30/03/2017 Thursday in Parliament


30/03/2017

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 30 March, presented by Kristiina Cooper.


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Hello and welcome to Thursday In Parliament.

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The main news from Westminster...

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Fears of a government power grab as Ministers set about disentangling

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the UK from European Union law.

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It has been suggested that the Government is looking

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at Henry VIII clauses to take this through.

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So much for Parliamentary sovereignty.

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Scotland's aspirations for a voice also seem to be given the Henry VIII

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treatment with a rough wooing clearly taking place right now.

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Will security cooperation be used as a bargaining

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chip in Brexit talks?

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A former police chief thinks an "implied threat" has been issued.

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That the UK will withhold security cooperation with the EU if it does

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not get the trade deal that it wants was insensitive, reckless,

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or an empty threat, or all three?

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And calls to increase the jail sentences imposed, in England,

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on people who are cruel to animals.

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These individuals are practising cruelty, basically, on animals

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which they will then transfer on to humans.

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Now that Article 50 has been activated, work begins on what to do

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with the vast body of regulations generated by the European Union and

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enshrined in UK law over 45 years.

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The Government will be introducing a Great Repeal Bill which,

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among other things, will get rid of the European Communities

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Act or ECA of 1972.

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Repealing the ECA on the day we leave the EU enables

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a return to this parliament of the sovereignty we ceded in 1972

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and ends the supremacy of EU law in this country.

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It is entirely necessary to deliver on the result of the referendum.

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But repealing the ECA alone is not enough.

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A simple repeal of the ECA would leave holes in our statute book.

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The EU regulations that apply directly to the UK would no

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longer have any effect and many of the domestic regulations

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we have made to implement our EU obligations would fall away.

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Therefore to provide the maximum possible certainty,

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the Great Repeal Bill will convert EU law into domestic law

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on the day we leave the EU.

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This means, for example, that the workers' rights,

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environmental protection and consumer rights enjoyed under EU

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law in the UK will continue in UK law after we have left the EU.

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And he said that, as far as possible, power taken back

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from the EU would be devolved to Northern Ireland,

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Scotland and Wales.

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It is the expectation of the Government that outcome

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of this process will be a significant increase

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in the decision-making power of each devolved administration.

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But we must also ensure that, as we leave the EU, no new barriers

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to living and doing business within our own union are created.

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Mr Speaker, nobody underestimates the task of converting EU law

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into domestic law but the question is how is it done and what is done?

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The White Paper on the question of how gives sweeping

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powers to the executive.

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Sweeping because it proposes a power to use delegated legislation

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to correct and thus change primary legislation, and also

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devolved legislation by delegated legislation.

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Sweeping because of the sheer scale of the exercise.

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On these benches, we think the triggering of Article 50

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yesterday was a sad day for everybody in Europe, including

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everybody in these islands, and an EU which for years has

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brought us peace, stability, security and prosperity.

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We are turning the clock back 40 years and I am

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glad that the minister reminded his own front benches

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devolution existed now in a way it didn't exist 40 years ago.

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It has been suggested the Government is looking at Henry VIII clauses

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to take this through.

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So much for Parliamentary sovereignty.

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Scotland's aspirations for a voice also seem to be given their Henry

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VIII treatment with a rough wooing clearly taking place right now.

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I'd like to commend the Secretary of State for ignoring some

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of the more over excitable demands from parts of the Brexit press

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and some of his backbenchers, and to confirm as he has today

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that he will incorporate into British law some of the EU

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jewels in the crown such as the Habitats Directive,

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the Working Time Directive, the Green Renewable Energy

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Directive, which we can all agree upon.

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Although he will know there is a fork in the road.

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The Government will either have to keep those provisions

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in domestic legislations, in which case they will reasonably

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say, "What on earth was the point of leaving the EU

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in the first place?"

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Or they will remove those provisions, in which case the EU

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will need exacting safeguards to ensure we are not

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undercutting EU standards.

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The Government's aim that EU law, with all its rights and protections,

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will remain in place is a pragmatic approach and we need to find a way

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of making that happen but the Secretary of State will be

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aware of concerns that others might try and use this process to get rid

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of EU laws they have never liked or use these powers to make changes

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beyond the minimum necessary.

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This is really a Great Transfer Bill, that's what it really is.

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Could the Secretary of State give an unequivocal undertaking

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that workers' rights, environmental protections

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and consumer protections will be in no way changed as a result

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of this ill and indeed anything else that is taken...?

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The Prime Minister has already given those undertakings.

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I thank my right honourable friend for making it clear that two years

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from today our sovereign parliament will indeed have the power to amend,

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repeal or improve all this ghastly EU legislation.

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I will pass on the assessment of the legislation but I will

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of course reinforce the point I have already made, which is the aim

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of this bill at the end of the day is to bring the decisions back

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to this House.

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There's speculation, generated by Theresa May's farewell

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letter to the European Union, that security cooperation may be

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used as a bargaining chip during Brexit negotiations.

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Some peers are worried about the implications.

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Less than a week after four people died as a result

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of terrorism on our doorstep, does the noble lady,

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the minister think that the implied threat made by the Prime Minister

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in her Article 50 letter, backed up yesterday...

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Hear, hear.

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..backed up yesterday by the Home Secretary that the UK

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will withhold security cooperation with the EU if it does not

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get the trade deal that wants was insensitive,

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reckless, or an empty threat, or all three?

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My Lords, may I also paid tribute to the people who lost their lives

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last week and who still lie in hospital injured?

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But I do take exception to what the noble Lord says.

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My Lords, the letter says both sides would cope but our

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cooperation would be weakened.

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We want and we believe that the EU wants security to be part

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of a new partnership so that is why it is part of the negotiation.

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The threat was not a threat at all, it was a matter of fact.

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Would the minister, for the service of the House,

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read the two sentences in the letter before the one that she

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selectively read out?

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Because those sentences make it absolutely clear

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that the Government's intention and the implied threat is that

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unless there is agreement on trade, a comprehensive agreement

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as they call it, there will not be an agreement on security.

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And by that means they would imperil not only our economic

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capability but also, even more seriously,

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our security capability.

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The noble Lord is actually quite wrong in what he says.

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The letter says both sides would cope but our

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cooperation would be weakened.

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That is what the letter says.

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And we want and we believe the EU wants security to be part

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of the new partnership and that is why it will be

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part of the negotiation.

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That is the right way forward.

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My Lords, does my noble friend realise that the appropriate reply

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to the noble Lord Kinnock lies in the Gospel according

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to Saint Matthew?

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Chapter six, verse 19.

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LAUGHTER.

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Ask the Bishop.

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Yes.

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Perhaps the Right Reverend Prelate would like to comment?

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to the noble Lord Kinnock lies in the Gospel according

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Would the noble Baroness, the minister not agree with me

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the best way of answering Lord Paddick's question is to ensure

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the Government arranges with our European partners to deal

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with security issues first and foremost and separately

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from trade to make sure there is no moment when we fall

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off a security cliff?

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The noble Lord is quite right in the sense that the Prime Minister

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put these aspects of negotiation right at the forefront.

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I have been in debates in the last few weeks talking

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about how that cooperation...

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We have been world leaders in those areas.

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It is so important as we go forward.

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But it is all part of the whole deal and that is bearing in mind

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the context in which we operate.

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With what the noble Lord just said, would my noble friend agree that

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as we begin this long and difficult process, intemperate

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remarks are hardly helpful?

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Well, it pains which intemperate remarks my noble friend

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-- Well, it depends which intemperate remarks my noble

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friend is referring to that, yes, I think we all have to be very

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careful about what we say.

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Back in the Commons, the Transport Secretary was accused

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of pursuing a "little Britain" strategy in his approach

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to Brexit, which could damage the UK aviation industry.

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The ramifications of leaving the EU-dominated

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Transport Question Time from the off.

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The Open Skies Agreement has provided great opportunities for EU

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registered airlines, including UK companies such

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as easyJet, who fly largely unrestricted between member states

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and within member states as well as from the EU to the US,

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but Brexit could change all that, so can the Secretary of State

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reassure the industry and passengers that the UK will remain part

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of Open Skies arrangements?

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Mr Speaker, as I said a moment ago, we will of course be reaching that

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agreement in due course.

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It is our intention across the sectors,

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whether it is haulage or aviation, to secure the best possible

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agreement for the future that will benefit those who seek to do

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business in the UK from elsewhere in the EU and those who seek to do

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business elsewhere in the EU from the UK.

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Sir Desmond Swayne.

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How important is it to make arrangements for the worst-case

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scenario just to show how serious our negotiating intent is?

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Well, Mr Speaker, you will not be surprised to learn

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that the Government of course takes steps to prepare for all

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eventualities but we enter the negotiations with good faith

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and intention to secure a deal because we believe very strongly

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it is in everyone's interests both here in the UK and across the EU.

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Can the Secretary of State confirm that the worst-case scenario

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is no arrangement at all?

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Can he also confirm that for airlines they have to schedule

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12-18 months in advance and therefore can he confirm

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that he has to resolve this within the next six months?

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I never speculate on these things but what I would say is I have

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detailed discussions with the aviation industry,

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have had over the past few weeks, well aware of the challenges

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they face around their business models and, of course,

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the Government listens very carefully to them about how best

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to approach this important sector in the context of the negotiations.

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The Prime Minister told the House yesterday that she will, her words,

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deliver certainty to UK businesses about the position they

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will be in post-Brexit.

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But without agreement on the principles behind cabotage,

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trucking companies are already warning that new customs checks

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will gridlock roads leading to the Channel ports.

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UK-based airlines are already warning that they may need

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to relocate their bases across the Channel if the UK falls

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out of the Common Aviation Area.

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So just how and when the minister is going to deliver the certainty

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that those companies need now rather than a kind of ministerial

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aspiration that everything is going to be all right

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on the night?

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Of course, Mr Speaker, this is not simply about UK

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companies because the vast majority of haulage-based cabotage that takes

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place in the United Kingdom is international hauliers operating

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in the UK, so they themselves have a vested interest in ensuring

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that their politicians work with us to ensure we have the best possible

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arrangement for the future.

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That is what we will do and I am confident other European governments

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will want to do the same.

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The Prime Minister flippantly said in her Article 50 speech

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that we will be leaving EU institutions but not Europe,

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as if that was a good thing.

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The Aviation Safety Agency plays a crucial role in excluding any

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aircraft or company that have poor safety records from European

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airspace, safeguarding the security and well-being of people right

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across the continent.

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Now that negotiations are underway, this government has a duty

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to passengers in the aviation sector to tell us if the UK will be

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a participant or are they happy to compromise our economy

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and passenger well-being to achieve their "little

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Britain" hard Brexit?

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In the friendliest possible spirit, there is no danger of her suffering

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ill health as a result of excessive hurry.

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Secretary of State.

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Well, that may be, Mr Speaker, but the honourable lady

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does speak an awful lot of nonsense.

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LAUGHTER.

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We do not pursue, we do not and are not pursuing

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a "little Britain" strategy.

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We are looking to build our role in the world.

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Aviation will be an important part of that which is why

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we are expanding Heathrow Airport, seeking to expand Heathrow Airport,

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subject to the consultation happening at the moment,

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and we will, of course, bring forward to this House

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and to this country our proposals in due course.

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Many of these international bodies went beyond the EU, he added,

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and the UK would continue to play a role in them.

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Last year, the Speaker announced a new initiative called

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the Speaker's Democracy Award.

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It enables the Commons to recognise individuals who have championed

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democracy in some way.

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John Bercow has announced the first winner of the award.

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I'm pleased to be able to tell the House that Marvi Memon MP

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is the winner in this, the inaugural year of the award.

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Ms Memon is a Pakistani politician who is the current

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chairperson of the Government of Pakistan's Benazir Income Support

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Programme, the BISP, and an elected member

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of the National Assembly of Pakistan.

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Ms Memon has prompted a substantial and impressive programme

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of empowerment through her BISP work by giving over 5.3 million

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of the poorest women a modest stipend for essentials such as food,

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clothing, health care and education.

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It's hoped that Marvi Memon will visit Parliament

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to collect the award in person.

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You're watching Thursday in Parliament,

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with me, Kristiina Cooper.

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There have been distressing stories of animal cruelty in the Commons

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as MPs called for an increase in penalties

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for offenders in England.

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They want the maximum sentence for offences

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to be increased to five years.

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It's currently six months.

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There were examples of what some people have done to animals -

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and what punishment they received.

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A young fox had a habit of going to the large supermarket

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every night to hunt for food.

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The fox was caught by a gang of boys from my own constituency.

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They caught it by the tail, hurled it round and round,

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smashed its head against the wall several times

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and then stamped on its head.

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The punishment for that, well, it was hardly punishment at all,

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so I think it's absolutely necessary to increase the penalties

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for people who impose that kind of cruelty on animals.

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A small dog named Scamp was found buried alive in the woods

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near Redcar on the 19th of October with a nail hammered into its head.

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In February Michael Heathcock and Richard Finch pleaded

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guilty to offences under the Animal Welfare Act

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and they were sentenced to four months, meaning they will probably

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serve just eight weeks in prison.

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Not enough time for reflection, punishment or rehabilitation.

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The people of my constituency have been horrified by these cases

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and it's important for me to pay tribute to their response.

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After hearing of the incident and others, they held vigils

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with hundreds of people coming to light candles and send

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their messages loudly and defiantly.

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There are also plans for a dog park to be built in their memory.

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The perpetrators do not represent our community.

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People in Redcar are decent and kind.

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I know passionate animal lovers and I meet many dog lovers

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as I walk my own dog but my constituents are angry.

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They feel the criminal justice system has let them down

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and that is why I am standing here today.

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The current penalties for animal welfare in England

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are too low, far too low.

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The maximum sentence of animal cruelty is six months in prison

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and an unlimited fine.

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Will he take an intervention from me?

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I will.

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I agree with him and his motion but part of the problem

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is persuading courts even to impose those minimum sentences

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that are far too low.

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I thank him for his intervention.

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He is right.

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I feel if we had a larger sentence and there was more

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flexibility in the courts when you have the worst of cases,

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the magistrates would have that ability to make that sentence

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but he's right, sometimes there is not enough sentencing,

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a long enough sentence even in the amount at the moment.

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I know from working in psychology that there is certainly a link

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between cruelty to animals and psychopathy and cruelty

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to humans, so this must be taken as cruelty in terms of animal

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welfare but also in thinking of the impact on other victims

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of cruelty because these individuals are practising cruelty on animals

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which they will then transfer on to humans.

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At present the maximum penalty for such offences is six months

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in prison or an unlimited fine or both, and the unlimited

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fine was only raised from ?20,000 in 2015.

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In addition offenders can be disqualified from owning animals

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or having influence over the way an animal is kept for as long

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as the court sees fit and this is an important point and moves

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on from owning an animal to things like transport.

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Lord Gardner, I know, is in regular contact

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with the Ministry of Justice to discuss maximum sentences.

0:19:510:19:56

Current sentencing for such offences does not suggest the courts

0:19:560:20:00

are finding sentencing powers inadequate, which is to say that

0:20:000:20:04

changing the maximum sentence will not make a difference if courts

0:20:040:20:06

consider a lower sentence appropriate, but I can inform

0:20:060:20:11

the House that the sentencing council has recently reviewed

0:20:110:20:14

the Magistrates' Court sentencing guidelines,

0:20:140:20:18

including those in relation to animal cruelty,

0:20:180:20:21

and the sentencing council's revised guidance, published

0:20:210:20:24

on their website, which will become effective from May, will allow

0:20:240:20:28

magistrates more flexibility as regards imposing penalties

0:20:280:20:32

towards the upper end of the scale.

0:20:320:20:35

To the Lords now, where the statement made earlier

0:20:350:20:37

by the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, on the Great Repeal

0:20:370:20:39

Bill was read out to peers.

0:20:390:20:42

One remark that's often made about the Great Repeal Bill

0:20:420:20:44

is that it doesn't do anything of the sort because it actually

0:20:440:20:47

turns all EU laws into British law.

0:20:470:20:50

The former diplomat Lord Hannay made the point - in his own way.

0:20:500:20:54

Would it not have been better to adopt the byline of the Prince

0:20:540:20:59

of Lampedusa's famous remark in The Leopard when he gave

0:20:590:21:03

a definition of revolution which was "everything must change

0:21:030:21:07

so that everything may stay the same"?

0:21:070:21:11

I think that is probably more the title and I think

0:21:110:21:14

the Daily Telegraph's regulatory bonfire may be a bit

0:21:140:21:17

short of dry kindling.

0:21:180:21:20

Labour thought that mixed messages were coming out

0:21:200:21:22

of the Government about EU law.

0:21:220:21:24

We've heard from the Secretary of State for International Development

0:21:240:21:28

arguing that to restore Britain's competitiveness we must begin

0:21:280:21:31

by deregulating the labour market whilst the Foreign Secretary wants

0:21:310:21:36

to use the opportunity to axe needless regulations that have

0:21:360:21:41

accreted since Britain joined the EU.

0:21:410:21:45

How do those comments chime with the Prime Minister's

0:21:450:21:48

introduction to the White Paper and indeed the Government's

0:21:480:21:52

long-standing promise that the same rules and laws will apply on the day

0:21:520:21:56

after exit as on the day before?

0:21:560:22:00

So will the Minister confirm that it is the Prime Minister

0:22:000:22:04

who is the boss and that despite the words of the others,

0:22:040:22:08

there is no intention to repeal those madcap ideas

0:22:080:22:12

within the repeal bill?

0:22:120:22:14

I know he'll be on his feet for hours on end in the complexities

0:22:140:22:17

of these and other bills.

0:22:170:22:19

The advantage this bill has is that although the detail may be

0:22:190:22:22

difficult, the objective couldn't possibly be simpler.

0:22:220:22:26

It is to ensure that this Parliament,

0:22:260:22:29

and we're all parliamentarians, makes the laws, changes the laws,

0:22:290:22:33

amends the laws which the people of this country expect this

0:22:330:22:38

Parliament to perform, and that's the duty that

0:22:380:22:41

in all my experience as an MP, they expect this Parliament

0:22:410:22:45

to be able to make the decisions on their behalf, so all of us

0:22:450:22:49

who are keen parliamentarians and value the priceless authority

0:22:490:22:55

we have in either house, but principally in the Commons,

0:22:550:22:59

should bear in mind that this is a wholly desirable

0:22:590:23:02

piece of legislation.

0:23:020:23:05

I'm delighted the noble Lord sees it this way and I agree that

0:23:050:23:08

although it is complex, the challenge ahead,

0:23:080:23:09

we need to proceed with some simple principles and a simple

0:23:090:23:12

and approach as possible.

0:23:120:23:14

My Lords, I confess to an irresistible urge to return

0:23:140:23:17

to full-time practice at the bar because this is a legal minefield.

0:23:170:23:23

It was the last sitting day for the Commons

0:23:230:23:25

before the Easter break.

0:23:250:23:27

Labour's Valerie Vaz, the shadow Commons leader,

0:23:270:23:29

put aside Brexit tensions and tried to introduce some

0:23:290:23:33

end-of-term levity.

0:23:330:23:34

And so to R, Mr Speaker.

0:23:340:23:38

Rock and roll.

0:23:380:23:40

Recently we had the death of the creator of the genre,

0:23:400:23:42

Chuck Berry, and it is as though he had some songs just

0:23:420:23:45

for the Government, so we have Maybellene,

0:23:450:23:48

why can't you be true?

0:23:480:23:50

Reeling and Rocking - the Government has had some U-turns

0:23:500:23:54

on National Insurance contributions, disquiet about school funding,

0:23:540:24:02

special deals with Tory councils and, Mr Speaker, one for you -

0:24:020:24:05

Johnny B Goode.

0:24:050:24:08

Finally, I want to say thank you to all our civil servants

0:24:080:24:11

for all the work they have done when we were part of the EU

0:24:110:24:16

and all the ambassadors and all the ministers for Europe,

0:24:160:24:21

including the leader of the House, who was an outstanding

0:24:210:24:23

Minister for Europe and it's because he was so good that I hope

0:24:230:24:27

the goodwill will come back when we finish our negotiations.

0:24:270:24:32

And I also want to say goodbye and thank you to David Beamish,

0:24:320:24:36

the clerk of Parliament, who is sadly retiring

0:24:360:24:38

after 42 years.

0:24:380:24:40

He's done a fantastic job, is a great public servant and worked

0:24:400:24:43

closely with our own clerk, and also Russell Tatum,

0:24:430:24:48

one of the unsung heroes, a backroom person who's worked

0:24:480:24:51

for both sides, the Labour and Conservative opposition whips.

0:24:510:24:56

He's kept us all going.

0:24:560:24:57

We wish him well in his new post at the Department of Health and hope

0:24:570:25:01

he can sort them out too.

0:25:010:25:02

And finally can I repeat again, can I thank everyone for everything

0:25:020:25:05

they did in the last week, and for everyone connected

0:25:050:25:09

with the House, a very happy and peaceful Easter.

0:25:090:25:13

Goodbyes and gratitude from Valerie Vaz there,

0:25:130:25:17

bringing us to the end of Thursday in Parliament.

0:25:170:25:19

I'll be back at the same time tomorrow for a round-up

0:25:190:25:22

of the Week in Parliament.

0:25:220:25:23

Until then, from me, Kristiina Cooper, goodbye.

0:25:230:25:29

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