29/10/2015 Thursday in Parliament


Georgina Pattinson presents highlights of Thursday 29 October in Parliament.

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Hello and welcome to Thursday in Parliament.


Tory MPs condemn the government on tax credits.


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


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


The Speaker criticises the delay in publishing the report


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


and frustration across the whole House at what seems a substantial


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


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


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


MPs have backed a motion calling on the government to reconsider


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


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


households on low incomes, were knocked back in the House


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


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


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


nearly every Conservative who spoke in the debate criticised


the affect the cuts would have on working families.


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


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


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


There's talk about the personal income tax allowance increasing


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


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


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


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


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


So that's something that I could not support.


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


There is huge fear out there in the public


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


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


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


adapt and change into the situation that we were proposing.


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


clearly problematic and the response of both Houses has shown quite


clearly that people were concerned about the changes in question.


But in terms of how we move forward from this


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


in this House would deliberately impoverish the working poor with


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


It was compounded by the method taken


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


having enough information, not having a proper impact statement.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


And I think it then again unites backbenches on both sides


of the House, is whether these changes to tax credits


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


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


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


There would be very little opposition to the government


introducing these reforms so people who are not claiming tax


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


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


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


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


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


Why are we here again, discussing tax credits?


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


These proposals which have now been passed through the statutory


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


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


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


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


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


for an inheritance tax cut benefiting the wealthiest 4% of


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


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


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


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


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


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


deliver higher wages and lower welfare that the British people want


to see and be working Britain deserves.


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


The report into the Iraq war will not be


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


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


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


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


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


David Cameron has told Sir John he's disappointed


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


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


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


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


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


published, which will mean it will be seven years


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


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


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


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


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


of course, the possible legal consequences that might follow to


certain individuals if that enquiry allocates responsibility


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


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


The whole situation is extremely unsatisfactory and I think


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


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


and the government shares, the right honourable gentleman's


frustration about the amount of time this has taken.


None of us have ever sought to hide that.


There are clearly lessons that will need to be learned


It's in none of our interests that this should


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


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


I absolutely understand the honourable gentleman's concerns


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


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


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


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


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


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


that the Chilcot enquiry has been delayed by Whitehall not clearing


things quickly enough and by not providing enough information about


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


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


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


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


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


of a desire in government to stall this.


Indeed, the Prime Minister has been, frankly,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


statement on which there would be an opportunity for questioning


The Chilcot enquiry was set up by the old Public Administration


And at that time, there were misgivings about


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


An entirely new form of enquiry would have been better if


I think it would perhaps be an uncontroversial observation that had


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


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


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


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


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


a substantial disservice that has been done.


Chris Grayling said he would consider the point


about his statement and the Speaker finished by thanking MPs for


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


You're watching Thursday in Parliament with me,


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


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


United Nations official when a committee of MPs looked at the


humanitarian effects of the conflict. Britain has said it will


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


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


committee member believed some local councils in Britain were acting too


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


are thinking about how we distribute them amongst constituencies in the


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


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


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


federal programme of resettlement and that is a federal programme so


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


situation is starting to lead to a unbearable consequences, including


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


crisis. Transport Secretary Patrick McLauchlan has said that the car


manufacturer Volkswagen behaved disgracefully throughout the mission


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


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


2016. The current difference between laboratory testing and emissions


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


problem and the agreement was met in Brussels yesterday to introduce


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


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


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


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


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


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


expectations which they promised originally. The still unfolding


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


problem about emissions testing which was known about for a very


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


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


Government came to power. The questions continued. Some 1.2


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


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


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


Minister agree with me that consideration should be given to the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Secretary there. Now, exasperating and sometimes frightening for


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


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


problem is particularly acute for the elderly and housebound as they


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


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


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


regulators can issue and have made it easier for the Information


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


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


safe, and cost-effective technologies to block unwanted calls


and we will consult shortly on calling line identification, a


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


saying that the rules on cold calling and consumer credit needed


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


people I then often referred to other departments for support and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


consumer rights act about collar line identification has not yet been


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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