Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 29 June, presented by Alicia McCarthy.
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Hello, and welcome to the programme.
Coming up: The government heads off the threat of a defeat
on the Queen's Speech, by offering a concession
on abortion rights for women in Northern Ireland.
We will be funding her department with additional funding
so that she can make a grant to the external organisations
who will provide these services.
The Culture Secretary says she's minded to refer Fox's
proposed takeover of Sky to the competition watchdog.
And is another Parliamentary tradition about to disappear,
as the Speaker hints he's relaxing the dress code?
The question of whether that member is wearing a tie is not absolutely
front and centre stage.
But first, the government has seen off a possible rebellion
in the Commons by announcing that it will fund abortions
for women who travel from Northern Ireland to England.
A cross party group of MPs was threatening to back an amendment
to the Queen's Speech put forward by the Labour MP Stella Creasy.
With a tiny majority in the Commons the government bowed to the demand.
A letter from the Equalities Minister, Justine Greening,
was released as the debate on the Queen's Speech was underway.
It stated that, while women from Northern Ireland were currently
asked to pay for terminations, that would no longer happen.
The news of the change came while the Chancellor,
Philip Hammond, was on his feet, making his speech in the debate.
My understanding is that my right honourable friend the Minister
for Women and Equalities either has made, or is just about to make,
an announcement by way of a letter to members of this House,
explaining that she intends to intervene to fund abortions
in England for women arriving here from Northern Ireland,
and I hope the House will find that a sensible way of dealing
with this challenge.
It is welcomed that the government is now saying that they will correct
this injustice, however, he will know, as everyone knows,
that the devil will be in the detail, so can I ask him
whether he will make a commitment on behalf of this government to meet
with myself and representatives of organisations like Marie Stopes
and Bpas and the London-Irish Abortion Campaign to look at how
we can turn this into a reality, so that those women
in Northern Ireland today will finally have their voices heard
and can use their services as soon as possible.
Well, look, I would say to the honourable lady, please,
read the letter that my honourable friend has sent out.
We will be funding her department with additional funding
so that she can make a grant to the external organisations
who will provide these services.
I think she will be satisfied when she has read the letter
and understood the details.
If she is not, I am happy to meet with her.
Well, that seemed to satisfy those who'd been arguing for the change,
and Stella Creasy later withdrew her amendment.
The stated focus of the day's debate was the economy and jobs.
The previous evening the government had defeated a Labour amendment
calling for an end to the public sector pay cap and an end to cuts
to the police and fire services.
But the Shadow Chancellor thought the government had nevertheless been
forced to make changes to its programme for government.
I would like to thank the millions of voters who rejected
the Conservatives because they have prevented the Tories
from implementing their full cuts that they promised.
Thank all those people who called a halt to the barrage of cuts
that the Tories were intending to introduce, but, regrettably,
instead the government has been reduced to a grubby backroom deal
in an attempt to cling on to office.
But a Conservative backbencher argued the government had
much to be proud of.
According to the Office For National Statistics just this week the UK has
the fifth lowest level of persistent poverty of anywhere in Europe,
and compared to when the last Labour government was in power, when over
a million young people had no jobs or education,
we now have some of the lowest youth unemployment anywhere in Europe.
Are these not statistics that we should be proud of?
Can I just say I find it astounding that we can have that level
of complacency when we have this levels of poverty,
homelessness, and, yes, people going without food -
the choice between heating and eating every winter.
Is it something to be proud of that the UK
is the only major developed
country that is seeing economic growth but falling wages?
Yesterday we had the absolute chaos of double U-turns, S-bends,
whatever they have been described as, coming out from Number Ten
and the Treasury over hints that the pay cap was to be
scrapped, and it was a disgrace that last night the coalition of Tories
and DUP voted down our motion to support public sector workers
simply securing a fair pay rise.
It would be particularly helpful, it would be particularly helpful,
if the Chancellor explained today how he covers the cost
of the ?1 billion grubby bribe to the DUP to keep his party
clinging in office?
That is a 100 million...
That is ?100 million a vote.
Will he accept that when it comes to grubby bribes his party has got
a lot to tell us about grubby bribes in the form of letters
to terrorists to get them off their murder charges etc.
What is grubby about money being put into the infrastructure
of Northern Ireland, to promote jobs, money
going into the health service of Northern Ireland,
money going into the education service,
what is grubby about that?
Later a Conservative backbencher made clear her displeasure
at what had been agreed.
I can barely put into words my anger at the deal my party
has done with the DUP.
We didn't need to do it.
I cannot fault the DUP for wanting to achieve the very
best for their residents in Northern Ireland, nor
for their tough negotiating skills, but I must put on record my distaste
for the use of public funds to garner political control.
When he stood up, the Chancellor turned his fire on Labour,
saying the party had given up any pretence of fiscal credibility.
Just two years ago, in the 2015 general election, Labour at least
pretended that its figures added up, that it would pay for its giveaways
so that its plans would not bankrupt the country.
Not any more.
The current lot are clear that not only would they hike taxes,
but they would also embark on a massive expansion of borrowing,
and subject the country to a catastrophic programme
of ideologically-driven productivity-sapping
nationalisation on a scale that this country has not seen
since the 1970s.
I give way to the honourable gentleman.
I am grateful to the Chancellor for giving way, if he is so proud
of his economic record, why didn't they discuss
it during the course of the election campaign?
Is it possibly because after seven years of this government
the Prime Minister stood before the electorate resembling that great
baddy of the Chronicles of Narnia, promising always winter
and never Christmas.
Yesterday his department in Downing Street were briefing
the press about a public sector pay cap,
to what extent was he aware and did he sanction his officials to carry
out those briefings?
And does he now support
and end to public sector pay constraint?
Just to be clear, there is no change in the government's position.
There is no change in the government's position, our pay
policy has always been designed to strike the right balance
of being fair to our public servants and fair to those who pay for them.
In the ten minutes or so that my right honourable friend has been
speaking, our national debt has increased by nearly ?900,000.
Will the Chancellor, will the Chancellor continue
to speak up for hard-pressed taxpayers and make the point that
for all this talk of austerity, the debt is still rising and we have
to look after the pennies otherwise we will be
up Queer Street.
There are three ways for government to increase spending on public
services - higher taxes, higher borrowing or higher growth.
Higher taxes have a cost in terms of business investment,
economic growth and take-home pay.
That is why we, on this side,
are instinctively in favour of keeping taxes as low as possible,
so that businesses can continue to create high-quality jobs
and so hard-working people can keep more of the money they earn.
If you ask people in the street they will tell
you that they are feeling the pain, they are feeling the pain
of a decade of wage stagnation, they are feeling the effects
of rising inflation, rising faster actually
than the Chancellor predicted in his spring Budget.
They are feeling the effects of rising inflation
and they are looking at how they can make their household budgets meet.
This is the reality for people here.
The Conservatives fail repeatedly to understand this.
They stand there and talk about "just about managings",
the long-term economic
plan and how great the economy is, people are not feeling those things,
that is not the real life lived experience of people in the nations
of the UK.
At the end of the debate there were a series of votes
on amendments put down by opposition MPs, but all were defeated,
meaning the government's programme for the next two years passed
through the Commons, and specific bills,
as set out in the speech, will now be put forward.
The Culture Secretary has told MPs she is minded to refer
Rupert Murdoch's bid to take full control of Sky television
to the competition authorities, because of concerns
about media plurality.
Mr Murdoch already owns 39% of the satellite broadcaster.
An earlier attempt to take over Sky was abandoned in the wake
of the phone hacking scandal.
The Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley, told the Commons
that the merger would increase the Murdoch family's ability
to influence the UK's news agenda and political process.
As a result there were clear grounds to refer the deal to the Competition
and Markets Authority.
On the question of whether the merger gives rise to public
interest concerns in relation to media plurality, Ofcom's
report is unambiguous.
It concludes, "The transaction raises public interest concerns
"as a result of the risk of increased influence by members
"of the Murdoch family trust over the UK news agenda and
"the political process, with its unique presence on radio,
"television, in print and online.
"We consider that these concerns may justify reference by the Secretary
"of State to the Competition and Markets Authority."
On the basis of Ofcom's assessment I confirm that I am minded to refer
to a Phase II investigation on the grounds of media plurality.
The reasoning and evidence on which Ofcom's recommendations
is based are persuasive.
The proposed entity would have the third largest total reach
of any news provider, lower only than the BBC and ITN,
and would uniquely span news coverage on television,
radio, in newspapers and online.
But Ofcom said it had no concerns about Fox's genuine commitment
to broadcasting standards, so Ms Bradley said she wouldn't be
referring that second area for further investigation.
Labour said nothing about the decision was a surprise.
It is the old playbook.
The Secretary of State has known all along what she wants to end up
doing, but she has to establish, she has to follow the established
dance steps, so let me make a prediction now.
The parties have proposed some pretty minor undertakings in lieu.
They always knew they weren't going to be enough to satisfy Ofcom,
so the Secretary of State will demand extra conditions.
As a result of which she will get written up as a tough operator.
The parties will offer something new, which they always had
in their back pocket, the Secretary of State will accept them,
as she always planned, and this merger will go ahead.
Well, let me tell the Secretary of State the problem with Murdoch's
undertakings in lieu.
Not just these undertakings in lieu, but any undertakings in lieu
which have ever been offered by the Murdochs,
they're not worth the newsprint they're written on.
The only thing on which the opposition spokesman was correct
was in saying that when it comes to plurality, it is becoming
increasingly obvious, and the general election bears this
out, that the printed press are of waning influence and the real
media giants today are the companies like Google and the
social media giants.
Can I urge the Secretary of State not to do a grubby deal with
Murdochs, because we know their history, as my right
honourable friend from the front bench said, they break every
undertaking they make, from The Times
to the Wall Street Journal.
On the doorstep media bias came up a lot but I am afraid it was media
bias by the BBC and they suggested to me that they should
be called the Brussels Broadcasting Corporation.
In terms of broadcasting standards, does she recall the anger over
the Fox News broadcast that claimed that Birmingham is a city
where non-Muslims simply just can't go, if she approves this merger,
what assurance can she give us that she can prevent that kind
of offensive nonsense from being allowed on a Sky News
programme in this country?
Any broadcaster in the United Kingdom has to comply
with broadcasting codes and our standards and those codes
are very different from those that exist in other countries.
You're watching Thursday in Parliament with me,
Should the government be doing more to improve cyber security?
At Culture Questions, Labour argued ministers
weren't doing enough to protect infrastructure
and businesses online.
And the party's spokeswoman said even the government's own scheme
to help firms do more had been hacked.
Given the increasing intensity of cyber attacks and threats to our
national infrastructure, it was quite frankly shocking to see
no mention of cyber security in the Queen's speech.
So can the Minister confirm that the Government's cyber
security strategy relies on a scheme which claims to be a badge of
assurance for thousands of businesses and institutions, but is
in fact based on outdated technology, redundant hacking
approaches, and astonishingly, was itself hacked last week?
No, I don't recognise what she says, and cyber
security is incredibly important.
That is why we brought in and put together the national cyber Security
Centre, which has been leading on all of these issues.
The laws we have are the laws that we need
largely on cyber, and that is why there was not a need for a mention
in the Queen's speech.
What we do in Government is not only the
legislative programme, it is also getting
on and protecting people in
terms of cyber security.
Former police chiefs have challenged plans to recruit senior
police officers in England from outside the Service.
For the last few years, forces have been able to recruit
individuals without policing experience to the middling ranks
of Inspector and Superintendent.
The Conservatives promised in their election manifesto to look
at extending the direct entry scheme to higher up the chain of command.
What is it about the police service that is so unique that it justifies
a consultation on whether and how to appoint people to leadership
positions in the police, who have no professional experience in the
police, when all other professions regard it as axiomatic that prior
professional experience is a pre-requisite
for senior leadership?
My Lords, we did consult police leaders on direct entry at Chief
Constable level rank ahead of the election,
and the proposal featured in the Conservative manifesto, which
is the direct entry in the broader Chief Officer ranks.
I found the meeting that I had with the noble
Lord and the other noble Lords extremely useful indeed, and one
thing that we all concluded and all agreed on,
what we saw as so important, was leadership with the skills and
training that was required for senior police officers.
I don't believe that the noble Baroness, the
Minister, answered the noble Lord, Lord Blair's question, so perhaps I
can rephrase it.
Can the noble Baroness the Minister please
explain, if the Government is not considering appointing admirals of
the fleet, who have never commanded a warship
mad if the Government is
not considering appointing field marshals who have never led troops
into battle, why is the Government considering appointing Chief
Constables who have no experience of policing?
Well, my Lords, the direct entry scheme would not apply to
It would not apply to Chief Commissioners of the
The senior officer roles that I have talked
about do not include them under current legislation, and I hope that
that helps to answer the noble Lord's question.
Staying in the Lords, Peers also turned their attention,
for a final time, to the Queen's Speech.
Ministers were accused of offering only a fig leaf
on education in England, in the face of a funding
squeeze that is seeing schools shed teachers.
The brief mention of the subject in the Queen's Speech revealed
neither imagination nor competence by the Government, according
to Liberal Democrat peer and former headteacher, Lord Storey.
In spite of an accentuated consultation period, the fairer
funding about which the Government has made such great claims has
turned out to be unfair funding.
With schools having to reduce teaching staff, reduce
nonteaching staff, cut subjects from secondary curriculum, and ask
parents to pay for the free state education which we used to be proud
The average primary school will lose ?74,000
the next four years, equivalent to two
teachers, and the average secondary
school will lose ?291,000 in real terms, and that is equivalent to six
On the upside, I was pleased to see the absence of
grammar schools from the Queen's speech,
and I hope very much that
means we will not see a new wave of secondary
moderns sweeping England.
I was glad also that there was no sign of the Tory manifesto to snatch
school lunches away from infants.
I am glad the Government thought better of that one as well.
But, my Lords, that is where the good news ends.
Put simply, there is no vision for education in the Queen's
speech, no commitment to ensure schools are properly funded, no
strategy to deal with the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention,
no plan to help the 500,000 children being taught in classes of
There are aspirations - the Government wants
"to make sure all children get a world-class
"education, and for every child to go
"to a good or outstanding school."
Excellent, but how will that be achieved when we have unprecedented
funding crises in our schools?
The former Leader of the Lords told peers that she hadn't been to
I think we are in danger of thinking of people who are not
educated to degree standard as sometimes all being failures, and
that is just not true.
Many of these people who are not educated to
degree level will have set off and run their own business, and there
will be skilled tradesmen, tradeswomen. They might do important
jobs, managing other people, and they have
things to contribute to society. And they do.
And I think a better way of thinking about them is being cut off
and left out sometimes.
They are not left behind, they are right here,
But what is happening is the educated side of the debate have
decided that everything is so constituted that only the educated
people can actually come up with the answers.
Now to a Parliamentary tradition, the drawing
of the Private Members' Bill ballot.
Labour MP Chris Bryant was the first name to be picked.
The draw was presided over by Deputy Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle.
Members who are picked at random have the chance to bring
in a bill of their own.
Labour's Steve Reed was second, while new Labour MP
Afzal Khan came third.
461 MPs took part in the ballot, with 20 names being chosen.
Only the first few bills stand any realistic chance of making their way
On what was the last day of debate on the Queen's Speech,
several MPs had the chance to make their maiden speeches.
First off the mark was the new Labour MP whose
constituency of Gower was previously held by the Conservatives.
It is indeed outstanding to take this seat back for Labour of being
the most marginal seat in the last election,
and to be the first woman to do so.
It is a constituency wrought by the devastating impact of
post-industrialisation, and remains with stubbornly high unemployment.
It is a constituency that has borne the brunt of the policies put
forward by the party opposite, and it is a constituency that on the 8th
of June, said, "Enough is enough".
I grew up in Huyton in Knowsley, and went to the local
I left school at 16, and started work as an
apprentice in a car factory in Kirby.
General Motors invested in me, sponsored my
degree, and gave me the life chance to have a successful, international
business career in the tech sector for the next 27 years.
There is today a false narrative about
multinational companies and the contribution they make to our
'It turned out that she has connections to the Speaker.'
In the name of transparency, I informed the
House that the honourable lady, the member for Chichester, is the
godmother of two of my children.
Secondly, as has been declared in all the appropriate places, I
nevertheless take this opportunity to declare to the House that the
honourable lady's husband, Michael, my very good friend of 32 years,
generously contributed to each of my last three
election campaign funds in the Buckingham constituency.
And finally, the long-standing tradition that male MPs should wear
a tie in the Commons chamber appears to have been abandoned.
Concern has been raised in Parliament that
on Wednesday one MP - Tom Brake - appeared in the Chamber
and asked a question without one.
I noticed yesterday, sir, that a member was allowed to ask
a question in the Chamber without wearing a tie.
Now, I have no particular view on that, but have the rules on that
I must say to the honourable gentleman that I think
the general expectation is that members should dress in businesslike
So far as the Chair is concerned, I must say to the
honourable gentleman, and I fear this will
gravely disquiet him,
it seems to me that as long as a member
arrives in the House in what might
be thought to be businesslike attire, the question of whether that
member is wearing a tie is not absolutely front and centre stage.
So, am I minded not to call a member something because that member is not
wearing a tie?
The always dapper John Bercow.
And that's it from me for now, but do join me on Friday
night at 11.00, when, among other things, we'll be taking
a look back at the first Prime Minister's Questions
of the new Parliament, and getting some top tips
on the skills you need to be Deputy Speaker.
But for now, from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.