21/12/2017 Thursday in Parliament


21/12/2017

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 21 December presented by Mandy Baker.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to the programme.

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Coming up in the next half hour:

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Ministers admit the group examining

harassment in Parliament hasn't

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managed to come up with

a new complaints system.

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It cannot be right that it's easier

to sanction a member of this House

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for disorderly conduct in the

chamber than it is to sanction them

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for disorderly, disreputable and

disgraceful conduct outside of it.

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Peers condemned the state of

Liverpool prison.

How do squalid

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conditions in a prison overrun with

rats and cockroaches meet

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Churchill's famous dictum that the

treatment of criminals is the most

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unfailing test of any country.

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And the Sports Minister is outpaced.

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Ministers arrived at Westminster

still digesting the news that

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Damian Green had been sacked.

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The First Secretary of State

had faced allegations

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of inappropriate conduct -

although he was forced to resign

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for wrongly saying he had no

knowledge that police had once found

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legal pornography on his computer.

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In the Commons, one Liberal Democrat

MP felt the rules were not

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being applied consistently.

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Will the Leader of the House make

time available for a Cabinet Office

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debate on the selective application

of the ministerial code, so the

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Cabinet Office could explain why

the Deputy Prime Minister had to go,

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whereas the Foreign Secretary, who -

according to my estimations - has

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breached section 1.2A,

7.1 and 8.6 of the ministerial code,

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is still with us?

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Andrea Leadsom advised Tom Brake

to raise his allegations

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with the Cabinet Office directly.

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One of the first debates of the day

was about the way Parliament deals

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with bullying and harassment.

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The Leader of the House revealed

that a Commons working group hasn't

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yet managed to come up

with a new way of dealing

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with complaints.

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Andrea Leadsom explained some

of the proposed measures.

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A new behaviour code,

to be consulted on,

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which would apply to all those

who work in or for Parliament,

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including members, peers

and staff wherever they work.

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This behaviour code could sit

alongside the existing

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Parliamentary codes of conduct,

which may themselves

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require amendment.

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For lower-level complaints,

the range of possible sanctions

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could include training covering

harassment and bullying,

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a full apology, as well as review

where appropriate,

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of the Parliamentary pass.

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In serious cases, further work needs

to be carried out to ensure

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sanctions are appropriate,

fair and enforceable.

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The Leader of the Opposition

has made it clear to me,

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and in his letter to

the Prime Minister,

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that the opposition wants

a separate, independent sexual

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harassment advisor and support.

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We suggest that the sexual adviser

should be appointed now,

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who is independent and qualified

to take the complainant

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through the process until the tender

is out, which could be by the end

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of January, and a new separate

helpline to be set up now,

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so if there are cases that exist

now, people don't feel

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as if there is nowhere to go

with their complaints.

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We cannot have this vacuum.

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It can easily be done immediately.

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It is profoundly disappointing

that we have been unable to deliver

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a report this side of Christmas,

as anticipated and as expected

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by members of this House.

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This delay is nothing whatsoever

to do with the Leader of the House,

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who has personally gone that extra

mile to ensure that progress

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is made, but, Mr Speaker,

by failing to deliver this report,

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we have let everybody

down in this House.

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We have particularly let down

the staff of this House,

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who were expecting quick and speedy

progress, and I am appalled

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if there is any suggestion that this

may be getting punted

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into the long grass.

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We actually have an excellent report

ready to go that has been agreed

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by all the parties in this House,

practically all the parties

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in the House, and has been agreed

by all staff represented.

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It cannot be right that it's easier

to sanction a member of this House

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for disorderly conduct

in the chamber than it is to

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sanction them for disorderly

and disreputable and disgraceful

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conduct outside of it.

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So could she press ahead on that?

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And if she cannot find the unity

in her working group,

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just to gently remind the Leader

of the House that this issue

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belongs to the House,

and if she cannot get unity

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in the working group,

perhaps she should publish a draft

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report that all of us could take

part in commenting on,

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because I think we would welcome

more progress and more momentum

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behind what she's doing.

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What worries me about what has been

said today - although I think

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it is very good progress -

what worries me about what has been

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said today is that there does seem

to be quite a lot of kicking a can

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potentially down the road,

and that we're not going to hear

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what is going to happen.

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And I have to say, I fear that

politics is still stopping

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some of those decisions,

and I want some assurances that

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whatever sanctions regime

the working group has worked

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towards, what ever independent

regime the working group has worked

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towards, it is as swiftly

as possible coming to fruition.

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Hear, hear.

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Yes, the honourable lady has been

very helpful and open

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with her views on this matter,

and I absolutely assure her I am

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working to get this sorted

as soon as possible.

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There are glaring omissions

in the work so far.

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For example, the word

"violence" didn't utter

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from her lips this morning.

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Can I suggest to her that this

working group is far too narrowly

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drawn, and she should seriously

consider setting up a special

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Select Committee on which all

members of this House would be able

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to apply to be elected,

and it should be conveyed

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by a committee of all parties

of the houses of parliament,

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because if we want to make

sure this is a modern,

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exemplar of the workplace,

fixed for the rest of the world.

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Well, I'm grateful to my honourable

friend, and I can absolutely

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assure him that one of the proposals

the working group is looking

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at is the provision of services

by an independent sexual harassment

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and sexual violence advocate.

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That would be very key to this.

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With that particular expertise.

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His comments on the proposal

of a bicameral Select Committee

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is an interesting one.

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I have mentioned that

as one of the proposals

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that has been put to us.

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She's right to say

that change is hard.

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Would she agree that vested

interests, not least whips offices

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reluctant to give up their power,

must not be allowed

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to derail Parliament making

progress on harassment?

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I have spoken to whips on both sides

of the House, in fact on all sides

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of the House, and all are very keen

to see resolution of this matter.

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She said in her statement work needs

to be carried out to ensure

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sanctions are appropriate and fair.

Will she confirmed that recall is on

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the table as an option, and also

that members who have been found to

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behave inappropriately will receive

severance pay.

Recall is a

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possibility. The working party has

not finished its work on exactly how

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that can be brought to bear, but we

are very clear there will be

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ultimate sanctions. The issue for

parliament isn't one that only

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affects members. It affects peers,

staff, nonmembers staff. There is

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quite a large amount of work, which

is why I was very clear that the

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work on sanctions needs to be looked

at further to

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make sure they are fair vote to the

person who is alleged to have

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committed something bad, and also to

the complainant, who deserves

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justice.

Andrea Leadsom.

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MPs from across the political

spectrum have accused Russia

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of trying to interfere in the UK's

political system -

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presenting a serious threat

to British democracy.

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The Government said it recognised

the threat but there was no evidence

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that Moscow had been successful.

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The Prime Minister told an audience

in Poland that Russia

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was seeking to undermine

the international order.

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And MPs demanded a tougher response

to the Kremlin's use of social media

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and tighter election spending rules:

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The UK is at risk of neglecting the

threat Russia poses, and I would

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argue Russia is a clear and present

danger, and presents a threat to our

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democracy. President Putin certainly

is not a friend of this country.

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Russia would only have interfered in

the EU referendum, or any other

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elections, here, to damage the UK

and EU security.

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A committee is looking

into the issue of "fake news"

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and disinformation.

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The chair criticised Facebook:

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Asking for more evidence of Russian

activity across the site, including

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pages, group accounts and profiles,

not just restricted to pay for

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advertising. I believe we have a

right to receive information from

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them. They conducted their own

research during the French

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presidential election, which led to

the deletion of 30,000 pages and

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accounts.

It is time for British

politicians to stop making useful

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idiots of themselves by taking... A

lot of the ties that have been made

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between the Putin regime and the far

right are well documented, but it

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pains me to say there are still some

of these useful idiots on the left

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in British politics. My message is

that Russia is a nasty klepto

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Chrissy, racist and homophobic, and

makes no secret of wanting to

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undermine our democracy.

The

paranoid tendency to see a red under

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every bed is still alive. There is

an explanation for this paranoia.

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Look at Donald Trump's victory, the

success of Brexit and the

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referendum. Things are not going the

way of liberals and their worldview,

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and they just cannot accept that the

workers and the people are

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abandoning their ideology. The left

know that the people are never

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wrong, so when the people are wrong,

as with Brexit or Trump, the left

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needs to find an excuse for why the

people are misbehaving. Russia is

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that excuse today.

Honourable

members have their own opinion, but

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they have to accept the ballot box

decision of June 2016. If they

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accept that, they have to make sure

that Brexit happens. I have to say

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that I do not believe that this

influence change the result of the

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referendum.

There was a conclusion

that Russia was intervening

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systematically abroad in the West. I

think it would be naive of us to

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assume that Russia was not

intervening here in this country.

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That takes us to the heart of the

reform agenda we need to look at. It

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is becoming clear that there is a

dark social playbook that is being

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used to great effect.

When there is

any suggestion that the Kremlin has

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sought to interfere in any process,

we look into this seriously. We have

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not seen evidence of successful

interference in UK democratic

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processes.

As for the enquiry

referred to by Damian Collins...

The

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committee is due to examine the top

brass of Facebook and other social

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media sites in February. We

recognise their progress, but there

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is far more they need to do in terms

of transparency and cooperation.

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This is a work in progress. We do

not think the Select Committee on

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this is being given the straight

answers we expect.

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You're watching Thursday

in Parliament with me, Mandy Baker.

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A leaked report into conditions

at Liverpool prison has concluded

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that prisoners were living

in the worst conditions

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inspectors had ever seen.

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At an unannounced visit

to the jail in September,

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inspectors found inmates living

in "squalid conditions",

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with rat and cockroach infestations.

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In the Lords, peers were damning.

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The situation in Her Majesty 's

prison, Liverpool, is the latest

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manifestation of the crisis in our

prisons. It is ace shameful litany

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of squalor, sickness and apparently

even death. Instead of initially

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refusing to comment on the leaked

report, the Government should

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already have published it, together

with its response. Will it examine

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the apparent failure of contractors

over a long period to carry out

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major repair work in a way that did

not threaten the well-being of

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inmates and staff?

Very troubling

matters were raised by the report,

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but I'm not going to comment on the

content of the leaked report. The

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inspector gave a debriefing to the

prison service straight after, and

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we have responded to that. The

prison is a Victorian prison, and

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there are real issues with regard to

the accommodation there. It is worth

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noting that not a pound has been

spent on the cell accommodation at

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Liverpool since 1994. In the

intervening period, there was a

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Labour Government.

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One of the most shocking sentences

in the Chief Inspector's

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introduction to this report,

which is a shocking indictment

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Lord Marks said the report may have

been leaked but there was no

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doubting its content.

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The worst inspectors had seen.

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Prisoners spending 22 hours a day

in filthy vermin infested cells,

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with exposed electrical wiring

and blocked or leaking lavatories.

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Within weeks of the inspection,

two inmates killed themselves.

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Yes, the governor has been sacked.

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But that is not enough.

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Will the MOJ please act urgently

to establish a crisis task force

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to work with the inspectorate's

recommendations here and elsewhere

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to turn around the dreadful

conditions in our failing prisons?

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My Lords, we have replaced not only

the governor but the deputy governor

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and the head of health care

at the prison itself.

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We intend to establish a new unit

in the prison service,

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to enhance our response

to the recommendations

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of the inspector, which will involve

monitoring and an audit

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of recommendations.

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This will commence in January 2018.

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The real problem is the continued

understaffing of our prisons

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and the failure therefore to provide

the sort of care that common

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humanity would suggest was necessary

to those in the care

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of the state as prisoners.

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One of the most shocking sentences

in the Chief Inspector's

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introduction to this report,

which is a shocking indictment

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of the way prisons are run,

reads: we saw clear evidence that

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local prison managers had sought

help from regional and national

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management to improve conditions

they need to be unacceptable,

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long before our arrival,

but had met with little response.

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Could the noble lord the Minister

please tell the House who in prison

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service headquarters is responsible

and accountable for the oversight

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of Her Majesty's prison Liverpool

and how that oversight is exercised?

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My lord, I'm not going to name

individuals in the prison service.

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I'm sorry.

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I was concerned that the noble

Lord had become unwell.

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I am not going to name individuals.

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It would be most invidious to do so.

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The prison service is

responsible for the conditions

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at Her Majesty's prison,

Liverpool.

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Scotland Yard has said it'll examine

dozens of investigations

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following the collapse of two rape

cases in which the police had failed

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to disclose vital evidence.

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Even before the latest cases,

the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright,

0:16:440:16:46

had ordered a separate inquiry

into disclosure in criminal trials.

0:16:460:16:48

The Conservative Chair

of the Justice Committee said

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there had been "appalling failures"

by the police and prosecutors

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Given the significance of this, will

be attorney make sure that the

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review he is carrying out, as

announced by the Prime Minister,

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looks not only at the working

practices, but the professional

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culture and the independence and

objectivity of the Crown Prosecution

0:17:130:17:17

Service of these matters. I noticed

it was an independently instructed

0:17:170:17:21

member of the bar, Mr Jerry Hayes,

who was responsible for highlighting

0:17:210:17:26

what was the clear failure of the

Crown Prosecution Service in this

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case.

With all that went wrong in

this case which was also a great

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deal, it highlighted what was good

with the criminal justice system as

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well as what went wrong.

We do owe a

debt of gratitude for those who have

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exercised their judgment in cases

like this and this applies to this

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individual council, but in terms of

the wider point my honourable friend

0:17:490:17:53

makes, he knows, because I have said

it before, that my view is that

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these were appalling failures of the

criminal justice system. We need

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urgently to understand what went

wrong in these particular cases but

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we also, as he says, need to look

more broadly at the question of

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disclosure which has been an issue

for some time. It relates to what

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people know they should be doing,

and how much information they are

0:18:120:18:17

prepared to take account of, but it

also relates to some of the

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challenges we face, from a very

large amount of electronic material

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and a very large number of cases

now, and so the systems need to be

0:18:240:18:28

fit for purpose, and the review I am

undertaking will seek to ensure that

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they are.

The Attorney General.

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The Government has been urged

to increase funding for refuges

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for victims of domestic violence.

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As part of changes to the welfare

system, ministers plan to give local

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councils a "ring-fenced" grant

to pay for short-term supported

0:18:420:18:45

housing, such as refuges

for domestic violence victims

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and homeless people.

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That means accommodation will no

longer be funded directly

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by the residents' housing benefit.

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But charities fear the change

could threaten their viability.

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All short-term provision, for

example hostels and refugees will

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continue to be funded at the same

level by local authorities in 2020,

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as noted at the recent budget 2017,

the document within that budget,

0:19:120:19:16

there will be a transfer of funds

from welfare spending to my

0:19:160:19:21

department from 2020, 2021. The

right honourable member voiced his

0:19:210:19:29

concerns on October 25 over future

funding levels for supported housing

0:19:290:19:34

after 2020. I would just like to

take this opportunity to reassure

0:19:340:19:37

him that the amount of grant funding

for this partner after 2020 will

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take account of the cost of

provision and the great future

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provision.

Can be Minister clarify

funding domestic violence refuge

0:19:480:19:54

position for the same level as today

just the shortfall across the

0:19:540:20:02

country. Around 90 women and their

children are being turned away every

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day across the country, without an

increase in the funding for refuge

0:20:050:20:11

position, and without establishing a

national network, the Government

0:20:110:20:15

will fail to guarantee that every

woman and child fleeing domestic

0:20:150:20:18

abuse can be kept safe in a refuge?

The honourable lady makes a good

0:20:180:20:23

point. Every woman should be

protected and have a safe place to

0:20:230:20:26

go. There are more bed spaces than

there were in 2010. She does make a

0:20:260:20:31

good

0:20:310:20:40

point and we are doing a full audit

early next year, to see what

0:20:410:20:44

provision of life across the

country, and that will allow us to

0:20:440:20:46

see where the gaps are and the

challenges are because we want to

0:20:460:20:49

make sure women are safe.

Can the

minister give a guarantee that the

0:20:490:20:51

extra cows and costs will be met in

full without -- the extra housing

0:20:510:20:54

cost will be met in full without

quibble or caveat. Costs and

0:20:540:20:58

responsibility for delivery cannot

just be passed onto local

0:20:580:21:02

government, charities are housing

providers. Can I encourage the

0:21:020:21:06

Minister to drop the mantra that

providing housing support for people

0:21:060:21:09

is about getting them into work, and

just say that providing housing

0:21:090:21:12

support is about helping people with

their housing?

This is not at all

0:21:120:21:19

about penny-pinching. I can also

reassure her on the point of work.

0:21:190:21:22

The point I was making was about

women's refuges where there are

0:21:220:21:26

quite often women who are being

abused and subject to domestic

0:21:260:21:32

violence that have got reasonable

jobs and without giving up those

0:21:320:21:35

jobs, they would not qualify for

housing benefit, and I cannot see

0:21:350:21:40

how that is right at all.

0:21:400:21:45

But the opposition said

the government's statement had

0:21:450:21:47

failed to clear up concerns and it's

entire supported housing

0:21:470:21:49

policy was in trouble.

0:21:490:21:52

In future years, I have to say is

students will be giving this is a

0:21:520:21:57

case study in disastrous government

decision-making. This was the third

0:21:570:22:01

policy rewrite in two years since

George Osborne made the crude policy

0:22:010:22:05

decision simply to give the Treasury

big cost savings. The Government

0:22:050:22:09

still has not got it right. We'll be

Minister accept that government must

0:22:090:22:14

work further, with parliament, and

with the housing sector, to meet the

0:22:140:22:20

terms of the resolution, and sort

out a good long-term system for the

0:22:200:22:24

future and the funding of supported

housing?

0:22:240:22:29

Now, should Channel Four

move out of London?

0:22:290:22:31

The Culture Secretary has told MPs

there were "clear benefits"

0:22:310:22:34

to relocating the broadcaster

to another major city.

0:22:340:22:36

Ministers believe a move

would generate millions of pounds

0:22:360:22:38

and help the creative industries.

0:22:380:22:39

Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester

have all been touted

0:22:390:22:42

as possible new homes.

0:22:420:22:43

A Labour MP backed the idea.

0:22:430:22:51

Will the Secretary of State confirm

that there is an approximate £600

0:22:510:22:56

million benefit to broadcasting by

moving Channel 4 out of London? And

0:22:560:23:01

would she also confirm that it is

unacceptable that any four of the

0:23:010:23:06

120 Commissioners of programmes for

Channel 4 currently live outside of

0:23:060:23:09

London. There is an economic benefit

whether it is Salford which I

0:23:090:23:16

prefer, Birmingham, Sheffield Leeds,

it should be done today.

I thought

0:23:160:23:19

it would be a bid for Wrexham so I

am interested to hear his views on

0:23:190:23:25

other locations. There are many

different estimates to the benefit,

0:23:250:23:28

but it is a clear benefit to the

country of Channel 4 relocating out

0:23:280:23:34

of London. They are a publicly owned

broadcaster, as a publicly owned

0:23:340:23:38

broadcaster we expect them to

deliver benefits above and beyond

0:23:380:23:45

commercial benefits and that

includes relocating out of London.

0:23:450:23:48

Does my right honourable friend

agree that to send the message that

0:23:480:23:51

Channel 4 is an alternative

broadcaster then its headquarters

0:23:510:23:55

should not be in NSW one?

My right

honourable friend speaks with great

0:23:550:24:00

experience and knowledge on this

matter and I think house does well

0:24:000:24:03

to listen to his wide words.

'S

Channel 4 is not a programme maker

0:24:030:24:09

but a programme Commissioner, there

is limited benefits in moving staff

0:24:090:24:13

and it should be programme making

which reflects the diversity of the

0:24:130:24:17

country.

This is one of the

arguments which has been put forward

0:24:170:24:20

about the way Channel 4's business

model and how it operates. I think

0:24:200:24:24

we have seen with what happened with

the BBC moving to Salford, albeit I

0:24:240:24:29

accept with a different business

model, but that creativity, that

0:24:290:24:35

clustering of talent really have had

benefit. I think you only have to

0:24:350:24:42

look, one only has to look at the

analysis of the programming which is

0:24:420:24:46

commissioned outside London, to see

that basing outside London could

0:24:460:24:51

have real significant benefits for

those individual benefit companies

0:24:510:24:54

which are not in FW one.

0:24:540:24:59

It's not often the shadow secretary

of state gets to make

0:24:590:25:01

an announcement in the Commons.

0:25:010:25:02

But then Tom Watson

is very quick on his feet.

0:25:020:25:09

Mr Speaker, I would like to announce

to the House that the Commonwealth

0:25:090:25:12

Games have just been awarded to

Birmingham.

0:25:120:25:17

The minister was miffed.

0:25:170:25:22

The cheek of the gentleman. This was

announced formally at 9:30am in

0:25:220:25:27

Birmingham.

0:25:270:25:29

The sports minister

outrun by her shadow.

0:25:290:25:31

That's all we've got time for now.

0:25:310:25:32

But please join my colleague

Alicia McCarthy at the same time

0:25:320:25:35

tomorrow for a look back

at all the parliamentary twists

0:25:350:25:37

and turns of the last four months.

0:25:370:25:39

But for now from me,

Mandy Baker, goodbye.

0:25:390:25:43

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