17/01/2017 Tuesday in Parliament


17/01/2017

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Tuesday 17 January, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Tuesday in Parliament.

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Coming up in the next half hour:

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As Theresa May sets out her Brexit plans, in the Commons MPs are told

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both houses will have a vote on the final deal.

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The Northern Ireland Secretary calls for a respectful election

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following the breakdown of the Stormont Assembly.

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And is it time for an overhaul of business rates?

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When you look at High Streets around

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the country, they are full of charity shops, estate agents

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and the odd coffee shops.

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But first, the Prime Minister has confirmed that the UK will leave

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the European Union's Single Market as a result of Brexit.

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Theresa May made the announcement during her first major speech

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outlining her strategy for taking Britain out of the EU.

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Mrs May said she wanted to build a stronger Britain

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in charge of its own laws, in control of immigration

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and pursuing free trade and she warned Europe's leaders

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that no deal for Britain was better than a bad deal.

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In the Commons, the Brexit Secretary set out the proposals to MPs.

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It's a plan to build a strong, new partnership with our European

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partners while reaching beyond the borders of Europe

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as well, forging deeper links with old allies and new

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ones.

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Today we set out 12 objectives for negotiation to come.

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They answer the questions of those who ask what we intend while not

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undermining the UK's negotiating position,

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we're clear what we seek is new partnership not a partial

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EU membership - not a model adopted by other countries,

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not a position that means half in and half out.

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So our objectives are clear, to deliver certainty

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and clarity where we can, to control our own laws, to

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protect and strengthen the Union, to maintain the common travel area

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with the Replublic of Ireland, to control immigration,

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to protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK and UK

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nationals in the European Union, to

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protect worker's rights, to allow free trade with the EU markets,

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to forge new trade deals with other

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countries, to boost science and innovation,

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to protect and enhance cooperation over crime,

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terrorism and security,

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to make our exit smooth and orderly.

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It is the outline of an ambitious new

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partnership between UK and the countries of the European Union.

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We are under no illusions, agreeing terms which

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works for both the UK and the 27 nations of the EU will be

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challenging and no doubt there will be bumps

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on the road once talks begin.

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We must embark on negotiation clear however that no

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deal is better than a bad deal.

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The Prime Minister knows setting out ambitions

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is the easy bit, delivery is more difficult, much more difficult.

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The Prime Minister has taken a precarious course of taking the UK

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out of single market membership and changing

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the customs arrangements.

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This will cause concern to businesses as the Secretary of State

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knows and to trade unions and the Prime Minister should have

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been more ambitious.

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I think we should loyally support the government.

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Hear, hear.

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Will the Secretary of State confirm this, that insisting on patrolling

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our own borders and insisting on doing

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international trade deals is

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inconsistent, not just with membership

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of the EU but also the

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customs union and the single market?

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So I agree, after the speech today, it is not hard Brexit, it is full

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Brexit.

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The Prime Minister made a welcome commitment in the first

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part of her speech to enhance and protect

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workers' rights but at the

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end was threatening to take them away and to undercut the rest of

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Europe and rip up the British economic model if we don't get what

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we want.

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Can he now withdraw that threat and be clear that Britain

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will not do that because otherwise if the government is prepared to rip

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up workers' rights as soon as a negotiation gets difficult,

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how can we trust them to ensure that the

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rest of Britain's interests are protected if the negotiations get

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difficult as well?

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I will say to her what I said to the head of the TUC,

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there is no circumstance under which we will rip up

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the workers' rights.

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My right honourable friend made clear that

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no deal is better than a

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bad deal.

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In the unlikely I'm sure event that we were likely to get a

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bad deal in the House were to vote against it,

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what would be the impact in terms of status with the European

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Union?

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The referendum last year set in motion

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a circumstance where the

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UK is going to leave the European union and it

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will not change that.

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We want to have a vote so that the House

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We want to have a vote so that the House can support the

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policy which we're quite sure they will approve of.

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What I do not understand when listening to his

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statement or listening to my right honourable friend is which country

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in the world is going to enter to trade agreement with this country

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on the basis that the rules are

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entirely what the British say they are going to be on any

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to particular day and if that is any dispute about

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the rules, it will be sorted out by the British Government.

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LAUGHTER.

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Those on that side have a very short memory.

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I can't forgive my right honourable friend.

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He did not hear

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the first point and I will answer

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like this, of course there will be disagreements and

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they will be arbitrated by an organisation we agreed

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between us, not normally the European Court of

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Justice.

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Once the UK has left the EU, there will be a 9

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billion hole in EU finances, given reduced resources wide as the

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-- why does the government believe that the EU will prioritise

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the good seating a deal

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with the UK when a more lucrative market such as the US or China?

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I'm afraid she is wrong about the lucrative market bit.

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We are the largest market for the European union.

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EU workers in Scotland contribute ?7.5 billion to the

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economy, not to mention the huge contribution they make to our social

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fabric, what will he do to protect their rights

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and Scotland's place in

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Europe as they voted for by a majority in the EU vote?

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We will not be managing the immigration or migration policy

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in a way which harms the national interest and that means not causing

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labour shortages or shortage of talent.

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That applies not just globally but to each nation state of

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the United Kingdom as well.

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The Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire is hoping that

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campaigning in next month's Assembly elections do not "exacerbate

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tension and division".

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Northern Ireland is going to the polls on March the 2nd

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following the collapse of the Executive in Belfast.

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Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness,

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resigned last week in protest at the handling

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of a renewable energy scheme.

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That meant the First Minister,

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the Democratic Unionists' Arlene Foster, was out of a job too,

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bringing the Northern Ireland Executive to a halt.

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Elections by their nature are hotly contested.

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This is part of the essence of our democracy.

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Nobody expects the debates around the key

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issues in Northern Ireland to be anything less than robust.

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I would however like to stress the following,

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this election is about the future of Northern Ireland and

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its political institutions.

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Not just the Assembly, but all the arrangements that have

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been put in place to reflect relationships

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throughout these islands.

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That is why it will be vital for the campaign to

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be conducted respectfully and in ways that do not simply exacerbate

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tensions and division.

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I have personally been involved for almost

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three decades in Northern Ireland's issues and I have learned one thing

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that political vacuum should be avoided at all costs so I say

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this to the Secretary of

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State today, you must make sure that you are not only willing to fill

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that vacuum but work for all parties to seek a way forward so we avoid

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the nightmare scenario of six weeks of increasingly bitter campaigning

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which will leave us in the same place when it started with no

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solution in place to heal the divide and bring

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together those elected to

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represent all the people of Northern Ireland.

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Laurence Robertson has just returned from Londonderry.

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I did detect and witnessed a great sense of frustration about

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what is happening and a great sense of disappointment that the assembly

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yet again was under threat and indeed this time has fallen.

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Does the Secretary of State therefore

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agree with me and indeed the proposal made by the shadow

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secretary of State that the coming weeks should perhaps be used to

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want to say a retturn to

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direct rule?

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The DUP says Sinn Fein did not opt out

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because of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, or RHI.

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We are deeply disappointed, frustrated and indeed

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angry by the decision of Sinn Fein to walk away and cause the

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election.

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What is this about?

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It is not about the RHI issue because if

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it had been we could have sorted it out.

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This election serves to delay those issues being sorted out.

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It is about Sinn Fein seeking opportune

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political advantage and seeking to overturn the election results

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held just a few months ago and hoping to

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gain concessions from the government, on legacy issues,

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such as rewriting the past and putting more soldiers in the

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dock, and other concessions from the DUP.

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Let us be clear, we will work through this election and afterwards

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to create devolved government that

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is stable in Northern Ireland but let this

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House know the people of

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Northern Ireland all know that just as we have not given into Sinn Fein

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demands in the past, we will not bow down and give

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into Sinn Fein's unreasonable demands going forward

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because that is what this election is all about.

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The SDLP is urging the Northern Ireland Secretary

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to support an inquiry into the energy scheme.

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Without a public inquiry, Mr Speaker, public confidence in a

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political settlement will sink even lower

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and make restoration of the

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executive even more difficult and that is what people are telling me

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on the streets over the last few days and the last week that they

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basically need to see clarity that we're having

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an election here in a fog.

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James Brokenshire replied that the issue was critical

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in re-establishing the public's trust and confidence.

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MPs have been told that staffing is the biggest problem facing

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maternity services in England.

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The Health Committee heard that enough midwives

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are being trained but they are not necessarily being employed.

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The committee's hearing followed a report from

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the National Childbirth Trust which blamed a shortage of midwives

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for women feeling like they had been treated "like cattle".

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The NCT study of two and half thousand women found half had

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experienced a "red flag" event such as not getting timely access to pain

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relief due to a lack of staff.

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There are clearly workforce pressures on all the health

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disciplines associated with maternity care and I would add

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health visitors who are extremely important women in the postnatal

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period.

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Half of the women you surveyed experienced clinically

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unsafe care.

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Yes, we looked at the events which are defined by NICE in

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guidance as red flag events.

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They are identified as those that do in

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most cases mean there is a staffing shortage.

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In this case, mostly in midwifery.

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So it was mainly care processes that were delayed

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- including medication being given which might

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have been pain relief or

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antibiotics or other drugs needed by women which was obviously should

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have been given in a timely fashion either because the woman was in

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great pain or with antibiotics, obviously they need to be taken as a

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course and it is very important they're taken on time.

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One woman reported that the bed she had given birth

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in, she was not helped to washed or sheets changed for 12 hours

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which I imagine is really unpleasant and distressing for her and

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certainly the risk of greater infection.

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While we're training enough midwives and enough midwives

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are coming out into the system, the difficulty is that not enough of

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them are being employed.

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Although we have been seeing increases in

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midwifery numbers over the last few years, we are now seeing

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flat-lining.

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The number of midwives is actually starting to look as

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though it's reducing in our services.

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The number has been quoted around 2500 up to 6000 as a gap,

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would you support that?

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Our figure is that we are 3500 mid-range short.

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You feel it is worse?

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Yes.

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There are various issues, one is we're seeing

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a rapidly increasing number of midwives retiring from the service

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so the number of midwives now aged over 50 is very significant so

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there's a need to replace midwives when they leave and the number going

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out is pretty much equating to the number coming

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out is pretty much equating to the number coming in,

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so you are getting flat-lining.

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The National childbirth trust talks about findings from

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their recent survey that half of the women in their survey

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received clinically unsafe care because of

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staffing shortages, how do you respond to that?

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My understanding of what that assessment is is that you

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have the NICE guidelines and we have been able to be clearer than ever

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before about whether we are safe or the optimum guidelines which are set

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for the units saw a red flag which essentially

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means that the director

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of midwifery has got sight of the fact that there is a staff

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issue within a unit which is a positive because previously we did

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not have that information about the red flag People event.

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We are able to respond accordingly.

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By and large our units remain very safe places

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but that is not a position we would want to be

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but that is not a position we would want to be in the longer term and

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that is why challenging ourselves going forward about the workforce

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and having the right staff is absolutely critical.

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It is also the reason that whilst the national

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figures are very useful, we need to better understand what is driving

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local scenarios because some places are finding it hard to recruit and

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we need to understand why some places have models that are working

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and learn from some of that practice as well.

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You're watching Tuesday in Parliament,

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with me, Alicia McCarthy.

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At the same time that Theresa May was on her feet

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making her big speech, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond,

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was answering Treasury questions.

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He explained that the UK could not stay in the single market

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following Brexit because EU leaders made it clear they would not allow

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curbs on the free movement of people.

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Does my right honourable friend agree with me that the resilience

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of our economy will be best served by what the Prime Minister has said

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today, that Britain will be leaving the single market

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with no ifs and no buts?

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Well, Mr Speaker, for six months, we've kept open as many options

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as possible while we review the way forward in this negotiation

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with the European Union.

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We've heard very clearly the views and the political red lines

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expressed by other European leaders.

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We want to work with them,

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we want to recognise and respect their political red lines.

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And that is why the Prime Minister is setting out right now

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the position that she is, which is that we will go forward,

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understanding that we cannot be members of the single market

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because of the political red lines around the four freedoms

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that other European leaders have set.

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In the seven years to 2014, Scotland's trade with

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the EU rose by 20%.

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Twice the rate of growth in trade to the rest of the UK.

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Vital for a resilient economy.

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Today's hard Tory Brexit puts that at risk.

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But is this not also a kick in the teeth to many of those

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who voted leave, believing there would be an EEA/EFTA-type

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arrangement in place, to mitigate the damage done?

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Mr Speaker, I reject the honourable gentleman's analysis.

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I think what this is is engaging constructively with the real world.

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Recognising the political red lines of our European Union partners.

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If we don't recognise them, frankly,

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we are banging our heads against a brick wall.

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They have to recognise our political red lines,

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we have to recognise theirs.

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Then we have to work together to find pragmatic solutions that

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works for all the people of the UK within those red lines.

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That is what we're doing.

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What we now know from what the Prime Minister's saying now,

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she is intent on pulling up the drawbridge,

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leaving the single market and possibly the customs union.

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We will be cutting ourselves off

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from one of the largest markets on the entire planet,

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threatening jobs and public finances.

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This is not a clean Brexit, it is an extremely messy Brexit,

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with the consequences we already see in terms of the rise

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of the rate of inflation.

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Now, with real living standards squeezed by this policy

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announcement so far, isn't it time...?

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I appeal to the Chancellor, he has the opportunity then

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to reconsider his cuts to in-work benefits

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and, in the Budget in March, withdraw them in full.

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No, Mr Speaker.

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What the Prime Minister is setting up today is ambitious agenda

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for a Britain engaged with the world,

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and a Britain engaged with the European Union.

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What she's setting out is a broad-based offer for future

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collaboration in trade and investment, insecurity,

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an education, in technical and scientific collaboration,

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and many other areas.

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We want to remain engaged with the European Union,

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and I'm confident that the approach the Prime Minister is setting up

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today will allow us successfully negotiate a future relationship

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with the European Union.

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Philip Hammond.

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Well, let's stay with Brexit because later in the Commons,

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MPs debated the impact of leaving the EU on the rural economy.

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The National Farmers Union says UK farmers' contribution to the economy

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grew to almost ?10 billion in 2014.

0:19:540:19:56

And that the food and farming sector as a whole is worth ?108 billion.

0:19:560:20:05

The debate had been called by the SNP -

0:20:050:20:07

its spokesman worried about the future.

0:20:070:20:11

Under the Government's current direction of travel,

0:20:110:20:13

Brexit will not be a clean break for the sheep farmers

0:20:130:20:18

in my constituency, whose produce could face prohibitive tariffs

0:20:180:20:22

and whose direct support payment could be wiped out.

0:20:220:20:26

It will not be a clean break for the fish processors in Shetland,

0:20:260:20:30

where more fish was landed

0:20:300:20:33

than in the entirety of England and Wales in 2015,

0:20:330:20:35

but whose access to the largest seafood market

0:20:350:20:38

in the world is now under question.

0:20:380:20:41

Nor will it be a clean break for the soft fruit farmer in Angus

0:20:410:20:44

when the plug is pulled on the seasonal labour

0:20:440:20:48

his business needs to function.

0:20:480:20:50

And it will not be a clean break for the most remote Highland

0:20:500:20:56

communities that are now contemplating the loss of hundreds

0:20:560:20:58

of millions of pounds in European regional development funding.

0:20:580:21:03

We find ourselves facing a combination, once again,

0:21:030:21:06

of Tory indifference to the needs of the Scottish economy

0:21:060:21:09

and a dramatic democratic deficit.

0:21:090:21:16

Yes, I will give way.

0:21:160:21:18

I am grateful to the honourable gentleman for giving way.

0:21:180:21:20

He and his party are optimistic people,

0:21:200:21:22

and rays of sunshine in this House.

0:21:220:21:24

I wonder if he cannot see any possible benefit

0:21:240:21:27

to the Scottish rural economy, particularly fisheries,

0:21:270:21:29

the European policy of which decimated

0:21:290:21:31

the Scottish fishing industry?

0:21:310:21:34

I thank the honourable member.

0:21:340:21:36

Actually, if you come and spend a little bit more time

0:21:360:21:38

with us, you will find that we are optimists at heart.

0:21:380:21:41

But what this debate is about, Madam Deputy Speaker,

0:21:410:21:44

is the realities.

0:21:440:21:47

Incomes falling and debts are rising.

0:21:470:21:49

Incomes were down by a shocking 29% last year.

0:21:490:21:55

A fifth of farmers are struggling just to pay their bills.

0:21:550:21:57

The average debt for a farming business is now ?188,500.

0:21:570:22:04

Too many have gone out of business altogether,

0:22:040:22:05

including more than 1,000 dairy farmers in the last three years.

0:22:050:22:09

So not all farmers are thriving or even surviving.

0:22:090:22:14

I'm determined that we secure a deal and leaving the EU

0:22:140:22:18

that works for all parts of the UK, and recognises the contribution

0:22:180:22:26

that all corners of this country make to our economic success.

0:22:260:22:29

Will she also make it a priority to publish proposals

0:22:290:22:31

to have a British fishing industry where we can catch

0:22:310:22:34

more of our own fish and protect our fishing grounds for the future?

0:22:340:22:39

Well, I'm grateful to my right honourable friend.

0:22:390:22:41

He makes a very good point about the potential

0:22:410:22:43

for all UK fishing, and I do hope that our policies,

0:22:430:22:46

when we come to them after consultation,

0:22:460:22:49

will enable us to deliver exactly has he asks for.

0:22:490:22:57

Andrea Leadsom.

0:22:570:22:58

Finally, Ministers have faced calls for a "root-and-branch re-appraisal"

0:22:580:23:00

of business rates after warnings about the impact of revaluation

0:23:000:23:03

on high-street shops.

0:23:030:23:05

The Communities and Local Government Minister, Lord Bourne,

0:23:050:23:08

told peers business rates were based on independent valuations,

0:23:080:23:11

and that most would see no change or a fall in their bills from April

0:23:110:23:15

due to a revaluation.

0:23:150:23:18

Business rates are based on evaluations carried

0:23:180:23:21

out independently by the Valuation Office agency,

0:23:210:23:25

and it is right that ministers do not intervene in that process.

0:23:250:23:28

Nearly three quarters of all businesses will see no change

0:23:280:23:31

or a fall in their rates will from April,

0:23:310:23:34

thanks to the 2017 revaluation, with 600,000 businesses

0:23:340:23:39

set to pay no business rates at all.

0:23:390:23:41

Nevertheless, the core of the High Street is badly affected

0:23:410:23:44

in many parts of our country.

0:23:440:23:49

There was an article in Saturday's Times about Southwold.

0:23:490:23:52

Not a huge place.

0:23:520:23:53

The local baker's rates

0:23:530:23:54

are going up from 4,000, or just over, to 14,000.

0:23:540:23:59

And, against that background, will my noble friend

0:23:590:24:01

look at the possibilities of revising the proposals

0:24:010:24:04

where an increase is up to 15%?

0:24:040:24:09

The rules at the moment suggest that there can be no appeal.

0:24:090:24:13

Secondly, where there is a small reduction or any reduction,

0:24:130:24:16

that reduction is paid in April, and not phased in?

0:24:160:24:22

Many peers thought Lord Naseby's question had gone on too long,

0:24:220:24:25

but he had one final suggestion to make.

0:24:250:24:27

Finally, my Lords, is it not time for a whole

0:24:270:24:31

root and branch reappraisal of this form of business?

0:24:310:24:37

My Lords, most businesses, as I've indicated,

0:24:370:24:39

will be seeing a fall in their business rates.

0:24:390:24:42

Those that are subject to increases, of course,

0:24:420:24:46

it's phased in over a period of time,

0:24:460:24:49

to take just one area which my noble friend touched upon.

0:24:490:24:51

That is paid for by those that are seeing a reduction

0:24:510:24:54

also seeing that phased in over a period of time,

0:24:540:24:57

as is required by law under the 1988 Local Government Finance Act.

0:24:570:25:01

As a simple sailor, there must be something wrong when you look

0:25:010:25:04

at high streets around the country - they are full of charity shops,

0:25:040:25:07

estate agents and the odd coffee shop.

0:25:070:25:09

They seem to be falling apart.

0:25:090:25:10

There must be something wrong with what is going on.

0:25:100:25:18

My Lords, I would certainly not call the noble lord

0:25:180:25:20

a simple sailor for one minute.

0:25:200:25:22

But, my Lords, it's true that many high streets are thriving.

0:25:220:25:25

I visited many high streets that are thriving.

0:25:250:25:26

In essence, my Lords, what is important is

0:25:260:25:28

that we seek to protect small and medium-sized businesses.

0:25:280:25:31

We've been doing that, my Lords, and that is the way forward.

0:25:310:25:35

Lord Bourne.

0:25:350:25:36

And that's it from me for now,

0:25:360:25:38

but do join me at the same time tomorrow, when among other things,

0:25:380:25:41

we'll have the highlights from Prime Minister's Questions.

0:25:410:25:43

But for now from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.

0:25:430:25:45

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