:47

that the Cabinet reflects diverse

and modern Britain, what steps is

0:27:470:27:52

the Minister taking to increase

diversity in the civil service?

We

0:27:520:27:57

are implementing in full and the

report to which I alluded earlier.

0:27:570:28:06

We are encouraging all Government

departments to step up their work,

0:28:060:28:09

to make sure that they are

recruiting people, seeking to

0:28:090:28:16

recruit people, from groups in

society harder to reach than others

0:28:160:28:20

in the past. Important that

continues and I think the Prime

0:28:200:28:24

Minister pass commitment to racial

disparity project which in 14 years

0:28:240:28:29

of Labour Government something we

didn't see from the party

0:28:290:28:32

opposite...

Personal assurances

given to me and colleagues about the

0:28:320:28:44

Repeal Bill. Can he assure me

Government remains committed to

0:28:440:28:51

working with devolved

administrations... I can give my

0:28:510:28:57

honourable friend that commitment.

When I spoke to the Deputy First

0:28:570:29:02

Minister of Scotland last night I

said we were disappointed we had not

0:29:020:29:06

been able to reach agreement with

the devolved administrations on the

0:29:060:29:09

acceptable form of words for such an

amendment but was committed to

0:29:090:29:16

intensifying discussions with

devolved administrations...

By New

0:29:160:29:25

Year pass Eve, and other four young

people lost their lives to knife

0:29:250:29:29

crime. We have failed to tackle the

epidemic because we have the

0:29:290:29:35

lowest...

Order. The question is

about knife crime. This is a matter

0:29:350:29:43

of the utmost gravity. Please, it is

the last question. And the answer.

0:29:430:29:49

Sarah Jones.

New Year pass Eve,

another four people lost their lives

0:29:490:29:56

to knife crime in London. We have

failed to tackle the epidemic

0:29:560:30:00

because we have failed to recognise

the solutions span health,

0:30:000:30:05

education, poverty and aspiration.

What can he do in his role to get

0:30:050:30:10

Government departments working

together to fight a long-term

0:30:100:30:12

solution?

Can I first of all say and

a half of myself I am sure the whole

0:30:120:30:20

House will want to express an

reserve sympathy and condolences to

0:30:200:30:23

the families. Of those for young

people who must be going through

0:30:230:30:29

hell at this time. -- four young

people. The Government stands on

0:30:290:30:37

knife crime is tougher than ever

before, and the latest figures show

0:30:370:30:42

that more people are being sent to

prison for knife crime. Like I

0:30:420:30:52

accept this has to involve local

government, the mayor in a big way.

0:30:520:30:59

I know the Home Secretary is very

committed to seeing further action

0:30:590:31:03

taken to drive down the rates of

these appalling crimes and I promise

0:31:030:31:08

that I will

0:31:080:31:09