16/11/2017 Thursday in Parliament


16/11/2017

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 16 November, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to the programme.

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Coming up...

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More controversy in the Commons

over Universal Credit,

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as the government's urged to listen

to those who want payment times cut.

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We can't all be wrong. The six week

weight must be reduced to one month.

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Work should always pay and that is

the principle that underlies

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Universal Credit.

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MPs denounce an inquiry

into a controversial pregnancy

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test as a white-wash.

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And demands for action to tackle

antibiotic resistance.

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We must start with a public

education programme to manage

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expectations and highlight the

issues of inappropriate use and to

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frequent use.

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But first, the Labour MP who chairs

the work and pensions committee says

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Universal Credit is becoming

a "personal nightmare"

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for constituents.

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Frank Field was opening a debate

in the Commons calling

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on the government to urgently reduce

the initial six-week wait

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for payment to four weeks.

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The new benefit is meant to simplify

the welfare system and encourage

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claimants into work.

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It's being rolled out

across the country, but many Mps

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have expressed concern

that the switchover is leading

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to debt and rent arrears.

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Frank Field had one example.

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It was of a gentleman

who had waited, waited

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and waited for an operation

at our local hospital.

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That operation was taking place

when he was told to turn up

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for an interview at

our Job Centre Plus.

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He was sanctioned.

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A friend befriending him reported

yesterday that this constituent

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of mine is now homeless

and while being homeless,

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struggling to recover from surgery.

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Can he help me in this respect,

when I met with the citizens advice

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bureau, because we have

Universal Credit being rolled out

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in July, they are now making

arrangements with all relevant

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authorities so that these very

examples don't exist.

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My real question to the right

honourable gentleman is did these

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constituents come to him at the end

of this ghastly process or earlier

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on because if they'd come earlier

on, we as MPs all have exactly

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the access to speed it up

and would he agree that we should be

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doing this now before it comes out

in our areas?

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I couldn't agree more,

although being here a little longer

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than the right Honourable Lady,

I never thought as an MP I would be

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speaking like this about this,

of my job being adapted in this way.

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Croydon was one of the first

boroughs where Universal Credit has

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been rolled out so we've had longer

to see what a total and utter

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disaster it's become.

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But I've had a long and growing

stream of people coming

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into my office, many of them close

to tears because Universal Credit

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has forced them into debt, made it

harder for them to stay in work

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or left many of them facing

eviction for rent arrears.

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Our local council has had to spend

£3 million so far to stop people

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being evicted because of late

payments for rent.

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Local food banks are running out

of food because of the vast increase

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in people having to go

there going hungry because of

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what the government's scheme has

done to them and there are thousand

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tenants in Croydon now who have rent

arrears of over three months

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and are at risk of losing their home

because of the failures

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of Universal Credit.

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I'm calling for the government

to cut the waiting time

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for Universal Credit

and cause the roll-out.

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for Universal Credit

and pause the roll-out.

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Glasgow will be the last major city

in the UK to be subject

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to the roll-out but before that,

how many thousands of families,

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children and vulnerable people

will have to suffer and starve

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before it gets to that point?

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If a tenth of the resource

that is put into chasing benefit

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fraud was put into chasing tax

avoidance, how much more resource

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could support working people

and enable them to work rather

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than cut off back lifelines?

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I am firmly of the view,

as I believe are most people on both

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sides of this House,

that work should always pay

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and that is the principle that

underlines Universal Credit

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and the passion that there

is on this side of the House

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to ensure that more people get

into work, are supported

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into work and once there,

get on and get ever more work

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in terms of hours and in terms

of quality of work.

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Members on all sides of this House,

the cross party work

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and pensions select committee,

appears, charities,

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the Children's Commissioner

and most importantly of all,

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our constituents,

have raised concerns.

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We can't all be wrong.

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The six weeks wait must

be reduced to a month.

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Down the corridor, peers, too,

were debating Universal Credit.

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Labour's Lady Hollis said

it was having a "catastrophic"

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impact on many claimants.

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Many, I fear, will never get

out of the net we have

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constructed for them.

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Family members themselves struggling

trying to support other family

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members as one sister said,

it's the poor that are

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supporting the poorest.

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Over a quarter are waiting

more than six weeks

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for their initial payment.

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One in ten for more than ten

weeks without earnings,

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benefit or savings.

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Pawning their belongings,

missing arrears.

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Charity workers finding a fiver out

of their own pockets to put back

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on the meter for some

lighting and heating.

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And all of them facing Christmas.

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Of course I'm as concerned

as anyone else in this

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about the glitches in the workings

of the system involved.

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It's not be amazed about,

it's the certainly worry about.

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But look at the glitches we had

in the IT systems we had

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throughout Parliament

and throughout this government.

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They are being tackled,

these are being tackled

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and they will be overcome.

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One young mum visits

Saint Aidan's church kitchen

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in Hartlepool with her disabled son.

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She was moved onto Universal Credit

and waited several

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weeks for her money.

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She told one of my clergy

that she took paper

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napkins from McDonald's

because she was unable

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to afford toilet paper.

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Her son's condition means

that he wears nappies,

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which she was also unable to afford.

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Can any of us here imagine

the stress and indignity

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of such a situation?

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Despite now receiving her money,

the majority of her payments go

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towards her rent arrears,

so she's still dependent

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on Saint Aidan's for a meal

and food each week.

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Hers is one of many stories

of families and individuals falling

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down the slippery slope of rent

arrears, personal debt,

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eviction and homelessness.

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It's too simplistic, however,

to say that UC alone

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pushes families into debt.

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In many cases it exacerbates

existing personal debt

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and makes that debt almost

impossible to escape.

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This is particularly

acute in the north-east.

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In Hartlepool, Gateshead

and County Durham, more than 30%

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of adults are indebted and at least

three months behind

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with their bills compared

to a national average of 18%.

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This will only intensify as payday

loan sharks and doorstep lenders

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increase their worth

and their profits.

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Back in the Commons, at the end

of MPs' debate on the subject,

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the minister said Universal Credit

was being rolled out at a measured

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pace over nine years with frequent

pauses in the process.

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Universal Credit is a vital reform,

it changes how we support people out

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of work and in work and how we help

them progress from

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one into the other.

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It is a lot of change,

a new benefit, the new IT system,

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a new operational system,

new ways of working with partners

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and yes, that does bring

with it some challenges.

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We will continue to work

with claimants, with stakeholders

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and partners, with honourable

and right Honourable members

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across the House to resolve these

challenges as they arise and improve

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Universal Credit as it is introduced

across the country.

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At the end of the debate,

MPs voted without a division to call

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on the Government to cut the time

claimants have to wait before

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receiving their first

Universal Credit payment.

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After the vote, Frank Field said

the Work and Pensions Secretary

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should come to the Commons on Monday

to explain what the government

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would do now to reform the benefit.

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The Deputy Speaker, Eleanor Laing,

said she was sure that Ministers

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would "note" the MP's request.

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The Prime Minister has

announced that Parliament

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is to have an independent grievance

procedure to deal with complaints

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about harassment and abuse.

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The Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom

told Mps that a working group had

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been set up to decide how

it will function.

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MPs hoped the new system would

ensure justice for parliamentary

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staff and politicians.

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The working group has agreed that

a new system should provide support,

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advice and action on a wide spectrum

of complaints around willing

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bullying and harassment.

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We will do everything

in our power to ensure

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the solution is transparent,

fair and effective.

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And this fairness must also apply

to MPs and peers because we do

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recognise that right across both

houses we have many model employers

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who genuinely care about and look

after their staff extremely well.

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We all want a robust process that

has the confidence of everyone

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but it is only when it is tested

that we will know whether it is

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robust enough so that everyone can

work safely in this amazing place

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for the good of our

constituents and the country.

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There needs to be absolutely zero

tolerance for any abuse

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or inappropriate behaviour and that

all means are deployed not just

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to tackle the current issues

that have been presented

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but the historical patriarch

and cultural hierarchies that have

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been allowed to develop in this

House which have gone unchallenged

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in the past and we all agree

that there needs to be a safe place

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for anybody to raise

any harassment issues

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and that is the objective

of this group.

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I welcome the statement and having

just quickly read through it

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as well as listen to it I notice it

doesn't say the word sexual

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harassment in it once

and I would like to put weight

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behind what the shadow deputy

leader said in encouraging

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the leader to make sure

that there is a specialist sexual

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violence service that is giving

advice to the working group and also

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then in place for people in this

place afterwards and to urge that

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mediation in cases of sexual

harassment is never appropriate.

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The parties keep on stating

that they must have their

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own party procedures.

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There is, however, I think

as we have seen over the last

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few weeks a real issue

here where what you get is parties

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acting and let's say for example

suspending the whip from a member

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of Parliament but they either member

of Parliament and they carry

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on with duties and responsibilities

here in the House.

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The question therefore is how swift

and how co-located can that process

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be with what goes on in the House

in terms of investigations?

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Because members of Parliament stand

accused and the longer this goes on,

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the more difficult it becomes

to both do their jobs or should

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they be doing their job?

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And I would like her

to look carefully at that.

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My right honourable friend raises

a very important point and one

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that the working party has certainly

acknowledged needs to be resolved

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and he's right that it is difficult

if somebody stands accused to be

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very clear where there's party

procedure that may make a decision

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to take action on the whip

and an ongoing grievance or indeed

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criminal procedure in another area

of either policing or with this

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grievance and complaints procedure.

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You have to have

justice for both sides.

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If we just have trial

by the newspapers or trial by front

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page, that is not justice

for the young people or the people

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who feel they have been abused

and make allegations nor is it

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justice for those at the other end.

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I remember in 2003 a journalist

from the Mail On Sunday coming up

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to me in the Stranger's bar

and saying "We're all taking bets

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on when you commit suicide.

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I hope it'll be before Christmas."

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I'm so sorry to hear that and,

you know, I really sympathise

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with the Honourable gentleman

on that last point.

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That is really, truly appalling and,

you know, we all the nice

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there is a challenge

here with living in the public eye

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and often unfortunately allegations

which are either spurious or indeed

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malicious or designed to hurt can

be made at individuals

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and that's not right.

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MPs have denounced an inquiry

into a controversial pregnancy test

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as a whitewash and a cover-up.

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This week, a major scientific

review of hormonal tests,

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including Primados, concluded

that they did not cause

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major birth defects.

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The tests were widely used

in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

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The inquiry was set up

after a long-running campaign

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by parents whose children suffered

heart problems, missing limbs,

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spina bifida and other conditions.

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In the Commons, the minister

recognised that the conclusion

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was not what campaigners

wanted to hear.

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Available relevant evidence

on the possible association has been

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extensively and thoroughly reviewed

with the benefit of up-to-date

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knowledge by experts

from the relevant specialisms.

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The evidence which has been reviewed

by the expert group will be

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published in the New Year once it

has been rightly checked in line

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with legal duties and data

protection confidentiality.

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In addition to the overall

conclusion, the expert working group

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has made a number of recommendations

to safeguard future generations

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through strengthening the systems

in place of detecting,

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evaluating, managing

and communicating safety concerns

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with use of medicines

in early pregnancy.

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While I recognise the conclusion

of the report will be

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a disappointment to some,

I hope they will see

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the recommendations as positive.

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I am so disappointed

with the minister's response.

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Clearly he is just quoting

what his staff at the Ministry

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have been telling him.

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I do wish the Minister would

actually go through the document

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that was submitted to the enquiry,

the document we have,

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because if he has read those

documents, he would never have come

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to the despatch box

and said what he has said.

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I'm not just quoting notes

that are put before me.

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I'm quoting evidence from an expert

working group, an expert panel,

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and it really would come

to something if members in this

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House suddenly started

to second-guess expert scientific

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and medical evidence so I'm not just

quoting what's before me.

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On Friday, two constituents came

to my surgery to speak

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to me exactly about this.

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The mother had taken one of these

pills and her daughter

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was born with deformities.

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Can I suggest, it's not

the Minister's report,

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he's just giving us his explanation

and he's doing his job,

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but could I suggest

that we have a proper backbench

0:15:370:15:40

debate about this the exercise

all these issues because with great

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respect to this working party,

having had some experience

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as a former public health minister

and knowing about contaminated

0:15:470:15:50

blood, I'm afraid to say I smell

something like a very large rat

0:15:500:15:54

in all of this and I think

there have been cover-ups in it.

0:15:540:15:58

The conclusions don't take away

from the suffering experienced

0:15:580:16:00

by the families but we recognise

the review's conclusion may be

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difficult to accept by the families,

of course we do, and birth defects

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occur naturally in up to four

in every 100 babies and a birth

0:16:080:16:11

defect in a baby exposed

to a medicine during pregnancy does

0:16:110:16:14

not necessarily mean

it was caused by the medicine.

0:16:140:16:17

There were complaints, too,

about how the public release

0:16:170:16:20

of the report was handled.

0:16:200:16:22

Does he think 24 hours

is a reasonable period of time

0:16:220:16:25

to ask a family to travel to London

from quite a rural

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parts of the country?

0:16:270:16:29

Does he also think it's appropriate

that the Honourable Lady

0:16:290:16:32

for Bolton South East and myself

were locked out of

0:16:320:16:34

the press conference

that the MHRA held yesterday?

0:16:340:16:38

That in itself smacks of a cover-up.

0:16:380:16:41

The Honourable Lady's

point about the notice

0:16:410:16:43

the families were given,

no, I don't think it's good enough

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and I and my honourable friend

in the other place has made

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that crystal clear.

0:16:490:16:53

There was some notice given

to Mrs Lyons on Friday last week

0:16:530:16:56

that there was likely to be an event

on Wednesday but that was confirmed

0:16:560:17:00

until Monday so that was the notice

that they got and no,

0:17:000:17:03

I don't think that's good enough,

I've made that very clear.

0:17:030:17:08

As far as her and the Honourable

Lady who chairs the all-party group

0:17:080:17:11

being locked out the group,

I cannot imagine how

0:17:110:17:15

that happened and again,

I have explained to the MHRA that

0:17:150:17:18

I expect them to look into that

and come back to me and explain

0:17:180:17:21

to me how that could have happened

to cause while we may disagree,

0:17:210:17:25

I can see how that merely feeds

the conspiracy theory that's

0:17:250:17:28

around this subject.

0:17:280:17:32

Steve Brine.

0:17:320:17:34

You're watching Thursday In

Parliament with me, Alicia McCarthy.

0:17:340:17:38

We could be facing a return

to the "medical dark ages"

0:17:420:17:45

unless action is taken to tackle

antibiotic resistance,

0:17:450:17:47

and to get people to use them

only when appropriate.

0:17:470:17:50

That warning came as MPs

held a debate to mark

0:17:500:17:54

Antibiotics Awareness Week,

and following the launch last month

0:17:540:17:57

of Public Health England's Keep

Antibiotics Working campaign.

0:17:570:18:02

It's warned that antibiotic

resistance, known as AMR,

0:18:020:18:06

already represents a major

global health issue.

0:18:060:18:09

In the UK alone, it is

estimated that every year

0:18:090:18:12

at least 5,000 deaths result

from antibiotics

0:18:120:18:14

no longer working

for some infections.

0:18:140:18:19

If we do not act now,

antimicrobial resistance will be

0:18:190:18:22

responsible for ten million

deaths per year by 2050.

0:18:220:18:28

This is more than the worldwide

number of people who were killed

0:18:280:18:31

by cancer in 2015.

0:18:310:18:33

We run the risk of returning

to a medical dark age,

0:18:330:18:38

where routine operations, such

as hip operations, cannot be

0:18:380:18:42

carried out, and standard infections

today, become deadly.

0:18:420:18:50

The Chief Medical Officer,

Professor Dame Sally Davies,

0:18:500:18:52

has rightly described

AMR as a catastrophic threat.

0:18:520:18:56

She has warned of a post-antibiotic

apocalypse, where 40% of the

0:18:560:19:02

population die prematurely from

infections that we cannot treat.

0:19:020:19:05

In her view, this could amount

to nothing less than

0:19:050:19:10

"the end of modern medicine".

0:19:100:19:18

Labour's Julie Cooper said

antibiotics had often been

0:19:180:19:20

used inappropriately,

especially in agriculture.

0:19:200:19:23

We will start with a public

education programme,

0:19:230:19:25

to manage expectations,

and to highlight the issues of both

0:19:250:19:27

inappropriate use,

and too frequent use.

0:19:270:19:31

The Health Minister, Steve Brine,

highlighted the importance

0:19:310:19:33

of public awareness.

0:19:330:19:43

AMR is a global problem. The UK has

led the way and made significant

0:19:430:19:47

progress, but this is clearly a

long-term serious and urgent

0:19:470:19:52

problem. Initiatives I think such as

World Antibiotic Awareness Week are

0:19:520:19:58

very welcome, it gives us an

opportunity to continue to discuss

0:19:580:20:02

things, gives them a media hook to

hang them on, and keep them high in

0:20:020:20:05

the minds of people across all

sectors, and vitally, across members

0:20:050:20:09

of the public. A recent study

revealed an increase in the number

0:20:090:20:15

of girls admitted to hospital for

self harming over a three-year

0:20:150:20:19

period.

In the Lords, people wanted

to know how the problem was being

0:20:190:20:25

addressed.

They are

non-stigmatising, and easily

0:20:250:20:36

accessible. However, I visited an

area yesterday, where I was told

0:20:360:20:40

that all the school counsellors have

had to be sacked because the schools

0:20:400:20:43

cannot afford to pay them. So, will

be minister work with the Department

0:20:430:20:49

for Education to ensure that, by the

end of this Parliament, every

0:20:490:20:52

secondary state school in this

country has a cool councillor?

0:20:520:20:57

Bullying in schools can start very

early, and it can give rise to

0:20:570:21:04

severe mental health issues. Would

you also agree that schools struggle

0:21:040:21:07

to deal with this issue, partly

because they are unclear about how

0:21:070:21:11

to balance their duties of care to

victims and to perpetrators who

0:21:110:21:16

often have issues of their own?

In

the end, it actually comes down to

0:21:160:21:22

behavioural policies. Schools with

very robust behaviour policies, fair

0:21:220:21:27

and robust behaviour policies, do

not tend to see bullying. Those who

0:21:270:21:30

are more lax on it do, and so first

and foremost it is about making sure

0:21:300:21:35

that teachers have the training and

support from the Government and

0:21:350:21:38

parents that they need to crack down

on that. Bullying has also moved

0:21:380:21:45

into different domains, particularly

online. You may have seen that his

0:21:450:21:48

Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge

is today launching some actions on

0:21:480:21:52

cyber bullying, so dealing with

bullying is a big part of that, and

0:21:520:21:55

I completely agree with her about

the importance of starting hourly.

0:21:550:21:59

The Government's on research, most

notably commissioned by DWP,

0:21:590:22:05

conclusively showed a causal link

between young people's internalising

0:22:050:22:12

problems such as self harm with

conflict and -- in their parents'

0:22:120:22:20

relationships. Will this evidence be

acted on in the forthcoming Green

0:22:200:22:23

paper on children and young people's

mental health?

The Department for

0:22:230:22:27

Work and Pensions has a cross

Government support for parents. I'll

0:22:270:22:32

salute the best community health

services and schools work to provide

0:22:320:22:37

that support, with a number of

parenting programmes out there, and

0:22:370:22:40

I can assure him that that evidence

absolutely takes proper place in the

0:22:400:22:44

mental health strategy we will be

publishing for children and young

0:22:440:22:47

people.

0:22:470:22:50

Lord O'Shaugnessey.

0:22:500:22:51

MPs are to hold their third day

0:22:510:22:52

of the detailed consideration

of the EU Withdrawal Bill

0:22:520:22:55

on Tuesday next week.

0:22:550:22:56

The government has promised 64

hours over eight days

0:22:560:22:58

for this stage of the bill.

0:22:580:22:59

It completed its first two days this

week without amendment.

0:22:590:23:09

..whether whe committee

stage of the whole House

0:23:110:23:12

will be completed before

0:23:130:23:14

the Christmas recess

on the 21st of December?

0:23:140:23:15

And will it be in

the other place

0:23:150:23:17

before the Christmas recess?

0:23:170:23:18

I know that my friends

in the other place are

0:23:180:23:21

very keen to help out.

0:23:210:23:24

She will be aware that

the usual procedure,

0:23:240:23:25

because it is difficult to project

forward with absolute certainty for

0:23:250:23:30

a lengthy period of time,

so we will continue to update

0:23:300:23:32

the House in the usual way every

week with future business,

0:23:320:23:35

as far as we are able to do so.

0:23:350:23:37

The SNP's spokesman reflected

on news from outside the chamber

0:23:370:23:40

while Parliament had been

away for a brief recess.

0:23:400:23:42

It has only been a couple of weeks

since the last

0:23:420:23:45

Prime Minister's Questions,

but I suppose two weeks in politics

0:23:450:23:48

must seem like an eternity for this

Government.

0:23:480:23:49

In that time, they have managed

to lose two members of the

0:23:490:23:52

Cabinet, and the Brexit Civil War

now raging would actually put

0:23:520:23:55

the Roundheads and

Cavaliers to shame.

0:23:550:23:58

But, fear not, the Environmental

Secretary has apparently been

0:23:580:24:01

auditioning for the role of

Chancellor at Cabinet meetings, by,

0:24:010:24:04

according to his colleagues,

using lots of

0:24:040:24:06

"economicky words,"

so all is not lost.

0:24:060:24:10

Well, there'll be plenty

of "economicky words" next week,

0:24:100:24:13

with Philip Hammond giving his

Budget on Wednesday.

0:24:130:24:17

A Conservative MP has

made his maiden speech.

0:24:170:24:20

David Duguid was one of only two MPs

elected this year yet to make

0:24:200:24:24

a speech in the Commons.

0:24:240:24:26

As is tradition, he praised his

constituency, which he said

0:24:260:24:28

was a great place to live and visit.

0:24:280:24:34

Our coast, across the north-east

of Scotland,

0:24:340:24:36

is like no other in the

British Isles.

0:24:360:24:37

Rugged cliffs, home

to a wealth of birdlife,

0:24:370:24:39

including, for information,

0:24:390:24:40

Scotland's only mainland gannet

colony, at Troup Head.

0:24:400:24:47

We're all coming to visit, then!

0:24:470:24:50

You're all most welcome!

0:24:500:24:55

Our shoreline is also

regularly visited

0:24:550:24:56

by porpoises, dolphins,

and even the occasional

0:24:560:24:58

humpback or killer whale.

0:24:580:25:02

Former Metropolitan Police

commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

0:25:020:25:05

has taken his seat in the House of

Lords.

0:25:050:25:09

Lord Hogan-Howe was flanked

by supporters Lord Alton

0:25:090:25:11

of Liverpool and Lord Dholakia

as he swore the oath

0:25:110:25:14

of allegiance to the Queen.

0:25:140:25:17

Lord Hogan Howe retired as the head

of Britain's biggest police force

0:25:170:25:20

earlier this year after five years

in the post, he will sit

0:25:200:25:24

as an independent crossbencher peer.

0:25:240:25:29

And that's it from us for now,

but do join me on Friday night

0:25:290:25:32

at 11:00 on BBC Parliament

for our round up

0:25:320:25:34

of the week at Westminster,

when among other things,

0:25:340:25:36

I'll be chatting to Conservative MP

Sarah Wollaston, the new elected

0:25:360:25:40

chair of the powerful

Commons Liaison committee.

0:25:400:25:44

But, for now, from me,

Alicia McCarthy,

0:25:440:25:46

goodbye

0:25:460:25:52

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