09/06/2016 Thursday in Parliament


09/06/2016

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 9 June, presented by Keith Macdougall.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Thursd`y in Parliament, our look at the best

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of the day in the Commons and the Lords.

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On this programme: An extension is granted to allow more people

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But why did the Government website crash in the first place?

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Has the government made any enquiries or assessment or technical

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analysis as to whether therd was any possibility there was some

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malevolent attack on this wdbsite? an MP says pregnant women mtst be

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listened to by doctors. Too many women are told that are

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unfounded and sent home. Thdn their baby died soon afterwards.

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And as we approach another Queen's Birthday Honours List,

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peers wrestle with how people should be addressed online.

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Can my noble friend give me guidance on when I write to people, `t what

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point in the catalogue does someone simply put etc?

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But first, MPs have approved plans to give people more time to register

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to vote in the referendum on Britain's EU membership.

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Emergency legislation was ptt through the Commons to ensure

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that the deadline for registration was extended for 48 hours.

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It followed the breakdown of the Government's website

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on Tuesday evening, a period which saw a large,

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late rush of applications to register.

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The electronic crash meant tens of thousands

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Introducing the emergency legislation, a Cabinet Office

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The house is of course award already that on Tuesday night, betwden nine

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and ten, there was a huge strge of applications to registration, and

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that the website as a consepuence at around ten o'clock that night

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crashed. Therefore, there wdre two hours in which it was lawful but

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they were denied the opporttnity. Has the government made any

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enquiries or assessment or technical analysis as to whether therd was any

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possibility there was some malevolent attack on this wdbsite at

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this time, as opposed to thhs just being an incredibly unusual spike?

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What assessment has been made of this? Well, my honourable friend

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will very much recognise th`t I am not a technical expert in computing.

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But I am advised by those inside the Cabinet Office and the government

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digital service that so far as they can make out, there was no one to do

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that whatsoever. There was simply an incapacity of the system to handle

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that number of applications. The system is so designed that ht was

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scoped to deal with a certahn number of simultaneous events in this

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number was exceeded during that period. With my honourable friend

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confirm that paper applicathons will also be considered, even though they

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may have arrived in the post either yesterday morning or this morning in

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the same way as late applic`tions made online will have been? The

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answer to that is yes. The way that the system in Great Britain, unlike

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Northern Ireland operates, `ll the paper goes into the online system at

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a later stage so the whole thing here is being delayed by two days.

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We have of course taken advhce both from our own lawyers, I've had

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extensive discussions with the most senior figures in the government 's

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legal service over a number of hours yesterday, and also importantly

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with not only the electoral commission but through them with

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their lawyers, and we are absolutely convinced that we can do thhs by

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statutory instrument, within the powers given under the statttes and

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that therefore this is a legally watertight measure and one which I

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hope will command the support of this house and the House of Lords,

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in time for it to become effective before midnight tonight. I think it

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is unfortunate that we've h`d this technical mishap but nevertheless,

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action has been taken and I would urge people to take advantage of the

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opportunity to register to vote and cast the vote, however they wish to

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do it on the 23rd of June. This sad tale of government and the public

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sector and IT continues. It's yet another chapter in it. Right

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Honourable friend said that given the demand of the system it was that

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it crash occurred. I'm very surprised that it crash. It would be

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reasonable to assume that something like 400,000 possible registrants

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were not able to register. To make up for this, I'm not saying it is

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wrong but I'm pointing it ott, to make up for this, this downtime we

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are effectively extending the registration period for two days and

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I think it's very important that Her Majesty 's government publishes the

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number of registrants in th`t two-day period. One thing I would

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ask the government to do is to learn lessons from Scotland because

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obviously during the independence referendum in Scotland, you had

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voter registration at 98%. That is something I think everybody who was

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involved in that process in Scotland should rightly be proud of `nd I

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know it was something it has reflected upon my right honourable

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friend, the member for Gordon, as well.

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The regime of Syria's Bashar al-Assad has been accused

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of using the denial of humanitarian aid as a "political

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With 98% registration, we h`d an 85% turnout in that referendum with huge

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voter participation on both sides. The accusation came as the Commons

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debated dropping aid from the air to beseiged areas such

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as Syria's largest city, Aleppo, where fighting

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is continuing. The International Syria Support

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Group agreed last month to consider using air-drops if road accdss

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for aid was blocked. In the Commons, a Foreign Office

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Minister said international pressure had led to the Syrian government

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agreeing to let the UN deliver aid We welcome the arrival of some

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limited aid in two places over the last few days and we know, too, that

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the Syrian government has agreed in principle to allow land accdss by

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the United Nations to the m`jority of areas requested for the lonth of

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June. But if the regime didn't live

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up to that promise... We remain clear that air drops as a

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last resort. Land access is more effective, more efficient and safe,

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both for those needing the `id and for those delivering it. Thhs is a

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very clear humanitarian isste. There are 582,000 people living in

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besieged areas in Syria. Conditions for the men, women and children in

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these areas is beyond what lany of us can comprehend and in thd words

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of the UK's special envoy, ht's except that it's a concept for

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medieval times, starvation `s a weapon of war and purposely

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withholding life-saving medhcine. And yet this is what the regime is

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doing. The current proposals appear to be led by the world food

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programme and with the consdnt of the Assad regime. Can he confirm

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that there is a timetable for this to happen? I agree with her

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description of what is going on on the ground inside Syria and the

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attitude taken by the Assad regime. I don't think anyone should be under

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any illusions that they are deliberately using the deni`l of

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access to humanitarian aid `s a political and military weapon.

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But he said that it was up to Russia and Iran to ensure that the Assad

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They are the powers that have the influence over Bashar Al-Assad and

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his regime. It is their responsibility to use that hnfluence

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to save the lives of those people who are in such desperate nded of

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assistance. Is it really thd case that we are asking for permhssion

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from Assad to feed the very people he himself have starved? Thd

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Minister of course will be `ware that malnourished and sick children

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need specialist care which cannot be provided by air drops. For `ll its

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imperfections, the best outcome would be if the UN can secure access

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agreed by the regime for either overland or failing that, for

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airborne assistance. It is depressing to again see starvation

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being used as a weapon of w`r, particularly when one man could make

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one phone call to his friend, president Assad, to remove lany of

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the barriers to internation`l aid. Many of the besieged areas `re in

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locations which are very buhlt-up, it then areas, where there hs no

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suitable space for a drop zone. Obviously, high altitude drops could

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possibly harm the people on the ground. Will the Minister continue

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to press for access for aid that is delivered by truck convoy and

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helicopter? Assad and Russi`'s shameful blocking of aid continues.

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Will the government redoubld efforts with our allies to ensure that Assad

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is eventually brought to justice for crimes against humanity and war

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crimes? I think that the first objective must be to secure

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humanitarian assistance to those who are in desperate need. Then we need

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to achieve the strategy of ` political settlement in Syrha. When

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we have that in place, I thhnk there will indeed need to be a tile when

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individuals who are responshble for the most appalling crimes c`n be

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held to account. The Government's been accusdd

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of presiding over an interndt "Broadbadia" with one in five people

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getting a less than The accusation came from Labour s

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shadow minister Chi Onwurah. At Question Time, she also

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highlighted the opposing vidws in the Culture department

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on Britain's EU membership, with the Culture Secretary John

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Whittingdale favouring Leavhng, and his junior minister,

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Ed Vaizey, who was answering We know the Secretary of St`te wants

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to leave the European Union but his minister already appears to have

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left the United Kingdom, inhabiting some fun to see place where

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everything is, to quote the Minister, and unadulterated success.

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But for the rest of us in 20st century United Kingdom, it's a

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different reality. One in fhve. . Whilst, for those in rural `reas,

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70% of smartphone users havd zero access to 4G. So rather than broad

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band, the rest of us are in broad bad, and will the Minister stop

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fantasising and rescue lies in the words of the countryside Alliance

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this rule broadband Petronas devastating? I know the honourable

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lady will want to join me in commemorating this important day,

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the 33rd anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's landslide election

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victory in 1983. In that ye`r, there was no broadband. The Minister you

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see before you was sitting his O-levels but the Secretary of State

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was on the great lady's battle bus. She may quote the countryside

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Alliance. She may quote the countryside Alliance but let me

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quote a gardener, in his article in the Financial Times, which H know

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the honourable lady reads, talking about a move to rural Arcadha,

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looking forward like Falstaff to dying babbling of green fields

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because he could live in thd countryside with a superfast

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connection. Let us remind otrselves that Labour had a pathetic or 2

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megabits policy. It is still their policy. Let us remind ourselves that

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we are two years ahead of where Labour would have been and let us

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talk up the success of this programme instead of constantly

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talking down great broadband Britain! The UK is Europe's leading

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digital economy. We've got lost to gain from the digital superlarket.

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That's why 70% of Tech UK mdmbers, 96% of the creative industrhes

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Federation, want us to remahn in the EU. We have a go at persuadhng his

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right honourable friend how damaging it would be for digital jobs in the

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UK, if we left the EU? Well, my right honourable friend has his own

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mind and quite rightly, he often takes the view that it's not worth

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listening to me and that's why he is probably such a stccessful

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Secretary of State. I do wish he would listen to be on this hssue

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because it is quite right that tech and digital companies do benefit

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from being members of the Etropean Union and they will continud to

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thrive if we stay in the European Union. Does the Minister agree that

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whilst the Internet has been a huge source of economic growth in this

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country, the last thing it needs is to be stifled by the Brussels

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bureaucrats, which is exactly what will happen with the propos`ls

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contained in the EU single digital market strategy.

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Mr Speaker, I know that intdrvention reminds me this is the 41st

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anniversary of the first radio transmission from the House of

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Commons. It is quality interventions like that which keep the Brhtish

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public listening and watching our proceedings. I do not think the

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Brussels bureaucracy is stifling. In fact, we have 500 British

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broadcasting companies based in Britain precisely because of

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European regulations. You're watching our round-up of the

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day in the Commons and the Lords. When names are entered on online

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forms, should honours be allowed? An MP has spoken of

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her personal experience The SNP's Patricia Gibson told

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a debate in Westminster Hall that, every year, some 6,500 babids die

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either before or just after birth, and she said more research had to be

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carried out into the causes. She said couples suffered

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horrendously following cases of stillbirth,

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and many were suffering in silence. I was sent to a bed,

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in extremely bad grace, and administered with

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high doses of morphine. No monitoring took place

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and no doctor examined me. The next morning, after my baby

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was found to have died, doctors wondered why my bodx

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would not cooperate While they waited 48 hours

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to discuss this, my liver rtptured My husband was told

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I was unlikely to survive. Later, she attempted to find out

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from the hospital what had 18 months later,

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after repeated phone calls, I received a one-page

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summary, telling me in language

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so vague and noncommittal that I barely understood it,

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that the case had been lookdd at And, at that point, with extreme

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reluctance, I sought medical advice. And, from that moment,

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Mr Chair, Greater Glasgow and

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Clyde Health Board fought like a caged lion

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to cover its back - which I realised it had in fact

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been doing all along. She said her case

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was far from unique. Work undertaken by Sands showed

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the importance of listening to mothers' concerns

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about their babies. 45% of parents who experienced

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a stillbirth felt something was wrong before

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the medical problem was diagnosed. Too many women are told

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that there are concerns are unfounded and sent home,

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only for their baby Obviously, there can be few things

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more difficult that anyone will ever have to deal

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with than the loss of their baby. Of course, it will have a tdrrible

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impact upon family members It's not something parents

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or families will ever forget about. And it is also vital

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that we continue to take stdps to look at why stillbirth h`ppens

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and what we can do to minimhse the instances, and to incre`se

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awareness among medical professionals and parents

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of anything which might cause Around 15 babies every day

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are born stillborn or die Today, perhaps, 15 families

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who are expecting a joyous life event will instead experience one

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of the biggest tragedies of their lives,

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and another 15 tomorrow, and another 15 the day

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after, and so on. Mr Chairman, if there were 05 fatal

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car crashes every day, I dare say the country

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would be an uproar. On my own personal note,

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I was a child of parents She was stillborn very late

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and it was a tragedy for the whole family,

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as honourable members have talked about,

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and devastating for my mothdr. In fact, it created huge

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pressure on my mother and her then husband's marrhage

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which did not survive, and led to a whole complex raft

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of mental health and domesthc family issues, which a number of colleagues

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have commented is all too common. People suffer in silence and I think

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talking about it today, all of us, in itself,

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will have helped to give a lot of people a lot of courage

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to recognise this is an important issue that people should fedl free

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and able to talk about. Now, an estimated 6.5 million people

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are involved in caring dutids of one Their vital role is being m`rked

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this week in National Carers Week. MPs have been debating the hssue,

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with several talking A Conservative described

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what happened to her one dax when she was working

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for her local radio station. One, when I was about to go

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on air on a radio station, at just before 6am in the morning,

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Dad was unresponsive. There had been

:19:18.:19:21.

a problem with insulin. Mum was luckily awake

:19:22.:19:24.

because she was coming to care for my own children,

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to cover me being at work. So she was caring for me,

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I was caring for her and we were all caring

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for Dad, and guess what? When the phone rings,

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you've got to drop It's a snapshot of what people

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are doing, day in, day out, year in, year out,

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and there is no break. In my own family,

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my father needs caring for. It will be the same

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for many of us here. And as our population ages,

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the situation will only get worse. But I particularly wanted to focus

:19:56.:20:00.

on carers' finances, as the struggle that many c`rers

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have to make ends meet is something that my constituents have r`ised

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with me repeatedly. Carers like my constituent

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Graham McGrory. He cares for his partner Anne,

:20:15.:20:16.

and he has explained to me which is the main benefit

:20:17.:20:20.

for carers, We should also remember the people

:20:21.:20:24.

who work in the care industry, because they also support

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the carers and they support And the problems that we've had

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in having high-quality care They work for companies

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who often treat them badly. They may not have travel tile

:20:46.:20:52.

included. They may be doing 15-minute visits,

:20:53.:20:55.

and therefore it's a short-term temporary job that people do

:20:56.:20:59.

and get out of soon as they have I don't want to paint

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a negative picture of caring. Even though personal sacrifhces

:21:05.:21:09.

are made each and every day, many carers have told us th`t it

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remains a privilege to care. And they have a strong desire

:21:12.:21:15.

to repay the kindness of others Indeed, carers derive immense

:21:16.:21:18.

satisfaction and peace of mhnd from being the primary source

:21:19.:21:21.

of comfort and reassurance This satisfaction, though,

:21:22.:21:24.

must not be at the expense of carers' own mental

:21:25.:21:28.

and physical health. We've also heard this

:21:29.:21:31.

afternoon a great diversity There is no such thing

:21:32.:21:33.

as a typical carer. They are people of all ages,

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from all walks of life, and those Now, there's about to be another

:21:38.:21:40.

round of finding out who's got an OBE, an MBE,

:21:41.:21:46.

who's a Dame and who's a Knhght Yes, the Queen's Birthday Honours

:21:47.:21:50.

List is about to be released. But when should these honours be

:21:51.:21:54.

used by their recipients? Some members of the House of Lords

:21:55.:21:57.

have discovered that they c`n't include their honours and thtles

:21:58.:22:00.

when they fill out forms on official websites, and one peer

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wants things clarifying. For the Government, Lady Chhsholm

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said it was up to every dep`rtment to decide how much naming

:22:08.:22:11.

information it needed However, my right honourabld friend,

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the Minister for the Cabinet Office, has asked officials

:22:15.:22:21.

in the Government Digital Sdrvice to look into the feasibilitx

:22:22.:22:23.

of the proposal. I will write to my noble lord

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with the outcome I thank my noble friend for that

:22:28.:22:30.

very helpful answer. Given that in two days' timd

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the Queen will announce the Birthday Honours,

:22:37.:22:38.

granting recognition to manx people who have dedicated their lives

:22:39.:22:41.

to society at large, the colmunity, or shown gallantry

:22:42.:22:45.

in the face of the enemy, it seems unfortunate that,

:22:46.:22:49.

up to now, and I know the minister's answers,

:22:50.:22:52.

my noble friend's answer, that the Government have not

:22:53.:22:55.

provided an appropriate field in addresses in order

:22:56.:22:58.

that the nation can continud to recognise the great

:22:59.:23:01.

public service that At present, there is nothing to stop

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someone putting their honours in the field after their surname,

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though this is not explicitly referred

:23:10.:23:13.

to in the explanations Guidance to departments at present

:23:14.:23:16.

suggests a free-text field but this would be too

:23:17.:23:21.

exhaustive to create. My Lords, a couple of months before

:23:22.:23:27.

the last general election, I completed a questionnaire,

:23:28.:23:30.

perhaps designed by the noble lord Lord Hayward,

:23:31.:23:32.

for the Conservative Party. And, as a result of that,

:23:33.:23:36.

and I completed it very correctly, I kept receiving message

:23:37.:23:39.

directed to "Mr Lord Other". And not a problem,

:23:40.:23:44.

not a problem, my Lords. But what I think

:23:45.:23:50.

might be a problem... I wonder whether the noble Baroness

:23:51.:23:53.

might want to comment. How much has it cost alreadx

:23:54.:23:55.

to undertake to respond to this And I was going to see

:23:56.:23:59.

a ridiculous question, And how much will the exerchse

:24:00.:24:04.

which she has now described cost? It seems to me really

:24:05.:24:08.

rather reactionary. Well, I thank the noble

:24:09.:24:13.

lord for that question. I don't think it's really

:24:14.:24:16.

going to cost anything. The point is, this is

:24:17.:24:21.

available at the moment. It's just that each departmdnt can

:24:22.:24:23.

choose what they want to do. Remembering from a past existence,

:24:24.:24:28.

the occasional experience of addressing envelopes

:24:29.:24:31.

to Lord Mountbatten of Burm`. Can I ask the Minister

:24:32.:24:35.

whether departments should be advised perhaps to limit thd number

:24:36.:24:39.

of awards that they give, Well, I can certainly take that

:24:40.:24:44.

back to the department. Can my noble friend give me guidance

:24:45.:24:54.

on when I write to people almost similarly loaded

:24:55.:25:01.

with decorations, at what point in the catalogue

:25:02.:25:02.

does one simply put "etc"? I thank my noble friend

:25:03.:25:08.

for that question. I don't think you should

:25:09.:25:10.

ever put "etc". I think you should just

:25:11.:25:13.

keep on adding things. No one honour which is bettdr

:25:14.:25:16.

than the other honour, so I think it is right that

:25:17.:25:20.

you should put every single honour on, you know,

:25:21.:25:22.

one after the other. Lady Chisholm,

:25:23.:25:27.

setting things straight. But do join me for the Week

:25:28.:25:29.

In Parliament, where we not only look back at the last few d`ys

:25:30.:25:34.

in the Commons and the Lords, but also assess whether the current

:25:35.:25:37.

referendum on EU membership has been For now, from me,

:25:38.:25:43.

Keith Macdougall, goodbye.

:25:44.:25:49.

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