02/03/2017 Thursday in Parliament


Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 2 March, 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 the Lords.


After the drama of the week's Government defeat in the House


of Lords on the Brexit Bill, peers win praise from some unlikely


The people's aristocrats have spoken and their voice must be listened to.


The Farming Minister rejects claims that food prices are increasing


We have seen a fall in food prices of 0.5% over the last year and a


fall of 6% since 2014. And more tributes are paid


to the Father of the House, Sir Gerald Kaufman,


who died last weekend. He had an ability to sum up his


views with a witty turn of phrase that could be as colourful and a


memorable as his suits. The Leader of the Commons,


David Lidington, has confirmed that the Government


will try to overturn Wednesday night's defeat for the Government


inflicted by peers Peers voted by a majority of 102


to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living and working


in the UK. Ministers don't want that guarantee


to figure in the bill, which simply triggers the process


of Britain leaving the EU. Mr Lidington had accompanied


Theresa May to watch the beginning of the Brexit Bill's first debate


in the Lords, something his Labour The leader of the House is keen on


visiting the other place. I don't know if he has caught the news, but


their Lordships intend to send back an amendment, which they won by 358


votes to 256. Can the leader of the House give us an indication when the


bill is likely to come back to Parliament, week commencing 13th of


March, all week commencing 30th of March. We will return to the EU bill


as rapidly as possible after the House of Lords has finished debating


it and given it its third reading and the government remains of the


view the bill is straightforward, it does no more than con fur authority


on the Prime Minister's required by the courts to initiate negotiations


by triggering Article 50 of the treaty. We will therefore seek to


resist changes that would make that negotiating task more difficult.


The SNP normally says the Lords should be abolished.


But such opposition was absent this time.


What about three cheers for our heroes?


The people's aristocrats have spoken.


Every time, every time I raised the issue in the House of Lords,


with the Leader of the House, he tells me there are absolutely no


plans whatsoever to have that House reformed,


accepting therefore, the absolute legitimacy to raise


Will he now listen to the House of Lords on this issue


and will he said today that he has absolutely no plans whatsoever


to use the Parliament Act, if our unelected friends


continue to show backbone on this particular issue?


I do find, the right honourable gentleman's new-found passionate


affection for the House of Lords makes me suggest that it's not just


Mr Farage who has secret yearnings for the honours list.


On to the issue of the rights of EU citizens living in Britain.


From one form of unilateralism to another and I will ask


the Leader of the House whether we could have a statement


from a Brexit minister, as to what assessment the government


has made for the motives of those people with whom we will be


negotiating in the future in other countries, not to respond


to the initiatives that we have been taking and the indications we have


been giving, that members of their societies who have


chosen to live in Britain, will be able to continue doing so,


so long as our citizens are able to continue living


The other EU 27 governments have been clear they will only engage


in negotiations once Article 50 has been triggered.


But I am optimistic a reciprocal agreement on the status of each


other's citizens can indeed be achieved.


I think that is in the rational interests of the United Kingdom


So I very much hope that can be an early achievement


Meanwhile, the Government's rejected claims that shoppers are paying more


for food since the UK voted for Brexit.


The Food and Farming Minister said there had been a fall of 6% overall


Large numbers of people in my constituency are in work, but still


in poverty. They are feeling the effects of increased food prices


over recent months. We are so dependent on cheap EU food products,


what is the minister going to do to protect them in the longer term?


Minister. The facts don't bear out what he says. We have seen a fall in


food prices of no .5% and a fall of 6% since 2014. We do monitor the


situation closely. We have the annual living costs of food survey


which monitors the poorest households and the amount of money


they spend on food and it has been stable over the last decade. The


paradox is that we starve the poor by refusing to buy their food from


them. Will he bear that in mind when we escape from the common external


tariff? He makes an important point and we do have some preferential


trade agreements in place with developing countries from the


Caribbean, to buy sugar from them. These are arrangements we will want


to maintain and secure, so we can support developing countries. The


Minister has talked about food prices falling but supermarkets are


talking of the potential food prices to rise significantly busier, having


a huge effect on every household. Nearly half of our food is imported


and due to the weak pound and inflation, prices are already


starting to rise for the time in three years. What exactly is the


government doing to help with the price rises in people's weekly food


shop? As I said earlier in answer to this question, we monitor closely


the amount of money people are spending on food. It has remained


stable at 16.5% for the last decade. We continue to keep the issue under


review. I point out, the greatest bike we had in food prices took


place in 2008 and food prices have been falling since 2014.


Earlier in the session, MPs wanted to know what impact


Brexit would have on temporary migrants who come to the UK to pick


Farmers are facing a seasonal shortage of labour. Some are worried


the food will rot in the ground this year. The government has been asked


to reverse its decision to scrap the seasonal agricultural workers


scheme. Can a decision please be made as a matter of urgency? I point


out to him, well we remain members of the European Union, we do have


free movement and fruit farms and farmers are able to sort their


labour from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria. Some have


raised concerns about agricultural labour going forward after we leave


the EU and we are listening carefully to the representations


they are making. Growers in my constituency are worried about fruit


going unpicked, not only when we leave the EU, but this year. Will he


continue to press the Home Office on this issue, not only on seasonal


agricultural workers after we leave the EU, but between now and then? As


my honourable friend may know, I spent ten years working in the soft


fruit industry and I will know many of the strawberry farmers which she


represents. But I can tell her, somebody, myself ran a soft fruit


enterprise and employed several hundred people and I understand the


challenges the industry faces. Many of the farmers in my constituency


have entered into contracts for migrant labour for this coming


season. There is concern from reports last week the government are


introducing work permits when Article 50 is triggered. Can the


Minister confirm if this is happening or give them assurance


this will not happen and they can fulfil the contract they have


already entered into? The minister said until the UK left


the EU, free movement would remain. The online property letting service


Airbnb has faced more claims in Parliament that its property


lettings to tourists Founded nine years ago,


Airbnb now has some 3 million lodging listings in almost


200 different countries. But it's faced criticism


that the service reduces the supply of affordable housing for rent,


as landlords let out their properties for


affluent holiday-makers. The arguments were taken up


during Question Time Many, possibly even most


of the Airbnb lettings are in properties which are not


allowed to let on a short-term basis and they are long-term


residential blocks of flats. And in New York, these short-term


lets are not allowed any more now in any block which is long-term


residential, because of Is he also aware that seven London


boroughs have called My Lords, taking up the very


relevant last point first, the London boroughs of course do


have the power and indeed the responsibility to enforce


that in their areas. It is something that rests


with local authorities if hosts and tenants are breaking the law


in relation to the 90 day limit. Not 90 consecutive days,


90 days in any given year. So they do have the power


is there, My Lords. So they do have the powers


there, My Lords. There are restrictions in New York,


but it is still possible of course to operate,


but within different limits to those Is he aware that it really


is a significant problem For instance, research by central


London amenities Society show that 20% of housing stock has been lost


and indeed in some blocks of flats, My Lords, is the answer to this


is to have a tough licensing regime, which includes data-sharing,


an opportunity to call out Will he discuss all these issues


when he meets Airbnb and report back to the House on the outcome


of those discussions? My Lords, first of all,


as I have indicated, within London and certainly


which is the situation the Noble Lord was citing,


there are restrictions already. So I don't believe it is distorting


the market in the way the Noble Lord suggests because there is that


90 day limit. But certainly, I will be


discussing these matters Surely there is a great growth


element in our economy, its tourism. Families coming from abroad can have


much more opportunity of seeing things in London if they get


reasonably cheap bed and breakfast, or have Airbnb,


or what ever they call it. To bring a family of three children


and parents over to London for a week would cost an enormous


amount, whereas they can at least come, have reasonably priced


accommodation and then spend My Lords, I believe my noble friend


has a material point. I have certainly spoke to people


coming from overseas and have used Airbnb in London and have had


fantastic experiences of it and largely of course,


it operates very effectively Does the Minister realise, it is not


only in the heavily urbanised areas, but also in some of the most


attractive parts of the country, that short-term holiday lets,


referred to in the question, are distorting the longer


term letting market. Is he aware how attractive this


is and that a modest house without a view of a lake or a hill


in high season can be left without a view of a lake or a hill


in high season can be let for over ?3000 a week


in the Lake District National Park. There is no incentive whatsoever


for landlords rent out There is no incentive whatsoever


for landlords to rent out houses to local people,


or people who want to work My Lords, I am aware there are,


outside of London, many possibilities for the sorts of lets


the Noble Lord describes. He has cited the Lake District,


there are other areas, Bath, the Cotswolds,


Oxford, Cambridge and so on and that You're watching our round-up of the


day in the Commons and the Lords. More tributes are paid


to Sir Gerald Kaufman, the veteran Labour MP whose death


was announced last weekend. The week brought gloomy industrial


news from South Wales. Doubts were raised over the future


of 1,100 workers at the Ford Ford revealed changes to its planned


investment in its new Dragon engine. The Unite union said it would use


"all its might" to fight for the future of Bridgend's


nearly 2,000 workers. The town's MP spoke


about the uncertain situation during the annual Commons debate


on Welsh affairs. Tariffs are absolutely


essential for Ford. The vital nature of making sure


there is free tariff access She will know that the impact


of the Ford factory and the prospect of losing 1100 jobs


there would have an impact Would she join with me in urging


the Secretary of State to offer Ford whatever assistance he can,


including the sorts of deals that And would she further urge him


to make sure that we never see World Trade Organisation tariffs


imposed on cars coming out of the UK, which would cripple


the competitiveness I have had assurances that,


in fact, Ford will have I have asked today for a symposium


of automotive manufacturers, which will involve


the manufacturers, the ministers here in Westminster,


the trade unions and local members, And I hope the Secretary


of State will support that. There are productivity issues


in Bridgend as well, And I know that the GMB union


and Unite are working Next Wednesday sees


International Women's Day, and the Commons has held its annual


debate to mark the event. One year ago, the Labour MP


Jess Phillips read out in the chamber the names


of all the women who'd been killed She said she planned to do the same


every year that she remained an MP and recited the names of the 123


women who had died since Let these women be


the ones who drive us. I would ask each and every one of us


to remember these women, We must remember them


when we make our decisions, We have a responsibility


to be the voices of these On this International Women's Day,


let us remember why we are all here Yesterday, Labour Women made a short


film for International Women's Day. One of the things we were asked


to do was to complete the sentence, I said I wanted to live in a world


where violence against women was eradicated and where rape was no


longer used as a weapon of war. But what I wanted to go on to say


was that I wanted the statistic that every week two women are murdered


by their partner or ex-partner Discussion turned to female


representation at Westminster. This year marks the 40th anniversary


of the election of Winnie Ewing She was a lawyer who


became the second ever She was a lawyer who became


the second ever SNP MP in the House. So, growing up growing


up in Hamilton meant knowing strong, passionate


women who believed that they could change things


in politics, and I hope that We're just at 30% of this


chamber with women to men, we are behind Italy,


Germany, Norway, uncluding Rwanda. I want to send out a message today


to any young girl or woman who is listening and wants


to enter politics. I want her to hear loud and clear


that everyone in this House From the Medieval Age to now,


we have the Technical Age. We are among the first generation


of parliamentarians who have had to deal with modern technology


and the access it gives the public Those of us who know social media


know what it is like occasionally to go on to Twitter and Facebook


and see a barrage These are faceless


and nameless cowards. Sometimes, we minimise


the difficulties that women face in getting into Parliament


and in staying here. Sometimes, we prefer


not to talk about it. But that does no favours


to the women who are still to come to this place if we pretend


there is not a problem. The increase in MPs coming


to this House since 2005, when there were only 17 female


Conservative MPs, has created a transformational change


in the make-up of the House of Commons and it has transformed


the things that we talk While Winnie, Nancy Astor


and Barbara Castle were isolated in here, I really genuinely do feel


that if we work together, in our greater numbers,


we can make real, positive change. It is not about fighting


for equality for equality's sake - it never is - but it is making sure


that this Parliament is more Having a female Prime Minister does


not mean that we have a Parliament built on equality, because in 2017,


we only have, as we have heard, 30% of the MPs sitting on these


benches who are women. I want to take advantage of this


occasion to say what a huge achievement it is to give birth,


and how proud we should be, as women, of our


capacity to do that. I also want to acknowledge those


first weeks and months of a baby's life when a woman gives herself over


entirely to looking after her child. We all choose different


ways to do this, but Whether our children


are now fully grown adults or small children still,


they are only here because their mothers kept them alive in those


early weeks and months. Again, the effort and sacrifice this


takes is often dismissed or overlooked, so I want to tell


mothers everywhere today to be proud of what they did


because their children would not be The annual debate to mark the start


of International Women's Day. At the start of the week,


the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, paid tribute to Sir Gerald Kaufman,


the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton and Father of the House of Commons,


whose death was announced on Sunday. MPs have had the chance


to reflect on his life. The Conservative former


Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, A former Labour cabinet minister


recalled how Sir Gerald Kaufman beat One of Gerald's more gleeful tales


was of how he had the forethought, when first elected to this House,


to take the oath before the right honourable member for Rushcliffe


in the belief that both were likely to be here for some considerable


time and so be contenders He took great glee


in telling that story. I would like to say that I think


he probably would not have begrudged the Member


for Rushcliffe his opportunity, but I am not absolutely


certain about that. He had an ability to sum


up his views with a witty turn of phrase that could be as colourful


and memorable as his suits. For so many of us on these benches,


he was simply a style guru. I remember those long


scarves he used to wear. One day, he had to be rescued


at the entrance to the tube station because it had got caught up


in all this, and the great efforts that went into ensuring that


Gerald was separated On a Select Committee trip


to the Isle of Mull, to cheer him up on his birthday -


it was one of the big numbers - he loved marmalade, so he was made


orange marmalade ice cream. On a Committee visit to Rome,


some members had not been to Rome, so before he went


to the ambassador's dinner, he took them to the Trevi


fountain and, of course, There is this sense with the passing


of Gerald Kaufman of another link being broken with a former political


age. His first general election contest was in 1955, where he stood


the Bromley constituency. I think the Bromley constituency. I think


without too much expectation of a shock victory on that occasion. He


represented successive Manchester constituencies for many, many, many


years. This was a man who also served in Number 10 under Harold


Wilson. Some MPs referred to his


love of watching films. I remember very foolishly


going into the Members' Tea Room and being enthusiastic


after seeing new film. Had just seen Superman


for the very first time. Gerald had been to see it,


and he gave this caustic review about everything that was wrong


with American cinema at that time, He said, "But you liked it, Barry,


so it couldn't have been all bad." His last recommendation to me,


by the way, was to see the brilliant movie "Hail,


Caesar!", which I duly But it would sometimes be


embarrassing to go with Gerald, because if the weather was cold,


he would wear a red When I told him about this, he said


it was not half as embarrassing It's not unusual for MPs


to complain about other MPs visiting their constituencies


for political purposes and failing But Labour's Tulip Siddiq had


a different complaint following a visit to her north


London seat by the Conservative, This week, the member for north-east


Somerset was in my constituency. And, to his credit,


he did not inform me And, to his credit, he did inform me


you was going to my constituency I offered to go with him,


but he rejected my advances. But today, I opened


the Camden New Journal, my local paper, to read that he had


described the pygmy Does the Deputy Speaker think


that the term "pygmy" is appropriate while standing in the constituency


of the shortest MP in Parliament? The Deputy Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle,


said he was sure Mr Rees-Mogg hadn't But do join me for the Week


In Parliament, when we not only look back at the last few days


in the Commons and the Lords, but also assess the impact of this


week's fly-on-the-wall BBC TV But for now, from me,


Keith Macdougall, goodbye.


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