29/10/2015 Thursday in Parliament


29/10/2015

Georgina Pattinson presents highlights of Thursday 29 October in Parliament.


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Hello and welcome to Thursday in Parliament.

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Tory MPs condemn the government on tax credits.

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It's punishing people who are going out there and trying to work

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and do the right thing, and that just does not sit right with me.

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The Speaker criticises the delay in publishing the report

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Sir John should be aware that there is a very real sense of anger

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and frustration across the whole House at what seems a substantial

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And MPs hear a plea for more humanitarian aid for Syria.

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The UK has been very influential, has really stepped up to

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the plate to give more, but more is not enough.

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MPs have backed a motion calling on the government to reconsider

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the effects of tax credit cuts on the lowest-paid workers.

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The proposed changes to tax credits, the top-up welfare paid to working

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households on low incomes, were knocked back in the House

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George Osborne is expected to announce next month how he's going

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to lessen the impact of the cuts on families but this was the first

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Commons vote to express concern about the Chancellor's cuts and

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nearly every Conservative who spoke in the debate criticised

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the affect the cuts would have on working families.

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In terms of the current mitigation that is being talked about, free

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child for three and four-year-olds and how that helps, but if you don't

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have a three and four-year-old, it's completely pointless.

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There's talk about the personal income tax allowance increasing

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I would like to see it go up to ?15,000

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But if you don't earn more than ?11,000,

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So if you're on that ?11,000, you're still being hit with that ?1200-1400

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cut, and it's punishing people who are going out there and trying to

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work and do the right thing and that just does not sit right with me.

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So that's something that I could not support.

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I can be returned to the fold, I'm sure.

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There is huge fear out there in the public

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and we need to come forward with some proposals as fast as we can.

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It is therefore, in my view, difficult to understand why we

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weren't willing to give tax credit recipients the same time in order to

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adapt and change into the situation that we were proposing.

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So the decision to cut so quickly and, I'm afraid, so deeply was

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clearly problematic and the response of both Houses has shown quite

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clearly that people were concerned about the changes in question.

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But in terms of how we move forward from this

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situation, the one thing that we have to be aware of is we need to

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I think the worst example of a crass comment in relation to

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all this issue was the Conservative MP who stated, quite clearly, that

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if somebody loses ?30 per week as a result of these changes, they simply

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need to go out and work an extra three hours! And

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as somebody who's taken an interest in this issue, I was actually

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One can only think that because I don't think anybody in any party

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in this House would deliberately impoverish the working poor with

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dependent families and, I'm afraid, I did differentiate in this context.

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It was compounded by the method taken

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of having a statutory instrument, therefore it's unamendable, and not

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having enough information, not having a proper impact statement.

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The motion for the debate had been put forward by a former Labour

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minister who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee, Frank Field.

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He said the House of Lords had done the Chancellor a favour

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by voting to delay his cuts and he called on the government to help.

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The Prime Minister, for example, is very waxed in telling the

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country that eight out of ten people of families will be better off

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The truth is that eight out of ten may well be better off

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but practically all of those of our constituents who draw tax credits

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are in the two out of ten who will be made substantially worse off.

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And I think it then again unites backbenches on both sides

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of the House, is whether these changes to tax credits

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It's one of the problems we have of our popularity in shovelling around

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taxpayers' money without realising that sometimes, some day, the music

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stops and people might think the bill is not actually affordable.

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There would be very little opposition to the government

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introducing these reforms so people who are not claiming tax

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credits now would claim them in the future and who would know

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It's very, very different when this place has helped shape people's

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lives and their expectations and their drive to actually say, all

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of a sudden, to blow the whistle and say, we're changing the rules.

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I think people, both here and in the country, feel very strongly.

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Why are we here again, discussing tax credits?

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Frankly, Mr Speaker, the government has got itself into a mess

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These proposals which have now been passed through the statutory

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instrument and been rejected in the Other Place are wrong-headed and

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Work must pay, we all agree, but you don't make work pay by

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taking money from those in work who rely on tax credits today to achieve

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More than 3 million families will be worse off next year. Some working

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families will lose nearly ?3500 a year. ?2.5 billion has been found

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for an inheritance tax cut benefiting the wealthiest 4% of

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people in this country yet at the same time, ?4.5 billion is being

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taken out of the pockets of low and middle-income families. The case for

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is clear because they labour market depending on a high level of wealth

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is not the way to develop stability. But we acknowledge the concerns

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expressed in recent weeks. The Chancellor said we would listen and

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that is precisely what we intend to do because we are determined to

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deliver higher wages and lower welfare that the British people want

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to see and be working Britain deserves.

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And MPs voted for Frank Field's motion by 215-0.

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The report into the Iraq war will not be

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published until next year, it's been announced, and MPs and the Speaker

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Sir John Chilcot said the 2 million-word report would be

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finished in April 2016 and then published in June or July.

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It's more than five years since the enquiry's last public hearing.

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It's cross-examined 129 witnesses and cost over ?10 million.

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David Cameron has told Sir John he's disappointed

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the findings will not be published until next summer and, in

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the Commons, MPs raised the matter with the Speaker, John Bercow.

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Mr Speaker, at the same time as Business Questions, it was announced

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by Sir John Chilcot by means of a letter to the Prime Minister that

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it will be a further seven months before the Iraq enquiry is to be

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published, which will mean it will be seven years

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since it was established and a full 13 years since the war was started.

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At this time of year in particular, Mr Speaker, would it not just be in

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order, a mark of respect to the 179 families of dead British servicemen,

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if the government had come to the House so that people could explore

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both the reasons for the delay and publication of the enquiry and,

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of course, the possible legal consequences that might follow to

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certain individuals if that enquiry allocates responsibility

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The Speaker said he was not aware of the timings of the letter

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but that he was aware of the concern of the House.

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The whole situation is extremely unsatisfactory and I think

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if the Leader of the House would like to come to the box,

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Well, Mr Speaker, let me just simply say, first of all, that I share,

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and the government shares, the right honourable gentleman's

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frustration about the amount of time this has taken.

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None of us have ever sought to hide that.

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There are clearly lessons that will need to be learned

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It's in none of our interests that this should

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have taken so long, particularly as we were in opposition at the

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time, so we have no vested interest at all in delaying this matter.

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I absolutely understand the honourable gentleman's concerns

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but, of course, he will understand that this is a process that is out

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Sir John's timetable is entirely in his own hands and in terms

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of the timing of this, I do not know either, Mr Speaker, the time

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at which the letter was actually released, but it's certainly not my

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job to preannounce a letter from Sir John Chilcot before actually he

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The simple fact, however, is that there have been many rumours around

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that the Chilcot enquiry has been delayed by Whitehall not clearing

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things quickly enough and by not providing enough information about

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challenging the ability to release information. I think it would be

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extremely helpful to the House if there were a statement and I ask, Mr

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Speaker, for you to encourage that because, frankly, this is an insult

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and a compounding of the grief of the many families who have lost

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I assure my honourable friend that I have seen absolutely no evidence

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of a desire in government to stall this.

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Indeed, the Prime Minister has been, frankly,

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as keen as anyone in this House, including the two right honourable

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So there is absolutely no desire in the government to slow this up.

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It's been a matter of frustration that it has taken so

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He's absolutely correct in saying that it's not for him

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to pre-empt the delivery or the publication of letters, but in light

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of what I do sense, there's quite a strong feeling across the House.

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It might indeed be extremely helpful if, when the Leader of the House is

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in full possession of the facts, he perhaps considers an early short

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statement on which there would be an opportunity for questioning

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The Chilcot enquiry was set up by the old Public Administration

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And at that time, there were misgivings about

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the form of enquiry and a suggestion made that the enquiry should be run

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An entirely new form of enquiry would have been better if

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I think it would perhaps be an uncontroversial observation that had

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there been a Parliamentary committee looking at this matter, it would not

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have been possible for it to do its work more slowly, even if it had

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I think it is important, on the half of the House, whether it concerns or

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perturbs him or not, that Sir John should be aware that there is a very

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real sense of anger and frustration across the whole House at what seems

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a substantial disservice that has been done.

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Chris Grayling said he would consider the point

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about his statement and the Speaker finished by thanking MPs for

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underlying the strength of feeling felt across the House on the issue.

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You're watching Thursday in Parliament with me,

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The worsening demands of the refugee crisis in Syria is outstripping the

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generosity shown by the countries of Europe. That was the view of the

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United Nations official when a committee of MPs looked at the

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humanitarian effects of the conflict. Britain has said it will

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take 20,000 refugees over the next four years and the Department for

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International Development has given ?1 billion in humanitarian aid. One

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committee member believed some local councils in Britain were acting too

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slowly to take refugees. In my area, the local authorities are not

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registering quickly. Is this something you are aware of? Our

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local communities very much want to support the refugees and are keen to

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encourage it but if there is a procedure here which is causing

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this, we need to unlock it. I would like to take the opportunity

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to make sure that the commitment is recognised as an important step for

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this Government and it is on the back of very important work and

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giving over ?1 billion to the response in the region. With respect

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to that number, 20,000 against 4 million is zero point 001% and if we

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are thinking about how we distribute them amongst constituencies in the

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UK, that figure would bring six people into each constituency so it

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is hardly a big strain on the system and our experience as an agency is

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in the US where we resettle annually 10,000 as part of the US Government

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federal programme of resettlement and that is a federal programme so

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it is not local states or counties or whatever offering up numbers, it

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is a federally distributed system of allocation amongst those states. We

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had some statistics from Oxfam showing that the UK in terms of its

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contribution, it is around 220% of its actual contribution we are

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others are contributing much less. What is happening to the Syrian

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people is on variable. -- is unbearable. It was a sophisticated

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civilisation and was the first country where I worked and to see

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half of its population having to move as displaced or as refugees, to

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see this country being completely destroyed. The UK has been very

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influential and has had a very important role and has really stood

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up to the plate to give more, but this more is not enough. 19 million

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displaced people. So the abolition of the situation and their needs are

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outstripping the generosity. What can be done? I think this unbearable

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situation is starting to lead to a unbearable consequences, including

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in Europe and there is a need for an awakening. The global architecture

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is unfit for purpose. For what we are witnessing. $20 billion of

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global wealth spent on humanitarian response is not sufficient. Are you

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saying there are four that some of us would agree that in fact

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humanitarian in the medium-term needs to be hard-wired into budgets

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rather than just saying, these things come along once in a while

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and we will deal with them on a case-by-case pieces. I agree that a

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lasting peaceful situation is what we all want but it seems to be as

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far away as ever. In the absence of wit, we do need more countries and

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the UK has been leading in terms of contributions, to do more for this

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and I feel that the UK Government should do more with other donors to

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give more to this appeal. It is also about finding sustainable solutions,

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not just aid. Aid is there or the sake of eight because that is a

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common human dignified thing to do as a country. It will not solve the

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displacement crisis that Europe is going to face, because when you were

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the kind of primal terror and evil that is operating in kind of Syria

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today, all defences and guards and aid is not in itself going to stop

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people looking for solutions and safety for their families in Europe,

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and is driving people to claim refugee status in Europe so I think

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we do need to separate out those two things. The latest on the Syrian

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crisis. Transport Secretary Patrick McLauchlan has said that the car

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manufacturer Volkswagen behaved disgracefully throughout the mission

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scandal that affected cars in the UK. EU officials have decided that

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UK cars will undergo real tests as well as laboratory examinations from

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2016. The current difference between laboratory testing and emissions

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tests are unacceptable. The UK has been pressing Europe to address this

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problem and the agreement was met in Brussels yesterday to introduce

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real-world testing in 2017 as an important milestone. -- said that

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all of the affected vehicles will be fixed by 2016, however the UK's

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managing director has said that this may not be deliverable. What

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assurance can we have that the affected vehicles will be fixed by

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the end of 2016? I will be looking to Volkswagen, who acted

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disgracefully in this whole episode, to ensure that they live up to the

:18:57.:19:01.

expectations which they promised originally. The still unfolding

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scandal at Volkswagen has lifted the lid from the much more widespread

:19:08.:19:11.

problem about emissions testing which was known about for a very

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long time. Why did the Department not act sooner? The Transport

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Secretary said the problem could've been dealt with before this

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Government came to power. The questions continued. Some 1.2

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million cars have been affected across the UK. It is important to be

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mindful of the innocent drivers, which of course they all are. They

:19:31.:19:35.

now face a higher road tax bill and the decreased sale value. Does the

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Minister agree with me that consideration should be given to the

:19:43.:19:48.

fate of Volkswagen due to this? I think we have made that fairly clear

:19:49.:19:52.

but I think Ali was one of those issues that Volkswagen will have to

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address in due course. Isn't the reality that Minister's statements

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are leading motorists and the public into being none the wiser, so can we

:20:07.:20:11.

clear the air on one point and what happened at the EU technical

:20:12.:20:14.

committee yesterday. It was not just setting a new timetable for cars to

:20:15.:20:20.

conform to existing regulations, did it not also involve permission to

:20:21.:20:24.

breach those limits by 50% and that permission being open-ended and is

:20:25.:20:27.

that not what the UK representatives voted for? What was important was

:20:28.:20:33.

that we got agreement for a real-world emissions testing right

:20:34.:20:35.

across the whole of Europe and this was something that was objected to

:20:36.:20:43.

in the past. We pressed forward in May and I am very pleased that we

:20:44.:20:47.

achieved it yesterday. The honourable member said it was not as

:20:48.:20:50.

much as he would like or as fast as you would like, but I would say we

:20:51.:20:54.

have made more progress in the six months of this new Conservative

:20:55.:20:57.

Government than was ever made by the last Government. The Transport

:20:58.:21:01.

Secretary there. Now, exasperating and sometimes frightening for

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vulnerable victims. Cold calling and nuisance messages triggered 175,000

:21:09.:21:13.

complaints to the Information Commissioner's office last year. The

:21:14.:21:16.

problem is particularly acute for the elderly and housebound as they

:21:17.:21:21.

can cause distress and anxiety. In the Lords, the Lib Dem Lord Sharkey

:21:22.:21:26.

wanted to know what action is being taken to reduce the number of these

:21:27.:21:31.

calls. We have already increased the number of monetary penalties the

:21:32.:21:34.

regulators can issue and have made it easier for the Information

:21:35.:21:37.

Commissioner's office to take enforcement action. We are currently

:21:38.:21:44.

running at ?1.5 million competition fund to develop more innovative,

:21:45.:21:48.

safe, and cost-effective technologies to block unwanted calls

:21:49.:21:51.

and we will consult shortly on calling line identification, a

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subject close to my heart. Last November, I wrote to the ministers

:21:59.:22:02.

saying that the rules on cold calling and consumer credit needed

:22:03.:22:04.

review. One year on and there has been no review. Everyday is a delay

:22:05.:22:09.

and that means more and more people being exposed to debt management

:22:10.:22:16.

advice. Cold calling for mortgages is banned. Why is it not banned for

:22:17.:22:22.

debt management? The noble Lord makes a good point and the FCA has

:22:23.:22:31.

committed to undertake a review of its rules for cold calling and for

:22:32.:22:37.

text messages from these firms. The Baroness will be aware of the work

:22:38.:22:45.

done by the MTS scams team that looks at repeat victims, usually

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elderly people who are on soccer 's lists which are circulated between

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different companies. -- suckers lists. Could the lady tell me what

:22:59.:23:06.

can be done about people calling pretending to be from the Telephone

:23:07.:23:09.

preference service and that there is now a charge for that service and

:23:10.:23:12.

trying to extract money from the victims. Given that those vulnerable

:23:13.:23:17.

people I then often referred to other departments for support and

:23:18.:23:20.

care, whether that support and care will continue to be available given

:23:21.:23:25.

the level of cuts that there now are in local authority budgets.

:23:26.:23:27.

Fraudulent scam activities are a crime and could be -- should be

:23:28.:23:33.

reported. I have a feeling that the consumer representatives and the

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Government are very much on the same site here and I look forward to

:23:37.:23:40.

taking these issues forward. We know that there are one in ten people who

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get up to 20 calls per month and they certainly know about it. Did

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the lady explain why the amendment that we got through from the

:23:49.:23:54.

consumer rights act about collar line identification has not yet been

:23:55.:23:57.

brought forward, and doesn't she agreed that those other proposals

:23:58.:24:02.

that we put their such as automated reporting of nuisance calls or call

:24:03.:24:10.

blocking a comment, we should have added and maybe should do now. We

:24:11.:24:14.

are going to consult on the caller identification. I think mine noble

:24:15.:24:19.

lady and myself both thought this was very important and we are on the

:24:20.:24:27.

case. Lady Neville Roth. Now, bonfire night is approaching and

:24:28.:24:31.

alongside the usual warnings about sparklers and fireworks, one Tory MP

:24:32.:24:36.

is concerned about the hedgehog. He is running a campaign to preserve

:24:37.:24:41.

the woodland creature. He used business questions to: People do

:24:42.:24:44.

check that the hedgehog was not nestling in a bonfire. The

:24:45.:24:49.

Government took up the call. We have seen a really distressing for

:24:50.:24:53.

learner hedgehog population over the last few decades. The hedgehog was

:24:54.:24:57.

always, when I was a child, you would find one in every garden.

:24:58.:25:00.

People would feed them at the back door. It does not now happened to

:25:01.:25:04.

anything like the degree that it used to, and I would say to members

:25:05.:25:08.

on all sides of the house and anyone who is listening to this debate,

:25:09.:25:13.

bonfire night is a period of real danger for hedgehogs. If you drive

:25:14.:25:16.

around the country, you will see large piles of wood set up for

:25:17.:25:20.

bonfires next week. It is all too easy an altar, natty hedgehog finds

:25:21.:25:24.

refuge in those bonfires in the next few days and I would ask anyone who

:25:25.:25:29.

has a bonfire set up in the next few days please double-check before you

:25:30.:25:33.

like them and make sure there is not a hedgehog nesting inside because we

:25:34.:25:37.

can't afford to lose any more. So check your bonfires everyone. That

:25:38.:25:41.

is it for Thursday In Parliament but to join me for the week in

:25:42.:25:44.

Parliament Will we will be looking back at all the highs and lows of

:25:45.:25:48.

the last few days in Westminster. Until then, goodbye.

:25:49.:25:53.

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