13/01/2017 The Week in Parliament


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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.


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