Highlights of Thursday 21 January in Parliament, presented by Keith Macdougall.
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Hello and welcome to Thursday In Parliament,
our look at the best of the day in the Commons and the Lords.
MPs react to the inquiry report saying President Putin "probably"
approved the murder in London of Alexander Litvinenko.
And it is a kleptocratic state that uses assassination
Her refusal to act strongly in response to this,
including taking this to the United Nations Security Council,
will be seen as a sign of British Government weakness.
It focuses attention on the consumer,
rather than on the manufacturer, who should be reducing sugar
And, Mock The Week - a Shadow Cabinet minister
taunts his opposite number again over Europe.
And we learned that the leader is going to be out-outed by
who is not only an outer as far as the EU is concerned,
that he wants to be out of the two Out campaigns.
But first, the Home Secretary Theresa May has described as
"deeply disturbing" the probable involvement of the Russian state in
the killing of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
Mr Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, died at the age of 43,
after drinking tea laced with radioactive
He'd claimed asylum in the UK six years before.
An inquiry, led by Sir Robert Owen, has found that the Russian president
Vladimir Putin probably approved the killing of Mr Litvinenko.
In the Commons, the Home Secretary said the Government took
The inquiry, which in the course of its investigations,
has considered an abundance of evidence, has found
that Mr Litvinenko was deliberately poisoned by Andrei Lugovoy
and Dmitry Kovtun, who he had met at the Millennium Hotel
There is a strong probability that they were acting
under the direction of the Russian domestic security service -
And the inquiry has found that the FSB operation
to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev,
the then-head of the FSB, and by President Putin.
The conclusion that the Russian state was probably
involved in the murder of Mr Litvinenko is deeply disturbing.
It goes without saying that this was a blatant
and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets
of international law, and of civilised behaviour.
But we have to accept this does not come as a surprise.
The inquiry confirms the assessment of successive governments that this
She said the police investigation into Mr Litvinenko's death
Sir Robert Owen is unequivocal in his finding that Andrei Lugovoy
In light of this most serious finding, Russia's continued failure
to ensure that the perpetrators of this terrible crime can be
This, as the Home Secretary said, is one of the most shocking
and disturbing reports ever presented
It confirms that the Russian state, at its highest level,
sanctioned the killing of a British citizen on the streets
of our capital city, and in so doing,
exposed thousands of Londoners to unacceptable levels of risk.
The Home Secretary has indicated today
that there will be new diplomatic pressure, and I welcome it,
but I have to say, and I listened carefully to her, I am not sure it
goes anywhere near enough in answering
the seriousness of the findings in this report.
Indeed, it could send a dangerous signal to Russia that our response
is too weak, and what has been announced today cannot be the end
of what the British Government is prepared to do.
Given what we know about the way the Russian state
operates, isn't there a case for a wide-ranging review
of the nature and extent of this country's
relations with it - diplomatic, political,
Given the proven FSB involvement, will the Government consider
expelling all FSB officers from Britain immediately?
Sir Robert points out that not only has Lugovoy not been extradited
to the UK, he has been lionised in Russia, become a member
of the Duma, and indeed was awarded an honour by President Putin
during the course of the inquiry's hearings.
This is a calculated snub that adds insult to injury,
and is it not clear that while this position is maintained
and the suspects are not extradited, that the Putin Government can never
and should never be treated as an equal and full partner
Putin is an unreconstructed KGB thug and gangster,
who murders his opponents in Russia and, as we know,
on the streets of London, and nothing announced today
is going to make the blindest bit of difference.
We need much tougher measures to target Putin
And those calling for a US-style Magnitsky Act are completely right,
so that we can target the crooks and murderers involved in murders
and corruption, prevent them from coming to the UK,
prevent them from keeping their money in British banks
and prevent them from buying property here in London.
But I am very concerned about people up who are currently living in this
country who have spoken out against the regime of Putin,
We already knew they were in a dangerous
they are in a proven dangerous position.
I'd like to know if she is going to look
at security arrangements for those people, and also the thought
that this polonium-210 was just wandering
Is she reviewing how that has come in and how secure we are living
in a city with the threat of that just
What is a certainty is that the Russian state under
President Putin has killed over 100 opponents -
lawyers, accountants, journalists, and politicians.
And it is a kleptocratic state uses assassination as a policy weapon,
so can I ask her what we intend to do
Because we cannot tolerate them ordering
assassinations on the streets of our country.
The Government at the time took a number of measures,
and some of those measures remain in place
today, in relation to our relationship with the Russian state.
So it is in no sense business as usual, as regards to the sort
of relationship we would have with most states.
Does the Secretary of State agree with me that her refusal to act
strongly in response to this, including taking this
to the United Nations Security Council, will be seen as a sign
of British Government weakness by Putin?
Can I say to the honourable lady, that I am not quite sure what action
she thinks the United Nations Security Council,
of which Russia is a permanent member,
would take in relation to this matter.
MPs on all sides have urged the Government to introduce a tax
on sugary drinks to help tackle what has been dubbed
The treatment of obesity and its consequences is currently
thought to be costing the National Health Service
Last November, a Health Committee report called for a sugar tax,
as part of a bold and effective strategy to combat the problem.
We have a situation, and we know this from
the Child Measurement Programme in our schools, that around
one in five children are entering into reception class either
By the time they leave, in Year Six, we find that one third of children
But perhaps even more worrying than that is the stark data around
the health inequality of obesity, and that is to say that one quarter
of children from the most disadvantaged groups
in our society are leaving school not just overweight but obese,
and that is more now than twice the rate
of those children from the most advantaged families.
Any strategy, she said, would need to look at the marketing
Do I want to have a kilogram of chocolate for almost nothing
Please don't make me walk past the chicanes of sugar
at the checkout or while I'm queueing to pay for petrol,
because we know that 37% of all the confectionery we buy
It doesn't matter how much you are intending not to buy it,
if it is presented to you on impulse,
we know that is an extraordinarily powerful tool.
I am aware I am rather overweight myself, and some may say I should
practice what I preach, and I do try, but this is why I am
so passionate about this agenda, as I
know how much harder it becomes as you get older.
As I was allowed to adopt bad habits that are hard to break,
and that is why we need to educate the next generation
Maybe a 20% sugar tax on soft drinks isn't very much to celebrity chefs
like Jamie Oliver, and some of those individuals that are pushing an idea
of a sugar tax, but around 12p per can, 37p per two litre bottle,
for some of those on the lowest incomes,
who we know proportionally buy these products, is a massive
Mary Poppins, Madam Deputy Speaker, as you know, as you have,
I'm sure, shown the film to your children
at some stage, felt that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
or nine teaspoons of sugar in a Coca-Cola can,
Yet, in many schools, up and down the country,
we have a situation where lunches provided by schools are generally
very healthy, yet the foods children themselves,
or provided by their parents, bring in to schools,
Now we can only imagine how frustrating
this is for teachers, and indeed, everybody who works in schools,
when they see children filling themselves with junk food,
knowing there is little they can do about it.
Of course, we need more cooperation between schools and parents
and teachers, and I back the committee's proposals that
nutritional guidelines should be published for packed lunches,
and that, where necessary, teachers should be able to have,
perhaps, robust conversations with parents,
so that these guidelines are followed.
Any debate about how to make our children healthy must
avoid finger-wagging at parents who are doing the very best
they can, often in very difficult circumstances.
It is important to support people to make
healthy choices where possible, as opposed to shaking our heads
The position from these ventures has always been that we have a concern
that a sugar tax, in itself, could be regressive,
and that it focuses attention on the consumer, who is often
addicted to sugar, rather than on the manufacturer,
who should be reducing sugar in their products,
but, that said, I want to assure the Minister that it is right
that we look at the emerging evidence from
other countries, which has shown, where similar taxes have been
introduced, that they have had a positive effect.
You are watching our round-up of the day
Still to come - the Culture Secretary is pressed over
the future of both Channel 4 and the BBC.
An extra ?100 million is to be given to people who received
contaminated blood during NHS treatment in the 1970s and '80s.
Around 6,000 patients were infected with Hepatitis C,
Hundreds more are living with the serious consequences.
Last year, David Cameron apologised to victims for what's been called
The system for making payments to victims has been condemned
The Health Minister announced a consultation on how
I recognise that, for some, this will come too late.
I can't right the pain and distress of 30 years,
and the truth is that no amount of money could ever make up
for the impact this tragedy has had on people's lives.
For legal reasons I should be clear in the majority of cases it is not
appropriate to talk about compensation, I have made that point
before, I would like echo what has been said for in this House, sorry,
on behalf of the government, for every person affected by this
tragedy. Reform is a priority for myself and the government and I can
announce today that the Department of Health has identified ?100
million for the proposals set out in the consultation. This is in
addition to the current spend and the ?25 million already announced in
March 2000 15. She said that she had received
many letters from people. One letter that struck me ask
simply, please make me well. My intention through this new scheme is
to provide an opportunity to enhance access to treatment, especially for
those falling just short of current criteria for the NHS.
Labour welcomed the Minister's announcements.
She was right to apologise about the government and I would echo that
because successive governments of all colours have failed to respond
adequately to this scandal. In many ways this failure has only deepened
the injustice felt by the victims. This scandal saw thousands die and
thousands of families destroyed through the negligence of public
bodies. Whilst the minister was absolutely right to say that no
amount of money ever make up for the impact of the tragedy on peoples
lives, we all owe it to those still living with the consequences, the
dignity of a lasting settlement. We should never forget that this is
a simple matter of justice. It is time, after all the apologies, that
those affected, should feel that we are doing justice to that injustice.
I hope she will agree with me that one of the important needs of any
scheme is to be simple, comprehensive, predictable, and
consistent. It is absolutely essential that the bewildering
variety of provisions at the moment is resolved into that single, clear
scheme. Will she concede that for those of
us who worked closely with individual victims for a number of
years the resolution has to go as far as possible, financially, to put
them in the position they would have been, but for the grievous harm that
has been done? That maybe, in some cases, a bespoke solution for
individual victims. We are not dealing with numbers of people. --
unlimited numbers. In the Republic of Ireland,
there's a compensation Victims in Northern Ireland share
the frustration but feel more pointedly the contrast with their
friends in the south of Ireland who have had a path of justice available
to them over a long number of years. I know that the Minister is sincere
in her commitment to treatment, but will she give and is Europe's --
give an assurance that the effort she is making will not distract from
the effort we still have to make good this travesty that people have
suffered? I recognise there may be aspects of
the proposals that the honourable gentleman does not fair meet his own
aspirations. So I again invite him to respond to the consultation,
these are the proposals we are putting forward, the questions are
very open and people can give us their views. Direct my something
different happened in -- I recognise something different happened in
Republic of Ireland but the circumstances were different.
The founder of Lastminute Dot Com Martha Lane Fox has said
in the House of Lords that the internet is controlled ,
run, funded and used predominantly by men.
She was speaking during a Lords debate on the contribution of women
to the country's future economic growth.
If we look through any cut of the numbers it is profoundly upsetting.
About 4% of the world's software developers are women. The people
controlling who think the Internet. 9% of businesses found that on the
Internet are run by women. 10% of venture capitalists in the Internet
space are women. Why can't we take one of the 800,000 women currently
unemployed in this country and train them to fill our skills gap? How
much more imaginative could we be, by matching some of the challenges
we have? I have worked on projects recently, taking woman, with no
understanding of computer science, just basic mask, and is six months
they are Java ready, able to go into work. -- ASIC -- basic maths.
It is incumbent on us to lay the foundations. And provide the right
environment. We need to improve career
preparation for woman. Whether in the humanities or not, even as early
as primary School, because by the time women are exposed to inspiring
role models, if at all, they tend to have already decided on their exam
choices and their ambitions are potentially curtailed.
We have heard some awesome statistics this afternoon but my
favourite is from the woman's business Council which estimates
that if women set up businesses at the same rate as men that would be 1
million more businesses in Britain today.
The as yet undetermined future of Channel Four television has
Channel Four, which began broadcasting 33 years ago,
is a publicly owned, not-for-profit corporation.
But there's been speculation that it could be privatised.
And some politicians fear an adverse effect on programme-making
At Culture question time, a former Culture Secretary took
Discussion then turned to the future of the BBC.
Will he join me in congratulating Channel 4 on their record number of
O and BAFTA nominations of this year? And does he agree that Channel
4 will not be able to deliver its unique and invaluable agreement if
it had to turn a profit to shareholders?
As I said to the Right Honourable gentleman my concern is to guarantee
the continuing success and viability of Channel 4 and that is why we are
looking at a number of options, as indeed I understand the last Labour
government did, also considering privatisation.
Can the Secretary of State confirm that the Chancellor of the Exchequer
and now believes that Channel 4 privatisation will bring the
Conservatives much public opprobrium for a relatively small financial
return, and that the Conservatives are now backing away from the idea
of privatising this much loved institution?
I hate to disappoint the honourable gentleman but as I said earlier no
decisions have been taken. I have not yet had the opportunity to
discuss the matter with the Chancellor of the Exchequer because
we have not yet reached our own conclusions on this matter but I
look forward to doing so in due course.
Discussion then turned to the future of the BBC.
This government has flogged off more national assets than any other, can
we really trust them with the BBC? The charter expires at the end of
this year and does provide an opportunity to look at all aspects
of the BBC, in what is a very fast changing media landscape. That is
the purpose of the review. 97% of the adult population of the
UK use BBC services for an average of 18% every week and perceptions of
the BBC have improved over the past ten years. His consultation on
charter renewal) it over last year and he has now spent more time
considering responses to the consultation than he allowed the
public to respond. So when will he get his act together publish the
results? Can you just have is a date, today, please?
May I begin by welcoming the honourable lady to this position? I
have been doing this job for a relatively short time, just eight
months, but she is the third holder of opposition spokesperson position,
I hope she survived longer than her apprentice. In relation to the
question, I am keen to publish proposals but we did not anticipate
an hundred 92,000 responses. She will understand that if I work to
give up and publish conclusions in a short period she would be at the
dispatch box claiming we had not done proper analysis and this was a
cosmetic exercise. It is not a cosmetic exercise and we are reading
them carefully. I am afraid he sounds like he is
procrastinating. The charter expires at the end of this year but he has
not even got around to publishing the White Paper yet because the
consultation is taking so long to reply to. Can he guarantee that his
department's time wasting will not result in some kind of debilitating,
short-term charter extension beyond the end of the year? Can he be clear
today that the next charter will be for a minimum of ten years?
Charter review comes around once every ten years, I am determined to
get it right. That means we will take however long it takes in order
to fully consult and consider the options.
The Shadow Commons Leader Chris Bryant and his opposite number
Chris Grayling have once again exchanged barbed comments
as the parliamentary week nears its end.
Mr Bryant taunted Mr Grayling about the different positions
of senior Conservatives on the coming EU referendum.
While Mr Grayling focused on internal battles
As we were debating psychoactive substances in this House the
American Republican campaign seemed to be on psychoactive substances
with Sarah Pailin endorsing Donald Trump, the ultimate case of
Tweedledum and dumber. Two MPs have confessed to taking poppers in the
chamber, well, not in the chamber, but they made their confession in
the chamber? One is so determined to be out of that he wants to be out of
the outcome pain! Talk of two bald men fighting over a comb! If men
were dominoes, he would be the double blank.
He did not ask me for a debate on his party's extraordinary new
defence policy of sending out submarines to see with new missiles.
He did not ask me for a statement on Syria so his party leader can settle
out plans for negotiations with brutal murderers in that part of the
world. He did not ask me for a debate on his party's new policy of
reopening discussions on the future of the Falkland Islands with
Argentina. But I am certainly willing to look for extra time and
debate about the backbone, or lack of it, of members of the Shadow
Cabinet, not brave enough to put their own jobs on the line when it
comes to standing up to a Leader of the Opposition whose policies pose a
real threat to this country. He has left the church of England because
he believes its policies are unacceptable, but he will not do the
same for a Shadow Cabinet, even though its policies are clearly
unacceptable. But do join me for the 'Week
in Parliament', when we not only look back over the last few days
in the Commons and the Lords, but also look at the problems
in trying to achieve accurate opinion poll figures,
and look at the growing number of top political jobs now
being done by women. But for now, from me,
Keith Macdougall, goodbye