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Hello and welcome to the Week In Parliament.
As winter tightens its grip, there's a row in the Commons
The only way we can ensure we've got funding
for the National Health Service is a strong economy.
With the Stormont assembly in crisis, we find out what's gone
wrong in Northern Ireland's power sharing agreement.
A damning indictment of the UK's approach to defence.
We are short-sighted, penny-pinching,
We are complacent and we are ostrich-like
to the way in which the world has become interconnected.
And, how can we get more women into parliament,
a senior MP thinks it's time for action.
In our committee sessions, we heard very
warm words from all of the party chair and leaders.
We didn't really hear very much detail.
But, first, it was a Parliamentary week dominated by the stresses
MPs returned to Westminster after the Christmas break to news
that the National Health Service had been at full stretch
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Commons that it had been
a tough Christmas and that, with cold weather on the way,
the winter pressures were likely to continue.
The Tuesday after Christmas was the busiest day
And some hospitals are reporting that A attendances are up to 30%
However, looking to the future, it is clear we need
to have an honest discussion with the public about the purpose
There is nowhere outside the UK that commits to all patients
that we will sort out any health needs within four hours.
Since it was announced in 2000, there are nearly 9 million
more visits to our A, up to 30% of whom are NHS England
So, if we are to protect our four hour standard, we need to be clear
it is a promise to sort out all urgent health problems
within four hours, but not all health problems, however minor.
Labour said the NHS was in a worse state than the Health
Several hospitals have warned they can't offer comprehensive care.
Elderly patients have been left languishing on hospital
trolleys in corridors, sometimes for over 24 hours.
And he says care is only falling over in a couple of places.
I know La La Land did well at the Golden Globes last night.
I didn't realise the Secretary of State was living there.
Perhaps that's where he's been all weekend.
He seems to be blaming the public for overwhelming A departments
when he well knows the reason the public go to A
is because they can't get to see their GP,
So it was no surprise when the Labour raised the NHS
at prime minister's questions a couple of days later.
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister said she wanted
More people sharing hospital corridors on trolleys.
More people sharing waiting areas in A departments.
More people sharing in excise duty created by this government.
Our NHS, Mr Speaker, is in crisis but the Prime Minister is in denial.
Can I suggest to her on the economic question cancel
Spend the money where it's needed, on people in desperate need
He talks to me about corporation tax, and restoring the cuts
The Labour Party has already spent that money eight times.
The last thing the NHS needs is a cheque from Labour that bounces.
The only way we can make sure we've got funding for the National health
Yesterday, the honourable gentleman proved that he's
not only incompetent but that he destroy our economy,
and that would devastate our National Health Service.
Does the NHS have the money it needs? The head of the NHS said that
spending in real terms would decrease.
I think it would be stretching it to say the NHS
has got more than it has asked for.
Would you agree there's not enough money, that there is a clear gap?
There are clearly very substantial pressures,
and I don't think it helps anybody to try and pretend
But that's not a new phenomenon, to some extent.
It's a phenomenon that is intensifying.
I think this debate, 2020 this, 2020 that kind
of misses the point, actually, which is that
in the here and now there are very real pressures.
Over the next three years, funding is going to be highly constrained.
And in 2018/19, as I've previously said in October,
real terms NHS spending per person in England is going to go down,
ten years after Lehman Brothers and austerity began.
We all understand why that is, but let's not pretend that's not
placing huge pressure on the service.
A political crisis is threatening the future of the power sharing
On Monday night Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness resigned
as Deputy First Minister and in effect brought down the
But what's going on and how did we get here?
This has ostensibly been triggered because of the financial
mismanagement of a green energy scheme. The incentive was set up in
2012 and overseen by DUP ministers. It was supposed to encourage
businesses to switch to environmentally friendly fuels.
There was no upper limit on payments service scheme ran over budget. The
overspend is expected to run to almost half ?1 billion. The Deputy
first Minister, Martin McGuinness, asked Arlene Foster to stand aside
as first Minister for an investigation but she refused to do
so, so Mr McGuinness has now resigned himself. That puts Mrs
Foster out of a job because under the power-sharing system the first
and deputy first ministers cannot work in isolation. There are very
many other disagreements on issues like Brexit, same-sex marriage and
budgets. It has never been an easy relationship. Under the Stormont
rules, if the posts aren't filled within seven days, the Northern
Ireland Secretary must, by law, call the new election to the Stormont
assembly. It's only been eight months since the last one.
The crisis was raised at prime minister's questions
by the SNP's Westminster leader, who thought the breakdown could have
The Prime Minister has indicated that she wants to take the views
of the elected representatives and the devolved institutions
So it stands to reason then that if there is no
Northern Ireland Assembly and no Northern Ireland Executive for much
of the time before the March timetable that she has set
for invoking article 50, she will be unable to consult properly,
to discuss fully and to find agreement on the complex
In these circumstances, will the Prime Minister postpone
Or will she just plough on regardless?
I am clear that, first of all, we want to try to ensure that,
?within this period of seven days, we can find a resolution
to the political situation in Northern Ireland,
so that we can to see the Assembly government continuing.
But I am also clear that, in the discussions that we have,
it will be possible, it is still the case that Ministers
are in place and that, obviously, there are executives in place,
that we are still able to take the views of
When Tony Blair swept to power in 1997 there was much fanfare
about the number of women who'd become MPs.
Nicknamed the Blair Babes they represented a big
jump in the numbers, in large part due to Labour's policy
In total 101 Labour women were elected in 1997,
doubling the overall total of female MPs, from 60 to 120.
Spin forward twenty years and there are now 195 women MPs,
The Women and Equalities committee has been looking at how
It's suggested that in future political parties should be fined
if they don't ensure at least 45% of general election
I asked the Committee chair, Maria Miller, if a system of fines
wouldn't have a disproportionate impact on smaller parties.
Well, clearly, you'd have to look at how smaller parties were dealt
with but the lion's share of MPs are from the main parties,
who contest all of the Westminster seats, and we feel very strongly,
if you're going to put measures like a 45% vote
on candidates in place, there needs to be teeth there
In the end, doesn't this all come down to the local associations that
you can say to the parties, this is what we want.
But if you have local associations which have slightly older members,
slightly old-fashioned views, they might just still cling
onto this idea that they prefer to have a man doing the job,
and that's what you've got to overcome.
At the 2015 general election, only one in four candidates was female.
So we're not really giving people the chance to be able
Local associations may not be given enough choice from female
So I think we've really got to look back at the root cause of this,
which is getting more women to consider putting
themselves forward to become a member of Parliament.
A lot of that is about outreach by Parliament to get
people to consider that, but also by the parties as well.
What is it that puts women off putting themselves forward?
I think we have in the past focused a great deal on things like child
care and family friendly working, and the work that Sarah Charles has
But I think it's more than that, that's really emerging now.
And I think the dissuading effect of online abuse, sexual harassment,
but also the murder of Jo Cox last year, I think really shows those
intimidatory aspects also need to be dealt with.
And Parliament is dealing with that at the moment.
But, surely, those would be things that would put off
But I think all of the research would suggest that women
are disproportionately affected by, particularly, online abuse.
And I applaud the work the police are doing
on securing convictions there, but it is an element that I think
But we also need to have more effective outreach to get more women
to consider how important it would be to be able to represent
the community but also improve the community in which they live.
It's not for your committee to tell parties exactly
Isn't the long and short of it that all women short lists have worked
and that the Labour Party has increased more dramatically and more
Just in the same way as having a female prime minister isn't
the panacea for all evils, neither is all women short lists.
I think different political parties have done different
And they need to have a plan which is effective.
And, whilst in our committee sessions we heard very warm words
from all of the party chair and leaders, we didn't really
So I think the most important thing is those parties have a clear plan
How confident are you that things will be different this time around,
but going into the next election, there will be more female
I think that will only happen if the parties
now take a hard look at the processes their following
and make sure they've got clear plans in place to put women
At the moment, we're not seeing those plans come through.
And if we don't have plans in place, there will no
It's highly likely at the next election, with the reduction
of the number of constituencies, there will be fewer
opportunities for women to come through or for new members
So, those parties need to have a clear plan and,
So, it doesn't sound to me like you're terribly optimistic.
Only if we see, I think, a radical change in not just
the warm words we're hearing from parties but actually
the practical measures that are put in place,
the funding they are putting in place will we see that change.
Perhaps there's too many other things to think about at the moment.
We've got a little bit of time before the next election, I hope.
A little bit of time for real action.
All right, we will get you back to see how it's going.
Maria Miller, thank you very much indeed for coming
Now let's take a look at some news from around Westminster in brief.
There's was a big surprise in Westminster on Friday morning
with the announcement that the Labour MP Tristram Hunt
is to stand down to become the director of the Victoria
His decision will trigger a by election in the Stoke-on-Trent
In a letter to local party members, the former education spokesman,
who resigned from the Shadow Cabinet when Jeremy Corbyn was elected party
leader, said serving in Parliament had been "both deeply rewarding
Financial jobs in London are bound to be affected by Brexit,
but a lack of knowledge about the government's plans
That was the message to the Commons Treasury Committee
from leading financiers including the head of the London
They called for the City to have its own transitional arrangements,
known as "grandfathering", meaning new rules wouldn't apply
Immigrants have to make more effort to fit in,
Part of the uncertainty and the planning is how much you would need
to move. Clearly, you would need to move the front part of the business.
But the question would be whether the negotiation would allow the
settlement, the risk management, the accounting and so on to the done
outside of EU 27 or whether it is part of the negotiations. That is a
political negotiation, as much as a technical negotiation.
Immigrants have to make more effort to fit in,
that's according to the author of last month's Casey
Dame Louise Casey told MPs that Britain needed to be "less shy"
about telling immigrants what was expected from them.
I think that is a sound bite which people like to say, that
I would say that if we stick with the road analogy,
I think integration is more like you've got a bloody big
motorway, and you have the slip road of people coming
in from the outside, and what you need to do
is the people in the middle in the motorway need to accommodate
and be gentle and kind to people coming in from the outside lane.
We're all in the direction and we are all heading
We are getting to this place where we have decided
To some degree, it is a two-way street but to some worry it is not.
There is more give on one side and more take on the other.
And I think that is where we have made a mistake which is we have
The government was defeated in the Lords on Monday over plans
to change the way England's universities are run.
The legislation is designed to make it easier for
Peers voted in favour of an opposition amendment
to the Higher Education Bill to define the powers
One of the aims is to extend the University title. This piece of
legislation has made no attempt to define what a university is or its
role in society more widely and particularly what do we expect these
new universities to do. The government spokesman said
there were dangers in setting out a definition of a university that
could be challenged in the courts. Universities have never been defined
in legislation before and we have not led to any problems in the
system. Labour says plans to close dozens
of local tax offices should be immediately scrapped
after a spending watchdog found costs have spiralled
The National Audit Office revealed HMRC has had to rethink
the proposals after underestimating the expense and scale
of disruption involved. The NA oh reports confirm our fears,
first of all, it calls the original office closure plan unrealistic, the
estimates of the cost of the move increased by 22%, ?600 million
extra, further job losses, it finds the cost of redundancy and travel
have tripled to 54 million and it says HMRC cannot demonstrate how it
services cannot be improved and it hasn't even introduced a business
plan. As we predict it, this is an emerging disaster. Given how clear
and stark warnings that truly are, would it not simply make more sense
to pause this, rip it up, and start again? For the public, this seems a
better, more modern service, run by fewer staff, costing ?18 million a
year less by the time that changes take effect. It's a plan to say
goodbye to the days of manual assessing that can be done more
easily with today's technology. The UK's Green Investment Bank could
be killed off if the government goes ahead with plans to sell it,
according to one MP. The bank supports offshore wind
farms and other green projects. The government has announced plans
to part-privatise it, with Australian bank Macquarie
thought to be the preferred bidder. It has been widely recognised as an
innovative project. And yet, this preferred it not only has a dismal
and terrible environmental record, it also has an appalling track
record of assets. The minister said he couldn't
comment on the process, potential It is precisely because we want them
to do more unfettered by the constraints of the state that we are
seeking to put it into the private sector. The objectives we have set
out in the cell could not be clearer. We have also been very
clear that the reason we want to move into the private sector is to
enable the business to grow and continue as an institution
supporting investment in the green economy.
A former Nato secretary general has warned against further defence cuts,
saying the UK is sleepwalking into potential calamity.
Opening a debate on the UK's armed forces capability the Labour
former defence secretary, Lord Robertson, also
questioned US President elect Donald Trump's attitude to NATO.
During the US election campaign Donald Trump appeared to play down
the importance of the military alliance which raised questions
about Nato's commitment, known as Article five,
which says members will support Nato countries if they're attacked.
In his speech in the Lords, Lord Robertson warned the world
was now seeing a "bonfire of the post cold war certainties."
He told peers he'd recently been asked what was the biggest threat
to the safety and security of the UK and the list of potential
I considered some of the immediate and looming threats and challenges.
Migration flows which have suddenly ended up on our shores.
The spread of religious extremism and Jihadi violence plumbing
But my answer to the question of what is the greatest threat,
it is ourselves, we are ur own worst enemies.
We are shortsighted, penny pinching, naively optimistic,
we're complacent, and we are ostrich like to the way in which the world
has become interconnected, more fragile, and more unpredictable.
And Donald, with his Mexican wall, with new protectionism
and isolationism, with a serious questioning of Nato solidarity,
with a belief in torture and with Lieutenant General Michael Flynn
as his chief security adviser, perhaps we don't need more
I hope President Putin and his colleagues realised how easily that
mobilisations and provocations, that accidents can happen,
And we don't have to have the memories of the First World War
and of the Second World War where wars were started by accident
involving the wrong people, the wrong time, they weren't
And I just do take that threat very seriously.
In the face of Russian ambition, my lords, European can no longer
It is an interesting reflection that whereas the word burden
sharing used to be used, when I went to Washington, now,
the assessment of Europe is my contribution is shall we say
expressed in more in trenchant and perhaps less suitable terms
We lack strength in numbers and are not well placed to deal with it.
More independently minded we become, the more capability we need in a
dangerous world. Surely, the two must go together. Defence standing
is going up. When it increases by 5 billion, it is nonsense for anyone
to suggest there is no new funding. I hope it is clear that the
government fully recognises the breadth and severity of threats that
face our country today. We know that in this is of uncertainty, we can
take nothing for granted. The approach we have taken in the STS or
is the right one for strengthening our security and it is the one to
which this government is fully committed.
Now for something very different, it's time to take a look at some
of the other political stories making the news this week.
With our countdown, here's Alex Partridge.
New minister Lord O'Shaughnessy hasn't exactly made
That might be why one was caught asking who he was while he made
We are used to political U-turns but Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt
ended up doing a real-life U-turn while looking for his car.
Tuesday's Foreign Office questions clocked in at more than 70 minutes
but it wasn't nearly enough for Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
For two hours, the minister chunters from a sedentary position.
Jeremy Corbyn's relaunch also involves chatting
He offered to talk some sense into ITV's Piers Morgan
on the subject of embattled arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.
And on Thursday, Labour's Chris Bryant took an opportunity
to send his best wishes to the Speaker
Sorry, Mr Speaker, May I first of all wish
Kiss A Ginger Day activity is probably perfectly lawful
but I've got no plans to partake of it myself.
Alex Partridge, bringing us to the end of this week's programme,
but do join Joanna Shinn on Monday night at 11pm for another round up
of the best of the day here at Westminster.