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.