09/03/2018 Newsnight


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09/03/2018

In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Mark Urban.


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Yesterday this programme revealed

a culture of abuse and bullying that

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has gone largely unchallenged

in the House of Commons.

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Tonight, we hear from more

Westminster staff who fear

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that the muted response

to our revelations shows that

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nothing will change.

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They are known bullies walking

around the place and the house seems

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to think they've sorted everything

out.

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So what - do we just wait

until they do it again and

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report them ad infinitum?

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The investigation intensifies

into the poisoning of

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Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

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If the finger points

at Moscow, what action can

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the British Government take,

and would Russia even care?

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We ask a former Russian MP and

Kremlin adviser.

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We understand that you don't

like Vladimir Putin

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as president of Russia,

because he is making Russia great

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again, as Donald Trump tried to do

with the United States of America.

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And as it's announced that the US

President will meet the supreme

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leader of North Korea,

we get the exclusive

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reaction from Donald Trump.

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Or at least somebody

who sounds a lot like him.

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It's such an important meeting,

usually my pout is here.

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For this meeting

it's going to be here.

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I've got to bring my A game.

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Good evening.

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Downing Street today backed calls

for an investigation into complaints

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of bullying made against

the Commons speaker John Bercow.

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The Prime Minister,

we are told, retains

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confidence in the Speaker,

though a spokesman says

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she's "concerned".

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That's because last night

Newsnight revealed complaints

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against Mr Bercow and two other MPs.

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And tonight it's emerged an MP

is planning to ask an urgent

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question in Parliament on Monday

about those allegations.

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The Green Party's Caroline Lucas

believes there's cross-party support

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for a change in the way

Parliament deals with complaints

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from its staffers.

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Chris Cook and Lucinda Day reported

yesterday, on the frustrations

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of Commons clerks who believe

parliament turns a blind eye

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to bad behaviour from MPs.

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Today, they've been hearing

from staff at Westminster, who say

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the reaction to last night's report

shows nothing's changed.

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The MP exploded at me

so aggressively that my colleagues

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stood between us to physically

shield him from me.

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I didn't feel that there

was anywhere for me to go

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to talk about it.

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He was particularly nasty to those

he felt were below him.

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He went mad at me.

It got very personal.

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Newsnight revealed

yesterday that there is a

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serious rot in Westminster.

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Bullying and harassment by MPs.

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And it's directed a shocking

amount at clerks.

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The apolitical staff who umpire

and run the lower house.

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And women clerks in particular.

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Last night Newsnight

reported that three MPs

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have been accused

of bullying clerks.

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Mark Pritchard, Paul

Farrelly and John Bercow.

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All of them deny the claims

made against them.

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There's more interest in John Bercow

than the other two, because he

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is in effect the boss

of the clerks and it's

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his job in part to fix

the culture of Westminster.

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As it happens today

was a training day for

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clerks, an opportunity for managers

to win back worried staff.

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They didn't do very well.

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The house management did

send out an e-mail to

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staff though, saying that harassment

and bullying of any kind is

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totally unacceptable.

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They reassured staff

that the current system, introduced

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in 2014, means things are very

different now to the way they

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used to be.

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Here, though, is what serving

staff think of that.

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We have been sent written testimony

from them this evening.

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After that e-mail went out,

and after today's training day.

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As a Commons employee, I'm

disappointed although not surprised

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at the House's dismissal

of the issues raised in your report.

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The house's response means I've lost

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any favour may have had for

a complaint made under the current

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respect policy would achieve

anything positive for the staff

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Since 2014, 17 cases have been

raised under the new HR policy.

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None has got as far

as workplace mediation.

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No MPs have been sanctioned.

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Any process has to demonstrate

an MP being disciplined

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in a meaningful way.

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Remember lots of clerks

have had reason for

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complaints about lots of MPs.

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This topic is not going away.

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There this political

excitement about

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whether specific MPs are bullied.

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And Chris is here.

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Chris, we'll come

to you in a moment.

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But first, we're also

joined by Amy Leversidge.

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She's the Assistant General

Secretary of the First

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Division Association,

which is the union which represents

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many of the civil servants

who work inside parliament.

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Let's start off with, what is your

view of the situation? Your union

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hears things, too. How bad is it

compare to a Whitehall department?

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That is an interesting question. As

trade union officials we hear

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stories about bullying and

harassment across the piece. What's

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different about the House of Commons

is that it is a completely different

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employer. You have got the employer

and the staff, but you have also got

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MPs who are not employees, they are

elected. That is the difference die

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mention about the House of Commons.

-- dimension. You have got people

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doing the bullying and MPs who are

not employees of the house.

Also,

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their reserve onto themselves the

right to be the final judges. You've

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helped, along with the others

involved in the process, to try and

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reform the system. 2007, 2011, 2014,

the so-called respect policy. Why

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has that not stopped the problem of

bullying?

In 2014, we work really

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hard on the respect policy in the

House. The unions at the time worked

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as hard as they could to get the

best deal possible. But the policy

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still is flawed fundamentally

because there is no independent body

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that oversees what happens with the

MPs. That is the problem. Obviously

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it's really important that staff

have trust and confidence in any

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system. They will only have trust

and confidence if there is an

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independent oversight into what

happens with MPs.

Quite. Under the

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current laws, and MP has to cause

damage to get the reputation of the

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House as a whole. It is a pretty

high bar. Has any MP been charged

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with causing damage to the House as

a whole?

This is one of the

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fundamental problems. It is a very

high bar.

No is the answer.

Yes.

How

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do you give it the independents, how

do you change the machinery in order

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to create that independent

oversight?

We want to work with the

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employers and the other trade unions

to sort out this and find solutions

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to the problems. We need to have a

policy that has got the trust and

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confidence of the staff. As you

report shows, it cannot be right,

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absolutely inappropriate that we

have got dedicated public servants

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who leave their jobs rather than

raising these issues. That's not

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good for the House of Commons

either. They are losing these

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experienced staff. We can't come up

with those solutions on our own in

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the time with God. So what we need

to do is work together. They need to

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involve the trade unions. They need

to involve ourselves and the others

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to work together to find those

solutions.

Do you think it'll end up

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with an outside panel being the

arbiters?

That is what we would like

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to see. An independent body that

allows their to be proper scrutiny

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and proper redress for people. It

can't be right that MPs are

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basically marking their own

homework.

Absolutely. That is a

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proposal. Where does this actually

go from here, Chris, in terms of

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bringing about any real change?

The

big thing next week as Parliament

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coming back. We published last

night. The House wasn't around

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today. MPs were in their

constituencies. We are expecting an

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urgent question on Monday from

Caroline Lucas. There seems to be a

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lot of focus on John Bercow

personally partly because the

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Speaker of the House has a tricky

reputation with some members of the

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House. He is perceived by Tory MPs

as being April Labour speaker. What

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we are expecting next week is a lot

of his existing critics, who have

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cold frame to resign over a series

of things before, to use this as

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another opportunity to call to

resign. We spoke to one of those MPs

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who has previously called for him to

resign.

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Well, I think next week lots

of members of Parliament will be

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wanting to ask questions

in the chamber, wherever they can

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into these allegations.

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The Speaker needs

to be above the fray.

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the clerks and these are very,

very serious allegations.

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I think one of the questions about

this is going to be about the

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interesting the horse race politics

of individual MPs being revealed to

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be unpleasant individuals, that

might derail what is being done, and

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attempts to fix the workplace.

I'm

sure you will keep us posted. Thank

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you.

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Police investigating the poisoning

of Sergei and Yulia Skripal have

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expanded their search in Salisbury,

and called the military

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in for good measure.

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Officers in protective clothing

have sealed off the graves

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of Skripal's wife and son.

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The Army has gone to pick up

ambulances that were used

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to take those affected

by the poisons to hospital.

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Tomorrow the Home Secretary will

share an emergency meeting of Cobra.

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While all this activity goes on,

scientists just a few miles up

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the road at Porton Down have begun

the business of analysing nerve

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agent samples, in the hope

of finding out where

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the chemicals were produced.

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If the finger points at Russia,

the pressure for some sort

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of response will be intense.

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Are you considering measures against

Russia?

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As the foreign trip -- Foreign

Secretary suggested earlier this

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week Britain's participation in the

World Cup could get dragged into

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this.

Thinking ahead to the World

Cup this summer, I think it would be

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very difficult to imagine that UK

representation at that event could

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go ahead in the normal way. We would

certainly have to consider that.

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However, the Kremlin is hardly going

to lose sleep at the prospect of

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losing a few British officials from

its World Cup. Meanwhile, in

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Salisbury things have moved on.

Scientists at Porton down have no

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established details of the nerve

agent used on British streets.

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Listening to Amber Rudd this

morning, it's clear they are no

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moving on to where it came from.

At

the moment our priority is going to

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be the incident, which is why I'm

here in Salisbury today, making sure

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that everybody is protected around

here, around the incident. Making

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sure the emergency services have had

the support they need and will

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continue to get it on going. It has

been great to hear that is the case.

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In terms of further options, that

will have to wait until we are

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absolutely clear what the

consequences could be and what the

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actual source of this nerve agent

has been.

With the military

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deploying onto the streets of

Salisbury to help the police with

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decontamination, there's no doubt

about the seriousness of the

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situation. But if Downing Street is

preparing to point the finger at

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Russia, what are they thinking of

doing about it? There has been

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discussion of further economic

sanctions. Suggestions also that the

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UK should enact a so-called law.

This kind of legislation has been

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used in the US to target Russian

officials suspected of human rights

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violations. Britain could target for

asset freezes and target bands --

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travel bans Russians it holds

responsible for the Salisbury

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attack. It may go beyond that. With

the UK officials sharing with allies

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their preliminary assessment of

where the nerve agent came from, it

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may be a bigger sporting boycott

reminiscent of Olympic ones in which

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allies would be asked to join us.

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Earlier, I spoke with Sergei Markov.

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He was an MP in Vladimir Putin's

party, United Russia.

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He's now director of the Institute

for Political Studies in Moscow,

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and retains close

ties to the Kremlin.

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I asked him how news of Mr Skripal's

poisoning had gone down in Russia.

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Er of course it is awful that this

gentleman and specifically his

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daughter can die because of

poisoning. It's awful. Russian

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public opinion reacted not to the

Sergei Skripal case but to the great

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propagandist atmosphere in the

British atmosphere demonising Russia

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again. But we want to ask British

journalists and British politicians,

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please, keep professional. Don't

violate freedom of speech. Don't

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speed up a propagandist campaign so

highly. Please take into account

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that we should establish such a

relationship and of course Sergei

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Skripal was a negative figure for

Russia because he betrayed us that

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Russia is a 21st century country.

The fact is, actually, the British

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government is not yet accusing

Russia of doing it, although we do

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see some indications that they are

preparing to do so. But at the same

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time, we see commentators on the

first channel, the Russian official

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state media and indeed President

Putin himself to some extent hinting

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that traitors get their just

rewards. Do you believe that too?

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Because at the beginning of this

interview you expressed some

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sympathy for Sergei Skripal and his

daughter.

I expressed sympathy as a

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Christian believer who doesn't want

anyone to die. Yet at the same

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anyone to die. Yet at the same time,

we were told that the profession of

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traitor is very dangerous. It is

even more dangerous than a member of

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a drug market or so on. It is true,

everyone knows about this.

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everyone knows about this. It is not

to threaten other traitors, but and

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has an effect which everybody knows.

I hear your point about, as a

0:17:470:17:53

Christian believer, you do not wish

harm on him, but do you think we

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will effectively see a Russian

official position that we didn't do

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it but he got what he deserved. It

seems to me like an obvious

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contradiction.

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contradiction.

It's absolutely

clear, the Russian position, by

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clear, the Russian position, by the

way, we got this gentleman but we

0:18:210:18:23

decided to give him to the United

States and to Britain, and it's all

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for us. We want to forget about

Sergei Skripal,. He had already

0:18:290:18:41

broke his life when he decided to

betray Russia and to cooperate with

0:18:410:18:50

British intelligence services. 'S

and that's a victory for the British

0:18:500:18:56

intelligence service. It is how we

see this. We see that Sergei

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Skripal, he's just a result of the

1990s. What can we do? We cannot

0:19:030:19:11

close history.

Well let's look

forward specifically to the next few

0:19:110:19:15

days and weeks. If the British

government, as seems likely, points

0:19:150:19:21

finger at Russia and then starts to

threaten retaliation in different

0:19:210:19:26

forms, sanctions, or gay sporting

boycott of the World Cup, for

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example, how will that be in Russia?

It will be received in Russia as a

0:19:310:19:48

pity, or the next step of a war

against Russia. We understand that

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you don't like Vladimir Putin as

President of Russia because he is

0:19:540:19:57

making Russia great again. As Donald

Trump is trying to do with the

0:19:570:20:01

United States of America. But we are

supporting Vladimir Putin exactly

0:20:010:20:06

for this reason. And if you attack

the Russian President Vladimir Putin

0:20:060:20:14

and demonise him, we will support

him more. Because we understand very

0:20:140:20:21

well and you are criticising Mr

Putin exactly for the things that we

0:20:210:20:27

like about them. I want to repeat

again, Sergei Skripal needs a real

0:20:270:20:37

investigation.

0:20:370:20:42

investigation. Police, control the

intelligence services. You are

0:20:430:20:46

British citizens. You are not

controlling your intelligence

0:20:460:20:49

services. Look what happened with

Ukraine. Look at what happened in

0:20:490:20:53

Syria when your spies cooperated

with terrorists.

We will leave it

0:20:530:21:04

there.

Democracy, come back to Great

Britain. Don't leave it to

0:21:040:21:09

terrorists to do what they are doing

without controlling the British

0:21:090:21:14

people.

Sergei Markov, thank you for

joining us. That was Sergei Markov

0:21:140:21:19

speaking earlier from Minsk.

0:21:190:21:26

Now, good news if you work

in a certain aircraft

0:21:260:21:28

factory in Lancashire -

not so good maybe

0:21:280:21:30

if you live in Yemen.

0:21:300:21:31

As Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince,

Mohammed bin Salman rounded off

0:21:310:21:34

a trip to the UK tonight,

his country has signed a letter

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of intent to buy 48 more Typhoon

fighters from BAE Systems.

0:21:370:21:39

Britain is under fire

from human rights groups

0:21:390:21:41

for arming Saudi Arabia,

at the same time as Mr bin Salman,

0:21:410:21:48

one of the architects of the Yemen

war is portrayed by his country's

0:21:480:21:50

media as the kingdom's

best hope for human rights,

0:21:500:21:52

reform and renewal.

0:21:520:21:56

Today's announcements

about the planes followed

0:21:560:22:00

meetings with Theresa May,

Boris Johnson and the Queen.

0:22:000:22:04

Earlier, I spoke to

Sherard Cowper Coles,

0:22:040:22:08

formerly British ambassador

to Saudi and former consult to BAE.

0:22:080:22:16

I asked him if this deal

was good news for people

0:22:190:22:22

in factories across the UK.

0:22:220:22:23

Yes, good news for the British

economy, but also good news for

0:22:230:22:26

British influence

in the Middle East.

0:22:260:22:28

Good news for our relationship

with Saudi Arabia.

0:22:280:22:29

Good news for a Britain

leaving the European Union,

0:22:290:22:32

still to be a player

in this sort of area.

0:22:320:22:36

And the question you have to ask is,

if we hadn't gone ahead with

0:22:360:22:40

this order, what would have happened

to our relationship?

0:22:400:22:46

But also, where else

would they have gone?

0:22:460:22:48

But if the UK hadn't gone

ahead, would it in a

0:22:480:22:52

sense have cleaner hands,

because Saudi Arabia is now involved

0:22:520:22:54

in this war in Yemen?

0:22:540:22:55

It's a humanitarian disaster.

0:22:550:22:56

They're bombing civilians

with British-made weapons.

0:22:560:22:58

It's surely becoming

a bit more toxic for this

0:22:580:23:01

country, in that sense?

0:23:010:23:02

Well, it is for everyone.

0:23:020:23:04

The key is, do we want

to retain influence?

0:23:040:23:10

Do we want to help bring

about a peaceful settlement?

0:23:100:23:12

Do we want to remain a player?

0:23:120:23:14

And selling more weapons helps?

0:23:140:23:15

The alternative is not

selling weapons.

0:23:150:23:17

This is about the world as it is,

not as we would like it to be.

0:23:170:23:21

And we could break

off our relationship

0:23:210:23:23

with Saudi Arabia.

0:23:230:23:26

We could have not had

this week's visit.

0:23:260:23:28

But we have had no influence,

0:23:280:23:30

no, we wouldn't have been

a player in the Middle East.

0:23:300:23:33

When you were ambassador

in Riyadh, a decade plus

0:23:330:23:38

ago, was it more like the world

as one might have wanted it?

0:23:380:23:42

Was it an easier, less

controversial relationship?

0:23:420:23:48

I think when I was ambassador

there I was trying to

0:23:480:23:51

encourage change.

0:23:510:23:52

I remember briefing

British ministers to raise

0:23:520:23:54

the need to move forward

on women's rights,

0:23:540:23:57

to move forward on social rights,

to move forward on education.

0:23:570:24:02

And now we have a leader at last

in Saudi Arabia who is doing

0:24:020:24:10

what every friend of Saudi Arabia...

0:24:100:24:16

The crown prince is doing

0:24:160:24:17

what we have all urged him to do.

0:24:170:24:19

Do you think he is for real?

0:24:190:24:21

He is definitely for real.

0:24:210:24:22

Highly intelligent,

very enthusiastic, very

0:24:220:24:23

curious.

0:24:230:24:24

Very decisive, very young.

0:24:240:24:25

Someone who needs friends, needs

supporters, who needs people around

0:24:250:24:31

him to help him deliver this vision.

0:24:310:24:35

Someone immensely

popular in his country.

0:24:350:24:37

But there is another

interpretation, isn't there?

0:24:370:24:39

Some Western friendly steps,

like allowing women

0:24:390:24:40

to drive, allowing cinemas.

0:24:400:24:43

But a rate of public executions

that is higher than ever.

0:24:430:24:48

And indeed an anti-corruption drive,

which, when you talk to some Saudis,

0:24:480:24:53

just seems to be like

a shakedown operation

0:24:530:24:57

to bring in a lot of money

from rival princes.

0:24:570:24:59

Well, as I say, you take

the world as it is, not

0:24:590:25:04

as you'd like it to be.

It is an imperfect world.

0:25:040:25:07

But here is somebody

who is delivering reform.

0:25:070:25:10

It is not a question

of it being Western

0:25:100:25:12

friendly reform.

It is people friendly reform.

0:25:120:25:14

It is what the young people

of Saudi Arabia want.

0:25:140:25:19

And we need to use our influence

with him, administering tough love

0:25:190:25:21

in private to get the kinds

of results we want.

0:25:210:25:25

And tough love, does that

mean saying to him in

0:25:250:25:27

private, "Get out of Yemen,

solve this Yemen problem quickly -

0:25:270:25:31

because it is extremely

damaging to the image of

0:25:310:25:33

Saudi Arabia and the UK,

providing you with weapons?"

0:25:330:25:36

Well, it's not a question

of the image of Saudi Arabia.

0:25:360:25:40

It's a question of the right

solution for Yemen, for the

0:25:400:25:42

Arabian Peninsula,

for the region as a whole.

0:25:420:25:44

You need to remember, Mark,

that Saudi Arabia is actually

0:25:440:25:49

threatened from Yemen.

Rockets have been fired from Yemen.

0:25:490:25:52

It is now.

0:25:520:25:55

They are firing missiles,

but that was after Saudi began

0:25:550:25:57

its intervention.

0:25:570:25:58

Those attacks were coming

across the border before

0:25:580:26:01

Saudi intervened.

0:26:010:26:03

This is part of a perfectly

legitimate operation.

0:26:030:26:07

A lot of people will

tell you that the

0:26:070:26:15

Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman,

is the architect of this

0:26:200:26:23

disastrous intervention

in Yemen.

0:26:230:26:28

Is he therefore the man to get

Saudi Arabia out of it?

0:26:280:26:31

He is absolutely someone

we need to work with.

0:26:310:26:33

I'm quite sure Yemen

was high on the agenda.

0:26:330:26:36

It was not just lecturing

the Saudis just to get out

0:26:360:26:38

of Yemen and leave behind chaos,

but work with everyone involved to

0:26:380:26:41

produce a solution that delivers

stability, that delivers security

0:26:410:26:43

and above all delivers some relief

for the poor suffering people of

0:26:430:26:46

Yemen on all sides.

0:26:460:26:47

Sherard Cowper Coles,

thank you so much.

0:26:470:26:53

That was the former ambassador to

Saudi Arabia. A moment for

0:26:530:26:56

tomorrow's papers. Some of you old

school viewers may enjoy it when we

0:26:560:27:02

do this. The daily Mirror leading on

the Sergei Skripal story and the

0:27:020:27:07

fact that they have now sealed off

the graves of his wife and son. The

0:27:070:27:14

Financial Times also promises its

readers a long read on the poisoning

0:27:140:27:19

of Sergei Skripal and his daughter

Yulia and the police officer who

0:27:190:27:23

went to help them but their lead is

the White House- North Korea summit

0:27:230:27:28

plan. The White House trying to deny

the Koreans, a sort of PR win on

0:27:280:27:33

that one. The i newspaper has, once

again, the nuclear gamble with North

0:27:330:27:38

Korea. I suppose, reflecting the

idea that the talks could promise

0:27:380:27:44

much but what will President Trump

say when he gets into the room. And

0:27:440:27:49

finally the Daily Mail goes its own

sweet way, council parking charges

0:27:490:27:54

soaring. That's all on the front

pages.

0:27:540:28:01

Donald Trump

really has had quite a week.

0:28:010:28:05

Few in the White House or even the

Pentagon were expecting his shock

0:28:050:28:09

announcement that he is to meet with

Kim Jong-un. We are told the meeting

0:28:090:28:13

could take place before May.

Certainly a major gamble so what is

0:28:130:28:18

the president thinking of? To help

work out what he might have planned

0:28:180:28:23

Newsnight Cordoba earlier with Mr

Trump himself. At least we're pretty

0:28:230:28:26

sure was him. Emily is here on

Monday. Have a great weekend.

0:28:260:28:33

I thought Mark Urban

was great tonight.

0:28:330:28:35

I thought he was really first class.

0:28:350:28:37

He's a great rapper, great guy,

very lucky man being

0:28:370:28:39

married to Nicole Kidman.

0:28:390:28:41

What are we talking about?

0:28:410:28:43

This is going to be

a very friendly meeting.

0:28:430:28:49

It's going to be very charming.

0:28:490:28:50

It's going to be so

bigly convivial you

0:28:500:28:52

would not believe it.

0:28:520:28:53

We will exchange gifts.

0:28:530:28:54

Kim Jong-un will give to me a Korean

piece of vintage pottery.

0:28:540:28:58

I will give to Kim Jong-un vintage

American porn star Stormy Daniels.

0:28:580:29:03

It's a fair exchange.

It's such an important meeting.

0:29:030:29:05

Usually my pout is here.

0:29:050:29:08

For this meeting

it's going to be here.

0:29:080:29:16

I've gotta bring my A game.

0:29:180:29:20

It's going to be a very

important meeting.

0:29:200:29:22

We've got a lot to discuss.

0:29:220:29:23

It's going to go on for over an hour

- which is longer than most

0:29:230:29:27

of my White House communication

chiefs, but there you go.

0:29:270:29:29

This will be the perfect

opportunity to invite

0:29:290:29:31

Kim Jong-un on a state

visit to America.

0:29:310:29:33

Come on the golf course,

let's have some fun.

0:29:330:29:35

I'll give you lots

of bowler hats that

0:29:350:29:37

you can throw at people,

just like the guy out of Goldfinger.

0:29:370:29:40

It's going to be so much fun.

0:29:400:29:42

There are bigly big differences

we've got to resolve.

0:29:420:29:44

Kim Jong-un wanted

to destroy America.

0:29:440:29:45

He's just jealous I got there first.

0:29:450:29:47

And thank you for

calling me a dotard.

0:29:470:29:49

I don't know what that is,

but if it's good, then I'm in.

0:29:490:29:52

Are we done?

0:29:520:29:54

Next on the failing BBC,

fake weather or the test card,

0:29:540:29:56