09/06/2016 Thursday in Parliament


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

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


of the day in the Commons and the Lords.


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


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


Has the government made any enquiries or assessment or technical


analysis as to whether therd was any possibility there was some


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


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


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


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


peers wrestle with how people should be addressed online.


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


point in the catalogue does someone simply put etc?


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


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


Emergency legislation was ptt through the Commons to ensure


that the deadline for registration was extended for 48 hours.


It followed the breakdown of the Government's website


on Tuesday evening, a period which saw a large,


late rush of applications to register.


The electronic crash meant tens of thousands


Introducing the emergency legislation, a Cabinet Office


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


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


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


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


they were denied the opporttnity. Has the government made any


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


possibility there was some malevolent attack on this wdbsite at


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


number was exceeded during that period. With my honourable friend


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


with not only the electoral commission but through them with


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


statutory instrument, within the powers given under the statttes and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


reasonable to assume that something like 400,000 possible registrants


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


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


are effectively extending the registration period for two days and


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


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


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


obviously during the independence referendum in Scotland, you had


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


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


know it was something it has reflected upon my right honourable


friend, the member for Gordon, as well.


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


of using the denial of humanitarian aid as a "political


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


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


debated dropping aid from the air to beseiged areas such


as Syria's largest city, Aleppo, where fighting


is continuing. The International Syria Support


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


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


Minister said international pressure had led to the Syrian government


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


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


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


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


June. But if the regime didn't live


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


his regime. It is their responsibility to use that hnfluence


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


airborne assistance. It is depressing to again see starvation


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


is eventually brought to justice for crimes against humanity and war


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


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


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


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


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


held to account. The Government's been accusdd


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


getting a less than The accusation came from Labour s


shadow minister Chi Onwurah. At Question Time, she also


highlighted the opposing vidws in the Culture department


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


Whittingdale favouring Leavhng, and his junior minister,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


fantasising and rescue lies in the words of the countryside Alliance


this rule broadband Petronas devastating? I know the honourable


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


the 33rd anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's landslide election


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


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


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


Alliance. She may quote the countryside Alliance but let me


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


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


looking forward like Falstaff to dying babbling of green fields


because he could live in thd countryside with a superfast


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


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


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


talk up the success of this programme instead of constantly


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


contained in the EU single digital market strategy.


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


anniversary of the first radio transmission from the House of


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


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


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


broadcasting companies based in Britain precisely because of


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


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


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


her personal experience The SNP's Patricia Gibson told


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


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


carried out into the causes. She said couples suffered


horrendously following cases of stillbirth,


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


in extremely bad grace, and administered with


high doses of morphine. No monitoring took place


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


was found to have died, doctors wondered why my bodx


would not cooperate While they waited 48 hours


to discuss this, my liver rtptured My husband was told


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


from the hospital what had 18 months later,


after repeated phone calls, I received a one-page


summary, telling me in language


so vague and noncommittal that I barely understood it,


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


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


Mr Chair, Greater Glasgow and


Clyde Health Board fought like a caged lion


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


been doing all along. She said her case


was far from unique. Work undertaken by Sands showed


the importance of listening to mothers' concerns


about their babies. 45% of parents who experienced


a stillbirth felt something was wrong before


the medical problem was diagnosed. Too many women are told


that there are concerns are unfounded and sent home,


only for their baby Obviously, there can be few things


more difficult that anyone will ever have to deal


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


impact upon family members It's not something parents


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


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


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


awareness among medical professionals and parents


of anything which might cause Around 15 babies every day


are born stillborn or die Today, perhaps, 15 families


who are expecting a joyous life event will instead experience one


of the biggest tragedies of their lives,


and another 15 tomorrow, and another 15 the day


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


car crashes every day, I dare say the country


would be an uproar. On my own personal note,


I was a child of parents She was stillborn very late


and it was a tragedy for the whole family,


as honourable members have talked about,


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


pressure on my mother and her then husband's marrhage


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


with several talking A Conservative described


what happened to her one dax when she was working


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


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


Dad was unresponsive. There had been


a problem with insulin. Mum was luckily awake


because she was coming to care for my own children,


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


I was caring for her and we were all caring


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


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


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


and there is no break. In my own family,


my father needs caring for. It will be the same


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


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


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


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


with me repeatedly. Carers like my constituent


Graham McGrory. He cares for his partner Anne,


and he has explained to me which is the main benefit


for carers, We should also remember the people


who work in the care industry, because they also support


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


in having high-quality care They work for companies


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


included. They may be doing 15-minute visits,


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


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


a negative picture of caring. Even though personal sacrifhces


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


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


to repay the kindness of others Indeed, carers derive immense


satisfaction and peace of mhnd from being the primary source


of comfort and reassurance This satisfaction, though,


must not be at the expense of carers' own mental


and physical health. We've also heard this


afternoon a great diversity There is no such thing


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


wants things clarifying. For the Government, Lady Chhsholm


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


information it needed However, my right honourabld friend,


the Minister for the Cabinet Office, has asked officials


in the Government Digital Sdrvice to look into the feasibilitx


of the proposal. I will write to my noble lord


with the outcome I thank my noble friend for that


very helpful answer. Given that in two days' timd


the Queen will announce the Birthday Honours,


granting recognition to manx people who have dedicated their lives


to society at large, the colmunity, or shown gallantry


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


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


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


provided an appropriate field in addresses in order


that the nation can continud to recognise the great


public service that At present, there is nothing to stop


someone putting their honours in the field after their surname,


though this is not explicitly referred


to in the explanations Guidance to departments at present


suggests a free-text field but this would be too


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


the last general election, I completed a questionnaire,


perhaps designed by the noble lord Lord Hayward,


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


and I completed it very correctly, I kept receiving message


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


not a problem, my Lords. But what I think


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


might want to comment. How much has it cost alreadx


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


a ridiculous question, And how much will the exerchse


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


rather reactionary. Well, I thank the noble


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


going to cost anything. The point is, this is


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


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


the occasional experience of addressing envelopes


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


whether departments should be advised perhaps to limit thd number


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


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


on when I write to people almost similarly loaded


with decorations, at what point in the catalogue


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


for that question. I don't think you should


ever put "etc". I think you should just


keep on adding things. No one honour which is bettdr


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


you should put every single honour on, you know,


one after the other. Lady Chisholm,


setting things straight. But do join me for the Week


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


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


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


Keith Macdougall, goodbye.


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