Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 9 February, presented by Keith Macdougall.
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Hello and welcome to Thursday In Parliament,
our look at the best of the day in the Commons and Lords.
On this programme, Labour describes as shameful the government's
decision to wind down a scheme allowing vulnerable refugee
children into Britain.
Where does it say that instead of the 3000 that Parliament debated,
we will only help a tenth of that number?
Where does it say that when we get the chance we will somehow
turn our backs once again?
Egging on their Lordships.
An SNP MP encourages the House of Lords to delay the Brexit Bill.
For us it is very much a win-win whatever the outcome
is here because I say to their Lordships, reach
for these barricades and take on this government.
And are they really the future?
Smart energy meters are criticised for not being very smart.
Last year, The Telegraph reported that over 130,000 smart meters
were now operating in this dumb mode as a result of switching.
But first, the government is insisting it's not abandoning
vulnerable refugee children despite winding down its scheme,
which allows unaccompanied youngsters into the UK.
350 children, mostly from Syria, are to be offered sank
350 children, mostly from Syria, are to be offered --
sanctuary under the project.
Campaigners had hoped that more than 3000 youngsters,
some of whom have already made their way to mainland
Europe, would be accepted.
Answering an urgent question in the House of Commons,
the Home Secretary Amber Rudd described how the
scheme had operated.
Within Europe in 2016, we transferred over 900
unaccompanied asylum seeking children to the UK.
This included more than 750 from France as part of the UK's support
for the Calais camp clearance.
And I am proud that as Home Secretary the UK played such
a key role in supporting the French to safely and compassionately
close the camp.
Yesterday, the government announced that in accordance with section 67
of the Immigration Act, we will transfer the specified
number of 350 children pursuant to that section who reasonably meet
the intention and spirit behind the revision.
-- the provision.
She said the scheme was not being closed.
The government has always been clear that we do not want to incentivise
perilous journeys to Europe, particularly by the most
That is why children must have arrived in Europe before the
20th March 2016 to be eligible under section 67 of the Immigration Act.
The section 67 obligation was accepted on the basis
that the measure would not act as a pull factor for children
to Europe and that it would be based on local authority capacity.
The government has a clear strategy and we believe that this
is the right approach.
This week the government cancelled the Dubs scheme after it had been
running for less than six months.
She said it hasn't closed, but will she confirm what it said
in the statement yesterday that once those 350 children are here,
that's it, it is closed.
Where does it say in the Hansard debate that I have here
from our debates on the Dubs amendment that we will only help
lone child refugees for six months?
Where does it say that instead of the 3000 Parliament debated,
we will only help a tenth of that number?
Where does it say that when we get the chance, we will somehow
turn our backs once again?
It doesn't because we didn't say that at the time.
She said the Home Secretary had acted shamefully.
And there are still so many children in need of help.
She knows there are thousands in Greece in overcrowded
accommodation or homeless, or in Italy, still at risk
of human trafficking.
Or teenagers in French centres, which are being closed down now
and they have nowhere left to go.
She talked about clearing Calais, they are heading back to Calais,
back to Dunkirk, back to the mud, back to the danger, back
into the arms of the people traffickers and the smugglers,
the exploitation, the abuse, the prostitution rings and back
into the modern slavery that this parliament and this government
has pledged to end.
These are children who need looking after over a period.
When we accept them here it is not job done.
It is making sure that we work with local authorities,
that we have the right safeguarding in place and that's why we engage
with the local authorities, why we make sure that they have
sufficient funds, which we have increased,
to look after those young people.
I completely reject her attack.
The UK has a strong reputation in Europe
and internationally for looking after the most vulnerable.
That will continue.
We have a different approach to where those most vulnerable are.
We believe that they are in the region.
That's why we have made a pledge to accept 3000 children
from the region and we are committed to delivering on that.
And how does she live with herself leaving thousands of people,
leaving thousands, and members opposite can jeer,
how does she live with herself, leaving thousands of children
subject to disease, people trafficking,
squalor and hopelessness?
She describes how she doubts that the children in
France are looked after.
And I can say to the right Honourable Lady, the children
who are most vulnerable are the ones in the camps out in
Jordan, out in Lebanon.
These are the ones who are really vulnerable and those are the ones
that we are determined to bring over here.
It seems that the government tried to sneak out what they knew would be
a very unpopular announcement when they were avoiding
scrutiny in this House about the Brexit deal.
Is this the shape of things to come and is this what comes of cosying
up to President Trump?
I think many in this House have listened to what she has said
with total disbelief.
We cannot understand, given the intensity of the discussion
and debate around the Dubs, an amendment that was put
and accepted by this House, that the Home Secretary has come
forward with what essentially is a closure of that scheme
at a number well below what any of us would have expected.
Does she not agree with me that the reality will be that many
children across Europe in desperate need will be left with no hope?
I am glad to hear there is going to be another 150 children
coming to the UK under this scheme before it closes but can
the Secretary of State tell the House, is she able to look
the 151st child in the eye and say no?
Well, I want to know how the Honourable Lady
feels about the children
who are from the region, the children who are in the camps,
they are not in France, they are not in Italy,
they are the ones in the camps where the conditions
are much, much worse.
How would she feel about looking them in the eye?
Well, the scheme for giving sanctury to unaccompanied children has always
been associated with the name of the 84-year-old
Labour peer Lord Dubs.
He himself first arrived in Britain from Czechoslovakia in 1938 as part
of the Kindertransport fleeing the Nazis.
In the Lords, Lord Dubs gave his reaction to the latest developments.
He said to him it seemed the scheme was being closed.
My Lords, I must confess I'm slightly puzzled
because if the government says that there is a specified number
of children, then after that total has been reached,
the scheme has been closed.
My Lords, it was not long ago that I remember the Prime Minister
when she was Home Secretary told me that the government was prepared
to accept the amendment.
It was on the same day that the then Immigration Minister said to me
that the government would accept the letter and the spirit
of that amendment.
I believe in arbitrarily closing down the scheme without any good
reason for doing so, the government is in breach
of its own commitments.
My Lords, the scheme is not closed.
As the noble Lord said, we will be accepting up
to the limits of 350 at at this point in time, the
scheme is not closed.
What I think, well, more children will come,
the scheme is not closed.
What I think we have to appreciate, and I think noble Lords
generally have appreciated, is that the capacity of local
authorities is limited.
Noble Lords might rubbish that, but the capacity of local
authorities is limited.
We have relied on their goodwill, it has been an entirely voluntary
approach from the local authorities and of course I would encourage
more local authorities to come forward who think
that they might have places.
There are many people who have expressed an interest
to help but the government, both the churches, the other
place, local authorities,
I myself know several people who have indicated their willingness
to help their local authority but have had little response back.
Obviously the government is quite disinterested in taking any more.
My Lords, that is absolutely wrong.
Yes, we have had expressions, we have had informal expressions
of interest and I would encourage the noble lady if she has the names
of those individuals, the names of those community groups
and the names of those church groups to please contact us so that we can
get matters in train.
Now, it's not been the best 12 months for the game of football.
The England manager had to resign when he was filmed making covert
deals behind the backs of football Association officials,
story surfaced about incidents of historical abuse on youngsters
by scouts and coaches, and there was the little matter
of a humiliating international knockout for the England
national team at the hands of Iceland last summer.
So, is part of the solution for football's varied problems
better governance of the sport?
The Commons has been holding a special debate.
The Premier League, its primary job is to promote its competition
and it does so brilliantly all around the world.
However, it exerts an enormous amount of influence over football
because of the vast amount of money that it raises and it
funds back into the game.
So therefore we do need a strong Premier League,
that is good for football, but we need a strong national
governing body for football that is ultimately responsible
for the sporting and ethical decisions that football has to take.
It is necessary to reform the structure of the FA board
to make the FA more independent, to give it the power to act.
We have been calling for this for years, the select committee
has been calling for it in previous reports.
We believe now that legislation is the only way
in which this can be delivered.
That was the recommendation of the last three chairman of the FA
to the select committee, to say the FA cannot reform itself,
the turkeys would not vote for Christmas, there has to be
external pressure and external action through
legislation to achieve it.
What I am asking in this debate today is that if the government
is unsuccessful in getting reform from the FA that a Bill is prepared
to be introduced into the next session of parliament
after the Queen's speech to deliver the reform the FA so badly needs.
Club ownership, safe standing, 20 is plenty, kick-off times,
disabled access, tackling homophobia are all issues that need to be
addressed by a reformed FA and with more support or input,
I hope that will now happen.
I hope this debate will show that we are serious about reform.
In the end you look at the situation where an ordinary Premier League
player in two months can earn more than Sheffield City Council can
spend on its junior football pitches in a whole year.
There's something wrong with that.
It shows that there is a wrong balance of money in the game.
So, if we are going to have that reformed board,
it has to be able to divert more money into grassroots football
and actually stop the cliff edge between the Premier League
and the English Football League as well.
But we should not belittle everything the FA does.
It has done some great things.
It has done really well on the women's game at local
level and at professional level and it has tackled racism.
Many fans would want to see, for instance, the FA have more
influence over the number of home-grown players that
are developed in our league.
It is woefully inadequate.
We have far too many of these 'pret a porter' players that are imported
on the basis of the fact that there is so much wealth
knocking about in the Premier League that rather than develop and take
a chance on a youngster, they buy someone off the peg
and bring them in and we don't impose the rules that should be
applied in terms of how those players contribute and add to this
game and many fans would like to see an FA that can deal
with issues like that.
What is most shocking in my view is not that the governance of the FA
is in need of fundamental reform, that is a settled point, Mr Speaker,
but that the leadership of the FA has been so grossly ineffective
in bringing forward these reforms in the face of criticism
from the cross-party culture, media and sport select committee.
At best they are dragging their feet, at worst they're
wilfully failing to act.
We know that the FA are failing to regulate the power
of football agents.
They have a football agents' exam, which I'm told can be
passed by an 11-year-old.
They are failing to regulate correctly the transfer negotiations
and there is still the potential for a bung culture within
The structures aren't right and so the management below isn't
right and the enforcement below isn't right.
The FA's current model does not, in my opinion and clearly that
of other colleagues, stand up to scrutiny.
Reform is therefore required.
But I repeat the governing body has every opportunity to bring
that about themselves.
While I believe a vote of no-confidence in the FA today
is six weeks premature, they and other governing bodies
should be fully aware that the clock is ticking fast and failure
to reform will lead not just to the withdrawal of public money
but further consideration of legislative, regulatory
and financial options to bring about this change needed.
If we want to see better governance of football across the world
then let it begin here.
The Commons debate on football.
You're watching our round-up of the day in the Commons and the Lords.
Still to come...
Could the House of Lords frustrate the Brexit process?
MPs have called on the Government to consider formally recognising
a Palestinian state.
The suggestion was made during a debate on a backbench
motion demanding an immediate halt to the planning and construction of
Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Given the investment that we have made in a two-state solution,
my question to the Minister is, aside from standing
on the touchlines watching the players on the field
and shouting advice,
what more can we do whilst our friend and ally pursues a policy
on settlements which is bound, so proceeding, to deliver
a situation where the two-state solution becomes actually
geographically and economically unworkable.
He might consider giving effect to this House's instruction
that we should recognise the Palestinian state.
Now, I have heard my honourable friend say that we can only do this
once and therefore we need to choose the moment where that
will make the maximum impact, and I agree with him,
but he needs to consider this.
It would be truly absurd if we were to delay that recognition
till after the point at which the reality of any
such Palestinian state could actually be delivered.
So will the Minister agree with me that when the two-state solution
that we all support is now under threat like never before that now
is the time to act on that bilateral recognition?
We have to ask ourselves, if not now then when, and if not now,
aren't those Palestinians who believe that we talk
a good story but we do nothing to end their misery
are actually right?
Supporters of Israel argue that settlements are not the sole barrier
to peace or indeed the main one.
As supporters of a two-state solution we should commit
ourselves to building trust with and between both
Israelis and Palestinians.
We should do that in both our words and our actions.
In our words we should seek to avoid emotive language which feeds
a narrative of victim and villain.
We should recognise and encourage the need for compromise
and we should never fail to acknowledge the complexities
of a conflict which has endured for decades and whose
roots run deep.
It's often said that Israeli settlements are illegal,
but stating this repeatedly does not make it true.
Please bear with me, because I realise that's quite
an inflammatory comment, so bear with me for a moment.
The West Bank and Gaza remain, as they have always been,
disputed territories under international law.
There has never been a Palestinian state.
So the territory remains ownerless, and that's
a strong argument for some.
I am deeply disappointed that this government continues to fail
to recognise the Palestinian state.
Now is the time and I would ask him to give some comment on that.
Secondly, what thought has the Government put into how it can
be that settlement goods can be separated from other Israeli goods?
There are many people who do not wish to buy settlement goods,
and is the Government doing any further work on that,
and how can we persuade British companies not to invest
in settlement areas?
But most importantly I hope that when President Trump
and the Prime Minister Netanyahu visit London later this
year our Prime Minister will have the courage to set out
those views in no uncertain terms.
The Foreign Office Minister, Tobias Ellwood, voiced concern that
territory for a Palestinian state was being eroded by settlement
building, but he said the Palestinian leadership needed
to do more to prevent the incitement of violence.
President Abbas condemns certain aspects of it
but we are still seeing schools and squares being named
This is not the confidence-building measures that we need to see.
There is no relationship with Hamas at all.
These are the steps that will allow us to move forward so there can be
a recognition in the long term of the state of Palestine,
but they are not there yet.
A younger generation has given up on their own leadership,
choosing instead to try and take a fast track to paradise by grabbing
a knife and killing an Israeli soldier, and that is a very terrible
state of affairs to be in.
The latest debate on the Palestinian territories.
"Don't mess about or you'll get abolished."
That was reported to be the blunt warning issued to members
of the House of Lords on Wednesday night by government supporters
shortly after the moment when the so-called Brexit bill
finally cleared the Commons.
So could peers delay the whole process of triggering
Article 50, the legal means by which the procedure is started
for the UK to leave the EU?
The Scottish National Party is normally fiercely critical
of the Lords but the SNP's Pete Wishart appeared to be
supportive of peers finding fault with the Brexit bill.
The bill now goes on its way to our friends down the corridor
and what we've seen is that the unelected friends
have been threatened with abolition if they dare mess
with this government's bill.
I am sure they are now quaking in their ermine if they don't
do their patriotic duty, as the Secretary of State said.
Can I just say I offer nothing other than encouragement to these fine
tribunes in ermine who will now pick up the case.
For us it's very much a win-win, whatever the outcome is here.
So can I say to their Lordships, reach for these barricades
and take on this government.
On the question of the House of Lords, the House of Lords
has a valued function under our constitutional
arrangements in terms of scrutinising and reviewing
legislation coming up from the House of Commons,
as I am sure they will do that on the bill we've been debating
this week, as they do on every other bill,
but that they will also bear in mind the reality of the referendum
and the popular mandate that lies behind the Article 50 decision.
Would the Leader of the House accept that this Parliament works
because we have two houses, and sometimes the Other Place
doesn't agree with this House and annoys the Government.
That is no reason whatsoever to threaten it with abolition.
Can we have a statement from the Leader of the House confirming that?
I mean, the Government's position is that we respect completely
the constitutional role of the House of Lords, and as I said earlier
the House of Lords itself accepts that as an unelected house it needs
to abide by certain conventions.
Now, how smart is smart metering of gas and electricity?
The idea is that your handy smart meter device sends automatic
messages to your gas and electricity supplier so you don't need to.
No more estimated bills.
And you can see how much energy you're actually using.
The Government is in favour of large-scale introduction of smart
meters but in a debate in Westminster Hall
several MPs had doubts.
One spoke about his own experience.
The smart meter was fitted.
Now, once a month I have to go outside and take a photo of my smart
meter and send that photo over broadband to the supplier
because I don't have connectivity.
My smart meter isn't connected to anything because I don't
have the mobile-phone signal.
Now, that is a challenge if we're going to provide
20 million smart meters, or however many we're supplying,
it's quite a lot, by 2020.
Now, the interesting thing is, I'm the local MP.
The local BBC reporter recently e-mailed me to say that he had had
a smart meter fitted.
He has to do exactly the same thing.
So it's a bit worrying in terms of winning public support for this,
if the local MP and the local BBC presenter actually have smart
meters that don't work.
Now, clearly this was a private meeting, so I'm not telling
the world that my smart meter doesn't work, but I do
enjoy telling the story.
The idea of having complete knowledge of the energy you're
consuming is a desirable objective.
But we are not doing it in a way that will be appreciated
by the consumer and will probably be at a cost to the consumer.
There is a great variety in the meters that are
being installed just now.
Again I'll say the ones I saw at Scottish Gas were all-singing
and all-dancing, probably could make your cup of tea for you as well.
The meter I've got is far less interactive,
and there is a real danger, in fact we've seen this
with a lot of people, that the meter, after a short time,
or certainly the display unit, ends up getting tossed in a draw
or a cupboard somewhere.
And a Conservative MP also saw some limitations.
One of these relates to interoperability
That is, customers who switch their energy supplier
after installation run the risk of losing the meter's
Depending on who they are switching from and to.
It could revert to being a dumb, or perhaps more kindly
a traditional, meter.
Last year the Telegraph reported that over 130,000 smart meters
were now operating in this dumb mode as a result of switching.
What we are talking about here is an upgrade of a very significant
part of our infrastructure, very significant part
of our infrastructure.
An upgrade of a technology that is 100 years old.
An upgrade of a technology, at the moment far too many people,
means that people are looking at bills where their
consumption is estimated.
We don't tolerate that in the supermarket, why on earth
should we tolerate it at home in the modern age, in 2017?
That people should continue, and our energy system,
absolutely functional to a smart and prosperous economy,
should continue to be dependent on a technology
that is so out of date.
And that's it for this programme.
Do join me for the week in Parliament, when we analyse
the contribution to Parliament made by the Speaker
of the Commons, John Bercow.
Until then, from me, Keith McDougall, goodbye.