09/02/2017 Thursday in Parliament


09/02/2017

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


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Hello and welcome to Thursday In Parliament,

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our look at the best of the day in the Commons and Lords.

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On this programme, Labour describes as shameful the government's

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decision to wind down a scheme allowing vulnerable refugee

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children into Britain.

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Where does it say that instead of the 3000 that Parliament debated,

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we will only help a tenth of that number?

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Where does it say that when we get the chance we will somehow

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turn our backs once again?

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Egging on their Lordships.

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An SNP MP encourages the House of Lords to delay the Brexit Bill.

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For us it is very much a win-win whatever the outcome

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is here because I say to their Lordships, reach

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for these barricades and take on this government.

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And are they really the future?

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Smart energy meters are criticised for not being very smart.

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Last year, The Telegraph reported that over 130,000 smart meters

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were now operating in this dumb mode as a result of switching.

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But first, the government is insisting it's not abandoning

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vulnerable refugee children despite winding down its scheme,

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which allows unaccompanied youngsters into the UK.

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350 children, mostly from Syria, are to be offered sank

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350 children, mostly from Syria, are to be offered --

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sanctuary under the project.

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Campaigners had hoped that more than 3000 youngsters,

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some of whom have already made their way to mainland

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Europe, would be accepted.

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Answering an urgent question in the House of Commons,

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the Home Secretary Amber Rudd described how the

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scheme had operated.

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Within Europe in 2016, we transferred over 900

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unaccompanied asylum seeking children to the UK.

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This included more than 750 from France as part of the UK's support

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for the Calais camp clearance.

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And I am proud that as Home Secretary the UK played such

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a key role in supporting the French to safely and compassionately

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close the camp.

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Yesterday, the government announced that in accordance with section 67

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of the Immigration Act, we will transfer the specified

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number of 350 children pursuant to that section who reasonably meet

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the intention and spirit behind the revision.

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-- the provision.

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She said the scheme was not being closed.

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The government has always been clear that we do not want to incentivise

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perilous journeys to Europe, particularly by the most

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vulnerable children.

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That is why children must have arrived in Europe before the

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20th March 2016 to be eligible under section 67 of the Immigration Act.

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The section 67 obligation was accepted on the basis

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that the measure would not act as a pull factor for children

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to Europe and that it would be based on local authority capacity.

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The government has a clear strategy and we believe that this

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is the right approach.

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This week the government cancelled the Dubs scheme after it had been

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running for less than six months.

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She said it hasn't closed, but will she confirm what it said

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in the statement yesterday that once those 350 children are here,

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that's it, it is closed.

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Where does it say in the Hansard debate that I have here

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from our debates on the Dubs amendment that we will only help

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lone child refugees for six months?

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Where does it say that instead of the 3000 Parliament debated,

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we will only help a tenth of that number?

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Where does it say that when we get the chance, we will somehow

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turn our backs once again?

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It doesn't because we didn't say that at the time.

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She said the Home Secretary had acted shamefully.

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And there are still so many children in need of help.

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She knows there are thousands in Greece in overcrowded

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accommodation or homeless, or in Italy, still at risk

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of human trafficking.

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Or teenagers in French centres, which are being closed down now

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and they have nowhere left to go.

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She talked about clearing Calais, they are heading back to Calais,

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back to Dunkirk, back to the mud, back to the danger, back

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into the arms of the people traffickers and the smugglers,

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the exploitation, the abuse, the prostitution rings and back

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into the modern slavery that this parliament and this government

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has pledged to end.

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These are children who need looking after over a period.

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When we accept them here it is not job done.

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It is making sure that we work with local authorities,

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that we have the right safeguarding in place and that's why we engage

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with the local authorities, why we make sure that they have

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sufficient funds, which we have increased,

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to look after those young people.

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I completely reject her attack.

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The UK has a strong reputation in Europe

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and internationally for looking after the most vulnerable.

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That will continue.

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We have a different approach to where those most vulnerable are.

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We believe that they are in the region.

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That's why we have made a pledge to accept 3000 children

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from the region and we are committed to delivering on that.

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And how does she live with herself leaving thousands of people,

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leaving thousands, and members opposite can jeer,

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how does she live with herself, leaving thousands of children

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subject to disease, people trafficking,

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squalor and hopelessness?

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She describes how she doubts that the children in

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France are looked after.

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And I can say to the right Honourable Lady, the children

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who are most vulnerable are the ones in the camps out in

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Jordan, out in Lebanon.

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These are the ones who are really vulnerable and those are the ones

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that we are determined to bring over here.

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It seems that the government tried to sneak out what they knew would be

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a very unpopular announcement when they were avoiding

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scrutiny in this House about the Brexit deal.

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Is this the shape of things to come and is this what comes of cosying

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up to President Trump?

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I think many in this House have listened to what she has said

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with total disbelief.

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We cannot understand, given the intensity of the discussion

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and debate around the Dubs, an amendment that was put

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and accepted by this House, that the Home Secretary has come

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forward with what essentially is a closure of that scheme

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at a number well below what any of us would have expected.

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Does she not agree with me that the reality will be that many

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children across Europe in desperate need will be left with no hope?

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I am glad to hear there is going to be another 150 children

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coming to the UK under this scheme before it closes but can

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the Secretary of State tell the House, is she able to look

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the 151st child in the eye and say no?

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Well, I want to know how the Honourable Lady

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feels about the children

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who are from the region, the children who are in the camps,

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they are not in France, they are not in Italy,

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they are the ones in the camps where the conditions

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are much, much worse.

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How would she feel about looking them in the eye?

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Amber Rudd.

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Well, the scheme for giving sanctury to unaccompanied children has always

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been associated with the name of the 84-year-old

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Labour peer Lord Dubs.

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He himself first arrived in Britain from Czechoslovakia in 1938 as part

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of the Kindertransport fleeing the Nazis.

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In the Lords, Lord Dubs gave his reaction to the latest developments.

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He said to him it seemed the scheme was being closed.

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My Lords, I must confess I'm slightly puzzled

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because if the government says that there is a specified number

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of children, then after that total has been reached,

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the scheme has been closed.

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My Lords, it was not long ago that I remember the Prime Minister

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when she was Home Secretary told me that the government was prepared

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to accept the amendment.

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It was on the same day that the then Immigration Minister said to me

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that the government would accept the letter and the spirit

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of that amendment.

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I believe in arbitrarily closing down the scheme without any good

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reason for doing so, the government is in breach

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of its own commitments.

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My Lords, the scheme is not closed.

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As the noble Lord said, we will be accepting up

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to the limits of 350 at at this point in time, the

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scheme is not closed.

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What I think, well, more children will come,

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the scheme is not closed.

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What I think we have to appreciate, and I think noble Lords

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generally have appreciated, is that the capacity of local

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authorities is limited.

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Noble Lords might rubbish that, but the capacity of local

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authorities is limited.

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We have relied on their goodwill, it has been an entirely voluntary

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approach from the local authorities and of course I would encourage

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more local authorities to come forward who think

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that they might have places.

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There are many people who have expressed an interest

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to help but the government, both the churches, the other

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place, local authorities,

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I myself know several people who have indicated their willingness

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to help their local authority but have had little response back.

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Obviously the government is quite disinterested in taking any more.

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My Lords, that is absolutely wrong.

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Yes, we have had expressions, we have had informal expressions

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of interest and I would encourage the noble lady if she has the names

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of those individuals, the names of those community groups

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and the names of those church groups to please contact us so that we can

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get matters in train.

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Lady Williams.

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Now, it's not been the best 12 months for the game of football.

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The England manager had to resign when he was filmed making covert

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deals behind the backs of football Association officials,

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story surfaced about incidents of historical abuse on youngsters

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by scouts and coaches, and there was the little matter

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of a humiliating international knockout for the England

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national team at the hands of Iceland last summer.

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So, is part of the solution for football's varied problems

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better governance of the sport?

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The Commons has been holding a special debate.

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The Premier League, its primary job is to promote its competition

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and it does so brilliantly all around the world.

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However, it exerts an enormous amount of influence over football

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because of the vast amount of money that it raises and it

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funds back into the game.

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So therefore we do need a strong Premier League,

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that is good for football, but we need a strong national

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governing body for football that is ultimately responsible

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for the sporting and ethical decisions that football has to take.

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It is necessary to reform the structure of the FA board

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to make the FA more independent, to give it the power to act.

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We have been calling for this for years, the select committee

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has been calling for it in previous reports.

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We believe now that legislation is the only way

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in which this can be delivered.

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That was the recommendation of the last three chairman of the FA

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to the select committee, to say the FA cannot reform itself,

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the turkeys would not vote for Christmas, there has to be

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external pressure and external action through

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legislation to achieve it.

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What I am asking in this debate today is that if the government

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is unsuccessful in getting reform from the FA that a Bill is prepared

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to be introduced into the next session of parliament

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after the Queen's speech to deliver the reform the FA so badly needs.

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Club ownership, safe standing, 20 is plenty, kick-off times,

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disabled access, tackling homophobia are all issues that need to be

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addressed by a reformed FA and with more support or input,

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I hope that will now happen.

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I hope this debate will show that we are serious about reform.

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In the end you look at the situation where an ordinary Premier League

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player in two months can earn more than Sheffield City Council can

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spend on its junior football pitches in a whole year.

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There's something wrong with that.

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It shows that there is a wrong balance of money in the game.

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So, if we are going to have that reformed board,

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it has to be able to divert more money into grassroots football

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and actually stop the cliff edge between the Premier League

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and the English Football League as well.

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But we should not belittle everything the FA does.

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It has done some great things.

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It has done really well on the women's game at local

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level and at professional level and it has tackled racism.

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Many fans would want to see, for instance, the FA have more

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influence over the number of home-grown players that

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are developed in our league.

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It is woefully inadequate.

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We have far too many of these 'pret a porter' players that are imported

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on the basis of the fact that there is so much wealth

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knocking about in the Premier League that rather than develop and take

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a chance on a youngster, they buy someone off the peg

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and bring them in and we don't impose the rules that should be

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applied in terms of how those players contribute and add to this

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game and many fans would like to see an FA that can deal

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with issues like that.

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What is most shocking in my view is not that the governance of the FA

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is in need of fundamental reform, that is a settled point, Mr Speaker,

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but that the leadership of the FA has been so grossly ineffective

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in bringing forward these reforms in the face of criticism

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from the cross-party culture, media and sport select committee.

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At best they are dragging their feet, at worst they're

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wilfully failing to act.

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We know that the FA are failing to regulate the power

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of football agents.

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They have a football agents' exam, which I'm told can be

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passed by an 11-year-old.

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They are failing to regulate correctly the transfer negotiations

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and there is still the potential for a bung culture within

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those considerations.

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-- negotiations.

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The structures aren't right and so the management below isn't

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right and the enforcement below isn't right.

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The FA's current model does not, in my opinion and clearly that

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of other colleagues, stand up to scrutiny.

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Reform is therefore required.

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But I repeat the governing body has every opportunity to bring

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that about themselves.

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While I believe a vote of no-confidence in the FA today

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is six weeks premature, they and other governing bodies

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should be fully aware that the clock is ticking fast and failure

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to reform will lead not just to the withdrawal of public money

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but further consideration of legislative, regulatory

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and financial options to bring about this change needed.

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If we want to see better governance of football across the world

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then let it begin here.

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The Commons debate on football.

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You're watching our round-up of the day in the Commons and the Lords.

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Still to come...

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Could the House of Lords frustrate the Brexit process?

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MPs have called on the Government to consider formally recognising

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a Palestinian state.

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The suggestion was made during a debate on a backbench

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motion demanding an immediate halt to the planning and construction of

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Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

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Given the investment that we have made in a two-state solution,

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my question to the Minister is, aside from standing

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on the touchlines watching the players on the field

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and shouting advice,

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what more can we do whilst our friend and ally pursues a policy

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on settlements which is bound, so proceeding, to deliver

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a situation where the two-state solution becomes actually

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geographically and economically unworkable.

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He might consider giving effect to this House's instruction

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that we should recognise the Palestinian state.

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Now, I have heard my honourable friend say that we can only do this

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once and therefore we need to choose the moment where that

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will make the maximum impact, and I agree with him,

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but he needs to consider this.

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It would be truly absurd if we were to delay that recognition

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till after the point at which the reality of any

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such Palestinian state could actually be delivered.

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So will the Minister agree with me that when the two-state solution

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that we all support is now under threat like never before that now

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is the time to act on that bilateral recognition?

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We have to ask ourselves, if not now then when, and if not now,

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aren't those Palestinians who believe that we talk

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a good story but we do nothing to end their misery

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are actually right?

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Supporters of Israel argue that settlements are not the sole barrier

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to peace or indeed the main one.

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As supporters of a two-state solution we should commit

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ourselves to building trust with and between both

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Israelis and Palestinians.

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We should do that in both our words and our actions.

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In our words we should seek to avoid emotive language which feeds

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a narrative of victim and villain.

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We should recognise and encourage the need for compromise

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and we should never fail to acknowledge the complexities

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of a conflict which has endured for decades and whose

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roots run deep.

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It's often said that Israeli settlements are illegal,

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but stating this repeatedly does not make it true.

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Please bear with me, because I realise that's quite

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an inflammatory comment, so bear with me for a moment.

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The West Bank and Gaza remain, as they have always been,

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disputed territories under international law.

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There has never been a Palestinian state.

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So the territory remains ownerless, and that's

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a strong argument for some.

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I am deeply disappointed that this government continues to fail

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to recognise the Palestinian state.

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Now is the time and I would ask him to give some comment on that.

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Secondly, what thought has the Government put into how it can

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be that settlement goods can be separated from other Israeli goods?

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There are many people who do not wish to buy settlement goods,

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and is the Government doing any further work on that,

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and how can we persuade British companies not to invest

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in settlement areas?

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But most importantly I hope that when President Trump

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and the Prime Minister Netanyahu visit London later this

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year our Prime Minister will have the courage to set out

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those views in no uncertain terms.

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The Foreign Office Minister, Tobias Ellwood, voiced concern that

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territory for a Palestinian state was being eroded by settlement

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building, but he said the Palestinian leadership needed

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to do more to prevent the incitement of violence.

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President Abbas condemns certain aspects of it

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but we are still seeing schools and squares being named

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after terrorists.

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This is not the confidence-building measures that we need to see.

0:18:500:18:53

There is no relationship with Hamas at all.

0:18:530:18:57

These are the steps that will allow us to move forward so there can be

0:18:570:19:00

a recognition in the long term of the state of Palestine,

0:19:000:19:03

but they are not there yet.

0:19:030:19:04

A younger generation has given up on their own leadership,

0:19:040:19:08

choosing instead to try and take a fast track to paradise by grabbing

0:19:080:19:12

a knife and killing an Israeli soldier, and that is a very terrible

0:19:120:19:15

state of affairs to be in.

0:19:150:19:16

The latest debate on the Palestinian territories.

0:19:160:19:19

"Don't mess about or you'll get abolished."

0:19:190:19:22

That was reported to be the blunt warning issued to members

0:19:220:19:26

of the House of Lords on Wednesday night by government supporters

0:19:260:19:29

shortly after the moment when the so-called Brexit bill

0:19:290:19:32

finally cleared the Commons.

0:19:320:19:34

So could peers delay the whole process of triggering

0:19:340:19:37

Article 50, the legal means by which the procedure is started

0:19:370:19:40

for the UK to leave the EU?

0:19:400:19:44

The Scottish National Party is normally fiercely critical

0:19:440:19:47

of the Lords but the SNP's Pete Wishart appeared to be

0:19:470:19:50

supportive of peers finding fault with the Brexit bill.

0:19:500:19:57

The bill now goes on its way to our friends down the corridor

0:19:570:20:00

and what we've seen is that the unelected friends

0:20:000:20:06

have been threatened with abolition if they dare mess

0:20:060:20:08

with this government's bill.

0:20:080:20:09

I am sure they are now quaking in their ermine if they don't

0:20:090:20:12

do their patriotic duty, as the Secretary of State said.

0:20:120:20:16

Can I just say I offer nothing other than encouragement to these fine

0:20:160:20:19

tribunes in ermine who will now pick up the case.

0:20:190:20:24

For us it's very much a win-win, whatever the outcome is here.

0:20:240:20:28

So can I say to their Lordships, reach for these barricades

0:20:280:20:30

and take on this government.

0:20:300:20:32

On the question of the House of Lords, the House of Lords

0:20:320:20:37

has a valued function under our constitutional

0:20:370:20:41

arrangements in terms of scrutinising and reviewing

0:20:410:20:42

legislation coming up from the House of Commons,

0:20:420:20:46

as I am sure they will do that on the bill we've been debating

0:20:460:20:49

this week, as they do on every other bill,

0:20:490:20:54

but that they will also bear in mind the reality of the referendum

0:20:540:20:57

and the popular mandate that lies behind the Article 50 decision.

0:20:570:21:05

Would the Leader of the House accept that this Parliament works

0:21:050:21:08

because we have two houses, and sometimes the Other Place

0:21:080:21:12

doesn't agree with this House and annoys the Government.

0:21:120:21:15

That is no reason whatsoever to threaten it with abolition.

0:21:150:21:18

Can we have a statement from the Leader of the House confirming that?

0:21:180:21:23

I mean, the Government's position is that we respect completely

0:21:230:21:28

the constitutional role of the House of Lords, and as I said earlier

0:21:280:21:31

the House of Lords itself accepts that as an unelected house it needs

0:21:310:21:35

to abide by certain conventions.

0:21:350:21:36

David Lidington.

0:21:360:21:40

Now, how smart is smart metering of gas and electricity?

0:21:400:21:45

The idea is that your handy smart meter device sends automatic

0:21:450:21:47

messages to your gas and electricity supplier so you don't need to.

0:21:470:21:50

No more estimated bills.

0:21:500:21:53

And you can see how much energy you're actually using.

0:21:530:21:58

The Government is in favour of large-scale introduction of smart

0:21:580:22:00

meters but in a debate in Westminster Hall

0:22:000:22:02

several MPs had doubts.

0:22:020:22:05

One spoke about his own experience.

0:22:050:22:07

The smart meter was fitted.

0:22:070:22:12

Now, once a month I have to go outside and take a photo of my smart

0:22:120:22:16

meter and send that photo over broadband to the supplier

0:22:160:22:19

because I don't have connectivity.

0:22:190:22:20

My smart meter isn't connected to anything because I don't

0:22:200:22:24

have the mobile-phone signal.

0:22:240:22:25

Now, that is a challenge if we're going to provide

0:22:250:22:28

20 million smart meters, or however many we're supplying,

0:22:280:22:30

it's quite a lot, by 2020.

0:22:300:22:32

Now, the interesting thing is, I'm the local MP.

0:22:320:22:37

The local BBC reporter recently e-mailed me to say that he had had

0:22:370:22:40

a smart meter fitted.

0:22:400:22:46

He has to do exactly the same thing.

0:22:460:22:48

So it's a bit worrying in terms of winning public support for this,

0:22:480:22:51

if the local MP and the local BBC presenter actually have smart

0:22:510:22:54

meters that don't work.

0:22:540:22:55

Now, clearly this was a private meeting, so I'm not telling

0:22:550:22:58

the world that my smart meter doesn't work, but I do

0:22:580:23:01

enjoy telling the story.

0:23:010:23:03

The idea of having complete knowledge of the energy you're

0:23:030:23:07

consuming is a desirable objective.

0:23:070:23:14

But we are not doing it in a way that will be appreciated

0:23:140:23:18

by the consumer and will probably be at a cost to the consumer.

0:23:180:23:24

There is a great variety in the meters that are

0:23:240:23:27

being installed just now.

0:23:270:23:37

Again I'll say the ones I saw at Scottish Gas were all-singing

0:23:410:23:44

and all-dancing, probably could make your cup of tea for you as well.

0:23:440:23:48

The meter I've got is far less interactive,

0:23:480:23:49

and there is a real danger, in fact we've seen this

0:23:490:23:52

with a lot of people, that the meter, after a short time,

0:23:520:23:55

or certainly the display unit, ends up getting tossed in a draw

0:23:550:23:58

or a cupboard somewhere.

0:23:580:23:59

And a Conservative MP also saw some limitations.

0:23:590:24:01

One of these relates to interoperability

0:24:010:24:02

between suppliers.

0:24:020:24:03

That is, customers who switch their energy supplier

0:24:030:24:05

after installation run the risk of losing the meter's

0:24:050:24:07

smart functionality.

0:24:070:24:09

Depending on who they are switching from and to.

0:24:090:24:12

It could revert to being a dumb, or perhaps more kindly

0:24:120:24:14

a traditional, meter.

0:24:140:24:18

Last year the Telegraph reported that over 130,000 smart meters

0:24:180:24:23

were now operating in this dumb mode as a result of switching.

0:24:230:24:32

What we are talking about here is an upgrade of a very significant

0:24:320:24:35

part of our infrastructure, very significant part

0:24:350:24:37

of our infrastructure.

0:24:370:24:38

An upgrade of a technology that is 100 years old.

0:24:380:24:48

An upgrade of a technology, at the moment far too many people,

0:24:480:24:51

means that people are looking at bills where their

0:24:510:24:53

consumption is estimated.

0:24:530:24:54

We don't tolerate that in the supermarket, why on earth

0:24:540:24:56

should we tolerate it at home in the modern age, in 2017?

0:24:560:25:01

That people should continue, and our energy system,

0:25:010:25:11

absolutely functional to a smart and prosperous economy,

0:25:120:25:14

should continue to be dependent on a technology

0:25:140:25:16

that is so out of date.

0:25:160:25:17

Nick Hurd.

0:25:170:25:18

And that's it for this programme.

0:25:180:25:20

Do join me for the week in Parliament, when we analyse

0:25:200:25:22

the contribution to Parliament made by the Speaker

0:25:220:25:24

of the Commons, John Bercow.

0:25:240:25:26

Until then, from me, Keith McDougall, goodbye.

0:25:260:25:36