Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 1 March, presented by Alicia McCarthy.
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Hello there and welcome
to Thursday in Parliament.
Coming up on this programme:
the Government says it's scrapping
stage two of the Leveson enquiry
into press standards, claiming
the media landscape has changed.
But the news gets a furious
response from Labour.
A breach of trust and a bitter blow
to the victims of press intrusion.
Questions on the Beast from the East
to the transport secretary as snow
causes chaos across the UK.
Also on this programme: peers call
for more regulation on the use
of facial recognition technology.
These techniques are extremely
powerful but they are out of the
bag. The train has left the station,
whichever metaphor you want to use.
And after 81 countries
add folic acid to food
to try to prevent birth defects -
questions as to why the UK hasn't.
Isn't it a disgrace that we haven't
gotten to the point of preventing
that suffering in our own country.
But first: The government
is to abandon the next stage
of the Leveson enquiry
into press intrusion.
The Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock,
also told MPs that he would repeal
an existing law which would make
newspapers pay the legal costs
of people claiming libel -
even if the case was thrown out.
The announcements were greeted
with dismay by Labour, who said
the decision was a "bitter blow"
to the victims of press intrusion.
The Conservatives opposed the second
stage in their election manifesto.
Matt Hancock reminded MPs
that the first stage had cost
We do not believe that
reopening this costly
and time-consuming public enquiry
is the right way forward.
So, considering all of the factors
in the House today, I have informed
Sir Brian that we are formally
closing the enquiry but we will take
action to safeguard the lifeblood
of our democratic discourse
and tackle the challenges our media
face today, not a decade ago.
He felt the new Salfit illiterates I
was working better than the previous
system. Any overturned a court act
which would see media paying cost in
libel cases whether they lost or
won. He quoted one response to a
consultation on the matter.
He want on to say section
40 risks, and I quote,
damaging the future of the paper
that you love and that the impact
will be to make it much more
difficult for papers to survive.
These are not my words, Mr Speaker,
what the words of Alastair Campbell,
talking about the chilling threat
of section 40.
And if anybody knows
about threats to the press,
it's Alastair Campbell.
At national and local levels,
a press that can hold the powerful
to account remains an essential
component of our democracy.
We need high-quality journalism
to thrive in the digital world.
We seek a press and a media
that is robust and independently
regulated and that reports
without fear or favour.
The Leveson enquiry was triggered
by the phone hacking scandal
and cases such as that
of the murdered schoolgirl,
Millie Dowler, whose mobile phone
was accessed by reporters.
Part two was supposed to cover
unlawful press activity
and relations between journalists
and the police.
Labour's spokesman, Tom Watson,
has campaigned on press intrusion,
and his office has received around
half a million pounds
from his fellow privacy
campaigner, Max Mosley.
Labour has said it will receive no
more money from Mr Mosley,
after a row about a racist
he published in 1961.
Tom Watson referred to that
at the beginning of his remarks:
If I thought for one moment he held
those views contained in that
leaflet 57 years ago,
I would not have given
him the time of day.
He is a man, though,
who in the face of great family
tragedy and overwhelming media
intimidation, chose to use his
limited resources to support
the weak against the strong.
He said the announcement
was a breach of trust to families,
like Millie Dowlers.
Let me close with the words of
former Prime Minister David Cameron
to the love and enquiry
in June 20 12.
"I will never forget meeting
with that family in Downing Street.
"To run through the terms
of this enquiry with them,
"and to hear what they had been
through and how it had redoubled,
"trebled the pain and agony had been
through over losing Millie.
"I'll never forget that."
And that is the test of all of this.
It's not, do the politicians or the
press feel happy with what we get.
It is, are we really protecting
people who have been caught up
and absolutely thrown
to the wolves by this process?
That's what the test is.
The Secretary of State
will prosper politically
from his statement today,
but he's failed that test.
What if it is for the victims of
phone hacking and press abuse? What
does the secretary say to the
countless victims of massive use --
of press abuse? There is nothing in
this of any promises that will be
made to them by a conservative Prime
Minister in legislation that was
voted on on by the Secretary of
State. Times have not changed for
the victims and there is nothing in
this war them.
What I've said and
what I will say to them is that we
have to make sure that the media and
news industry that we have in the UK
and hold the powerful to account and
can respond to today's challenges.
Whilst newspapers make the life of
an elite intolerable, they make
of State, are utterly
dismayed by your statement.
I value freedom of the press,
but does the Secretary of State not
see the sad irony in talking
about how the press has held
the powerful to account and then
closing the door on our opportunity
to hold the powerful voices
of the press to account
on behalf of of the victims?
Now more than ever,
newspapers play a vital role
in holding both government
and opposition to account
and he is absolutely right that
rather than looking backwards
at the events of ten years ago,
and adding to the cost
of local newspapers,
we should be supporting newspapers
in meeting the challenges
of the internet giants.
Now to transport questions,
where unsurprisingly, the impact
of the current wintry weather
was on the agenda.
The "Beast from the East"
and Storm Emma have led to trains
being cancelled across the UK.
Alongside commuter chaos,
flights have also been
delayed or cancelled,
while driving conditions have been
treacherous on many roads,
with Scotland and the north east
of England among the worst affected.
Forecasters are warning
of more disruption to come
as the freezing weather continues.
Well, one MP wanted
an investigation into why some
One MP wanted an investigation into
why some services had struggled.
I wonder if my right
honourable friend would come
after the snow event is over,
ask some serious questions or even
review why it is that
when we have an event like this,
we still are not in any way,
in some cases, prepared.
For example, I discovered yesterday
that Heathrow is busy off-loading
flights because they can't
cope with it, whereas...
It is regional flights.
What I am saying to my honourable
friend is that, given all of that,
if places like Gatwick and other
airports are able to cope,
does he not think it is ridiculous
that at some airports
are simply unable to cope
and others in the UK can?
Mr Speaker, of course I know
a number of members are here today
because flights to regional airports
were not able to go and I hope
and would expect us to be able
to sort that out today as quickly
as possible, though
it's really important
system is run safely.
Of course, one of the benefits
of the expansion of Heathrow Airport
is that that airport will become
more resilient to difficult
situations like this week,
and it will mean that connections
to regional airports
are more reliable.
This week of all weeks, rail passage
want up-to-date information
about delays and cancellations.
South Eastern trains' website has
failed to provide any live time
update in any single rush hour
of this week, today included.
Will my right honourable friend bear
that in mind when the franchise
comes up for renewal?
My honourable friend is a powerful
champion for constituents in Bromley
and Chislehurst and he's right
to expect accurate and prompt
and timely information so that
passengers can have the journey
quality that they deserve.
Questioning then focused
on the East Coast Mainline
and the decision to end early
the rail franchise run
by Stagecoach and Virgin.
He said he knew about a problem with
the stagecoach finances and had been
talking about the Department of
Finance with it for two years. Then
why did he not put a contingency
plan forward given that his
department... Mr Speaker, the
Secretary of State has had two years
to sort this mess out and is it not
simply incredible that he still does
not know what to do?
Let's be clear.
I've been Secretary of State for 18
months, Mr Speaker, and since I
became aware, we have been doing
careful contingency planning so we
have a long-term plan for this route
and we have short-term options am a
but you can't actually put those
short-term options into place until
the appropriate moment arrives when
they are necessary, and we are
prepared for that moment when it
arises and we will deliver the
Given that the
taxpayers Arty lost out on over £2
billion of payments, tender
secretary advised the House whether
the ramifications and termination of
the franchise are fully concluded?
What sums of money are earmarked to
settle any further demands of
misters Branson and Souter through
We have no more written
off £2 billion then they rode off,
because the reality is this is up
being a profitable railway that will
whatever happens continue to
generate a substantial return for
the taxpayer and it is about time
they did their sums properly rather
than misrepresenting reality.
You're watching Thursday
in Parliament, with me,
Still to come, a chance for MPs
to show off their language skills -
as the Commons celebrates
the national day of Wales.
A happy Saint David's day.
Before that, in the Lords,
there was a call for better
regulation for the use
of facial recognition technology
by the security service and police.
Biometric software can identify
someone by comparing a photo
or video to a stored face-print.
It's used for security but also
increasingly by private companies.
One peer, who said she'd been
arrested but not charged
while attending a peaceful
protest, raised concerns.
I'm very concerned that this
technology is being used
with a database of illegal images
of innocent people and I include
myself in that number.
It seems that the facial
is using the Police National
Database, which contains tens
of thousands of people
who were never charged or convicted
of an offence.
It is six years since the High Court
ruled that the policy of retaining
the mugshots of innocent
people was unlawful,
but the police still do it
and they still upload them
onto the Police National Database.
The Government's solution in 2017
was to allow individuals to write
to the police asking to be deleted.
That just isn't good enough.
Although it's still in a very early
stage of development,
as far as its use in the criminal
justice system is concerned,
I have no doubt that it
will eventually be accepted
by the police and the courts
as a quick and reliable method
of eliminating the innocent
from suspicion as much
as for identifying and
convicting the guilty.
But he added there were no national
or international standards to
implement their use.
The train has
left the station or whatever
metaphor you wanted to use on this
The Chinese alibi beside as a way
where you can smile to pay. I don't
know if a similar system is being
adopted in the UK or other Western
countries, but the technique is
there and it is actually only a
matter of time before none stagers
actors start to use these techniques
are far more widely than is
currently the case.
While the PM of
former and white -- and my five
cheap... Is going into rebuilding
the other day and there was a facial
recognition at the door.
that -- it is merely identified me
as myself. And it was a 12-year-old
photograph taken from the Internet.
This is not just the police custody
records. You can do without any of
that stuff. A lot of people are
doing so in the private sector.
For example, the Durham Police force
are now wearing body worn image
cameras to create a troublemakers
database, which is totally
against the principles of data
protection and against the spirit
of using this kind of technology
for intelligent gathering tools.
As there is no legal status and no
proper regulations and no
they're getting away with it.
experienced The Home Office Minister
said biometric data was critically
important in law enforcement.
She also said the government
was committed to creating
We commit to ensuring that the use
of biometrics and those provided to
law enforcement partners are legal
She also said the government
was committed to creating
a framework so that organisations
could innovate with biometric data
in an ethical and transparent way.
Staying in the Lords the Government
was accused of intentionally
delaying a decision on putting folic
acid in flour and bread to help
prevent some birth defects.
One in every five hundred
to a thousand pregnancies in the UK
is affected by neural tube defects -
like spina bifida -
which damages the nervous system.
81 countries have introduced
mandatory folic acid
fortification in food.
A recent study by universities
in London found that there was no
The original study for this was
published in 1991. There were four
small children issued in maternal
health. In the intervening time, I
now have four small grandchildren.
81 countries have acted on this
British publicly funded research
which has saved untold suffering
throughout the world. Isn't it a
disgrace that we haven't got to the
point of preventing that suffering
in our own country?
A recent study by universities
in London found that there was no
need for an upper limit
on the amount of folate
which could be put in flour.
I think the noble lady is completely
right in what she says and I think
going forward one of the reasons
perhaps that has not been movement
up until now is because of the
problems with the upper level which
clearly this report says is not a
problem. If the upper level has no
longer needed, it provides
reassurance on the safety of
mandatory fortification and I think
proceedings should go ahead.
are two main reasons by the
Government may feel resistance this.
One is the dosage level is not toxic
at all. The second is we don't want
to be described as a nanny state. If
the noble lady would take a tune and
sweetcorn sandwich at the Bishop of
the bar, she will find that the week
that we already add, calcium, iron,
preservatives 8282, H and E 300,
nanny state? This before as it is
very vital, when she agree?
the nanny state does come into it.
Not as far as we're concerned are
anyway. Health officials told me
that the Department of Health mailed
back apparently has been from the
general public that they don't want
mass fortification in their food.
But that will all be part of any
proceedings going forward in
discussions. That isn't what is
holding us up at the moment.
Lady Chisholm added the Government
was not intentionally
delaying a decision on this,
it was waiting to get approval
from several of its departments
before it could proceed.
Ministers have been warned that
urgent action is needed to ensure
foreign fruit and vegetable pickers
can continue to work
in the UK after Brexit.
MPs from all parties have called
for clarity on the rules that
will apply to seasonal migrants
after March next year,
and many called for a new visa
scheme for agricultural workers.
Kirstene Hair, who secured today's
debate, said an estimated 80,000
seasonal pickers came to work
in the UK last year
and it was expected that 95,000
would be needed in 2019.
But she said it was getting
to recruit workers.
Without sufficient farmers, cops --
crops are left to rot in the field,
a scene which was unfortunately
witnessed last year. Some farmers
for the first time -- for some had
to watch their programmes waste away
in the fields. As the war for
slightly in the season had
dispersed. A research conducted
between January and February of this
year had startling outcomes which I
hope will convey the seriousness of
the current situation. 100% of those
who were contacted said they were
concerned or very concerned about
the impact labour shortages would
have on their businesses in 2018 and
One farmer I spoke to that
yes, he had always sought British
workers to come and work on his
farm. And in six years, he did have
one moved by. And blessed to the
half weeks. We are not going to find
the UK market that people will come
to replace all of the people who are
working in a seasonal capacity at
The production of fruit
and vegetables is a great success
story for our country. It is a
growing industry that we should be
supporting. But unless we fix this
labour shortage, prices will go up.
Fewer people will be able to afford
British fruit and vegetables. That
growth may well reverse. And we will
see a share of the fruit and
vegetables that we consume that we
currently consume, British produce,
be replaced by imports.
feeling I had during these
discussions was that an ideological
fervor of Brexodus among certain
Ministers and with that unbending
support for freedom of movement, are
completely overridden any common
sense approach to this problem. That
the response was very much we voted
for Brexit and to stop freedom of
movement, we have to get on. That is
my approach -- that is our report no
matter what -- a brochure and what.
What we have seen in an agriculture
business is this has become
collateral. This is becoming root
issue for this, which is now set in
the very -- threatening the very
viability of so many farms. And I
tried to figure out why I did so
resistant about putting forward a
seasonal agricultural worker scheme?
Eight can only be about immigration.
It is not, then the honourable Lady
could get up why is there a
reticence to put in place a scheme
was that it is all about
immigration, isn't it?
Kirstene Hair called
for the urgent introduction
of a Seasonal Agricultural
Why do we need this urgently?
Harvest 2018. Our first cannot plan
that will be harvested. This is an
industry in turmoil.
Is critical to
that those are last certainty that
can stay long-term. We have clearly
stated throughout negotiations that
we value EU citizens and the
contribution they make to the
economic and social fabric of the
UK. Our offer is that those EQ
citizens and their family members
who arrived our resident and have
registered during the period will be
eligible after the acute donation of
five years continual and unlawful
March the first is the
meteorological start of spring.
Hard to believe right now,
it's also St David's Day
and a chance for a few non-Welsh
speakers to have a go
at the traditional greeting.
Can I wish all members... I am told
that as happy Saint David's Day for
all of the nine Welsh speakers
D... And happy Saint
And how about with
a Scottish accent?
Here's my go... I hope I impressed
my honourable member.
And this is how it should be done.
Happy Saint David's day.
Congratulations to the leader and
the shadow leader in the S and P
Leader of the House for using the
wealth -- watch language. Which we
were allowed historically to use
recently in the Welsh grand
committee in this House and I was
pleased to make a speech in the
Welsh language. As the leader
considered whether that very welcome
extension could be extended into the
chamber now that technology makes it
perfectly possible to have a House
of Commons debate using translation
But there was some bad news
for those wanting more
talk of St David's Day.
When the base of the East makes star
Anna, at the request of Welsh
drivers, the schedule debate on
Welsh affairs has been cancelled so
that they can travel home safely.
The weather intruding
on Commons business once more,
something Pete Wishart was keen
to explore, sort of.
I suppose there are only two real
items of business, and the bees of
the East and the Foreign Secretary.
One is a white at delivering havoc
and chaos and whatever touches. And
the other is of course the beast of
Pete Wishart with an
entirely spontaneous gag.
And that's it from us for now but do
join me at 11pm on Friday night
on BBC Parliament for our round up
of the week in Parliament.
We'll be looking back at the big
events of the last few days
here at Westminster,
and looking at Brexit
As Wales and Scotland ramp up
the pressure on the Westminster
government to make sure powers over
things like food and fishing go
to them after Brexit.
But for now from me,
Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.