Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 21 December presented by Mandy Baker.
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Hello and welcome to the programme.
Coming up in the next half hour:
Ministers admit the group examining
harassment in Parliament hasn't
managed to come up with
a new complaints system.
It cannot be right that it's easier
to sanction a member of this House
for disorderly conduct in the
chamber than it is to sanction them
for disorderly, disreputable and
disgraceful conduct outside of it.
Peers condemned the state of
How do squalid
conditions in a prison overrun with
rats and cockroaches meet
Churchill's famous dictum that the
treatment of criminals is the most
unfailing test of any country.
And the Sports Minister is outpaced.
Ministers arrived at Westminster
still digesting the news that
Damian Green had been sacked.
The First Secretary of State
had faced allegations
of inappropriate conduct -
although he was forced to resign
for wrongly saying he had no
knowledge that police had once found
legal pornography on his computer.
In the Commons, one Liberal Democrat
MP felt the rules were not
being applied consistently.
Will the Leader of the House make
time available for a Cabinet Office
debate on the selective application
of the ministerial code, so the
Cabinet Office could explain why
the Deputy Prime Minister had to go,
whereas the Foreign Secretary, who -
according to my estimations - has
breached section 1.2A,
7.1 and 8.6 of the ministerial code,
is still with us?
Andrea Leadsom advised Tom Brake
to raise his allegations
with the Cabinet Office directly.
One of the first debates of the day
was about the way Parliament deals
with bullying and harassment.
The Leader of the House revealed
that a Commons working group hasn't
yet managed to come up
with a new way of dealing
Andrea Leadsom explained some
of the proposed measures.
A new behaviour code,
to be consulted on,
which would apply to all those
who work in or for Parliament,
including members, peers
and staff wherever they work.
This behaviour code could sit
alongside the existing
Parliamentary codes of conduct,
which may themselves
For lower-level complaints,
the range of possible sanctions
could include training covering
harassment and bullying,
a full apology, as well as review
of the Parliamentary pass.
In serious cases, further work needs
to be carried out to ensure
sanctions are appropriate,
fair and enforceable.
The Leader of the Opposition
has made it clear to me,
and in his letter to
the Prime Minister,
that the opposition wants
a separate, independent sexual
harassment advisor and support.
We suggest that the sexual adviser
should be appointed now,
who is independent and qualified
to take the complainant
through the process until the tender
is out, which could be by the end
of January, and a new separate
helpline to be set up now,
so if there are cases that exist
now, people don't feel
as if there is nowhere to go
with their complaints.
We cannot have this vacuum.
It can easily be done immediately.
It is profoundly disappointing
that we have been unable to deliver
a report this side of Christmas,
as anticipated and as expected
by members of this House.
This delay is nothing whatsoever
to do with the Leader of the House,
who has personally gone that extra
mile to ensure that progress
is made, but, Mr Speaker,
by failing to deliver this report,
we have let everybody
down in this House.
We have particularly let down
the staff of this House,
who were expecting quick and speedy
progress, and I am appalled
if there is any suggestion that this
may be getting punted
into the long grass.
We actually have an excellent report
ready to go that has been agreed
by all the parties in this House,
practically all the parties
in the House, and has been agreed
by all staff represented.
It cannot be right that it's easier
to sanction a member of this House
for disorderly conduct
in the chamber than it is to
sanction them for disorderly
and disreputable and disgraceful
conduct outside of it.
So could she press ahead on that?
And if she cannot find the unity
in her working group,
just to gently remind the Leader
of the House that this issue
belongs to the House,
and if she cannot get unity
in the working group,
perhaps she should publish a draft
report that all of us could take
part in commenting on,
because I think we would welcome
more progress and more momentum
behind what she's doing.
What worries me about what has been
said today - although I think
it is very good progress -
what worries me about what has been
said today is that there does seem
to be quite a lot of kicking a can
potentially down the road,
and that we're not going to hear
what is going to happen.
And I have to say, I fear that
politics is still stopping
some of those decisions,
and I want some assurances that
whatever sanctions regime
the working group has worked
towards, what ever independent
regime the working group has worked
towards, it is as swiftly
as possible coming to fruition.
Yes, the honourable lady has been
very helpful and open
with her views on this matter,
and I absolutely assure her I am
working to get this sorted
as soon as possible.
There are glaring omissions
in the work so far.
For example, the word
"violence" didn't utter
from her lips this morning.
Can I suggest to her that this
working group is far too narrowly
drawn, and she should seriously
consider setting up a special
Select Committee on which all
members of this House would be able
to apply to be elected,
and it should be conveyed
by a committee of all parties
of the houses of parliament,
because if we want to make
sure this is a modern,
exemplar of the workplace,
fixed for the rest of the world.
Well, I'm grateful to my honourable
friend, and I can absolutely
assure him that one of the proposals
the working group is looking
at is the provision of services
by an independent sexual harassment
and sexual violence advocate.
That would be very key to this.
With that particular expertise.
His comments on the proposal
of a bicameral Select Committee
is an interesting one.
I have mentioned that
as one of the proposals
that has been put to us.
She's right to say
that change is hard.
Would she agree that vested
interests, not least whips offices
reluctant to give up their power,
must not be allowed
to derail Parliament making
progress on harassment?
I have spoken to whips on both sides
of the House, in fact on all sides
of the House, and all are very keen
to see resolution of this matter.
She said in her statement work needs
to be carried out to ensure
sanctions are appropriate and fair.
Will she confirmed that recall is on
the table as an option, and also
that members who have been found to
behave inappropriately will receive
Recall is a
possibility. The working party has
not finished its work on exactly how
that can be brought to bear, but we
are very clear there will be
ultimate sanctions. The issue for
parliament isn't one that only
affects members. It affects peers,
staff, nonmembers staff. There is
quite a large amount of work, which
is why I was very clear that the
work on sanctions needs to be looked
at further to
make sure they are fair vote to the
person who is alleged to have
committed something bad, and also to
the complainant, who deserves
MPs from across the political
spectrum have accused Russia
of trying to interfere in the UK's
political system -
presenting a serious threat
to British democracy.
The Government said it recognised
the threat but there was no evidence
that Moscow had been successful.
The Prime Minister told an audience
in Poland that Russia
was seeking to undermine
the international order.
And MPs demanded a tougher response
to the Kremlin's use of social media
and tighter election spending rules:
The UK is at risk of neglecting the
threat Russia poses, and I would
argue Russia is a clear and present
danger, and presents a threat to our
democracy. President Putin certainly
is not a friend of this country.
Russia would only have interfered in
the EU referendum, or any other
elections, here, to damage the UK
and EU security.
A committee is looking
into the issue of "fake news"
The chair criticised Facebook:
Asking for more evidence of Russian
activity across the site, including
pages, group accounts and profiles,
not just restricted to pay for
advertising. I believe we have a
right to receive information from
them. They conducted their own
research during the French
presidential election, which led to
the deletion of 30,000 pages and
It is time for British
politicians to stop making useful
idiots of themselves by taking... A
lot of the ties that have been made
between the Putin regime and the far
right are well documented, but it
pains me to say there are still some
of these useful idiots on the left
in British politics. My message is
that Russia is a nasty klepto
Chrissy, racist and homophobic, and
makes no secret of wanting to
undermine our democracy.
paranoid tendency to see a red under
every bed is still alive. There is
an explanation for this paranoia.
Look at Donald Trump's victory, the
success of Brexit and the
referendum. Things are not going the
way of liberals and their worldview,
and they just cannot accept that the
workers and the people are
abandoning their ideology. The left
know that the people are never
wrong, so when the people are wrong,
as with Brexit or Trump, the left
needs to find an excuse for why the
people are misbehaving. Russia is
that excuse today.
members have their own opinion, but
they have to accept the ballot box
decision of June 2016. If they
accept that, they have to make sure
that Brexit happens. I have to say
that I do not believe that this
influence change the result of the
There was a conclusion
that Russia was intervening
systematically abroad in the West. I
think it would be naive of us to
assume that Russia was not
intervening here in this country.
That takes us to the heart of the
reform agenda we need to look at. It
is becoming clear that there is a
dark social playbook that is being
used to great effect.
When there is
any suggestion that the Kremlin has
sought to interfere in any process,
we look into this seriously. We have
not seen evidence of successful
interference in UK democratic
As for the enquiry
referred to by Damian Collins...
committee is due to examine the top
brass of Facebook and other social
media sites in February. We
recognise their progress, but there
is far more they need to do in terms
of transparency and cooperation.
This is a work in progress. We do
not think the Select Committee on
this is being given the straight
answers we expect.
You're watching Thursday
in Parliament with me, Mandy Baker.
A leaked report into conditions
at Liverpool prison has concluded
that prisoners were living
in the worst conditions
inspectors had ever seen.
At an unannounced visit
to the jail in September,
inspectors found inmates living
in "squalid conditions",
with rat and cockroach infestations.
In the Lords, peers were damning.
The situation in Her Majesty 's
prison, Liverpool, is the latest
manifestation of the crisis in our
prisons. It is ace shameful litany
of squalor, sickness and apparently
even death. Instead of initially
refusing to comment on the leaked
report, the Government should
already have published it, together
with its response. Will it examine
the apparent failure of contractors
over a long period to carry out
major repair work in a way that did
not threaten the well-being of
inmates and staff?
matters were raised by the report,
but I'm not going to comment on the
content of the leaked report. The
inspector gave a debriefing to the
prison service straight after, and
we have responded to that. The
prison is a Victorian prison, and
there are real issues with regard to
the accommodation there. It is worth
noting that not a pound has been
spent on the cell accommodation at
Liverpool since 1994. In the
intervening period, there was a
One of the most shocking sentences
in the Chief Inspector's
introduction to this report,
which is a shocking indictment
Lord Marks said the report may have
been leaked but there was no
doubting its content.
The worst inspectors had seen.
Prisoners spending 22 hours a day
in filthy vermin infested cells,
with exposed electrical wiring
and blocked or leaking lavatories.
Within weeks of the inspection,
two inmates killed themselves.
Yes, the governor has been sacked.
But that is not enough.
Will the MOJ please act urgently
to establish a crisis task force
to work with the inspectorate's
recommendations here and elsewhere
to turn around the dreadful
conditions in our failing prisons?
My Lords, we have replaced not only
the governor but the deputy governor
and the head of health care
at the prison itself.
We intend to establish a new unit
in the prison service,
to enhance our response
to the recommendations
of the inspector, which will involve
monitoring and an audit
This will commence in January 2018.
The real problem is the continued
understaffing of our prisons
and the failure therefore to provide
the sort of care that common
humanity would suggest was necessary
to those in the care
of the state as prisoners.
One of the most shocking sentences
in the Chief Inspector's
introduction to this report,
which is a shocking indictment
of the way prisons are run,
reads: we saw clear evidence that
local prison managers had sought
help from regional and national
management to improve conditions
they need to be unacceptable,
long before our arrival,
but had met with little response.
Could the noble lord the Minister
please tell the House who in prison
service headquarters is responsible
and accountable for the oversight
of Her Majesty's prison Liverpool
and how that oversight is exercised?
My lord, I'm not going to name
individuals in the prison service.
I was concerned that the noble
Lord had become unwell.
I am not going to name individuals.
It would be most invidious to do so.
The prison service is
responsible for the conditions
at Her Majesty's prison,
Scotland Yard has said it'll examine
dozens of investigations
following the collapse of two rape
cases in which the police had failed
to disclose vital evidence.
Even before the latest cases,
the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright,
had ordered a separate inquiry
into disclosure in criminal trials.
The Conservative Chair
of the Justice Committee said
there had been "appalling failures"
by the police and prosecutors
Given the significance of this, will
be attorney make sure that the
review he is carrying out, as
announced by the Prime Minister,
looks not only at the working
practices, but the professional
culture and the independence and
objectivity of the Crown Prosecution
Service of these matters. I noticed
it was an independently instructed
member of the bar, Mr Jerry Hayes,
who was responsible for highlighting
what was the clear failure of the
Crown Prosecution Service in this
With all that went wrong in
this case which was also a great
deal, it highlighted what was good
with the criminal justice system as
well as what went wrong.
We do owe a
debt of gratitude for those who have
exercised their judgment in cases
like this and this applies to this
individual council, but in terms of
the wider point my honourable friend
makes, he knows, because I have said
it before, that my view is that
these were appalling failures of the
criminal justice system. We need
urgently to understand what went
wrong in these particular cases but
we also, as he says, need to look
more broadly at the question of
disclosure which has been an issue
for some time. It relates to what
people know they should be doing,
and how much information they are
prepared to take account of, but it
also relates to some of the
challenges we face, from a very
large amount of electronic material
and a very large number of cases
now, and so the systems need to be
fit for purpose, and the review I am
undertaking will seek to ensure that
The Attorney General.
The Government has been urged
to increase funding for refuges
for victims of domestic violence.
As part of changes to the welfare
system, ministers plan to give local
councils a "ring-fenced" grant
to pay for short-term supported
housing, such as refuges
for domestic violence victims
and homeless people.
That means accommodation will no
longer be funded directly
by the residents' housing benefit.
But charities fear the change
could threaten their viability.
All short-term provision, for
example hostels and refugees will
continue to be funded at the same
level by local authorities in 2020,
as noted at the recent budget 2017,
the document within that budget,
there will be a transfer of funds
from welfare spending to my
department from 2020, 2021. The
right honourable member voiced his
concerns on October 25 over future
funding levels for supported housing
after 2020. I would just like to
take this opportunity to reassure
him that the amount of grant funding
for this partner after 2020 will
take account of the cost of
provision and the great future
Can be Minister clarify
funding domestic violence refuge
position for the same level as today
just the shortfall across the
country. Around 90 women and their
children are being turned away every
day across the country, without an
increase in the funding for refuge
position, and without establishing a
national network, the Government
will fail to guarantee that every
woman and child fleeing domestic
abuse can be kept safe in a refuge?
The honourable lady makes a good
point. Every woman should be
protected and have a safe place to
go. There are more bed spaces than
there were in 2010. She does make a
point and we are doing a full audit
early next year, to see what
provision of life across the
country, and that will allow us to
see where the gaps are and the
challenges are because we want to
make sure women are safe.
minister give a guarantee that the
extra cows and costs will be met in
full without -- the extra housing
cost will be met in full without
quibble or caveat. Costs and
responsibility for delivery cannot
just be passed onto local
government, charities are housing
providers. Can I encourage the
Minister to drop the mantra that
providing housing support for people
is about getting them into work, and
just say that providing housing
support is about helping people with
This is not at all
about penny-pinching. I can also
reassure her on the point of work.
The point I was making was about
women's refuges where there are
quite often women who are being
abused and subject to domestic
violence that have got reasonable
jobs and without giving up those
jobs, they would not qualify for
housing benefit, and I cannot see
how that is right at all.
But the opposition said
the government's statement had
failed to clear up concerns and it's
entire supported housing
policy was in trouble.
In future years, I have to say is
students will be giving this is a
case study in disastrous government
decision-making. This was the third
policy rewrite in two years since
George Osborne made the crude policy
decision simply to give the Treasury
big cost savings. The Government
still has not got it right. We'll be
Minister accept that government must
work further, with parliament, and
with the housing sector, to meet the
terms of the resolution, and sort
out a good long-term system for the
future and the funding of supported
Now, should Channel Four
move out of London?
The Culture Secretary has told MPs
there were "clear benefits"
to relocating the broadcaster
to another major city.
Ministers believe a move
would generate millions of pounds
and help the creative industries.
Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester
have all been touted
as possible new homes.
A Labour MP backed the idea.
Will the Secretary of State confirm
that there is an approximate £600
million benefit to broadcasting by
moving Channel 4 out of London? And
would she also confirm that it is
unacceptable that any four of the
120 Commissioners of programmes for
Channel 4 currently live outside of
London. There is an economic benefit
whether it is Salford which I
prefer, Birmingham, Sheffield Leeds,
it should be done today.
it would be a bid for Wrexham so I
am interested to hear his views on
other locations. There are many
different estimates to the benefit,
but it is a clear benefit to the
country of Channel 4 relocating out
of London. They are a publicly owned
broadcaster, as a publicly owned
broadcaster we expect them to
deliver benefits above and beyond
commercial benefits and that
includes relocating out of London.
Does my right honourable friend
agree that to send the message that
Channel 4 is an alternative
broadcaster then its headquarters
should not be in NSW one?
honourable friend speaks with great
experience and knowledge on this
matter and I think house does well
to listen to his wide words.
Channel 4 is not a programme maker
but a programme Commissioner, there
is limited benefits in moving staff
and it should be programme making
which reflects the diversity of the
This is one of the
arguments which has been put forward
about the way Channel 4's business
model and how it operates. I think
we have seen with what happened with
the BBC moving to Salford, albeit I
accept with a different business
model, but that creativity, that
clustering of talent really have had
benefit. I think you only have to
look, one only has to look at the
analysis of the programming which is
commissioned outside London, to see
that basing outside London could
have real significant benefits for
those individual benefit companies
which are not in FW one.
It's not often the shadow secretary
of state gets to make
an announcement in the Commons.
But then Tom Watson
is very quick on his feet.
Mr Speaker, I would like to announce
to the House that the Commonwealth
Games have just been awarded to
The minister was miffed.
The cheek of the gentleman. This was
announced formally at 9:30am in
The sports minister
outrun by her shadow.
That's all we've got time for now.
But please join my colleague
Alicia McCarthy at the same time
tomorrow for a look back
at all the parliamentary twists
and turns of the last four months.
But for now from me,
Mandy Baker, goodbye.