08/09/2016 Thursday in Parliament


Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 8 September, 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.


The best way to improve social mobility?


Opinions are sharply divided on grammar schools.


Would the Secretary of Statd like to visit Northern Ireland, where


grammar schools still exist and are hugely popular. Where there is good


education. People moved to Kent because of its grammar schools. This


possible and entrenched this inequality and disadvantage. --


entrench inequality. Peers voice their concerns


about what Brexit means for the border between


the Irish Republic and Northern Isn't it unthinkable in and either


of jihadism that the only l`nd border between the UK and ET would


be completely open? An MP says we're all at risk


from the crafty scammer. All of us are overconfident about


our ability to spot a scam. That makes us, ironically, all the more


vulnerable. But first, Justine Greening has said


the Government is not plannhng a return to an education system


of "winners and losers". The new Education Secretary faced


questions in the Commons following the news that


Prime Minister Theresa May favours the reintroduction of gramm`r


schools in certain areas. Many hundreds of grammars


were closed down across in Dngland in the 1970s and replaced


by comprehensive schools as the controversial


"11-plus" examination, which determined a pupil's


academic ability, was seen In the Commons, Justine Gredning,


herself educated at a comprdhensive in South Yorkshire, told MPs


she was open-minded about sdlection. She said the world of education


had seen many changes We now have a whole variety


of educational offers avail`ble There will be no return


to the simplistic binary choice of the past, where schools separate


children into winners and losers, This Government wants


to focus on the future. To build on our success since 2 10


and to create a truly But we want a system that c`n cater


for the talent and the abilhties So, to achieve that,


we need a truly diverse range More good schools were needdd


in more areas of the countrx. I expect any new proposals to focus


on what we can do to help everyone to go as far as their own individual


talents and capacity for hard Education policy, to that end,


will be set in due course. Despite that waffle,


the cat is finally out of the bag. The Government has revealed


their plans for new grammar schools in England but not


in this House, Mr Speaker. We did not even hear the word


"grammar" there, but it was through leaks


to the press and at a private So much for the one nation


government that we were prolised. She said pushing ahead with grammar


schools showed a misunderst`nding The Prime Minister has said this


policy is justified because we Quite how making things worse


by bringing back grammar schools Perhaps the Secretary of St`te can


tell us why she is ensuring that all children don't


get a decent education. This policy will not help social


mobility, Mr Speaker, but will entrench


inequality and disadvantage. It will be the lucky few


who can afford the tuition that will get ahead,


and the disadvantaged A policy for the few


at the expense of the many. It was really interesting lhstening


to a her. Her words were really, in m`ny


respects, the ones that I hdard People having a dogmatic debate


about the education system whilst I studied in my local comprdhensive,


entirely untouched What we want to do and what we think


this Parliament and country should do is to be prepared to look


at the practical ways we can improve And to be prepared to leave no stone


unturned to do that. And, frankly, to complain about one


aspect of our school system and then say that we should not even


have a debate about that eldment The World Economic Forum has


recently reminded us that we are well down the t`bles


in terms of literacy and nuleracy. In fact, some 20% of 16


to 18-year-olds struggle with literacy and the figurd


is even worse for numeracy. 25%, according to the World Economic


Forum. So, does the Secretary of State


agree with me that it is absolutely necessary for any discussion


about grammar schools not to distract us from that fundamental


task that we have of improvhng social mobility and making sure


that we make the best use of all the talent across thd whole


country and not just Apart from the best possibld


teaching, the most important thing we can do for our young people


is to encourage them as thex make Given that we still as a nation


are dealing with the legacy of a divided education systdm,


why on earth does she think that subjecting more 11-year-old


children to that experience, with their tearful parents,


having opened the envelope, telling them that they have failed,


is going to encourage and stpport them in their self-esteem


and continuing career The Secretary of State is qtite


right not to rule out a discussion on grammar schools as part


of a wide type of schools And I declare an interest


as a product of a wonderful But would the Secretary of State


like to visit Northern Irel`nd, where grammar schools still exist,


where they are hugely popul`r, where there is good education right


across the spectrum, no matter what the ability


of the young person is? And indeed that Northern Irdland's


results continue to improve and be better than the rest


of United Kingdom. I welcome the Secretary


of State's comments this All children have the right


to fulfil their full potenthal. Will the Secretary of State assure


the House that she all methods of selection and this


not about bringing back the 11-plus? Well, we will set out


policies much more broadly, but I can assure you,


Mr Speaker, that there will be This is about having


a 21st-century approach. She represents


a London constituency. She will know that London schools


have improved dramatically over Does she agree with me that


that is happening because of focus on high standards for all children


in all schools, not by going down I urge her today not to go back


not to turn the clock back to grammar schools but to focus


on high standards in all schools, in all parts of the country,


for all children. I am sure that many across Torbay,


where three grammar schools work perfectly well with comprehdnsive


schools, a studio school and a very successful technical collegd


will have been listening to some of the comments today, parthcularly


from the Shadow Education Sdcretary, Would she agree with me


that it is really nothing r`dical to say that we will give other areas


the chance to choose to have the education systel Torbay


already benefit from? My right honourable friend will know


that people moved to Kent Does she agree that it is not right


for an excellent academic education to only be available to those


who can move to the catchment areas We do need to improve


diversity and choice. As the Prime Minister said,


the reality is that too often in Britain,


we do have selection, but it is Which is totally unacceptable


in a modern Britain. The arguments are


likely to continue. The new Secretary of State


for International Trade, Li`m Fox, has made his first appearance


at the Commons despatch box. Mr Fox's team were challengdd over


their stance on Britain rem`ining The International Trade Secretary


was also pressed over his department's capacity to negotiate


trade deals with countries My department already has a strong


and capable trade policy te`m, In the next two years,


we will be developing that team to build the world-class negotiating


strengths needed to deliver the best And in terms of negotiators,


we have already had strong expressions of


interest from individuals, Can the Secretary of State confirm


whether he is likely to hird any consultants to manage


these trade negotiations? Because, as I understand it,


according to a headhunter I was speaking to a couple of weeks


ago, the head of a trade Not for my purposes!


Not for mine. According to a headhunter


I was talking to a couple of weeks ago, the head of a trade negotiating


team, if hired as a consult`nt, Well, Mr Speaker, it is nicd to see


the Lib Dems are looking forward to repeating the election stccess


in the next election. I always think it is nice


for politicians I can say to the honourable


gentleman that we are not intending to create a standing army


of bureaucrats that would bd We are looking to see how most


effectively we can create the skills and the calibre


of negotiators we will requhre. Under the current EU treaty,


the UK does not currently possess competence, that is the right


to negotiate separate trade deals. And will he confirm the UK


will assume competence not when Article 50 is triggered,


but only when the UK actually While we're not able to negotiate


in terms of concluding a de`l while we are members


of the European Union, there is nothing to stop us having


discussions and scoping And I can announce to the House that


last week, we have now concluded a deal to set up a trade working


group with India to look at how we will remove barriers to trade


before we negotiate free-tr`de agreements on our exit


from the European Union. Questioning then turned


to the single market. Can I ask the minister to ask


the Secretary of State if hd stands by his statement from July


when he said, if the price of the relationship with thd single


market is the free movement of people, it is a price


I am not willing to pay. Does he still want to leave


the European single Mr Speaker, I refer her


to the answer I gave to her But I am going to be quite


clear about something. There is going to be no running


commentary at this stage And, Mr Speaker, she will know how


important that is from the negotiations that we did last


year between the UK Governmdnt and the Scottish Government


on the fiscal framework, which the Scottish Government


understood perfectly well, the importance of not providing


a running commentary. No running commentary, Mr Speaker,


is politician speak for not So, how is the minister getting


on delivering the promise m`de by the Secretary of State


for exiting the EU? I quote, the Government will trigger


a large round of global trade deals with our most favoured tradd


partners by tomorrow. Mr Speaker, I think it is a little


bit rich for the benches opposite I noted with interest


the Leader of the Opposition He described something


called the free-trade But, Mr Speaker, let


us be absolutely clear that the Prime Minister said that


under her leadership, Britain will seek to become


the global leader in free trade The Japanese government havd thrown


a huge cold bucket of water over Brexit with the announcement that UK


investment from Japan Is access to the single market key


to calming Japanese nerves? Mr Speaker, I had a very


constructive meeting with the Japanese ambassador


earlier this week, and I thhnk it might be worth reiterating


to the honourable gentleman There is no indication so f`r I have


received from Japanese industries that they are contemplating any exit


from the UK economy because they like it


here and they have benefited That will continue because


the economic fundamentals of this Peers have been assured


that Britain's departure from the European Union will not


affect the Government's comlitment to the Good Friday Agreement,


sometimes called the Belfast Agreement, on the devolution


of power in Northern Ireland. Brexit means, for the first time,


the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland will be on either shde


of a European land border. The Republic joined the European


community at the same Fears were expressed


during the referendum campahgn that Brexit would mean the border having


to have much tighter The future of the Belfast


Agreement is not and never The UK's exit from the EU does not


change the commitment of thd UK Government and the people


of Northern Ireland to the Belfast Agreement


and its successors and to The Government will make a success


of the UK's exit from the ET and continue to build a brighter,


more secure future Several Government ministers have


repeatedly stated that our land frontier with the European Tnion


will not be a hard border. What discussions have the Government


had with the Government of the Republic of Ireland hn terms


of the exact nature of this, It is clearly a priority and I can


assure him that discussions But let me be clear again


that there is and always has been a strong will to preserve the common


travel area and ensure That is what the Government


is working towards. This is the first time in hhstory


that the Northern Ireland and the Republic will be


on the opposite sides Although the common travel `rea


has been in existence since the early 1920s,


there were tough security controls and border checks


during the Troubles. And isn't it unthinkable in an era


of mass refugee migration and jihadi terrorism that the only land border


between the UK and the EU Well, it is a point well made


by the noble Lord, who has luch But again, I reassure him


that this is at the top On the one hand, we don't


want to have a soft border. We do want to have a soft border,


not a hard border, but at the same time, all the parties are vdry aware


of the security issues Will the Minister confirm


that the Belfast Agreement hs not just an internal agreement


between the parties in Northern Ireland,


but is an international tre`ty between two sovereign states


of the United Kingdom Would he tell us, as such, hs it


lodged with the European Unhon and, if so, what of locations


will the withdrawal of one of the parties


from the European Union havd for the status of that


international treaty? It is true, what the noble


lord says, which is it It is a power-sharing


for Northern Ireland and it is quite But there is no reason to stggest


the outcome of the referendtm means The UK Government, Irish Government


and Northern Ireland political parties are fully committed


to upholding the agreement Is my noble friend aware


that the Republic of Ireland has shown some interest recentlx


in associate membership And would Her Majesty's Govdrnment


consider that thought as possibly being useful in resolving some


of the border problems which have And if that is the thought,


would the Government considdr pressing the Commonwealth


authorities to develop the relationship with the Rdpublic


of Ireland which is already That is a helpful comment


from my noble friend and I know that the new Secretary of State


for Northern Ireland, if I might put it this way,


has hit the ground running. And he has been meeting a v`riety


of parties in ensuring And I will certainly pass


that message on. Since there are now more


people from Poland living in Northern Ireland than people


from the Republic of Ireland, will both those who have Irhsh


passports and Polish passports be guaranteed their future in


Northern Ireland following Brexit? Well, I can only repeat


what I said previously, which is that the Belfast Agreement


remains intact and we do not You're watching our round-up of the


day in the Commons and the Lords. MPs and peers may be vacating


the Houses of Parliament while the builders go


in to renovate the palace. Now, scammers don't


just steal money. They can rob people


of their self-confidence They were debating the harm done


by fraudsters, typically to elderly Many scams nowadays take pl`ce


online with scammers sending emails claiming to be from banks


asking for security codes. But traditional scams


are still flourishing. One pensioner was even perstaded


to sign over his home to fr`udsters. As a former consumer rights


and personal finance journalist I have seen first-hand the real harm


that these fraudsters can do. They not only leave people poorer,


Madam Deputy Speaker, but can also cause a huge r`nge


of health and confidence problems For example, in 2003 whilst


working for the BBC, I covered a story of a Southampton


pensioner who fell victim to scam artists pretending to represent


something called the They convinced him to wire ?1,6 0


administration fee to Canad` to unlock the money,


which, of course, Instead, there were only escalating


demands for more cash. Indeed, in the end, this individual


paid out more than ?9,000 The typical victim of a scal is 74


years old and living alone. National Trading Standards scams


team has found an astonishing 106,000 potential victims of fraud


on captured criminal target lists and in the language of thesd


individuals, they call He told MPs about a case


featuring fake tradesmen. A 78-year-old pensioner


from Lincolnshire, who lived alone and was isolated from familx,


the pensioner was conned out of his house by a conman


who convinced him major rep`ir work After being cold called and visited,


he agreed to will part of his property in return


for the work being carried out. The MP who co-sponsored


the debate said everyone What makes us all vulnerabld


to scams is shown by research All of us are over-confident


about our ability to spot a scam and that makes us,


ironically, all the more vulnerable. The gap between confidence


and ability is dangerous. So what can we do about this


problem? I absolutely agree with


the suggestion put forward by Trading Standards that fhnancial


institutions should recognise that consumers,


clients with dimentia are, by definition, more at risk


of being scammed and measurds need to be taken to protect this group


as a duty of care. In order to tackle the issud of scam


and the Government seriouslx needs to review police funding,


police resources are alreadx suffering as a result of police


budgets decreasing year on xear Should it be allowed to continue,


we will see more scams being carried Co-operation between trading


standards and the police is vital but can only happen if best services


are given the funding for rdsrouces We have a moral responsibilhty


to protect the elderly We have to ensure that the resources


to do this are made available to the professionals


who have the skills to best I can assure honourable members


that the Government regards tackling scamming as a priority


and we will continue to work with national and local partners


to address the issues raised today and to do everything we can


to prevent the horrendous consequences of the scams


we have heard about today. A motion calling on the Govdrnment


to produce further measures 'An impending crisis


that cannot be ignored.' That's the verdict of a new report


on the structural condition The report says the Palace


of Westminster faces the 'substantial and growing risk'


of a catastrophic event, such as a major fire


or a series of failures It recommends both MPs and peers


moving out of the Palace for six years to allow urgent rdpair


and renovation work to take place. Naturally enough, the work won't be


cheap, as the SNP spokesman noted Mr Speaker, this morning


it was announced that billions of pounds will be spent


on refurbishing this House. I'm sure the Leader of the House


meant to announce when we'rd going to have the full statdment


on this and when we're going to have a proper


debate in Government time about these proposals,


particularly when they learn that this could cost up ?4.3 billion


of public money and I'm surd all our constituents


would want to know exactly hf that's The Leader of the Commons s`id


the report had been drawn up The government has not had `ny input


into that nor any prior cophes of the report sent to us


so that we could suddenly m`ke comments before the committde


made its announcement today. Parliament will indeed


have an opportunity to debate this Decisions will be a matter for this


House and for the House of Lords Finally - and not a lot


of people know this - the Speaker, John Bercow,


is a very adept impressionist. Question time in the chamber


gave him the chance to do one of his favourite impersonathons


that of the veteran Labour politician,


the late Tony Benn. When it comes to our commitlent to


delivering an Brexit there hs no doubt we will be delivering


hesitating to ensure it happens and as soon as we can achieve it on


behalf of country making all the necessary preparations. You all


remember Tony Benn, it's not about personality, it's about the issues.


But do join me for the Week in Parliament, when we not only look


back at the last four days in the Commons and the Lords,


but also discuss whether thd work of a politician should be job-shared


following the decision of the Greens to have two


people leading their party on a job-share basis.


Until then, from me, Keith Macdougall, goodbye.


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