19/05/2016 Thursday in Parliament


19/05/2016

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 19 May, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Hello and welcome to Thursday In Parliament.

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On this programme, after reaching a deal in the junior doctors

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dispute, the Health Secretary holds out an olive branch.

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The Government has heard and understood the wider

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frustrations that you feel as about the way you're valued

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and treated in the NHS.

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But Labour thinks that strikes could have been avoided.

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It was a "computer says no" attitude and that's no way to run the NHS.

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An Education Minister says, despite a recent court ruling,

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parents shouldn't take their children on holiday

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during term time.

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And MPs and peers continue the debate on the Queen's Speech.

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But first, the doctors' union, the British Medical Association,

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is to ask its members to vote on a deal over weekend working

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to end the long-running dispute over a new contract for junior

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doctors in England.

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The agreement came after a series of strikes by junior doctors

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which led to thousands of appointments and operations

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being delayed and rescheduled.

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A ten-day round of talks at the conciliation service ACAS

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finally produced a breakthrough.

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Announcing the deal in the Commons, the Health Secretary

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praised the BMA.

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The agreement will facilitate the biggest changes to the junior

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doctors contract since 1999.

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It will allow the Government to deliver a seven-day NHS,

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improve patient safety, support much-needed

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productivity improvements, as well as strengthening the morale

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and quality of life of the junior doctors with a modern contract fit

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for a modern health service.

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He said the Government recognised safer care was more likely

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to come from well motivated and rested doctors.

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So he announced a series of changes to the work/life balance

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which he hoped would improve morale and retention rates.

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Whatever the progress made with today's landmark changes,

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it will always be a matter of great regret that it was necessary to go

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through such disruptive industrial action to get there.

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We may welcome the destination but no one could have

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wanted the journey.

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So today I say to all junior doctors, whatever our disagreements

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about the contract may have been, the Government has heard

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and understood the wider frustrations that you feel

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about the way you're valued and treated in the NHS.

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But the Opposition insisted strikes could have been avoided.

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I am pleased and relieved that an agreement has been reached

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but I am sad that it took an all-out strike of junior doctors to get

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the government back to the table.

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What is now clear, if it wasn't already, is that a negotiated

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agreement was possible all along.

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So I have to ask the Health Secretary why couldn't this deal has

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been struck in February?

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Why did he allow his pride back then to come before sensible compromise

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and constructive talks?

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When he stands up, he might try to blame the BMA

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for the negotiations breaking down but he failed to say what options

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he was prepared to consider in order to ensure that the junior doctors

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who work THE most unsociable hours are fairly rewarded.

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It was a "computer says no" attitude and that's no way to run the NHS.

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She is wrong today, as she has been wrong throughout this dispute.

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She spent a lot of time in the last ten months criticising the way

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the Government has sought to change this contract.

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What she didn't dwell on was why it needed to be changed in the first

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place, namely the flawed contract for junior doctors

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put in place in 1999.

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And we had many disagreements with the BMA but one

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thing we agree on - Labour's contract was

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not fit for purpose.

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One concern that remains is the issue of rota gaps.

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We actually don't have enough junior doctors and we don't have enough

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junior doctors in the most acute specialties.

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So I would ask how is the Secretary of State planning to

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re-establish a relationship?

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How is he going to recruit people to fill that gap?

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Because that was actually the core fear of junior doctors -

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a lack of doctors simply being spread further.

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Does the Secretary of State realise that even if this

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dispute is now settled, which we hope it will be,

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there has been a really serious impact on goodwill in the health

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service which could affect service delivery going forward?

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A lot of this has been caused by political shenanigans that should

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not have been allowed to get to this stage,

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and the failure of this is that junior doctors themselves have

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lost prestige throughout the United Kingdom because they were

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used as political pawns by by two organisations.

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I welcome the potential resolution of this dispute and I do thank

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the Government for negotiating but I also think we should thank

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those junior doctors for having the courage to go on strike,

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which no one does lightly, to get a better deal for the NHS.

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I was contacted by a constituent who told me how his four-year-old

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daughter fell through a pane of glass, severely cutting her face.

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Unfortunately, this accident happened on a Friday evening and,

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because there were insufficient doctors working over the weekend,

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she couldn't have an operation to remove any remaining glass

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from the wound until Monday, by which time the wound had started

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to heal and was misaligned.

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That four-year-old girl will now suffer severe facial scarring

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for the rest of her life.

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Does my right honourable friend agree with me this is why

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we need a seven-day NHS?

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Jeremy Hunt said he couldn't have put it better himself.

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The main business of the day was the continued debate

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on the Queen's Speech, where MPs turned their attention

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to transport and infrastructure.

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But before dealing with the measures announced on Wednesday,

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the Transport Secretary made a brief statement on the missing EgyptAir

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plane which crashed while flying between Paris and Cairo.

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The flight, with 66 people on board, one of them British,

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vanished from radar screens just after entering Egyptian

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airspace in the early hours of the morning, UK time.

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I know the House will want to join me in saying our thoughts

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are with the family and friends of all those on board.

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The Government is in touch with the Egyptian and French

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governments, French authorities, and has offered full assistance.

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The Air Accident Investigation Branch has offered to assist

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with the investigation in any way that it can.

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I'm extremely grateful to my right honourable friend.

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As chairman of the All-party Egypt Group, may I thank him

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for the measures that he is seeking to take, and associate myself

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and the group with the condolences that he has expressed?

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Could I just ask him, though, one question?

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Will the Government be seeking to discuss with the French

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authorities in particular whether the French authorities

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are satisfied that the measures that they are taking to screen

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passengers and luggage at Paris meet the kind of requirements

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that we in the United Kingdom feel are necessary, bearing in mind

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that I believe a number of people in Paris have

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had their authorisation revoked because of their association

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with Islamic extremism?

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Well, Mr Speaker, as I said, it's far too early yet to make any

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assumptions as to what's happened but of course we will be wanting

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to look at all these issues and discuss them with the French

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authorities and others as well and I can assure my honourable

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friend that is something we want to take further forward.

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Patrick MacLachlan.

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And we'll return to the debate on the Queen's Speech a little

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later in the programme.

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An education minister has repeated his determination to stop

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parents taking their children on holiday during term time,

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despite a High Court ruling.

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A father who refused to pay a ?120 fine for taking his daughter

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on holiday to Florida during term won a High Court

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ruling in his favour.

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It was ruled last week that John Platt had no case to answer,

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as, overall, his daughter had attended school regularly.

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A Conservative MP asked the Minister to come to the Commons and set out

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the Government's position.

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The need to take time off school in exceptional circumstances

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is important but there are no special circumstances

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where a ten-day family holiday to Disney World should be allowed

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to trump the importance of school.

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The rules must and should apply to everyone.

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This is about social justice.

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When parents with income available to take their children out of school

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go to Florida, it sends a message to everyone that school

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attendance is not important.

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The Government understands, though, the fact that many school holidays

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being taken at roughly the same time does lead to a hike in prices.

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But that's precisely the reason we've given schools the power

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to set their own term dates in a way that works for the parents

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and local authorities.

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-- and local communities.

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Already, schools such as Hatcham College in London and

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the David Young Community Academy in Leeds are doing just this.

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In areas of the country such as the south-west,

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where a large number of the local population are employed

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in the tourist industry, there is nothing stopping schools

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from clubbing together and collectively changing

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or extending the dates of their summer holidays are doing

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so as part of a multi-academy trust.

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In fact, this government would encourage them to do so.

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But the MP who asked the question wasn't satisfied.

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There is another aspect to this policy that sadly to date

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has been ignored.

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That is the economic impact this policy is having on tourist areas.

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Particularly in Cornwall.

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In 2014, a report published indicated that the tourist industry

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in Cornwall had lost ?50 million as a result and I would,

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with respect, say to the minister there is nothing socially mobile

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for a family if your parents lose their job or have their hours

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cut because of the downturn in the tourist industry and the way

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that it affects their job.

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I would also put to the Minister that is it not the case that only 8%

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of school absenteeism is as a result of family holidays?

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When you actually look at the attainment of those children,

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there is no drop-off in attainment.

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I don't believe we should be returning to the Dickensian world

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where the needs of industry and commerce take precedence over

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the education of children.

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I doubt, Mr Speaker, that the Cornish tourist industry

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will be best pleased by my honourable friend's assertion

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that tourism in Cornwall is dependent on truant

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children for its survival.

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The Shadow Education Minister called on the Government to get a grip.

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All evidence shows regular attendance in school

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is crucial to ensure children fulfil their potential.

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100% attendance records should be the ambition

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of all children in all schools.

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But this problem is of the Government's own making.

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Changing the guidance to head teachers back in 2013,

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they should have done a full impact assessment much earlier and acted

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to address concerns.

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The honourable member led a Westminster Hall debate

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on the 50,000-strong petition back in the autumn.

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The Government said then they would look at the concerns raised.

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So they have known this ruling was coming for a long time.

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They could have clarified the law and they haven't.

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This ruling is now the worst of both worlds.

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It puts parents and headteachers in a very difficult position

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and is not in the best interests of children.

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Taking children out of school to come to the mother

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of all parliaments and to learn about our democracy is one thing

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but taking them to Orlando, Florida is another.

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Can I welcome the rigour that he has brought to the subject of education,

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moving away from the sort of play ways Labour approach?

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Does he agree with me that if this country is going to succeed,

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it needs to take education seriously?

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My honourable friend is absolutely right.

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This is about social justice.

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When parents with income take their children out

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of school to go to Florida, it does send a message

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to everyone that school attendance is not important,

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and there is no circumstance in which a trip to Disney World can

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be regarded as educational.

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A Labour MP thought the fundamental problem was that school summer

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holidays were squeezed into a six-week period

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when prices rocketed.

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I am on the side of being tough.

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I have constituents with great pressure from the Muslim community,

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especially from Pakistan, to take their children out

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and they are the very children that have been suffering,

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so I am on the side of being tough, but let's look at this in a more

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fundamental way, please.

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Well, the honourable gentleman,

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who I have huge respect for

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as a former Chair of the Education Select Committee,

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is right.

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We do need to look at these issues in a more

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fundamental way and that is why we have given them

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the freedom to set the term dates.

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And I would say to the honourable gentleman,

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and my honourable friend,

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that they should be helping to coordinate schools

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so that they do set different term dates

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that help their own tourist industries.

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You're watching Thursday in Parliament with me, Alicia McCarthy.

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It was day two of the debate on the Queen's speech,

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setting out the government's legislative plans

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for the coming year.

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Giving their verdicts were two regular sparring partners,

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the Leader of the House and his Labour shadow.

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Labour's Chris Bryant started with a reference to Jeremy Corbyn's

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refusal to give the floor to other speakers

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during his response to the Queen's speech.

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CHEERING

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Mr Speaker, if only the rules

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allowed me to take some interventions.

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LAUGHTER

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And he called the Queen's speech truly awful.

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I love a bit of dressing up...

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just as much as any other defrocked vicar.

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Almost as much as you, Mr Speaker.

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But I do think yesterday was a case of all fur coat and knickerbockers.

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There were so many ironies.

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Her Majesty announced that the government will legislate

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for driverless cars and space ports

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and arrived in a horse-drawn carriage.

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She announced that the government intends to tackle poverty

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to a room full of Barons and Countesses dressed in tiaras,

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and even the door handles on the Royal

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coach, I understand, were decorated

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with 24 diamonds and 130 sapphires.

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You can say you wanted to tackle

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some of the deepest social problems in society till you're blue

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in the face but when you have cut public services to the bone, when

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you have afflicted the toughest cuts on the poorest communities,

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and when you systematically undermine the very concept

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of public servers,

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all your blandishments are nothing

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but a sugar-coating for a cyanide pill.

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-- public service.

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Mr Speaker, he is such an old misery.

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I thought yesterday was Britain at its finest.

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Strong institutions, great tradition, things that make this

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great city one of the finest - if not the finest -

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in the world, a monarch we should be proud of, and a programme

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for government that is fulfilling the commitments we made

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to the electorate last year,

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an election, I remind them, that they lost and we won.

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He started talking about interventions and here I have

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sympathy because actually he did better this morning than his

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leader did yesterday and I have to say I looked

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yesterday and I thought, "There is a man," looking at the

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Shadow leader,

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"who spent 41 minutes try to look at the shoes

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"of the people on this side, rather than looking "at his

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party leader making such an awful speech yesterday."

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What a few weeks we are going to have.

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We are going to have to spend most of time discussing

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this turgid stuff in the Queen's speech when all

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they want to do is to knock lumps out of each other

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for the EU referendum.

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And the debate in the Tory party is largely reaching

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Churchillian standards of discourse, but apparently it is all about

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insults, personal attacks and tabloid smears, according to the

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honourable member for Wickam this morning on radio.

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-- hardly reaching.

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Now, I know my honourable friends are already considering

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our amendments for the driverless cars bill, most

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involving locking this Tory government into that said vehicle

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and heading towards the nearest cliff edge.

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Can we perhaps have a debate on World War II?

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And then it would allow all the senior members

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in the Labour benches and the Conservative benches to indulge

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their new passion in talking about Hitler.

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We could hear about the dodgy histories,

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all the spurious examples,

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and perhaps it would take their

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minds off the civil wars in the Labour Party

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and Conservative Party which we are immensely enjoying.

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Mr Speaker, I am really not sure this is the week

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for the Scottish National Party to be

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talking about stories in the tabloids.

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As I have read the news,

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there has to be something in the water in Scotland.

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Mr Speaker, as you remember me telling the House a few months ago,

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the honourable member for the Western Isles wrote to me

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about recess dates because he wanted to go to the ram in with the ewes.

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-- put the ram.

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At that time, I thought he was talking about sheep.

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And he defended the Queen's speech, calling it a powerful package that

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will deliver change to the whole of the United Kingdom.

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And when that Queen's speech debate got underway,

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MPs focused on transport and infrastructure.

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The Transport Secretary pledged that driverless cars

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will become a real option for motorists in the near future.

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Patrick McLoughlin pledged to make the UK a world leader

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in their development

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and said the Government was aiming to provide the

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infrastructure that will prepare Britain for the future.

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He pointed to the Modern Transport Bill.

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A bill to pave the way

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for the technologies and transport of tomorrow.

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We are already developing the charging infrastructure for

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electric and hybrid vehicles.

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Now, driverless cars and commercial space flights

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may seem like science fiction to some

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but the economic potential

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of these new technologies is vast.

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And we are determined that Britain will benefit

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by helping to lead their development.

0:18:150:18:23

Driverless cars will come under new legislation

0:18:230:18:24

so they can be insured under ordinary policies.

0:18:240:18:26

Those new laws will help autonomous and driverless vehicles - cars -

0:18:260:18:29

become a real option for private buyers and fleets.

0:18:290:18:31

The UK is already established as one of

0:18:310:18:33

the best places in the world to research and develop those vehicles.

0:18:330:18:40

To gain support, the rhetoric will need to be followed with an

0:18:400:18:43

inclusive vision that benefits all the nations of the UK.

0:18:430:18:45

An area up where this is not yet clear is the investment

0:18:450:18:48

in further research into autonomous vehicles.

0:18:480:18:49

Obviously, safety implications and deployment

0:18:490:18:51

will be considerations.

0:18:510:18:53

Madame Deputy Speaker, this investment is most welcome

0:18:530:18:54

but will be meaningless to most of the UK nations

0:18:540:19:00

if it is not supported by the required investment

0:19:000:19:02

in the innovation to deliver a truly universal

0:19:020:19:04

mobile communications network.

0:19:040:19:07

Let's not, yet again, take the approach

0:19:070:19:11

where the benefits are only seen in some urban areas of the UK.

0:19:110:19:16

The Minister of State has said that the UK

0:19:160:19:18

should adopt a light touch approach to driverless car

0:19:180:19:20

development.

0:19:210:19:29

But we do need to make sure that the risks have been

0:19:290:19:32

fully analysed.

0:19:320:19:33

It is important that ministers are not moving, to coin a

0:19:330:19:36

phrase, too far and too fast.

0:19:360:19:37

It should be said, however, that is just about the only area

0:19:370:19:40

where the Government

0:19:400:19:41

could be accused of acting too quickly.

0:19:410:19:43

There is a reference to supporting the growing space industry

0:19:430:19:45

by constructing the first UK's first spaceport.

0:19:450:19:47

I will give way.

0:19:470:19:48

I am very grateful to the honourable lady for giving way but

0:19:480:19:51

will she accept that Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes and BMW have all welcomed

0:19:510:19:54

the Government's initiatives to see driverless cars, or autonomous cars,

0:19:540:19:56

being tested on British roads?

0:19:560:19:57

They think Britain is a leader.

0:19:570:20:03

I thank the honourable member for his intervention.

0:20:030:20:11

As I have said, I do believe that offers a great

0:20:110:20:13

opportunity for our excellent automotive industry but we do need

0:20:130:20:16

to be aware of the potential difficulties of the technology

0:20:160:20:18

and about the safety applications.

0:20:180:20:21

Elsewhere in the debate, a Conservative MP turned to a

0:20:210:20:24

controversial trade deal between the EU and the US, known as TTIP.

0:20:240:20:28

Conservative MPs in favour of Britain leaving the EU are joining

0:20:280:20:31

forces with Labour in an attempt to defeat the government with

0:20:310:20:36

an amendment bemoaning the lack of protection in the Queen's speech

0:20:360:20:39

with the NHS in connection with TTIP.

0:20:390:20:42

William Wragg said the simplest

0:20:420:20:44

and surest way to protect the NHS from forced privatisation was

0:20:440:20:48

for the UK to leave the EU.

0:20:490:20:52

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,

0:20:520:20:54

which the EU is determined to pass, may potentially

0:20:540:20:58

see the UK Government and the NHS facing legal challenge from foreign

0:20:580:21:02

corporations if we refuse to put some of our public services,

0:21:020:21:06

including the NHS, out to tender for privatisation.

0:21:060:21:10

This could, in effect, force the partial

0:21:100:21:12

privatisation of the NHS.

0:21:120:21:15

And there could be nothing for the UK Government,

0:21:150:21:17

or worse the British people, to do if we were to stay

0:21:170:21:20

as a member of the European Union.

0:21:200:21:23

And we, on these benches, must not be

0:21:230:21:25

blind to this issue and leave it to other

0:21:250:21:27

parties to make the case.

0:21:270:21:30

The simplest and surest way, therefore,

0:21:300:21:32

to protect the NHS from the strain of costs from forced privatisation

0:21:320:21:36

and to save enough money to build a new hospital every week

0:21:360:21:39

would be for Britain to vote to leave

0:21:390:21:41

and take back control on the 23rd.

0:21:410:21:44

There is going to be, presumably, at some stage, a trade agreement

0:21:440:21:49

between the European Union and United States.

0:21:490:21:52

If we want to protect ourselves from any unintended consequences,

0:21:520:21:56

it is better to be in there arguing the case as part

0:21:560:22:00

of those negotiations, rather than having

0:22:000:22:02

to stay on the outside and then accept the negotiation

0:22:020:22:05

once it is done,

0:22:050:22:06

whatever is included in that agreement.

0:22:060:22:09

And those arguments over TTIP and a proposed amendment to

0:22:090:22:13

the Queen's speech will resurface when the debate resumes

0:22:130:22:15

in the Commons next week.

0:22:150:22:19

Meanwhile, down the corridor in the House of Lords,

0:22:190:22:22

one part of the Government's programme was described as a bit

0:22:220:22:24

like trying to win a Grand Prix on a sit-down lawnmower.

0:22:240:22:29

The damning comment came from a Lib Dem peer,

0:22:290:22:32

who was scathing about the Government's approach

0:22:320:22:35

to improving Internet coverage.

0:22:350:22:37

Lady Burt accused ministers of a lack of ambition

0:22:370:22:40

in the targets they have set for improving broadband speeds.

0:22:400:22:46

The universal service operation for broadband

0:22:460:22:48

being proposed is for 10 megabytes per second by 2020.

0:22:480:22:53

That is not close to what we need

0:22:530:22:55

to be world leaders in the digital economy.

0:22:550:22:59

The government's idea of

0:22:590:23:02

superfast broadband is 25 megabytes per second.

0:23:020:23:05

South Korea already has speeds of one gigabyte per second,

0:23:050:23:13

and rising.

0:23:130:23:14

We cannot compete on the world market

0:23:140:23:16

relying on copper cables.

0:23:160:23:18

It is like trying to win a Grand Prix on a sit-down lawnmower.

0:23:180:23:23

If the Government were serious about being a world leader

0:23:230:23:29

in the digital economy they would support fibre to

0:23:290:23:33

home broadband, spending money on vital infrastructure.

0:23:330:23:38

And it appears one peer was having problems with the broadband

0:23:380:23:40

being provided to his home.

0:23:400:23:43

I can tell you that we had interrupted service

0:23:430:23:45

in a relatively straightforward part of London.

0:23:450:23:49

I cannot imagine the stresses and challenges that other parts

0:23:490:23:52

of the country have and I think...

0:23:520:23:54

Hear, hear!

0:23:540:23:56

Enough is enough, it has gone on far too long

0:23:560:23:59

and this bill also will, in my view,

0:23:590:24:01

address, hopefully, some of the weaknesses

0:24:010:24:03

in Ofcom's approach to this, which I certainly

0:24:030:24:06

believe has been utterly inadequate.

0:24:060:24:09

From Internet connectivity to train connectivity.

0:24:090:24:13

Newcastle, Sunderland, Hartlepool and Stockton

0:24:130:24:15

would all lose out because there is such an emphasis

0:24:150:24:18

on the Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool access.

0:24:180:24:21

But the far north, both East and West, is not properly included.

0:24:210:24:26

If we are to have HS2,

0:24:260:24:29

I suggest we start building from Newcastle

0:24:290:24:32

at the same time as we start from London.

0:24:320:24:36

I have read recent newspaper articles

0:24:360:24:38

suggesting that the costs of HS2 are escalating rapidly

0:24:380:24:40

and that this may lead to the truncation of this

0:24:400:24:44

project, possibly even as far south as Crewe.

0:24:440:24:51

And onto broadcasting

0:24:510:24:52

and the Government's plans for the BBC.

0:24:520:24:55

The proposed health check review of the BBC,

0:24:550:24:57

after just five years, will inevitably be politicised

0:24:570:25:00

and should be dropped.

0:25:000:25:04

The uncertainty and disruption will distract management

0:25:040:25:07

from the task of creating the broadcaster of distinction

0:25:070:25:11

promised in the title of the white paper.

0:25:110:25:14

And anyway, is not Ofcom's new role

0:25:140:25:17

to do such so-called health checks?

0:25:170:25:21

And the BBC charter is to be reviewed,

0:25:210:25:23

as the noble Lord mentioned, every five years.

0:25:230:25:27

Always, by the way, coinciding with a general election.

0:25:270:25:31

"An opportunity to check the reforms are working as we intend,"

0:25:310:25:35

John Whittingdale said in his oral statement.

0:25:350:25:39

"We intend."

0:25:390:25:41

Chilling words, whoever is in government.

0:25:410:25:44

Lady Bonham Carter.

0:25:440:25:46

And that is it for now.

0:25:460:25:47

But do join me at 11pm on Friday night for the Week in Parliament.

0:25:470:25:50

Until then, from me, goodbye.

0:25:500:25:54

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