23/02/2017 Thursday in Parliament


23/02/2017

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 23 February presented by Kristiina Cooper.


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Hello and welcome to Thursday in Parliament.

:00:16.:00:17.

Was a British terror suspect paid compensation after being held

:00:18.:00:22.

And was the money used to fund terrorism?

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People across the country will feel sickened at the idea of large

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payments being made to someone who may have been involved

:00:32.:00:34.

There are calls for an end to so-called witch-hunts

:00:35.:00:40.

against soldiers who served in Northern Ireland.

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It is wrong that our veterans are sitting at home,

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wondering if, perhaps, a third or fourth investigation

:00:47.:00:50.

is now going to take place into their case.

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And calls for an investigation into claims that some peers turn up

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briefly to the House of Lords - just to claim their

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Surely, does the Leader of the House not agree,

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this at least warrants some sort of investigation as to what's going

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But first, Jamal al-Harith - a British citizen -

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was held as a terror suspect in Guantanano Bay in 2001

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after the US forces seized him in Pakistan.

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The Daily Mail has claimed that the British Government gave him

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Jamal al-Harith subsequently joined the so-called Islamic State group,

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and last week he carried out a suicide attack at

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The Home Office was called to the Commons to make

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But, at the outset, a Minister explained that there were a few

:01:44.:01:47.

The monitoring of individuals is an intelligent matter,

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and the Government does not and cannot comment

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Neither can the Government comment on whether particular individuals

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In November 2010, the then Lord Chancellor, Secretary

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of State for Justice, my right honourable friend

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the member for Rushcliffe, informed the House of Commons

:02:10.:02:11.

the Government had secured and mediated settlement

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of the civil damages, claims brought by a detainees

:02:15.:02:17.

held at Guantanamo Bay in the early 2000s.

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The details of that settlement were subject to a legally binding

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confidentiality agreement, and we are therefore unable

:02:27.:02:28.

to confirm whether any specific individual received

:02:29.:02:31.

It is reported that Jamal al-Harith has died in a suicide attack

:02:32.:02:36.

in Mosul, and in doing so has killed several others on behalf

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If these reports are correct, he was a deeply dangerous man

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involved in the worst kind of extremism and terrorism,

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that I'm sure will be widely condemned on all sides of this

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Everyone understands there will be information that cannot be revealed

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However, he has provided far too little information

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Can he confirm whether Mr al-Harith was made any payment, and also,

:03:04.:03:10.

notwithstanding the subsequent, welcome legislation -

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which had cross-party support to tighten the law -

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would he agree that people across the country will feel

:03:21.:03:22.

sickened at the idea of large payments being made to someone

:03:23.:03:25.

who may have been involved in serious terrorist activity?

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We know that Mr al-Harith was subject to monitoring

:03:28.:03:29.

after 2004, was he subject to monitoring between 2010,

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when the compensation payments are reported to have been made,

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and reportedly leaving the country in 2014?

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I thank the right honourable lady for her questions.

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Can I also say, like her, and like my constituents,

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we will all be outraged and disappointed by the sums

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But the sums of money that had been paid and been

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reported to have been paid, I can't comment on

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And unlike former Home Secretaries, the Government is bound by its legal

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obligations that it has made, and we cannot break

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But I can say that some of the vulnerability that led us

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to have to pay those damages occurred when she was a member

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of the Labour Government, and when those individuals brought

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There will be natural public concern about the case of Jamal al-Harith

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he was allegedly paid ?1 million in compensation by the UK

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Government following his incarceration in Guantanamo.

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And there will be natural public concern that the Minister has chosen

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to hide behind the notion of sensitive intelligence to fail

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to answer even the simplest factual questions about this case.

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We don't need to know exactly how much, but was there any payment?

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Is there any truth in the idea that the settlement was designed

:04:59.:05:01.

to stop al-Harith making embarrassing revelations

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about our acquiescence in enabling of the torture of a UK citizen?

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It is reported that around ?20 million was being paid to former

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Guantanamo Bay detainees, 16 in number.

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This morning, Lord Blunkett suggested that sum should

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be formally reviewed, since the public will be dismayed,

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and they will be particularly concerned if any of that money has

:05:28.:05:29.

Will he undertake to review the ?20 million or thereabouts

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that is reported to have been paid out to these individuals?

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My right honourable friend raises an important point

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about the destination or what happens to any money

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One of the reasons we took through the House only on Tuesday

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the Criminal Finances Bill, which covers terrorist financing,

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is to give us even more powers to track money destined

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The root cause of the problem here is the operation

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The Government previously supported President Obama's aspiration to see

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it closed and the reduction in numbers there.

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The current president, when he was campaigning,

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said he was going to load it up with some "bad dudes".

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Does the Government now support President Obama's position

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I think before the Government comments on United States action,

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we should see what the actions are in themselves.

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I can tell you from my own personal experience, as a young officer

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in Northern Ireland doing counterterrorism, is torture,

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degrading people doesn't work, it doesn't get

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In fact, it usually extends conflict.

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Can I diassociate myself from these disgraceful attacks from the Tory

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benches on the Daily Mail for campaigning to release British

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Lord Carlile was a Government adviser, he has stated that Jamal

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al-Harith and others were paid compensation to prevent

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the release of security information through the courts

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It's bit late now for the Minister now to rest on confidentiality,

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so perhaps he could tell us this - what was the date of

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the confidentiality clause which the Minister was citing?

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First of all, perhaps I could respond to the right

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honourable gentleman's point about the attacks on the Daily Mail.

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I don't think anyone's heard from this dispatch box

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I know he'd like to put up a strawman to make some allegations.

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As I said in my answer, November 2010, we made a legally

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The key word in there for him is legally binding.

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It's not confidentially, it's the legally binding bit.

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Which I'm sure he'll understand puts an obligation on us,

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it's not an obligation on former Home Secretaries, by

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the sounds of things, or reviewers of terrorism,

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And should it even be an SNP Government, they would be

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legally obliged to stick to the confidentially

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The Government has come under pressure to take urgent action over

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investigations into allegations against British veterans who served

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Some Conservatives and Democratic Unionist MPs have said that,

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in future, inquiries should only proceed if NEW evidence

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The demands follow the decision by the Defence Secretary,

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Sir Michael Fallon, to shut down the Iraq Historic Allegations Team.

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We believe that the Government must give urgent consideration

:08:28.:08:29.

to introducing a statute of limitations for soldiers

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and police officers who face the prospect of prosecution in cases

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which, and this is very important, in cases which have

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previously been the subject of full police investigations.

:08:42.:08:48.

It is wrong that our veterans are sitting at home wondering

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if perhaps a third or a fourth investigation is now going to take

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place into their case simply because some hot,

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fast-thinking, make a quick buck human rights lawyer in Belfast

:09:03.:09:07.

thinks it's a good idea to reopen this case.

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To re-open cases now, Madam Speaker, what it does,

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it actually is revisionism, it's trying to rewrite history.

:09:22.:09:23.

We're trying to look at what happened then

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through the lens of 2017, were we have a whole

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new emphasis on human rights and different standards.

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I find this perverse, long and completely unacceptable.

:09:32.:09:37.

I am increasingly worried because 38 years ago I gave my word the two men

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under my command after they had been involved in a fatality shooting

:09:44.:09:49.

that, if they went to court, and were charged with manslaughter

:09:50.:09:52.

and they were proved not guilty, they would never

:09:53.:09:55.

I gave my word and it looks like my word may not be worth

:09:56.:10:04.

I'm grateful to my honourable and gallant friend.

:10:05.:10:14.

I think we all, a lot of us share on this side of the House,

:10:15.:10:18.

the view that fresh evidence, a transparent procedure for showing

:10:19.:10:21.

that fresh evidence has emerged, should be the requirement for any

:10:22.:10:25.

There cannot be a progress to the future without a complete

:10:26.:10:30.

settlement of the issues of the past.

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There has to be the closure, there has to be the investigation,

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there has to be the disinfectant of sunlight, to quote the phrase.

:10:36.:10:38.

We have to move on, sure and certain in the knowledge that we have done

:10:39.:10:43.

We will never accept any kind of moral equivalence between those

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who sought to uphold the rule of law and terrorists who

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For us, politically motivated violence in Northern Ireland

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Whether it was carried out by Republicans or loyalists.

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The Northern Ireland Secretary called on all parties -

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following next week's elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly -

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to get behind the 2014 Stormont House Agreement

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and the plans to set up a Historical Investigations Unit.

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Any legislation establishing the HRU would include specific tests

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which must be met in order that a previously completed case

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This will mean specifically that new and credible evidence

:11:30.:11:36.

that was not previously available to the authorities is needed before

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I would hope that, on the far side of this election,

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that there is that opportunity for the restoration of the political

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institutions and that there's parallel negotiations to deal

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with these issues that are outstanding, that

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It's absolutely important that the institutions

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which were being set up under the Stormont House Agreement,

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which the Secretary of State referred to and which my right

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honourable friend referred to, the Historical Investigation Unit

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and so on, are set up so we can have a balanced, fair

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and proportionate approach to all of this.

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On Monday, the Prime Minister Theresa May turned up in the House

:12:22.:12:24.

of Lords to watch the start of the debate on the Bill

:12:25.:12:27.

authorising the Government to trigger the start of the Uk's

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It's extremely rare for a Prime Minister to observe

:12:33.:12:35.

A Labour MP, Valerie Vaz, was suspicious about

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This is a photo opportunity for Prime Minister and Government.

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All photos, no substance or any thought for the British people.

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Not content with being the first to visit the United States,

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when the Prime Minister should have been networking in Europe,

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the Prime Minister then photobombs the House of Lords in the company

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No wonder we can't get a date for recess.

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Instead of photobombing, the Prime Minister needs to focus

:13:03.:13:06.

on what is going on in her own Cabinet.

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She may have come off the sofa and into the Cabinet table,

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I was disappointed in what they said about the House of Lords.

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I actually think it's important, it's important that ministers

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respect the constitutional role of the House of Lords.

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In my experience, both in Government and in Opposition,

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members like the fact that ministers and indeed occasionally Opposition

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spokesmen go and listen to what they have to say

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and that is exactly what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister

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and I were doing earlier in the week.

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I suppose the Leader of the House can safely put away that Abolition

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of the Lords Bill then, and all we really needed

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was a selfie with himself and the Prime Minister

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when he visited the Chamber last week.

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After threatening to lead this great Brexit rebellion,

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these brave tribunes have led the nation all the way

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to the top of the hill and all the way back down again,

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while obviously leaving the taxi motor running.

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Am I the only member of the House that is slightly disturbed by these

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allegations from the former Lord Speaker?

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This is taxpayers' money, surely does the Leader of the House

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not agree that this at least warrants some sort of investigation

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about what is going on down there with their expenses?

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He was referring to claims made in a BBC programme

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on the House of Lords, due to be aired next Tuesday.

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The former Leader of the Lords says some peers turn up briefly,

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While I don't know any detail beyond the reports of this

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television programme, it is clearly a right to that

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evidence about specific allegations needs to be investigated

:14:53.:14:55.

by the appropriate authorities in that House, just as should be

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There also has to be due process and one has to proceed on the basis

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You're watching Thursday in Parliament, with me,

:15:06.:15:10.

New figures show net migration has fallen to its lowest

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level for two years - but it's still above

:15:20.:15:21.

It dropped to 273,000 in the year to September, down 49,000

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The Home Secretary said the numbers showed that "we can reduce migration

:15:29.:15:35.

Just as those figures were being released,

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the Lord's Economic Affairs Committee was holding

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its latest hearing into Brexit and the Labour market.

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I would suggest an objective of this kind - a level of net migration that

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avoids undue pressure on our population, public services

:15:52.:15:54.

Finally, as for an appropriate level, that of course

:15:55.:16:06.

I would say that even 100,000 a year would add

:16:07.:16:25.

to our population over next 25 years, so if you're

:16:26.:16:27.

concern is of population, crowding and everything that follows

:16:28.:16:29.

that, then you should be having in mind something of that order over

:16:30.:16:33.

The net migration target is nonsense.

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It's absurd, because there's no right level of net migration.

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It's absurd because the Government doesn't have the means to achieve

:16:47.:16:50.

any arbitrary target that it sets, both because it can scarcely control

:16:51.:16:55.

immigration or EU migration, and because it only has limited

:16:56.:17:01.

And last but not least, and crucially, because in

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prioritising an absurd and arbitrary target, it takes stupid and costly

:17:06.:17:08.

decisions without thinking through the consequences.

:17:09.:17:13.

So it's madness at a time when every country in the world is trying

:17:14.:17:18.

to increase its share of the booming global export market to be clamping

:17:19.:17:21.

What you are advocating for is a complete free-for-all that

:17:22.:17:31.

anyone who's got a job should be able to get a visa to come

:17:32.:17:36.

here and you say, in response to the point that's been made

:17:37.:17:40.

by Lord Green about the public backlash that might result,

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is that this could be dealt with by making welfare

:17:45.:17:47.

The problem we have is people can't get GP appointments,

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the National Health Service is enormous pressure,

:17:57.:18:01.

there is huge opposition to building on the green belt.

:18:02.:18:04.

Isn't this an idealistic economic model which is

:18:05.:18:06.

The self-selected migrants that are able to come to Britain freely

:18:07.:18:15.

tend to be particularly highly educated, are more

:18:16.:18:17.

likely to be employed and are particularly large net

:18:18.:18:19.

In effect, they're actually subsidising the public services

:18:20.:18:22.

If there were no migrants here, there'd be even less money,

:18:23.:18:26.

net, for public services for British people.

:18:27.:18:29.

Not to mention, doctors, far fewer doctors and nurses to care for them.

:18:30.:18:33.

A Liberal Democrat asked about sectors such as agriculture,

:18:34.:18:37.

that relied on large amounts of low skilled migrant workers.

:18:38.:18:45.

You're saying we should aim to be ultimately

:18:46.:18:47.

Well, I mean, we have 1.5 million people who are unemployed

:18:48.:18:55.

and we have over 1 million part-time workers who are looking

:18:56.:18:58.

for full-time work, so it's not as if the barrel is empty.

:18:59.:19:01.

Robinson Crusoe scraped by on his island.

:19:02.:19:04.

But the idea that it is desirable is insane.

:19:05.:19:14.

Just as if we try to become self-sufficient in goods

:19:15.:19:21.

and services, we would adjust, we would be poorer

:19:22.:19:24.

Mechanization clearly is one thing that would happen.

:19:25.:19:26.

Some things we would just do without.

:19:27.:19:28.

So the Scottish strawberries that Lord Forsyth loves would go unpicked

:19:29.:19:31.

and so perhaps would the English strawberries, and we would import

:19:32.:19:33.

Whether British people would be better off as a result

:19:34.:19:37.

With some 100,000 people facing starvation, and a million more

:19:38.:19:55.

on the brink of famine in South Sudan, an independent peer,

:19:56.:19:59.

Lord Alton, secured an urgent question in the House of Lords.

:20:00.:20:01.

He wanted to know what was being done to tackle the causes

:20:02.:20:04.

Does the noble lord agree that the three-year civil war

:20:05.:20:14.

in South Sudan and the continuing conflict just north in the Republic

:20:15.:20:17.

of Sudan have generated vast numbers of refugees and a consequential

:20:18.:20:23.

inability to grow and harvest crops, and that should remain our priority

:20:24.:20:25.

Can the noble lord tell us what progress is being made

:20:26.:20:35.

in achieving this, in obtaining access to closed areas in the unity

:20:36.:20:38.

state and then galvanizing international effort

:20:39.:20:39.

to save the lives of millions now at risk of starvation,

:20:40.:20:42.

He's right in highlighting that many crises

:20:43.:20:49.

that we face are not man-made, but this one is most

:20:50.:20:52.

I have just left a emergency planning meeting on the situation in

:20:53.:21:06.

Somalia. That is where some 6 million people

:21:07.:21:13.

are at risk because of famine and there we are doing

:21:14.:21:16.

the best we actually can. Here, the frustrating thing is,

:21:17.:21:18.

although we donate ?100 million, although the UN mission

:21:19.:21:21.

to South Sudan is in place on the ground and many humanitarian

:21:22.:21:23.

workers are risking their lives to deliver aid, unless there

:21:24.:21:26.

is that peace agreement, the implementation of the existing

:21:27.:21:28.

peace agreement, then the futures of people in South Sudan,

:21:29.:21:31.

particularly women and children, What are we doing in terms

:21:32.:21:33.

of building sustainable peace It comes back to our point before,

:21:34.:21:36.

development is not just about humanitarian aid,

:21:37.:21:40.

it is about building peace and sustainability,

:21:41.:21:41.

particularly in Africa. The Lord is absolutely right

:21:42.:21:47.

and I appreciate his remarks. On the specifics that he mentions,

:21:48.:21:49.

we have been supporting and coaching and encouraging the work

:21:50.:21:55.

of the intergovernmental African development body,

:21:56.:22:00.

who have been reading a lot of this work and also through the UN

:22:01.:22:03.

Security Council on that. We've been working with

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international partners, we're part of an agreement

:22:07.:22:09.

with Norway and the United States A huge amount had been done,

:22:10.:22:12.

he said, but the UK Now, what will airports be

:22:13.:22:20.

like in the post-Brexit world - when the UK takes

:22:21.:22:24.

control of its borders? Will there be long queues of people

:22:25.:22:28.

from EU countries waiting to get Perhaps there'll be

:22:29.:22:32.

a new dedicated fast lane Does taking back control

:22:33.:22:34.

of our borders mean the 23 million inbound passengers from the EU

:22:35.:22:40.

who pass through our airports each year will be subject

:22:41.:22:43.

to full border checks? Is he aware of research

:22:44.:22:45.

by the tourism industry Council which shows it would require UK

:22:46.:22:47.

border resources to be Can he assure us that those costs

:22:48.:22:50.

will be met from the 350 million Well, Mr Speaker, it is already

:22:51.:22:57.

the case that when an EU citizen arrives in this country,

:22:58.:23:02.

they have to show their passport and I don't envisage

:23:03.:23:04.

that changing in future. Passengers arriving at UK airports

:23:05.:23:09.

would expect the queue for no longer than 25 minutes coming

:23:10.:23:12.

from the European Economic Area, 45 minutes coming from outside that

:23:13.:23:14.

area due to service-level agreements Does the Secretary of State believe

:23:15.:23:16.

these service-level agreements Mr Speaker, as the Prime

:23:17.:23:20.

Minister said recently, and I would reiterate,

:23:21.:23:26.

our desire post Brexit is not to have long queues on our borders,

:23:27.:23:31.

it's actually to have sensible arrangements to allow people

:23:32.:23:34.

to travel to do business but also to enable us to have the controls

:23:35.:23:36.

on migration to the United Kingdom that I think people

:23:37.:23:40.

voted for last year. Does my right honourable

:23:41.:23:42.

friend agree that, once the UK leaves the EU,

:23:43.:23:47.

we will be free to open dedicated entry lanes to our airports for use

:23:48.:23:50.

only by UK citizens and those of our overseas territories,

:23:51.:23:53.

thereby speeding up entry to the UK? Well, of course, Mr Speaker,

:23:54.:23:56.

as my honourable friend knows, post Brexit, it will be a matter

:23:57.:23:59.

for this House and this Government to decide how best

:24:00.:24:02.

to manage our borders, but I'm sure my honourable friend

:24:03.:24:04.

would wish to ensure that, where appropriate,

:24:05.:24:06.

we have the smoothest possible passes through our border for people

:24:07.:24:08.

who we would wish to welcome At the Culture, Media

:24:09.:24:12.

and Sport Select Committee this week, several witnesses expressed

:24:13.:24:22.

concern about the timeliness that would be required for physical

:24:23.:24:30.

reconfiguration of airports. Is the Secretary of State having

:24:31.:24:31.

conversations with the airport Well, I had a meeting in fact

:24:32.:24:34.

with airlines and airports earlier this week and will continue

:24:35.:24:37.

to do so. We will continue to consult

:24:38.:24:40.

carefully with the industry. But as I say, of course,

:24:41.:24:42.

people arriving from all around the world today have

:24:43.:24:44.

to show their passports already when they arrive

:24:45.:24:46.

in the United Kingdom, so I don't envisage the kind

:24:47.:24:48.

of dramatic change that perhaps What insurances and evidence can

:24:49.:24:51.

he provide as inter-departmental work ongoing to ensure

:24:52.:25:00.

that there will be as little disruption as possible

:25:01.:25:02.

and ensure our tourism market, which is vital for jobs

:25:03.:25:04.

and the economy, will not I'm going to simply say

:25:05.:25:06.

to the honourable Lady, she is making an assumption

:25:07.:25:09.

I simply don't accept. It is the case already,

:25:10.:25:12.

Mr Speaker that people are arriving into our borders have

:25:13.:25:15.

to show their passports before We certainly don't envisage

:25:16.:25:18.

a situation where we said we create vast additional queues

:25:19.:25:26.

on our border. We want a smooth, streamlined

:25:27.:25:28.

process for people who have the right to come here to do

:25:29.:25:30.

so and to be welcome here. Chris Grayling, reassuring

:25:31.:25:33.

everyone that there'll be no Well, time for me to fly but do

:25:34.:25:35.

join me on Friday night at 11 for a roundup of a week

:25:36.:25:40.

in which the House of Lords Until then from me,

:25:41.:25:45.

Kristiina Cooper, goodbye.

:25:46.:25:47.

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