24/03/2016 Thursday in Parliament


24/03/2016

Highlights of Thursday 24 March in Parliament, presented by Keith Macdougall.


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Hello and welcome to Thursday in Parliament, our look at the best

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of the day in the Commons, the last day before

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On this programme: reaction in the Commons to the next planned

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This is an awful game of brinkmanship and the government must

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press the pause button before it is too late. Governments cannot be held

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hostage by a union that refuses to negotiate.

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An MP places a wager with a Secretary of State.

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I bet the minister ?100 that nuclear power station will not be built

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without even more public subsidy being offered.

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And an MP gives a first-hand account of being given life-saving treatment

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I had a total of eight weeks in Saint Mary Hospital, five and a half

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weeks in the intensive care unit. But first: Junior doctors

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are holding the country to "ransom" with their latest plans for a full

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walkout from hospitals. That was the verdict

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of the Health Minister Ben Gummer. For months junior doctors in England

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have been locked in battle with the Government over

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the re-drawing of their terms One of their main areas of complaint

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is that the new contracts require Three strikes have been

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held since January. But during the next series

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of strikes, announced for April, the junior doctors will not be

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providing emergency cover. The Health Minister said

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the Government would do all in its power to make sure

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patients were protected. Given that patients presenting at

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hospitals in an emergency are often at a point of extreme danger, the

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action taken by the BMA will inevitably put patients in harms

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way. But the BMA wish to do this in order to continue a dispute over how

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Saturdays are paid is not only regrettable, it is entirely

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disproportionate and highly irresponsible. We are in the

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position of being faced with a trade union escalating strike action

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despite being consistent only in its refusal to negotiate. The country

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cannot be held to ransom like this. At some point a democratically

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elected government must be able to proceed to fulfil the promises it

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has made to the people. Governments cannot be held hostage by a union

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that refuses to negotiate. He said the Government had been

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forced, with regret, We will be presenting the new

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contract directly to doctors to show them that it is safer than the one

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it replaces, it's fairer, it's better for patients than the one it

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replaces and it's better the doctors than the one it replaces. By seeing

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the detail for themselves I am confident that doctors will see the

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strike for what it is. This report should add that

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micro-disproportionate, ill judged, unnecessary wrong. This is a

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worrying time for patients and the NHS. And it is nothing short of a

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disgrace that yet again the Health Secretary has failed to turn up. If

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this walk-out goes ahead, this will be the first time ever that junior

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doctors have fully withdrawn their labour. Nobody wants that to happen.

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Deep down, he knows that this contract has nothing to do with

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seven-day services and everything to do with setting a precedent to save

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money on the NHS pay bill. Change the definition of unsociable hours

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in this contract and pave the way for changing it for nurses, porters

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and a whole host of other NHS staff. Am I wrong, Minister? Mr Speaker,

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the government has 32 days to prevent a fall walk-out of junior

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doctors. The Secretary of State may think the matter is closed, I say

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that is arrogant and dangerous in the extreme. This is an awful game

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of brinkmanship and the government must press the pause button before

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it's too late. There is a point at which you cannot continue

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discussions. Firstly if your counter party refuses to talk, secondly in

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the knowledge that over so many occasions a promise to talk has been

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given by the BMA only fair that promise to be renovated upon as a

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future point. We have to move ahead, we have to move ahead with a

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contract that is better for patients and better for doctors. She hasn't

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yet told us what the position of the opposition is. I could understand

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that although I don't agree with it. I can understand it when the

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industrial action is to do with elective nonemergency care. But the

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call for strike action on emergency care is of an altogether different

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order. It does demand a response from the opposition because this is

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about emergency cover for patients. The opposition needs to say very

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clearly whether it supports or condemns the action. Does my

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honourable friend agree that this time the BMA has gone too far and

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will he join me in calling on junior doctors reaching beyond the BMA to

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put their patients first and the BMA leadership second? I know that NHS

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staff do not take strike action lightly. The government 's failure

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to negotiate has fuelled this crisis in our NHS. The BMA in their

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statement yesterday said they wanted to end this dispute through talks. I

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implore the Minister to get background that table for the sake

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of patients and every citizen of this country. The Secretary of State

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has promised that there will be more junior doctors working at weekends

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while at the same time no fewer working during the week. The UK

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Government has this week decided the best way to reform disability

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welfare payments is to listen to disabled people. Will the UK

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Government now make a similar U-turn on the NHS reform and concede that

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the best way to reform junior doctor contracts is to listen to junior

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doctors? Given the responsible announcement yesterday by the BMA

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they are willing to walk out even on emergency patients shows that the

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doctors union are prepared to put patients lives that risks. Will my

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honourable friend look at the law and see how that can be brought in

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line for emergency medicine so that emergency doctors are prevented from

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taking action as irresponsible and appalling of this in future.

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Eight days have gone by since the Budget statement,

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and it's no exaggeration to say that George Osborne's measures have taken

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The row over disability benefits, prompting the resignation

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from the Cabinet of Iain Duncan Smith, has overshadowed a measure

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that the Chancellor clearly hoped would make the headlines,

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namely the sugar tax. The levy's aimed at high-sugar

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drinks, particularly fizzy drinks, popular among teenagers.

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The tax will be imposed on companies and apply in two bands depending

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Full-strength Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and Irn-Bru, would fall under

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the higher rate of the tax which, it's suggested,

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At the Treasury committee, the Chancellor was asked

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if he was prepared to back the move in court.

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There's been some press speculation prompted by some of the

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manufacturers, either they might mount a legal challenge or they are

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urging the government to rethink. Can you comment on the government 's

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position in response to the recent press reports? Many companies are

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doing the right thing and reducing the sugar content in their drinks

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and that is to be applauded. Other companies are saying either this

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sugar taxes and going to happen or they are going to challenge it in

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the courts. I would say if they want to have an argument about the sugar

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tax, bring it on. We are going to introduce a sugar tax. It's the way

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it's going to be. I think it's the right thing for this country. I

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think it will make a huge improvement to childhood health.

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It's been warmly welcomed across the political spectrum but also very

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much supported by the health profession and the education

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profession. We will now consult on the technical details of the tax and

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setup the parameters and it will be introduced in 2018. Precisely so

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that companies have two years to reformulate products or change their

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marketing if they wish to do so. Otherwise they will pay the tax. Any

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legal challenge will be read but he defended by the government? We took

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legal advice before introducing it. We are very clear it's legal. And we

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will of course robotically defend it if there was a legal challenge. I

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would say to companies, don't waste time and money on a legal challenge.

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Use this period to look at job products and see if you can

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reformulate. Robinsons, Tesco, Sainsbury, the Co-op, they have all

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reformulate it. These are products you can reduce sugar in. I would

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suggest that is what we would like to see the industry do. Ultimately

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it will be up to them. Then on to those proposals for cuts

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to disability benefits, In the process of the budget you

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talked this week about the lessons that need to be learned or the

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lessons you will learn, I wondered what lessons you are taking away

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from this budget both in terms of the process you went through but

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also the content? Obviously attention has focused on the changes

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that were proposed to personal independence payments just prior to

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the budget. Clearly, if you are going to make reforms to disability

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benefits we need to go about it in a better way than we did because they

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were intended to make sure that a rising disability budget, more money

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was focused on those who need it most and that the disability benefit

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budget was well used. But it did not come and support as was perfectly

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obvious. So that's where I think lessons need to be learned.

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Another Labour MP wondered how the chancellor would

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Is it possible Chancellor that you might make further cuts to welfare

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spending? We've got no plans. That's not the question I asked. We are not

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going to replace the ?1 billion more than we are going to be spending on

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disability benefits with some other cuts... That's not the question I

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asked. Is it possible you will make further cuts to welfare spending? I

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imagine if the country votes to remain in the European Union will

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will be seeking to make good progress and introducing the welfare

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break on EU migrants. It is possible you will make further

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cuts to welfare? That is something that is probably announced. Is it

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possible that the Autumn Statement you will make further cuts to other

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spending? We have no plans for further cuts. That is not the

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question I asked. It is the answer I am giving you. We do not plan for

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the reductions in welfare spending beyond what we have already

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announced. We will get in focus preventing the proposals in the

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welfare reform Act. I think anybody listening to this will have to

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conclude it is entirely possible you will make further cuts to welfare at

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the Autumn Statement. That's not the conclusion I would draw from

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listening to me. Can you understand, Chancellor, why people might not

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trust politicians in general and perhaps you in particular if you

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refuse to answer what are pretty important questions, particularly

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for people who are reliant on these sorts of benefits? I think people

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know what we have set out to achieve. It was in our manifesto,

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this budget delivers our manifesto, that is what the country voted on.

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You're watching our round up of the day at Westminster.

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Still to come: MPs plead for a re-think on plans to close

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The doubts remain over whether a new nuclear power station

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will ever be built at Hinkley Point, in Somerset.

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The energy company, EDF, said two weeks ago it couldn't

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confirm its commitment to build the new ?24 billion reactor

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unless the French government came up with more money.

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On Wednesday a French government spokesman said a final decision

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When the subject was raised at Energy questions in the Commons,

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a Labour MP was in a gambling frame of mind.

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The government has already offered ridiculously large subsidies

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I bet the minister ?100, proceeds to charity of course,

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that that nuclear power station will not be built without even more

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Will the Secretary of State take that bet?

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Mr Speaker, apart from looking people in the eyes, I'm not

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in the habit of taking bets across the chamber.

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But I'm very happy to reassure the honourable gentleman that I'm

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completely confident that the Hinkley Point C project

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will go ahead, and will not be the only new nuclear reactor

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It appears that Britain's energy security is now in the hands

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of the French and Chinese governments.

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If the French government decides not to offer up more money

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for the Hinkley Project, will our taxpayers be on the hook

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I can reassure the honourable lady that this proposal in Hinkley Point

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But in order to give further reassurance to the honourable lady,

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I would like to tell her that Hinkley Point is an important part

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of our low carbon future, but it is not the only nuclear

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If she had paid attention during the Budget she might have

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heard the Chancellor announce further support for small modular

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reactors which could be an important part of a low carbon future.

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Is the intention of this government to build Hinkley Point C

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The honourable gentleman I'm sure is aware that it is not for this

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It is for EDF to build Hinkley Point C.

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That is why we have put the arrangement in place

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where we only pay when the electricity is generated.

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That is the sound arrangement that we have and it is due to start

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generating that electricity when we will start paying

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Well, back now to the question of health, because the Labour MP

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Mike Gapes has been giving MPs in Westminster Hall a vivid

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description of HIS first-hand experience of the National Health

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He became seriously ill five months ago.

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This is my first speech or question apart from interventions in this

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And my friend and neighbour referred to my extended break.

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It was not voluntary, it was not by choice.

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I had been at a concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

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Jools Holland saved my life, because if I have not gone

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to the concert I would not have had friends with me when I had

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the events occurr that evening in November.

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And I was rushed by ambulance initially to Chelsea

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and Westminster Hospital, where I collapsed, and they scanned

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me and decided I had such a serious rupture to the thoracic aneurysm

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that they had to refer me by ambulance into Saint Mary's

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I have a vivid memory of going down the ramp out of the ambulance

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into the A at St Mary's with about ten people waiting

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there and running me in the trolley straight into the operating theatre,

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where the consultant said, "I hope you don't mind,

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"we have injected you with anaesthetic but do you mind

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"Because we have to start straightaway.

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"The anaesthetic will take a moment to work."

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And then I heard a female voice saying, "I know this is hurting,

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I had a total of eight weeks in Saint Mary 's Hospital.

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Five and a half weeks in the intensive care unit.

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Nearly three of which I was in an induced coma.

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I had a series of operations on my heart, and also a

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tracheostomy, which is an interesting experience whereby

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permanently inside you, or it seems like eminently.

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Fortunately it is not there any more.

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I also had other operations whilst I was there.

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I haven't yet flown anywhere, and I'm waiting to see what happens

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to the metal detectors at the airport, because I do have

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some stents which might cause some competitions.

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I have to say I have been at the hospital this morning

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and they are very pleased with my progress, and I am able

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MPS are urging the government to rethink its decision to close

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a fifth of courts in England and Wales.

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The plans are part of reforms to modernise courts and reduce

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But across the house MPs said local justice was in danger and a Labour

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MP said the government didn't realise the impact of the closures.

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... 'S responds to the consultation says that 97 present of citizens

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will still be able to reach their required court within an hour by

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car. The statement is something not true. The data on which the response

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is based is travel time between court buildings, not the travel time

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from residents' forms to the court which will now be the closest. And I

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feel that many people upon witnessing a crime will say, I do

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not know if I want to come forward as a witness when it will mean that

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additional time and cost burden to me as a witness. Until you are a

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victim, you do not realise how important it is for the witnesses

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and victims to turn up. This is what happened to me 20 years ago. I was a

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victim of assault but I basically stopped a large and rampaging group

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of girls who were kicking a young girl on a zebra crossing north

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London and then assaulted each worker and then assaulted me. It was

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only I turned up that I realised how important it was that the people who

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had been the victims of assault were in that room that day so that those

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girls leaders guilty, in that case to the charge of affray. Simply the

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policy is wrong. The one size fits all court closure programme is both

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crude, I think, and wrong. And it is against the principle of local

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justice, which is the cornerstone of the British justice system. Frankly,

:20:29.:20:33.

these closures, particularly for Chichester are not a policy, they

:20:34.:20:37.

are the negation of policy. Everyone understands the need for financial

:20:38.:20:46.

stringency. But no economic rationale has been provided despite

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repeated requests for these closures. And until it is provided,

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I think people will continue to be deeply concerned about it. The

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Government defends itself by claiming that courts are underused,

:20:59.:21:01.

but I have been told by credible sources that court cases are being

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moved in order to skew these figures and justify closing some courts. And

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if the justification is not lack of demand it is the need to save money,

:21:10.:21:13.

which will effectively result in the cost of providing justice been

:21:14.:21:16.

passed from the state to the individual engaging with the justice

:21:17.:21:19.

system whether as an offender or as a witness or as a victim. There is a

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real need to look at how we have a plan for the long-term future of our

:21:25.:21:27.

courts, how we have a strategy to ensure that some cases can still be

:21:28.:21:33.

decided locally, and a real commitment to doing that, not just a

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allusion to it, but a real firm plan in areas where there will no longer

:21:37.:21:42.

be an alternative building in the near vicinity.

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But not everyone was against the idea:

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Some Magistrates' Courts I can remember were in poor condition, old

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and ill-equipped, and did not have this facility is to deal with the

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separation of witnesses, victims and legal advisers that we all wish to

:21:58.:22:01.

see and that the Honorourable Member referred to earlier. So not all

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closures are bad, and has to be process of renewal and sometimes of

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consolidation. These Asian to close a court is not one that I take

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lightly. But it is a decision that I'm prepared to make when it is

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necessary to do so to support the essential reform of our court

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tribunal system and to bring the court system up to the modern

:22:25.:22:26.

21st-century. There'll be two parliamentary

:22:27.:22:34.

by-elections in the next few weeks. The contests follow the death

:22:35.:22:37.

of the Sheffield Labour MP Harry Harpham, and decision

:22:38.:22:39.

of the Labour MP for Ogmore in Wales, Huw Irranca-Davies

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to run as a candidate Here's the Labour chief whip moving

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the writ in the Commons, in the traditional way,

:22:44.:22:48.

for the second of those elections. I beg to move that Mr Speaker do

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issue his warrant to the clerk of the Crown to make out a new rate for

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the electing of a member to serve in this present Parliament for the

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county constituency of Ogmore, in the right of Mr Davies, who since

:23:15.:23:17.

his election to the said constituency has been appointed to

:23:18.:23:22.

the office of Stewart and Bailiff of Her Majesty's manner of Northstead

:23:23.:23:23.

in the County of York. And those by-elections will be held

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on the same day as elections to the Welsh Assembly,

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Scottish Parliament and local councils in England,

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namely Thursday the 5th of May. Now, the end of the week provides

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a regular opportunity for some humorous exchanges in the chamber

:23:34.:23:38.

between the Leader of the Commons, Chris Grayling,

:23:39.:23:44.

and his opposite number Chris But this week it was

:23:45.:23:46.

the deputies doing the job. When Labour's Melanie Onn started,

:23:47.:23:49.

she made a passing reference to the internal Labour party list

:23:50.:23:52.

seized on by David Cameron at Prime Minister's

:23:53.:23:54.

Questions on Wednesday. This list placed Labour MPs

:23:55.:23:57.

in different categories, such as, 'Hostile',

:23:58.:24:01.

'Core Group' or 'neutral'. Mr Speaker, I welcome that today

:24:02.:24:05.

we have three women speaking for their parties in

:24:06.:24:07.

Business Questions, and I will be doing my best to

:24:08.:24:10.

avoid being hostile. When I found out that

:24:11.:24:14.

I was standing in for today's Business Questions I was concerned

:24:15.:24:17.

that I might have nothing to talk So much has happened that

:24:18.:24:20.

I have made my own list. It has been a truly dismal

:24:21.:24:27.

week for the Government. Ever since the Ozzy-shambles budget

:24:28.:24:33.

they have been in complete Her constituency and mine

:24:34.:24:37.

have similar attributes Fishing is important,

:24:38.:24:44.

and green energy offers While she has not yet knocked

:24:45.:24:47.

the Honorourable Member for Rhondda off his perch, she has

:24:48.:24:52.

shown she is a dab hand That said, Mr Speaker,

:24:53.:24:55.

as the Honourable Lady is in the hostile gang and it seems

:24:56.:24:59.

that the Honorourable Member for Rhondda has been neutered,

:25:00.:25:03.

she will have to put her skates on to get back in the good books

:25:04.:25:07.

of Captain Birdseye. And how about a debate

:25:08.:25:14.

on the importance of unity The SNP could lead it and others

:25:15.:25:16.

could learn about how to inspire The people of Scotland know

:25:17.:25:22.

we are a party that puts people first, not personal ambition,

:25:23.:25:29.

and that is why they are backing us Tasmina Ahmed-Shikh

:25:30.:25:32.

bringing us to our close. That's it, not just for this

:25:33.:25:35.

programme but for this term. MPs and peers are now

:25:36.:25:38.

off for two weeks. The daily round-up will be back

:25:39.:25:40.

when Parliament gets back, from me, Keith Macdougall,

:25:41.:25:47.

goodbye and have a good Easter.

:25:48.:25:50.

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