08/12/2016 Thursday in Parliament


08/12/2016

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 8 December, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Hello and welcome to Thursday in Parliament.

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Coming up, it's an emotional afternoon in the Commons as female

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MPs speak of their experience of rape and sexual violence.

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I didn't tell my mother, I didn't tell my father,

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I didn't tell my friends, and I didn't tell the police.

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Peers debate what Brexit will mean for our defence.

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And there are calls for a complete ban on the trade

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in ivory in an attempt to save the world's elephants.

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It is estimated that some 30%, perhaps 144,000, have disappeared

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in the past seven years.

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But first, an MP has moved colleagues to tears,

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after revealing she was raped at 14.

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Michelle Thomson shared her personal story during

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a Commons debate focused on the UN International Day

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For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women.

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Today, I am going to relay an event that happened to me many years ago

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and I wanted to give a very personal perspective to help people in this

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place and outside understand one element

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of sexual violence against women.

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When I was 14, I was raped.

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As is common, it was by somebody who was known to me.

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He had offered to walk me home from a youth event and,

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in those days, everybody walked everywhere,

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it was quite common to do that.

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It was early evening, wasn't dark, I was wearing -

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I'm imagining, I'm guessing - jeans and a sweatshirt.

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I knew my way around where I lived.

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I was very comfortable and we did go a slightly different way,

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but I didn't think anything of it.

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He asked me, he told me he wanted to show me

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something in a wooded area and, at that point,

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I must admit I was alarmed.

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I did have a warning bell, but I overrode that warning bell,

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because I knew him and therefore there was a level of trust in place.

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And to be honest, looking back at that point, I don't think

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I knew what rape was.

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It was not something that was talked about.

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My mother never talked to me about it.

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I didn't hear other girls or other women talking about it.

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It was mercifully quick and I remember first

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of all feeling surprise, then fear, then horror,

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as I realised I quite simply couldn't escape.

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Because obviously, he was stronger than me.

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And there was no sense, even initially, of any

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sexual desire from him, which I suppose looking

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back again I find odd.

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My senses were absolutely numb

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and, thinking about it now 37 years later, I remember...

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I cannot remember hearing anything when I replay it in my mind.

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Afterwards, I walked home alone, I was crying, I was cold

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and I was shivering and I now realise of course that

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was the shock response.

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I didn't tell my mother, I didn't tell my father,

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I didn't tell my friends, and I didn't tell the police.

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I bottled it all up inside me.

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I hoped, briefly and appallingly, that I might be pregnant,

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so that that would force a situation to help you control it.

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so that that would force a situation to help me control it.

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And, of course, without support, the capacity and resources I had

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within me to process it were a very limited.

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I was very ashamed, I was ashamed that I had allowed this to happen

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to me and I had a whole range of internal conversations

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about "I should've known!" "Why did I go that way?"

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"Why did I walk home with him?"

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"Why didn't I understand the danger?"

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I deserved it because I was too this, I was too that!

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I felt that I was spoilt and impure.

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And I really felt revulsion towards myself.

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A rape happens when a man makes a decision to hurt someone

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he feels he can control.

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Rapes happen because of the rapist, not because of the victim.

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WOMEN: Hear, hear.

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And we women, and our society, have to stand up for each other.

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We have to be courageous.

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We have to call things out and say where things are wrong.

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We have to support and nurture our sisters as we do with our sons.

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Like many women of my age, I have on occasion encountered other

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aggressive actions towards me, both in business and in fact

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in politics, but one thing I realise now is that I'm not scared,

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and he was. I'm not scared.

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I'm not a victim. I'm a survivor.

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ALL: Hear, hear!

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I thank the honourable lady for what she has said and the way

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in which she said it, which has left an indelible

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impression upon us all.

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Mims Davies.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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Um, it's an unbelievable thing to follow on from the member

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for Edinburgh West, after she's shared a horrific event

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from 37 years ago, but as a mother of two daughters, um,

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understanding the impact of being a 14-year-old affected

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by that incident, it's, er...

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And the explanation of the sense of blame and shame,

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it's very hard to comprehend.

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I was 20 and the worst thing that I could ever imagine happening to me

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was about to take place.

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I was going to be one of those very rare statistics of a woman

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who is attacked by a stranger, not by someone she knows.

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I was in my second year at university.

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The man had seen me walk past his car and had waited ahead

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for me to turn the corner.

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As I came up against him, all those words of advice your mum gives you -

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"Knee him where it hurts then run like hell!" -

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well, they disappeared! I was frozen in fear.

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As he shoved me to the ground, trying to rape me, I fought back,

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but I was battered.

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It was only the community-spirited Indian neighbour further down

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the road that saved me from something much worse.

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However, Madame Deputy Speaker,

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I count myself as one of the lucky ones.

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I had managed to memorise his car number plate

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and he was caught an hour later. He went to court, not many do.

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He pleaded guilty.

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I didn't have to go through the horrors of a trial.

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He was sentenced.

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I didn't have to look over my shoulder,

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checking if he was following me. He was a stranger.

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I didn't have to wake up in the same bed as him,

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go to work with him as my boss.

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He didn't use a broken bottle to hurt me.

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He was alone and not with a group of other men.

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It was only once and not several times.

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The point to this story is that, even though on the scale of violence

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against women I was lucky, because justice was done,

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the following few years were hard.

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I got afraid walking alone, so I bought a bike.

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I got scared in the night, I slept with a knife.

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I was easily startled and cried at the drop of a hat.

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But Madame Deputy Speaker, again, I was lucky.

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I didn't have a job to keep down, children to care for,

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elderly relatives to see to, I could work my way

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through the impact of this violent assault at my own speed

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and in my own space.

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The debate had been opened by a Labour MP.

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Worldwide, an estimated one in three women experience

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physical or sexual violence. That is a staggering statistic!

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The World Health Organisation highlights that, as well as being

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a human rights issue, violence against women is

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a major public health issue, with women who have experienced

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violence more likely to have babies with low birth weight

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and experience depression.

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Each year in the UK, up to 3 million women

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experience violence and, on average, one woman dies

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in Britain at the hands of a man every three days.

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The Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee called

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for compulsory sex and relationship education in schools.

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We mustn't continue just attacking the symptoms of this problem

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of violence against women, we also have to tackle

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the root causes as well.

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The sort of behaviour that some of us had to experience,

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perhaps in the workplace 30 years ago, is now something

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we would not tolerate, yet we are insisting that young

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people keep quiet, don't speak out and don't get the support

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that they need when they experience that sort of behaviour at schools.

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I want to start by paying my heartfelt thanks to the member

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from Edinburgh West.

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You know, to hear her talking about her rape

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when she was 14 years old, and breaking that taboo by talking

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about it in this place, was truly remarkable.

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She said the government had launched a new strategy in March and provided

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?80 million in funding, alongside strengthening the law.

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And she turned to education.

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We must do more to educate children about healthy relationships,

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including sexual relationships.

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Indeed that no must mean no in every circumstance.

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There is a huge amount of determination

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and ongoing work to deliver this.

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Now, she's absolutely right to say we all need to talk about it and,

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as a mother of three children, I can see it can be a bit

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embarrassing, not least for my children, to have to sit down

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and talk about this. SOME LAUGHTER

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I think my son has just about recovered from having to talk

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to his mum about online porn!

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But she made no promises on compulsory sex and relationship

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education in schools in England.

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Now, on Wednesday night, a clear majority of MPs backed

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the government's timetable for beginning the UK's

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exit from the EU.

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A motion tabled by Labour, but amended by the government,

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explicitly stated that Article 50, initiating Brexit, would be invoked

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by the end of March.

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It was supported by 461 MPs.

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75 voted against.

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When the Commons gathered on Thursday, there were very

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different interpretations of what had happened.

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The Shadow Leader of the Commons thought it was the Prime Minister

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who'd shifted position, by accepting elements of labour's

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original motion demanding the government publish a plan

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for its negotiations before Article 50 was triggered.

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Yesterday, Mr Speaker, the government finally

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accepted they needed a plan, a strategy, a framework.

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SOME: Hear, hear!

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The Leader of the House may have said that the opposition

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were quarrelling, like Mutiny on the Bounty

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as reshot by the Carry On team!

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A genre I'm sure the British Film Institute are rapidly thinking,

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"Where does this fall?"

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And can I remind the Leader of the House that it was

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40 government MPs who were going to vote on the opposition motion...

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SHOUTING.

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..which then resulted in the Prime Minister, from Bahrain,

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to concede to the Labour motion.

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I think what was very striking about the vote

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last night was that, for the first time, the opposition

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front bench and most but not all Labour members of Parliament

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accepted the Prime Minister's timetable to trigger Article 50

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by the end of March 2017 and, given that the Shadow Foreign

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Secretary had said as recently as September that we ought to go

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back to the people before taking a final decision to leave the EU,

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that suggests a possibly welcome change of heart

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on the part of the opposition.

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I hope that it is genuine and sustained.

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David Lidington.

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"It is a tragedy that, when problems are global,

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politics has gone local."

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That's the view of Lord Robertson,

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who was once Secretary General of Nato.

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He was speaking in a debate about the impact of Brexit

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on the UK's defences.

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Several peers said that, with the UK outside the EU,

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it should raise its game in Nato and forge alliances

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with France and Germany.

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The government insisted it was not turning its back on the world.

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The post-war settlement is unravelling.

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The referendum result, the disobliging comments about Nato

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from President-elect Trump and the rise of the far right

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populism in Europe all make that abundantly clear.

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If Nato and the EU are now in danger of crumbling away,

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we do need an urgent rethink of our domestic policies

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and priorities.

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Lord Robertson said leaving the EU would have a huge impact

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on the UK's defence forces.

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It will certainly affect our Armed Forces and diplomatic service

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and not for the better.

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Leaving will damage the UK and its reputation and influence,

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leaving will damage the EU and its partnership with Nato,

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tackling the myriad of problems and challenges and perils

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which will face us in the world today.

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And by opting out as a key player in the EU side of that partnership

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that was re-forged this week, it will weaken Nato at a time

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when the alliance has never been historically more needed.

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I think it is a tragedy at the moment that just

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as the problems that we face - of migration, of terrorism,

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of a resurgent Russia, of pandemics, proliferation and much,

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much more, the issues have gone global and the politics have gone

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local and far too parochial for the safety of our people.

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One thing seems to me to be crystal clear,

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having taken the decision to Brexit, Britain is now much,

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much, much more alone and our defence choices are far,

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far starker than they were in the hours before

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President Trump was elected, one month and one week ago.

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Before, during the Brexit debate, we argued that we didn't need

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the European Union because we had Nato.

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We now have an isolationist American President who has made it

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perfectly clear in his speeches that he doesn't much believe in Nato

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and doesn't even mind seeing it being unstitched.

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I have a suspicion that what will happen in the next few

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weeks is that words will be dragged out of President Trump's mouth that

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says he didn't really mean that and he does believe in Nato,

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but Nato and alliances do not depend as much on words as they do

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on will and no one can doubt that the will of an isolationist

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American President, who admires President Putin,

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is not going to be the same as the will we have experienced

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before from our partners across the Atlantic by any measure.

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There is one thing that will not change and that is the relationship

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between our security in these islands and the security

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of the rest of Europe.

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We cannot change our geography by referendum.

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The safety of Europe is our safety.

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We long ago gave up the idea of national defence in favour

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of collective security and nothing that has happened over the past

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months has changed that.

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We may be looking to renationalise aspects of our economic

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and legal structures but re-nationalising our defence

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is simply not practical.

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The government has made it clear that as we leave the EU,

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we will not be turning our back on the world.

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The UK remains a permanent member of the UN Security Council,

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the second-largest contributor to Nato and a leading

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member of the G7, the G20 and the Commonwealth.

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We take these responsibilities seriously and we will continue to be

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a strong and influential European voice on the world stage,

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promoting and defending global peace and security

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and promoting our trade interests.

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And he said the UK had strong relations with other EU countries.

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Our defence relationship with France is growing

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all the time and is building on the Lancaster House

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agreement that underpins it.

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Germany is now a Tier 1 country with United States and France

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in the SDSR 2015 and we have growing relationships with

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many other countries.

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You are watching Thursday in Parliament with me, Alicia McCarthy.

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On Wednesday, a man was found guilty of the racially aggravated

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harassment of the Labour MP Luciana Berger after posting

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a series of anti-Semitic rants.

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Joshua Bonehill-Paine wrote five hate-filled blogs harassing

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the Liverpool Wavertree MP.

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Speaking after the verdict, Ms Berger insisted racist abuse

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and harassment over the internet is an horrific crime.

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In the Commons, MPs wanted to know what the government was doing

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to tackle all sorts of hate crimes.

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Like many others in this chamber, I was very concerned about the spike

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in the number of racial and religious aggravated

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offences after the referendum.

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Can my honourable and learned friend please tell the house

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whether that trend has continued in recent months?

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My honourable friend is right to raise this issue because I think

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we were all concerned with the spike that clearly occurred

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after the referendum.

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The total number of racial and religiously aggravated offences

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being reported in July this year was 41% higher than

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the previous year.

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But I am happy to report the number of that type of reported offence has

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now declined and are at similar levels to before the referendum.

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Sir David Amess.

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Would my honourable friend look very carefully at the law

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relating to abusive and offensive online posts?

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Often when I look at these remarks, particularly when someone has died,

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it is quite incredible that newspapers seem to host these posts

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when I think these cowards should have their names and addresses

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printed along with the offensive post.

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My honourable friend raises a proper point of increasing concern.

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Can I assure him that anonymity perceived or real is not an escape

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route for perpetrators.

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The use of false online profiles and websites still mean

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they are traceable and these people can and will be pursued just

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like the appalling individual who only this week was convicted

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of offences arising from a racist campaign against the honourable

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member for Liverpool Wavertree.

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On the ground in north Wales, the number of prosecutions

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generally is falling.

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And for that reason, how can we ensure that public

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perceptions are reflected in prosecuting policy so that more

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individuals who commit crime get taken to court and dealt

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with by magistrates who tell me that their courts are empty?

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I am obviously following the position very carefully

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in all parts of England and Wales and he is right to say

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there are some areas like his where there has not been

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the rise we have seen in others.

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I think what we have to do is further encourage consistency,

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the training that has been rolled out in recent months

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to all the CPS areas, I think needs to bed in.

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And I think with that approach, we will see a rise across the board

0:19:220:19:26

in not just the prosecution of these offences but the confidence

0:19:260:19:29

of victims to come forward.

0:19:290:19:33

Would the Attorney General agree that the prosecution of hate crimes

0:19:330:19:37

has helped when the victim feels supported enough to give evidence

0:19:370:19:43

and that more training must be provided by the teams that deal

0:19:430:19:46

with hate crimes UK wide to ensure that all possible support

0:19:460:19:49

is afforded to victims and their families?

0:19:490:19:52

The honourable gentleman knows from his experience

0:19:520:19:54

in Northern Ireland that the Leonard Cheshire Disability

0:19:540:19:58

organisation have an excellent scheme in place to support victims.

0:19:580:20:02

And it really echoes the point I was making earlier about the need

0:20:020:20:05

for such best practice to be spread to give better support.

0:20:050:20:08

Now, let's go back to the Lords where a Peer raised a report that

0:20:080:20:11

showed more than 300 police officers have been accused of

0:20:110:20:15

using their position to sexually exploit people,

0:20:150:20:18

including victims of crime.

0:20:180:20:21

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said that abuse

0:20:210:20:24

of authority for sexual gain is now the most serious form of corruption

0:20:240:20:27

facing police in England and Wales.

0:20:270:20:31

In the Lords, a Peer raised this and the latest

0:20:310:20:34

figures from Women's Aid on violence against women.

0:20:340:20:37

76% of women killed by their ex-partner or ex-spouse

0:20:370:20:41

were killed in the first year of separation.

0:20:410:20:45

But today, we hear, on top of this, that hundreds of police officers

0:20:450:20:49

have abused their position of trust to sexually exploit

0:20:490:20:52

vulnerable people.

0:20:520:20:58

Could the noble lady and the Minister say

0:20:580:21:02

what the government is doing to protect and help women

0:21:020:21:05

at dangerous and vulnerable times and particularly those who manage

0:21:050:21:09

to leave abusive relationships to start a new life?

0:21:090:21:12

The figures that are released today are absolutely stark and we welcome

0:21:120:21:18

the work that Women's Aid has done on the femicide census

0:21:180:21:23

and we are committed to working in partnership with them

0:21:230:21:27

to help to improve the response to domestic homicide.

0:21:270:21:31

It turned to the revelations about the police.

0:21:310:21:36

It is important to remember that HMRC findings relate to a very small

0:21:360:21:40

number of police officers of staff and the vast majority of over

0:21:400:21:44

200,000 police personnel are dedicated and passionate

0:21:440:21:49

about protecting the public.

0:21:490:21:52

The College of Policing will be releasing updated guidance on police

0:21:520:21:56

and media relationships in the New Year but also the College

0:21:560:21:59

of Policing has been asked to consider further the feasibility

0:21:590:22:03

of developing a new supplementary addendum on the Code of Ethics

0:22:030:22:08

but that is to take nothing away from the shocking findings of today.

0:22:080:22:13

A Conservative MP has called for emergency action

0:22:130:22:16

to save the African elephant.

0:22:160:22:21

Currently, tens of thousands of elephants are killed by poachers

0:22:210:22:24

every single year to steal and sell their tusks.

0:22:240:22:28

While there is an international ban on buying and selling

0:22:280:22:31

ivory to other countries, it is still possible to buy

0:22:310:22:33

and sell certain kinds of ivory within countries.

0:22:330:22:37

The UK Government recently announced it is to spend an extra ?13 million

0:22:370:22:40

on new ways to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

0:22:400:22:44

Jeremy Lefroy said that the elephant population in sub-Saharan Africa had

0:22:440:22:48

declined dramatically over the past decade.

0:22:480:22:52

It is estimated that some 30%, perhaps 144,000 have disappeared

0:22:520:22:56

in the past seven years, substantially as a

0:22:560:22:59

result of poaching.

0:22:590:23:02

Estimates of the remaining population vary but perhaps there

0:23:020:23:05

are as few as 400,000 to 450,000.

0:23:050:23:09

This is an emergency and it requires emergency action.

0:23:090:23:12

But the President of the British Antique Dealers Association spoke

0:23:120:23:15

out against a total ban.

0:23:150:23:20

The purchaser of a carved ivory medieval Christian diptych is not

0:23:200:23:28

the same buyer because it is them wanting the ivory because it is

0:23:280:23:32

a beautifully worked piece which is culturally and historically

0:23:320:23:36

significant, that happens to be made of ivory.

0:23:360:23:40

It is not the same as modern-day trinkets.

0:23:400:23:45

To ban the sale of 18th-century cabinets inlaid with small pieces

0:23:450:23:50

of ivory or an 18th-century portrait miniature painted on a sliver

0:23:500:23:55

of ivory, in order to stop Far Eastern buyers from purchasing

0:23:550:23:59

contemporary carved Buddhas or trinkets, makes no sense.

0:23:590:24:04

I did find the Member for Kensington's remarks

0:24:040:24:07

quite objectionable.

0:24:070:24:13

In fact calling it a beautiful worked piece -

0:24:130:24:15

it was a beautiful elephant once.

0:24:150:24:18

Calling it artworks - what is artistic about murder?

0:24:180:24:22

And therefore, what I would say is, whilst these pieces may be

0:24:220:24:24

in existence, they should no longer be traded and therefore,

0:24:240:24:32

we would bring a total ban from these benches across all ivory.

0:24:320:24:35

The Minister said a poacher could earn more than in one night

0:24:350:24:39

than in five years in other jobs.

0:24:390:24:42

We do need to raise awareness to Asian consumers

0:24:420:24:44

about the devastating impact they are having on

0:24:440:24:47

elephant populations.

0:24:470:24:49

And we need to inform, engage with and ultimately change

0:24:490:24:52

behaviour and I think we saw leadership as was referred

0:24:520:24:55

to by His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge when he visited Hanoi

0:24:550:24:58

recently alongside my right honourable friend, the Secretary

0:24:580:25:00

of State and that kind of engagement I think is a key part

0:25:000:25:03

of what the UK leadership can do.

0:25:030:25:05

To achieve this, we need to change the dynamics of the market,

0:25:050:25:08

we need to reduce not just the availability but also

0:25:080:25:10

the acceptability of trade and ivory and that is why in the UK we're

0:25:100:25:13

looking at our own market.

0:25:130:25:15

Other countries such as the US have taken action and we want see

0:25:150:25:18

concerted international action and most importantly,

0:25:180:25:20

we want to see action from China to follow through on the commitments

0:25:200:25:23

they have made to close their market.

0:25:230:25:24

Therese Coffey.

0:25:240:25:25

And that is it for me for now but do join me on Friday night at 11pm

0:25:250:25:30

for a round-up of the week here at Westminster.

0:25:300:25:32

When among other things, we will be talking to Lord Cormack

0:25:320:25:34

about the size of the House of Lords and hearing from two of Parliament's

0:25:340:25:38

newest MPs about what it is like to join the Commons.

0:25:380:25:40

But from now from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.

0:25:400:25:45

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