Highlights of Thursday in Parliament presented by Mandy Baker.
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Hello, and welcome to Thursday
in Parliament, our look at the best
of the day in the Commons
and the Lords.
Once again, the issue of harassment
looms large in Westminster.
We will work with any colleagues
across the House to make sure that
we seize this opportunity to get it
right once and for all.
MPs are told the Brexit impact
studies, which were the centre
of debate on Wednesday,
will be made available
as soon as conceivable.
And are you desperate
for a copy of the bible
of parliamentary procedure?
The people of this country are
demanding it be made available
without having to buy a copy of the
But first, MPs were back
at Westminster a little over 12
hours after the surprise news
that the Defence
Secretary had resigned.
Sir Michael Fallon said his past
behaviour may have "fallen short"
of the standards expected
by the British armed forces.
The new Defence Secretary was named
as Gavin Williamson,
who had been in charge of party
discipline as Chief Whip.
He's been described as a rising
star, who's trusted by Number Ten.
As Gavin Williamson was settling
himself in at the Ministry
of Defence, in the Commons the issue
of harassment was still
a main talking point.
At her weekly question session,
the Leader of the House again
broached the subject.
This has been a difficult
week for Parliament.
But it has been even harder
for those who have come
forward to report their experiences
of inappropriate behaviour,
harassment or abuse.
Their experiences are
why we need to change.
As I said on Monday,
it is a right, not
a privilege, to work
a safe and respectful environment.
The Prime Minister has written
to all party leaders,
and I'm pleased to say they have
all agreed to meet
to discuss a common,
transparent and independent
But a change of culture
could take longer.
That must be done by
education and training.
Every member, every employee,
should go on an equality
For new MPs it could be part
of the induction process.
Existing members of staff
should also undergo this.
There are outside
organisations who do this.
Will the Leader
of the House confirm
measures for the House and ensure
that the equalities and human rights
commission have the resources to
support this education and training?
Can I congratulate the Leader
of the House for her
leadership that she has shown
on the sexual harassment issue?
We will work with her
to put together this
independent grievance procedure
so that everybody will have a safe
place to raise these complaints.
It is encouraging to see
people now coming forward,
and firm and decisive
action being taken.
Does she agree with me this
is a real opportunity
to effectively tackle the in-built
patriarchal hierarchy in this
institution and the unsavoury
entitlement culture that still
pervades these corridors of power?
Any review should carefully consider
other legislatures and what the HR
processes, hiring processes, and
staff grievance processes of other
legislatures around the world are
and we can maybe learn from them?
My honourable friend
is raising a very
interesting point and of course as
we look at how best we can improve
taxpayers' value for money, at
the same time as using best practice
from around the world in HR
processes, we will of course look at
and in particular
regard to resolving
issue around keeping
people safe at work
it would be essential
look at what is done elsewhere.
On the issue of
standards, I am deeply
concerned about the bullying
culture within Parliament.
It is an issue that was
dismissed by Mr Speaker
when I previously have raised it
with him, determining it
to be a woman's issue.
It clearly isn't.
This is vital that in this
opportunity that we address the
issue of bullying and that we bring
forward mandatory training for
everyone in this House.
Can I say I absolutely
agree with the honourable
lady, and will happily work with any
colleagues across the House in
making sure that we seize this
opportunity to put things right and
get it right, once and for all,
and that there is nobody left out of
So all political parties,
those with no political party, all
those who work in this place,
and who come here to help us,
as perhaps temporary work
interns, and so on, so that we get
this right, once for all.
The Brexit Secretary David Davis has
said the Government intends to be
"as open as we can be" over
the release of its
Brexit impact studies.
On Wednesday Labour used an arcane
parliamentary procedure to pass
a motion calling for them to be
released to the Commons
committee on exiting the EU.
The 58 studies show the potential
effects of Brexit on different
When will the papers be handed over?
The Right honourable gentleman was
present for yesterday's debate. I
said that we would respond
appropriately and we will do as soon
A Labour MP raised the issue
with the Brexit Secretary.
backbencher, Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Does he agree that the papers must
be given to the Select Committee, or
does he not trust the Select
I missed a very good
debate yesterday. I have already
spoken to the chairman of the Select
Committee. He sends his apologies
for not being here today. I am
organising to talk to him about how
we handle confidentiality of the
documentation or handover. I will
reiterate what was said by my
honourable friend, these documents
are not some sort of grand plan,
they are data about regulations and
markets of individual sectors, and
of course we will be as open as we
can be with the Select Committee.
But later the shadow Leader
of the Commons pressed
for a definite date
for the release of the studies.
The minister yesterday said members
of the Government are first and
foremost parliamentarians, but they
don't want to listen to Parliament.
He said, in the cool light of
tomorrow we will revisit exactly
what was said in Hansard. In the
cool later today the Minister got up
this morning and said, in due
It is accepted that the
motion passed by the House yesterday
as binding and the information will
be forthcoming, but as has been made
very clear, it is the case that it
is difficult to balance the
conflicting obligation to protect
the public interest through not
disclosing information that could
harm the national interest and the
public interest, whilst at the same
time ensuring that the resolution
that the House passed yesterday is
that has brought shame on this House
once again. There is no doubt that
this is binding and I am grateful to
see the leader of the host
confirming that today. To we
therefore need today is a clear and
an ambiguous statement from the
Government that that accepts what
was decided last night, without
qualification. Just hand the papers
over the committee. If it does not
do this, as you said, Mr Speaker,
the Government will be in contempt
of this House. But that happens we
will be bringing proceedings to hold
them to account on that very basis.
Well, a short time later,
peers asked if the impact
assessments would also be made
available to the House of Lords
European Union Select Committee.
David Davis has appeared before us
on the European Union Select
Committee three times since the
Brexit fought and on more than one
occasion he has promised parity of
information for as and also the
committee in the House of Commons.
We have now published 20 reports and
there are more in the pipeline,
therefore we are in a high state of
knowledge about sectoral issues. Can
I ask the Minister to go further in
saying he will have a discussion
with our chairman about things, but
actually to undertake that we will
receive the same information as the
committee in the House of Commons?
As I said, we still need to have
further discussions with the
chairman of the Brexit Select
Committee in another place. We will
of course reflect further following
those discussions on what
information we will want to provide
to comply with the motion. I have
undertaken to have a similar
discussion with the chairman of the
committee in this place. I do not
want to go further than that at the
You're watching Tuesday
in Parliament, with me, Mandy Baker.
If you want to catch
up with all the news
from Westminster on the go,
don't forget our sister programme,
Today in Parliament,
is available as a download
via the BBC Radio 4 Website.
Prosecutors in Madrid have jailed
eight sacked members of Catalonia's
regional government over their role
in October's disputed
Spain has been gripped
by a constitutional crisis
since a referendum on independence
was held on October 1st in defiance
of a constitutional court ruling
that declared it illegal.
In the Commons, a Plaid Cymru MP
asked an urgent question
about the situation.
In this situation the UK Government
has a responsibility and an
Firstly it must do all it can
to ensure the safety and
security of UK citizens
living in Catalonia.
Secondly, as a leading
European power, member
of the Council of Europe, of the EU,
of Nato, and the United Nations
Security Council, this is happening
in our neighbourhood.
Thirdly, the UK Government has
recent experience of
an independence referendum carried
out here in Scotland largely by
We have some advice to offer.
And of course, the hard-won peace
agreement in Northern Ireland,
rests partly on the opportunity
for all to have their say in a
In the debate on Catalonia
on the 10th of October,
the minister replying
said that no request
for advice had been made
the Spanish government and none
offered by the UK Government.
I ask that that offer be made.
Mr Speaker, I do not
share the honourable
gentleman's view of how Britain
should take an interest in the
internal affairs of Spain.
It is an internal matter.
It is a legal matter.
In the same way as we held
an independence referendum, it was
within the law, whereas in the case
of Spain it is not.
In respect of UK citizens,
I believe I am right in saying
that we have had no reported
and I hope that remains the case.
We are currently in a very
The future of Catalonia
has been turned
into a binary choice.
That is a false choice,
an impossible choice, between on the
one hand, a unilateral declaration
of independence, and on the other,
direct rule from Madrid.
I do not believe that either
of these choices offers
a satisfactory solution
And I do not believe that either
choice is what the majority
of Catalans or Spaniards
I believe that what the majority
want to see is a peaceful,
between the parties to try
and find a resolution.
That is what the Socialist party of
Catalonia supports and the Socialist
party of Spain.
We support our sister
parties in that endeavour.
But what we are currently seeing,
both in the Government of Spain, and
the Government of Catalonia,
is far from peaceful and sensible
dialogue as it is possible to get.
We call on both sides
to step back, to ease the
and heavy-handed tactics, and start
listening to what the majority
of people in Spain and Catalonia
actually want, which is peace,
dialogue and an end to division.
What is the UK Government
doing to promote this?
Or does Brexit suck such life
from our ability to make
any influence in Europe
that the honest answer is not a lot?
I agree with the second
part of the right
honourable lady's response,
which is as usual, not a lot,
which is that this was illegal,
and against the
rule of law.
But I do however disagree
with her in the way she portrays
this as a choice.
This is not a binary
choice, as the right
honourable lady describes.
It is a binary choice
between upholding the
rule of law or not.
MPs have urged the Government
to offer sanctuary to more
unaccompanied child refugees
in Europe - in time for Christmas.
Concerns were raised about children
living in the "Jungle"
migrant camp in Calais,
which has since been cleared.
Under the Dublin III European
Agreement the UK accepts refugees
who have relatives in Britain.
In another scheme,
the UK promised to take
children who'd arrived
- alone - in places such
as Greece or Italy.
MPs had hoped that 3,000
children would be resettled,
under what's called the Dubs scheme.
But the figure so far is 200
and ministers say the UK can only
accept a further 280 youngsters.
In Calais, still, children
are sleeping outdoors.
At the mercy of the elements and,
dare I say, the police.
Because the official shelter
that the French government have
provided can only have 60.
In Greece, over 1800
children are waiting
for space in such a shelter.
And, when they make it,
they'll actually find
it is actually a disused prison.
In Italy, the situation
is even more chaotic.
Whilst I understand our ability
to influence local arrangements
in those countries is limited,
we do have a responsibility to set
clear parameters with our foreign
counterparts to allow them
to rapidly identify every child
who might be eligible
for Dubs or Dublin.
She said the remaining 280 places
under the Dubs scheme should be
filled as soon as possible.
Can we aim for the end of the year?
Call me sentimental,
but can we aim for Christmas?
But this debate
isn't just about Dubs.
I'm also seeking reassurance
on what happens to Dublin III once
we leave the EU and its legislation.
Despite textbook policy
suggesting our domestic asylum
legislation should already allow
unaccompanied child refugees to be
reunited with their wider family,
their grandparents, siblings,
uncles, aunts, in practice
this is not happening.
What the concern is today is that
Britain is still falling short
on what it can do for these children
and it is nine-year-olds sleeping
in bushes, in Calais,
sleeping without shelters,
in Greece, in Italy that
are paying the price.
These are our children
to take responsibility for,
to work with the Greek authorities
to work with the
The minister is shaking his head.
Is he really saying he can be proud
of the country that looks
at children sleeping under
the bushes without proper shelter
and care and says it's
somebody's else's problem,
nothing to do with us.
I understand that honourable members
of this house who, like me,
are deeply concerned
about the plight of all refugees
across the whole wide world,
50 million people have been
displaced by conflict.
Yes, we've taken 3000.
But what is the right number of
children to take if it's not 3000.
Is it 30,000?
Is it 300,000?
Should we take all the children
across the whole of Europe?
Or just children who have
a connection to Britain?
And I think the right policy,
is that we should do our bit
particularly on reunification.
I don't agree that we can be
responsible for all the refugees,
all the children
across the whole of Europe.
We can't take in every child.
I'll tell you why.
I get complaints from my
constituents in Kent that we have
about a quarter of the unaccompanied
asylum seeking children
in the whole of this country.
And they are concerned
about the pressure on public
services that that places on Kent.
The Minister said the UK
was working with France
to implement the Dubs scheme.
We do work closely with France
to deliver and transfer 480
unaccompanied children from Europe
to the UK under section 67
of the 2016 immigration act,
quite the opposite of what some
members this afternoon said
about that process having stopped.
It never has.
It is still open.
Will he then agree now to contact
local councils across the country
and ask them what further places
they could provide under the Dubs
scheme for next year.
As I've just
said, the court has outlined that
the process used is lawful. Children
have arrived in recent weeks from
France and we've been working with
Greece as well for that safe
transfer of eligible children to the
UK and Rishi expect further
referrals in the coming weeks.
He added that the UK couldn't
simply remove children
from other countries -
it had to respect their sovereignty
and child protection laws.
Next year it will be the centenary
of the first British
women to get the vote.
It was in 1918 the Representation
of the People Act was passed,
allowing women over the age of 30
who met a property qualification
to have a say in General Elections.
The Government has already
established a five million pound
fund to support projects
to mark the anniversary.
Have the government got
any more broad ideas,
both here in Parliament about how
they will celebrate the role
of women in public life
over the last 100 years,
perhaps to encourage
more to come forward.
Well, on that last point
the government will certainly be
thinking about how they can
celebrate the role of women
both in Parliament and more
broadly in public life.
A former Conservative cabinet
minister was in mischievious mood.
Would we take the opportunity
of the centenary to reflect
on the fact that the bending
government refuse to give women
the vote because they were worried
that they would lose the votes
the votes of the men.
My noble friend is
The Shadow Northern Ireland
Secretary has criticised
the Prime Minister for not taking
a greater role in brokering
a deal to restore
power-sharing at Stormont.
Northern Ireland's executive
collapsed in January over
the handling of a botched
renewable energy scheme.
Since then, talks between
the Democratic Unionist Party
and Sinn Fein have failed to reach
an agreement on the restoration
of devolved government.
The Northern Ireland Secretary,
James Brokenshire, said the impasse
meant the Government would have
to set a budget
for Northern Ireland.
While important progress has been
made, the parties have not yet
reached an agreement.
I'm not in a position to bring
before the house the legislation
necessary for an executive to be
formed this week.
The consequence of this
is that it is now highly unlikely
that an executive could be in place
within a timetable to be insured
of passing a budget before
the end of November.
Which is the point at
which we and the Northern Ireland
civil service assessed that
Northern Ireland will begin
to run out of resources.
No government could simply stand
by and allow that to happen
and we would you shirking our
responsibilities to the people of
Northern Ireland were we to do so.
James Brokenshire's opposite number
used the opportunity
to attack Theresa May.
We believe that the Prime
Minister of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland could get stuck
into this problem and try and bring
about a resolution over the impasse.
It is, in my view,
inexcusable and completely
inexplicable that she's
only visited Northern Ireland once
during her 15 months in office and
that for a 15 minute photocall
during the elections at an
James Brokenshire insisted
Theresa May had been
talking to the parties.
The DUP's deputy leader predicted
that direct rule wasn't far off.
We would set the
government up tomorrow.
Sinn Fein are blocking it.
So, the Secretary of State
is perfectly right to come
to this house, as we have been
urging, to get the budget set and I
would also say to them
that we cannot allow
the drift to continue.
That, at some point in the very
near future, we will need to have
ministers and if they are not
Northern Ireland executive
ministers, which is what we want and
other parties want, but Sinn Fein
are blocking that, then it will have
to be ministers from here.
Earlier this week ,
the Justice Secretary,
David Lidington, indicated
that the government
was about to make a concession
on prisoner voting and bring
to an end a long
running legal battle.
In 2005 the European Court
of Human Rights ruled
against the UK's blanket ban
on allowing prisoners to vote.
David Lidington returned to
the Commons to announce his plans.
We will amend guidance to address
an anomaly in the current system
where offenders who are released
back in the community on licence
using an electronic tag,
under the home detention curfew
scheme, can vote under the present
arrangements but those
who are in the community
on temporary licence cannot vote.
Release on temporary licence
is a tool typically used to allow
offenders to commute from prison
to employment in the community
and so prepare themselves
for their return to society.
We believe that reinstating
the civic rights of voting
at this point is consistent
with that approach.
I think we need to know
what these discussions
and what assurances the Minister,
Secretary of State, has had
with lawyers to ensure
that his proposal today does bring
us in line with human rights law
because the last thing
that his house wants is a Secretary
of State having to come back
to the house at some point
in the future and explain that,
unfortunately, this hasn't satisfied
the test and isn't fulfilling our
May I add my congratulations
to my right honourable friend who,
after many years, has arrived
at what I think is an elegant
and sensible solution.
He will be aware that in the Council
of Europe it caused great
consternation that the UK was unable
to comply with these judgments
and it led to talk of the UK even
leaving the Council of Europe,
which after all we were a founding
member of by the Treaty of London.
Can he just confirm
that we now leave the company
of the countries of Armenia,
Bulgaria, Estonia, Jordan,
Hungary and Russia that
remain the only countries
in the Council of Europe that
still have a blanket ban.
The government has instituted
a system of Universal Credit
on the basis that it mirrors
the world of work so, why then,
not use the same logic and consider
that prisoners should be prepared
for life outside of prison
by maintaining their
civic right to a vote?
A very tiny concession
by the government is the bare
minimum it could get away
with and I believe that
when you imprison somebody,
you deprive them of their liberty,
you don't deprive
them of their rights.
I don't understand, perhaps
the Minister can tell me why
he feels so threatened by that.
The act of depriving someone
of his or her liberty
when they are sentenced to custody,
I would have thought by definition,
deprives them of some
absolutely vital civic rights.
I think giving the vote to any
prisoners is idiotic, unjustifiable,
and is about as popular
with the general public as finding
a rattlesnake in a lucky dip.
not mincing his words.
And finally, you may not have heard
of Erskine May but -
and you can trust me on this -
it is considered to be the most
authoritative reference book
on parliamentary procedure.
The question exercising MPs was -
is it available online?
One Labour MP -
who's interested in this sort
of thing - had the answer.
It is available on the intranet
in a 1000 page PDF which expresses
that it is not to be used
for the public.
What I'm asking, and I hope
that the commitment from the leader
of the house is clear,
that we will now be making it
available to the whole
of the country because the people
of this country are demanding
Erskine May be made available
to them without having to buy a copy
of the book.
And the good news is the Leader
of the House is looking into it
and perhaps in the not too distant
future we'll all be able
to read up on parliamentary
procedure on the go.
That's all we've time for,
but do join me on Friday night
at 11, for our round up
of the week at Westminster.
But for now from me,
Mandy Baker, goodbye.