24/03/2016 Thursday in Parliament


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


of the day in the Commons, the last day before


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


This is an awful game of brinkmanship and the government must


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


hostage by a union that refuses to negotiate.


An MP places a wager with a Secretary of State.


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


without even more public subsidy being offered.


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


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


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


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


walkout from hospitals. That was the verdict


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


have been locked in battle with the Government over


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


is that the new contracts require Three strikes have been


held since January. But during the next series


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


providing emergency cover. The Health Minister said


the Government would do all in its power to make sure


patients were protected. Given that patients presenting at


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


action taken by the BMA will inevitably put patients in harms


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


Saturdays are paid is not only regrettable, it is entirely


disproportionate and highly irresponsible. We are in the


position of being faced with a trade union escalating strike action


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


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


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


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


that refuses to negotiate. He said the Government had been


forced, with regret, We will be presenting the new


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


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


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


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


strike for what it is. This report should add that


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


of brinkmanship and the government must press the pause button before


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


clearly whether it supports or condemns the action. Does my


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


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


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


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


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


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


implore the Minister to get background that table for the sake


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


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


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


Government has this week decided the best way to reform disability


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


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


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


doctors? Given the responsible announcement yesterday by the BMA


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


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


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


line for emergency medicine so that emergency doctors are prevented from


taking action as irresponsible and appalling of this in future.


Eight days have gone by since the Budget statement,


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


The row over disability benefits, prompting the resignation


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


that the Chancellor clearly hoped would make the headlines,


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


drinks, particularly fizzy drinks, popular among teenagers.


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


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


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


At the Treasury committee, the Chancellor was asked


if he was prepared to back the move in court.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


think it will make a huge improvement to childhood health.


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


much supported by the health profession and the education


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


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


that companies have two years to reformulate products or change their


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


to disability benefits, In the process of the budget you


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


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


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


also the content? Obviously attention has focused on the changes


that were proposed to personal independence payments just prior to


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


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


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


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


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


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


Another Labour MP wondered how the chancellor would


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


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


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


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


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


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


will be seeking to make good progress and introducing the welfare


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


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


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


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


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


the reductions in welfare spending beyond what we have already


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


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


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


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


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


trust politicians in general and perhaps you in particular if you


refuse to answer what are pretty important questions, particularly


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


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


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


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


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


The doubts remain over whether a new nuclear power station


will ever be built at Hinkley Point, in Somerset.


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


confirm its commitment to build the new ?24 billion reactor


unless the French government came up with more money.


On Wednesday a French government spokesman said a final decision


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


a Labour MP was in a gambling frame of mind.


The government has already offered ridiculously large subsidies


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


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


Will the Secretary of State take that bet?


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


in the habit of taking bets across the chamber.


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


completely confident that the Hinkley Point C project


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


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


of the French and Chinese governments.


If the French government decides not to offer up more money


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


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


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


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


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


If she had paid attention during the Budget she might have


heard the Chancellor announce further support for small modular


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


Is the intention of this government to build Hinkley Point C


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


It is for EDF to build Hinkley Point C.


That is why we have put the arrangement in place


where we only pay when the electricity is generated.


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


generating that electricity when we will start paying


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


Mike Gapes has been giving MPs in Westminster Hall a vivid


description of HIS first-hand experience of the National Health


He became seriously ill five months ago.


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


And my friend and neighbour referred to my extended break.


It was not voluntary, it was not by choice.


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


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


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


the events occurr that evening in November.


And I was rushed by ambulance initially to Chelsea


and Westminster Hospital, where I collapsed, and they scanned


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


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


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


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


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


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


"we have injected you with anaesthetic but do you mind


"Because we have to start straightaway.


"The anaesthetic will take a moment to work."


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


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


Five and a half weeks in the intensive care unit.


Nearly three of which I was in an induced coma.


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


tracheostomy, which is an interesting experience whereby


permanently inside you, or it seems like eminently.


Fortunately it is not there any more.


I also had other operations whilst I was there.


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


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


some stents which might cause some competitions.


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


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


MPS are urging the government to rethink its decision to close


a fifth of courts in England and Wales.


The plans are part of reforms to modernise courts and reduce


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


stringency. But no economic rationale has been provided despite


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


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


Government defends itself by claiming that courts are underused,


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


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


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


which will effectively result in the cost of providing justice been


passed from the state to the individual engaging with the justice


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


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


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


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


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


be an alternative building in the near vicinity.


But not everyone was against the idea:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


21st-century. There'll be two parliamentary


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


of the Sheffield Labour MP Harry Harpham, and decision


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


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


the writ in the Commons, in the traditional way,


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


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


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


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


his election to the said constituency has been appointed to


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


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


on the same day as elections to the Welsh Assembly,


Scottish Parliament and local councils in England,


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


a regular opportunity for some humorous exchanges in the chamber


between the Leader of the Commons, Chris Grayling,


and his opposite number Chris But this week it was


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


she made a passing reference to the internal Labour party list


seized on by David Cameron at Prime Minister's


Questions on Wednesday. This list placed Labour MPs


in different categories, such as, 'Hostile',


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


we have three women speaking for their parties in


Business Questions, and I will be doing my best to


avoid being hostile. When I found out that


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


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


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


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


they have been in complete Her constituency and mine


have similar attributes Fishing is important,


and green energy offers While she has not yet knocked


the Honorourable Member for Rhondda off his perch, she has


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


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


that the Honorourable Member for Rhondda has been neutered,


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


of Captain Birdseye. And how about a debate


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


could learn about how to inspire The people of Scotland know


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


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


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


programme but for this term. MPs and peers are now


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


when Parliament gets back, from me, Keith Macdougall,


goodbye and have a good Easter.


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