28/04/2016 Thursday in Parliament


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


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


theories strike the Commons. A leading campaigner for the British


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Conservative, Bernard Jenkin, has criticised the Government for making


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


new rules on strike ballots, membership fees and political


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


referred to the former cabinet minister Alan Johnson, who chairs


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


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


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


these concessions to be made after the discussions with trade union


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


Government policy for cash and political figures. What would have


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


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


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


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


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


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


between the Commons at the Lords, sometimes called parliamentary


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


Ministers have held discussions with Shadow ministers to discuss possible


compromises that would secure passage of the bill and delivery of


the commitments made in the Conservative Party manifesto. On the


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


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


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


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


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


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


meetings with trade unions? Who made entirely reasonable proposals on


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


a conspiracy. This is a shabby political episode where the


Government have been caught dilating trade union legislation to persuade


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


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


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


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


responding to this barmy idea and that the Government are seemingly


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


is quite a liberal time frame compared to what administrators


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


tell is the precise timescale? Are there particular milestones the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


there are already discussions taking place between the trustees of the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Factually wrong. Racist remarks. The heated argument followed remarks


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


senior politician looks at the president of the United States of


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


ancestry, when Tory candidates run a deliberately racially charged


campaign against Labour opponents. It is profoundly irresponsible and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


clearly does not understand the gravity of the situation. Despite


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


years. First, a Conservative spoke about


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


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


He had an extraordinary high level of concentration and high reading


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


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


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


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


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


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


nation both culturally and economically. The great Alan


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


holiday checking where the characters would be on each and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


stereotypes and the complexion of autism is not understood. People


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


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


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


to employers for software firms. Even people more significantly


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


benefit from working in highly structured working environments,


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


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


regulate the use of drones after reports that a plane approaching


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


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


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


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


instead of the rather complacent position taken up realise the ten


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


the dreadful possibility of terrorists using drones on nuclear


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


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


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


precautions in order to reduce the universal access to drones that


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


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


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


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


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


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


about incidents involving drones which threaten public safety and it


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


the enforcement of those regulations. With the Secretary of


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


communicated to airports outside London? Such as East Midlands


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


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


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


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


London, which are very important international connections right


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


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


stadiums, railway stations and other places where the public gathering


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


widest possible range of stakeholders, including for example


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


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


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


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


Government keeps these matters consistently under review. With the


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


on anything until the European aviation agency has not decided


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


aircraft and drones being and over London altogether when President


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


has been accused of blatant rationing of treatment for patients


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


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


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


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


that is effective in both successfully reducing the disease as


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


many people who suffer from hepatitis C who are asymptomatic and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


budgetary constraints, surely those victims who are infected by state


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


Welsh patients were infected with contaminated blood in English


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


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


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


officials and officials of the Welsh Government, because patients in


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


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


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


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


consultation going about whether a special fund might be established


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


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


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


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


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


Until then, from me, Keith McDougall, goodbye.


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