25/02/2016 Thursday in Parliament


25/02/2016

Highlights of Thursday 25 February in Parliament, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Transcript


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Hello there and welcome to Thursday in Parliament.

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Coming up in the next half-hour - MPs warm up their arguments over

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the UK's membership of the European Union.

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The government has asked if it is applying for EU funding

:00:22.:00:29.

to help those affected by the winter floods and after Wednesday's advice

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from the Prime Minister's mum, a Labour MPs unveils the wit

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Never take home a man who is wearing a hat until you have seen him

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Find out what else Chris Bryant's mother warned him about a little

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But first, it was perhaps an unusual approach

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but when the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond opened the debate

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on European affairs, he declared himself to be something

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But he told MPs that in the forthcoming EU referendum,

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he would be voting for the UK to stay in the EU.

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I have always considered myself a sceptic and I consider myself

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Like most people in Britain, I don't feel any warmth or affection

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I'm irritated by the tone of much of what I hear coming from Brussels

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and instinctively suspicious of anything that sounds

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But we do not live in some ideal world, we live in the real world

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and the EU is part of that real world.

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And the question that we have to answer is not, do we like it?

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The question we have to answer is whether we are stronger,

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safer and better off in the EU rather than out of it.

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Clearly, the Foreign Secretary, quite rightly, is doing a sort

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of cost benefit analysis of this issue.

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Why doesn't the government institute an independent study

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with a genuinely independent body, actually going into some detail

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about what would be the effects on our GNP,

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plus or minus of a Brexit? This would surely be very useful.

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I think the problem with the challenge my honourable

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And it is going to be a recurrent theme in this debate,

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I suspect, that we simply don't know what the counterfactual is.

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We don't know what Britain's situation outside the European Union

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We don't know whether a deal could be negotiated

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We don't know what free-trade agreements we could negotiate

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with other parties and we don't know on what timescale those

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We don't know what damage would be done to our economy in the meantime.

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The Foreign Secretary moved on to some of the specifics

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It ends the unfairness of child benefits at British rates being sent

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to children living in countries with much lower living costs.

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And it gives us a new seven-year emergency rate to ensure that EU

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migrants will not have full access to in-work benefits until they have

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Answering the perfectly reasonable question, why should people take out

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when they have not paid in? Under this arrangement, they cannot.

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No more something for nothing and taken together, this

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is a package that will address the concerns of the British people

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about abuse of our benefit system and erosion of our

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On child benefit, will the Foreign Secretary confirm

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that it does not meet the promise set out in the Conservative party

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manifesto which says, as follows, if an EU migrant child is living

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abroad, then they should receive no child benefit or child tax credit,

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no matter how long they have worked in the UK and no matter how much tax

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That has not been achieved, it is a failure.

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As I have said before in this house, I think what any reasonable person

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will do is look at the package that has been delivered.

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From the outset, we have been clear that tackling abuse of our welfare

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system is about reducing the pull factor that makes Britain a target

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for inward migrants coming to the UK, because they can

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get their wages topped up with a variety of benefits.

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And another Conservative Eurosceptic challenged the Foreign Secretary

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over the impact Brexit would have over UK trade

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Is he really saying that Germany would be so vindictive and spiteful

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that they would cut their own noses off to spite their face when House

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of Commons library paper says that we export ?43 billion worth

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of goods and services to them and yet they export ?70.6 billion

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Is he really saying that they are so vindictive

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and spiteful that they would close their door on that?

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I want to make two points in response to my honourable friend.

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He is of course absolutely right - Britain has a substantial deficit

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in trade in goods with the European Union and if all

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he would be seeking is a free-trade agreement for trade in goods,

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That will be relatively simple to negotiate but Britain will need

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much more than that if we are to get a fair deal for Britain's businesses

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I grew up in the Scottish Highlands where bridges and roads simply

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wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the blue stars that we saw...

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Sorry, the gold stars on the blue flag that we saw pinned

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against them, so there is a lot more sympathy and a lot more appreciation

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for the positive things that the European Union has

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achieved, especially among the people of Scotland.

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I hope that when the debate plays out, he's got a bit of a stronger

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argument than, they bunged us a few quid to build a road, because,

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frankly, that is not a sustainable argument across the

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In order to build an In majority which is the objective,

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there will have to be a great deal more reflection and emphasis

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on the arguments which are likely to inspire support from a range

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of political opinion as opposed to arguments that will fend off

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the remaining Eurosceptics who have decided to vote no.

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And secondly, in particular, to have a great deal more

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sensitivity to that range of arguments that has been

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We live in a different world now to the one that gave birth

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to the European coal and steel community after the end

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We have witnessed the end of empire, the creation of the United Nations,

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The formation of Nato, the end of the Cold War,

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We have lived through an era that has seen the rise of new world

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powers, alliances, conflicts, threats, and the blistering pace

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of technological change that is revolutionising our

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economies and is shrinking the way in which we perceive our world.

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We cannot turn the clock back and to argue that we can

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And on this side of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, we are clear,

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we support Britain remaining a member of the European Union.

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We held that view before the renegotiation, we hold that view

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today, because it has brought us jobs and growth and investment

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and security and I will argue, it gives us influence

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in the world. Hilary Benn.

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And Europe was a key theme earlier in the day when it was learned that

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parts of the UK hit by severe flooding might be in line

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for substantial help from a grant known as the EU Solidarity Fund.

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Thousands of householders in Cumbria, Yorkshire

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and the Scottish Borders were left homeless when floodwaters washed

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In Carlisle and York, flood barriers failed to cope

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firstly when Storm Desmond and then Storm Eva struck in December.

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The collapse of a bridge at Tadcaster in Yorkshire showed

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In the Commons, the Minister said the Government had paid out a total

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of ?47 million under its own recovery scheme.

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Having set out what the Government has already done, I now want to turn

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I am today announcing that the UK Government will make an application

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to the European Union Solidarity Fund.

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The EUSF was set up respond to major natural disasters.

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The fund was created as a reaction to the severe floods in central

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I thank the Minister and my fellow Stockton MP for his response,

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It has taken an urgent question to get the information

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from the Government so I am delighted that you granted it,

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You will know, Mr Speaker, that we have been extremely anxious

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that this opportunity could in fact be lost.

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To be clear, the first floods for which an application could be

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made in Cumbria, some 11 and a half weeks ago,

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yet it has taken the Government within a single working day

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of the deadline to confirm an application is being made.

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The Government has been working on this application for some time.

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You have to draw together a range of information across Government

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departments, talking with local areas, assessing the cost and impact

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The European Union Solidarity Fund is not designed to be a rapid

:09:24.:09:29.

It is a longer-term fund to provide compensation to communities

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and even though an application is now being made, it will take

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But we will continue in our commitment to support those

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communities, to provide the funding and the backing that they need.

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Three weeks ago, I asked the Prime Minister why were we not

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applying for these funds, I am delighted that we are now doing so.

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I had over 300 of my households were hit by the floods.

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A third of them were not covered by insurance because of the high

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Perhaps some of this extra money now can help them.

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The Minister has indicated that all that is required at this stage

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is a notification of intent to apply so surely if that is the case,

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it could have been done weeks ago, to get the process underway?

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When did he actually apply, was it today, was it yesterday?

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Actually, where was the rapid decision-making process

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I welcome it, I honestly welcome it today but it was not

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If you have an insurance policy, yes, of course,

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we are going to cash it in. Why would we not cash it in?

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And isn't the reason that we have been reluctant to claim is that

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because of our rebate, we get very little out of it so it

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will be effectively repaying an insurance scheme

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Businesses in my constituency of Heywood and Middleton

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and in the borough of Rochdale are absolutely baffled as to why

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the Government has left it until the 11th hour to apply

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Can the Minister assure me, please, that he will get the application

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in by Sunday and does he not agree with me that this is a great

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Can he put it in context, because every day, we pay,

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as British taxpayers, ?50 million to the European Union.

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How much does he think we will get back?

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Mr Speaker, my honourable friend makes his point better

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than I would choose to endeavour to do from the dispatch box today.

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You are watching Thursday in Parliament here on BBC Parliament

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Local councils have been told in no uncertain terms that they cannot

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boycott foreign goods for political reasons.

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The Business Minister Matthew Hancock issued regulations last week

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during a trip to Israel, saying the boycott by public bodies

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were illegal under international trading laws.

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But some members of the House of Lords challenged

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Has the Minister had a chance to check on what the Prime Minister

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said yesterday in answer to a question about settlements?

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He said, the first time I visited Jerusalem and saw what has happened

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with the effective encirclement of East Jerusalem, occupied

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East Jerusalem, I found it generally shocking.

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Didn't the Prime Minister speak for many members of both houses

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and indeed of all parties when he said this and isn't it time

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that we moved beyond general expressions of dissatisfaction

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with Israeli settlement activity and took more

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The noble Lord makes a perfectly valid point,

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but this is about the role of local authorities.

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I would just gently say to him with due respect that local

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authorities, local authorities should not pursue their own

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municipal foreign policy which contravenes international

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trade agreements and instead, they should focus on local issues.

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The clue is the name as regards to local authorities.

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I was in Israel last week as the guest of

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the Israeli Government and my right honourable friend Matt Hancock

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announced this guidance that he was giving to local

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authorities, but surely, it is actually illegal,

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as both Israel and the United Kingdom are members

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of the WTO, to actually impose these boycotts and they would actually be

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Such boycotts would be open to judicial review.

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Hearing what the Minister has to say about boycotts,

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can he reassure the House on behalf of his foreign and Commonwealth

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colleagues, that we and our European partners lose no opportunity to draw

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attention of the Israel Government to the illegality of their

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settlement policy and the damage which it is doing for the prospect

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of a two-state solution, which is surely in the interest

:14:05.:14:07.

The Government remains completely committed to a two-state resolution

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to secure lasting peace in the Middle East and the best way

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to achieve that is by diplomacy and negotiation.

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My Lords, given that the noble lady, Baroness Anelay of St John's,

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has repeatedly, at that dispatch box, said that the settlements

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are a contravention of international law and that we deplore them

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and they should not be there, how does it follow that it is illegal

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or impossible for a local authority to take action in response to those

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repeated statements, by refusing to trade

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Just to repeat what I said at the start, the guidance merely

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clarifies and reminds contractual authorities of their obligations

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under the WTO Government procured agreement, which the EU

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is a signatory, has been in place since 1996 and the Labour Government

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and the Coalition Government both upheld.

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It is a hideous blight on our landscape.

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The scourge of fly-tipping can be both a health hazard and an ugly

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scar on the environment. And it is not just on disused land.

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Urban litter can also be a huge problem, with empty bags,

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bottles and cans, cigarettes and chewing gum blowing

:15:35.:15:37.

In Westminster Hall, MPs suggested ensuring

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that fast-food outlets reduce their rubbish and educating

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children to pick up their litter could be just part of the solution.

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What we do need to do is educate young people,

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in particular, about the importance of not littering on the streets.

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I thought I might get an intervention at that point!

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Would the honourable gentleman agree that a child encouraged to pick up

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litter, in a scheme such as Clean For The Queen,

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grows up into an adult that does not throw

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litter and that that is very much part of the impetus behind our push

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I thank my honourable friend for that.

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Clearly, encouraging good habits at a young age is definitely

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One of the problems I see in my local area is that you can see

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where the fast-food restaurant is and where the school

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is and you can see the litter and how long it takes a young person

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takes to eat the food as they are walking back

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They just deposit it where they choose and

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the consequence is, of course, that we end up with littered streets

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Even worse, what some young people do is throw it

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I am sure he agrees that not all the fast-food outlets operate

:16:58.:17:01.

In my constituency, as mentioned by my honourable friend,

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the chair of the Select Committee, McDonald's are very good.

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They employ people to clean up around their restaurant.

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They also organise volunteer days, where their staff come

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So, some of the fast-food chains treat this matter very responsibly.

:17:15.:17:20.

I thank the right honourable gentleman for that intervention.

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I think McDonald's are clearly a shining example of

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what should be done. Their food is all right.

:17:27.:17:31.

I would not say it is great, but lots of people love it.

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If it is on the quality of products on offer

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He talks about McDonald's being a shining example,

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but they do, in their products, have a huge amount of packaging.

:17:48.:17:50.

If they were forced, somehow, or encouraged,

:17:51.:17:52.

to reduce that packaging, that may also help to provide

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Clearly, the supply of McDonalds and other fast-food restaurants

:17:58.:18:04.

and the packaging they employ is a matter for them, clearly.

:18:05.:18:07.

But one of the consequences, as my honourable friend pointed out,

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is to have fast food and other types of packaging,

:18:19.:18:24.

it is not just fast food, there is a whole range of packaging

:18:25.:18:27.

What I was going to come on to, however, is the point here that,

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should we be looking at duties on fast-food restaurants to act

:18:32.:18:34.

in the same way as McDonald's take a responsible way?

:18:35.:18:36.

We have a perennial problem in my constituency

:18:37.:18:38.

with a Kentucky Fried Chicken drive-through restaurant,

:18:39.:18:40.

where people routinely drive in, park up the road,

:18:41.:18:42.

eat their Kentucky Fried Chicken and throw the bones on the floor,

:18:43.:18:45.

literally, dropping them out their car windows,

:18:46.:18:47.

for the pleasure of local residents to have to suffer.

:18:48.:18:52.

Now, surely, we could get to a point whereby there are duties

:18:53.:18:55.

on the fast-food restaurants to keep their areas clear?

:18:56.:18:59.

At the end of the debate, one minister, Marcus Jones,

:19:00.:19:02.

said the government would produce a strong and robust litter strategy

:19:03.:19:04.

for England, cracking down on this anti-social activity.

:19:05.:19:12.

Are the UK's top universities doing enough to encourage applications

:19:13.:19:14.

from students from black and ethnic minority backgrounds?

:19:15.:19:16.

The subject was raised at Equalities Questions,

:19:17.:19:18.

with MPs wanting to know what more could be done.

:19:19.:19:22.

Research shows that, while BME students are over-represented

:19:23.:19:26.

in university entrance figures, they tend to be in the post '92

:19:27.:19:29.

The Women Equalities Committee heard this week

:19:30.:19:35.

that the Russell Group universities are poor

:19:36.:19:39.

at doing outreach, to encourage students from disadvantaged and BME

:19:40.:19:42.

backgrounds to apply for their universities,

:19:43.:19:44.

compared with the Ivy League universities in the United States,

:19:45.:19:52.

which have a far better record in this.

:19:53.:19:54.

The minister said that was a good point and she had praise for those

:19:55.:19:57.

I have to say that my nearest university, the University

:19:58.:20:01.

of Nottingham, like many universities, makes a real positive

:20:02.:20:06.

effort to get into all our schools, to make sure that all our pupils

:20:07.:20:10.

have every opportunity. If I can put it this way - aim high.

:20:11.:20:14.

Many young people in my constituency and across

:20:15.:20:17.

the country, who have lived here all their lives,

:20:18.:20:19.

who are lawfully and legally resident in the United Kingdom

:20:20.:20:23.

and have made their way through the UK

:20:24.:20:24.

education system, are effectively prohibited from accessing student

:20:25.:20:27.

finance support, which would allow them access to higher education

:20:28.:20:30.

because they do not have Settled Immigration status.

:20:31.:20:34.

I am grateful for the honourable members question

:20:35.:20:47.

In a new policy to make sure all these students make the most of

:20:48.:20:53.

their academic ability? I am grateful for the

:20:54.:20:55.

honourable members question and I think he is making

:20:56.:20:57.

a very important point, which I am happy to discuss

:20:58.:21:00.

with the Home Office. I see that one of the

:21:01.:21:02.

relevant ministers is already here. The government talks the talk

:21:03.:21:05.

of encouraging more black and ethnic minority students into university,

:21:06.:21:08.

yet their recent decision to scrap maintenance grants will

:21:09.:21:11.

disproportionately affect these very This is according to the

:21:12.:21:13.

government's own impact assessment. Does the minister believe

:21:14.:21:16.

that this disproportionate I have to say, I am not familiar

:21:17.:21:17.

with the impact assessment. I reiterate the point,

:21:18.:21:26.

it is absolutely imperative that we make it very clear that

:21:27.:21:28.

everybody should aim high. That is what we want to do

:21:29.:21:31.

and that is what we seek to do. Now, it is a well-worn political

:21:32.:21:41.

adage that persistence pays and one Conservative MP is keeping up

:21:42.:21:44.

a relentless campaign Oliver Colvile has previously called

:21:45.:21:46.

for the hedgehog to become He says the number of the prickly

:21:47.:21:52.

creatures have fallen by one-third in the last decade and declaring

:21:53.:22:03.

the hedgehog to be Britain's national symbol might enthuse

:22:04.:22:05.

people to protect it. Updating MPs at Business Questions,

:22:06.:22:07.

he told MPs his campaign Mr Speaker, you may be interested

:22:08.:22:10.

to know that my petition to save the hedgehog has now reached

:22:11.:22:16.

over 19,000 signatures, Now, I am fully aware this is just

:22:17.:22:19.

80,000 short of us having a debate, but would my right honourable friend

:22:20.:22:26.

just like to confirm that, because it has got over 10,000,

:22:27.:22:32.

the government now has to write to me, to say

:22:33.:22:35.

what it is they might actually do? Well, Mr Speaker, I congratulate

:22:36.:22:40.

my honourable friend, as always, for his

:22:41.:22:42.

assiduousness on this. I can confirm that he will

:22:43.:22:45.

receive a proper response I also have a sneaking suspicion

:22:46.:22:47.

that he may make his way towards that 100,000 point,

:22:48.:22:51.

in order to have a But, of course, Mr Speaker,

:22:52.:22:54.

we have had this week a cautionary tale, linking some of the themes

:22:55.:22:57.

that often somehow appear We talk about superfoods,

:22:58.:23:00.

we talk about black puddings What we have learned this week

:23:01.:23:04.

is that, if you feed meat to hedgehogs, it can have a rather

:23:05.:23:08.

adverse affect on them, as we saw in the tragic case

:23:09.:23:11.

of the hedgehog which has become so fat eating meat that it can no

:23:12.:23:14.

longer roll itself up. Finally, for this programme,

:23:15.:23:18.

let us go back to the sticky At Business Questions,

:23:19.:23:21.

the SNP's Peter Wishart seized on the chance to pounce

:23:22.:23:24.

on the divisions within the Conservative Party on Brexit,

:23:25.:23:26.

with the announcement this week that the Cabinet minister

:23:27.:23:28.

Michael Gove is to campaign This week marked the end

:23:29.:23:30.

of collective Cabinet responsibility, particularly

:23:31.:23:39.

for the next few months. The nasty civil war in the Tories

:23:40.:23:41.

is now stareting to get serious and it looks like the poor

:23:42.:23:49.

old Justice Secretary is going to be I don't know if the right honourable

:23:50.:23:52.

gentlemsn is going to rush to his defence and man

:23:53.:23:56.

the barricades, in order to try and save him,

:23:57.:23:58.

but even friendships which go right back to the playing fields

:23:59.:24:01.

of Eton now look like the remnants And for us, on these benches,

:24:02.:24:04.

Mr Speaker, it is popcorn time, as we observe, not just a civil

:24:05.:24:08.

war in the Tory Party, but also the ongoing civil war

:24:09.:24:11.

within the Labour Party. I hate to disappoint him

:24:12.:24:14.

on the European Union referendum, Mr Speaker,

:24:15.:24:16.

but he is not going to Actually, we are all friends,

:24:17.:24:19.

we get on with each other. Well, they laugh, but

:24:20.:24:22.

the difference, Mr Speaker, Split down the middle,

:24:23.:24:39.

fighting like ferrets in a sack. That, today, Mr Speaker,

:24:40.:24:43.

is the Labour Party. We are going to have

:24:44.:24:45.

a grown-up, sensible debate. The country will decide

:24:46.:24:47.

and then we will work together to implement

:24:48.:24:49.

what the country decides. In the meantime, they

:24:50.:24:51.

are going to run around like headless chickens,

:24:52.:24:53.

trying to work out what on Earth they do about the mess

:24:54.:24:55.

they are in at the moment. The Shadow Leader of the House

:24:56.:24:58.

returned to a theme raised in Prime Minister's Questions

:24:59.:25:01.

on Wednesday - advice Second, never take a man home

:25:02.:25:03.

who is wearing a hat, until you have seen

:25:04.:25:11.

him without the hat. I think the Leader of the House

:25:12.:25:13.

agrees with that one. Third, never, Mr Speaker, never

:25:14.:25:20.

trust a man wearing slip-on shoes. I merely point out, Mr Speaker,

:25:21.:25:23.

that the Prime Minister was wearing Top advice there from

:25:24.:25:35.

Chris Bryant's mum. And that is it for now,

:25:36.:25:40.

but do join me at 11pm on Friday night for The Week In Parliament -

:25:41.:25:43.

a round-up of the last seven days here at Westminster -

:25:44.:25:47.

including the row over how much public money should go to political

:25:48.:25:49.

parties at Westminster. But for now, from me,

:25:50.:25:58.

Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.

:25:59.:26:03.

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