14/07/2017 The Week in Parliament


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14/07/2017

BBC Parliament's programme looking back at the week in Westminster, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to the programme.

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Coming up:

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The Government launches its Repeal Bill converting

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EU law into UK legislation.

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We'll be looking at the Parliamentary battles to come.

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As the Prime Minister announces an inquiry into the abuse faced

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by candidates at the general election, one MP worries

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where the harassment will end.

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I think there is a serious risk that actually something

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much worse will happen.

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Also on this programme:

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We talk to Nicky Morgan, the new chair of the powerful

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Commons Treasury committee.

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And:

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I'll be reporting on the clash of the deputies at Prime

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Minister's Questions.

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And MPs mark the centenary of one of the bloodiest battles

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of the First World War.

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The men couldn't even get into the shell holes

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because they were full of water.

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So they are absolute sitting ducks.

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But first, it started life as the Great Repeal Bill -

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and while the word "great" may have been dropped make no mistake that

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the European Union Withdrawal Bill, to give it its proper title,

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is going to be one of the big battle grounds of this Parliament.

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It repeals the European Communities Act of 1972 and it transfers EU

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law into British law.

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This mega bit of legislation took just three seconds

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to make its debut in Parliament.

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The European Union Withdrawal Bill.

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The Leader of the Commons, Andrea Leadsom, stressed

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the bill's importance.

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As the Brexit Secretary has said, this is one of the most significant

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pieces of legislation that has ever passed through Parliament.

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And it is a major milestone in the process of our withdrawal.

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It means we will be able to exit the European Union

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with maximum certainty, continuity and control.

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But opposition parties didn't see it quite like that.

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Hooray!

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The Great Repeal Bill is out today.

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A bill to unite the country and an invitation to climb aboard

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the battered jalopy as it trundles over the cliff edge.

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Pete Wishart.

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MPs will hold their first big debate on that bill in the Autumn.

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And it's not going to be straightforward.

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The Government faces opposition on all sides at Westminster,

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including from some of its own MPs - meanwhile the First Ministers

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of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones

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of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones,

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are threatening to make life very difficult.

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Well, to discuss all this I'm joined by our political

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correspondent Chris Mason.

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Welcome to the programme.

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On the face of it, this all sounds very technical.

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You're turning EU law into UK law.

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So why is it so controversial?

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The fact that it's so technical is what makes it controversial

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because the Government is very aware that it's got a tight timetable

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for doing what it's doing.

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One element of this cut and paste job, of laws coming from Brussels

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back to the UK, involves the Government examining

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the detail of those laws and where they need to tweak,

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for instance if a particular sector is being governed by a European

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regulator and will in future be governed by a UK regulator,

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there has to be that change in legislation to make sure

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there is no black holes and the law.

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But in doing that via secondary legislation, what I call

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statutory instruments...

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These are ministerial powers.

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Yeah, ministerial powers that then critics on the opposition

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benches are saying, well, hang on a minute,

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that's the problem.

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These are ministerial powers, the so-called Henry VIII law,

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which means that in their view they can't be scrutinised

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sufficiently.

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And that's where complexity becomes controversy.

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So that's Westminster.

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But as we've been hearing, the first ministers of Scotland

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and Wales are already not happy.

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How much power have they got?

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They can't stop Brexit.

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They can stop it.

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They can't stop it.

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They can't veto it but they can certainly blow a raspberry

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in the direction of Westminster, and we've seen that this week

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in what Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales,

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and Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, have

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been doing, because where they do have some power is, again it's

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complex, they have power via what are known as legislative

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consent motions to be able to say, we want a say on this because some

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of the powers which are coming back from Brussels to the UK

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are ones that have been handed over to the devolved administrations

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and they say, get a move on, we want that power in Edinburgh and Cardiff,

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not just in Westminster.

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So you can be certain, and we've seen it already,

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that they will seek to be involved as much as they can.

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It doesn't amount to a veto but it could amount to a headache

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for the Prime Minister.

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Plenty for Theresa May to think about over the summer.

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Thank you for joining us.

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Now, Westminster is a rough and tumble place, with its fair

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share of brutal battles.

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But when MPs gathered in Westminster Hall on Wednesday

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afternoon, they laid out the scale of the abuse they, their staff

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and supporters regularly receive from the public.

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The Government has announced an inquiry into the intimidation

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of candidates during June's General election.

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The Conservative leading the debate gave some examples of the problem.

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In a three-month period, MPs received 188,000 abusive tweets.

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That's in a three-month period.

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That's one in 20 tweets received by colleagues.

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He cited the experience of the former Conservative

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MP Charlotte Leslie.

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Charlotte Leslie, whose parents became victims of this

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particular abuse.

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Their entire oil heating supply was drained into the garden

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by somebody who had an objection to Charlotte's particular

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position on fracking, which was a slightly ironic way

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of dealing with an environmental consideration.

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Nonetheless, it caused enormous distress, as did

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the scratching of "Tory scum" in her elderly parents' car.

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30 years ago when I first became an MP, if you wanted to attack MP,

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you had to write a letter, usually in green ink,

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you had to put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and you had

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to walk to the post box.

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Now they press a button and you read vile abuse which 30 years ago people

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would have been frightened to even write down.

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I've been an MP for just over two years and I can't remember a single

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day that has gone by without having received some sort of abuse,

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whether that be death threats or a picture of me being mocked up

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as a used sanitary towel and lots of other things.

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This last election was the most brutal I can certainly imagine.

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We are not talking here about a bit of political banter,

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we are not talking about the rough and tumble of political debate

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or even satirising or caricaturing another person's point of view,

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we are talking about vile abuse, dehumanising people,

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offering and inciting sometimes violence against people.

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This is the sort of activity that should not be deemed acceptable

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in any democratic society.

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My concern is it stops women especially entering politics

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and I can very briefly give an example of a candidate

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who unfortunately wasn't elected, who stood in Ealing,

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and because members of Parliament have to declare their addresses

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when they stand for Parliament, she says she started becoming

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nervous when she noticed activity during the election campaign

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by the opponents when they started, standing outside my door

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at my home spitting in my face and following me.

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Well, after that debate I caught up with Simon Hart and asked if he'd

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been surprised by what he'd heard.

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I've definitely been surprised from what I've heard from members

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of all parties and certainly the increased amount of abuse

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people have been suffering from between the years 2015-17.

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To me, it's about the abuse which is being received

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by members of the public, by volunteers, by donors,

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people who are associating with us.

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We have a degree of protection and we are sort of semi-used to it.

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But it's actually all the other people around election time

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who are getting an equal amount of hassle and I'm as interested

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in the impact on them as the impact on colleagues here.

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Theresa May has announced that there is now going to be

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an investigation into all of this.

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But where does it start and what do you particularly want it to look at?

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To my mind, it's got to quantify the extent of the problem.

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Take evidence from colleagues, volunteers, the public, election.

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-- election officers.

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Get a real feel for the extent of this problem, talk

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to the social media platforms.

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Then it's got to identify where we have existing law to deal

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with that kind of thing.

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Do enough people know about it?

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Are the police enforcing it?

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Do people have access to the legal system of the sort

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that they should have?

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And then identify gaps in the law.

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For example, some election legislation is 150 years old.

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It's not equipped to deal with social media campaigns.

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Do we need to update the law and if so how?

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And then there's the question of shining a light

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on the social media platforms.

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I hope the enquiry will fully investigate their

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role in this and how

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they could be better regulated and how they can play their part

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in resolving this problem.

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Obviously, this kind of abuse and harassment is nasty,

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unpleasant, it's off-putting.

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But do you fear that it's actually going to spill over into violence?

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Well, I think there's a real line which we have to draw

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between legitimate cut and thrust and the sort of rumbustious nature

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of campaign politics, which we should all be thick-skinned

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enough to deal with.

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The other side of that line is abuse, intimidation,

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threat, real or otherwise, and just general use

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of campaigning to spread complete untruths about candidates.

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That's a very different matter and has that spilled

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over into violence?

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Yes, I think it has.

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It's certainly spilled over into criminal damage.

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Plenty of examples of that in this election and in

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local elections, too.

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Yeah, by my estimation, if the next election is two or three

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years away and the rate of decline is the same as it was between 15

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and 17, then, yeah, I think there is a serious risk that

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actually something much worse will happen.

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You know, we are having this conversation 30 months

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after Jo Cox was murdered.

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-- 13 months.

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And all the work that has been done in that 13 months by her family

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and supporters to try and cleanse politics of this particular disease

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could be wasted unless we take the opportunity now to do

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something about it.

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It was the turn of the understudies to step into the limelight for this

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week's session of Prime Minister's Questions.

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Watching for us was Henry Mance, political correspondent

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of the Financial Times.

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Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are sometimes criticised for not

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putting on a very good show at Prime Minister's Questions.

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So could their stand-ins provide any more theatre?

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This week, the Prime Minister was meeting the King and Queen

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of Spain on their state visit to the UK, so the first Secretary of

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State Damian Green took her place.

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Meanwhile for Labour, Emily Thornberry,

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the Shadow Foreign Secretary, filled in for Mr Corbyn.

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It was Ms Thornberry who arrived with enough swagger

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for the both of them.

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By my reckoning, in the 20 years since he first joined this house,

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he is the 16th member of the party opposite to be represented

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at Prime Minister's Questions.

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So how about I give him to the end of this session to be able

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to name all the others?

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I'm grateful to the right honourable lady for her kind remarks.

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I might take up her offer to try and name all 16

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in the tearoom later.

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Rather than delay the house now.

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There are many, many distinguished people of both sexes who have

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done it in this party, because we of course elect women

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leaders occasionally.

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CHEERING.

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Mr Corbyn sometimes avoids the topic of Brexit at PMQs.

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Not Ms Thornberry.

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She wanted to know what would happen if Britain didn't reach

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a deal with the EU.

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This isn't some sinister nightmare dreamt up by Remainers,

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it was the Prime Minister who first floated the idea of no deal,

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the Foreign Secretary who said it would be perfectly OK,

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the Brexit Secretary who said that we'd be prepared to walk away,

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but since the election, the Chancellor has said that

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that would be a very, very bad outcome and a former

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minister has told Sky News that no deal is dead.

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So will the First Secretary clear this up?

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Are ministers just making it up as they go along?

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SHOUTING.

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Or is it still the Government's clear policy that no

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deal is an option?

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I recommend the right honourable lady read the Prime Minister's

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Lancaster House speech.

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That is the basis on which we are negotiating.

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We are also certain that it is conceivable

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that we would be offered a kind of punishment deal that

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would be worse than no deal.

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The only problem with swaggering is that sometimes you trip up.

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I know that the honourable member is new to this

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but the way that it works is that he asks...

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LAUGHTER.

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That I ask the questions and he answers them.

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Mr Green saw his chance.

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I've counted, had nine different plans on Europe,

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they want to be both in and out of the single market,

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in and out of the customs union, they said they wanted to remain,

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they voted for Article 50, they split their party on that,

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and she made one point about whether she would prefer to be

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out of this despatch box rather than at that despatch box.

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I would also remind her of the other event that happened recently

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where the Conservative Party got more votes and more seats

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than the Labour Party and won the election.

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Mr Green was actually promoted to his current role

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after the election but Toby Perkins, the Labour MP for Chesterfield

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noticed that Mrs May have suffered something of a demotion,

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at least online.

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For the first time since she has become Prime Minister,

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her image has now been removed from the front page

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of the Conservative Party website.

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Can the First Secretary tell us why she has gone from being the next

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Iron Lady to the Lady Vanishes?

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Recently as June last year, the honourable gentleman said

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that the leader of the Labour Party is not destined to become

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Prime Minister and he called on him to resign.

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I suggest he might want to make peace with his own front

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bench before he starts being rude about ours.

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Even when the party leaders are away, they clearly

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cast a very long shadow.

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The Conservative Andrew Rosindell had a suggestion for the subject

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of small talk for Mrs May in her conversations

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with King Felipe of Spain.

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Would he asked the Prime Minister to remind the king of Spain that

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Gibraltar is British and their sovereignty

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will remain paramount.

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I'm happy to assure my honourable friend the government's position

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on Gibraltar and the primacy of the wishes of its inhabitants

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which are overwhelmingly to stay British will be respected

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by the government.

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By this stage many MPs had left their seats.

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Ms Thornberry and Mr Green had put on some decent theatre but as anyone

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in the West End knows, it is hard to replace

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the headline acts.

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Henry Mance.

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Now, let's take a look at some other news from around

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Westminster in brief.

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Theresa May reported back on the latest G20

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meeting in Hamburg.

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There'd been plenty for the leaders of the world's top

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economies to talk about - terrorism, internet security,

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trade, and climate change.

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Mrs May delivered an upbeat assessment

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of the meeting and of Brexit.

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At this summit, I held a number of meetings

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with other world leaders, all of whom made clear their strong

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desire to forge ambitious new bilateral trading relationships

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with the UK after Brexit.

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Talk of the UK/US trade deal was dealt a blow by the Prime

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Minister's Justice Secretary who just hours after the summit

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ended said, it wouldn't be enough on its own.

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This government is the architect of the failed austerity policies.

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And it now threatens to use Brexit to turn Britain into a low wage,

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deregulated tax haven on the shores of Europe.

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Staying with Brexit The Foreign Secretary told MPs

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the European Union can "go whistle" for any "extortionate"

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final payment.

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A Conservative had totted up what the UK had paid so far.

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We will have given the EU and its predecessors in today's

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money in real terms a total of ?209 billion.

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Will the Foreign Secretary make it clear to the EU that

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if they want a penny piece more that they can go whistle.

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I'm sure that my honourable friend's words will have broken

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like a thunderclap over Brussels and they will pay attention

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to what he has said and he makes a very valid point.

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I think that the sums that I have seen that they propose to demand

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from this country seem to me to be extortionate and I think that go

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whistle is an entirely appropriate expression.

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A suggestion laughed off by the Brexit Secretary

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when he appeared in front of a Lords committee.

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You'll have to get the Foreign Secretary here to explain his views,

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I'm not going to comment on other ministers.

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But you will seek to levels of knowledge when you go

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to our continental partners.

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You will see a level of knowledge in Brussels in which frankly,

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I think they take a lot, they read a lot of British

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newspapers, you are quite right, and they take them,

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if anything, too seriously.

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It was a humorous exchange between Jean-Claude Juncker

0:17:330:17:37

and myself when I saw him.

0:17:370:17:40

But more importantly in the context of 27,

0:17:400:17:43

actually very little of what happens here percolates across.

0:17:430:17:46

Theresa May has ordered a UK wide inquiry into the use of contaminated

0:17:460:17:50

blood products in the NHS starting in the 1970s.

0:17:500:17:54

2,400 people have died, many of them were haemophiliacs

0:17:540:17:59

who contracted hepatitis C and AIDS-related illnesses.

0:17:590:18:03

The Labour MP who's campaigned for an inquiry said

0:18:030:18:06

the victims needed answers.

0:18:060:18:09

They deserve to be told what went wrong, why it went wrong,

0:18:090:18:12

and who is responsible for what happened.

0:18:120:18:15

The story needs to be set out and told to the wider public.

0:18:150:18:18

Their voices need to be heard.

0:18:190:18:28

Apologies, compensations, and other forms of support

0:18:330:18:37

are essential but if their right to answers are not also satisfied,

0:18:370:18:40

I feel that they will be denied true and meaningful justice.

0:18:400:18:43

The government's given its response to a report it commissioned

0:18:430:18:45

on modern working practices.

0:18:450:18:46

The author, Matthew Taylor, recommended sick and holiday pay

0:18:460:18:49

for workers in the so-called gig economy and a new employment status

0:18:490:18:51

of "dependent contractor".

0:18:510:18:53

Theresa May said flexible working should not be an excuse

0:18:530:18:56

to exploit employees.

0:18:560:18:58

But she also called flexibility "the British way".

0:18:580:19:00

Labour thought it was a missed opportunity.

0:19:000:19:03

In the words of the General Secretary of Unite,

0:19:030:19:06

the biggest union in the UK, instead of the serious programme

0:19:060:19:13

the country urgently needs to ensure that

0:19:130:19:18

pays in this country, we got a depressing

0:19:180:19:21

sense that insecurityis the inevitable new norm.

0:19:210:19:24

The wage increases we have seen in the last year have been

0:19:240:19:29

at their highest amongst the lowest paid, thanks to the

0:19:290:19:31

national living wage.

0:19:310:19:32

Today's response to the Taylor Review from the government tells us

0:19:320:19:35

everything we need to know about their frailty and their

0:19:350:19:37

approach to workers' rights.

0:19:370:19:38

A weak set of proposals that will probably not be implemented,

0:19:380:19:41

a set of talking points that leaves the balance of power

0:19:410:19:43

with employers and big business.

0:19:430:19:45

The King of Spain came to Westminster as part

0:19:450:19:47

of his state visit to the UK.

0:19:470:19:49

As we heard earlier, Theresa May missed Prime Minister's Questions

0:19:490:19:51

to take part in the day's events.

0:19:510:19:54

She and Jeremy Corbyn were part of the audience when the King

0:19:540:19:57

addressed both Houses of Parliament in the Lords Royal Gallery.

0:19:570:20:01

MPs held a debate to remember the half a million men

0:20:010:20:04

who lost their lives here at Passchendaele 100 years ago.

0:20:040:20:07

The battle in 1917 is generally regarded as the bloodiest conflict

0:20:070:20:11

of the First World War, with these Belgian fields seeing

0:20:110:20:16

weeks of heavy military bombardment and fierce fighting,

0:20:160:20:20

much of it in atrocious weather.

0:20:200:20:23

By October 1917, British and Commonwealth forces had advanced

0:20:230:20:26

just a few kilometres with the loss of more than 300,000 men.

0:20:260:20:31

Casualties on the German side numbered 200,000.

0:20:310:20:34

The men couldn't even get into the shell holes

0:20:340:20:38

because they were full of water.

0:20:380:20:41

So they are absolute sitting ducks, covered in filth, trying to go

0:20:410:20:48

forward, absolutely exhausted.

0:20:480:20:51

Bob Stewart.

0:20:510:20:53

A new Parliament means a new set of elections to chair

0:20:530:20:56

the Commons select committees.

0:20:560:20:59

These groups shine a light on the work of departments,

0:20:590:21:02

launch inquiries into policies or - as with the last Parliament's

0:21:020:21:05

investigation into BHS - take a look at wider controversies.

0:21:050:21:08

This time round, with a minority government and Brexit looming,

0:21:080:21:12

elections for these key posts were hotly contested.

0:21:120:21:15

One of the most hard-fought was for the top spot

0:21:150:21:19

on the influential Treasury Committee after Andrew Tyrie stood

0:21:190:21:22

down as an MP at the election.

0:21:220:21:25

The winner was the former Treasury Minister and one time

0:21:250:21:28

Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan.

0:21:280:21:30

I asked her why she wanted the job.

0:21:300:21:33

Having been a Treasury Minister, having served in the Cabinet,

0:21:330:21:36

I thought it was a great opportunity to take that role on from that

0:21:360:21:40

tireless Andrew Tyrie, and also it is fantastic to be

0:21:400:21:43

the first ever female chair of the committee.

0:21:430:21:47

I was going to ask you about that.

0:21:470:21:51

There was a lot of talk about how it would be a good thing to have

0:21:510:21:55

another woman chairing a heavyweight committee because we have

0:21:550:21:57

had relatively few.

0:21:570:21:58

How important was that to you?

0:21:580:21:59

Well, I'm the former Minister for Women so I am very conscious

0:21:590:22:02

of how important it is to have women out there taking on

0:22:020:22:05

roles in public life.

0:22:050:22:07

I don't think it affects the way that I would do the job,

0:22:070:22:10

and nor do I think that anybody should have voted

0:22:100:22:13

for me because of that.

0:22:130:22:14

But I am very pleased to add another female voice to the ranks

0:22:140:22:18

of the select committee chairmen.

0:22:180:22:20

Now, you mention you were elected by other MPs, it is no secret that

0:22:200:22:25

in the past you have had your disagreements

0:22:250:22:27

with Theresa May.

0:22:270:22:28

Did you think that some MPs would have thought that perhaps

0:22:280:22:30

you might had stuck it to the government a bit more

0:22:300:22:33

than some of your Conservative colleagues who were standing

0:22:330:22:35

for the post?

0:22:350:22:36

I have spoken out about things that I care about, things that

0:22:360:22:39

I feel strongly about, and I think that is what members

0:22:390:22:42

of Parliament are collected to do, and as the select committee

0:22:420:22:45

chairperson, you are accountable to Parliament, you work

0:22:450:22:53

on a cross-party basis, which I think I have shown I can

0:22:530:22:57

do on a whole variety of different issues.

0:22:570:22:59

I suspect like any electorate, there is going to be at different

0:22:590:23:01

number of reasons why people supported me.

0:23:010:23:03

Now, Brexit.

0:23:030:23:04

It is the big ticket item of this Parliament.

0:23:040:23:06

Obviously a big issue for your committee.

0:23:060:23:08

Where are you going to start with that and what do

0:23:080:23:11

you see your committee's role being?

0:23:110:23:12

Things like the impact of Brexit on our economy,

0:23:120:23:14

on the decisions taken around not being members, or continuing

0:23:140:23:17

membership of the single market, for example, the customs union,

0:23:170:23:20

what the voices of businesses, and the financial

0:23:200:23:24

institutions are saying.

0:23:240:23:25

All of those are relevant areas for the select committee to be

0:23:250:23:28

asking the Treasury, ministers, and others

0:23:280:23:30

about the decisions they have taken in that context.

0:23:300:23:32

And aside from Brexit, are there other issues that

0:23:320:23:38

you have a particular passion for that you want your

0:23:380:23:40

committee to look at?

0:23:400:23:41

Well, I'm keen to broaden the work of the committee to reflect

0:23:410:23:44

the whole remit of the Treasury.

0:23:440:23:49

Having been a minister, I know that Treasury policy

0:23:490:23:51

impacts obviously tax, public spending, infrastructure

0:23:510:23:53

investments, skills funding, childcare funding, there is a whole

0:23:530:23:56

range of things.

0:23:560:23:57

I think probably the difficulty will be trying to cut

0:23:570:24:00

down what we do before we are completely swamped.

0:24:000:24:02

You are elected to this job, it is seen as one of the Commons

0:24:020:24:05

more powerful committees but we all know that

0:24:050:24:08

ultimately the government can take your reports,

0:24:080:24:10

pop them on a shelf, and carry on and ignore them.

0:24:100:24:12

How are you going to stop that happening?

0:24:120:24:15

Well, obviously, in terms of the issues, we want to work

0:24:150:24:20

with the government, and actually you are pointing

0:24:200:24:23

things out to ministers, and I know from my time

0:24:230:24:25

as a minister that actually it is helpful sometimes

0:24:250:24:28

when a committee points out that something hasn't happened

0:24:280:24:31

or they make a recommendation.

0:24:310:24:32

But if it is not helpful...

0:24:320:24:34

If it's not helpful, then I think, often what you will find is that

0:24:340:24:38

coverage of reports under pressure from outside, the pressure

0:24:380:24:40

from Parliament, and of course from what we have seen in this

0:24:400:24:44

Parliament, because of the election result, that I think the government

0:24:440:24:49

and ministers will have to listen to what Parliament is debating

0:24:490:24:52

and what Parliament is saying much more, and that is why I think

0:24:520:24:56

the select committees assume an ever greater importance,

0:24:560:24:57

and that is a good thing.

0:24:570:24:59

Should ministers be quaking in their boots at your arrival?

0:24:590:25:02

Not quaking in their boots but I hope they will know that

0:25:020:25:05

I will ask tough questions and I will want to get to the bottom

0:25:050:25:09

of decisions they are making, but I also understand from the other

0:25:090:25:12

point of view, having been a minister, what it is like,

0:25:120:25:15

the pressures that are there, so I hope people will find me to be

0:25:150:25:18

impartial, independent, fair-minded, but forensic.

0:25:180:25:23

We shall see.

0:25:230:25:24

Nicky Morgan, thank you very much for coming on the programme.

0:25:240:25:27

Nicky Morgan, the newly installed chair of the Treasury Committee.

0:25:270:25:30

And that's it from us for now, do join Kristiina Cooper on Monday

0:25:300:25:35

night at 11 for a full roundup of the day here at Westminster.

0:25:350:25:38

But for now, from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.

0:25:380:25:43