23/11/2017 Thursday in Parliament


23/11/2017

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 23 November, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Transcript


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Hello, and welcome to our round up

of the day at Westminster.

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Coming up in the next half hour.

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The government sets out the changes

it's making to Universal Credit,

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but Labour urges ministers

to go further.

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This is a comprehensive package

which response to concerns raised

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inside and outside the house.

These

measures are not enough. They must

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be brought forward amended and added

to.

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The Chancellor's accused

of missing an opportunity

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to tackle air pollution.

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And the Shadow Chancellor says

Wednesday's budget shows

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the government's a shambles.

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But, first, the Work

and Pensions Secretary,

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David Gauke has set out the details

of the changes the government's

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making to its controversial welfare

payment, Universal Credit.

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After weeks of pressure from MPs

across the house the Chancellor

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announced in his autumn budget that

he'd be tweaking the system.

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Universal Credit combines six

working age benefits into one

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and is meant to make the system

simpler, whilst helping claimants

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move more easily into work.

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But critics said a six week wait

for payments is leading

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to debt and rent arrears.

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We are now offering a balanced

package of improvements which puts

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more money into claimants hands

earlier ensuring support for those

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who need it most.

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So, housing benefit claimants

would be able to have the benefit

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paid direct to the landlord

and larger advances could be claimed

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and repaid more slowly.

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This is a comprehensive package

which response to concerns raised

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inside and outside the house. We

have a clear objective, to ensure

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that has many people as possible get

the opportunity to work and to

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maximise their potential to better

their circumstances. We will

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continue to roll-out Universal

Credit in a steady and considered

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manner and in doing so deliver a

welfare reform that will positively

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transform lives.

We welcome any

steps to improve the programme, not

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least these small reduction in

so-called Long hello or those on

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lowest incomes waiting only five

weeks for sport to arrive compared

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with the six under current design.

Before I addressed the detail of

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today's announcement, let's step

back and look at the big action. The

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government introduced Universal

Credit with three promises. To

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reduce child poverty by 350,000, to

simplify the Social Security system,

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and to ensure work always pays. As

the mounting evidence has shown, Mr

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Speaker, Universal Credit isn't

living up to these ambitions.

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She argued many of the waiting times

for payments were still too long.

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These measures are not enough. They

must be brought forward, amended and

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added to. We stand ready to work

with the government to make the

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necessary changes. Failing that,

they should stand aside and let a

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Labour government get on with the

job.

Where to start? Let's start

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first or forward this point about

people having to wait five weeks.

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People do not have to wait five

weeks. They can get a payment within

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five days. And this dismissal of an

interest-free advance as being

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immaterial, I'm afraid it is just

completely unreasonable.

I thank the

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Secretary of State to listening to

colleagues across the house and this

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very welcome packet of changes to

Universal Credit, and scrapping the

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seven working days and the packaging

has introduced to improve the loans

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that are available, the advances up

front and the changes to housing

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benefit.

May I congratulate him also

in applying the financial armlock

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that he loaned to the Treasury to

his boss to such good.

Universal

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Credit is supposed to be improving.

Will he respond to my concerns and

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those of the Child Poverty Action

Group and others who claim the

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government is knowingly putting 200

thousand children into poverty as a

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result of the two child cap, and

having a disproportionate impact on

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religious minorities as a result of

that cap and it is stigmatising

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women putting them in danger?

Of

course, we have transitional

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protection. She represented Scottish

constituency and of the Scottish

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government wants to provide support

for third, fourth and fifth

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children, they can provide exactly

that.

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David Gauke.

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MPs have demanded answers

about a potentially massive data

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breach by the taxi-hailing

firm Uber.

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The company concealed a hack

that affected 57 million

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customers and drivers.

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The incident happened in 2016,

but was not revealed and the firm

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paid hackers $100,000,

around £75,000, to delete the data.

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The minister told MPs the first he'd

known of the hack was on Tuesday

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when he'd found out from the media.

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The breach appear dated back over a

year and appears to have involved

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Uber paying criminals money to try

to prevent further data loss. We are

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told some UK citizens data is

affected. We are verifying the

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extent and the amount of

information, and when we have made

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the assessment we will publish the

details of the impact on the UK

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citizens, and we plan to do this in

a matter of days.

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He said the hack didn't seem

to have come from the UK.

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At this stage, our initial

assessment is that for Uber

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customers, the stolen information is

not the sort of information that

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would allow direct financial crime

but we are working urgently to

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verify this further and we rule

nothing out. Our advice to Uber

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drivers and customers is to be

vigilant, to monitor accounts,

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especially for fishing activities,

and, if you think you are a victim,

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contact the actual fraud

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The MP who'd put down the question

reckoned action should

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be taken against Uber.

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Uber apparently paid criminal

hackers $100,000 to delete the data

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and keep it quiet. What assurances

do we have that the data of Uber

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customers and drivers isn't in the

hands of hackers or criminals today?

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UK authorities have acted swiftly

since the security breach came to

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light. Will the government therefore

push for the toughest penalties to

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punish Uber for this outrageous

dereliction of their ethical and

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legal obligations to the public?

Isn't it time the government stopped

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cosying up to this grubby and

unethical company and started

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standing up for the public interest?

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Replying the minister said

legislation currently

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going through parliament would allow

for higher fines, and mean

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that the authorities would have

to be told about data breaches

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within 72 hours.

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Delaying notification is not

acceptable, unless there is a very

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good reason for it. As I said, it is

an aggravating factor in how the

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information Commissioner looks into

this sort of case.

When transport

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for London announced they would not

be renewing Buber's license and 22nd

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of September, Uber e-mailed its

customers to ask them to protest

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against this decision the very same

day. Does the Minister agree that if

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any e-mail was sent them, it should

e-mail them now and begin that

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communication with an apology?

People across the UK will be shocked

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Uber failed to give this information

to anyone. Given the current

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climate, covering up this breach and

paying hackers could actually

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stimulate the growth of cyber crime.

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Drew Hendry wanted to know

what would be done to hold Uber

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to account, the minister

Matt Hancock said he

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ruled nothing out.

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You're watching Thursday in

Parliament, with me Alicia McCarthy.

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Don't forget you can find

more editions of this

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programme on the BBC iPlayer.

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A leading clinical professor

specialising in air pollution has

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condemned the Chancellor for not

targeting "white van

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man" in the Budget.

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Medical experts say air pollution

can be a contributory factor

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in cases of heart attacks,

lung cancer, asthma,

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pneumonia and stroke.

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There's also concern that pollution

may affect the developing organs

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of babies in the womb and contribute

towards conditions such

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as diabetes and dementia.

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Four committees joined forces

to take evidence on the issue.

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Professor Stephen Holgate laid out

the scale of the problem.

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We are affecting people will who are

at the extremes of life, we are

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affecting people who are

disadvantaged with diseases that put

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them at increased risk, and we are

affecting people who live in

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disadvantaged communities to a

greater extent. So, there is an

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equality issue in all of this and it

is preventable because we now have

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such strong evidence that we

demonstrate not in this country is

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yet but in other countries that if

you start reducing pollution, he

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will improve the health of the

nation.

It was interesting the

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figure you gave about the danger

inside a car. It seemed quite

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counterintuitive that you breathe

then around ten times more.

Up to

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ten times.

If you are sitting in a

car than if you are cycling behind

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or walking on the street. Explain

how that works.

This is research

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shown in other parts of the world

now. What happens in all modern

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cars, we have these ventilators

which draw in air and as your

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vehicle stops right in front of an

exhaust pipe, you just venting the

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fumes, the fresh, most toxic

pollutants coming right out of the

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tower back straight into your car

into your child sitting in the

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back-seat. It is the same with buses

and taxis, not ten times but two or

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three times higher than walking on

the street.

So, the parent who

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drives their child to school

thinking they are protecting them

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with this nice, clean, enclosed

environment is actually poisoning

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their child ten times worse than

they would if they walked or cycled

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them to school?

Correct.

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One MP asked about

Wednesday's Budget.

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The Chancellor explicitly heralded

the fact that he's not going to

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target white van man, white van

woman as if it was a good thing

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going forward.

It is a lost

opportunity, I'm afraid. Mr White

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Van, I'm afraid. If you look at our

Graaf, it is the one area that is

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increasing as people become... This

is a big issue.

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Environmental lawyers, Client Earth,

took the government to Court

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of over pollution levels.

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If Brexit happens, how are we going

to enforce all this stuff?

You've

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hit on a very important point and

one that keeps me awake at night. At

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the moment the understanding is that

the current standards under the air

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quality directive and the

regulations will transfer across

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through the withdrawal bill. But it

is a big but, we are very concerned

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that the enforceability of standards

will decline post Brexit. There are

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a few aspects to that. Number one is

we are unsure of the role of the

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European commission in the future.

Alongside this case, they've also

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been a very important factor in

this.

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Later MPs heard from the Mayor

of London, who called

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for a new Clean Air Act.

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It's about nitrogen oxide. Half of

the noxious air comes from

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transport. The other half comes from

construction, it comes from the

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river, it comes from builders.

So,

in terms of if there was new

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legislation of the type described,

what are you asking for it to do?

We

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hope it would give mayors and

regions the powers and will

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resources powers to tackle the other

half, in relation to emissions

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standards, in relation to who is in

charge of it and how we can move

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forward with the clean air that we

desperately need.

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Sadiq Khan.

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MPs spent most of the afternoon

on their second day

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of debate on the budget.

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It's the first opportunity

for the Shadow Chancellor

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to have his say in the chamber.

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John McDonnell reckoned

the Government was a shambles.

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What this budget showed was just how

out of touch and cut off from the

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real world and the economy and the

real lives of people the Chancellor

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and this government really is. No

government in modern times has ever

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presented a set of growth forecasts

where growth and every year is less

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than 2%. Productivity growth is

forecast to have ground to a halt

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this year and Bailey increase next

year.

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He said Labour would borrow

to invest and grow the economy.

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I accept his point that he wants to

borrow to invest, borrow more to

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invest. The problem is we are

already paying interest more than we

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spend on defence and police just in

paying the interest so what I want

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from him as I understand where he is

coming from but whatever spend it on

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the interest will still accrue so

how will he deal with that?

Debt

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under his government has gone up and

it is bit to pay for a failure. To

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pay for a failure rather than to pay

for investment, because if you

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borrow to invest you grow the

economy and on that basis you put

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more people to work with more

skills, higher wages, they pay more

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taxes and it pays for itself. That

is the lesson they still haven't

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learned.

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He attacked the budget's most eye

catching announcement,

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the end of stamp duty

for the majority of first time

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buyers, he quoted the Office

for Budget Responsibility.

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The main gainers from the policy are

people who already own property. The

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problem is simple. Maybe perhaps it

needs explaining. You can't solve a

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problem of housing supplied by

driving up housing demand.

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He argued not enough money had been

given to England's NHS,

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and attacked ministers

approach to Brexit.

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This was he said a government no

longer fit for office.

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Replying for the government was

the housing minister, Sajid Javid.

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He defended the government's

record on home building.

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Last year, 217,000 net additions to

the housing stock was the highest

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such figure in almost a decade but

we are under no illusions that there

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is much more to be done. Labour's

answer to the housing crisis and in

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fact everything is simply to throw

more of someone else's money at the

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problem and hope that it goes away.

The last time they tried it, we

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ended up with a house-building at

its lowest level since the 1920s and

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an economy that was on its knees.

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He said the country Labour described

was not one he recognised.

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We have one of the world's biggest

and most successful economies and we

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speak the language of global

business and of the World Wide Web

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that we invented. We are home to

more Nobel prizewinners bar one. Our

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legal system is the most respected

in the world and we are unrivalled

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in art and culture in the creative

industries. The NHS is the envy of

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countless nations. We have given the

world everything from steam engines

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that Shakespeare and even cricket.

We may not be the biggest, we may

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not be that, but Britain is without

doubt the best country in the world

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to work, to play and learn and live.

A country what an incredible history

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and an amazing history still yet to

come.

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The SNP called for a new approach.

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If the Chancellor was conveyed yet,

if you consulted on measures and

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approach this year like stamp duty

and small tanks duty and then

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contacts with the tension to review

the whole system we would see much

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better policy decisions being made.

We need more coherence from

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government and less drama from

chancellors. They should not be

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trying to pull rabbits out of hats.

They should be trying to create a

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system that works rather than a

system that will give them a big

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headline.

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The former Defence Secretary

made his first commons appearance

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since his resignation

and focussed on trade.

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Outside the single market, we are

going to live or die by what we can

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sell to the world in goods and

services. We now need to hard-wire

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exporting into every British

business, exporting should be a

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condition of all our major

government support schemes, our

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grants and loans.

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Sir Michael Fallon.

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The former head of the Nuclear

Decommissioning Authority,

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John Clarke, has taken "full

responsibility" for the handling

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of a botched contract

to clean up 12 former

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nuclear sites in the UK.

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After a complex two-year bidding

process, the contract

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for the "Magnox" sites was won

by Cavendish Fluor Partnership.

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The task turned out to be

much bigger and more

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expensive than anticipated.

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We are here today to look at the

report on the botched Magnox

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contract which had a value of £6.2

billion, one of the largest ever

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contracts let by government and the

report shows a catalogue of failures

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which played the contract from the

start.

When you bid for a vessel

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process, how far was known what the

state of the various sites were?

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When you first started

investigating, did you are NDA know

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what the state of these sites were?

The bid documentation was what we

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had to rely on. At the time of the

bidding, that was the only

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information we had available to us.

We had no other knowledge that he

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could bring to bear.

Knowing what

you know now, wasn't it more or less

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set up to feel? Not deliberately but

wasn't it almost impossible for you

0:19:410:19:45

at any body else to have actually

really succeeded in little process?

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Had the bed documentation been an

accurate reflection of what was on

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the sites then the style of contract

that was put in place would have

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worked.

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The companies that lost out to CFP

successfully sued the NDA over

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the bidding process last year.

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The High Court agreed

that the process had been flawed.

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The mistakes cost the government

more than £122 million

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in compensation and legal costs.

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The NDA also terminated

the contract with CFP,

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saying that a "material change"

to the required work rendered

0:20:140:20:17

the contract "illegal."

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Hull is the relationship and do you

think they now have sufficient staff

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with sufficient skills in place to

be able to manage this contract, the

0:20:320:20:36

whole decommissioning contract going

forward?

I think it is a very

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professional relationship and we

have been through a pretty torrid

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time together, on either side of the

contractual boundary. It is a solid

0:20:430:20:51

professional relationship. The new

team under the new chief executive

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are looking to recruit and looking

to recruit the right areas.

0:20:570:20:59

Next, the committee heard

from the former boss at the NDA.

0:20:590:21:03

Who do you think was responsible for

the failure of this contract?

I am

0:21:030:21:10

the chief executive of the NDA for

the duration of this contract and I

0:21:100:21:15

accept full responsibility for the

actions during that period. We set

0:21:150:21:18

out with the intent to do the best

job we could and we did work hard,

0:21:180:21:24

but it is clear that didn't go

according to plan.

It is a shared

0:21:240:21:29

responsibility and although John is

the accounting officer, the

0:21:290:21:33

principal accounting officer, I have

ultimate responsibility.

I have two

0:21:330:21:38

except it was our responsibility to

understand the state of the sites

0:21:380:21:41

and we believe their level of

understanding was somewhat better

0:21:410:21:44

than it was.

I accept your candour

on this but isn't it extraordinary

0:21:440:21:49

when you had lots of technical

people working for you that you

0:21:490:21:53

didn't at least have an idea, given

the scale of what was discovered

0:21:530:21:59

during the consolidation process,

that he didn't have some idea of the

0:21:590:22:03

difference between your

understanding at the time and what

0:22:030:22:06

actually proved to be the case?

Two

factors. First of all we have a

0:22:060:22:12

small organisation with over 200

people, not an army. We are

0:22:120:22:17

deliberately set up to be a small

organisation and we rely on auditing

0:22:170:22:22

performance of contractors.

0:22:220:22:23

He said the NDA had been aware

of significant differences,

0:22:230:22:26

but not HOW big they were.

0:22:260:22:27

Finally, what next for Zimbabwe,

following the resignation

0:22:270:22:29

of its 93-year-old President Robert

Mugabe?

0:22:290:22:33

He had been in power since 1980.

0:22:330:22:36

The Zimbabwean army stepped in last

week, saying people were angered

0:22:360:22:39

by the way the country was being run

and the possibility that Mr Mugabe's

0:22:390:22:42

wife Grace was being lined

up as his successor.

0:22:420:22:44

After the news that he had finally

quit, Zimbabweans took

0:22:440:22:47

to the streets to celebrate.

0:22:470:22:51

In the Lords, Peers wondered

what would happen now

0:22:530:22:55

and what the UK could do to support

the country.

0:22:550:22:58

My Lords, the resignation of Robert

Mugabe provides Zimbabwe with an

0:23:050:23:08

opportunity to form a new path, free

from oppression and misrule. The

0:23:080:23:14

only wafers and bubbly to achieve a

legitimate government is through

0:23:140:23:17

free and fair elections. As the

oldest friend we will do all we can

0:23:170:23:23

to support a legitimate government

to rebuild the country, working with

0:23:230:23:29

international and regional partners,

addressing economic, human rights

0:23:290:23:34

and constitutional issues including

free and fair elections.

My Lords,

0:23:340:23:39

in thanking my noble friend for the

answer, can now recognise that we

0:23:390:23:42

should not intrude on an independent

country but given that we have tens

0:23:420:23:48

of thousands of Zimbabweans resident

in the UK, would it not be possible

0:23:480:23:53

to bring together the expertise to

help Zimbabwe, particularly given

0:23:530:24:00

the IMF has identified the problems,

the dramatic problem is that the

0:24:000:24:04

country faces. Examples of which

include the issuance of $100

0:24:040:24:11

trillion notes, which were in

general circulation.

The government

0:24:110:24:17

doesn't wish all intents to

interfere in the affairs of Zimbabwe

0:24:170:24:24

but there are approximately 113,000

Zimbabweans living in the UK. The

0:24:240:24:31

Foreign and Commonwealth Office has

a regular programme of positive

0:24:310:24:33

engagement with the Zimbabwean

diaspora and we will meet with

0:24:330:24:41

representatives diaspora tomorrow to

discuss issues including the need

0:24:410:24:47

for deep and lasting economic

reform.

Effective election

0:24:470:24:51

monitoring will be key to the

holding of free and fair elections

0:24:510:24:55

in Zimbabwe. What support can the

government gives to the churches and

0:24:550:25:00

other civil society organisations in

the work they do on the grounds of

0:25:000:25:03

successfully in Africa because that

belongs to Africa, is rooted in

0:25:030:25:09

Africa and can be owned by the whole

community in Africa.

We are putting

0:25:090:25:14

together the potential package of

measures to support a credible

0:25:140:25:18

election process and encourage

economic recovery to be delivered

0:25:180:25:21

alongside international partners. I

emphasise in exchange for a

0:25:210:25:26

meaningful political and economic

reforms.

0:25:260:25:28

And that's it from me for now,

but do join me on BBC Parliament

0:25:280:25:32

on Friday night at 11pm

for the highlights of

0:25:320:25:34

a busy Westminster week.

0:25:340:25:35

But for now, from me, goodbye.

0:25:350:25:45

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