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Hello and welcome to Tuesday in Parliament.
Coming up in the next half hour:
As Theresa May sets out her Brexit plans, in the Commons MPs are told
both houses will have a vote on the final deal.
The Northern Ireland Secretary calls for a respectful election
following the breakdown of the Stormont Assembly.
And is it time for an overhaul of business rates?
When you look at High Streets around
the country, they are full of charity shops, estate agents
and the odd coffee shops.
But first, the Prime Minister has confirmed that the UK will leave
the European Union's Single Market as a result of Brexit.
Theresa May made the announcement during her first major speech
outlining her strategy for taking Britain out of the EU.
Mrs May said she wanted to build a stronger Britain
in charge of its own laws, in control of immigration
and pursuing free trade and she warned Europe's leaders
that no deal for Britain was better than a bad deal.
In the Commons, the Brexit Secretary set out the proposals to MPs.
It's a plan to build a strong, new partnership with our European
partners while reaching beyond the borders of Europe
as well, forging deeper links with old allies and new
Today we set out 12 objectives for negotiation to come.
They answer the questions of those who ask what we intend while not
undermining the UK's negotiating position,
we're clear what we seek is new partnership not a partial
EU membership - not a model adopted by other countries,
not a position that means half in and half out.
So our objectives are clear, to deliver certainty
and clarity where we can, to control our own laws, to
protect and strengthen the Union, to maintain the common travel area
with the Replublic of Ireland, to control immigration,
to protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK and UK
nationals in the European Union, to
protect worker's rights, to allow free trade with the EU markets,
to forge new trade deals with other
countries, to boost science and innovation,
to protect and enhance cooperation over crime,
terrorism and security,
to make our exit smooth and orderly.
It is the outline of an ambitious new
partnership between UK and the countries of the European Union.
We are under no illusions, agreeing terms which
works for both the UK and the 27 nations of the EU will be
challenging and no doubt there will be bumps
on the road once talks begin.
We must embark on negotiation clear however that no
deal is better than a bad deal.
The Prime Minister knows setting out ambitions
is the easy bit, delivery is more difficult, much more difficult.
The Prime Minister has taken a precarious course of taking the UK
out of single market membership and changing
the customs arrangements.
This will cause concern to businesses as the Secretary of State
knows and to trade unions and the Prime Minister should have
been more ambitious.
I think we should loyally support the government.
Will the Secretary of State confirm this, that insisting on patrolling
our own borders and insisting on doing
international trade deals is
inconsistent, not just with membership
of the EU but also the
customs union and the single market?
So I agree, after the speech today, it is not hard Brexit, it is full
The Prime Minister made a welcome commitment in the first
part of her speech to enhance and protect
workers' rights but at the
end was threatening to take them away and to undercut the rest of
Europe and rip up the British economic model if we don't get what
Can he now withdraw that threat and be clear that Britain
will not do that because otherwise if the government is prepared to rip
up workers' rights as soon as a negotiation gets difficult,
how can we trust them to ensure that the
rest of Britain's interests are protected if the negotiations get
difficult as well?
I will say to her what I said to the head of the TUC,
there is no circumstance under which we will rip up
the workers' rights.
My right honourable friend made clear that
no deal is better than a
In the unlikely I'm sure event that we were likely to get a
bad deal in the House were to vote against it,
what would be the impact in terms of status with the European
The referendum last year set in motion
a circumstance where the
UK is going to leave the European union and it
will not change that.
We want to have a vote so that the House
We want to have a vote so that the House can support the
policy which we're quite sure they will approve of.
What I do not understand when listening to his
statement or listening to my right honourable friend is which country
in the world is going to enter to trade agreement with this country
on the basis that the rules are
entirely what the British say they are going to be on any
to particular day and if that is any dispute about
the rules, it will be sorted out by the British Government.
Those on that side have a very short memory.
I can't forgive my right honourable friend.
He did not hear
the first point and I will answer
like this, of course there will be disagreements and
they will be arbitrated by an organisation we agreed
between us, not normally the European Court of
Once the UK has left the EU, there will be a 9
billion hole in EU finances, given reduced resources wide as the
-- why does the government believe that the EU will prioritise
the good seating a deal
with the UK when a more lucrative market such as the US or China?
I'm afraid she is wrong about the lucrative market bit.
We are the largest market for the European union.
EU workers in Scotland contribute ?7.5 billion to the
economy, not to mention the huge contribution they make to our social
fabric, what will he do to protect their rights
and Scotland's place in
Europe as they voted for by a majority in the EU vote?
We will not be managing the immigration or migration policy
in a way which harms the national interest and that means not causing
labour shortages or shortage of talent.
That applies not just globally but to each nation state of
the United Kingdom as well.
The Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire is hoping that
campaigning in next month's Assembly elections do not "exacerbate
tension and division".
Northern Ireland is going to the polls on March the 2nd
following the collapse of the Executive in Belfast.
Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness,
resigned last week in protest at the handling
of a renewable energy scheme.
That meant the First Minister,
the Democratic Unionists' Arlene Foster, was out of a job too,
bringing the Northern Ireland Executive to a halt.
Elections by their nature are hotly contested.
This is part of the essence of our democracy.
Nobody expects the debates around the key
issues in Northern Ireland to be anything less than robust.
I would however like to stress the following,
this election is about the future of Northern Ireland and
its political institutions.
Not just the Assembly, but all the arrangements that have
been put in place to reflect relationships
throughout these islands.
That is why it will be vital for the campaign to
be conducted respectfully and in ways that do not simply exacerbate
tensions and division.
I have personally been involved for almost
three decades in Northern Ireland's issues and I have learned one thing
that political vacuum should be avoided at all costs so I say
this to the Secretary of
State today, you must make sure that you are not only willing to fill
that vacuum but work for all parties to seek a way forward so we avoid
the nightmare scenario of six weeks of increasingly bitter campaigning
which will leave us in the same place when it started with no
solution in place to heal the divide and bring
together those elected to
represent all the people of Northern Ireland.
Laurence Robertson has just returned from Londonderry.
I did detect and witnessed a great sense of frustration about
what is happening and a great sense of disappointment that the assembly
yet again was under threat and indeed this time has fallen.
Does the Secretary of State therefore
agree with me and indeed the proposal made by the shadow
secretary of State that the coming weeks should perhaps be used to
want to say a retturn to
The DUP says Sinn Fein did not opt out
because of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, or RHI.
We are deeply disappointed, frustrated and indeed
angry by the decision of Sinn Fein to walk away and cause the
What is this about?
It is not about the RHI issue because if
it had been we could have sorted it out.
This election serves to delay those issues being sorted out.
It is about Sinn Fein seeking opportune
political advantage and seeking to overturn the election results
held just a few months ago and hoping to
gain concessions from the government, on legacy issues,
such as rewriting the past and putting more soldiers in the
dock, and other concessions from the DUP.
Let us be clear, we will work through this election and afterwards
to create devolved government that
is stable in Northern Ireland but let this
House know the people of
Northern Ireland all know that just as we have not given into Sinn Fein
demands in the past, we will not bow down and give
into Sinn Fein's unreasonable demands going forward
because that is what this election is all about.
The SDLP is urging the Northern Ireland Secretary
to support an inquiry into the energy scheme.
Without a public inquiry, Mr Speaker, public confidence in a
political settlement will sink even lower
and make restoration of the
executive even more difficult and that is what people are telling me
on the streets over the last few days and the last week that they
basically need to see clarity that we're having
an election here in a fog.
James Brokenshire replied that the issue was critical
in re-establishing the public's trust and confidence.
MPs have been told that staffing is the biggest problem facing
maternity services in England.
The Health Committee heard that enough midwives
are being trained but they are not necessarily being employed.
The committee's hearing followed a report from
the National Childbirth Trust which blamed a shortage of midwives
for women feeling like they had been treated "like cattle".
The NCT study of two and half thousand women found half had
experienced a "red flag" event such as not getting timely access to pain
relief due to a lack of staff.
There are clearly workforce pressures on all the health
disciplines associated with maternity care and I would add
health visitors who are extremely important women in the postnatal
Half of the women you surveyed experienced clinically
Yes, we looked at the events which are defined by NICE in
guidance as red flag events.
They are identified as those that do in
most cases mean there is a staffing shortage.
In this case, mostly in midwifery.
So it was mainly care processes that were delayed
- including medication being given which might
have been pain relief or
antibiotics or other drugs needed by women which was obviously should
have been given in a timely fashion either because the woman was in
great pain or with antibiotics, obviously they need to be taken as a
course and it is very important they're taken on time.
One woman reported that the bed she had given birth
in, she was not helped to washed or sheets changed for 12 hours
which I imagine is really unpleasant and distressing for her and
certainly the risk of greater infection.
While we're training enough midwives and enough midwives
are coming out into the system, the difficulty is that not enough of
them are being employed.
Although we have been seeing increases in
midwifery numbers over the last few years, we are now seeing
The number of midwives is actually starting to look as
though it's reducing in our services.
The number has been quoted around 2500 up to 6000 as a gap,
would you support that?
Our figure is that we are 3500 mid-range short.
You feel it is worse?
There are various issues, one is we're seeing
a rapidly increasing number of midwives retiring from the service
so the number of midwives now aged over 50 is very significant so
there's a need to replace midwives when they leave and the number going
out is pretty much equating to the number coming
out is pretty much equating to the number coming in,
so you are getting flat-lining.
The National childbirth trust talks about findings from
their recent survey that half of the women in their survey
received clinically unsafe care because of
staffing shortages, how do you respond to that?
My understanding of what that assessment is is that you
have the NICE guidelines and we have been able to be clearer than ever
before about whether we are safe or the optimum guidelines which are set
for the units saw a red flag which essentially
means that the director
of midwifery has got sight of the fact that there is a staff
issue within a unit which is a positive because previously we did
not have that information about the red flag People event.
We are able to respond accordingly.
By and large our units remain very safe places
but that is not a position we would want to be
but that is not a position we would want to be in the longer term and
that is why challenging ourselves going forward about the workforce
and having the right staff is absolutely critical.
It is also the reason that whilst the national
figures are very useful, we need to better understand what is driving
local scenarios because some places are finding it hard to recruit and
we need to understand why some places have models that are working
and learn from some of that practice as well.
You're watching Tuesday in Parliament,
with me, Alicia McCarthy.
At the same time that Theresa May was on her feet
making her big speech, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond,
was answering Treasury questions.
He explained that the UK could not stay in the single market
following Brexit because EU leaders made it clear they would not allow
curbs on the free movement of people.
Does my right honourable friend agree with me that the resilience
of our economy will be best served by what the Prime Minister has said
today, that Britain will be leaving the single market
with no ifs and no buts?
Well, Mr Speaker, for six months, we've kept open as many options
as possible while we review the way forward in this negotiation
with the European Union.
We've heard very clearly the views and the political red lines
expressed by other European leaders.
We want to work with them,
we want to recognise and respect their political red lines.
And that is why the Prime Minister is setting out right now
the position that she is, which is that we will go forward,
understanding that we cannot be members of the single market
because of the political red lines around the four freedoms
that other European leaders have set.
In the seven years to 2014, Scotland's trade with
the EU rose by 20%.
Twice the rate of growth in trade to the rest of the UK.
Vital for a resilient economy.
Today's hard Tory Brexit puts that at risk.
But is this not also a kick in the teeth to many of those
who voted leave, believing there would be an EEA/EFTA-type
arrangement in place, to mitigate the damage done?
Mr Speaker, I reject the honourable gentleman's analysis.
I think what this is is engaging constructively with the real world.
Recognising the political red lines of our European Union partners.
If we don't recognise them, frankly,
we are banging our heads against a brick wall.
They have to recognise our political red lines,
we have to recognise theirs.
Then we have to work together to find pragmatic solutions that
works for all the people of the UK within those red lines.
That is what we're doing.
What we now know from what the Prime Minister's saying now,
she is intent on pulling up the drawbridge,
leaving the single market and possibly the customs union.
We will be cutting ourselves off
from one of the largest markets on the entire planet,
threatening jobs and public finances.
This is not a clean Brexit, it is an extremely messy Brexit,
with the consequences we already see in terms of the rise
of the rate of inflation.
Now, with real living standards squeezed by this policy
announcement so far, isn't it time...?
I appeal to the Chancellor, he has the opportunity then
to reconsider his cuts to in-work benefits
and, in the Budget in March, withdraw them in full.
No, Mr Speaker.
What the Prime Minister is setting up today is ambitious agenda
for a Britain engaged with the world,
and a Britain engaged with the European Union.
What she's setting out is a broad-based offer for future
collaboration in trade and investment, insecurity,
an education, in technical and scientific collaboration,
and many other areas.
We want to remain engaged with the European Union,
and I'm confident that the approach the Prime Minister is setting up
today will allow us successfully negotiate a future relationship
with the European Union.
Well, let's stay with Brexit because later in the Commons,
MPs debated the impact of leaving the EU on the rural economy.
The National Farmers Union says UK farmers' contribution to the economy
grew to almost ?10 billion in 2014.
And that the food and farming sector as a whole is worth ?108 billion.
The debate had been called by the SNP -
its spokesman worried about the future.
Under the Government's current direction of travel,
Brexit will not be a clean break for the sheep farmers
in my constituency, whose produce could face prohibitive tariffs
and whose direct support payment could be wiped out.
It will not be a clean break for the fish processors in Shetland,
where more fish was landed
than in the entirety of England and Wales in 2015,
but whose access to the largest seafood market
in the world is now under question.
Nor will it be a clean break for the soft fruit farmer in Angus
when the plug is pulled on the seasonal labour
his business needs to function.
And it will not be a clean break for the most remote Highland
communities that are now contemplating the loss of hundreds
of millions of pounds in European regional development funding.
We find ourselves facing a combination, once again,
of Tory indifference to the needs of the Scottish economy
and a dramatic democratic deficit.
Yes, I will give way.
I am grateful to the honourable gentleman for giving way.
He and his party are optimistic people,
and rays of sunshine in this House.
I wonder if he cannot see any possible benefit
to the Scottish rural economy, particularly fisheries,
the European policy of which decimated
the Scottish fishing industry?
I thank the honourable member.
Actually, if you come and spend a little bit more time
with us, you will find that we are optimists at heart.
But what this debate is about, Madam Deputy Speaker,
is the realities.
Incomes falling and debts are rising.
Incomes were down by a shocking 29% last year.
A fifth of farmers are struggling just to pay their bills.
The average debt for a farming business is now ?188,500.
Too many have gone out of business altogether,
including more than 1,000 dairy farmers in the last three years.
So not all farmers are thriving or even surviving.
I'm determined that we secure a deal and leaving the EU
that works for all parts of the UK, and recognises the contribution
that all corners of this country make to our economic success.
Will she also make it a priority to publish proposals
to have a British fishing industry where we can catch
more of our own fish and protect our fishing grounds for the future?
Well, I'm grateful to my right honourable friend.
He makes a very good point about the potential
for all UK fishing, and I do hope that our policies,
when we come to them after consultation,
will enable us to deliver exactly has he asks for.
Finally, Ministers have faced calls for a "root-and-branch re-appraisal"
of business rates after warnings about the impact of revaluation
on high-street shops.
The Communities and Local Government Minister, Lord Bourne,
told peers business rates were based on independent valuations,
and that most would see no change or a fall in their bills from April
due to a revaluation.
Business rates are based on evaluations carried
out independently by the Valuation Office agency,
and it is right that ministers do not intervene in that process.
Nearly three quarters of all businesses will see no change
or a fall in their rates will from April,
thanks to the 2017 revaluation, with 600,000 businesses
set to pay no business rates at all.
Nevertheless, the core of the High Street is badly affected
in many parts of our country.
There was an article in Saturday's Times about Southwold.
Not a huge place.
The local baker's rates
are going up from 4,000, or just over, to 14,000.
And, against that background, will my noble friend
look at the possibilities of revising the proposals
where an increase is up to 15%?
The rules at the moment suggest that there can be no appeal.
Secondly, where there is a small reduction or any reduction,
that reduction is paid in April, and not phased in?
Many peers thought Lord Naseby's question had gone on too long,
but he had one final suggestion to make.
Finally, my Lords, is it not time for a whole
root and branch reappraisal of this form of business?
My Lords, most businesses, as I've indicated,
will be seeing a fall in their business rates.
Those that are subject to increases, of course,
it's phased in over a period of time,
to take just one area which my noble friend touched upon.
That is paid for by those that are seeing a reduction
also seeing that phased in over a period of time,
as is required by law under the 1988 Local Government Finance Act.
As a simple sailor, there must be something wrong when you look
at high streets around the country - they are full of charity shops,
estate agents and the odd coffee shop.
They seem to be falling apart.
There must be something wrong with what is going on.
My Lords, I would certainly not call the noble lord
a simple sailor for one minute.
But, my Lords, it's true that many high streets are thriving.
I visited many high streets that are thriving.
In essence, my Lords, what is important is
that we seek to protect small and medium-sized businesses.
We've been doing that, my Lords, and that is the way forward.
And that's it from me for now,
but do join me at the same time tomorrow, when among other things,
we'll have the highlights from Prime Minister's Questions.
But for now from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.