21/01/2016 Thursday in Parliament


21/01/2016

Highlights of Thursday 21 January in Parliament, presented by Keith Macdougall.


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Hello and welcome to Thursday In Parliament,

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our look at the best of the day in the Commons and the Lords.

:00:14.:00:17.

MPs react to the inquiry report saying President Putin "probably"

:00:18.:00:23.

approved the murder in London of Alexander Litvinenko.

:00:24.:00:29.

And it is a kleptocratic state that uses assassination

:00:30.:00:31.

Her refusal to act strongly in response to this,

:00:32.:00:36.

including taking this to the United Nations Security Council,

:00:37.:00:40.

will be seen as a sign of British Government weakness.

:00:41.:00:44.

It focuses attention on the consumer,

:00:45.:00:49.

rather than on the manufacturer, who should be reducing sugar

:00:50.:00:53.

And, Mock The Week - a Shadow Cabinet minister

:00:54.:01:00.

taunts his opposite number again over Europe.

:01:01.:01:04.

And we learned that the leader is going to be out-outed by

:01:05.:01:07.

who is not only an outer as far as the EU is concerned,

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that he wants to be out of the two Out campaigns.

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But first, the Home Secretary Theresa May has described as

:01:19.:01:21.

"deeply disturbing" the probable involvement of the Russian state in

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the killing of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

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Mr Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, died at the age of 43,

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after drinking tea laced with radioactive

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He'd claimed asylum in the UK six years before.

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An inquiry, led by Sir Robert Owen, has found that the Russian president

:01:44.:01:46.

Vladimir Putin probably approved the killing of Mr Litvinenko.

:01:47.:01:51.

In the Commons, the Home Secretary said the Government took

:01:52.:01:54.

The inquiry, which in the course of its investigations,

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has considered an abundance of evidence, has found

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that Mr Litvinenko was deliberately poisoned by Andrei Lugovoy

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and Dmitry Kovtun, who he had met at the Millennium Hotel

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There is a strong probability that they were acting

:02:13.:02:18.

under the direction of the Russian domestic security service -

:02:19.:02:22.

And the inquiry has found that the FSB operation

:02:23.:02:30.

to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev,

:02:31.:02:35.

the then-head of the FSB, and by President Putin.

:02:36.:02:42.

The conclusion that the Russian state was probably

:02:43.:02:44.

involved in the murder of Mr Litvinenko is deeply disturbing.

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It goes without saying that this was a blatant

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and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets

:02:53.:02:56.

of international law, and of civilised behaviour.

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But we have to accept this does not come as a surprise.

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The inquiry confirms the assessment of successive governments that this

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She said the police investigation into Mr Litvinenko's death

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Sir Robert Owen is unequivocal in his finding that Andrei Lugovoy

:03:18.:03:22.

In light of this most serious finding, Russia's continued failure

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to ensure that the perpetrators of this terrible crime can be

:03:30.:03:32.

This, as the Home Secretary said, is one of the most shocking

:03:33.:03:38.

and disturbing reports ever presented

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It confirms that the Russian state, at its highest level,

:03:41.:03:47.

sanctioned the killing of a British citizen on the streets

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of our capital city, and in so doing,

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exposed thousands of Londoners to unacceptable levels of risk.

:03:53.:03:59.

The Home Secretary has indicated today

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that there will be new diplomatic pressure, and I welcome it,

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but I have to say, and I listened carefully to her, I am not sure it

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goes anywhere near enough in answering

:04:09.:04:09.

the seriousness of the findings in this report.

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Indeed, it could send a dangerous signal to Russia that our response

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is too weak, and what has been announced today cannot be the end

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of what the British Government is prepared to do.

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Given what we know about the way the Russian state

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operates, isn't there a case for a wide-ranging review

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of the nature and extent of this country's

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relations with it - diplomatic, political,

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Given the proven FSB involvement, will the Government consider

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expelling all FSB officers from Britain immediately?

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Sir Robert points out that not only has Lugovoy not been extradited

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to the UK, he has been lionised in Russia, become a member

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of the Duma, and indeed was awarded an honour by President Putin

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during the course of the inquiry's hearings.

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This is a calculated snub that adds insult to injury,

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and is it not clear that while this position is maintained

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and the suspects are not extradited, that the Putin Government can never

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and should never be treated as an equal and full partner

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Putin is an unreconstructed KGB thug and gangster,

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who murders his opponents in Russia and, as we know,

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on the streets of London, and nothing announced today

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is going to make the blindest bit of difference.

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We need much tougher measures to target Putin

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And those calling for a US-style Magnitsky Act are completely right,

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so that we can target the crooks and murderers involved in murders

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and corruption, prevent them from coming to the UK,

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prevent them from keeping their money in British banks

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and prevent them from buying property here in London.

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But I am very concerned about people up who are currently living in this

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country who have spoken out against the regime of Putin,

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We already knew they were in a dangerous

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they are in a proven dangerous position.

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I'd like to know if she is going to look

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at security arrangements for those people, and also the thought

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that this polonium-210 was just wandering

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Is she reviewing how that has come in and how secure we are living

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in a city with the threat of that just

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What is a certainty is that the Russian state under

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President Putin has killed over 100 opponents -

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lawyers, accountants, journalists, and politicians.

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And it is a kleptocratic state uses assassination as a policy weapon,

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so can I ask her what we intend to do

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Because we cannot tolerate them ordering

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assassinations on the streets of our country.

:06:47.:06:50.

The Government at the time took a number of measures,

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and some of those measures remain in place

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today, in relation to our relationship with the Russian state.

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So it is in no sense business as usual, as regards to the sort

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of relationship we would have with most states.

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Does the Secretary of State agree with me that her refusal to act

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strongly in response to this, including taking this

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to the United Nations Security Council, will be seen as a sign

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of British Government weakness by Putin?

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Can I say to the honourable lady, that I am not quite sure what action

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she thinks the United Nations Security Council,

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of which Russia is a permanent member,

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would take in relation to this matter.

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MPs on all sides have urged the Government to introduce a tax

:07:37.:07:40.

on sugary drinks to help tackle what has been dubbed

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The treatment of obesity and its consequences is currently

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thought to be costing the National Health Service

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Last November, a Health Committee report called for a sugar tax,

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as part of a bold and effective strategy to combat the problem.

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We have a situation, and we know this from

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the Child Measurement Programme in our schools, that around

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one in five children are entering into reception class either

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By the time they leave, in Year Six, we find that one third of children

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But perhaps even more worrying than that is the stark data around

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the health inequality of obesity, and that is to say that one quarter

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of children from the most disadvantaged groups

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in our society are leaving school not just overweight but obese,

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and that is more now than twice the rate

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of those children from the most advantaged families.

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Any strategy, she said, would need to look at the marketing

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Do I want to have a kilogram of chocolate for almost nothing

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Please don't make me walk past the chicanes of sugar

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at the checkout or while I'm queueing to pay for petrol,

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because we know that 37% of all the confectionery we buy

:09:08.:09:12.

It doesn't matter how much you are intending not to buy it,

:09:13.:09:16.

if it is presented to you on impulse,

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we know that is an extraordinarily powerful tool.

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I am aware I am rather overweight myself, and some may say I should

:09:22.:09:27.

practice what I preach, and I do try, but this is why I am

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so passionate about this agenda, as I

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know how much harder it becomes as you get older.

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As I was allowed to adopt bad habits that are hard to break,

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and that is why we need to educate the next generation

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Maybe a 20% sugar tax on soft drinks isn't very much to celebrity chefs

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like Jamie Oliver, and some of those individuals that are pushing an idea

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of a sugar tax, but around 12p per can, 37p per two litre bottle,

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for some of those on the lowest incomes,

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who we know proportionally buy these products, is a massive

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Mary Poppins, Madam Deputy Speaker, as you know, as you have,

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I'm sure, shown the film to your children

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at some stage, felt that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

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or nine teaspoons of sugar in a Coca-Cola can,

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Yet, in many schools, up and down the country,

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we have a situation where lunches provided by schools are generally

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very healthy, yet the foods children themselves,

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or provided by their parents, bring in to schools,

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Now we can only imagine how frustrating

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this is for teachers, and indeed, everybody who works in schools,

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when they see children filling themselves with junk food,

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knowing there is little they can do about it.

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Of course, we need more cooperation between schools and parents

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and teachers, and I back the committee's proposals that

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nutritional guidelines should be published for packed lunches,

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and that, where necessary, teachers should be able to have,

:11:02.:11:05.

perhaps, robust conversations with parents,

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so that these guidelines are followed.

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Any debate about how to make our children healthy must

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avoid finger-wagging at parents who are doing the very best

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they can, often in very difficult circumstances.

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It is important to support people to make

:11:22.:11:24.

healthy choices where possible, as opposed to shaking our heads

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The position from these ventures has always been that we have a concern

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that a sugar tax, in itself, could be regressive,

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and that it focuses attention on the consumer, who is often

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addicted to sugar, rather than on the manufacturer,

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who should be reducing sugar in their products,

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but, that said, I want to assure the Minister that it is right

:11:51.:11:54.

that we look at the emerging evidence from

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other countries, which has shown, where similar taxes have been

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introduced, that they have had a positive effect.

:12:01.:12:04.

You are watching our round-up of the day

:12:05.:12:06.

Still to come - the Culture Secretary is pressed over

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the future of both Channel 4 and the BBC.

:12:11.:12:19.

An extra ?100 million is to be given to people who received

:12:20.:12:22.

contaminated blood during NHS treatment in the 1970s and '80s.

:12:23.:12:28.

Around 6,000 patients were infected with Hepatitis C,

:12:29.:12:31.

Hundreds more are living with the serious consequences.

:12:32.:12:39.

Last year, David Cameron apologised to victims for what's been called

:12:40.:12:42.

The system for making payments to victims has been condemned

:12:43.:12:47.

The Health Minister announced a consultation on how

:12:48.:12:53.

I recognise that, for some, this will come too late.

:12:54.:13:01.

I can't right the pain and distress of 30 years,

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and the truth is that no amount of money could ever make up

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for the impact this tragedy has had on people's lives.

:13:08.:13:17.

For legal reasons I should be clear in the majority of cases it is not

:13:18.:13:23.

appropriate to talk about compensation, I have made that point

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before, I would like echo what has been said for in this House, sorry,

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on behalf of the government, for every person affected by this

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tragedy. Reform is a priority for myself and the government and I can

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announce today that the Department of Health has identified ?100

:13:41.:13:46.

million for the proposals set out in the consultation. This is in

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addition to the current spend and the ?25 million already announced in

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March 2000 15. She said that she had received

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many letters from people. One letter that struck me ask

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simply, please make me well. My intention through this new scheme is

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to provide an opportunity to enhance access to treatment, especially for

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those falling just short of current criteria for the NHS.

:14:15.:14:14.

Labour welcomed the Minister's announcements.

:14:15.:14:20.

She was right to apologise about the government and I would echo that

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because successive governments of all colours have failed to respond

:14:27.:14:30.

adequately to this scandal. In many ways this failure has only deepened

:14:31.:14:35.

the injustice felt by the victims. This scandal saw thousands die and

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thousands of families destroyed through the negligence of public

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bodies. Whilst the minister was absolutely right to say that no

:14:47.:14:50.

amount of money ever make up for the impact of the tragedy on peoples

:14:51.:14:55.

lives, we all owe it to those still living with the consequences, the

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dignity of a lasting settlement. We should never forget that this is

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a simple matter of justice. It is time, after all the apologies, that

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those affected, should feel that we are doing justice to that injustice.

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I hope she will agree with me that one of the important needs of any

:15:18.:15:23.

scheme is to be simple, comprehensive, predictable, and

:15:24.:15:27.

consistent. It is absolutely essential that the bewildering

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variety of provisions at the moment is resolved into that single, clear

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scheme. Will she concede that for those of

:15:37.:15:39.

us who worked closely with individual victims for a number of

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years the resolution has to go as far as possible, financially, to put

:15:43.:15:48.

them in the position they would have been, but for the grievous harm that

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has been done? That maybe, in some cases, a bespoke solution for

:15:56.:15:58.

individual victims. We are not dealing with numbers of people. --

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unlimited numbers. In the Republic of Ireland,

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there's a compensation Victims in Northern Ireland share

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the frustration but feel more pointedly the contrast with their

:16:16.:16:18.

friends in the south of Ireland who have had a path of justice available

:16:19.:16:22.

to them over a long number of years. I know that the Minister is sincere

:16:23.:16:26.

in her commitment to treatment, but will she give and is Europe's --

:16:27.:16:36.

give an assurance that the effort she is making will not distract from

:16:37.:16:39.

the effort we still have to make good this travesty that people have

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suffered? I recognise there may be aspects of

:16:44.:16:47.

the proposals that the honourable gentleman does not fair meet his own

:16:48.:16:54.

aspirations. So I again invite him to respond to the consultation,

:16:55.:17:00.

these are the proposals we are putting forward, the questions are

:17:01.:17:04.

very open and people can give us their views. Direct my something

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different happened in -- I recognise something different happened in

:17:13.:17:15.

Republic of Ireland but the circumstances were different.

:17:16.:17:19.

The founder of Lastminute Dot Com Martha Lane Fox has said

:17:20.:17:25.

in the House of Lords that the internet is controlled ,

:17:26.:17:27.

run, funded and used predominantly by men.

:17:28.:17:29.

She was speaking during a Lords debate on the contribution of women

:17:30.:17:32.

to the country's future economic growth.

:17:33.:17:37.

If we look through any cut of the numbers it is profoundly upsetting.

:17:38.:17:44.

About 4% of the world's software developers are women. The people

:17:45.:17:48.

controlling who think the Internet. 9% of businesses found that on the

:17:49.:17:56.

Internet are run by women. 10% of venture capitalists in the Internet

:17:57.:18:01.

space are women. Why can't we take one of the 800,000 women currently

:18:02.:18:05.

unemployed in this country and train them to fill our skills gap? How

:18:06.:18:09.

much more imaginative could we be, by matching some of the challenges

:18:10.:18:15.

we have? I have worked on projects recently, taking woman, with no

:18:16.:18:18.

understanding of computer science, just basic mask, and is six months

:18:19.:18:26.

they are Java ready, able to go into work. -- ASIC -- basic maths.

:18:27.:18:38.

It is incumbent on us to lay the foundations. And provide the right

:18:39.:18:42.

environment. We need to improve career

:18:43.:18:45.

preparation for woman. Whether in the humanities or not, even as early

:18:46.:18:54.

as primary School, because by the time women are exposed to inspiring

:18:55.:18:59.

role models, if at all, they tend to have already decided on their exam

:19:00.:19:02.

choices and their ambitions are potentially curtailed.

:19:03.:19:07.

We have heard some awesome statistics this afternoon but my

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favourite is from the woman's business Council which estimates

:19:11.:19:13.

that if women set up businesses at the same rate as men that would be 1

:19:14.:19:17.

million more businesses in Britain today.

:19:18.:19:20.

The as yet undetermined future of Channel Four television has

:19:21.:19:23.

Channel Four, which began broadcasting 33 years ago,

:19:24.:19:27.

is a publicly owned, not-for-profit corporation.

:19:28.:19:28.

But there's been speculation that it could be privatised.

:19:29.:19:31.

And some politicians fear an adverse effect on programme-making

:19:32.:19:33.

At Culture question time, a former Culture Secretary took

:19:34.:19:36.

Discussion then turned to the future of the BBC.

:19:37.:19:53.

Will he join me in congratulating Channel 4 on their record number of

:19:54.:20:00.

O and BAFTA nominations of this year? And does he agree that Channel

:20:01.:20:04.

4 will not be able to deliver its unique and invaluable agreement if

:20:05.:20:07.

it had to turn a profit to shareholders?

:20:08.:20:13.

As I said to the Right Honourable gentleman my concern is to guarantee

:20:14.:20:18.

the continuing success and viability of Channel 4 and that is why we are

:20:19.:20:23.

looking at a number of options, as indeed I understand the last Labour

:20:24.:20:26.

government did, also considering privatisation.

:20:27.:20:31.

Can the Secretary of State confirm that the Chancellor of the Exchequer

:20:32.:20:35.

and now believes that Channel 4 privatisation will bring the

:20:36.:20:38.

Conservatives much public opprobrium for a relatively small financial

:20:39.:20:42.

return, and that the Conservatives are now backing away from the idea

:20:43.:20:45.

of privatising this much loved institution?

:20:46.:20:50.

I hate to disappoint the honourable gentleman but as I said earlier no

:20:51.:20:55.

decisions have been taken. I have not yet had the opportunity to

:20:56.:20:59.

discuss the matter with the Chancellor of the Exchequer because

:21:00.:21:02.

we have not yet reached our own conclusions on this matter but I

:21:03.:21:04.

look forward to doing so in due course.

:21:05.:21:08.

Discussion then turned to the future of the BBC.

:21:09.:21:12.

This government has flogged off more national assets than any other, can

:21:13.:21:18.

we really trust them with the BBC? The charter expires at the end of

:21:19.:21:22.

this year and does provide an opportunity to look at all aspects

:21:23.:21:28.

of the BBC, in what is a very fast changing media landscape. That is

:21:29.:21:33.

the purpose of the review. 97% of the adult population of the

:21:34.:21:39.

UK use BBC services for an average of 18% every week and perceptions of

:21:40.:21:44.

the BBC have improved over the past ten years. His consultation on

:21:45.:21:47.

charter renewal) it over last year and he has now spent more time

:21:48.:21:52.

considering responses to the consultation than he allowed the

:21:53.:21:55.

public to respond. So when will he get his act together publish the

:21:56.:22:01.

results? Can you just have is a date, today, please?

:22:02.:22:05.

May I begin by welcoming the honourable lady to this position? I

:22:06.:22:09.

have been doing this job for a relatively short time, just eight

:22:10.:22:14.

months, but she is the third holder of opposition spokesperson position,

:22:15.:22:18.

I hope she survived longer than her apprentice. In relation to the

:22:19.:22:24.

question, I am keen to publish proposals but we did not anticipate

:22:25.:22:28.

an hundred 92,000 responses. She will understand that if I work to

:22:29.:22:37.

give up and publish conclusions in a short period she would be at the

:22:38.:22:40.

dispatch box claiming we had not done proper analysis and this was a

:22:41.:22:45.

cosmetic exercise. It is not a cosmetic exercise and we are reading

:22:46.:22:49.

them carefully. I am afraid he sounds like he is

:22:50.:22:53.

procrastinating. The charter expires at the end of this year but he has

:22:54.:22:57.

not even got around to publishing the White Paper yet because the

:22:58.:23:01.

consultation is taking so long to reply to. Can he guarantee that his

:23:02.:23:06.

department's time wasting will not result in some kind of debilitating,

:23:07.:23:12.

short-term charter extension beyond the end of the year? Can he be clear

:23:13.:23:16.

today that the next charter will be for a minimum of ten years?

:23:17.:23:22.

Charter review comes around once every ten years, I am determined to

:23:23.:23:27.

get it right. That means we will take however long it takes in order

:23:28.:23:31.

to fully consult and consider the options.

:23:32.:23:32.

The Shadow Commons Leader Chris Bryant and his opposite number

:23:33.:23:35.

Chris Grayling have once again exchanged barbed comments

:23:36.:23:37.

as the parliamentary week nears its end.

:23:38.:23:40.

Mr Bryant taunted Mr Grayling about the different positions

:23:41.:23:42.

of senior Conservatives on the coming EU referendum.

:23:43.:23:47.

While Mr Grayling focused on internal battles

:23:48.:23:49.

As we were debating psychoactive substances in this House the

:23:50.:24:03.

American Republican campaign seemed to be on psychoactive substances

:24:04.:24:07.

with Sarah Pailin endorsing Donald Trump, the ultimate case of

:24:08.:24:19.

Tweedledum and dumber. Two MPs have confessed to taking poppers in the

:24:20.:24:28.

chamber, well, not in the chamber, but they made their confession in

:24:29.:24:32.

the chamber? One is so determined to be out of that he wants to be out of

:24:33.:24:40.

the outcome pain! Talk of two bald men fighting over a comb! If men

:24:41.:24:44.

were dominoes, he would be the double blank.

:24:45.:24:49.

He did not ask me for a debate on his party's extraordinary new

:24:50.:24:53.

defence policy of sending out submarines to see with new missiles.

:24:54.:24:58.

He did not ask me for a statement on Syria so his party leader can settle

:24:59.:25:02.

out plans for negotiations with brutal murderers in that part of the

:25:03.:25:07.

world. He did not ask me for a debate on his party's new policy of

:25:08.:25:11.

reopening discussions on the future of the Falkland Islands with

:25:12.:25:14.

Argentina. But I am certainly willing to look for extra time and

:25:15.:25:19.

debate about the backbone, or lack of it, of members of the Shadow

:25:20.:25:22.

Cabinet, not brave enough to put their own jobs on the line when it

:25:23.:25:28.

comes to standing up to a Leader of the Opposition whose policies pose a

:25:29.:25:31.

real threat to this country. He has left the church of England because

:25:32.:25:35.

he believes its policies are unacceptable, but he will not do the

:25:36.:25:39.

same for a Shadow Cabinet, even though its policies are clearly

:25:40.:25:40.

unacceptable. But do join me for the 'Week

:25:41.:25:41.

in Parliament', when we not only look back over the last few days

:25:42.:25:47.

in the Commons and the Lords, but also look at the problems

:25:48.:25:50.

in trying to achieve accurate opinion poll figures,

:25:51.:25:53.

and look at the growing number of top political jobs now

:25:54.:25:55.

being done by women. But for now, from me,

:25:56.:25:57.

Keith Macdougall, goodbye

:25:58.:26:05.

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