Highlights of Thursday in Parliament presented by Alicia McCarthy.
Browse content similar to 16/03/2017. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Hello and welcome to Thursday In Parliament.
The Culture Secretary says she will refer
21st Century Fox's Sky bid to the media regulator -
a move welcomed by MPs.
The concentration of ownership is the problem here.
Nicola Sturgeon says a second independence referendum
is all about letting people in Scotland choose their future.
And an MP thinks it's time British Sign language was granted...
Legal status like other recognised languages.
Legal status like other recognised languages.
But first, the Culture Secretary has confirmed that the media watchdog
Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority
are to examine 21st Century Fox's proposed takeover of Sky.
Karen Bradley told MPs she was referring
the ?11.7 billion bid on the grounds of
"media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards".
Fox is part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire.
I am of the view that it remains important, given the issues raised,
and wholly appropriate, for me to seek comprehensive advice
from Ofcom on these public interest considerations,
and from the CMA on jurisdiction issues.
Ofcom and the CMA have until May 17 to investigate,
and she said that the regulator Ofcom would also conduct
a "fit and proper" test into corporate governance.
On Monday this week, Ofcom announced it will conduct its fit
and proper assessment, and at the same time it
would consider any public interest test in response to my decision
to intervene in the merger.
This means Ofcom will conduct its assessment,
and within 14 working days it has to report to me on the public
interests I have specified in the intervention notice.
I welcome Ofcom's announcement, which will provide clarity
for the parties, but also provide reassurance to those
who have expressed their own concerns about this issue.
We welcome the fact that the secretary of
state is intervening.
She will have noticed that 21st Century Fox is happy, too.
In a letter to her last week, they said, and I quote,
that we welcome a thorough and thoughtful review.
I have no doubt that this welcome is sincere,
and that 21st Century Fox are thrilled by her decision.
But can she confirm that, in her view, the broadcasting
standards ground of her referral gives Ofcom the power to investigate
any corporate Government issues affecting 21st Century Fox,
including around the phone hacking scandal, any cover-up of illegality
at News International, the rehiring of people responsible
for governance failures, and ongoing sexual harassment claims
in the United States?
He made the point about broadcasting, commitment
to broadcasting standards and whether that could look
at corporate governance.
I was clear in my original letter, and the statement I made
to the House on the 6th of March, that corporate governance
was one of the issues on which I was referring the matter
to Ofcom, and therefore I would expect them to look at that.
But, clearly, Ofcom is an independent regulator.
I have made the decision to refer to Ofcom, but it is for Ofcom
to decide what evidence they want to look at,
and they are open to looking at whatever evidence that they feel
is appropriate to enable them to make their decision.
It's not the first time that there's been an attempt to take over Sky,
and we should be mindful of why the previous bid courted such
controversy and failed.
Yet, at the same time, it should be acknowledged that
television is adapting to changes in viewing habits and competition
throughout the world, and some will argue that investment
in Sky might allow the UK to thrive in the international arena,
and to continue to compete with competitors such
as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
This transaction represents an ?11.7 billion investment
by an international company into a British broadcaster,
and, as such, is a fantastic vote of confidence that the UK
will remain at the international centre of broadcasting long after
we leave the European Union.
The concentration of ownership is the problem here,
and Sky now have nearly four times as much money every year
to spend as the BBC, so I hope that we will end up
with a position where we maintain that diversity
in the British ecology -
a strong BBC, not being bullied by Murdoch and Sky.
Nicola Sturgeon caught Westminster by surprise
at the start of the week, announcing her intention to call
a second independence referendum in Scotland.
MSPs will vote next week on whether they'll support
Ms Sturgeon's request for an order from Westminster, which would be
needed for Holyrood to hold a legally binding ballot.
Making her first appearance at FMQs since the announcement,
Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to give people in Scotland a choice
over their own future, but the Conservative leader
questioned Ms Sturgeon's priorities.
The truth is, a referendum won't help pupils in Scotland,
and it won't help patients come up waiting lists, and it won't help
solve the GP crisis, and it won't cut violent crime.
It will just take the Government away from the day job
which is supposed to be its focus.
Ruth Davidson talks about "The day job".
Yesterday, we saw the biggest U-turn from the Tories in decades,
blowing a ?2 billion hole in their budget,
and, because of Brexit, every household in this
country could be facing a bill of ?5,000.
So I think Scotland deserves a choice, and that choice is this -
take control of our own finances to build, grow and innovate our way
to a better future, or allow the Tories to continue
to make the same mistakes over and over again,
and make the situation worse.
The Scottish Conservatives reject the proposals set out
by the First Minister on Monday.
A referendum cannot happen when the people of Scotland have not
been given the opportunity to see how our new relationship
with the European Union is working, and it should not take place
when there is no clear political or public consent for it to happen.
Our country does not want to go back to the divisions and uncertainty
of the last few years.
Another referendum campaign will not solve the challenges
that this country will face.
We don't want it, we don't need it - why won't she listen?
So, Ruth Davidson says she wants to put this Parliament first -
well, let me issue this direct challenge to Ruth Davidson and to
the Conservative Party.
If on Wednesday next week this Parliament votes
for an independence referendum to give the people of Scotland
a choice over their own future, will the Conservatives respect
the will of this Parliament, or are the Conservatives running scared?
Well, Ruth Davidson had used up all her questions,
so couldn't respond to that.
The Labour leader took up the subject.
Leaving the UK would be devastating for Scotland's economy.
It would mean even more cuts to the schools and hospitals,
and cuts to those most in need.
The First Minister said this week she didn't want a fact-free debate,
so let's start with one fact she can't deny -
isn't it the case that, according to her own Government statistics,
leaving the UK would mean ?15 billion worth of extra cuts?
Well, the band as well and truly back together, isn't it?
Tory and Labour combining again to talk this country down.
Here's the reality -
Scotland has a deficit created on Westminster's watch,
and we have to deal with that deficit whether we are
independent or not.
Isn't it much better to have the tools and the powers
of independence to deal with that deficit, consistent with our own
values and not Tory values?
Meanwhile, back at Westminster, Theresa May said
"now is not the time" for a second vote.
The Conservative Party has been fined a record ?70,000 for breaking
the rules on election spending.
It was found to have moved campaign teams from its national headquarters
to help in three by-elections and key seats in the 2015
The Electoral Commission said there was a "realistic prospect"
that the money had given them an advantage.
The party insists its failure to report six-figure sums
was an "administrative error".
The SNP's Pete Wishart called for a statement.
We need to hear in that statement that this Government are taking
these allegations seriously, and not hitting out petulantly,
like some members have this morning, at the Electoral Commission
and treating them with contempt.
Our electoral laws are critically important to protect our democracy,
and the Conservative Party will now be investigated by the
Metropolitan Police, just like I asked the police to do last year.
?70,000 is absolute peanuts to the Conservative Party,
so will the Leader of the House now say today that they will fully
comply and take part in every single one of these police investigations?
This could well be the Cash For Honours of this Parliament.
The Government will, of course, consider carefully recommendations
from the Electoral Commission for a change in regulatory powers.
We are already considering a number of possible changes to electoral
arrangements, for example, following the report of my
right honourable friend the member for Brentwood
on electoral corruption.
Though, I do have to say to the honourable gentleman,
that complaints from his party, of all parties,
about the use of battle buses, are more than a little odd.
It is not exactly a secret that at the 2015 general election
the Scottish National party flew Nicola Sturgeon from constituency
to constituency in support of their candidate, which suggests
to me that some of his complaints, or the complaints of his party,
in this respect, are both spurious and hypocritical.
No, no, the Leader of the House mustn't use that last word.
He is a versatile fellow and he can use another word and I feel sure it
will spew forth immediately.
Happy to withdraw that, Mr Speaker.
I think the party...
I make no allegation against an honourable member.
I think the party in question has not displayed
consistency of approach when it comes to this matter.
David Lidington, testing his descriptive skills.
MPs have accused the large energy companies of "ripping off"
and "robbing" customers by leaving them on the most expensive tariffs.
In a debate in the Commons, there were calls from all sides
for action against the "big six", as they are known,
for the introduction of a "relative" price cap limiting price rises once
fixed deals end, and for more to be done to encourage consumers
to switch between energy providers.
The debate was opened by a Conservative MP,
who criticised the big firms for failing to reward loyalty.
What other industry doesn't give their loyal
customers any discounts or special deals, but charges them higher
prices than anyone else instead?
Which companies believe that loyalty should be exploited, not rewarded?
Who treats their longest-serving customers as chumps, to be quietly
and secretively switched on to expensive and unfair deals when they
aren't looking, and then milked, ripped off mercilessly,
for as long as possible?
The big six energy firms, Madam Deputy Speaker, that's who.
Switching, he said, had to be made easier,
and action taken to reduce the price increases faced by consumers.
Even under the most optimistic scenarios, an unacceptably
large number of households will still be being ripped off
for too many years yet.
So we need a stopgap as well - a temporary solution while all those
other changes to make switching easier and less scary
start to work and to take effect.
The answer is a relative price cap - a maximum mark-up between each
energy firm's best deal and their default tariff.
It would mean that once your existing deal comes to an end,
if you forget to switch to a new one,
then you won't be ripped off too badly.
Customers can make savings of hundreds of pounds
if they do switch.
On the back of the recent price rises from energy companies,
I switched for our house, Madam Deputy Speaker,
and we saved ?249.
You know, there are big savings to be made and I encourage
customers to switch, switch, and switch again.
The big six and Veolia behave in a way because there is a culture
of arrogance and entitlement, and that is the problem,
and we need to address that culture.
Actually, more to the point, these companies need
to address that culture.
Greg Jackson, chief executive of Octopus Energy, which has
about 80,000 customers, said, and I quote,
energy customers are being robbed in broad daylight -
robbed in broad daylight -
and it's time for decisive action to end the misery for millions.
So, will the Government look favourably on the honourable
gentleman's point about a price cap?
Because, Mr Deputy Speaker, I think it is very clear that,
at a time of crippling price rises from companies seemingly indifferent
to the plight of customers, there needs to be a fundamental
change to ensure that the market works for all.
It's a bankrupt business model, because, if we are all admitting -
and even the energy companies have to face up to this -
that they are being over the odds,
they have a business model based on that.
If, for example, all these customers miraculously were going to move
to a lower tariff tomorrow, where would these companies be left?
The inertia is compounded by a management approach that
doesn't seem to want any form of effective change.
Just because consumers, very often vulnerable consumers,
are not able to negotiate the process of switching,
this doesn't mean that they should be left at the mercy of a market
which punishes them for that.
Replying, the Minister referred to recent findings
by the Competition and Markets Authority.
It is a fact that the majority of customers, around 66%,
are on standard variable tariffs, and they continue to pay
considerably more than customers who are on fixed-term deals.
The CMA highlighted that these customers are losing out
by what it estimated - it's fair to say that the numbers
have been disputed - but by an estimated ?1.4 billion
over the last few years.
We are acting to make switching easier and quicker.
We are rolling out smart meters, we are continuing to help
the vulnerable and low-income houses with their energy bills.
We recognise that the CMA did important work in highlighting
how much consumers are currently losing out.
We recognise that recent price rises underline the fact that the majority
of consumers are paying more it appears than they need to.
We believe that current practice as it stands is not acceptable
and we will set out proposals to address these issues shortly.
You're watching Thursday in Parliament, with me,
The Government's been urged to do more to cut rates of suicide.
The Conservative chair of the Health Committee made
the plea as she outlined the findings of her committee's
report on the subject.
Sarah Wollaston set out the figures.
It remains the leading cause of death in young people
between the ages of 15 and 24 and it is the leading cause
of death in men under 50.
But she said the key message her committee had heard
was that suicide was preventable and there was more that
could and should be done.
We know, for example, that half of those who take their own lives
have self harmed, and we feel that it's really disappointing
that so many of those with experience of self harm,
their experience when they go to casualty departments is sometimes
that they are made to feel that they are wasting people's time.
We know that liaison psychiatry makes an enormous difference
but there are resourcing issues around liaison psychiatry.
We know that those who have been inpatients in mental health settings
should receive a visit within three days of leaving inpatient services
but there simply aren't the resources there for that to be
put in place and we call on the government to go further
in looking at the work force and resourcing for
this to take place.
The minister accepted there was more to be done.
The refreshed strategy does now include better targeting of high
risk groups and for the first time addresses self harm as an issue
in its own right, which is one of the most significant issues
of suicide risk.
We have also published guidance to local authorities in January
on developing and improving suicide bereavement services
as an important plank of the plan.
Furthermore we announced we would publish a green paper this
year on children and young people's mental health and announcde
that we would develop a national internet strategy which will explore
the impact of internet and social media on suicide
prevention and mental health.
Parliament should in future set the terms of reference for major
inquiries such as the controversial Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war,
according to an influential Commons committee.
The investigation by Sir John Chilcot took seven years
to complete and its final report ran to 2.5 million words,
spanning 12 volumes.
The chairman of the Public Administration Constitutional
Affairs Committee set out how things could be done differently
in the future.
PACAC recommends that in future, before an inquiry
is established, parliament
should set up an ad hoc select committee to take evidence
on the proposed remit of the inquiry and to present formal
conclusions and recommendations to the house.
There should then be a full debate and vote in parliament
on an amendable motion setting out the precise terms of reference,
and an estimated timeframe and a proposed budget
for that inquiry.
This should ensure that in future expectations are much clearer
at the outset of an inquiry.
I welcome the various recommendations in today's report,
especially strengthening the independence of the Cabinet
Secretary and the role of the Commons, but frankly
I would say to the House those recommendations are timid.
Does the Chair, and perhaps the select committee,
agree with me that it will require a root and branch transformative
change of the whole of our political structures and culture before we can
honestly say again to the British people that there will
never be such a failure?
Chilcott was set-up to identify mistakes, mistakes that led
to the loss of life, military and civilian.
With that in mind, seven years to come to conclusion is unacceptable.
Those mistakes could potentially have been repeated
during that time scale.
The overriding lesson that most people will think we can learn
from Chilcott is that these reports take too long and cost too much.
What's to be done to stop youngsters from black and minority ethnic
backgrounds ending up in young offenders' institutions?
The Government has published new sentencing guidelines
for young offenders,
which came under scrutiny in the Lords.
On the MoJ's own evidence the system currently disadvantages
ethnic minority boys in particular, who are more likely to be arrested,
then to be charged, then to be sent to Crown Court for sentence,
then to receive custodial sentences.
How does the MoJ proposed to address this inequality and in particular
what help with this can they offer young offending teams?
My Lords, the noble Lord is right that judges,
particularly when children or young people are evolved consider
the individual circumstances of each case to prevent reoffending and stop
young people from falling into a life of crime,
and this does very much include being aware of the factors
contributing to the overrepresentation of black
and minority ethnic children and young people in the youth
justice system, and the new guideline aims to ensure
a consistent approach to sentencing and also look in far
greater detail at the age, background and circumstances
of the individual child, or in order to reach the most
appropriate sentence that will best achieve the principal aim
of the youth justice system of preventing reoffending.
Keeping young people in custody is financially very costly, and very
costly to them on an individual basis, and wouldn't it be better
if we could devise greater ways of diverting young people
from custodial sentences and to prevent this downward spiral
into long-term criminality?
It is quite clear that to us we have to tackle underlying factors
which lead to children and young people committing offences,
thereby blighting their life chances, and indeed,
since the peak in youth offending in 2006/7,
there has been an incredible, I think, my Lords, 71% fall
in young people sentenced, from around 94,600 to just
under 28,0000 in 2015/16.
Custodial, a 70% fall.
My Lords, I think this is amazing progress.
It is impossible for us to review the kind of institutions
that we have and probably return to the good old days
of what was called reformatory system, the approved school system,
where people were got hold of and transformed and educated
and brought back into society so that they did not
I'm pleased to say that for example in 2015 only around 6% of children
and young people were sentenced to immediate custody.
It's changed, my Lords, is changing, we're making progress,
we want to make it better because we appreciate,
through vast experience, we haven't done enough to date
for our young children and young people.
Back to the Commons where a piece of history was all over
in less than half a minute.
The Speaker announced the Queen has granted royal assent to the Bill
that gives Theresa May the legal power to trigger the UK's exit
from the European Union.
I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent
Act 1967, that Her Majesty has signified her Royal Assent
to the following acts, Supply And Appropriation
Anticipation And Adjustments Act 2017, European Union Notification
Of Withdrawal Act 2017.
The Commons Speaker, John Bercow.
Finally, a Labour MP used her chance at questions to the Leader
of the Commons to make an appeal for the hearing impaired.
I would like to sign my question.
Will the Minister agree...
The 18th of March marks the 14th anniversary since the UK Government
recognised British Sign Language?
Will the Minister agree time to bring and give British Sign
Language legal status like other recognised languages?
The leader of the house, Mr David Lidington!
Speaker, the Honourable lady has very eloquently reminded us
of the importance of British sign
Language to a number of our fellow citizens who live with deafness
or severe hearing impairment.
The Department for Work and Pensions has underway a review
of the provision of signing services in this country,
they have had several hundred submissions during the course
of that review and the Secretary of State will be bringing forward
conclusions in due course.
I can also say to the House that the Department for Education
does now plan to accept British Sign Language
as an alternative qualification to functional skills in English
within apprenticeships and I hope that that will be one step forward
towards giving opportunities to more people who live
with deafness to play a full part in the labour market.
David Lidington, bringing us to the end of this
edition of the programme,
but do join me on Friday night at 11.00 for our round-up
of The Week In Parliament, as we look back at Brexit,
calls for a second Scottish referendum,
and the Government's National Insurance U-turn.
But, for now, from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.