03/12/2015 Thursday in Parliament


Georgina Pattinson presents highlights of Thursday 3 December in Parliament.

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Hello and welcome to Thursday in Parliament,


Calls for a security review after MPs face intimidating


behaviour following the debate on Syrian air strikes.


Sadly, some of the abuse - I think we would all agree -


for all members of this House, has been beyond the pale.


Peers express concerns over the review into the powers


of the House of Lords following the blocking of tax credit cuts.


They were unprecedented. They did raise serious questions.


And good news for those who are frustrated by poor or no broadband.


By the end of this Parliament, people will have a legal right


to request a broadband connection, no matter where they live.


But first, the debate over Syria and the decision to give


the go-ahead for air strikes against Islamic State miltiants has


It has provoked passionate feelings on both sides of the argument, both


Labour's Chris Bryant has called for a review of security for MPs


and their staff as a result of abusive messages and intimidation.


Several people have had their offices barricaded.


Some have been called murderers, terrorist sympathisers, whatever. I


hope the Leader would agree that whilst all members expect a degree


of hurly-burly in political life, it is a fundamental principle that all


members are sent not as delegates, but as representatives, with the


full power to exercise their judgment and conscience, and to


speak and vote without fear. No MP should ever be intimidated. Sadly,


some of the abuse, for all members of the House, has been beyond the


pale. Several members have had their offices barricaded.


One member had her house surrounded, while many have had photos


of dead babies pushed through their front door at home.


Today I gather that some members have received photos


MPs have broad shoulders - of course we do - but may I ask


the Leader to review the arrangements regarding the security


This is not just about members, it is about their families


and indeed their staff, as several members have pointed out.


Mr Bryant wondered whether the responsibility


for funding security should be returned to officers of the House.


The Leader of the House said he would not discuss security measures,


but the authorities would continue to look at the situation.


We are all subject to legitimate public scrutiny, but it will never


be acceptable for members' personal safety to be put in jeopardy or for


them to be the victims of activities that a court would judge illegal.


But please, Leader of the House, let us never have another debate


Such was the demand to speak in yesterday's debate that about


50 members never got the opportunity to contribute, and many of those who


did were confined to just a few minutes at the end of the day.


We live in a new type of representative democracy,


where MPs are lobbied and communicated with by means that were


never anticipated, certainly when I was a new member of Parliament.


Constituents expect to see their MPs in this House expressing their


opinions, particularly on massively important issues of state such as


yesterday's, and I am disappointed that the Leader of the House could


not commit to the request from all around the House


and the country to have a proper, structured debate that would have


allowed everybody who needed to contribute to the debate to get in.


Hearing speeches from all sides of the house, some really impassioned


and powerful speeches. Some speeches that will be memorable in the


history of this place. I think the debate we had yesterday


showed this House at its best. We heard from 104 members


after what had been, over a period of a week and a bit,


about 20 hours of debate, discussion I think yesterday, this


House got it right. The debate on Syria,


as MPs mentioned, lasted over 11 hours and Mr Speaker


chaired every single minute. Some of us are wondering whether,


like Davros in Doctor Who, you have secretly had some kind of feeding


and filtration system fitted into the chair, or some hidden tubes.


Or perhaps it is down to drugs. May I also congratulate you,


Mr Speaker, It is not for nothing that you have


the title of Golden Bladder for the way you chaired


yesterday's debate. And there was acknowledgement for


the feat from someone in the know. May I pay tribute to you,


Mr Speaker, for your Olympic When I was Deputy Speaker,


I once had to sit in the chair for six hours, and halfway through I had


to put out a call of emergency to the Chairman of Ways and Means to


replace me for a couple of minutes. How you did it, I will never know,


and I pay tribute to you. Peers have made


a pre-emptive strike against any moves to strip them of the power to


oppose some Government measures. There have been reports ministers


want to prevent the House of Lords vetoing secondary legislation


after it rejected the Chancellor's Peers were accused


of triggering a constitutional crisis by ignoring a convention that


says financial measures approved The former Conservative leader


of the Lords, Lord Strathclyde, has been given the task of reviewing


the powers of the Lords. In view of the 1994 resolution


of this House that we have an unfettered right to vote


on secondary legislation, which was confirmed by the Joint


Select Committee on Conventions, if the noble Lord proposes reducing


the powers of this House, she will ensure that a further


Joint Select Committee of both Houses is established to


consider the consequences both I certainly do not want to pre-empt


my noble friend's conclusions when he comes forward with his response


to the Prime Minister, but it is worth me reminding the House that he


is looking into the constitutional issues that were raised


by the proceedings in this House They were unprecedented -


they did raise serious questions. My noble friend is looking


at them while consulting widely - both members of the other place


as well as here. When he reaches his conclusions,


I am confident that we will have an opportunity to consider them


carefully and decide next steps My Lords,


does my noble friend accept that, had this House passed the secondary


legislation on tax credits, it would have had the immediate force


of law and prevented the Chancellor of the Exchequer abandoning his


proposals in his Autumn Statement? My noble friend raises


an interesting point. It is interesting because it


allows me to say two things. It demonstrates what this House did


- it withheld its approval from a motion that had already been


voted on three times and decided The key thing


about the review that my noble friend is doing is not what the


views of this House were, but how it decided to express them and the


route by which it chose to do so. My Lords, will Her Majesty's


Government heed the serious concerns expressed by the Constitution


Committee and the Delegated Powers Committee of your Lordships' House,


to the effect that the threshold between primary and secondary


legislation continues to move upwards, with secondary legislation


used increasingly for matters of policy and principle which should be


the subject of primary legislation? My noble friend is examining how to


secure the decisive role of the elected House on matters associated


with secondary legislation. Clearly, it is important that all


Governments use the right vehicle to secure Parliament's decision


on their business. That is what all Governments seek


to do, and it is what we have been My Lords, given that the Leader


of the House has indicated that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde,


and his review team will take into account the views of members of your


Lordships' House, will she take this opportunity to commend the view


of one noble Lord who said in oral evidence to the


Joint Committee on Conventions: "I think we can spend a great deal


of time thinking "about how one could improve the


convention on secondary legislation, They were the words of


the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. Another noble


and learned Lord gave evidence to the same Joint Committee - the noble


and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. He said this


about secondary legislation: "The question is not is the power


there to vote against it? "is there a convention that


says constitutionally we The answer to the question must be,


and is, no. Now, how fast is


your internet connection? Or are you one of the many people


living in a broadband black hole? Slow connection speeds


for computer users in rural parts of the UK is one


of the most regular complaints made to MPs, and one of the things those


MPs raise most often in Parliament. So the Culture Secretary had


some good new By the end of 2017,


95% of homes and businesses in the United Kingdom will have


access to superfast broadband. As my right honourable friend the


Prime Minister announced last month, by the end of this Parliament,


people will have a legal right to request a broadband connection,


no matter where they live. We will be consulting


on these plans, which will put access to broadband


on a similar footing with other Those of us who are long


and strong advocates of universal service welcome the


Government's U-turn on this matter. Only a few weeks ago,


I was told by the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy


that this was not possible, I will be taking part


in the consultation, but will there be any new Government


money from the UK, the Welsh I would be extremely surprised


if that was what my honourable friend said, as he has been


a leading advocate of the universal service obligation policy, which


will benefit all the honourable gentleman's constituents,


just as it will every other Given the report that was published


this week by Ofcom, which illustrated the differences in


broadband speed in Northern Ireland and the fact that Northern Ireland


has 73% coverage compared with 88% in the rest of the United Kingdom,


what action will the Secretary of State and his officials take to


address this matter? I believe that the Ofcom report


showed different possible causes for slower broadband, including,


I am told, Christmas fairy lights. That is why it is making available


an app to measure I can tell the honourable lady that


in Northern Ireland, we expect that by the end of the superfast


broadband project, 87% of homes There won't be many successful


business parks where the highway stops short of the park


and people have to get out of their Can we apply


the same logic to another important highway - broadband -


and make sure that business parks are properly connected so that small


businesses can thrive and prosper? Telford residents in the Trench Lock


and Lightmoor new-build areas, and of historic Ironbridge,


tell me that struggle daily with inadequate When can they expect


the same, connectivity -- they struggle daily with


broadband. Point-to-point wireless can provide


a solution today - up to 30 megabits - but the organisations


behind those facilities will not invest because state aid will one


day bring fibre to those communities Five years after abandoning Labour's


universal service commitment and having delayed his own super-slow


crawl-out at least three times without proper consultation with


either Ofcom or the industry, the Prime Minister magics a universal


service obligation out of thin air. The Minister for Culture


and the Digital Economy, with whom I have the deepest sympathy,


is forced to pretend that it is part of some strategy that has not been


published or even consulted on. The Chancellor, however,


is not in on the trick. The comprehensive spending review


does not mention the issue once. Does the Minister have any idea of


how much the obligation is going to cost - or it just a sop to his Back


Benchers, whose mailbags are bulging That was a good try


by the honourable lady. But in actual fact, we are making extremely


good progress. We will achieve 95% by the end of 2017. The universal


service obligation is to allow those few remaining homes that do not


benefit to have a legal right to require broadband. As to the costing


of it, we are in discussion with the industry about it and will be


consulting. We welcome all input including those from the honourable


lady. You're watching Thursday


in Parliament on BBC Parliament. tracking the tax evaders


in Britain's overseas territories. But first - measures to toughen up


charity regulations have had The Charities Bill


will give the Charity Commission And there'll be a new system


of self-regulation to ensure that vulnerable people


in particular are not put under It follows the death of pensioner


Olive Cooke, who received numerous For all that, the Minister dealing


with the Bill emphasised that Nevertheless, he said, there


were challenges for charities. I myself have dressed up


as a sumo wrestler. I have carried a pedometer


for a week. I have even lost two stone to race


a charger Charities channel the best


of our instincts against


the worst that life can inflict. Sickness of mind and body entrenched


poverty, national disaster, in any other kind of enterprise charities


trade upon their reputation. Scandals


of poor governance or unscrupulous Tarnishing the vast majority


of charities that are well run Earlier this year we saw


the tragic case of Olive Cooke. Britain's longest


serving poppy seller. For years,


she was targeted with hundreds of Over 70 charities had bought


her details or swapped them In one month alone, she apparently


received 267 charity letters. Sadly, since then, more cases


of unscrupulous fundraising This is a good and important bill


and we on these benches welcome it. There is some room for improvement,


of course, and I will come to that in my speech but


its objectives are to be welcomed. We all know the vital role that


charities play in building a strong Thousands of people around


the country give up their time every day as trustees and volunteers


and thousands more depend on vital But she said Labour would try


to stop the Government removing measures on housing associations


added by the House of Lords. The clause sets out that the Charity


Commission should ensure that independent charities are not


compelled to dispose of their assets in a way that is inconsistent


with their charitable purposes. We will continue to defend this


clause to give housing associations the statutory backing to ensure they


can make their decisions in the best interests of their tenants, not be


bullied by a government determined to sell off and run down affordable


housing. We think it's absolutely right


that charities have the freedom to dispose of their


assets One MP focussed


on the possible impact of the I'm concerned that the wording


of the bill says that the Charity Commission shall issue a warning to


a charity trustee or just trustee for a charity that


it considers guilty of some form of I note also within subsection two,


sub clause two of clause one that the Charity commission simply


on that point may issue A Labour MP was also worried about


the impact of extra regulations. Across England and Wales there


are 943,000 trustees. I think we in this house bear some


responsibility to make sure we don't The bulk of charities


in this country, they are not like kids company who appeared to have


got away with a remarkable amount. We are talking about people who


give up their time on management committees, often when they don't


have very much time to give up. We don't always do that well


in terms of diversity of trustees. I think it is only about one in


200 between the ages of 16 and 24. So I am rather reluctant, if we do


anything that scares too many off. MPs have called for faster progress


by Britain's overseas territories in improving the transparency


of their banking and tax systems. The territories,


which include the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands,


have agreed to central registers, disclosing information on who owns


and profits from a company. Two years ago, David Cameron urged


British overseas territories to get their house in order, and there'll


be a summit next year to focus on How satisfied is he that there


really was significant progress in relation to the signal stance


that the Prime Minister has taken The strong indications that were


made in terms of the criteria that were sent out


by the Treasury, in terms of the requirements for real transparency,


for proper registers, of beneficial In these overseas Territories,


because these are the locations, they are the roots of shelter


for all the scams and shams An enormous amount of progress has


been made in the last few years in relation to financial services


transparency, particularly I think the I think all members


of the overseas territories signed up by all members and agreed to


by the UK Government. They agreed to hold beneficial


ownership information on respective jurisdictions


by settlement registers. There's a lot more text


but I'll end with a final sentence. We agree that addressing this issue


will be given the highest priority and that progress on implementation


will be kept under continuous Labour's Catherine West told MPs


that the Financial Times has reported the Cayman Islands have


refused the UK's request to give law The Prime Minister has been calling


on Surely it's clear now that


his government must redouble its efforts to bring


the standards of to scratch. In fiscally difficult times at home,


the overseas Territories being leaders in international finance,


should have world leading standards, not world leaders in enabling


corruption and tax evasion. My party made a manifesto commitment


to require the overseas territories to produce a publicly available


registers of the real owners When will the government match


our and indeed the general public's I have much more to say for BBI,


Caymans and Bermuda. It is wholly untrue to say that


the position at the end of the joint mysterious conference


was one of obstruction from Cayman, Now was George Osborne just a


"lucky Chancellor" - as some of his critics said - at the time


of last month's Autumn Statement? The independent Office for


Budget Responsibility, the OBR, said public finances were set to be ?27bn


better off by 2020 than forecast. This was mainly


down to better tax receipts During a debate in the Lords


on the economy, Peers discussed whether Mr Osborne


had been lucky, or clever, or both. As we know, to paraphrase


Napoleon Bonaparte, it's not enough to be a good Chancellor of the


Exchequer, it's important to be a Although Chancellors


on the whole create their own luck, as somebody, a golfer, I think,


once said, "it's funny how the My lord, I do congratulate


my noble friend Lord Carrington of Fulham for his excellent


introduction to this short debate. If I could supply one small


addition, it was Gary Player who was "the more I practice,


the luckier I get." He was commenting on the supposed


luck for the ?27 million extra which the Office for Budget Responsibility


discovered in the last few months. First of all, the Chancellor created


the Office for Budget Responsibility so it's an entirely independent body


that came up with this new figure. Secondly, he has created


the conditions in which the Office for Budget Responsibility could come


up with such a figure. So he did, as my noble friend


pointed out, deserve his luck. The Autumn Statement gave


the Chancellor and early Christmas In the guise of the Office


for Budget Responsibility. The figures in the last three months


alone improved by ?27 million and like a nervous gambler, the


Chancellor has cashed in all his chips on this issue, despite the


issue that the OBR said there is more than a 50% chance


of the government achieving This, my lord, from


a Chancellor who has consistently Peers debated many of the


Chancellor's announcements. Including


the 3% extra on stamp duty or buy-to-let properties


from next April. Empty properties for people when


people are inadequately housed, or However, these proposals are


not without complexity. And apologising, my lords,


if I have missed further detail, I asked the government in


the promised consultation on policy First,


we need to encourage older people to move at the right time from


a family home to something smaller. That transition could be difficult


enough for people who are ill or vulnerable or recently widowed, for


instance, without the threat of a stamp duty penalty if their sale and


purchase do not precisely coincide. Secondly and finally not without


interest for the clergy of my diocese, I refer to those who occupy


tied accommodation during employment or service, as a condition of


employment, often on low or modest incomes,


they seek what may technically be a second home in order to provide for


their housing needs in retirement. I'll be back with the weekly


round up, looking at what's been going on


in the Commons and Lords this week. Until then, from me,


Georgina Pattinson, goodbye.


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