Keith Macdougall presents highlights of Thursday 19 November in Parliament.
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Hello and welcome to Thursd`y in Parliament,
our look at the best of the day in the Commons and the Lords.
On this programme:
Devolution remains in place in Northern Ireland after an agreement
between the parties is reached.
It's certainly been a long ten weeks.
Very many meetings, a pretty gruelling process.
An ex-Children's Minister ddscribed what happened the day he met
the people running the Kids Company charity.
You go into her office and her office is rather like an Ar`bian
desert tent with lots of cushions and tea lights around where you sit
cross-legged on the cushions.
And letting the plane take the strain.
Criticisms of the new executive travel planned
for the Prime Minister.
Dave Force One, brought to you in association with
Bullingdon Airways and EtonJet.
It's just an incredible vanity project.
But first, back from the brhnk.
After weeks of fraught negotiations, when the future of power-sh`ring in
Northern Ireland was under serious doubt, a political deal was struck
this week, ensuring the Assdmbly at Stormont returns to normal working.
Under the deal, welfare isstes are to be handed to Westminster
In return, Downing Street h`s agreed to spend tens of millions
of pounds to soften the imp`ct of welfare cuts to tackle cross-border
crime and to allow Stormont to set its own rate of corporation tax
In the Commons, the Northern Ireland Secret`ry said
the new agreement made progress towards financial stability
and ending paramilitary acthvity.
The new agreement will help give the Executive a stable and sust`inable
budget, assisted by further financial support of around ?50
million from the UK Governmdnt.
These funds are to help the Executive tackle issues which
are unique to Northern Irel`nd.
The agreement places new sh`red obligations on Executive ministers
to work together towards ridding society of all paramilitary groups
and activity, and challenging paramilitarism in all its forms
The agreement commits all participants to a concerted and
enhanced effort to combat organised and cross-border crime which the
UK Government will help to fund
She said securing an agreemdnt had been a tough process.
It's certainly been a long ten weeks.
Very many meetings, a prettx gruelling process, but I'm very
conscious that whilst I've only been engaged in cross-party talks for a
couple of years, there are lany fine men and women in Northern Ireland
who have been engaged in thhs kind of process for about 25 years.
So I think we need to pay tribute to their determination and all that
they have achieved in transforming life in Northern Ireland.
They are rightly an example held up throughout the world of how
bitter division can be overcome
She also paid tribute to Peter Robinson, who's announced
he's stepping down as DUP ldader.
Peter has been a central figure in Northern Ireland politics
for over four decades.
His long and distinguished record of public service, both in this House
and the Assembly, he has ch`mpioned the interests of Northern Ireland
with unparalleled effectiveness determination and dedication.
So whatever the people see `s its imperfections, whatever people
see as its disappointments, there is another breathing space, another
opportunity for Northern Irdland to move forward, to combat crilinality,
banish paramilitarism, tackle sectarianism
and have a stable government financially and politically.
That opportunity must be gr`sped.
Outstanding issues resolved and a fresh crisis
in a year or two avoided.
The reality is without this agreement devolution would fail
we would be back to direct rule which is effectively,
as far as Unionists are concerned, joint rule with Dublin.
That was a far less appealing vista.
What we have now instead is an agreement which is a fresh start
to allow us to move forward and put the budget on a sustainable future.
We know there will be some people on their knees tonight in Northern
Ireland, praying because thdy hate this deal so much, praying that
Scotland comes up with a slhghtly better deal so they don't h`ve to
welcome this particular deal.
But there's over 105,000 low paid families
in Northern Ireland who tod`y will be grateful that their tax credits
will not be cut in the way they would have been cut under another
deal or directly under direct rule.
How concerned is the Secret`ry of State now that all of those involved
in the discussions, all the parties, including Her Majesty's Govdrnment,
the Irish Government, the DTP, the SDLP, the Ulster Unionist P`rty the
Alliance and others, all accept that the IRA are still
in place, which Sinn Fein do not.
I think the crucial issue is that all parties, all participants to the
talks process, are absolutely clear that there is no justificathon
whatsoever for paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland
and that they must all disb`nd.
The Secretary of State will know that she said at the talks
and she said publicly, conshstently, that there wouldn't be an agreement
on the past without an agredment on welfare reform, that that w`s a hard
message for Sinn Fein and the SDLP.
We now end up, apparently, with an agreement
on welfare reform and still no agreement on the past, and people
want to know how that came `bout.
To the end, I was arguing to keep legacx in
I wish we had been able to, even if we couldn't agree on all thd issues
in relation to legacy, I hoped we would be able to actually lhst under
agreement a fair selection of areas where consensus had been achieved.
I couldn't get everyone to sign up to that, but I will conthnue
to strive to find a way to get these legacy bodies set up.
It is crucially important for victims and survivors that we do.
The decision to phase out Britain's coal-fired power stations h`s been
broadly welcomed by MPs.
During Energy Question Time in the Commons,
the Energy Secretary was ch`llenged over the removal of subsidids
from some renewable sources.
The announcement yesterday to phase out coal with gas as equivalent
The announcement yesterday to phase out coal with gas is equivalent
in one announcement to doubling the amount of renewables we have
in our system, possibly the biggest reduction in carbon
announced by a Secretary of State.
Would the Secretary of Statd, though, tell me whether or not she
believes any of our EU partners will follow us in this route.
I thank the honourable membdr for Warrington South
for pointing out the announcement that I made yesterday
which shows such strong leadership in reducing carbon emissions
in Europe and in the world.
It's interesting that he dr`ws attention towards asking me
whether other European countries will do that.
I'm not sure they will and we are not ones who lecture
our European friends, but I can tell him certainly I've had a lot
of congratulations and commdnts of a positive nature internationally.
Thousands of jobs have alre`dy gone, thousands more are at risk
since this Government slashdd support for renewables.
Ministers have blocked onshore wind developments,
slashed support for solar and chopping and changing energx policy
so often that the CBI says they are deterring potential investors.
How many more renewable energy companies must go under?
How many more jobs must be lost before this Government will live up
to our international commitlents and end this assault on Britain s
clean energy industries?
It's disappointing, Mr Speaker, that the honourable lady talks about
clean energy and low carbon and fails to mention the announcement
yesterday where we are the first largely developed country to make an
announcement for a date for taking off coal. It is ` great
achievement, it's important as part of our future low carbon emhssions.
I'd also say to the honourable lady that
our plan is for a green economy
We are continuing to develop jobs as well as support manufacttring
and industry and I'm proud of the direction we're taking.
Would the Secretary of Statd not agree that subsidising progressively
unaffordable fossil fuels, luch of which are produced abroad, while
cutting off support for rendwable energy at home when schemes are on
the verge of being self-supporting is mitigating against our chances
of reaching our targets?
What I would say to the honourable lady is it's not one or the other.
We intend to make our targets while getting the balance
of supported renewable energy while also having fossil fuels as part
of the mix because that is the way we deliver secure, efficient and
low-cost electricity nation`lly
Onshore wind is demonstrablx the cheapest form
of renewable energy, yet its route to market has been constrained.
That subsidy-free commitment, no new subsidy commitment from
the Government in their manhfesto is clearly being implemented.
But would the Secretary of State support the concept
of subsidy-free onshore wind and if so, does she agree with the Climate
Change Committee's assessment of what would constitute subsidy free?
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
That is a very interesting puestion.
I think I said last time I was here that we will look at that
and we will continue to look at it.
I would remind the honourable gentleman th`t we
have said that it is no new subsidy and also must be supported by the
local community, but we are happy to engage with developers to h`ve that
discussion if they have a proposal.
The debate over Britain's future energy prospects.
The House of Lords will soon be getting its teeth into controversial
measures designed to make it harder for unions to stage strikes.
As a calm curtain raiser to the Trade Union Bill,
a Labour peer called a debate to highlight the bdnefits
secured by unions over the decades.
Some Tory peers said what would benefit the unions would be
a better relationship with the Conservative Party.
Labour's contribution to the debate on the Trade Union Bill
in the Other Place has of necessity been somewhat defensive
because that bill represents such a fundamental and frankly m`lign
attack on trade unions.
However, on behalf of Labour, I sought this debate today
so we can be much more positive and we can praise the work
of the trade unions over thd years.
He went back a long way.
Trade unions from the peasants revolt of 1387, not many melbers
will remember too much about that!
I remember that.
Although my noble friend, Lord Lea, does!
Through to the industrial age when I must say I'm proud to say that it
was the weavers in Ayrshire who led the way.
Workers got together to challenge the injustices and the abusd
which they faced.
Because the state was controlled by a non-representative minority
of wealthy people, in fact minority of wealthy men
My noble friend, Lord Grocott, says that it hasn't changed completely.
A former Labour politician who switched sides said 30%
of trade union members voted for the Conservative Party.
It is totally self-defeating for the Labour Party to try
and monopolise the unions.
It's self-defeating because unions need friends
on both sides of the House.
Unions do, as the noble lord, Lord Fuchs has said, play
an important part in the economy.
It's important, then, for unions to have friends
across the political spectrtm.
And if I was to give them one message, it's stop just backing
one horse because occasionally that horse might not win thd race.
A former union boss said thdre was a link between poverty
and declining union power.
My Lords, the combination of an overpriced corporate dlite
and weakened unions has not only fostered inequality, it has been
a brake on our economic growth.
As the purchasing power of lany of those who are worse
off has been strongly squeezed.
It was unions that brought ts the weekend and many other things
we take for granted.
My plea today is work with ts, not against us.
The record of positive contribution from unions to this nation goes
without question, in my view.
A whole list.
I just hope that when we come to the Trade Union
Bill, that list of positives will be taken into the balance
because the Government, in pushing forward that bill, has a prdtty poor
record in looking after the ordinary man and woman in this nation.
The bill that we're going to be debating is not anti-trade tnion,
Many of us who have no conndction with trade unions get very hrritated
with the role of many trade unions as first of all they spend `ll their
time campaigning against my party, so therefore why should we have any
respect for what they do, and secondly they just get
in the way of many of us wanting to go about our daily business.
Well, thank you for that contribution !)
It's on the record and we'll be able to remembdr it.
Lord Robatham was making his maiden speech.
As a frightful old dyed-in-the-wool Tory,
just by speaking on trade unions might be thought to be parthsan
but I hope to avoid so being.
And why, in the 21st-centurx, is there still a party
of organised labour?
I pose that in a genuine sphrit of enquiry.
I know, as a parent and a grandparent,
that when teachers go on strike children's education is disrupted
and parents need to take tile off work to look after their chhldren.
When health care workers strike appointments are cancelled
and patients do not get the service they deserve.
When the trains or buses or underground workers strike,
commuters cannot get to work.
And she emphasised that the Government wasn't seeking to ban
strikes, but introducing minimum turnout thresholds for strikes.
You're watching our round-up of the day in the Commons and the Lords.
Still to come, the questions continue over what
went wrong at Kids Company.
The former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has warned that world
leaders can't afford to fail on tackling climate change.
Ed Miliband, who is also a former Energy Secretary, was speakhng
in a Commons debate ahead of the United Nations summit on clhmate
change which will get under way at the end of this month in Paris.
We need an agreement that is as close as possible to what
the science tells us is necdssary.
And we should all be worried about what the science is now telling us.
Compared to six years ago it is even clearer.
I think there is a very good assessment
which has been produced by the Met Office earlier this month.
They told us that 2015 is sdt to be the hottest year on record, that is
yet another record and some of this may be related to El Nino btt all
the experts tell us that thd underlying warming is as a result of
human-induced climate changd and we are now at 1 centigrade of
so that is halfway to 2 .
Now, the important thing about this, Madam Deputy Speaker, is th`t global
warming is not some theorethcal idea and sometimes we talk about it as if
it is, it is happening now `nd the changes are already being whtnessed.
He explained what he thought would be agreed in Paris.
We will get, I believe, a 2 commitment, at Copenhagen btt not,
I'm afraid, a 2 degree deal and
I think this is something that the Secretary of State has acknowledged.
The UN says that on the best case scenario for Paris,
the current commitments madd by countries for 2013, mean th`t we
will be halfway
between business as usual elissions, ie; no action and where we should be
have a fighting chance of 2 degrees.
In fact the UN has made cle`r we are heading on the basis of
submitted plans for something like a 3 degree deal.
We should be clear that if we end up by 2100 with 3 degrees
warming, that will be catastrophic.
It would mean temperatures higher than at any time in the last
3,000,000 years, dramatic effects of intense heatwaves, floodhng and
millions, not to say, hundrdds
of millions of climate change refugees.
The debate highlighted recent pronouncements
by the Pope on carbon emisshons
For those of you who have not been keeping up with papal polithcs
things have moved on since Trban VIII put Galileo under arrest.
Pope Francis embraces the work of independent scientific rdsearch,
benefits of technology to mddicine, engineering and communications.
He points to the very solid scientific consensus
on global warming.
And to our role through the intensive use of fossil fuels
I think meeting the challenge of climate change is
about more than degrees celsius and that is why the Pope's
It forces us to confront thd reality that our response to climatd change
goes to the heart of who we are and the values which guide our decisions
collectively and as individtals
The Energy Secretary said a successful outcome in Parhs was
tantalisingly close and
she addressed Ed Miliband dhrectly.
I share his view that what happens after Paris is key.
He will know that we are ambitious for getting a deal in Paris
and what is really key is the nature of the reviews and
the bindingness of those gohng forward.
He will also be aware of how difficult it is to get cert`in
countries to commit and how delicate that is as we approach Paris to try
and keep everybody in the tdnt and yet to have an ambitious deal.
Paris will not be the end, but the moment
when the world changes direction and kick-starts a revolution to a
new kind of growth and development.
MPs continued to probe what went wrong at Kids Company.
The charity led by its flamboyant founder C`mila
Batmanghelidjh collapsed in the summer when questions were raised
over its financial management.
The charity was set up to assist deprived youngsters in
Britain's inner cities.
When the former Children's Linister came before the Commons comlittee,
MPs were curious to learn more about the meetings he had h`d with
You had cups of tea with her?
Apparently, I had cups of tda with her in her tent, yes.
Can you describe this tent? It sounds very exotic! LAUGHTER. It is
very nice, it is very odd, but this is a rather drab office block in
Southwark, I think it is.
You go into her office and her office is rather like an Ar`bian
desert tent with lots of cushions and tea-lights around, wherd you sit
cross-legged on the cushions.
It is like a shrine really.
That would be one way to put it it is an unconventional offhce, Mr
He described what happened when as a minister he asked
for information about Kids Company.
I went through my papers and I think you heard this from the
Secretary of State for
Education, it is slightly chaotic to find those papers.
I asked for all the papers relating to Kids Company in my time `t the
Department for Education.
There were clearly quite a lot of papers missing which I could
which I asked for, including the letter which Camila
Batmanghelidjh wrote directly to the Prime
Minister to which I referred before.
Some of those were eventually found.
When you said you referred to things happening in Number 10,
what did you mean by that?
I will come back to the point I was just making, Kids Company was
in that it was very high profile and had very high profile b`ckers
in inverted commas, so when you realised that the ministers see
Camila Batmanghelidjh around the Cabinet table in Number Ten as
part of the Big Society sumlit, when
you have got a reception held in 2011 for Kids Company at Nulber 10,
when policy advisers and people from the policy unit at Number 10 were
apparently having contact whth Kids Company for which you're not
aware, clearly the pressure is on.
This is a charity that needs to be looked
at a bit more favourably and in that light, that is why H say,
it was a bit of a fait accolplis when the funding round results were
presented in front of us.
And that is why all I could do and in my letter to Camila
stipulations I put down where, one, you're not going to get any more
funding and secondly, we ard going to second an official from the
Department of Education to go and work inside Kids Companx,
ostensibly to help her explore other sources of funding that did not rely
on the public purse but also to try and find out exactly
what was going on within Kids Company and try and get somd
evidence as to how this mondy was being spent.
What you are referring to sdems to be a diffusion of accountabhlity.
You were the minister signing off the submissions, but, there was
interference and even interference you did not know about, so that was
quite difficult, it would h`ve been quite difficult to hold you
accountable for handling that money with all
the interference that was going on.
Thank you for that.
Now it has been announced that the Prime Minister and other senior
Cabinet ministers are to get their own plane for official trips.
We are not talking small here, an RAF Voyager A330
aircraft needs to be re-fitted for the purpose.
The refit will cost ?10 million
The government says the move will save about ?775,0 0
a year as the plane will be cheaper than chartering flights.
When the arrangement was mentioned in the Commons, the debate took off.
We also want to look at the government's travel costs
when we are looking at expenditure.
In the light of the news th`t the government today is planning to
go ahead with Call Me Dave @irways.
I mention this because when he was the Shadow Transport Secret`ry,
the Leader of the House, told the BBC that
the idea that a special jet should be set aside for the Prime
Minister, then Mr Blair and he said that this was the wrong momdnt to be
splashing out taxpayers mondy on funding
the government to travel in style.
Now what on earth has changdd?
Is it that the honourable mdmber has changed his job
and now he has a ministerial car, he has got used to it and hd wants
everyone else to travel in style?
I have to say, if I look back at what was proposed back in
the days of the Labour government, they were going to spend ?100
million on two brand-new aircraft.
What would have been even then a travesty,
a complete waste of public loney.
We are spending a small fraction of that, upgrading an existing aircraft
to save money for the taxpaxer.
That is the difference between our two parties,
they spend spend spend and we deliver value for the taxpaxer.
Mr Speaker, I am really ple`sed we have a debate next week on
the Airports Commission, we have a debate on this on Thursd`y, and I
wonder if this would maybe be an opportune time to bring up the issue
of the Prime Minister's proposed plans for
his own personal air travel, Dave Force One, brought to xou
in association with Bullingdon Airways and Eton Jet!
It is an incredible vanity project, when the day before the Chancellor
standing at the dispatch box with his latest round of misery
for those which are disadvantaged and vulnerable in our community
I can simply say the difference between us, not
between us and Labour but also the SNP as well is that when we make a
it is designed to save monex.
This will reduce government travel costs and that surely is
the right thing to do.
Two new peers have taken their seats in the House of Lords.
Former Lib Dem MP Malcolm Bruce who has been succeeded
in his Scottish constituencx by the SNP's Alex Salmond, was
introduced into the Lords as Lord Bruce of Bennachie. He sword the
familiar oath of allegiance. I Lord Bruce of Bennachie do swear by
Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her
Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, hdr heirs and successors, according to law, so
help me God. And also introduced was Kate Rock, the vice-chairman
of the Conservative Party.
She will sit on the Conserv`tive benches of the Lords.
And that is it for this programme.
Do join me for The Week In Parliament, where we
will not only look back at the last few days in both Houses, but will
also have a studio discussion on whether it is really timd to
lower the voting age from 18 to 16.
Until then, from me, Keith MacDougall, goodbye.