20/07/2017 Thursday in Parliament


Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 20 July with Alicia McCarthy.

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Hello and welcome to the programme on the last day that Parliament sits


before the summer recess. Coming up, MPs are told new homes are on the


way for the rental tower survivors. The row over BBC pages spilled over


into the House of Lords and there is an admission from one of the


Conservative Party's big beast. I'm an animal, which all animals and


therefore I care. -- we are all animals. I'm predominantly


herbivorous. More from Michael Gove later. First the community Secretary


Sajid Javid has said permanent new homes will be ready for survivors of


the Grenfell Tower fire within days. Updating MPs ahead of the summer


break he appealed for anyone with information about how money people


may have been in the block on the night of the fire to come forward.


His comments came after survivors and their families heckled the new


leader of Kensington and Chelsea at an emotional meeting of the council.


We saw last night the very raw anger that some in the community still


feel towards the Council. It is entirely understandable as the Prime


Minister has up has said, the initial response from the local


authority was simply not good enough. There is not a lot of trust


there, not a lot of confidence and that is wide, want Kensington and


Chelsea Council takes over the recovery operation, it will do so


under the supervision of the independent grin full recovery task


force. He did everyone who had lost their home had been made an offer of


good quality accommodation. As of 10am this morning, 35 had been


accepted and ten families have moved in. Those numbers are slightly down


on the figures published recently as some people have changed their mind


as they are perfectly entitled to do so. Where residents have turned down


an offer we are finding suitable alternatives for them. 169 families


lost their homes in Grenfell Tower what but only ten have moved out of


emergency hotels and hostels and 25 more have been offered a temporary


home they feel they can accept. I accept the reasons may be complex


but can I tell the Secretary of State I'm still getting reports of


residents told they will be made intentionally homeless if they


refuse an offer despite the government's word this will not


happen. Resident offered accommodation with damp, leeks and


lack of full finishing, residents shown summer with too few fit


bedrooms for children and also being made an offer but then told the


details will only follow afterwards. Constituents and members of the


public say, what was going on in it a well the borough that they don't


seem able to cope with such a disaster on their doorstep? I ask


the Minister, was this just the feeling of one out of touch Tory


council or is it an endemic problem and what steps are the government


taking to make sure that such an inept and incompetent response to


such a terrible disaster could not happen again in what is really a


very wealthy area. This morning I met a number of local government


leaders who said they were completely in the dark about the


circumstances in which government would help them pay for essential


work on tower blocks. The secretary of State has said that local


authorities should go ahead and if they can't afford to pay for it than


in those circumstances government for help. He noted that the funding


comes out of the housing revenue account, rents are capped, borrowing


is capped so for many authorities the only way to pay for extra work


on tower blocks is to stop doing important work on other properties.


We'll secretary of state -- will be cyclic estate except that that is a


circumstance in which central government will pay and help local


authorities? It is the legal responsible at the local authorities


and housing associations to make sure properties are safe and that is


something they should already have been doing and where they have found


that might not be the case and they need to take action they should take


it and as I've said before, if they need help with that and cannot


afford it they approach us but so far are not aware of the single


local authority that has done so. Electrical safety is paramount


importance and it would appear that in the Grenfell Tower incident it


was caused by a fire in a fridge freezer. We'll be secretary of state


commit to introducing mandatory electrical safety checks in rented


properties bearing in mind that the DCLG working group that was looking


at this has concluded? I can tell the honourable gentleman this is an


issue of electrical safety products including product recalls that right


honourable friend the Business Secretary is looking at and I will


make sure he knows the honourable gentleman's concerns. This will have


a huge impact on an aspect of future government policy. I have always


been a passionate believer in the important role of urban regeneration


in holistic housing policy but will he confirm that in future when


schemes come forward we will learn the lessons of what happened at


Grenfell Tower in the wider of housing policy and ensure that those


lessons are learned and we have the most robust fire measures in place?


My honourable friend is absolutely right, there are many lessons to


learn from this terrible tragedy and we have talked about a number in


this has but one of those is certainly our wider longer-term


approach to social housing. Sajid Javid. Last week Theresa May


announced an enquiry into what is known as the contaminated blood


scandal. Thousands of haemophiliacs and other patients were given blood


products infected with hepatitis C and HIV in the 1970s and 80s. Over


two dozen people have died. The Labour MP Diana Johnson is a leading


campaigner for the victims of the scandal and she welcomed the inquiry


but told the Commons that she and many others were dismayed to see


that the Department of Health was in charge of establishing it. The


Department of Health, an integrated party at the heart of so much that


has gone wrong over the past 45 years, must have no role in how this


inquiry is established. It is akin in my view to asking South Yorkshire


Police to lead an enquiry into the Hillsborough disaster and I regret


that the government has not been able to understand that by putting


the Department of Health in charge at this time it immediately


undermined their excellent position to call a public enquiry last week


and in consequence contaminated blood campaigners boycotted a


meeting organised by the Department of Health at 10am today in protest.


Another department must surely take over responsibility for consulting


on the remit of this inquiry. The health minister said no decision had


yet been made on which department would fund the inquiry. As for the


meeting... The Secretary of State called this meeting because we want


to hear directly from the victims about what they want from this


inquiry. We are in listening mode, the


decision has not been taken which department will run it but


ultimately it is the minister I'm accountable to Parliament for what


happened in the Department of Health for those areas which are under my


responsibility and I want to be leading from the front having those


discussions. Does she agree that perceptions are as important as


reality in this matter and will to take away from this morning the


weight placed by honourable members on both sides of a house that


perhaps it would be perceived to be more objective if some other


department took the lead? A week ago the house united in agreement to


finally facilitate justice for those tragically affected by this scandal


yet recently as we have heard events have shown ministers to renege on


the promises of last week and have run roughshod over the effective


community. You may shake your head but that is at the community feels


and we have spoken to them. The Minister must remember the promises


made last week and ensure consultation is central to this


whole process is otherwise they will fail this community who must have


the justice they so rightly deserve. It is in taking forward this


consultation that we are delivering on the commitments made last week.


We made quite clear that we wanted to get this inquiry going as soon as


possible because frankly these people have waited long enough for


answers. We have not ignored the concerns expressed by many about the


role of the Department of Health in the inquiry and I repeat that no


decision has been made and the Cabinet Office is closely involved


with how we are taking this forward. The minister said the meetings had


been organised as soon as possible and before Parliament's summer


break. Can I ask the Minister to reflect that it is not reasonable to


ask campaign groups from Scotland to attend the meters at two days notice


and can I also ask that given there is a distinct legal system in


Scotland, has there been any thought to that and any discussion with


Scottish campaign groups and the Scottish Government? As I say, that


was the first of what we hope will be many conversations and the


campaign groups in Scotland arrangements were made for them to


dial into the meeting so they could participate. I have already started


discussions with these colours government about how this inquiry


will play out and affect the position in Scotland and I'm pleased


to say we are having those discussions in a spirit of healthy


cooperation and particularly looking at how we can make use of what has


already gone through with the Penrose inquiry. We will continue to


have dialogue and we are sensitive to those issues. You're watching


Thursday in Parliament with me, Alicia McCarthy.


There were some words of support in the House of Lords


who are being paid less than their male colleagues.


There were some criticism too of the large pay packets


The Radio 2 DJ, Chris Evans, is the highest paid,


earning around ?2.2 million last year.


I think we should all be very proud of the BBC as a


standard-bearer and a standard setter for high-quality drama,


entertainment, factual programmes and news and the publication


of the salary levels has received considerable comment,


some perhaps unfair, as other media outlets are not


We don't have any information on competitive context.


However, on the issue of gender pay equality


within the BBC, that criticism appears to be justified.


And whilst Eddie Mair's reference to the male anatomy


on Newsnight last night might be a bit much for your Lordships' House


on the last day of term, it's hard to understand


why the male Y-chromosome justifies a higher salary.


It is significant how many of our most senior, well qualified,


experienced women presenters and journalists are paid so much less


I'm very pleased that the director-general of the BBC has


admitted that this isn't good enough and that he is committed


to narrowing the gap to make it equal by 2020.


We've learned some lessons and I think it remains


to be seen whether the gloomy prognostications of those who think


I was shocked to see that neither Jenni Murray


nor Jane Garvey, who I believe are excellent broadcasters,


were not even mentioned which means they earn less than 150,000 a year.


I think that closing the gender pay gap by 2020


May I congratulate the Government on introducing for the first time...


Will my noble friend not take any solace from opposition


After all, none of the opposition parties have ever seen fit


This party, our party, has had two women prime ministers.


Let them put their actions where their mouths are


My Lords, I always listen to my noble friend and may I say just


as far as I'm concerned, I think I'm in an interesting position.


I serve a female Prime Minister,


I'm answering a question from a female


In my department, there is a female Secretary of State,


a female permanent Secretary, a female Government whip


When I go home after a very pleasurable day,


I go home to a wife and four daughters.


Some of the salaries are not just large,


they are extraordinarily large by any standards.


And when you contrast that with the public servants


who are dealing with life and death issues day by day,


have got really seriously out of order at this time?


And could the noble Lord Minister use his influence


to indicate to the BBC that frankly this talk about,


"we could lose these fantastic talents," why not?


The culture secretary has said she is still minded


to refer Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox takeover


Updating MPs, Karen Bradley said she was yet to reach a final decision


which could take some weeks and could happen while MPs


Mr Murdoch owns 39% of the satellite broadcaster and has


proposed an ?11.7 billion deal to take full control of Sky.


Several MPs argued that no decision should


be announced while MPs are away from Westminster.


to make my final decision on referral.


What I can do, however, is confirm to the House that having


carefully reviewed the parties' representations and in the absence


of further proposed undertakings, I am currently still minded to refer


The media watchdog Ofcom has said the takeover


risks giving the Murdoch family increased influence over


the UK's news agenda and the political process.


Unless new evidence from other representations changes


my mind in the coming weeks, the bid will therefore be referred


to a face to review on at least one ground, media plurality.


I thought it would be helpful to set out my current view


to the House, given the public interest to this case, and also to


the parties so that they can be as clear as possible


about my intentions and the likely next steps for this bid.


Bearing in mind the obligation to act promptly as part


of this quasi judicial process, I expect I will be in a position


to come to a final decision of referral, including in respect to


the broadcasting standards ground, in the coming weeks and


This is one piece of Government indecision that we welcome.


It is right that the Secretary of State is taking


her quasi judicial responsibilities seriously.


She will be aware that whatever decision she makes, there


is a strong possibility of judicial review by one side or the other.


No doubt, that has influenced her decision to tread carefully and


It is not her job to operate to 21st Century Fox's corporate timetable.


They have to abide by the parliamentary timetable


and she should demonstrate to them that she is,


as an elected representative of the people,


The fact that a decision will likely be during summer recess


speaks to a developing pattern, Mr Speaker, that we have seen


during the election with major decisions being made


It means it's being kicked into the long grass


and members in this House will not get an opportunity


The committees of the House are yet to set and there


should be an opportunity for those committees,


relevant committees, to scrutinise any decision made.


The beginning of September, she can come back


after having a good summer, and scrutinising the issues


I think it's the right thing to do and she shouldn't,


as my right honourable friend said, give in to the old tricks


of the Murdochs, which is to try and bully people


into making wrong decisions and rushed decisions.


I have said in my statement, I may make a decision


over the course of the summer recess, but it may take longer.


I am taking the time to look at all representations, including the


representation from the right honourable gentleman


and the other right honourable gentleman who isn't here


to make sure that we do consider all those points


and I will look at the evidence and make a decision


The elections watchdog has said that reports of people voting more


than once in June's election are troubling,


but there is little evidence of widespread abuse.


The Electoral Commission has said 38 MPs have


highlighted people, including students, claiming to have voted


It said individual electoral registers is by councils should be


better joined up to help identify duplicate entries.


Well, the whole issue of how boundaries are drawn up


and who is included on the electoral register was raised by MPs


2.9 million new people registered to vote as part of


a record electorate this past general election and a similar spike


So surely we should now heed the Electoral Commission's own


recommendation that these boundary reviews should take place


after major electoral events to take these new people


into account and make sure that the 2022 election is not


fought on harking back to outmoded things in 2015.


The current view of parliamentary constituencies is a matter


for the boundary commission, but the Electoral Commission has however


previously recommended that Parliament and the boundary


commission should consider whether it would be more appropriate


to base future reviews on electric data taken from the registers used


for elections instead of the register published


It's quite clear that it's perfectly reasonable for students and others


to be registered in two places if they're residents normally in both.


Would she agree with me, that it's sensible to take one in 100


of the late registrations, check with other districts whether they're


double registered and whether there is double voting.


That will give us scope as to whether or not


and how much fraud there was during the last election.


I'm sure the Electoral Commission will take heed


of the honourable gentleman's suggestion, but the Commission does


take very seriously any suggestion that individuals voted twice.


However, there is so far little evidence of widespread abuse


As the honourable gentleman points out, in certain


circumstances it is possible for someone to be locally


registered to vote in more than one place, including students


However, it is a criminal offence to pass more than one vote


on their behalf in a UK Parliamentary general election.


The commission is correct to highlight the discrepancy between


the 1st of December assessment of what an electorate is


In my constituency, the difference was 8000


in terms of the 2015 election, which is over 10%.


Would she welcome an investigation


by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee


into the ongoing way that we deal with that discrepancy?


I'm sure it will be a matter for the committee


and its new members when it is constituted to consider


the best way to look at the issues,


but I think we all want to make sure that registers are as


complete as possible, that people aren't missed out


and we don't see a reduction in the number


of people registered to vote so that when


the boundary commission considers Parliamentary


they do so on the best available registers that they can have.


Now to environment questions, where animal welfare


and fox hunting came up for discussion.


A Conservative backbencher wanted to know...


Will the Government commit to increase


the penalties for people convicted of animal cruelty?


It's something I'm actively reviewing.


As the honourable gentleman knows, I'm not someone


who will automatically reach for stronger criminal sanctions


as the only route to dealing with a particular problem,


but there are particular cases of animal cruelty where we may well


need to revisit the existing criminal sanctions in order to make


sure that the very worst behaviour is dealt with


Across the country, complaints are still frequently made


to the police concerning the killing and chasing


of foxes and hares by hounds which are part of organised hunts.


What steps will the Secretary of State take to ensure


better enforcement of the Hunting Act which clearly represents


The law of the land must always be enforced without fear or favour.


While another MP wanted assurances that animals would still be


Can my right honourable friend confirm that


Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty, which categorises animals as


sentient beings, will be part of the Repeal Bill?


Before we entered the European Union, we recognised


in our own legislation that animals were sentient beings


and I am an animal, we're all animals,


and therefore I care... LAUGHTER


I'm predominantly herbivorous, I should add, however.


But it's an absolutely vital commitment that we have


to ensure that all creation is maintained, enhanced and protected.


Labour's Ben Bradshaw raised a recent outburst on Twitter


by Michael Gove's former political adviser Dominic Cummings


who was also the campaign director for Vote Leave.


In his tweets, Dominic Cummings was less than complimentary


about the Brexit secretary David Davis.


Is "as thick as mince, lazy as a toad and as vain as Narcissus"


an appropriate description to use of a fellow Cabinet member?


And if hard Brexiteers in our Government are falling out


in this way, Mr Speaker, how on earth


can the Secretary of State expect our European Union partners


The right honourable gentleman, I'm sure is aware,


that we're working well together in Government.


And I don't recognise the description that he just gave


The Lib Dem former Business Secretary Vince Cable


has been announced as the new Liberal Democrat leader.


He takes over from Tim Farron, who stepped


down from the job after the June general election.


Dr Cable lost his Commons seat at the 2015 general election,


regaining it in the election in June.


No other candidate stood for the job.


Finally, what with the announcement of the new Doctor Who and the row


over gender equality pay at the BBC, the shadow Leader of the Commons


argued women seemed to have been in the news a lot over


So, Valerie Vaz used the last business questions of the session


to pay tribute to some inspirational women in politics


Their inspiration lives on in the six schoolgirls from the


Afghan robotics team who beat the Trump ban and took silver medal


England's cricket team in the World Cup final


and the football team in Euro 2017 this Sunday.


The honourable member for Livingston, I think


played alongside some of the Scottish team.


Maybe she should have been in the team.


And this month, Madam Deputy Speaker, we celebrate 100 years


but we're now driving the Tardis.


But the Leader of the Commons came unstuck when she joined


in the tributes, referring to the design of the new ?10 note.


May I join with the honourable lady in celebrating


the achievements of women, not least of which yourself


in that chair, Deputy Speaker, the honourable lady opposite and may


to her place as the new shadow deputy leader


and I very much wish her every success


and look forward to working with her.


I would just add one other great lady to that


lovely list who I'm delighted to join in celebrating and that's


that of Jane Austen, who will feature


on the new ?10 note which I think is another...


Greatest ever authors! Greatest ever authors.


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


at 11pm for our round-up of the week including a chat


with three leading experts on what we have learned so far


about the shape of this Parliament and what to expect


when MPs and peers return in the autumn.


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


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