21/04/2016 Thursday in Parliament


21/04/2016

Highlights of Thursday 21 April in Parliament, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Hello there and welcome to Thursday in Parliament,

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where MPs and peers paid tributes to the Queen on her 90th birthday.

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Let this be a day of thanksgiving and much rejoicing

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for Her Majesty's birthday.

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Long live the Queen.

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After the recent scrutiny of his private life,

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the culture secretary says he still believes in the freedom

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of the press.

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And the verdict is read out on a peer who double-claimed

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mileage expenses.

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He be suspended from the House for eight months and required to repay

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the ?756 he wrongly claimed.

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But first MPs and peers have paid tribute to the Queen as the monarch

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celebrates her 90th birthday.

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Crowds lined the streets in Windsor as Her Majesty took

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part in the walkabout.

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Some had been waiting for four hours to catch a glmipse of the Queen

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on the day she became the nation's first ever 90-year-old monarch.

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In the Commons, the Prime Minister led the tributes.

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No other country has a head of state with such

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wisdom and such patience.

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Mr Speaker, there are some who say at times I may put that

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patience to the test.

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In the play The Audience, the character who portrays me goes

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on and on about Europe so long that she falls asleep.

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I can guarantee this has never happened.

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I may not have kept my promise not to bang on about Europe at every

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forum but this is certainly the one where I try the hardest.

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In 90 years, Her Majesty's lived through some extraordinary times

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in our world.

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From the Second World War, when her parents were nearly killed

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as bombs dropped on Buckingham Palace, to the rations

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with which she bought the material for her wedding dress.

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From presenting the World Cup to England at Wembley in 1966 to man

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landing on the moon three years later.

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From the end of the Cold War to peace in Northern Ireland.

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Throughout it all as the sands of culture shift and the tides

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of politics ebb and flow Her Majesty has been steadfast.

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Jeremy Corbyn spoke about a planned visit from the Queen

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to North London.

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In 2006, she was due to open the new Emirates Stadium

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in my constituency but had to pull out through injury.

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Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, this is a fate that has affected far

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too many of Arsenal's squad in subsequent years.

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So we must congratulate her on her prescience.

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My honourable friend the member for Hornsey and Wood Green was then

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the leader of the council and as the Queen could not attend

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the opening they were invited to Buckingham Palace

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and she accompanied the whole squad to Buckingham Palace

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to meet the Queen.

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We know the Queen is absolutely above politics, she may

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be above football too, but many locals harbour this quiet

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secret view that she's actually privately a Gooner.

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Throughout the decades of her reign, she has been a regular

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visitor across Scotland.

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For me, the most remarkable events have been in recent years,

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including the 1999 reopening of this Scottish Parliament after a recess

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of nearly 300 years.

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Who can forget the entire chamber, all MSPs of all parties,

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the public gallery, Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh

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all singing Man's A Man For All That by Robert Burns?

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She has seen technological advances, from when a telegram or radio

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programme was a thing of great excitement to the prevalence

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of satellite television, the iPhone and letters

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being supplanted by e-mail.

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But through all those years of change and upheaval one thing has

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been a constant and that has been Her Majesty's selfless service

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to Britain, admired both at home and around the world for constant

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and consistent advocacy of Britain at its best.

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I've always been so proud to share the date of my birth with our

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monarch and when I was a little girl in Cardiff my father used to kid me

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that the 24-gun salute was in fact for me.

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I did find out very shortly that it was for a much

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more important lady.

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This morning when I was buying my muffin in Portcullis House I noticed

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on the coin with which I paid Elizabeth II but today is not

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about the Elizabeth on the coins, today

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is about the Elizabeth in our hearts.

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Bleurgh.

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She is of course Her Majesty The Queen.

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The Commons also heard from the grandson of the former

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Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

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On the night of the 4th of April 1955, on the eve of his resignation

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as Prime Minister, Churchill gave a dinner at Number Ten

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in honour of the Queen.

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It was agreed between the private offices that there

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would be no speeches.

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But the Queen, greatly moved by the impending retirement

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of her first Prime Minister, who she had known since

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she was a very small child, rose in her place and lifted her

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glass with the toast, "To my Prime Minister."

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And Churchill, a very old man, in the full dress evening uniform

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of a Knight of the Garter completely unprepared pulled himself

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to his feet and this is what he said to the Queen.

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He said, Madam, I propose a toast to your Majesty,

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I used to drink as an officer in the Fourth Hussars

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at Bangalore in India in the reign of your Majesty's

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great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria and I drink

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to the wise and kindly way of life of which your Majesty is the young

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and gleaming champion.

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Through 90 years of her life and 64 years of her reign she has

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always been the same.

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Nicholas Soames.

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The Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has said his faith

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in press freedom has been tested to the utmost but despite

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the scrutiny of his private life he told MPs he still believed

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in press freedom and that it was vitally important.

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Last week the BBC's Newsnight programme revealed that

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four newspapers knew about John Whittingdale's

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relationship with a former sex worker but had decided not

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to publish the story.

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Tonight John Whittingdale confirmed to this programme he had had

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a relationship with a woman who turned out unbeknownst

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to him to be a sex worker.

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Campaigners accuse newspapers of sitting on the story

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in order to exert leverage over John Whittingdale,

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who's in charge of press regulation.

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Following the Newsnight report, the newspapers did run the story

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publishing further details about his private life.

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This session of culture questions was Mr Whittingdale's first

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appearance in the Commons since and his first task

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was to answer a question from another MP who has also

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experienced press coverage of his private affairs.

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Simon Danczuk asked about a law that allows courts to force newspapers

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that are not signed up to the approved regulator to pay

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all legal costs even where the paper has won the case.

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The Secretary of State must realise that press abuse victims want him

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to implement section 40, indeed even the Prime Minister

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personally promised victims of press abuse and this House that it

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would be enacted.

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Why is the Secretary of State breaking the Prime Minister's

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promise?

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I have considerable sympathy with the victims of press abuse

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and I've had a number of meetings with himself and with others

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who are rightly following this matter with great interest.

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I would say that, having had my faith perhaps

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tested to the utmost, I still believe that press freedom

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is a vitally important component of a free society.

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We should tread very carefully however.

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The recommendations of the Leveson report, some have already been

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implemented and the new system is coming into effect,

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the exemplary damages provisions of section 40 you will be aware have

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been enacted now.

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The remainder are still under consideration.

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We do not yet have a recognised press regulator in place

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but we will continue to consider these matters very carefully.

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Implementation of these cost incentives was promised by the then

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Culture Secretary, they were promised as a key part

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of the Leveson report, agreed by the Prime Minister,

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and not only by parliament but also victims of press abuse including

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the family of Madeline McCann.

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In signalling already that he has no intention of taking this step,

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has the Secretary of State reflected very much at all that he is not only

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thwarting parliament, breaching a cross-party agreement,

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but also breaking a firm and clear promise made by the Prime Minister

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and his colleagues?

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I would just say to the honourable gentleman, first of all I have not

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indicated that I have no intention.

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I simply said I was not minded which means that the matter

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is still under consideration and my mind and that

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of my colleagues is open on the matter.

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A culture minister tried to introduce some jollity.

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While we are on anniversaries may I also congratulate

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Charlotte Bronte on her 200th anniversary which falls today.

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I don't see anything wrong with congratulating her.

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Shall I get on with it?

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We've done a lot.

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I also want to welcome and congratulate Ofcom's digital

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communications review, which is not 200 years old,

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in fact it is extremely fresh, staright out of the box and it's

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going to promote and petition and we've issued a very clear

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statement that we will back Ofcom all the way on this.

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I'm starting to realise why this department is known

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as the Ministry for Fun.

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We all know the Secretary of State has been distracted from doing his

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job as Culture Secretary by his extracurricular activities.

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I'm talking about his moonlighting for

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the Leave campaign.

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Maria Eagle.

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You're watching the Today in Parliament with me.

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A peer has been suspended from the House of Lords for eight

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months over the double-claiming of hundreds of pounds of expenses.

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Lord Bhatia was found to have claimed mileage in the Lords on 63

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occasions while also claiming from another organisation.

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It's the second time he's been suspended from the House having been

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barred for eight months in October 2010 for wrongly claiming over

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?27,000 in overnight allowances and mileage expenses.

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The ruling was announced by a senior peer.

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The commission found that he breached the House's rules

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on financial support for members and so breached the code of conduct.

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The commissioner also found that in not being scrupulous

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about the claims, Lord Bhatia, and I quote, failed to act

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on his personal honour, end of quote.

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The subcommittee on his conduct recommended that the Lord be

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suspended from the House for eight months and required to repay

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the ?756 he wrongly claimed.

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The proposal to suspend him was agreed unanimously.

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How much help is the government giving to Iraqi troops fighting

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against so-called Islamic State?

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The UK already provides Iraqi forces with training

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and the Defence Secretary recently authorised an offer for 30 extra

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troops to provide training in areas such as logistics

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and bridge building.

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That means in total there are over 300 UK personnel involved

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in training inside Iraq.

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Replying to a question on their role, here we're told

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what kind of operations they are involved in.

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Since December 2014, UK military personnel have helped

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to train over 12,000 individuals with infantry skills,

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weapons maintenance techniques, and counter-IED and

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combat medicine combat techniques.

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We expect this effort to continue in the coming year.

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The pace of training reflects the Iraqi

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government's ability to identify personnel and units, not currently

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committed to offensive operations who are therefore able to attend

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training in the subjects we offer.

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Daesh or Islamic State, call it what you will,

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is waging war, as your Lordships no, not just in Iraq but

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also in Syria, Libya and, indeed, against the whole west.

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It is incumbent on nations such as ourselves and indeed it is in our

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own interests to assist in the battle

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against this brutal organisation.

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So, will my noble friend the Minister, tell the house

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what progress is being made with our assistance in Iraq in the war

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against Daesh?

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With coalition support, Iraqi security forces have

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taken around 40% of the populated areas that Daesh once held in Iraq,

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including Tikrit, Sinjar, and Ramadi.

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While were hit is now being cleared of Daesh remnants.

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We've been, also, striking elsewhere in northern Iraq, predominantly

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on Daesh's is lines of communication to support the Iraqi forces.

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Preparing for the retaking of Mosul.

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We will continue to provide vital as a port,

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as well as specialist training and equipment, as I mentioned.

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Can the Minister say if the troops deployed

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on training are embedded forces?

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Which, according to this statement

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issued by the Defence Secretary on Monday would put them under Iraqi

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command, and would mean that they could become

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combat ants without the British parliament

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being told about it.

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My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State

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for Defence made a written note to which the noble Lord will refer.

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He made it clear that embedded forces are

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not included in the convention that has grown up since 2011, bringing...

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When troops are sent to conflict zones, bringing that to

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the House of Commons.

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He has acknowledged that transparency is needed and those

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embedded forces are made public, where they are, and who they work

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for, once a year.

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At the moment, thereafter 177 embedded forces

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throughout the world.

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Staying with the battle against so-called Islamic

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State, the government has come under pressure

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to take action against the group for conducting

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a campaign of genocide.

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In the Commons on Wednesday, MPs voted by 278 votes to none

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favour of a demand that the government refer IS to the United

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Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court.

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In the Lords, a crossbench or independent

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peer wanted to know what ministers were going to do in the light of

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that decisive vote in the House of Commons.

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Given the unanimous vote, 278 votes to zero, following similar

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declarations in the United States House

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of Representatives,

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the European Parliament, and in

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the Parliamentary assembly of the

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Council of Europe, wouldn't it be almost

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a contempt of Parliament, my Lords, for the government to simply

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say that this is non-binding and that they have no

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intention of following

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the will of Parliament in taking this matter to

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the Security Council so that those

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responsible for these horrendous crimes will one day

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meet their Nuremberg moment and be held accountable.

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My Lords, I bear in mind victims of Daesh who I have personally met,

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both here and in Iraq, my Lords, I'm not going

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to therefore get involved in what may

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or may not be the procedural niceties.

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What I will say is that the duties clearly a matter for

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judicial authority to determine whether genocide has taken place.

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The Prime Minister has taken a view and has

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said, and I'm aware that the Prime Minister has

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written to the noble Lord on this,

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the pragmatist said:

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"genocide is a matter of legal, rather than

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political, opinion."

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We, as the government, are not the prosecutor, judge, or the

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jury, my Lords, we may not be all of those things, but I say

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to Daesh and the perpetrators, we have a long memory,

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we have allies, we are working with the government of Iraq,

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we will not forget and the perpetrators will pay the price.

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The noble lady said it's not a matter for politicians,

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is she aware of article eight of the Genocide Convention

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which says, I quote, "Any contracting party may call

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upon the competent organs of the

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United Nations to take such action

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under the Charter as they consider appropriate for the prevention and

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suppression of acts of genocide."

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Why would the government not do that?

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My Lords, because it is the government's view that in order

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to hold out hope to people who have suffered from the violence of Daesh,

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one has to be reasonably sure of achieving agreement

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within the United Nations.

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Were not confident that agreement currently exists.

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That is why we want to make progress with discussions.

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The transport minister says there shouldn't be an overreaction

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to a reported drone strike on a passenger plane

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approaching Heathrow Airport.

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A police investigation was launched after the aircraft

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was hit on Sunday.

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If confirmed, it would be the first such incident incident in the UK.

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Flying a drone near an airport can already be punished with

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up to five years in prison and rules also forbid

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flying them beyond the direct unaided line

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of sight of the operator,

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or near buildings, and crowds of people.

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Drones may also not be flown above 400 feet or, or 122 metres,

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and the US has recently introduced a compulsory registration

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scheme so that any drone recovered from an accident can be traced back

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to its owner.

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Robert Goodwill told a Lords committee that it wasn't

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confirmed that the strike on Sunday had been by a drone.

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It was the local police force that tweeted that

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they had reports of a drone striking an aircraft

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and, indeed, the early reports of a dint

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in the front of the plane were not confirmed.

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There was no actual damage to the plane and, indeed,

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it may have even been a plastic bag or something.

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As somebody who has landed the simulator of a 747,

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the pilot has a lot of other things to concentrate on so we're not quite

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sure what they saw.

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I think we should not overreact too much.

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But there have been some incidents, number of which are of

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great concern.

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Our primary responsibility as government is the security of our

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citizens, that's why we have one of the highest regulatory safety

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standards for commercial airlines in the world.

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Now, there are already existing laws in place that require

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users of drones to maintain direct unaided visual contact with that

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vehicle and not to recklessly or negligently cause that aircraft to

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endanger any person or property.

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These incidents that we read about, or

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alleged incidents, were already breaking existing regulations.

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Indeed, the departments and the Civil Aviation Authority

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are working with a wide range of partners

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across the sector, including manufacturers, airport, and airlines

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to ensure our understanding of potential hazards for aircraft

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remains up to date.

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Now, to business questions in the Commons.

0:20:450:20:47

As ever, the leader of the house, Chris Grayling, faced questions from

0:20:470:20:50

across the house on a wide range of subjects.

0:20:500:20:52

And, as ever, his Labour shadow Chris Bryant was the first to speak.

0:20:520:20:59

He took the opportunity to pay a warm tribute to the comedian,

0:20:590:21:04

writer, and musician Victoria Wood, whose

0:21:040:21:06

death was announced on Wednesday.

0:21:060:21:12

I don't know what your favourite line was, Mr Speaker, mine

0:21:120:21:15

was her definition of middle age.

0:21:150:21:19

It's when you walk past a Dr Scholl shop and think,

0:21:190:21:21

"those look comfy."

0:21:210:21:22

Perhaps was her sitting at the piano belting out,

0:21:220:21:24

"Let's do it, let's do it not sweetly, not meekly

0:21:240:21:28

Beat me on the bottom with a Woman's Weekly!

0:21:280:21:31

Which does sound like a good time had

0:21:310:21:33

by all at the Tory party awayday last week.

0:21:330:21:35

Having taken his

0:21:350:21:36

traditional swipe at the Conservatives, Mr Bryant moved

0:21:360:21:40

on to a report published at the start of

0:21:400:21:43

the week calling for changes into how the Commons deals

0:21:430:21:45

with bills put forward by backbench MPs, known as

0:21:450:21:47

private members bills.

0:21:470:21:48

Mr Speaker, we've already heard that the

0:21:480:21:50

procedure committee has published its report on private

0:21:500:21:52

members bills and the chairman is quite right, we

0:21:520:21:54

think, when he says the system is completely bust and in the last

0:21:540:21:58

chance saloon.

0:21:580:21:59

I have noted the comments from the deputy leader who

0:21:590:22:01

seemed very hesitant about reform and the leader who seemed a bit more

0:22:010:22:05

inclined towards reform but will the leader now guarantee

0:22:050:22:07

that the house will get a proper chance

0:22:070:22:10

to debate the changes to standing orders

0:22:100:22:13

and I don't just mean some insubstantial debate but a proper

0:22:130:22:15

debate that can lead to change.

0:22:150:22:19

The Bills are traditionally debated on a

0:22:190:22:21

Friday but are often talked out by ministers or other MPs.

0:22:210:22:23

This is a thoughtful report, this is a welcome report, there is a lot

0:22:230:22:27

of fruitful thought in it and we will respond

0:22:270:22:29

in due course but I want to read it carefully.

0:22:290:22:31

I want to decide how best to respond but I will respond

0:22:310:22:34

properly in due course, as he would expect.

0:22:340:22:37

Finally, let's return to those tributes to mark

0:22:370:22:39

the Queen's 90th birthday.

0:22:390:22:42

It wasn't just MPs who wanted to send their best wishes.

0:22:420:22:52

Peers too were keen to relive their encounters and give

0:22:560:22:59

their own warm words.

0:22:590:23:00

What is truly remarkable about Her Majesty's commitment is

0:23:000:23:02

that she continues to serve with

0:23:020:23:04

a zest and undimmed sense of public duty.

0:23:040:23:07

Last year, she carried out 306 engagements in the UK

0:23:070:23:10

and 35 overseas, a workload that would be daunting

0:23:100:23:12

to someone even half her age.

0:23:120:23:13

Several peers spoke of the Queen's experiences during

0:23:130:23:15

the Second World War.

0:23:150:23:16

With thousands of other young women, she qualified as a mechanic

0:23:160:23:19

and a driver with the ATS.

0:23:190:23:21

For The Times, it was quite bold and daring for a princess

0:23:210:23:24

and not a decision that the government were at all happy about,

0:23:240:23:27

believing that the most important training

0:23:270:23:29

should be as heir to the throne, not as a mechanic.

0:23:290:23:31

Her determination and persistence, insisting that she wanted to serve

0:23:310:23:36

her country, was a clear indication that she would become a Queen

0:23:360:23:39

who would bring her own style and make her own way.

0:23:390:23:43

Throughout the huge amount of change that this country

0:23:430:23:46

has experienced in the last 90 years,

0:23:460:23:48

Her Majesty has been constant,

0:23:480:23:49

standing with her people, whether it be in times

0:23:490:23:51

of tragedy, or times of joy.

0:23:510:23:54

Her unwavering sense of duty supported

0:23:540:23:56

for over 68 years by the Duke of Edinburgh and her commitment

0:23:560:24:01

to the service and welfare of

0:24:010:24:05

the people of this country is surely an inspiration to us all.

0:24:050:24:08

One peer recalled a reception he'd attended.

0:24:080:24:10

My collegue had the misfortune to be in the process

0:24:100:24:12

of eating a large biscuit.

0:24:120:24:14

Something was bound to go wrong and, indeed, it did.

0:24:140:24:17

When he turned around he was so astonished

0:24:170:24:21

to see her standing beside him that he dropped his biscuit

0:24:210:24:23

onto the floor and right next to Her Majesty's feet.

0:24:230:24:30

With her great sense of humour, Her Majesty was most amused.

0:24:300:24:35

Since Her Majesty took the throne, there have been seven Archbishops

0:24:350:24:40

of Canterbury and seven archbishops of York.

0:24:400:24:50

What Her Majesty has made all the richly diverse and

0:24:520:24:54

eclectic selection of primates will no doubt be never revealed.

0:24:540:24:56

All that I can say from those of the

0:24:560:24:59

archbishops of whom I have known, is that those archbishops like me

0:24:590:25:01

valued at her support, interest, and faithfulness more than it is

0:25:010:25:04

possible to describe.

0:25:040:25:09

There are very few other people to whom an

0:25:090:25:12

archbishop can look in his heart, knowing that his confidences will go

0:25:120:25:16

no farther and certain that at the end of the conversation

0:25:160:25:19

he will go away, affirmed and encouraged.

0:25:190:25:22

Let this be a day of thanksgiving and

0:25:220:25:28

much rejoicing for Her Majesty's birthday.

0:25:280:25:30

Long live the Queen.

0:25:300:25:31

Here, here.

0:25:310:25:40

Which rousing birthday wishes brings us to the of this edition of

0:25:400:25:43

the programme.

0:25:430:25:44

Do join us on Friday night at 11 when I look back at the

0:25:440:25:47

week here at Westminster when we talk to one here about why the

0:25:470:25:51

government's Housing Bill is coming in for such

0:25:510:25:52

stiff opposition in the Lords.

0:25:530:25:54

But, until then, from me, goodbye.

0:25:540:26:04

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