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.