07/01/2016 Thursday in Parliament


07/01/2016

Keith Macdougall presents highlights of Thursday 7 January in Parliament.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Thursd`y in Parliament, our look at the best

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of the day in the House of Commons.

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On this programme: The equalisation of the state pension age

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is adversely affecting women, say MPs.

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I understand, I fully understand the question,

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where are you going to find the money?

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But I refuse to accept or bdlieve that it's got to come out

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of the pensions of older wolen.

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Labour attacks the government's decision to give extra support

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to diesel electricity gener`tors.

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In just one day in December, she agreed to subsidise highly

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polluting diesel generators to the tune of ?175 million.

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And putting a minister on the spot.

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A Shadow Cabinet member trids to find out if his opposite number

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wants Britain to stay in or come out of the European Union.

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It's an out, isn't it?

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He's an outer!

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Come on, come out, come out

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But first, it's been claimed that hundreds of thousands of wolen born

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in the 1950s are facing hardship following the decision to epualise

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the state pension age with len.

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In the 1990s, the government agreed that women and men should both

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retire at 65.

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The change was due to start until 2010.

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Ministers then raced the st`te retirement age to 66 and,

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in 2011, speeded up the change.

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In a Commons debate, MPs claimed that women born

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in the 1950s were not inforled in time to make other plans

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and that, for many, working until they are 66 or funding

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a private pension were not viable options.

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MPs asked for the government to make transitional arrangements.

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Women were not personally notified by anybody official until 14 years

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after the changes came in.

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That's 14 years less these women have to prepare and to try `nd make

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some alternative arrangements.

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Yes.

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She is making a very import`nt point but isn't the injustice to this set

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of women this in a nutshell - that they've not just had one change

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to the state pension age, they've had two, that that process

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has been accelerated and thdre is no transitional arrangements in place?

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Isn't that the real unfairndss here?

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The whole thing clearly became a total mess.

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That's quite evident and I don't know whether it wasn't reported

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deliberately, for political reasons or fear of ramification.

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I don't know whether it was a genuine accident.

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I don't know.

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But what I do know is women were not notified, it wasn't reported

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and they weren't given enough time to be able to make

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the appropriate arrangements.

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That then brings us on to the Pensions Act in 2007.

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And it increased the equalised SPA from 65 to 66 between 2024-26 and it

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gave all affected people, effectively, 17 years' notice.

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That's fair enough.

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But then we come onto what ly colleague has mentioned -

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the Pensions Act 2011.

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And that came along and that said, forget the 17 years' notice.

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We are going to rush this through.

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We need to do this right now.

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Those who are sitting up in that gallery right now -

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they did not cause the financial crash, they did not cause

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the state our economy is in and they did not make

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the irresponsible decisions that have got us here.

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I understand, I fully understand the question,

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where are you going to find the money?

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But I refuse to accept or bdlieve that it's got to come out

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of the pensions of older wolen.

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We all agree with equalisathon of the pension age but therd

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are large sums of money involved in this and there are difficult

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decisions that have to be m`de.

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But it is important, Mr Spe`ker that the rule of fairness is applied

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as much as possible and it's clear that a sizeable group of wolen

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seemed to be bearing the brtnt of these changes disproporthonately.

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I'll give way over there first.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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The honourable gentleman is making an important speech.

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I would ask him, when he is talking about fairness, if he realises how

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this feels for women of my generation who owe evdrything

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to those women who were born in the 50s, who fought

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for the Equal Pay Act, and for all the advantages that have

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given us any chance?

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Does he feel that unfairness to those women, as I do?

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I've had representations from constituents who were in low-paid

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jobs with huge caring responsibilities for childrdn,

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for other family members, when they didn't have access to free

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childcare and other things, and we have them to thank for that.

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And yet it's those people, for whom I think there's now been

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a breach of trust, effectivdly, by these changes hitting thdm

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disproportionately, to whom we have a large dutx of care

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that I don't think we are going to be fulfilling.

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I do think, Mr Deputy Speakdr, that there is a risk today

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of overstating the case and my colleague in the Select Comlittee

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will not mind me, I hope, saying that when she said nobody

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was aware of the 1995 changds, there was no correspondence.

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That simply is an exaggerathon of the situation.

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We will never know exactly who was communicated to and who

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probably most importantly, noticed it and paid attention to it.

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Not yet, certainly not at the moment.

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But nonetheless, the argument that no transitional arrangements

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were made, which is what the honourable members are calling

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for today, is of course also wrong.

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There was a significant transitional arrangement and concession lade

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in 2011 which affected 250,000 people and cost the

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government ?1.3 billion.

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Some women born in the 1950s will have started their working

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lives without even the protdction of the 1970 Equal Pay Act.

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Many of those women will have carried out work at a lower rate

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than men for no other reason than that they were women.

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The gender pay gap is at its widest for many of the women

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who are under discussion today.

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And let's not forget either the time that many of them have taken,

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part-time or to bring up chhldren, and not even had the chance to

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contribute to occupational pensions.

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Does the government underst`nd the anger that there is that more

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transitional provisions havd not been considered,

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the over 100,000 signatures for a debate in this House,

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the online campaign that thdre has been in respect of this matter?

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The government listened to the concerns expressed

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at the time of the 2011 act and shortened the delay that anyone

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would experience in claiming their state pension relativd

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to the 1995 timetable to 18 months.

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This concession benefited almost 250,000 women who would othdrwise

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have experienced delays of tp to two years.

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It is regrettable that people have sought to make this on a political

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basis and have conveniently forgotten that after 1995,

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there were 13 years of Labour government.

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And I have here a list of some ten pensions ministers,

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all during the Labour administration, and they totally

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failed to do anything yet they conveniently seek to ptt

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the blame post-2010 onwards.

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And s motion calling for transitional funding

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arrangements to be made was passed by 158 votes to zero.

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The result is not binding on the government.

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The Energy Secretary has adlitted that household energy bills

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will rise because of a decision to award ?175 million of support

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to diesel electricity gener`tors.

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Amber Rudd conceded that the new subsidies for diesel

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would add a few pounds to family energy bills.

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The subsidies are paid to power plants to ensure they are

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on stand-by if extra electrhcity capacity is needed.

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The Shadow Energy Secretary took up the issue in the Commons.

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Last month, the Secretary of State agreed to hand out hundreds

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of millions of pounds in new public subsidies to diesel and coal power

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generators through her capacity market scheme.

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Can she tell the House how luch family energy bills will

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rise as a consequence?

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We have needed to make sure the capacity market is in place

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to ensure that we don't havd any problem at all with energy security.

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Diesel will form part of thd future but only in very small amounts.

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Let us remember it is there as back-up and will be switched

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on occasionally when it is needed.

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The addition of the capacitx market to people's bills will be

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a matter of a few pounds.

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In just one day in December, she agreed to subsidise highly

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polluting diesel generators to the tune of ?175 million paid

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for by increasing family energy bills.

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Can she answer this, Mr Spe`ker - are those companies now expdcted

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to make returns of more than 20 at the expense of bill-payers?

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What is astonishing is the honourable lady's lack

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of understanding of the fact that the capacity market is needed

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because of Labour's woeful underinvestment in infrastrtcture

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under their government.

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We are left with the conseqtences of making sure that energy security

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is completely reliable.

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The capacity market is essential to ensure that that hole is filled

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and we are proud of the way it has delivered.

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The second auction has just completed.

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As I said to be honourable lady it is a few pounds.

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It will be under ?10.

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And we will ensure that energy security is never going to be

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a question under this government.

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Another Labour MP turned to the plans for a complete shutdown

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of all remaining coal-fired power stations by 2025.

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Everyone in this Chamber benefits this year from electricity,

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from coal burnt in power st`tions.

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What contingency agreement has been reached with EDF to ensure

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that in 2026 and beyond, when we don't have enough power

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available, the decision to close down coal-based power

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stations can be reversed?

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Mr Speaker, can I reassure the honourable gentleman

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that we are moving to a consultation on ending coal-fired power

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stations by 2025?

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I am sure that he will want to participate in it but thhs

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government is taking the long-term view on getting the right

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mix of decarbonising and having energy security.

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And that is why we are making this plan well ahead of time.

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It is ten years ahead.

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Onto the issue of nuclear energy.

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Outside Hinkley Point C, they are proposing a new nuclear

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power station.

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The government is considering having discussions with only a single

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supplier for each one.

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So this means, yet again, the government is going to be held

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hostage with no guaranteed programme, high profits

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for the suppliers and extortionate strike rates agreed.

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Should the government not do the decent thing and rethink

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this nuclear policy?

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Mr Speaker, the government thinks that nuclear reactors

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are an important part of delivering on the low carbon future.

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There is a great opportunitx for making sure that we also develop

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skills, as my honourable friend has referred to,

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but on the particular example that he has referred to,

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I will ensure that my department looks carefully and comes b`ck

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to him with some answers.

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Caroline Lucas.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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In her attempt to explain the hugely unpopular cuts to solar,

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the Secretary of State constantly pretends this is about reducing

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costs to householders.

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Given that the industry analysis shows that solar costs around half

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the cost of Hinkley over 35 years and would save consumers around ?15

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billion, how can she keep jtstifying such blatant double standards

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when it comes to nuclear power?

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I'm sorry but the honourabld lady is just not dealing with thd facts!

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The facts are that the solar changes will still deliver a 5% yield

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to people who put them up.

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The fact is that nuclear provides important baseload when the sun

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isn't shining or in terms of wind, when the wind isn't blowing.

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The honourable lady can have her own views.

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She can't have her own facts.

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Amber Rudd.

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Well, is fracking the answer to Britain's energy needs?

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Not everyone is convinced.

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The controversial process of extracting gas from rocks deep

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underground by means of a high-pressure water mixture

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continues to divide opinion.

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At the end of 2015, MPs votdd to allow fracking the shale gas

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underneath national parks and other protected sites so reversing

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a decision they had taken 12 months before.

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But opponents of fracking are continuing their protests.

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In the Commons, an energy mhnister wondered why fracking

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was being viewed as some kind of disaster.

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She was responding to this puestion from a familiar Labour figure.

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Doesn't the minister accept that widespread opposition to fr`cking

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exists in all parts of Brit`in?

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Will she congratulate, as I have done, the residents

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in Bolsover for refusing to allow a drilling operation

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and getting it stop?

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Not only by the local authority but by her own inspectorate.

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Well, I think it is quite extraordinary, Mr Speaker,

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that honourable members opposite continually talk about the potential

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for shale gas as if it is some kind of disaster.

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The honourable gentleman hilself comes from a very honourabld

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and long-standing mining arda.

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Now, mining has a legacy that we will be dealing

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with for many years to come.

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The shale industry, on the other hand, offers the opportunitx

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to really create a new home,grown energy source that is vital

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for our energy security into the next decades.

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Andrea Leadsom.

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You are watching our round-tp of the day in the Commons

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and Westminster Hall.

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Still to come...

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MPs discuss an unlikely contender for classification as a supdrfood.

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Now, is the military covenant working successfully?

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It sets out the relationship between the UK, the Governmdnt

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and our Armed Forces, following the principle

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that the whole nation has a moral obligation to members of thd forces

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and their families.

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The military covenant has bden debated in Westminster Hall.

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Whilst the term "covenant" seems to imply some form of legally

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guaranteed contract, it is not as such enshrined in law.

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Over 400 years, though, the state has recognised sole

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obligation towards its Armed Forces.

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Queen Elizabeth I, for inst`nce providing by statute in 1593

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a weekly parish tax to support disabled army veterans returning

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to their homes.

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But it is very important we do not see the stories that occasionally

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we do see about servicemen having to sell homes to fund the ptrchase

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of prosthetic limbs, or when we see other veterans

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being forced out of the famhly home in search of medical help.

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We need to make sure that those duties are taken on by socidty.

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Not just because it is the right thing to do, the moral thing to do,

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the honourable thing to do, but actually because it is the best

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thing to do and the safest thing to do.

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And the most sensible thing to do.

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There is also no doubt that the military covenant has been

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a step forward by the UK Government in how we look

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after our servicemen and wolen.

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I welcome that.

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However, without teeth, without enforcement,

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whilst expecting servicemen and women or veterans to enforce

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the spirit and will of the covenant themselves,

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in some areas of the countrx, it is unfortunately felt

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to be empty promises.

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We have had reports where people are waiting,

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whether it is a transfer from one service to another

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because of relocation or whether or not it is being

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on waiting lists for far too long.

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And we need to make sure that the needs of veterans,

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as well as serving personnel, are expediated as fast as possible.

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And their families as well, to make sure that that takes place.

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The honourable member for North Wiltshire rightly pointed

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out that the covenant deals with a huge range of aspects

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of military and veterans' issues.

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One area where we may usefully ask further questions is on concerns

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health care might not be kedping up to speed with mental health needs.

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For example, what support is given to Royal Navy personnel

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who are currently operating in the Mediterranean on a d`ily

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basis and seeing young children and their parents drowning

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in desperate searches for a safer life?

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It must be incredibly distrdssing and it is our duty to consider

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the well-being of our forces as they go about this

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vital humanitarian task.

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We have managed to embed the principles of the coven`nt

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into the NHS Constitution in England.

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I think this is a very positive step.

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This will ensure that veter`ns and their families are hopefully not

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disadvantaged in accessing health services where they live.

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It remains the case that veterans should receive priority tre`tment

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subject to the clinical needs of others, in respect of trdatment

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relating to a condition restlting from their service in the Armed

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Forces.

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And I can only say again, if any honourable member has

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evidence that this is not h`ppening, then I would simply encourage them

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to get in contact because I would like to hear from them.

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David Cameron said this week that ministers will be allowed to argue

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on both sides of the debate on whether Britain should bd

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in or out of the European Union

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The national referendum is now possibly only months away.

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So, which ministers will be on the in campaign and which will be

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on the out campaign?

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Will it be more or less a 50-50 split?

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The Shadow Leader of the Colmons came up with an ingenious w`y

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of asking his opposite numbdr, Chris Grayling, if he was an in man

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or an out man.

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And I note that, yet again, the Leader of the House has only

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given us the dates for the Daster recess and not for the Statd Opening

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of Parliament or, for that latter, for the Whitsun recess.

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Is that because he doesn't xet know when he is going to table the motion

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for the EU referendum date?

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Can he now come clean?

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Can he tell us how is he going to vote?

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It is not a matter of conscience for him any more.

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He would even be able to keep his special advisers

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and his ministerial car and his salary.

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He could tell us, in or out?

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He is studiously...

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It is an out, isn't it? He is an outer.

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Come on, come out, come out

0:18:550:18:57

On the European Union, the Labour Party has a leaddr

0:18:570:18:59

who has changed his mind twhce in the last few months.

0:18:590:19:02

They claim to support a reformed European Union but would not say

0:19:020:19:05

what they wanted to reform.

0:19:050:19:06

They did not even want a referendum.

0:19:060:19:08

The Prime Minister this week has done the right thing.

0:19:080:19:11

And I am not going to take `ny lessons from the party opposite ..

0:19:110:19:15

When are they ever going to do the right thing for their pdople?

0:19:150:19:20

Chris Bryant also wanted to have some fun over last month's

0:19:200:19:22

flooding in Cumbria.

0:19:220:19:23

Mr Speaker, could there be ` clearer symbol of how incompetent

0:19:230:19:29

Conservative ministers are than the events of this Monday

0:19:290:19:31

afternoon, when two Governmdnt ministers visited flood

0:19:310:19:36

victims in Pooley.

0:19:360:19:40

Not only did they arrive late, Mr Speaker, but they turned up

0:19:400:19:46

at the wrong end of a bridgd that had been washed away

0:19:460:19:49

a whole month ago.

0:19:490:19:50

A farmer had to be dispatchdd on a quad bike to fetch the two MPs

0:19:500:19:54

for the 30-minute ride, whilst their bewildered entourage

0:19:540:19:58

of civil servants, bag carrhers and party hacks had to trundle along

0:19:580:20:01

in a minibus.

0:20:010:20:02

Now, I suppose you could just about understand the confushon if it

0:20:020:20:05

weren't for the fact that the two ministers concdrned

0:20:050:20:07

were the Transport Minister, who really should know when a bridge

0:20:070:20:09

has disappeared, and the local MP!

0:20:090:20:16

Who had already visited the bridge once before,

0:20:160:20:18

since the bridge disappeared.

0:20:180:20:20

Now, I gather there was somd signalling from the locals

0:20:200:20:22

on the other side of the river.

0:20:220:20:24

It is not quite clear what they were trying to suggest,

0:20:240:20:27

but as Mr Leroy Fowler put ht, you really couldn't make it up,

0:20:270:20:30

could you, Mr Speaker?

0:20:300:20:31

Chris Grayling didn't see the floods as a humorous event.

0:20:310:20:34

I am proud of the response this country has made to a devastating

0:20:340:20:38

situation in so many parts of the country.

0:20:380:20:48

Our emergency services, voluntary services,

0:20:510:20:52

local communities,

0:20:520:20:54

our Armed Forces have come together to deal with a dreadful sittation,

0:20:540:20:56

I think, effectively and well.

0:20:570:20:58

And we have committed as a government to provide financial

0:20:580:21:00

support to all the communithes affected in a way that goes far

0:21:000:21:03

beyond what has taken place in the past.

0:21:030:21:05

So I am distressed at what has happened in this country but I am

0:21:050:21:08

proud of the way this country has responded.

0:21:080:21:10

And I am happy to say to the party opposite,

0:21:100:21:13

I think we have done a bettdr job this time than has been dond

0:21:130:21:16

in the past.

0:21:160:21:17

We will learn the lessons for the future but it is absolutely

0:21:170:21:20

imperative that we do the right thing when troublds

0:21:200:21:22

like this strike.

0:21:220:21:23

This week's business has of course been dominated by the floodhng.

0:21:230:21:26

The flooding that has impacted on practically every constituency

0:21:260:21:28

in this nation.

0:21:280:21:30

And my constituency remains somewhat underwater,

0:21:300:21:38

given that I have the biggest river system in the whole United Kingdom.

0:21:380:21:41

But I think there is a masshve disappointment throughout this

0:21:410:21:43

country about the tone of this debate.

0:21:430:21:45

I think this nation expected a bit better.

0:21:450:21:47

When we have tragedy like wd have observed in the course of these past

0:21:470:21:50

few weeks, I think this House hasn't risen to this occasion.

0:21:500:21:53

All the debates have been of the partisan point-scoring variety.

0:21:530:21:55

Are we going to have so manx more...

0:21:550:21:57

LAUGHTER

0:21:570:21:58

There has been point-scoring and there will be many more debates

0:21:580:22:01

like that in the future, Mr Speaker.

0:22:010:22:03

And can I make an appeal th`t we try and debate this properly,

0:22:030:22:06

consensually and constructively like what we have heard

0:22:060:22:09

from the Scottish National Party when we have addressed thesd issues

0:22:090:22:11

in this House?

0:22:110:22:13

One MP wondered if Parliament was returning to the days of sleaze.

0:22:130:22:17

Can we debate whether Parli`ment is slipping back into its b`d

0:22:170:22:26

old ways that led to the expenses scandal?

0:22:260:22:28

In recent cases involving Malcolm Rifkind, Jack Straw

0:22:280:22:31

and Tim Yeo, very lenient ddcisions were made by bodies in this House

0:22:310:22:34

but very harsh decisions were taken by independent voices outside,

0:22:340:22:37

including, of course, Ofcom.

0:22:370:22:43

In one case, the committee that adjudicated was chaired

0:22:430:22:45

by Lord Sewel, who has his own difficulties now.

0:22:450:22:49

If we don't look at how one of our bodies...

0:22:490:22:56

It is meant to be a watchdog but is in fact a toothless pussycat.

0:22:560:23:01

We should look at the uselessness of IPSA, which is an expenshve

0:23:010:23:04

ornament.

0:23:040:23:10

Isn't there a grave danger that we will slip back

0:23:100:23:12

into new scandals in the future

0:23:120:23:14

Mr Speaker, I think we prob`bly now have the most regulated system

0:23:140:23:19

of operation for any Parlialent probably across the whole of Europe.

0:23:190:23:21

The reality, Mr Speaker, is that there are always cases that

0:23:210:23:24

can be made to improve the situation.

0:23:240:23:26

I am not going to discuss individual members of the House of Lords,

0:23:260:23:31

but what I would say to him is that there are proper processes

0:23:310:23:34

in this House to make representations for change

0:23:340:23:35

and improvement, particularly through the Standards

0:23:350:23:40

and Privileges Committee, or the Standards Committee which has

0:23:400:23:42

responsibility for deciding not only individual cases,

0:23:420:23:44

but the overall approach as well.

0:23:440:23:45

I am sure he will make representations to them.

0:23:450:23:47

Chris Grayling.

0:23:470:23:48

Finally, if asked what edible item deserves the title "superfood",

0:23:480:23:52

I wonder how many people would plump for black puddings?

0:23:520:23:56

But according to the online health retailer MuscleFood.com,

0:23:560:24:02

Black puddings fulfil all the criteria for being just

0:24:020:24:04

that, a superfood.

0:24:040:24:08

It predicts that they are going to be an edible highlight of 20 6.

0:24:080:24:12

An MP from the black pudding heartland just had to mention

0:24:120:24:14

the subject in the Commons.

0:24:140:24:15

Can we please have a debate on the health benefits

0:24:150:24:18

of eating black pudding?

0:24:180:24:25

My right honourable friend will no doubt have seen reports this week

0:24:250:24:29

that this tasty delicacy is full of protein, potassium,

0:24:290:24:34

calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.

0:24:340:24:38

So it is not only good for xou, it is actually a superfood

0:24:380:24:41

and a debate will enable us to ensure that benefits

0:24:410:24:46

are widely known.

0:24:460:24:50

Well, Mr Speaker, I think he is about to split

0:24:500:24:53

the shadow front bench.

0:24:530:24:56

Distinct nods of approval to black pudding from

0:24:560:24:59

the Deputy Shadow Leader but not from the Shadow Leader.

0:24:590:25:01

I am not sure they share the same view on this.

0:25:010:25:04

I remember very fondly walkhng around the market with my honourable

0:25:040:25:07

friends, looking at the find black puddings on sale there.

0:25:070:25:12

There are some great products made in Lancashire and they are tasty

0:25:120:25:14

to eat, perhaps in moderation.

0:25:140:25:16

Chris Grayling and David Nuttall on the merits of black puddhngs

0:25:160:25:19

No-one loves them more than me.

0:25:190:25:21

Need to get them from a good butcher, though.

0:25:210:25:24

That's it for now.

0:25:240:25:25

More tasty items in our Week in Parliament programme.

0:25:250:25:30

We'll not only look back at the last few days in the Commons but also

0:25:300:25:33

discuss whether backbenchers' bills deserve a better

0:25:330:25:35

hearing in Parliament.

0:25:350:25:36

Until then, from me, Keith McDougall, goodbye.

0:25:360:25:40

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