29/06/2017 Thursday in Parliament


29/06/2017

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 29 June, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Transcript


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Hello, and welcome to the programme.

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Coming up: The government heads off the threat of a defeat

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on the Queen's Speech, by offering a concession

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on abortion rights for women in Northern Ireland.

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We will be funding her department with additional funding

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so that she can make a grant to the external organisations

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who will provide these services.

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The Culture Secretary says she's minded to refer Fox's

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proposed takeover of Sky to the competition watchdog.

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And is another Parliamentary tradition about to disappear,

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as the Speaker hints he's relaxing the dress code?

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The question of whether that member is wearing a tie is not absolutely

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front and centre stage.

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But first, the government has seen off a possible rebellion

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in the Commons by announcing that it will fund abortions

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for women who travel from Northern Ireland to England.

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A cross party group of MPs was threatening to back an amendment

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to the Queen's Speech put forward by the Labour MP Stella Creasy.

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With a tiny majority in the Commons the government bowed to the demand.

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A letter from the Equalities Minister, Justine Greening,

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was released as the debate on the Queen's Speech was underway.

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It stated that, while women from Northern Ireland were currently

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asked to pay for terminations, that would no longer happen.

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The news of the change came while the Chancellor,

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Philip Hammond, was on his feet, making his speech in the debate.

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My understanding is that my right honourable friend the Minister

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for Women and Equalities either has made, or is just about to make,

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an announcement by way of a letter to members of this House,

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explaining that she intends to intervene to fund abortions

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in England for women arriving here from Northern Ireland,

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and I hope the House will find that a sensible way of dealing

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with this challenge.

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It is welcomed that the government is now saying that they will correct

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this injustice, however, he will know, as everyone knows,

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that the devil will be in the detail, so can I ask him

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whether he will make a commitment on behalf of this government to meet

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with myself and representatives of organisations like Marie Stopes

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and Bpas and the London-Irish Abortion Campaign to look at how

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we can turn this into a reality, so that those women

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in Northern Ireland today will finally have their voices heard

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and can use their services as soon as possible.

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Hear, hear!

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Well, look, I would say to the honourable lady, please,

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read the letter that my honourable friend has sent out.

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We will be funding her department with additional funding

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so that she can make a grant to the external organisations

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who will provide these services.

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I think she will be satisfied when she has read the letter

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and understood the details.

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If she is not, I am happy to meet with her.

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Well, that seemed to satisfy those who'd been arguing for the change,

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and Stella Creasy later withdrew her amendment.

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The stated focus of the day's debate was the economy and jobs.

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The previous evening the government had defeated a Labour amendment

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calling for an end to the public sector pay cap and an end to cuts

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to the police and fire services.

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But the Shadow Chancellor thought the government had nevertheless been

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forced to make changes to its programme for government.

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I would like to thank the millions of voters who rejected

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the Conservatives because they have prevented the Tories

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from implementing their full cuts that they promised.

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Thank all those people who called a halt to the barrage of cuts

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that the Tories were intending to introduce, but, regrettably,

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instead the government has been reduced to a grubby backroom deal

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in an attempt to cling on to office.

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But a Conservative backbencher argued the government had

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much to be proud of.

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According to the Office For National Statistics just this week the UK has

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the fifth lowest level of persistent poverty of anywhere in Europe,

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and compared to when the last Labour government was in power, when over

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a million young people had no jobs or education,

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we now have some of the lowest youth unemployment anywhere in Europe.

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Are these not statistics that we should be proud of?

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Hear, hear!

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Can I just say I find it astounding that we can have that level

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of complacency when we have this levels of poverty,

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homelessness, and, yes, people going without food -

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the choice between heating and eating every winter.

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Is it something to be proud of that the UK

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is the only major developed

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country that is seeing economic growth but falling wages?

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Yesterday we had the absolute chaos of double U-turns, S-bends,

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whatever they have been described as, coming out from Number Ten

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and the Treasury over hints that the pay cap was to be

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scrapped, and it was a disgrace that last night the coalition of Tories

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and DUP voted down our motion to support public sector workers

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simply securing a fair pay rise.

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It would be particularly helpful, it would be particularly helpful,

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if the Chancellor explained today how he covers the cost

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of the ?1 billion grubby bribe to the DUP to keep his party

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clinging in office?

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Shocking!

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That...

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That is a 100 million...

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I will.

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That is ?100 million a vote.

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Will he accept that when it comes to grubby bribes his party has got

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a lot to tell us about grubby bribes in the form of letters

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to terrorists to get them off their murder charges etc.

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What is grubby about money being put into the infrastructure

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of Northern Ireland, to promote jobs, money

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going into the health service of Northern Ireland,

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money going into the education service,

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what is grubby about that?

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Later a Conservative backbencher made clear her displeasure

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at what had been agreed.

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I can barely put into words my anger at the deal my party

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has done with the DUP.

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We didn't need to do it.

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I cannot fault the DUP for wanting to achieve the very

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best for their residents in Northern Ireland, nor

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for their tough negotiating skills, but I must put on record my distaste

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for the use of public funds to garner political control.

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When he stood up, the Chancellor turned his fire on Labour,

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saying the party had given up any pretence of fiscal credibility.

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Just two years ago, in the 2015 general election, Labour at least

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pretended that its figures added up, that it would pay for its giveaways

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so that its plans would not bankrupt the country.

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Not any more.

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The current lot are clear that not only would they hike taxes,

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but they would also embark on a massive expansion of borrowing,

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and subject the country to a catastrophic programme

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of ideologically-driven productivity-sapping

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investment-destroying

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nationalisation on a scale that this country has not seen

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since the 1970s.

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I give way to the honourable gentleman.

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I am grateful to the Chancellor for giving way, if he is so proud

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of his economic record, why didn't they discuss

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it during the course of the election campaign?

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Is it possibly because after seven years of this government

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the Prime Minister stood before the electorate resembling that great

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baddy of the Chronicles of Narnia, promising always winter

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and never Christmas.

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Yesterday his department in Downing Street were briefing

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the press about a public sector pay cap,

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to what extent was he aware and did he sanction his officials to carry

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out those briefings?

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And does he now support

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and end to public sector pay constraint?

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Just to be clear, there is no change in the government's position.

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There is no change in the government's position, our pay

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policy has always been designed to strike the right balance

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of being fair to our public servants and fair to those who pay for them.

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In the ten minutes or so that my right honourable friend has been

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speaking, our national debt has increased by nearly ?900,000.

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Will the Chancellor, will the Chancellor continue

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to speak up for hard-pressed taxpayers and make the point that

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for all this talk of austerity, the debt is still rising and we have

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to look after the pennies otherwise we will be

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up Queer Street.

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There are three ways for government to increase spending on public

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services - higher taxes, higher borrowing or higher growth.

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Higher taxes have a cost in terms of business investment,

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economic growth and take-home pay.

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That is why we, on this side,

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are instinctively in favour of keeping taxes as low as possible,

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so that businesses can continue to create high-quality jobs

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and so hard-working people can keep more of the money they earn.

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If you ask people in the street they will tell

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you that they are feeling the pain, they are feeling the pain

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of a decade of wage stagnation, they are feeling the effects

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of rising inflation, rising faster actually

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than the Chancellor predicted in his spring Budget.

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They are feeling the effects of rising inflation

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and they are looking at how they can make their household budgets meet.

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This is the reality for people here.

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The Conservatives fail repeatedly to understand this.

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They stand there and talk about "just about managings",

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the long-term economic

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plan and how great the economy is, people are not feeling those things,

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that is not the real life lived experience of people in the nations

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of the UK.

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At the end of the debate there were a series of votes

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on amendments put down by opposition MPs, but all were defeated,

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meaning the government's programme for the next two years passed

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through the Commons, and specific bills,

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as set out in the speech, will now be put forward.

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The Culture Secretary has told MPs she is minded to refer

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Rupert Murdoch's bid to take full control of Sky television

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to the competition authorities, because of concerns

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about media plurality.

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Mr Murdoch already owns 39% of the satellite broadcaster.

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An earlier attempt to take over Sky was abandoned in the wake

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of the phone hacking scandal.

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The Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley, told the Commons

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that the merger would increase the Murdoch family's ability

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to influence the UK's news agenda and political process.

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As a result there were clear grounds to refer the deal to the Competition

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and Markets Authority.

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On the question of whether the merger gives rise to public

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interest concerns in relation to media plurality, Ofcom's

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report is unambiguous.

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It concludes, "The transaction raises public interest concerns

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"as a result of the risk of increased influence by members

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"of the Murdoch family trust over the UK news agenda and

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"the political process, with its unique presence on radio,

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"television, in print and online.

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"We consider that these concerns may justify reference by the Secretary

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"of State to the Competition and Markets Authority."

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On the basis of Ofcom's assessment I confirm that I am minded to refer

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to a Phase II investigation on the grounds of media plurality.

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The reasoning and evidence on which Ofcom's recommendations

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is based are persuasive.

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The proposed entity would have the third largest total reach

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of any news provider, lower only than the BBC and ITN,

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and would uniquely span news coverage on television,

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radio, in newspapers and online.

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But Ofcom said it had no concerns about Fox's genuine commitment

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to broadcasting standards, so Ms Bradley said she wouldn't be

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referring that second area for further investigation.

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Labour said nothing about the decision was a surprise.

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It is the old playbook.

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The Secretary of State has known all along what she wants to end up

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doing, but she has to establish, she has to follow the established

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dance steps, so let me make a prediction now.

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The parties have proposed some pretty minor undertakings in lieu.

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They always knew they weren't going to be enough to satisfy Ofcom,

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so the Secretary of State will demand extra conditions.

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As a result of which she will get written up as a tough operator.

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The parties will offer something new, which they always had

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in their back pocket, the Secretary of State will accept them,

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as she always planned, and this merger will go ahead.

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Well, let me tell the Secretary of State the problem with Murdoch's

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undertakings in lieu.

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Not just these undertakings in lieu, but any undertakings in lieu

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which have ever been offered by the Murdochs,

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they're not worth the newsprint they're written on.

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The only thing on which the opposition spokesman was correct

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was in saying that when it comes to plurality, it is becoming

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increasingly obvious, and the general election bears this

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out, that the printed press are of waning influence and the real

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media giants today are the companies like Google and the

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social media giants.

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Can I urge the Secretary of State not to do a grubby deal with

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Murdochs, because we know their history, as my right

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honourable friend from the front bench said, they break every

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undertaking they make, from The Times

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to the Wall Street Journal.

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On the doorstep media bias came up a lot but I am afraid it was media

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bias by the BBC and they suggested to me that they should

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be called the Brussels Broadcasting Corporation.

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In terms of broadcasting standards, does she recall the anger over

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the Fox News broadcast that claimed that Birmingham is a city

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where non-Muslims simply just can't go, if she approves this merger,

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what assurance can she give us that she can prevent that kind

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of offensive nonsense from being allowed on a Sky News

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programme in this country?

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Any broadcaster in the United Kingdom has to comply

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with broadcasting codes and our standards and those codes

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are very different from those that exist in other countries.

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Karen Bradley.

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You're watching Thursday in Parliament with me,

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Alicia McCarthy.

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Should the government be doing more to improve cyber security?

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At Culture Questions, Labour argued ministers

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weren't doing enough to protect infrastructure

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and businesses online.

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And the party's spokeswoman said even the government's own scheme

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to help firms do more had been hacked.

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Given the increasing intensity of cyber attacks and threats to our

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national infrastructure, it was quite frankly shocking to see

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no mention of cyber security in the Queen's speech.

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So can the Minister confirm that the Government's cyber

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security strategy relies on a scheme which claims to be a badge of

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assurance for thousands of businesses and institutions, but is

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in fact based on outdated technology, redundant hacking

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approaches, and astonishingly, was itself hacked last week?

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No, I don't recognise what she says, and cyber

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security is incredibly important.

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That is why we brought in and put together the national cyber Security

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Centre, which has been leading on all of these issues.

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The laws we have are the laws that we need

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largely on cyber, and that is why there was not a need for a mention

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in the Queen's speech.

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What we do in Government is not only the

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legislative programme, it is also getting

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on and protecting people in

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terms of cyber security.

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Matthew Hancock.

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Former police chiefs have challenged plans to recruit senior

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police officers in England from outside the Service.

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For the last few years, forces have been able to recruit

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individuals without policing experience to the middling ranks

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of Inspector and Superintendent.

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The Conservatives promised in their election manifesto to look

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at extending the direct entry scheme to higher up the chain of command.

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What is it about the police service that is so unique that it justifies

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a consultation on whether and how to appoint people to leadership

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positions in the police, who have no professional experience in the

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police, when all other professions regard it as axiomatic that prior

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professional experience is a pre-requisite

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for senior leadership?

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My Lords, we did consult police leaders on direct entry at Chief

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Constable level rank ahead of the election,

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and the proposal featured in the Conservative manifesto, which

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is the direct entry in the broader Chief Officer ranks.

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I found the meeting that I had with the noble

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Lord and the other noble Lords extremely useful indeed, and one

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thing that we all concluded and all agreed on,

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leadership,

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what we saw as so important, was leadership with the skills and

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training that was required for senior police officers.

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I don't believe that the noble Baroness, the

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Minister, answered the noble Lord, Lord Blair's question, so perhaps I

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can rephrase it.

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Can the noble Baroness the Minister please

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explain, if the Government is not considering appointing admirals of

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the fleet, who have never commanded a warship

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mad if the Government is

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not considering appointing field marshals who have never led troops

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into battle, why is the Government considering appointing Chief

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Constables who have no experience of policing?

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Well, my Lords, the direct entry scheme would not apply to

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Chief Constables.

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It would not apply to Chief Commissioners of the

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Metropolitan Police.

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The senior officer roles that I have talked

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about do not include them under current legislation, and I hope that

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that helps to answer the noble Lord's question.

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Staying in the Lords, Peers also turned their attention,

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for a final time, to the Queen's Speech.

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Ministers were accused of offering only a fig leaf

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on education in England, in the face of a funding

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squeeze that is seeing schools shed teachers.

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The brief mention of the subject in the Queen's Speech revealed

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neither imagination nor competence by the Government, according

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to Liberal Democrat peer and former headteacher, Lord Storey.

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In spite of an accentuated consultation period, the fairer

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funding about which the Government has made such great claims has

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turned out to be unfair funding.

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With schools having to reduce teaching staff, reduce

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nonteaching staff, cut subjects from secondary curriculum, and ask

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parents to pay for the free state education which we used to be proud

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of.

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The average primary school will lose ?74,000

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the next four years, equivalent to two

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teachers, and the average secondary

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school will lose ?291,000 in real terms, and that is equivalent to six

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teachers.

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On the upside, I was pleased to see the absence of

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grammar schools from the Queen's speech,

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and I hope very much that

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means we will not see a new wave of secondary

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moderns sweeping England.

0:19:370:19:40

I was glad also that there was no sign of the Tory manifesto to snatch

0:19:400:19:43

school lunches away from infants.

0:19:430:19:47

I am glad the Government thought better of that one as well.

0:19:470:19:51

But, my Lords, that is where the good news ends.

0:19:510:19:54

Put simply, there is no vision for education in the Queen's

0:19:540:19:57

speech, no commitment to ensure schools are properly funded, no

0:19:570:19:59

strategy to deal with the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention,

0:19:590:20:03

no plan to help the 500,000 children being taught in classes of

0:20:030:20:06

over 30.

0:20:060:20:11

There are aspirations - the Government wants

0:20:110:20:16

"to make sure all children get a world-class

0:20:160:20:18

"education, and for every child to go

0:20:180:20:21

"to a good or outstanding school."

0:20:210:20:23

Excellent, but how will that be achieved when we have unprecedented

0:20:230:20:25

funding crises in our schools?

0:20:250:20:27

The former Leader of the Lords told peers that she hadn't been to

0:20:270:20:30

university.

0:20:300:20:31

I think we are in danger of thinking of people who are not

0:20:310:20:34

educated to degree standard as sometimes all being failures, and

0:20:340:20:37

that is just not true.

0:20:370:20:41

Many of these people who are not educated to

0:20:410:20:43

degree level will have set off and run their own business, and there

0:20:430:20:53

will be skilled tradesmen, tradeswomen. They might do important

0:20:570:20:59

jobs, managing other people, and they have

0:20:590:21:02

things to contribute to society. And they do.

0:21:020:21:04

And I think a better way of thinking about them is being cut off

0:21:040:21:08

and left out sometimes.

0:21:080:21:09

They are not left behind, they are right here,

0:21:090:21:11

right now.

0:21:110:21:12

But what is happening is the educated side of the debate have

0:21:120:21:20

decided that everything is so constituted that only the educated

0:21:200:21:22

people can actually come up with the answers.

0:21:220:21:24

Lady Stowell.

0:21:240:21:25

Now to a Parliamentary tradition, the drawing

0:21:250:21:27

of the Private Members' Bill ballot.

0:21:270:21:28

Labour MP Chris Bryant was the first name to be picked.

0:21:280:21:31

The draw was presided over by Deputy Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle.

0:21:310:21:35

Members who are picked at random have the chance to bring

0:21:350:21:38

in a bill of their own.

0:21:380:21:39

Labour's Steve Reed was second, while new Labour MP

0:21:390:21:43

Afzal Khan came third.

0:21:430:21:47

461 MPs took part in the ballot, with 20 names being chosen.

0:21:470:21:51

Only the first few bills stand any realistic chance of making their way

0:21:510:21:54

through Parliament.

0:21:540:21:58

On what was the last day of debate on the Queen's Speech,

0:21:580:22:01

several MPs had the chance to make their maiden speeches.

0:22:010:22:05

First off the mark was the new Labour MP whose

0:22:050:22:08

constituency of Gower was previously held by the Conservatives.

0:22:080:22:14

It is indeed outstanding to take this seat back for Labour of being

0:22:140:22:17

the most marginal seat in the last election,

0:22:170:22:22

and to be the first woman to do so.

0:22:220:22:29

It is a constituency wrought by the devastating impact of

0:22:290:22:31

post-industrialisation, and remains with stubbornly high unemployment.

0:22:310:22:33

It is a constituency that has borne the brunt of the policies put

0:22:330:22:37

forward by the party opposite, and it is a constituency that on the 8th

0:22:370:22:40

of June, said, "Enough is enough".

0:22:400:22:45

I grew up in Huyton in Knowsley, and went to the local

0:22:450:22:48

comprehensive school.

0:22:480:22:52

I left school at 16, and started work as an

0:22:520:22:56

apprentice in a car factory in Kirby.

0:22:560:23:01

General Motors invested in me, sponsored my

0:23:010:23:05

degree, and gave me the life chance to have a successful, international

0:23:050:23:11

business career in the tech sector for the next 27 years.

0:23:110:23:19

There is today a false narrative about

0:23:190:23:21

multinational companies and the contribution they make to our

0:23:210:23:23

society.

0:23:230:23:30

'It turned out that she has connections to the Speaker.'

0:23:300:23:32

In the name of transparency, I informed the

0:23:320:23:36

House that the honourable lady, the member for Chichester, is the

0:23:360:23:42

godmother of two of my children.

0:23:420:23:44

Secondly, as has been declared in all the appropriate places, I

0:23:440:23:47

nevertheless take this opportunity to declare to the House that the

0:23:470:23:50

honourable lady's husband, Michael, my very good friend of 32 years,

0:23:500:23:56

generously contributed to each of my last three

0:23:560:23:59

election campaign funds in the Buckingham constituency.

0:23:590:24:04

And finally, the long-standing tradition that male MPs should wear

0:24:040:24:07

a tie in the Commons chamber appears to have been abandoned.

0:24:070:24:12

Concern has been raised in Parliament that

0:24:120:24:16

on Wednesday one MP - Tom Brake - appeared in the Chamber

0:24:160:24:19

and asked a question without one.

0:24:190:24:22

I noticed yesterday, sir, that a member was allowed to ask

0:24:220:24:26

a question in the Chamber without wearing a tie.

0:24:260:24:30

Now, I have no particular view on that, but have the rules on that

0:24:300:24:34

changed, sir?

0:24:340:24:36

I must say to the honourable gentleman that I think

0:24:360:24:39

the general expectation is that members should dress in businesslike

0:24:390:24:43

attire.

0:24:430:24:48

So far as the Chair is concerned, I must say to the

0:24:480:24:51

honourable gentleman, and I fear this will

0:24:510:25:01

gravely disquiet him,

0:25:030:25:05

it seems to me that as long as a member

0:25:050:25:07

arrives in the House in what might

0:25:070:25:09

be thought to be businesslike attire, the question of whether that

0:25:090:25:12

member is wearing a tie is not absolutely front and centre stage.

0:25:120:25:14

So, am I minded not to call a member something because that member is not

0:25:140:25:18

wearing a tie?

0:25:180:25:19

No.

0:25:190:25:20

The always dapper John Bercow.

0:25:200:25:21

And that's it from me for now, but do join me on Friday

0:25:210:25:25

night at 11.00, when, among other things, we'll be taking

0:25:250:25:27

a look back at the first Prime Minister's Questions

0:25:270:25:29

of the new Parliament, and getting some top tips

0:25:290:25:31

on the skills you need to be Deputy Speaker.

0:25:310:25:34

But for now, from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.

0:25:340:25:38

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