Highlights of Thursday 11 February in Parliament, presented by Keith Macdougall.
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Hello there, and welcome to Thursday In Parliament.
There's anger in the Commons as the Health Secretary announces
he is to impose new contracts on junior doctors in England.
Does the Secretary of State not feel a sense of shame?
It wasn't me that refused to sit around the table and talk
until December, it was the BMA.
Google executives say they understand why the public
is angry about its tax bill.
And an SNP MP agrees with a report criticising the Government's
procedure for English Votes For English Laws.
The current standing order and procedure is a guddle,
a boorach and in short, a complete mess.
But first, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced
that the Government will impose a new contract on junior
doctors in England.
Doctors have staged a series of protests and launched industrial
action in their long-running dispute with the Government
over new contracts.
In the week, the doctors' union, the British Medical Association,
rejected a final take it-or-leave-it offer.
The Government's chief negotiator Sir David Dalton then advised
ministers to do whatever was necessary to end the deadlock.
The Health Secretary came to the Commons and explained why
change was needed.
Under the existing contract, doctors can receive the same pay
for working quite different amounts of unsocial hours.
Doctors not working nights can be paid the same as those who do,
and if one doctor works just one hour over the maximum shift length,
it can trigger a 66% pay rise to all doctors on that rota.
He set out what the new contract would do.
Tired doctors risk patient safety, so in the new contract,
the maximum number of hours that can be worked in one week will be
reduced from 91 to 72.
The maximum number of consecutive nights doctors can be asked to work
will be reduced from seven to four.
The maximum number of consecutive long days will be reduced
from seven to five.
And no doctor will ever be rostered consecutive weekends.
Because we do not want take-home pay to go down for junior doctors,
after updated modelling, I can tell the House these changes
will allow an increase in basic salary of not 11%,
as was previously thought, but 13.5%.
Three quarters of doctors will see a take-home pay rise,
and no trainee working within contracted hours
will have their pay cut.
Jeremy Hunt also announced a review into ways to improve doctors'
morale, but the opposition was scathing.
This whole dispute could have been handled so differently.
The Health Secretary's failure to listen to junior doctors,
his deeply dubious misrepresentation of research about care at weekends
and his desire to make these contract negotiations
into a symbolic fight for delivery of seven-day services has led
to a situation which has been unprecedented in my lifetime.
Can the Health Secretary not see that imposing a new contract
which doesn't enjoy the confidence of junior doctors will destroy
morale, which is already at rock bottom?
She feared many doctors would head for countries like Australia.
A poll earlier this week found that nearly 90% of junior doctors
are prepared to leave the NHS if the contract is imposed.
How does the Health Secretary propose to deliver seven-day
services with one tenth of the current junior doctor workforce?
How can it possibly be right for us to be training junior doctors
and the consultants of tomorrow, only to be exporting them en masse
to the southern hemisphere?
It's quite obvious that after three years, the BMA were prepared just
to let the whole thing drag on with talks and days of action
until he either abandoned the seven-day service or gave them
an enormous pay settlement in order to buy them into doing it.
The problem around recognition of unsocial hours might increase
the difficulty we already have in recruiting people
for the acute specialties: A, maternity and acute medicine.
They are already struggling.
This may well make that worse.
What we now need is to move forward in a positive spirit that actually
brings this dispute to an end, takes the temperature down
and actually recognises that we all want the same thing,
and that is safety for patients.
Will he entertain the idea of a commission, as advocated
by my right honourable friend, the member for North Norfolk,
and indeed others on both sides of this House,
to find a long-term consensual solution to the growing health
and care challenges we face?
I think the trouble with commissions is that they tend to take rather
a long time to come up with their conclusions,
and we need to sort out these problems now.
I spent 30 years in the world of work representing employees,
conducting negotiations and solving disputes.
I have seldom seen a sense of grievance so grotesquely
mishandled, insulting the intelligence of junior doctors
by telling them that they do not understand what is on offer.
Does the Secretary of State not feel a sense of shame that his handling
of this dispute should have so poisoned relationships
with junior doctors, the backbone of the National
Mr Speaker, he can do a lot better than that.
We have been willing to negotiate since June.
It wasn't me that refused to sit around the table and talk
until December, it was the BMA, who before even talking
to the Government, balloted for industrial action.
What totally irresponsible behaviour, and if Labour
were responsible, they would be condemning it as well.
The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
Google executives have told the Public Accounts Committee
that they understand public anger at the firm's ?130 million UK tax
bill, but they maintain that it was a fair amount of money,
reached after an audit by Her Majesty's
Revenue and Customs.
MPs asked why it took six years to come up with the figure
and challenged them on their tax arrangements.
The session started with enquiries about the salaries of senior
Can you confirm reports that your Chief Executive was paid
?138 million last year?
I don't have the exact figure in front of me...
In the last few days, a new stock-based compensation
was announced four our recently appointed Chief Executive.
That is an amount which is based on stock.
The value of the stock depends on the performance in the future
and it invests over multiple years.
Well, it's a lot of money. That's true.
And your tax settlement that you announced a couple of weeks ago
with HMRC, covering a ten-year period, was ?130 million.
OK, we will get into what that involves maybe later.
Mr Brittin, I'm just here...
We are here for taxpayers in Britain.
Do you hear the anger and frustration out there that
with those huge figures, you settled for a figure
of ?130 million?
And I welcome the chance to come and talk to you about this.
I understand the anger and indeed it...
Do you really understand the anger, Mr Brittin?
What do you get paid, Mr Brittin?
If that's relevant, I will happily disclose that to the committee.
What I understand is... I'm asking what you get paid.
I will happily disclose that if that is a relevant
matter for committee. It is a relevant matter.
I am asking you, so it is a relevant matter.
Can you tell me what you get paid, please?
I don't have the figure, but I will happily provide...
You don't know what you get paid, Mr Brittin?
Chair... Let me...
You tell us you want a transparent system, and yet with the system
that is here, you used the double Irish, you used the Dutch sandwich
and you used Bermuda, and your argument so far...
We will come onto Bermuda.
Your argument so far that I have heard is everybody else does it,
so we do.
Matt Brittin explained why Google set up its HQ in Dublin.
We have people speaking over 40 languages there, serving
customers across the region.
The reason we do that is we believe we can provide a better service
by having expertise that is concentrated and shared.
And many of our UK customers export to multiple markets,
and having that resource that can speak multiple languages and help
them reach those customers...
We assemble our operations for business reasons,
not for tax reasons.
Just to be quite clear on that point, because it is an important
one, the evidence you have given us today is that you have set up
in Dublin because of the ability to get lots of linguistic
skills in Dublin?
But it has nothing to do with the tax rates?
That's what you just said. No, I said that...
To be clear, we set up our operations...
No, we love beingin London and we have hired 1000 more staff
since I last appeared. Multilingual?
Why did it take you six years, which is as long
as the Second World War, to explain your activities
adequately to HMRC?
This is a process that HMRC drives and runs,
and one of the things they did in that process is they did take
an extended period of time to look at the nature
of an internet business.
So one of the things they did was slow down the process in order
to ask us, other tax authorities and look at the nature
of the internet.
So they went back and looked at the detail of how
our products operate.
But the timetable of the process is driven by HMRC, according
to their published and fairly detailed and rigorous standards.
Tom's team was fully involved in answering their questions
throughout that period.
So basically you are saying that it's HMRC's fault for being so slow.
They run the process according to their published standards
and the requirements the Government puts on them as their
independent tax experts.
Well, our committee is charged with looking at the effectiveness
and efficiency in economy, and if it takes six years
to investigate something, either you are very bad
at explaining or they are very thick at understanding.
Next up was senior tax officials from HMRC,
who were confident that they had got the full tax due from Google.
What I hope the public will see is that HMRC has done a thorough
and professional job and got the amount of tax that they can get
from Google under the law.
And indeed, over the period of 2010-2015 from large
businesses generally, ?38 billion in additional tax
from large businesses.
It is impossible to get that large amount from large businesses
without doing a thorough and professional job.
That is what I want the British public to believe.
Whether they believe that the amount of tax that Google has to pay under
the law is fair or not is a matter for them to debate,
but it is not a matter for which I can account to.
And HMRC insisted it was not outmanoeuvred by large corporations.
Now, there has been a furious reaction in the Commons
to the Government's attempt to justify proposed cuts to short
money, the payments given to opposition parties to help them
perform their parliamentary functions.
In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor George Osborne
announced a 19% cut in funding, to be followed by a freeze
for the rest of this Parliament.
In opposition, the Conservatives banked ?46 million a year in short
money, yet in Government, they want to cut short money
by 20% for the opposition.
There is a word for that, Mr Speaker, but it's not
How can it be right for the Government to cut the policy
development grant of political parties by 19% when it's not cutting
the amount of money spent on special advisers its own?
Unlike the impression given by his remarks,
short money has actually risen very substantially over the course
of the last five years.
It has gone up, Mr Speaker, by more than 50%.
It is more than 50% higher than it used to be and if we make no
changes, Mr Speaker, over the course of the next few
years, it will continue to rise still further.
The country will not understand why politicians should be exempt
from having to deal with their...
To deal with the effects of the financial deficit,
which we were bequeathed by the last Labour Government.
The only reason why we have to tighten our belts as a nation,
Mr Speaker, is because of the whopping financial deficit
which we were bequeathed by the last Labour Government.
And it cannot be right that politicians should argue
that they should be in some way exempt, a special class,
and not have to do their bit.
The chair of the Public Administration and
Constitutional Affairs committee voiced his concerns.
It is quite clear from these exchanges that the Government...
If the policy is as reasonable as he insists, then the Government
have handled this matter in a clumsy manner.
The opposition feels unconsulted.
Or is it that there is an agenda behind this change which is rather
more political in its intent?
Government is growing. Special advisers are growing.
The house of Lords is growing.
But our ability to hold the Government to account
is being stripped back.
One rule for Tory cronies, one rule for everyone else.
Can the Minister reassure me that all the parties in this house
will be fully involved in every stage of
all the consultations?
And will he bear in mind that a flat cut in short money and policy
development grant money has a disproportionate effect on smaller
parties, particularly regional parties?
These are important matters in allowing us to function properly.
Does the Minister agree that this is public money and that the public
will deeply resent this being spent on politicians to do more politics?
Does he agree that the rules on short money need to reflect
the fact that the cost of doing politics, of doing policy,
of doing research and of communication have come down?
We live in a world where Google is at
We don't need an army of researchers.
We live in a world of Twitter and blogs.
We do not need a whole department
of press officers.
Does he agree that the public will resent money used to pay
for Spads, special advisers and shadow special advisers who have
watched too much of The West Wing to sit in Portcullis House
at public expense.
This government and the party opposite have form when it
comes to reading the electoral playing field.
The party opposite may have broken the -
the law by spending above the legal limit at by-elections.
They're ramming through
one-sided changes to the funding of political parties while leaving
in place their ability to raise huge sums from hedge fund managers.
Now they intend slashing short money which ensures opposition parties can
hold government to account.
Can the Minister guarantee that these cuts
will not be the final chapter in our transition from a multiparty
state to a one-party state Robert Mugabe would be at home in.
Mr Speaker, I don't know where to start.
In trying to rebutt some of the absurd
assumptions in that question.
I think the short answer is to all of them, no.
You're watching Thursday in Parliament.
Here on BBC Parliament with me Alicia McCarthy.
Housing associations should ensure that large cash surpluses are spent
in a way that results in more homes being developed if there's housing
shortage in their area.
The call came from the chairman of the communities
and local government committee as he delivered its report
on the government's plans to let housing association tenants buy
The comment comes amid concerns about salaries paid to some top
housing association executives.
In its report, the committee also questioned the funding model
the government was using for this latest right to buy scheme.
They warn that suppliers of social housing could be reduced
unless action was taken to make sure they
were replaced on an at least one-for-one basis.
Throughout our investigations we've found a great
deal of uncertainty, that's a key point.
A lack of detail about the robustness of the funding
model for the right to buy is extremely questionable.
We call on the government to cost the programme
fully as a matter of urgency.
We feel there are unresolved issues and
we remain concerned that the government's policies
could have a detrimental effect on the provision
of accessible and affordable housing across all tenures but in particular
affordable rental homes.
We found that large numbers of homes sold through the statutory
right to buy for council tenants had in a relatively short
space of time become rental properties in the private sector.
This is a concern to is because private rented sector
is often more expensive than social housing.
The quality of homes can, in some cases
Selling much-needed social assets at a discount only for them
to become more expensive in the private rented sector
is therefore a significant concern for the community.
The success of the extended right to buy largely
depends on homes sold being replaced and housing supply maintained.
We appreciate the size of the challenge
of building more homes to meet demand but we seek more details
from the government how it will meet its
objective, at least one-for-one replacement of the homes sold.
I was interested in conclusion number 96, which says
it is important that housing associations which generate
surpluses apply them to delivering new housing.
In his report he highlights the fact that the department has identified
the housing association sector as having a surplus of ?2.4 billion
which it could make use of.
Does he share my concern that there is actually
tremendous scope for more efficiencies within housing
associations and is he is concerned as I am that some of the Chief
Executives of these housing associations receive very large
I think this was an issue which the committee were mindful of.
I think that wording is very clear.
Where there those large surpluses, where there are housing
shortages to be met, Housing associations should be
looking to spend those surpluses in way that delivers more homes.
The housing minister thanked the committee for its report
but made no promises.
The new system of English votes for English laws is overly
complicated and may not last long, MPs have warned.
The Public Administration select committee said
the arrangement could end up as a short-term experiment
due to levels of opposition in the Commons.
Legislation deemed to affect England, or England and Wales,
is now subject to an extra layer of scrutiny involving only
MPs elected there.
Minister said it was an important balance to devolution
elsewhere but a senior MP disagreed.
Our main conclusion is that while there is evidence
that the principle behind Evel commands
popular support, we have significant down that the current standing
orders are the right answer or represen a sustainable
solution to the English question.
They may be unlikely to survive the election of a government that
cannot command a double majority of both
English and UK MPs.
The government should use the remainder of the
12-month period in the run-up to the review of the standing orders
to rethink the issue and to develop proposals that are more compostable,
more likely to command the confidence of all
political parties represented in the House of Commons
are therefore likely to be constitutionally durable.
The ad hoc approach to change in the constitution of the union
which only dates back to the devolution reforms
initiated by the then Labour government in 1997,
and which has treated each of Scotland,
Wales, and Northern Ireland and, indeed, England in different ways
at different times has been characteristic of constitutional
reform since the 1990s.
The government must abandon this ad hoc approach.
Labour's front bench said that Evel in its current form was not
coherent, transparent, or sustainable.
And the government should go back to the drawing board.
A view echoed by a Labour backbencher.
This is a worthwhile report which identifies this as
a foolish piece of legislation.
That will perversely live up to its acronym
and accelerate the process
of the break-up of the United Kingdom.
By putting barriers between the four countries.
Of course, in the SNP, we have never objected to,
in principle, to the concept of English
votes for English laws, not least because it's the logical
of independence for Scotland but the committee's report confirms,
as we said all along, that the procedure
is in short a complete mess.
MPs have called on ministers to increase
the compensation available to people who lost money
on their pension investments with Equitable Life.
When the insurance company came close to collapse in 2000,
it was one of the UK's biggest financial scandals.
A compensation scheme was set up in 2010 for the 1.5 million
people who suffered losses.
A Conservative Bob Blackman heads the all-party parliamentary group
on Equitable Life.
There is no doubt that this was a scandal which has
been absolutely outrageous.
For the length of time it has gone on and
for the repeated failure of governments of all persuasions
to actually adequately compensate those people who are victims
of a scam.
Mr Blackman urged ministers to speed up the compensation payments
and boost the amount of money available.
He was supported by Labour.
There must be understanding from the government's side that
when compensation packages are devised
that the mechanism to deliver that is done properly
and that all the calculations are done appropriately
and where money is promised, money is delivered.
So government needs to ensure that regulation of these
industries is robust and be quicker to compensate those who lose out
in the future.
It seems to me that the point the government must also grasp
in this is what happens from here on in.
Specifically, as we are now asking people to make greater provision
for their own pensions,
that will only work if there is confidence
that they will get the pension they are investing in.
Equitable Life and other such scandals have undermined
that a great deal.
The Treasury Minister's said there was no more
money available for the compensation scheme.
I do, of course, appreciate that there are many policies holders
not now receiving the income they expected but by already paying
over ?1 billion to over 900,000 policyholders we've taken action
to solve the government's parts in the Equitable Life issue.
We've been able to pay in full the losses of the most trapped
policyholders and double the payments to the vulnerable
non-annuity policyholders as well as providing a one-off
payment to the pre-1992 annuitants, although
who - although, unaffected, by government maladministration
are recognised to be suffering as a result.
The signing of an anti-cuts petition by the Prime
Minister's mother indicates the severity of the financial
situation now facing local authorities across
England and Wales.
That was the claim of a Labour member of the house of lords
as peers debated reductions in library services.
In Lancashire, which is where I live,
the budget which is being recommended to the county council
this very afternoon involves a reduction in the number
of libraries across this large county from 74 to 34.
In other words, 40 libraries to be closed.
Is this really an acceptable situation, as far as the government
My Lords, decisions for library services are,
of course, a local authority matter and Lancashire Council has completed
a consultation seeking residence views on the service design,
needs and use.
Libraries are changing all across the UK and we understand
a further period of deep consultation
will be taking place between now and May.
I would encourage residents to make the Council aware of their specific
library needs and their ideas for the future.
My Lords, would my noble friends accept that it isn't just libraries
but it is also museums and galleries
that are under great pressure.
She'll remember that in the financial statement
in November, which was a very favourable one for those of others
interested in heritage and the arts, the Chancellor talked
about cutting Heritage, galleries, museums as being a false economy.
Can we do something to ensure that what is good for the nation is good
in local government.
I entirely agree with my noble friend about the importance
of funding for these areas and, indeed, as he said, the settlement
was very reasonable.
The Prime Minister's mother has done what the Minister asked and sat down
and wrote a very serious
letter to her local authority complaining about local authority
cuts, does that not indicate that we have reached a very serious
situation indeed and the Prime Minister and his government need
to do something about it if they are to
maintain the social fabric of our local communities.
My Lords, the settlement means that every council
will have for the financial year ahead, at least the resources
allocated by the provisional settlement and, in addition,
those councils with a sharp fall in grant
money will now receive transitional funding as they move from dependence
on central government grants to greater financial autonomy.
Lady Neville Rolfe.
That's it for now.
Do join me on Friday night at 11 for a
full round-up of the week at Westminster.
Until then, from me, goodbye.