Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 19 May, presented by Alicia McCarthy.
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Hello and welcome to Thursday In Parliament.
On this programme, after reaching a deal in the junior doctors
dispute, the Health Secretary holds out an olive branch.
The Government has heard and understood the wider
frustrations that you feel as about the way you're valued
and treated in the NHS.
But Labour thinks that strikes could have been avoided.
It was a "computer says no" attitude and that's no way to run the NHS.
An Education Minister says, despite a recent court ruling,
parents shouldn't take their children on holiday
during term time.
And MPs and peers continue the debate on the Queen's Speech.
But first, the doctors' union, the British Medical Association,
is to ask its members to vote on a deal over weekend working
to end the long-running dispute over a new contract for junior
doctors in England.
The agreement came after a series of strikes by junior doctors
which led to thousands of appointments and operations
being delayed and rescheduled.
A ten-day round of talks at the conciliation service ACAS
finally produced a breakthrough.
Announcing the deal in the Commons, the Health Secretary
praised the BMA.
The agreement will facilitate the biggest changes to the junior
doctors contract since 1999.
It will allow the Government to deliver a seven-day NHS,
improve patient safety, support much-needed
productivity improvements, as well as strengthening the morale
and quality of life of the junior doctors with a modern contract fit
for a modern health service.
He said the Government recognised safer care was more likely
to come from well motivated and rested doctors.
So he announced a series of changes to the work/life balance
which he hoped would improve morale and retention rates.
Whatever the progress made with today's landmark changes,
it will always be a matter of great regret that it was necessary to go
through such disruptive industrial action to get there.
We may welcome the destination but no one could have
wanted the journey.
So today I say to all junior doctors, whatever our disagreements
about the contract may have been, the Government has heard
and understood the wider frustrations that you feel
about the way you're valued and treated in the NHS.
But the Opposition insisted strikes could have been avoided.
I am pleased and relieved that an agreement has been reached
but I am sad that it took an all-out strike of junior doctors to get
the government back to the table.
What is now clear, if it wasn't already, is that a negotiated
agreement was possible all along.
So I have to ask the Health Secretary why couldn't this deal has
been struck in February?
Why did he allow his pride back then to come before sensible compromise
and constructive talks?
When he stands up, he might try to blame the BMA
for the negotiations breaking down but he failed to say what options
he was prepared to consider in order to ensure that the junior doctors
who work THE most unsociable hours are fairly rewarded.
It was a "computer says no" attitude and that's no way to run the NHS.
She is wrong today, as she has been wrong throughout this dispute.
She spent a lot of time in the last ten months criticising the way
the Government has sought to change this contract.
What she didn't dwell on was why it needed to be changed in the first
place, namely the flawed contract for junior doctors
put in place in 1999.
And we had many disagreements with the BMA but one
thing we agree on - Labour's contract was
not fit for purpose.
One concern that remains is the issue of rota gaps.
We actually don't have enough junior doctors and we don't have enough
junior doctors in the most acute specialties.
So I would ask how is the Secretary of State planning to
re-establish a relationship?
How is he going to recruit people to fill that gap?
Because that was actually the core fear of junior doctors -
a lack of doctors simply being spread further.
Does the Secretary of State realise that even if this
dispute is now settled, which we hope it will be,
there has been a really serious impact on goodwill in the health
service which could affect service delivery going forward?
A lot of this has been caused by political shenanigans that should
not have been allowed to get to this stage,
and the failure of this is that junior doctors themselves have
lost prestige throughout the United Kingdom because they were
used as political pawns by by two organisations.
I welcome the potential resolution of this dispute and I do thank
the Government for negotiating but I also think we should thank
those junior doctors for having the courage to go on strike,
which no one does lightly, to get a better deal for the NHS.
I was contacted by a constituent who told me how his four-year-old
daughter fell through a pane of glass, severely cutting her face.
Unfortunately, this accident happened on a Friday evening and,
because there were insufficient doctors working over the weekend,
she couldn't have an operation to remove any remaining glass
from the wound until Monday, by which time the wound had started
to heal and was misaligned.
That four-year-old girl will now suffer severe facial scarring
for the rest of her life.
Does my right honourable friend agree with me this is why
we need a seven-day NHS?
Jeremy Hunt said he couldn't have put it better himself.
The main business of the day was the continued debate
on the Queen's Speech, where MPs turned their attention
to transport and infrastructure.
But before dealing with the measures announced on Wednesday,
the Transport Secretary made a brief statement on the missing EgyptAir
plane which crashed while flying between Paris and Cairo.
The flight, with 66 people on board, one of them British,
vanished from radar screens just after entering Egyptian
airspace in the early hours of the morning, UK time.
I know the House will want to join me in saying our thoughts
are with the family and friends of all those on board.
The Government is in touch with the Egyptian and French
governments, French authorities, and has offered full assistance.
The Air Accident Investigation Branch has offered to assist
with the investigation in any way that it can.
I'm extremely grateful to my right honourable friend.
As chairman of the All-party Egypt Group, may I thank him
for the measures that he is seeking to take, and associate myself
and the group with the condolences that he has expressed?
Could I just ask him, though, one question?
Will the Government be seeking to discuss with the French
authorities in particular whether the French authorities
are satisfied that the measures that they are taking to screen
passengers and luggage at Paris meet the kind of requirements
that we in the United Kingdom feel are necessary, bearing in mind
that I believe a number of people in Paris have
had their authorisation revoked because of their association
with Islamic extremism?
Well, Mr Speaker, as I said, it's far too early yet to make any
assumptions as to what's happened but of course we will be wanting
to look at all these issues and discuss them with the French
authorities and others as well and I can assure my honourable
friend that is something we want to take further forward.
And we'll return to the debate on the Queen's Speech a little
later in the programme.
An education minister has repeated his determination to stop
parents taking their children on holiday during term time,
despite a High Court ruling.
A father who refused to pay a ?120 fine for taking his daughter
on holiday to Florida during term won a High Court
ruling in his favour.
It was ruled last week that John Platt had no case to answer,
as, overall, his daughter had attended school regularly.
A Conservative MP asked the Minister to come to the Commons and set out
the Government's position.
The need to take time off school in exceptional circumstances
is important but there are no special circumstances
where a ten-day family holiday to Disney World should be allowed
to trump the importance of school.
The rules must and should apply to everyone.
This is about social justice.
When parents with income available to take their children out of school
go to Florida, it sends a message to everyone that school
attendance is not important.
The Government understands, though, the fact that many school holidays
being taken at roughly the same time does lead to a hike in prices.
But that's precisely the reason we've given schools the power
to set their own term dates in a way that works for the parents
and local authorities.
-- and local communities.
Already, schools such as Hatcham College in London and
the David Young Community Academy in Leeds are doing just this.
In areas of the country such as the south-west,
where a large number of the local population are employed
in the tourist industry, there is nothing stopping schools
from clubbing together and collectively changing
or extending the dates of their summer holidays are doing
so as part of a multi-academy trust.
In fact, this government would encourage them to do so.
But the MP who asked the question wasn't satisfied.
There is another aspect to this policy that sadly to date
has been ignored.
That is the economic impact this policy is having on tourist areas.
Particularly in Cornwall.
In 2014, a report published indicated that the tourist industry
in Cornwall had lost ?50 million as a result and I would,
with respect, say to the minister there is nothing socially mobile
for a family if your parents lose their job or have their hours
cut because of the downturn in the tourist industry and the way
that it affects their job.
I would also put to the Minister that is it not the case that only 8%
of school absenteeism is as a result of family holidays?
When you actually look at the attainment of those children,
there is no drop-off in attainment.
I don't believe we should be returning to the Dickensian world
where the needs of industry and commerce take precedence over
the education of children.
I doubt, Mr Speaker, that the Cornish tourist industry
will be best pleased by my honourable friend's assertion
that tourism in Cornwall is dependent on truant
children for its survival.
The Shadow Education Minister called on the Government to get a grip.
All evidence shows regular attendance in school
is crucial to ensure children fulfil their potential.
100% attendance records should be the ambition
of all children in all schools.
But this problem is of the Government's own making.
Changing the guidance to head teachers back in 2013,
they should have done a full impact assessment much earlier and acted
to address concerns.
The honourable member led a Westminster Hall debate
on the 50,000-strong petition back in the autumn.
The Government said then they would look at the concerns raised.
So they have known this ruling was coming for a long time.
They could have clarified the law and they haven't.
This ruling is now the worst of both worlds.
It puts parents and headteachers in a very difficult position
and is not in the best interests of children.
Taking children out of school to come to the mother
of all parliaments and to learn about our democracy is one thing
but taking them to Orlando, Florida is another.
Can I welcome the rigour that he has brought to the subject of education,
moving away from the sort of play ways Labour approach?
Does he agree with me that if this country is going to succeed,
it needs to take education seriously?
My honourable friend is absolutely right.
This is about social justice.
When parents with income take their children out
of school to go to Florida, it does send a message
to everyone that school attendance is not important,
and there is no circumstance in which a trip to Disney World can
be regarded as educational.
A Labour MP thought the fundamental problem was that school summer
holidays were squeezed into a six-week period
when prices rocketed.
I am on the side of being tough.
I have constituents with great pressure from the Muslim community,
especially from Pakistan, to take their children out
and they are the very children that have been suffering,
so I am on the side of being tough, but let's look at this in a more
fundamental way, please.
Well, the honourable gentleman,
who I have huge respect for
as a former Chair of the Education Select Committee,
We do need to look at these issues in a more
fundamental way and that is why we have given them
the freedom to set the term dates.
And I would say to the honourable gentleman,
and my honourable friend,
that they should be helping to coordinate schools
so that they do set different term dates
that help their own tourist industries.
You're watching Thursday in Parliament with me, Alicia McCarthy.
It was day two of the debate on the Queen's speech,
setting out the government's legislative plans
for the coming year.
Giving their verdicts were two regular sparring partners,
the Leader of the House and his Labour shadow.
Labour's Chris Bryant started with a reference to Jeremy Corbyn's
refusal to give the floor to other speakers
during his response to the Queen's speech.
Mr Speaker, if only the rules
allowed me to take some interventions.
And he called the Queen's speech truly awful.
I love a bit of dressing up...
just as much as any other defrocked vicar.
Almost as much as you, Mr Speaker.
But I do think yesterday was a case of all fur coat and knickerbockers.
There were so many ironies.
Her Majesty announced that the government will legislate
for driverless cars and space ports
and arrived in a horse-drawn carriage.
She announced that the government intends to tackle poverty
to a room full of Barons and Countesses dressed in tiaras,
and even the door handles on the Royal
coach, I understand, were decorated
with 24 diamonds and 130 sapphires.
You can say you wanted to tackle
some of the deepest social problems in society till you're blue
in the face but when you have cut public services to the bone, when
you have afflicted the toughest cuts on the poorest communities,
and when you systematically undermine the very concept
of public servers,
all your blandishments are nothing
but a sugar-coating for a cyanide pill.
-- public service.
Mr Speaker, he is such an old misery.
I thought yesterday was Britain at its finest.
Strong institutions, great tradition, things that make this
great city one of the finest - if not the finest -
in the world, a monarch we should be proud of, and a programme
for government that is fulfilling the commitments we made
to the electorate last year,
an election, I remind them, that they lost and we won.
He started talking about interventions and here I have
sympathy because actually he did better this morning than his
leader did yesterday and I have to say I looked
yesterday and I thought, "There is a man," looking at the
"who spent 41 minutes try to look at the shoes
"of the people on this side, rather than looking "at his
party leader making such an awful speech yesterday."
What a few weeks we are going to have.
We are going to have to spend most of time discussing
this turgid stuff in the Queen's speech when all
they want to do is to knock lumps out of each other
for the EU referendum.
And the debate in the Tory party is largely reaching
Churchillian standards of discourse, but apparently it is all about
insults, personal attacks and tabloid smears, according to the
honourable member for Wickam this morning on radio.
-- hardly reaching.
Now, I know my honourable friends are already considering
our amendments for the driverless cars bill, most
involving locking this Tory government into that said vehicle
and heading towards the nearest cliff edge.
Can we perhaps have a debate on World War II?
And then it would allow all the senior members
in the Labour benches and the Conservative benches to indulge
their new passion in talking about Hitler.
We could hear about the dodgy histories,
all the spurious examples,
and perhaps it would take their
minds off the civil wars in the Labour Party
and Conservative Party which we are immensely enjoying.
Mr Speaker, I am really not sure this is the week
for the Scottish National Party to be
talking about stories in the tabloids.
As I have read the news,
there has to be something in the water in Scotland.
Mr Speaker, as you remember me telling the House a few months ago,
the honourable member for the Western Isles wrote to me
about recess dates because he wanted to go to the ram in with the ewes.
-- put the ram.
At that time, I thought he was talking about sheep.
And he defended the Queen's speech, calling it a powerful package that
will deliver change to the whole of the United Kingdom.
And when that Queen's speech debate got underway,
MPs focused on transport and infrastructure.
The Transport Secretary pledged that driverless cars
will become a real option for motorists in the near future.
Patrick McLoughlin pledged to make the UK a world leader
in their development
and said the Government was aiming to provide the
infrastructure that will prepare Britain for the future.
He pointed to the Modern Transport Bill.
A bill to pave the way
for the technologies and transport of tomorrow.
We are already developing the charging infrastructure for
electric and hybrid vehicles.
Now, driverless cars and commercial space flights
may seem like science fiction to some
but the economic potential
of these new technologies is vast.
And we are determined that Britain will benefit
by helping to lead their development.
Driverless cars will come under new legislation
so they can be insured under ordinary policies.
Those new laws will help autonomous and driverless vehicles - cars -
become a real option for private buyers and fleets.
The UK is already established as one of
the best places in the world to research and develop those vehicles.
To gain support, the rhetoric will need to be followed with an
inclusive vision that benefits all the nations of the UK.
An area up where this is not yet clear is the investment
in further research into autonomous vehicles.
Obviously, safety implications and deployment
will be considerations.
Madame Deputy Speaker, this investment is most welcome
but will be meaningless to most of the UK nations
if it is not supported by the required investment
in the innovation to deliver a truly universal
mobile communications network.
Let's not, yet again, take the approach
where the benefits are only seen in some urban areas of the UK.
The Minister of State has said that the UK
should adopt a light touch approach to driverless car
But we do need to make sure that the risks have been
It is important that ministers are not moving, to coin a
phrase, too far and too fast.
It should be said, however, that is just about the only area
where the Government
could be accused of acting too quickly.
There is a reference to supporting the growing space industry
by constructing the first UK's first spaceport.
I will give way.
I am very grateful to the honourable lady for giving way but
will she accept that Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes and BMW have all welcomed
the Government's initiatives to see driverless cars, or autonomous cars,
being tested on British roads?
They think Britain is a leader.
I thank the honourable member for his intervention.
As I have said, I do believe that offers a great
opportunity for our excellent automotive industry but we do need
to be aware of the potential difficulties of the technology
and about the safety applications.
Elsewhere in the debate, a Conservative MP turned to a
controversial trade deal between the EU and the US, known as TTIP.
Conservative MPs in favour of Britain leaving the EU are joining
forces with Labour in an attempt to defeat the government with
an amendment bemoaning the lack of protection in the Queen's speech
with the NHS in connection with TTIP.
William Wragg said the simplest
and surest way to protect the NHS from forced privatisation was
for the UK to leave the EU.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,
which the EU is determined to pass, may potentially
see the UK Government and the NHS facing legal challenge from foreign
corporations if we refuse to put some of our public services,
including the NHS, out to tender for privatisation.
This could, in effect, force the partial
privatisation of the NHS.
And there could be nothing for the UK Government,
or worse the British people, to do if we were to stay
as a member of the European Union.
And we, on these benches, must not be
blind to this issue and leave it to other
parties to make the case.
The simplest and surest way, therefore,
to protect the NHS from the strain of costs from forced privatisation
and to save enough money to build a new hospital every week
would be for Britain to vote to leave
and take back control on the 23rd.
There is going to be, presumably, at some stage, a trade agreement
between the European Union and United States.
If we want to protect ourselves from any unintended consequences,
it is better to be in there arguing the case as part
of those negotiations, rather than having
to stay on the outside and then accept the negotiation
once it is done,
whatever is included in that agreement.
And those arguments over TTIP and a proposed amendment to
the Queen's speech will resurface when the debate resumes
in the Commons next week.
Meanwhile, down the corridor in the House of Lords,
one part of the Government's programme was described as a bit
like trying to win a Grand Prix on a sit-down lawnmower.
The damning comment came from a Lib Dem peer,
who was scathing about the Government's approach
to improving Internet coverage.
Lady Burt accused ministers of a lack of ambition
in the targets they have set for improving broadband speeds.
The universal service operation for broadband
being proposed is for 10 megabytes per second by 2020.
That is not close to what we need
to be world leaders in the digital economy.
The government's idea of
superfast broadband is 25 megabytes per second.
South Korea already has speeds of one gigabyte per second,
We cannot compete on the world market
relying on copper cables.
It is like trying to win a Grand Prix on a sit-down lawnmower.
If the Government were serious about being a world leader
in the digital economy they would support fibre to
home broadband, spending money on vital infrastructure.
And it appears one peer was having problems with the broadband
being provided to his home.
I can tell you that we had interrupted service
in a relatively straightforward part of London.
I cannot imagine the stresses and challenges that other parts
of the country have and I think...
Enough is enough, it has gone on far too long
and this bill also will, in my view,
address, hopefully, some of the weaknesses
in Ofcom's approach to this, which I certainly
believe has been utterly inadequate.
From Internet connectivity to train connectivity.
Newcastle, Sunderland, Hartlepool and Stockton
would all lose out because there is such an emphasis
on the Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool access.
But the far north, both East and West, is not properly included.
If we are to have HS2,
I suggest we start building from Newcastle
at the same time as we start from London.
I have read recent newspaper articles
suggesting that the costs of HS2 are escalating rapidly
and that this may lead to the truncation of this
project, possibly even as far south as Crewe.
And onto broadcasting
and the Government's plans for the BBC.
The proposed health check review of the BBC,
after just five years, will inevitably be politicised
and should be dropped.
The uncertainty and disruption will distract management
from the task of creating the broadcaster of distinction
promised in the title of the white paper.
And anyway, is not Ofcom's new role
to do such so-called health checks?
And the BBC charter is to be reviewed,
as the noble Lord mentioned, every five years.
Always, by the way, coinciding with a general election.
"An opportunity to check the reforms are working as we intend,"
John Whittingdale said in his oral statement.
Chilling words, whoever is in government.
Lady Bonham Carter.
And that is it for now.
But do join me at 11pm on Friday night for the Week in Parliament.
Until then, from me, goodbye.