28/04/2016 Thursday in Parliament


28/04/2016

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday, presented by Keith Macdougall.


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Hello and welcome to Thursday In Parliament, are a look at the best

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of the day in the Commons and the Lords. On this programme, conspiracy

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theories strike the Commons. A leading campaigner for the British

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exit from the EU accuses ministers of doing deals to keep in with the

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trade unions. Mr Speaker, this stinks. This weeks as cash for

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questions. The row over anti-Semitism spills over into the

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Commons. I am sick and tired of people trying to explain it away,

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and yes, I am talking to you, Ken Livingstone. And

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an MP talks about life with her son who has autism. The slightest change

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in the house and all hell breaks loose. But first, the senior

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Conservative, Bernard Jenkin, has criticised the Government for making

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changes to the trade union Bill. Ministers had intended to bring in

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new rules on strike ballots, membership fees and political

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donations, but they have had a change of heart on many of these

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issues, asking what is known as an urgent question, Bernard Jenkin said

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that backtracking by ministers was out of line with what had been in

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the Conservative manifesto at the general election. It is now being

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reported on Channel 4 News and in today's papers that these unexpected

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concessions are linked to the question of a ?1.7 million donation

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the trade unions may make from their political funds which are now much

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larger than they would have been to the Labour Three main campaign. He

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referred to the former cabinet minister Alan Johnson, who chairs

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Labour In For Britain. He was trying to raise ?75,000 for some balloons

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and badges. Now they are getting ?1.7 billion. It has been confirmed

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to me to more than two independent sources that number ten instructed

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these concessions to be made after the discussions with trade union

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representatives. This being true, would amount to the sale of

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Government policy for cash and political figures. What would have

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been the reaction if a Labour Government had changed a bill in

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order to favour the Labour Party's ability to support the Government on

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some controversial policy and to give it money? Mr Speaker, this

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stinks. This weeks as the same as cash for questions. This shows this

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Government really is at the rotten heart of the EU. But the banister --

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Business Minister said the bill was in the process of being batted

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between the Commons at the Lords, sometimes called parliamentary

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ping-pong. The trade union Bill is now in ping-pong. That is customary.

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Ministers have held discussions with Shadow ministers to discuss possible

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compromises that would secure passage of the bill and delivery of

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the commitments made in the Conservative Party manifesto. On the

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basis of the amendments passed by this out yesterday evening, I can

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reassure my honourable friend that we are well on the way to securing

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all of our manifesto commitments. Labour welcomed the changes of heart

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by ministers. It would appear, at least partially, that the minister

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listened. Well done. But he should have listened earlier, and he needs

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to keep listening, actually. So can I ask you now to have a view more

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meetings with trade unions? Who made entirely reasonable proposals on

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online balloting and facility time that still remain in the bill. Mr

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Speaker, there is still time for him to think again. These benches are in

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complete opposition to the Trade Union Bill. Can the Minister confirm

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that the change to a piece of legislation that affects 6 million

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work use for the Government not to consult with those 6 million

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workers. There would be concerned if as part of the ping-pong process any

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Government at any time made concessions on a bill as a result of

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something that had nothing to do with that bill. My friend Mike is an

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honourable man and I'm sure he can confirm that no Government of which

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he was able heart would ever do that. -- honourable friend. I would

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just say to my right honourable friend that not every compromise is

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a conspiracy. This is a shabby political episode where the

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Government have been caught dilating trade union legislation to persuade

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the true genius to come on-board with the campaign to stay in the EU.

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Is it not now clear that the Government, big business, big banks,

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the BBC and is now the big trade are all ganging up on the British people

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to try to persuade them to stay in the EU? Now that the governments are

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responding to this barmy idea and that the Government are seemingly

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prepared to give way on different subjects, can I ask him what is the

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price for dropping this lousy, rotten Trade Union Bill altogether?

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Mr Speaker, it is the goal of my life to give pleasure to the

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honourable gentleman, but I have two, I am afraid, tell him that

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there is no price because we believe in this bill. We believe in our

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manifesto, and we are well on our way to delivering it. Nic Bowles.

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The crisis in the steel industry has come under scrutiny at a

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parliamentary committee. Last month, the owners of the Port Talbot

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steelworks put the steelworks up for sale. Many associated jobs are at

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risk as well as the jobs of the Tata Steel workers. The chief executive

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of Tata Steel UK has blamed high energy prices and business rates for

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the company's decision to sell its assets. The cheer of the Commons

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business committee asked about the timescale for sale. There is an

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article in the Financial Times this morning. Tata Steel buyers told to

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table offers by next week. The timescale seems a very, very short

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to be able to allow potential buyers to be able to pull things together.

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Why is the timetable so short? In fact, with the advisers that we have

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and which are world renowned advisers, they do believe that this

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is quite a liberal time frame compared to what administrators

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would do. So for the purposes of the committee's understanding, could you

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tell is the precise timescale? Are there particular milestones the

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company has along the way and what of those deadlines that potential

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buyers have to fulfil? We have indicated the time skills. I will

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have to look at the exact timescale for the different stages of the

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process, but there is no dead drop time that has been given, although

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you will appreciate that with the kind of losses that are there,

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urgency is important because we cannot continue to lose money. He

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was asked about Tata Steel's pension liability. What are the liabilities

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to the taxpayers should you determine that you can't any longer

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support the business? I think we need to be aware that first of all

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if this pension fund liability is not taking care of their is no buyer

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sitting up there to buy this business. And if we don't solve that

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problem, we are staring at some very, very bad consequences for the

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taxpayers of the UK. The Business Secretary was asked about the same

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issue. Do you agree there is a potential risk that the public purse

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is left holding the baby in terms of the pensions liability? No. That is

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not my focus. I don't think that is the big risk. What I do know is that

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there are already discussions taking place between the trustees of the

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pension plan, between the company, I know they have talked to the pension

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regulator, and they are working on a solution. What I am keen to do and

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we are involved in is striding to facilitate a solution in any way

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that we can. You don't think it is a risk? I don't think that is the

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major risk. She asked me about pensions. I can't be too detailed

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about the discussions that are going on, but given my knowledge of this

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-- the discussions, my focus is on how we can facilitate that but I do

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not sit here thinking that that is a big risk. Ian Wright also pressed

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the Business Secretary over why he had not gone to the Tata Steel board

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meeting in Mobile in March at which the decision to sell the UK business

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had been made. -- Mumbai. You look like you were really on the back

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foot after that more my meeting and announcement, scrambling around and

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looking to try to get the initiative rather than saying that we were

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aware of this and have been working with Tata Steel as a company and it

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is a secure transition to try to get a responsible seller. We saw none of

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that in the aftermath of the meeting. If people are interested in

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how things look, then that is a different issue. Business confidence

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is important in terms of perception as well. Of course perception is

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important, but frankly if my order -- if my and my advisers had turned

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up just before the meeting, that would have been too late. What is

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crucial is the work that is done before the meeting. If I want to

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turn up for a photo opportunity before the meeting, that may look

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great in the papers, but it would not have helped the workers of the

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situation. The crisis in the steel industry. Well, the controversy over

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anti-Semitism and the Labour Party has intensified over the last 24

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hours. An argument broke out inside the BBC premises in Westminster

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between the Labour MP John Mann and the one-time Mayor of London, Ken

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Livingstone. Go back and check what Hitler did. There is a book.

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Factually wrong. Racist remarks. The heated argument followed remarks

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made by Ken Livingstone and he defended the MP suspended this week

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by the Labour Party Nas Shah, who was reprimanded for commenting that

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is real should be moved to America. Ken Livingstone said that she had

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not been racist. As Passover ends on Saturday, let me say again, as

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clearly as I possibly can, anti-Semitism is wrong, end of

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story. I am sick and tired of people trying to explain it away and yes, I

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am talking to you, Ken Livingstone. Of course, the illegal settlements

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are wrong and the Palestinians deserve a better deal. Of course,

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rocket attacks on Jewish kibbutzim are wrong. It is no better when a

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senior politician looks at the president of the United States of

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America and only sees the colour of his skin and his part Kenyan

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ancestry, when Tory candidates run a deliberately racially charged

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campaign against Labour opponents. It is profoundly irresponsible and

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offends the fundamental decency of the British people, so I hope I

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speak for all sides of this house when I say racism and racial

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prejudice are simply not welcome in our political system or in our

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political parties. His opposite number focused on words used by the

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Labour MP. There has been naivete on these benches this morning. A member

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said this morning that she regarded the events as trial by Twitter and

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likened the events as tweaking a picture of an MP on a zip wire. She

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clearly does not understand the gravity of the situation. Despite

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the wise words of the shadow leader, and I respect him for it, although I

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profoundly disagree over what he said about my honourable friend, he

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makes a powerful point. He is a beacon of sense in his party on

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this, but where is the sense from the rest of these benches on what is

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a deeply, deeply serious matter? Chris Grayling. You are watching our

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round-up of the day in the Commons and the Lords. Still to come: MPs

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discuss how to stop drones being a hazard to commercial aircraft. There

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are more than half a million people with autism in the UK, according to

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official figures. That is around one in every hundred people, and if you

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include families, autism touches the daily lives of over 2 million

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people. To mark World Autism Awareness Week, the Commons has

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focused on aspects of dealing with the condition, the causes of which

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are not known, that have been under investigation for yields. -- four

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years. First, a Conservative spoke about

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her son, who has Asperger's syndrome. It was evident to me that

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my very bright and articulate boy was not like other boys of his age.

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He had an extraordinary high level of concentration and high reading

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skill and could converts with adults in a very unusual way. However, he

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was also very anxious, fearful of bright lights and unable to cope

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with anything unexpected in his day. Literally the slightest change in

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the time we left the house and all hell broke loose. Many great artists

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and writers have been on the spectrum, rather than those of us

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who are typical... They are vital to our growth as a

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nation both culturally and economically. The great Alan

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cheering's genius brought us the computer, possibly the greatest leap

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since the steam engine. -- Alan Turing. You read about his school

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years and they were truly awful. He was misunderstood throughout his

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life. We took a holiday to Disneyland Paris and the first few

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years Cinderella was out and about and we took her to meet her and her

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friends. But of course once she met the small characters, they were

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bigger than her and she could simply not cope with that, it was not what

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she had expected. Like other families, we spent the rest of the

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holiday checking where the characters would be on each and

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every day, to not to meet them but to find roots of avoiding them.

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Suddenly we saw everything was not quite as it should be, particularly

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taking him to things like swimming and football, and it is a very hard

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moment when you see that diagnosis and there is no denying there is a

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sense of anger, a sense of guilt, sometimes a sense of shame. But

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there is also sometimes a sense of relief. For many parents they will

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be looking for that diagnosis and that sense of relief that comes from

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that. Of course there are big consequences for family life. There

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is a lack of understanding of autism. Families face stigma and

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stereotypes and the complexion of autism is not understood. People

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with autism, high functioning people with autism, frequently have a high

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degree of focus, meaning that they can spot patterns or errors in data

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that are not readily recognised by other people. Making them attractive

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to employers for software firms. Even people more significantly

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affected by autism can also hold down jobs successfully, they often

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benefit from working in highly structured working environments,

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sometimes thriving on jobs of a repetitive nature. The debate to

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mark World Autism Awareness Week. The Government has been urged to

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regulate the use of drones after reports that a plane approaching

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Heathrow Airport was struck by one. The Transport Secretary has told MPs

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he was talking to the pilot's union BALPA and others but it is now

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thought the incident did not involve a drone. MPs continued to raise

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concerns. Shouldn't the Government hit the warning of Heathrow and

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instead of the rather complacent position taken up realise the ten

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shall for catastrophes by vandals or careless people using drones, but

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the dreadful possibility of terrorists using drones on nuclear

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power stations? Already drones are being used to sneak mobile phones

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and drugs into Wandsworth prison. Shouldn't the Government wake up and

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realise that this new menace is a potential great threat and take

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precautions in order to reduce the universal access to drones that

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exists now? Mr Speaker, there is no complacency whatsoever by the

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Government on the use of drones. As I said, there is a prison sentence

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which is available and that I will obviously keep the situation under

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review. But it is also important to find out the facts behind certain

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incidents. The incident that was reported on the 17th of April is now

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thought that that was not a drone incident. There are growing concerns

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about incidents involving drones which threaten public safety and it

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is not very clear if it is a problem to do with regulations themselves or

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the enforcement of those regulations. With the Secretary of

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State look at those issues? I certainly will. -- would the

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Secretary of State look at those issues? I certainly will. I had a

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planned meeting with BALPA to discuss this and also laser pen use

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and the problems that that is using for civil aviation in this country

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and I certainly will keep these things very much under review and do

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further work along with BALPA and the industry, the CAA, on drones and

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drone use. Can my honourable friend assure me that all regulations and

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guidance with regards to drones and air safety will apply and be

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communicated to airports outside London? Such as East Midlands

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Airport in my constituency, to make sure we have a consistent policy

:19:50.:19:53.

with regard to air safety across the country. Yes, I think my honourable

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friend gives a very good point, this is not just a matter for London

:19:58.:20:01.

airports but any airports. It's also a matter of the airports outside

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London, which are very important international connections right

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across the country. Mr Speaker, I hear what the Transport Secretary is

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saying about his engagement with airports but it's also an issue for

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stadiums, railway stations and other places where the public gathering

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huge numbers. Can he tell us what discussions he has had with the

:20:24.:20:27.

widest possible range of stakeholders, including for example

:20:28.:20:30.

local authorities on the use of drones? Well, Mr Speaker, the issue

:20:31.:20:36.

that I was addressing in this country is in this question was

:20:37.:20:41.

related to aviation. And that is the point that I have updated the house

:20:42.:20:45.

on. Of course there are wider issues right across the Government and the

:20:46.:20:48.

Government keeps these matters consistently under review. With the

:20:49.:20:54.

ministers say in a written answer that he's not even going to consult

:20:55.:20:58.

on anything until the European aviation agency has not decided

:20:59.:21:04.

itself what to do? All of this while there are reports of drones hitting

:21:05.:21:08.

aircraft and drones being and over London altogether when President

:21:09.:21:12.

Obama is in town. Other countries have already brought in other

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initiatives so when are we going to see some real proposals from the

:21:16.:21:18.

Government without having to wait for a US president to come to town?

:21:19.:21:24.

Mr Speaker, I think the point the honourable member made in his

:21:25.:21:27.

question, he said it might have been. Governments don't legislate on

:21:28.:21:33.

what might be, they act on what are the dangers. As I've said, we are in

:21:34.:21:38.

discussions with BALPA, the airline pilots's union, as well as the CAA

:21:39.:21:44.

as to the right way to develop this. If you will remember me saying all

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drones should be banned completely, that is something they never thought

:21:50.:21:54.

about when they were in office. Patrick McLoughlin. The Government

:21:55.:21:56.

has been accused of blatant rationing of treatment for patients

:21:57.:22:01.

with the blood-borne virus hepatitis C. The claim was in the Lords, as

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peers called for more sufferers to be given a drug. ... Chronically

:22:12.:22:22.

infected with hepatitis C virus. The deaths of cancer Jude to the virus

:22:23.:22:26.

in under 60s doubled in the last decade. We have a treatment, a drug

:22:27.:22:32.

that is effective in both successfully reducing the disease as

:22:33.:22:37.

it reduces the viral load in 98% of patients treated to virtually zero

:22:38.:22:42.

in the whole spectrum of the gene of the hepatitis C virus. It has the

:22:43.:22:45.

potential to eradicate the disease in the population. In that scenario,

:22:46.:22:51.

why would we only treat 10,000 patients per year, as the guidance

:22:52.:22:56.

says, for the next two years? There are clear budgetary constraints

:22:57.:23:02.

here. 220,000 people is the number that the Lord mentions, I thought it

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was slightly lower, this may cost many tens of thousands of pounds per

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treatment and clearly, however much we would like to treat 220,000

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people, it's just not feasible to do so. Good my honourable friend the

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kind enough to tell the house what the 200,000 people who will not

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receive treatment this year are expected to do? How long they are

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expected to wait for treatment? Bearing in mind that most or many of

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them will develop cirrhosis or liver cancer and go on to die, how much it

:23:35.:23:37.

would cost the taxpayer and the National Health Service to care for

:23:38.:23:42.

and treat each one of those patients through to death and how much less

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it is than the cost of providing treatment today? My lord, there are

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many people who suffer from hepatitis C who are asymptomatic and

:23:51.:23:55.

don't actually know that they've got hepatitis C will stop the figure of

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220,000, I don't know if that figure is true or not. But people who do

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have it can have treatment using interferon, the drug, which is an

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extremely unpleasantly than bagging take up to a year and have many

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side-effects. In some ways it is a miracle drug but it is incredibly

:24:20.:24:23.

expensive. We have to accept not just with hepatitis C but many

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cancer treatment as well, there are some drugs that are similar going to

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be too expensive to spend on large and other people. If there are large

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budgetary constraints, surely those victims who are infected by state

:24:36.:24:39.

action should have priority? Is the noble Lord aware that there are many

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Welsh patients were infected with contaminated blood in English

:24:45.:24:48.

hospitals and they are now being used in a game of pass the parcel

:24:49.:24:52.

between the UK Government and the Welsh Government. Can he now say

:24:53.:24:57.

what was agreed at the meeting on the 24th of March between his

:24:58.:25:02.

officials and officials of the Welsh Government, because patients in

:25:03.:25:05.

Wales have not been able to get an answer from the Acting Chief Medical

:25:06.:25:09.

Officer of the Welsh Government about this, or perhaps he could

:25:10.:25:16.

write to me. My Lords, the basis of making available this new drug for

:25:17.:25:23.

hepatitis C is based... Not the route of infection. There is a

:25:24.:25:26.

consultation going about whether a special fund might be established

:25:27.:25:30.

for those who have received infected blood. I can't answer specifically

:25:31.:25:33.

on the issue about the Welsh people but I will write about it. That's it

:25:34.:25:41.

for this programme. Join me for the Week in Parliament when we not only

:25:42.:25:44.

look back at the last few days in the Commons and the Lords but also

:25:45.:25:48.

report on why the familiar chimes of Big Ben may not be ringing out soon.

:25:49.:25:54.

Until then, from me, Keith McDougall, goodbye.

:25:55.:25:56.

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