05/05/2016 Thursday in Parliament


05/05/2016

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 5 May, presented by Keith Macdougall.


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Hello, and welcome to Thursday In Parliament,

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our look at the best of the day

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in the Commons and the Lords.

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On this programme, a minister annonces a pause in the

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introduction of controversial new contracts for junior doctors.

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Peers react positively.

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My Lords, I am surprised but delighted after the

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initial news this morning.

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The public will greatly welcome the magnanimity

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of Her Majesty's Government.

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Of course, I would make the point that most junior doctors

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work seven days a week anyway.

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There's condemnation of David Cameron's tactics

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at Prime Minister's Questions.

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Yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions showed to

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me, if to nobody else, that there ain't no gutter low

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enough for the Prime Minister to slop around in.

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And the moment the Farming Minister had

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to state a Government position he doesn't agree with.

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The Government position is that we should remain in

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the European Union.

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You will also be aware that I have exercised the option

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granted by the PM to disagree with the Government on this

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particular issue.

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But first, a breakthrough in the long-running

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junior doctors dispute in England has been

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signalled in the House of Lords.

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Many thousands of hospital operations have been postponed in

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the several days of strike action carried out by the junior doctors,

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who are unhappy about new working contracts.

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In particular, they are asking for improved rates of pay

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for weekend working.

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Two months ago, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said

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he would impose the new contract if no agreement was reached.

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A health minister in the House of Lords has

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announced an important new development in the dispute.

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My Lords, my right honourable friend,

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the Secretary of State for Health, will write to the Academy of Medical

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Royal Colleges later this morning explaining that we are willing to

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pause introduction of the new contract for five days from Monday,

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should the Junior Doctors Committee agree to focus discussion on the

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outstanding contractual issues, namely unsocial hours

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and Saturday pay.

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My Lords, I am surprised but delighted after the initial news

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this morning that the Department of Health has agreed to enter into

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discussions with the junior doctors.

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I hope that both sides will enter this discussion in the spirit of

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finding a resolution, rather than finding faults

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in the discussions.

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I'm sure the talk will resolve the issue because, as far as I am

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concerned, striking is not the answer.

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Anything that prolongs that exercise is detrimental to patient care.

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Is my noble friend aware that the public

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will greatly welcome the

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magnanimity of Her Majesty's Government?

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LAUGHTER

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In willingly going forward to have further discussions

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over a short period.

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But at the same time, and I can only speak from

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having talked to some of my former constituents

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in Northampton, the public

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does want to know what is the benefit

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to both the public and the

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junior doctors from this new contract?

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The Government's approach has been cack-handed

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throughout the process.

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It would have been much better if, instead of

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initially rejecting this proposal, the Government had accepted it

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rather than actually now setting some new conditions.

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Obviously, we hope the outcome of this will be

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successful and it will be resolved.

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The question I put to the noble lord,

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the minister, is this, at the

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end of this process, we are left with thousands of junior doctors

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disengaged from the service because of the circumstances of the dispute

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and the alarmist statements issued by the Secretary of State.

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Will my lord's part of the discussions look

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at how the junior doctors

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are to be brought back into the fold and given the support they

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so richly deserve?

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My Lords, I think there is a general recognition that many of

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the issues that have lain behind the dispute over the contract

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are not actually involved in the contract

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itself, it is about how junior doctors are trained,

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how they are valued, how they are integrated into

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hospitals and into the workforce.

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While the whole house welcomes this pause,

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I hope whatever happens there will be an opportunity for an

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independent review to look at the very

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points that were made earlier on

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about the lack of value, lack of appreciation,

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lack of support for junior doctors.

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If there is one thing that this dispute last week

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has shown is that when consultants actually

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man the front door of the hospital,

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the services are very much better.

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Does the Minister accept that what he said this morning,

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welcome though it may be, is really rather too late?

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Trust is the most important element when it comes to

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provision of medical services.

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The Secretary of State has lost the trust

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already, not only of the junior doctors,

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but also of a very large percentage of the general

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public and it has to be said, actually,

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the BMA has also lost the trust

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of a certain percentage of the public.

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Of course, I would make the point

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that most junior doctors work seven days a week anyway.

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But will the Minister accept that the

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imposition of this contract, if it is done at the end of the pause

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period, is not the only way of achieving

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the Government's objective?

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And further discussions with those who actually provide those

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services may very well find an even better way of providing those

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seven-day services to the patients?

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All I would say today is that we have an opportunity over the next

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five days for the BMA and the Government

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to find a resolution to this

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and I think if we can find a resolution to this

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issue, it will make the implementation

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of seven-day working across the NHS much easier.

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Does the Minister remember the EU Working Time Directive,

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which was, a few years ago, touted as being disastrous for

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the training of junior doctors and would make it

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completely impossible for junior doctors to be trained?

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Now that the Government is trying to push our junior doctors to work

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longer hours over more days, does it mean all the fuss over the

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EU Working Time Directive was a myth?

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Or is this in an entirely different category?

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No, I think the noble lord has misunderstood the contract.

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The number of hours are actually coming

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down, not going up.

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Lord Prior.

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The ugliest Prime Minister's Questions in years, that was how one

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Westminster sketch writer summed up Wednesday's exchanges at

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the Dispatch Box between David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn.

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The Prime Minister repeatedly accused Labour's

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candidate for London Mayor, Sadiq Khan,

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of sharing platforms with

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Islamist sympathisers.

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Jeremy Corbyn suggested the Conservatives had

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problems with racism and said they should set up an enquiry.

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One day on, the Shadow Commons Leader made

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plain his views about David Cameron's tactics.

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Yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions showed to me,

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if to nobody else, that there ain't no gutter low enough for the

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Prime Minister to slop around in.

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That kind of despicable smearing of one's

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opponents, I think, degrades the whole of politics.

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And I would just say gently to the Government that those

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who live by the gutter die in the gutter.

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I am absolutely certain that

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kind of politics is not welcome for the British voters.

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What a year it has been(!)

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Every single economic target missed!

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Growth forecast constantly downgraded, debt up,

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homelessness up, the use of food banks up by 19%.

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Absolute child poverty set to rise.

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NHS waiting lists up, libraries closed.

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Mr Speaker, what a load of twaddle we

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have just head from the Shadow Leader.

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Let's be clear, what we have spent the last 12 months doing is

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fulfilling the trust the public put in us at the general election

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last year when we defeated the Labour Party.

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Mr Speaker, if you look at the things this Government

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has actually done, we have introduced new powers to turn around

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failing schools, we have paved the way for

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the Northern Powerhouse, we have passed

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the EU Referendum Act, we have provided substantial new

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powers of devolution to Scotland.

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We have paved the way for

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the national living wage.

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We have passed English votes for English laws.

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We have passed a childcare act, which

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doubles the amount of free childcare each week.

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We have taken further important steps to consolidate peace

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in Northern Ireland.

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Mr Speaker, we need an urgent statement on what is

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going on with the investigation of the Conservative Party for breaking

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campaign spending rules in last year's general election.

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Mr Speaker, the claims are absolutely

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extraordinary and centres round Conservative candidates,

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28 Conservative candidates, failing to register the use

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of a battle bus for local campaigning and something

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like ?38,000 of accommodation for local campaigns.

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Mr Speaker, if anybody is found guilty of such a charge,

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it could result in one year imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

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Surely we must now hear what the Government's view on this

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is and there must be no whiff or suggestion

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that this Government cheated its way to power.

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It is for proper authorities to address issues

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whenever they arise and I have been very

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careful to say that that is the case

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where those issues affected

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the Scottish Nationalists as well,

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as we have seen in recent months.

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Chris Grayling.

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Now, is it the source of the vast majority of problems that British

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farmers face or is it a crucial market for meat exports?

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Both views of the European Union were on

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display at Environment Questions, coming from two different ministers

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in the same department.

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The exchanges began with a Conservative MP, who supports a

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British exit from the EU, asking about the contribution that

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technology could make to increasing the productivity of farming.

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Will he agree with me that the implementation burden of vast

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changes, like this year's common agricultural policy, make it

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difficult to realise all these benefits?

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And can he agree with me that there is a simple solution,

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which is to vote to leave the EU?

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Mr Speaker, as my honourable friend knows,

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the Government position is that we should remain

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in the European Union.

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He will also be aware that I have exercised

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the option granted by the PM

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to disagree with the Government on this particular issue.

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From a personal perspective, I would simply

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say that the vast majority of problems that farmers complain to me

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about are the consequence of dysfunctional EU legislation.

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But his boss, the Environment Secretary,

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took a rather different view when it was her turn

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to answer questions.

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The farming community of Lincolnshire will be gathered

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together on the 22nd and 23rd of June for the Lincolnshire Show.

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If my right honourable friend is not doing anything

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on those particular days, and if she will find time to come to

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Lincolnshire, I could introduce her to a group of farmers who oppose

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membership of the EU.

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Could she find time in her diary to do that?

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I thank my honourable friend for his question.

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I couldn't possibly imagine what anybody might be doing

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on the 23rd of June but what I would say,

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and this is for all farmers, is that the EU

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and the single market has brought massive benefits for

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food and farming.

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If you look at exports of beef and lamb, 97% of

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exports of lamb go into the European Union.

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92% of beef exports go to the European Union.

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There would be a real risk to the future

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livelihood of those industries if we were to leave as we weren't

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able to export our fine products to those

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European countries any more.

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A Labour MP was more concerned about the problems already facing

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a different group of farmers, those in the dairy industry.

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Food-secure Britain needs British farmers to be

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able to make a living and, with milk prices

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plummeting in March this year,

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we saw them at the lowest level they have been since 2009,

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with some farm-gate prices as low as 16p per litre.

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you

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and

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you and

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This is coming at a time when British dairy incomes

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are dropping and are forecase to drop by almost

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half for this year.

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I am disappointed that there was nothing for dairy farmers

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in this year's budget.

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What action will the Minister take now, working with supermarkets

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and retailers and farmers, to ensure a future for

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the British dairy industry?

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MPs on the other side of the Commons were worried as well.

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In North Yorkshire, for the last 15 years we have lost 15% of our dairy

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farmers and 90 cent of those still in business are losing money

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despite subsidies, does the Minister agree that now is the time

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for the supermarkets to start paying a fair price to British

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farmers for British milk?

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I understand the point that my honourable friend is making,

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these are very difficult times for farmers and I know that some

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people often lay the blame at supermarkets but we have

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to recognise that the root of this problem is a worldwide issue

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of low commodity prices.

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We are seeing very low prices in New Zealand, far lower

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than here and many people have been driven out of business

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there as well.

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This is a global challenge, some of the supermarkets have

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stepped up to the plate and offered aligned contracts and many of them

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are selling their milk at a loss and I think we should recognise

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and give credit where it is due, but we are always trying to improve

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the position for farmers.

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Another Conservative had a question about another part

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of the British breakfast.

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Weetabix which is based in my constituency is a great

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British breakfast cereal, she launched the great British Food

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Unit at its headquarters, will she ensure that

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at all the DEFRA breakfast meetings and international trade symposiums

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that her department organises around the world, that Weetabix is always

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served at these breakfast meetings?

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Well, my honourable friend is absolutely right that Weetabix

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is a fantastic product and not only is it exported around the world,

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all of the wheat grown is from 50 miles of the Weetabix factory

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so it is a real example of linking to farms.

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I proudly display my own box of Elizabeth Truss Weetabix

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on my desk at DEFRA for all visitors to see when they

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arrive in my office.

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Liz Truss telling us about her breakfast preferences.

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You're watching our round-up of the day in the Commons

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and the Lords.

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Still to come...

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Peers hear warnings that financial problems may force thousands of care

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homes to close.

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A former Education Secretary says that the digital revolution

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is going to destroy far more jobs than it creates.

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Lord Baker told peers that the government had

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to improve skills training dramatically if the UK

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was going to maintain its place in a rapidly changing world.

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He was contributing to a House of Lords debate on how to address

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the technical skills gap.

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The digital revolution is happening and I am one of those

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who believes that everything, artificial intelligence,

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data, driverless lorries, drones, all of that area

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is going to destroy many more jobs than they are creating.

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In the past industrial revolutions have always created more

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jobs, I made speeches, when I was a minister

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for information technology.

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I am now persuaded that the disruptive technologies

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of the digital revolution are going to destroy many others.

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There are reports from McKenzie and Davos saying that they will be

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absolutely larger than that.

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Faced with that, the government wants to improve skills training

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dramatically in our country.

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Another former Education Secretary referred to the ending of the era

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of the polytechnics.

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We lost out on that notion of the sandwich course

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which was very much a part of the polytechnic and we lost out

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I think on that emphasis on learning through doing.

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Because if you look at a lot of the older polytechnics now,

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what they have done is, new universities, they have

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expanded in what I call classroom bound courses.

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It was cheaper to put on a law course or a history course

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or a business course for a polytechnic that became

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a university and wanted to expand than it was to do a vocational

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course or skills course because they were more expensive

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by nature of the equipment.

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And that I think in some way accounts for the lack

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or the wrong skill sets that we are hearing of now.

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If we need to address our technical skills and we clearly do,

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please let's be wary of doing it in another Polytechnic experiment.

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Let us do it through encouraging the best technic departments

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to expand and not relocate elsewhere.

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If necessary, to set up new, just technical colleges,

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if we can find enough good teachers.

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I read somewhere that last year one third of all graduates were working

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in menial jobs after graduating.

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And at the same time, the Royal Academy of Engineering

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tells us that we are in need of 40,000 engineers each year.

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My Lords what we need is a technical education system in which businesses

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and colleges work closely together with political

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support from all sides.

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So when we publish our plans for education reform we will do

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so with the spirit of consensus.

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We want to seek the widest possible support and as we have heard today,

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I think everyone agrees on the challenges and the need

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to make sure we get this right and ensure that the worlds

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of business and education come together.

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The core theme of the debate today is the institutions for advanced

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technical education and broadly this government takes the view that

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at present we do not have the right pattern of institutions to teach

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high-level technical education programmes

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at the level we all want to see.

0:18:530:18:59

Lady Evans.

0:18:590:19:02

MPs have been told about the continuing grave concern held

0:19:020:19:04

by faith groups over plans to subject out-of-school

0:19:040:19:06

activities for young people to Ofsted inspections.

0:19:060:19:12

The issue arose during a backbencher's debate

0:19:120:19:14

in the Commons on the contribution of faith groups to

0:19:140:19:16

the voluntary sector.

0:19:160:19:21

Those proposals would mean that a Christian youth group which plays

0:19:210:19:24

sport or games one day a week or meets one evening

0:19:240:19:27

to discuss their faith plus perhaps on a Sunday could have Ofsted

0:19:270:19:30

inspectors coming to see if their activities are compatible

0:19:300:19:32

with a list of British values drawn up by the government and to check

0:19:320:19:35

whether or not they are extremist.

0:19:350:19:38

Mr Speaker, I submit to you that there is nothing less

0:19:380:19:41

British than the government restricting the expression

0:19:410:19:43

of religious faith based on a set of values drawn up in Whitehall.

0:19:430:19:52

It is the very opposite of what I understand

0:19:520:19:54

Conservatism to be.

0:19:540:19:56

Ofsted inspectors will likely not be looking for illegal activities,

0:19:560:19:58

they will be looking for activities which fit into a vaguely

0:19:580:20:01

defined set of ideals, such as non-violent extremism.

0:20:010:20:09

I agree with everything that she has just said,

0:20:090:20:11

including her criticism of the government proposal,

0:20:110:20:20

in effect to Ofsted being a regulator of religion,

0:20:200:20:23

I think that would be dreadful and I hope the criticism will be

0:20:230:20:26

heeded by the Minister and that in due course that proposal

0:20:260:20:29

will be abandoned.

0:20:290:20:34

My honourable friend also raised the issue of Ofsted and Ofsted

0:20:340:20:37

inspections and I listened carefully to what she had to say.

0:20:370:20:40

The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education are clear

0:20:400:20:43

that the registration will not apply to organisations and Sunday schools,

0:20:430:20:48

we are not proposing to regulate institutions like Sunday schools.

0:20:480:20:53

We have to ensure that organisations do the right thing,

0:20:530:20:55

meet the standards we should expect but she raised legitimate concerns,

0:20:550:20:58

the concerns to which I have listened and of which I am aware

0:20:580:21:01

and I'm sure they will be drawn to the attention

0:21:010:21:04

of the Education Secretary today.

0:21:040:21:09

New research by the BBC indicates that one in four

0:21:090:21:11

care homes in the UK, around 5000 institutions,

0:21:110:21:16

may have to close because of financial hardship.

0:21:160:21:19

Potential closures were raised at Question Time in the Lords.

0:21:190:21:23

Lady Bakewell, a champion for older people under the previous Labour

0:21:230:21:25

government, warned that a crash was on the way and urged

0:21:250:21:28

the government to make contingency plans to protect frail

0:21:280:21:30

and vulnerable residents.

0:21:300:21:34

Is he not conversant with the BBC research published yesterday showing

0:21:370:21:40

that 5000 care homes at risk of closure over the next three

0:21:400:21:45

years, or the recent Stevens report showing a 34% increase in care home

0:21:450:21:51

insolvencies over the past few years or indeed another estimate

0:21:510:21:53

of ?2.9 billion funding gap in adult social care by the end of the decade

0:21:530:22:00

and in the face of these figures, why does the government continue

0:22:000:22:02

to assert the incredible proposition that it is possible to increase

0:22:020:22:05

wages, increase regulatory burdens and not increase real

0:22:050:22:07

terms per capita funding?

0:22:070:22:14

When will they end this dangerous fantasy and actually start

0:22:230:22:26

addressing the serious crisis in adult social care?

0:22:260:22:32

I think the increase in the minimum wage from ?6.70 to a living wage

0:22:320:22:36

of ?7.20 has been universally welcomed by most

0:22:360:22:38

people in this house.

0:22:380:22:43

I think care workers, people who work in care homes do

0:22:430:22:46

an incredible difficult job and ?7.20 does not seem to me

0:22:460:22:49

a small fortune to pay people like that.

0:22:490:22:55

The cost of that, that will increase the cost of people in the care

0:22:550:22:58

sector, and there is some evidence that some care homes are closing,

0:22:580:23:01

the figures I have in the last two years, 2000 beds have

0:23:010:23:04

closed in the care sector.

0:23:040:23:08

600 domiciliary care agencies have opened in that time

0:23:080:23:10

so there is going to be a switch in the way that care is delivered

0:23:100:23:14

from residential care to domiciliary care.

0:23:140:23:20

It is very difficult to know sometimes what land

0:23:200:23:22

ministers live on.

0:23:220:23:24

My Lords, that is an extraordinarily complacent answer.

0:23:240:23:28

The survey yesterday showed a quarter of all care

0:23:280:23:30

homes are facing closure because of the financial squeeze.

0:23:300:23:37

A study into funding social care five years ago commissioned

0:23:370:23:39

by the government opposed capping the cost of care in England.

0:23:390:23:46

His government decided unilaterally to postpone probably forever

0:23:460:23:48

but certainly by four years the introduction of the care cap

0:23:480:23:50

which proved massively disappointing too many people.

0:23:500:23:56

The government put into the forward programme spend plans of 6 billion,

0:23:560:23:59

why not use some of that money to help the viability

0:23:590:24:01

of the care home sector?

0:24:010:24:07

My Lords, if I sounded complacent, I did not mean to.

0:24:100:24:14

I recognise that there is a tremendous pressure on many

0:24:140:24:17

providers of adult social care, particularly those funded by local

0:24:170:24:19

authorities, it is for that reason, disappointingly,

0:24:190:24:21

it has been postponed.

0:24:210:24:29

We wanted to bring it it in but we decided the cost

0:24:290:24:31

of bringing it in was too great for local authorities

0:24:310:24:34

to finance in the short term.

0:24:340:24:36

Given that this is a crisis and there is going to be a crash,

0:24:380:24:41

we know that the care sector has warned us that it is coming,

0:24:410:24:45

the government has made concessions of course,

0:24:450:24:46

but can it have contingency plans in place so that when the crisis

0:24:460:24:49

actually hits, old and vulnerable people are not suddenly thrust

0:24:490:24:52

into a crisis that they do not know how to deal with.

0:24:520:25:02

The noble lady is absolutely right, the whole focus must be

0:25:040:25:06

on the residents of these homes, rather than the owners

0:25:060:25:09

of the care homes.

0:25:090:25:13

There are a number of very highly regarded providers in the sector

0:25:130:25:16

who have high levels of debt and often very expensive debt.

0:25:160:25:22

The CQC is keeping a close watch on them and when there are early

0:25:220:25:25

warning signs of difficulties, then the CQC and the local

0:25:250:25:27

authorities will put in place alternative plans.

0:25:270:25:34

Lord Prior.

0:25:340:25:35

That is it for this programme, do join me for The Week In Parliament

0:25:350:25:38

when we will have the best of the last three days

0:25:380:25:41

in the Commons and the Lords.

0:25:410:25:42

Until then, from me, Keith McDougall, goodbye.

0:25:420:25:45

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