Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 16 November, presented by Alicia McCarthy.
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Hello and welcome to the programme.
More controversy in the Commons
over Universal Credit,
as the government's urged to listen
to those who want payment times cut.
We can't all be wrong. The six week
weight must be reduced to one month.
Work should always pay and that is
the principle that underlies
MPs denounce an inquiry
into a controversial pregnancy
test as a white-wash.
And demands for action to tackle
We must start with a public
education programme to manage
expectations and highlight the
issues of inappropriate use and to
But first, the Labour MP who chairs
the work and pensions committee says
Universal Credit is becoming
a "personal nightmare"
Frank Field was opening a debate
in the Commons calling
on the government to urgently reduce
the initial six-week wait
for payment to four weeks.
The new benefit is meant to simplify
the welfare system and encourage
claimants into work.
It's being rolled out
across the country, but many Mps
have expressed concern
that the switchover is leading
to debt and rent arrears.
Frank Field had one example.
It was of a gentleman
who had waited, waited
and waited for an operation
at our local hospital.
That operation was taking place
when he was told to turn up
for an interview at
our Job Centre Plus.
He was sanctioned.
A friend befriending him reported
yesterday that this constituent
of mine is now homeless
and while being homeless,
struggling to recover from surgery.
Can he help me in this respect,
when I met with the citizens advice
bureau, because we have
Universal Credit being rolled out
in July, they are now making
arrangements with all relevant
authorities so that these very
examples don't exist.
My real question to the right
honourable gentleman is did these
constituents come to him at the end
of this ghastly process or earlier
on because if they'd come earlier
on, we as MPs all have exactly
the access to speed it up
and would he agree that we should be
doing this now before it comes out
in our areas?
I couldn't agree more,
although being here a little longer
than the right Honourable Lady,
I never thought as an MP I would be
speaking like this about this,
of my job being adapted in this way.
Croydon was one of the first
boroughs where Universal Credit has
been rolled out so we've had longer
to see what a total and utter
disaster it's become.
But I've had a long and growing
stream of people coming
into my office, many of them close
to tears because Universal Credit
has forced them into debt, made it
harder for them to stay in work
or left many of them facing
eviction for rent arrears.
Our local council has had to spend
£3 million so far to stop people
being evicted because of late
payments for rent.
Local food banks are running out
of food because of the vast increase
in people having to go
there going hungry because of
what the government's scheme has
done to them and there are thousand
tenants in Croydon now who have rent
arrears of over three months
and are at risk of losing their home
because of the failures
of Universal Credit.
I'm calling for the government
to cut the waiting time
for Universal Credit
and cause the roll-out.
for Universal Credit
and pause the roll-out.
Glasgow will be the last major city
in the UK to be subject
to the roll-out but before that,
how many thousands of families,
children and vulnerable people
will have to suffer and starve
before it gets to that point?
If a tenth of the resource
that is put into chasing benefit
fraud was put into chasing tax
avoidance, how much more resource
could support working people
and enable them to work rather
than cut off back lifelines?
I am firmly of the view,
as I believe are most people on both
sides of this House,
that work should always pay
and that is the principle that
underlines Universal Credit
and the passion that there
is on this side of the House
to ensure that more people get
into work, are supported
into work and once there,
get on and get ever more work
in terms of hours and in terms
of quality of work.
Members on all sides of this House,
the cross party work
and pensions select committee,
the Children's Commissioner
and most importantly of all,
have raised concerns.
We can't all be wrong.
The six weeks wait must
be reduced to a month.
Down the corridor, peers, too,
were debating Universal Credit.
Labour's Lady Hollis said
it was having a "catastrophic"
impact on many claimants.
Many, I fear, will never get
out of the net we have
constructed for them.
Family members themselves struggling
trying to support other family
members as one sister said,
it's the poor that are
supporting the poorest.
Over a quarter are waiting
more than six weeks
for their initial payment.
One in ten for more than ten
weeks without earnings,
benefit or savings.
Pawning their belongings,
Charity workers finding a fiver out
of their own pockets to put back
on the meter for some
lighting and heating.
And all of them facing Christmas.
Of course I'm as concerned
as anyone else in this
about the glitches in the workings
of the system involved.
It's not be amazed about,
it's the certainly worry about.
But look at the glitches we had
in the IT systems we had
and throughout this government.
They are being tackled,
these are being tackled
and they will be overcome.
One young mum visits
Saint Aidan's church kitchen
in Hartlepool with her disabled son.
She was moved onto Universal Credit
and waited several
weeks for her money.
She told one of my clergy
that she took paper
napkins from McDonald's
because she was unable
to afford toilet paper.
Her son's condition means
that he wears nappies,
which she was also unable to afford.
Can any of us here imagine
the stress and indignity
of such a situation?
Despite now receiving her money,
the majority of her payments go
towards her rent arrears,
so she's still dependent
on Saint Aidan's for a meal
and food each week.
Hers is one of many stories
of families and individuals falling
down the slippery slope of rent
arrears, personal debt,
eviction and homelessness.
It's too simplistic, however,
to say that UC alone
pushes families into debt.
In many cases it exacerbates
existing personal debt
and makes that debt almost
impossible to escape.
This is particularly
acute in the north-east.
In Hartlepool, Gateshead
and County Durham, more than 30%
of adults are indebted and at least
three months behind
with their bills compared
to a national average of 18%.
This will only intensify as payday
loan sharks and doorstep lenders
increase their worth
and their profits.
Back in the Commons, at the end
of MPs' debate on the subject,
the minister said Universal Credit
was being rolled out at a measured
pace over nine years with frequent
pauses in the process.
Universal Credit is a vital reform,
it changes how we support people out
of work and in work and how we help
them progress from
one into the other.
It is a lot of change,
a new benefit, the new IT system,
a new operational system,
new ways of working with partners
and yes, that does bring
with it some challenges.
We will continue to work
with claimants, with stakeholders
and partners, with honourable
and right Honourable members
across the House to resolve these
challenges as they arise and improve
Universal Credit as it is introduced
across the country.
At the end of the debate,
MPs voted without a division to call
on the Government to cut the time
claimants have to wait before
receiving their first
Universal Credit payment.
After the vote, Frank Field said
the Work and Pensions Secretary
should come to the Commons on Monday
to explain what the government
would do now to reform the benefit.
The Deputy Speaker, Eleanor Laing,
said she was sure that Ministers
would "note" the MP's request.
The Prime Minister has
announced that Parliament
is to have an independent grievance
procedure to deal with complaints
about harassment and abuse.
The Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom
told Mps that a working group had
been set up to decide how
it will function.
MPs hoped the new system would
ensure justice for parliamentary
staff and politicians.
The working group has agreed that
a new system should provide support,
advice and action on a wide spectrum
of complaints around willing
bullying and harassment.
We will do everything
in our power to ensure
the solution is transparent,
fair and effective.
And this fairness must also apply
to MPs and peers because we do
recognise that right across both
houses we have many model employers
who genuinely care about and look
after their staff extremely well.
We all want a robust process that
has the confidence of everyone
but it is only when it is tested
that we will know whether it is
robust enough so that everyone can
work safely in this amazing place
for the good of our
constituents and the country.
There needs to be absolutely zero
tolerance for any abuse
or inappropriate behaviour and that
all means are deployed not just
to tackle the current issues
that have been presented
but the historical patriarch
and cultural hierarchies that have
been allowed to develop in this
House which have gone unchallenged
in the past and we all agree
that there needs to be a safe place
for anybody to raise
any harassment issues
and that is the objective
of this group.
I welcome the statement and having
just quickly read through it
as well as listen to it I notice it
doesn't say the word sexual
harassment in it once
and I would like to put weight
behind what the shadow deputy
leader said in encouraging
the leader to make sure
that there is a specialist sexual
violence service that is giving
advice to the working group and also
then in place for people in this
place afterwards and to urge that
mediation in cases of sexual
harassment is never appropriate.
The parties keep on stating
that they must have their
own party procedures.
There is, however, I think
as we have seen over the last
few weeks a real issue
here where what you get is parties
acting and let's say for example
suspending the whip from a member
of Parliament but they either member
of Parliament and they carry
on with duties and responsibilities
here in the House.
The question therefore is how swift
and how co-located can that process
be with what goes on in the House
in terms of investigations?
Because members of Parliament stand
accused and the longer this goes on,
the more difficult it becomes
to both do their jobs or should
they be doing their job?
And I would like her
to look carefully at that.
My right honourable friend raises
a very important point and one
that the working party has certainly
acknowledged needs to be resolved
and he's right that it is difficult
if somebody stands accused to be
very clear where there's party
procedure that may make a decision
to take action on the whip
and an ongoing grievance or indeed
criminal procedure in another area
of either policing or with this
grievance and complaints procedure.
You have to have
justice for both sides.
If we just have trial
by the newspapers or trial by front
page, that is not justice
for the young people or the people
who feel they have been abused
and make allegations nor is it
justice for those at the other end.
I remember in 2003 a journalist
from the Mail On Sunday coming up
to me in the Stranger's bar
and saying "We're all taking bets
on when you commit suicide.
I hope it'll be before Christmas."
I'm so sorry to hear that and,
you know, I really sympathise
with the Honourable gentleman
on that last point.
That is really, truly appalling and,
you know, we all the nice
there is a challenge
here with living in the public eye
and often unfortunately allegations
which are either spurious or indeed
malicious or designed to hurt can
be made at individuals
and that's not right.
MPs have denounced an inquiry
into a controversial pregnancy test
as a whitewash and a cover-up.
This week, a major scientific
review of hormonal tests,
including Primados, concluded
that they did not cause
major birth defects.
The tests were widely used
in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
The inquiry was set up
after a long-running campaign
by parents whose children suffered
heart problems, missing limbs,
spina bifida and other conditions.
In the Commons, the minister
recognised that the conclusion
was not what campaigners
wanted to hear.
Available relevant evidence
on the possible association has been
extensively and thoroughly reviewed
with the benefit of up-to-date
knowledge by experts
from the relevant specialisms.
The evidence which has been reviewed
by the expert group will be
published in the New Year once it
has been rightly checked in line
with legal duties and data
In addition to the overall
conclusion, the expert working group
has made a number of recommendations
to safeguard future generations
through strengthening the systems
in place of detecting,
and communicating safety concerns
with use of medicines
in early pregnancy.
While I recognise the conclusion
of the report will be
a disappointment to some,
I hope they will see
the recommendations as positive.
I am so disappointed
with the minister's response.
Clearly he is just quoting
what his staff at the Ministry
have been telling him.
I do wish the Minister would
actually go through the document
that was submitted to the enquiry,
the document we have,
because if he has read those
documents, he would never have come
to the despatch box
and said what he has said.
I'm not just quoting notes
that are put before me.
I'm quoting evidence from an expert
working group, an expert panel,
and it really would come
to something if members in this
House suddenly started
to second-guess expert scientific
and medical evidence so I'm not just
quoting what's before me.
On Friday, two constituents came
to my surgery to speak
to me exactly about this.
The mother had taken one of these
pills and her daughter
was born with deformities.
Can I suggest, it's not
the Minister's report,
he's just giving us his explanation
and he's doing his job,
but could I suggest
that we have a proper backbench
debate about this the exercise
all these issues because with great
respect to this working party,
having had some experience
as a former public health minister
and knowing about contaminated
blood, I'm afraid to say I smell
something like a very large rat
in all of this and I think
there have been cover-ups in it.
The conclusions don't take away
from the suffering experienced
by the families but we recognise
the review's conclusion may be
difficult to accept by the families,
of course we do, and birth defects
occur naturally in up to four
in every 100 babies and a birth
defect in a baby exposed
to a medicine during pregnancy does
not necessarily mean
it was caused by the medicine.
There were complaints, too,
about how the public release
of the report was handled.
Does he think 24 hours
is a reasonable period of time
to ask a family to travel to London
from quite a rural
parts of the country?
Does he also think it's appropriate
that the Honourable Lady
for Bolton South East and myself
were locked out of
the press conference
that the MHRA held yesterday?
That in itself smacks of a cover-up.
The Honourable Lady's
point about the notice
the families were given,
no, I don't think it's good enough
and I and my honourable friend
in the other place has made
that crystal clear.
There was some notice given
to Mrs Lyons on Friday last week
that there was likely to be an event
on Wednesday but that was confirmed
until Monday so that was the notice
that they got and no,
I don't think that's good enough,
I've made that very clear.
As far as her and the Honourable
Lady who chairs the all-party group
being locked out the group,
I cannot imagine how
that happened and again,
I have explained to the MHRA that
I expect them to look into that
and come back to me and explain
to me how that could have happened
to cause while we may disagree,
I can see how that merely feeds
the conspiracy theory that's
around this subject.
You're watching Thursday In
Parliament with me, Alicia McCarthy.
We could be facing a return
to the "medical dark ages"
unless action is taken to tackle
and to get people to use them
only when appropriate.
That warning came as MPs
held a debate to mark
Antibiotics Awareness Week,
and following the launch last month
of Public Health England's Keep
Antibiotics Working campaign.
It's warned that antibiotic
resistance, known as AMR,
already represents a major
global health issue.
In the UK alone, it is
estimated that every year
at least 5,000 deaths result
no longer working
for some infections.
If we do not act now,
antimicrobial resistance will be
responsible for ten million
deaths per year by 2050.
This is more than the worldwide
number of people who were killed
by cancer in 2015.
We run the risk of returning
to a medical dark age,
where routine operations, such
as hip operations, cannot be
carried out, and standard infections
today, become deadly.
The Chief Medical Officer,
Professor Dame Sally Davies,
has rightly described
AMR as a catastrophic threat.
She has warned of a post-antibiotic
apocalypse, where 40% of the
population die prematurely from
infections that we cannot treat.
In her view, this could amount
to nothing less than
"the end of modern medicine".
Labour's Julie Cooper said
antibiotics had often been
especially in agriculture.
We will start with a public
to manage expectations,
and to highlight the issues of both
and too frequent use.
The Health Minister, Steve Brine,
highlighted the importance
of public awareness.
AMR is a global problem. The UK has
led the way and made significant
progress, but this is clearly a
long-term serious and urgent
problem. Initiatives I think such as
World Antibiotic Awareness Week are
very welcome, it gives us an
opportunity to continue to discuss
things, gives them a media hook to
hang them on, and keep them high in
the minds of people across all
sectors, and vitally, across members
of the public. A recent study
revealed an increase in the number
of girls admitted to hospital for
self harming over a three-year
In the Lords, people wanted
to know how the problem was being
non-stigmatising, and easily
accessible. However, I visited an
area yesterday, where I was told
that all the school counsellors have
had to be sacked because the schools
cannot afford to pay them. So, will
be minister work with the Department
for Education to ensure that, by the
end of this Parliament, every
secondary state school in this
country has a cool councillor?
Bullying in schools can start very
early, and it can give rise to
severe mental health issues. Would
you also agree that schools struggle
to deal with this issue, partly
because they are unclear about how
to balance their duties of care to
victims and to perpetrators who
often have issues of their own?
the end, it actually comes down to
behavioural policies. Schools with
very robust behaviour policies, fair
and robust behaviour policies, do
not tend to see bullying. Those who
are more lax on it do, and so first
and foremost it is about making sure
that teachers have the training and
support from the Government and
parents that they need to crack down
on that. Bullying has also moved
into different domains, particularly
online. You may have seen that his
Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge
is today launching some actions on
cyber bullying, so dealing with
bullying is a big part of that, and
I completely agree with her about
the importance of starting hourly.
The Government's on research, most
notably commissioned by DWP,
conclusively showed a causal link
between young people's internalising
problems such as self harm with
conflict and -- in their parents'
relationships. Will this evidence be
acted on in the forthcoming Green
paper on children and young people's
The Department for
Work and Pensions has a cross
Government support for parents. I'll
salute the best community health
services and schools work to provide
that support, with a number of
parenting programmes out there, and
I can assure him that that evidence
absolutely takes proper place in the
mental health strategy we will be
publishing for children and young
MPs are to hold their third day
of the detailed consideration
of the EU Withdrawal Bill
on Tuesday next week.
The government has promised 64
hours over eight days
for this stage of the bill.
It completed its first two days this
week without amendment.
..whether whe committee
stage of the whole House
will be completed before
the Christmas recess
on the 21st of December?
And will it be in
the other place
before the Christmas recess?
I know that my friends
in the other place are
very keen to help out.
She will be aware that
the usual procedure,
because it is difficult to project
forward with absolute certainty for
a lengthy period of time,
so we will continue to update
the House in the usual way every
week with future business,
as far as we are able to do so.
The SNP's spokesman reflected
on news from outside the chamber
while Parliament had been
away for a brief recess.
It has only been a couple of weeks
since the last
Prime Minister's Questions,
but I suppose two weeks in politics
must seem like an eternity for this
In that time, they have managed
to lose two members of the
Cabinet, and the Brexit Civil War
now raging would actually put
the Roundheads and
Cavaliers to shame.
But, fear not, the Environmental
Secretary has apparently been
auditioning for the role of
Chancellor at Cabinet meetings, by,
according to his colleagues,
using lots of
so all is not lost.
Well, there'll be plenty
of "economicky words" next week,
with Philip Hammond giving his
Budget on Wednesday.
A Conservative MP has
made his maiden speech.
David Duguid was one of only two MPs
elected this year yet to make
a speech in the Commons.
As is tradition, he praised his
constituency, which he said
was a great place to live and visit.
Our coast, across the north-east
is like no other in the
Rugged cliffs, home
to a wealth of birdlife,
including, for information,
Scotland's only mainland gannet
colony, at Troup Head.
We're all coming to visit, then!
You're all most welcome!
Our shoreline is also
by porpoises, dolphins,
and even the occasional
humpback or killer whale.
Former Metropolitan Police
commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
has taken his seat in the House of
Lord Hogan-Howe was flanked
by supporters Lord Alton
of Liverpool and Lord Dholakia
as he swore the oath
of allegiance to the Queen.
Lord Hogan Howe retired as the head
of Britain's biggest police force
earlier this year after five years
in the post, he will sit
as an independent crossbencher peer.
And that's it from us for now,
but do join me on Friday night
at 11:00 on BBC Parliament
for our round up
of the week at Westminster,
when among other things,
I'll be chatting to Conservative MP
Sarah Wollaston, the new elected
chair of the powerful
Commons Liaison committee.
But, for now, from me,