18/11/2015 Wednesday in Parliament


18/11/2015

Highlights of Wednesday 18 November in Parliament presented by Keith Macdougall.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament and our look

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at the best of the day in the Commons and the Lords.

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As the Commons weighs up options in the light of the terror threat

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from Isis, David Cameron makes clear he's not going to be influenced

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My job, frankly, as Prime Minister, is not to read

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a Survation opinion poll, but it's to do the right thing to

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The Labour leader fears cuts in police numbers will make

:00:33.:00:37.

Does the Prime Minister agree with the Commissioner of the Metropolitan

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Police, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, who said, and I quote, "I genuinely

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worry about the safety of London if the cuts go through on this scale?"

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And time for justice or time to forget?

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Almost 44 years after Bloody Sunday, there's anger over the arrest

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Does he agree with me that if we are to draw a line under past

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events for the sake of peace, it should be drawn on both sides?

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It was the first Prime Minister's Questions

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since the terror attacks in Paris and subsequent security operations.

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The brutal killings by Islamist terrorists on Friday night that left

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more than 120 dead made for a more serious backdrop than normal

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in the exchanges between the Prime Minister and Opposition leader.

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On Tuesday, several Labour MPs appeared to be openly at odds with

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their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, over his initial criticism of a

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shoot-to-kill strategy by police and the acceptance that terrorism can be

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blamed on Western intervention in Iraq and Syria. The Commons

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I want to start, Mr Speaker, by expressing the horror of all those

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on this side of the House at the events in Paris on Friday evening.

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And our continued solidarity with the victims

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of all people affected by conflict and terrorism, whether they be

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in Paris, Beirut, Ankara, Damascus or anywhere else in the world.

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Nothing can justify the targeting of innocent civilians by anyone.

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First of all, can I thank the Leader of the Opposition

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for his remarks and say what a pleasure it was to be with him last

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night at the England France football match when I thought there was

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I'm sure they can sing La Marseillaise louder in the Stade de

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but I think we did a pretty good job yesterday and I

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The most important thing is for people to carry on with their lives.

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It's very important that Eurostar continues to function,

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that flights continue to go, that people continue to travel, to

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enjoy London, to enjoy Paris and to continue going about our business.

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As we do so, yes, we need enhanced security, and that is happening with

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the way the police are acting here in the UK and elsewhere, but one

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of the ways to defeat terrorism is to show them we will not be cowed.

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The Labour leader said a key way to defeat Isil would be to

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Can I press the Prime Minister to ensure that

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our allies in the region, indeed all countries in the region,

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are doing all they can to clamp down on individuals and institutions in

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their countries who are providing Isil with vital infrastructure.

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Will he, through the European Union, and other forums if necessary,

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consider sanctions against those banks

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and companies and, if necessary, countries who turn a blind eye to

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financial dealings with Isil which assist them in their work?

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What happened was that because we didn't have a government in Iraq

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that effectively represented all of its people, and because in Syria you

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have a leader who's butchering his own people, Isil was able to get

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hold of oil, get hold of weapons, get hold of territory,

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get hold of banks, and it's that that they've been

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able to use those in order to fund their hatred and their violence.

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Can the Prime Minister clarify something about the source

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of the necessary extra funding to be set out for the security services,

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Will it come at the expense of other areas, either within the

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Home Office budget or within other areas of public spending, or from

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Does he want me to go on longer so the Chancellor can explain

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We will set out in full our decisions next week,

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but we've already said we'll be funding an increase to security

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We'll be safeguarding the counterterrorism budget.

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And we will be seeing an increase in terms of aviation security.

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All of this is part of an overall spending settlement.

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Policing plays a vital role in community cohesion, gathering

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intelligence on those who may be about to be a risk to all of us.

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But this is surely undermined if we cut the number

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Does the Prime Minister agree with the Commissioner of the Metropolitan

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Police, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, who said, and I quote, "I genuinely

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worry about the safety of London if the cuts go through on this scale?"

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I've said we are protecting the counterterrorism budget,

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we've seen a 3,800 increase in neighbourhood police officers

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At the same time as a 31% cut in crime.

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His Shadow Home Secretary has said that a 10% efficiency target

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Is the Leader of the Opposition saying he doesn't agree with

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There does seem to be a little bit of disagreement on

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I have a question from a taxpayer, actually.

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And his name is John and he says, at a time...

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And he says, Mr Speaker, at a time when we are experiencing the

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greatest threats from terrorism ever faced, our police officer numbers

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Will he be able to tell us whether or not this community

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policing and other police budgets are protected or not

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Let me tell him again, neighbourhood policing numbers have

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In the capital city, we've seen a 500% increase

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We've also, because we've cut bureaucracy,

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put the equivalent of an extra 2,000 police on the streets.

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But I'll tell the Leader of the Opposition something.

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As well as wanting resources, the police want the appropriate powers.

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Hasn't it come to something when the leader of

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Her Majesty's Opposition thinks that the police, when confronted by a

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Kalashnikov-waving terrorist, isn't sure what the reaction should be?

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The French armed police, who stormed the Bataclan and killed those vile,

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And so are the British armed police, who protect our public spaces

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Will the Prime Minister send a note of unequivocal support today

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to those officers on patrol and ensure that in the review next

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week they have the resources they need to keep us safe?

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I hope there can be consensus across the House, and I mean right

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If we are confronted with a situation like this, the British

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If you have a terrorist who is threatening to kill people, you can,

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The Westminster leader of the SNP, Angus Robertson, raised the subject

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of the recent Vienna peace talks held in an attempt to end the brutal

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During the talks, the participating countries signed a communique

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committing to make progress with the involvement of the United Nations.

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Will the Prime Minister confirm that he

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will support a UN Security Council resolution on this before seeking to

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What matters most of all is that any action we would take would both be

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legal and would help protect our country and our people right here.

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The first survey of UK public opinion on Syrian intervention

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since the Paris attacks by Survation has shown the following.

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52% believe that the UK should engage with all

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countries towards an appropriate response militarily or otherwise

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backed by United Nations resolution, and only 15% believe the UK should

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Will the Prime Minister give a commitment to secure a

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UN Security Council resolution which the UK agreed to and Russia

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agreed to a route through the United Nations as well?

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I couldn't be clearer with the right honourable gentleman.

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Of course, it is always preferable, in whatever action you're taking,

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whether we are lifting people out of the Mediterranean, whether we

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are flying Baltic air patrolling missions over countries that feel a

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Russian threat, or if we're taking action in the Middle East against

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Isil, it's always preferable to have a UN Security Council resolution.

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But if they are vetoed or threatened with a veto over and over again,

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my job, frankly, as Prime Minister, is not to read a Survation opinion

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poll, it's to do the right thing to keep our country safe.

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David Cameron getting strong vocal support there.

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Domestic issues were also raised during PMQs.

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A Labour MP raised problems in the National Health Service

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and the Government's new contract of employment for doctors,

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part of the Health Secretary's drive to create a seven-days-a-week NHS.

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My constituent was a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan and is currently

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He told me that with the proposed junior doctors

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contracts, morale in the NHS is lower now than at any point

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Does the Prime Minister agree with me that low morale amongst

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our junior doctors and nurses is a threat to patient safety?

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What I say to the honourable lady's constituency,

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and indeed to all junior doctors, is please look very carefully

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at what the Government is offering before you decide to go on strike.

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Because what is on offer is not an increase

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in hours, indeed for many doctors it will mean less long hours.

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It's not a cut in the pay bill for junior doctors.

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It's actually an 11% basic pay increase.

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It will mean a better rostering of doctors, including at weekends,

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I'd say to her constituent, as I'd say to others, go on the Department

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of Health website, look at the pay calculator and see how you will be

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affected because we've given a guarantee that anyone working legal

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hours will not be worse off under this contract. This is

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good for the NHS, good for doctors, good for patients, and even at this

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late hour, I hope the BMA will call off their damaging strike.

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Now, another day, another debate on lowering the voting age.

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This time peers have discussed that a referendum on Britain's EU

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membership should extend the voting franchise to cover

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But 16 and 17-year-olds did take part in last year's Scottish

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On Tuesday, the Commons decided against lowering

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So would peers lower it for the EU referendum?

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One of the key lessons of the Scottish referendum was

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indeed that the 16 and 17-year-old age group registered, well over

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100,000, and voted in larger numbers than those aged 18 to 24.

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If we change the voting age based on maturity, I suspect all behavioural

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experts would give the vote to girls aged ten and boys aged 25.

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So trying to make a judgment on who is mature enough to vote is

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much more subjective than picking an arbitrary age.

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But there's a huge advantage here, and the advantage is that we know

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exactly where these young people are.

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They are in schools and most schools have their own data

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controls and the Government could easily request that electoral

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registration officials should be given access to this information.

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Does the noble lady believe that 16-year-olds should be allowed

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I'm not getting into this debate now, OK?

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I think the whole situation of what 16 to 18-year-olds are allowed to do

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The fact you can have sex but can't watch sex is completely ridiculous.

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So, you know, obviously we need a broader debate on these issues.

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I don't think this is the place to have that.

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I ought to explain to the House that I'm a convert to the idea of 16 and

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At least many of them, not as many as I would wish, but many

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of them will have benefited from citizenship, education in school

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which is more than can be said for the vast majority of the population.

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We should not underestimate the gravity of voting.

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One can say, well, it's all great fun, we can join in,

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It's a momentous moment that every individual undertakes.

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And, of course, a 16-year-old, given the chance to vote, will and

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But we have to ask ourselves whether in our desire to enthuse 16

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and 17-year-olds we may be in danger of placing too great

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There are only four countries in the world

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Austria, Nicaragua, Brazil, where it's voluntary

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for 16-year-olds, it's compulsory for older voters, and Cuba.

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Now, I don't think that Castro, although with

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the current leadership of the Labour Party I can see the attraction,

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Just tell me how you're going to explain it when you're up there with

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I'm not sure they are going to be taken with the arguments you've just

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given us at length over the last ten minutes.

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Because they've voted and they've voted willingly and

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in numbers and I think they're going to take a dim view.

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So just try the argument you're going to use on the 16-year-olds.

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Not the ones we've heard because I don't think they will cut a lot

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I've often had some difficulty in Scotland getting people to

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And it's not just limited to 16-year-olds.

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And, at the end of that debate, peers voted to lower

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You're watching our round-up of the day and the Commons and the Lords.

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Another call for the Chancellor to abandon

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Now, it was one of the most controversial days in

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the history of Northern Ireland on what became known as Bloody Sunday.

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14 civilians died when the army opened fire on a civil

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The fatal shootings were the subject of a 12 year long public

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David Cameron made a public apology to the families

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Two years later, the Police Service of Northern Ireland started

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an investigation and last week a former member of the Parachute

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Regiment was arrested by police, he was later released on bail.

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The arrest led to an urgent question being asked in the Commons by an MP

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whose consistency is a former home of the Parachute Regiment.

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The Saville report costs ?195 million

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But our servicemen based in Aldershot and some of whom remain

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my constituents had to make snap decisions, the consequences of

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which have hung over them for the whole of their adult lives.

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What happened that day was a tragedy,

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particularly for the families of those who lost their lives.

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However, they are not the only bereaved.

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What about the families of the 1441 British soldiers who

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died in Northern Ireland in the service of their country?

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I submit that it is immoral for the state to seek nearly half a century

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after the event, to put these men on trial whilst others who deploy their

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bombs and bullets in the shadows are now in Government or have received

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royal pardons an act of Government not of the courts.

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I urge my honourable friend to exercise the Royal prerogative

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I can't comment on these individual cases.

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These are obviously a matter for an ongoing police enquiry.

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It is a long way from following a line of enquiry to

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I know what it is like to make those decisions under pressure.

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We shouldn't forget that the British Army is not

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It is the difference between us and the terrorists.

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It is what makes us a professional army around the world

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admired by many and sets us apart from some of those more tinpot Armed

:17:57.:18:00.

I think his response is exactly what we expect from our service people

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and we do expect more from them and that is why it is right and

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proper that, if the rule was being followed, that the people concerned

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get the chance to clear their name if that is possible.

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We have to remember, at the end of the day,

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there were 13 people left dead on the streets of Derry 43 years

:18:18.:18:20.

If people did not act properly, then it is right and proper that

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I entirely understand why any decisions about prosecutions must be

:18:27.:18:30.

independent and why he cannot comment on this particular case

:18:31.:18:38.

but, without prejudging in anyway, any particular case, does he

:18:39.:18:41.

understand that we also have a need to uphold justice and that it

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will be offending the natural sense of justice of many in this country

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that the behaviour of how the army behaved on a certain day 40 years

:18:48.:18:51.

ago is being reopened while so many on the IRA side who killed

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Does he agree with me that if we are to draw a line under past

:18:55.:19:00.

events for the sake of peace, they should be drawn on both sides?

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Five years ago at the Dispatch Box, the Prime Minister stood to his

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feet to try and bring closure to the ?200 million Saville report across

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the House and in many sections of society people expressed the view

:19:12.:19:14.

I made the prediction from this place, at that time, that that would

:19:15.:19:23.

not be the end of the matter and unfortunately so it has proved.

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But there is a real anger there amongst veterans.

:19:28.:19:31.

Will the Minister take steps to ensure that the current inequality

:19:32.:19:37.

that allows for those in the armed services to be pursued with greater

:19:38.:19:42.

vigour and effort than the terrorists themselves ends and that

:19:43.:19:45.

we move towards some level playing field in the future? We also believe

:19:46.:19:48.

in accountability and sensitivity for all victims.

:19:49.:19:50.

Irrespective of where they came from.

:19:51.:19:57.

But could I ask the Minister to ensure and to redouble efforts that

:19:58.:20:02.

the whole issue to do with the legacy of the past is fully

:20:03.:20:07.

pursued and that we obtain a final resolution that sticks on board

:20:08.:20:13.

national security considerations, so that truth

:20:14.:20:15.

Margaret Ritchie. Taxpayers are still spending too much

:20:16.:20:25.

on advice from external accountants and lawyers, that's the verdict

:20:26.:20:29.

of Mark Russell, the chief executive of the shareholder executive

:20:30.:20:32.

He was speaking to the Public Accounts Committee,

:20:33.:20:37.

which is investigating the sale of the Government's stake

:20:38.:20:39.

Over ?500,000 was paid to the commercial law firm Freshfields

:20:40.:20:45.

What we could ask, and I don't want to get to hung up

:20:46.:20:56.

on this ?500,000, is why you went to a magic-circle firm.

:20:57.:21:00.

Freshfields, super job, no doubt and Rolls-Royce,

:21:01.:21:03.

?1000 an hour for a partner, did you put it out to tender?

:21:04.:21:07.

The original tender for the Eurostar transaction was put out under the

:21:08.:21:10.

Department for Transport a while before this transfer took place.

:21:11.:21:14.

We tended it in exactly the same way as a financial adviser

:21:15.:21:17.

Freshfields came up with the best bid.

:21:18.:21:21.

I think, as Government, we do a reasonably good job trying

:21:22.:21:24.

to negotiate fees with financial and legal advisers.

:21:25.:21:27.

I have no doubts that the job Freshfields did was first rate.

:21:28.:21:30.

I have no doubt either. I've worked with them as well.

:21:31.:21:34.

One of the things I think we should recognise is

:21:35.:21:37.

the transaction itself was probably one of the cleanest I've ever seen.

:21:38.:21:42.

Are you paying too much for external advice, because you don't have the

:21:43.:21:45.

comfort of the relevant expertise within the profession at the moment?

:21:46.:21:51.

I think there's a general answer, yes, we are still paying,

:21:52.:21:54.

as a Government, too much for advisers but I don't think...

:21:55.:21:56.

Do I think it's better than it was? Yes, I do.

:21:57.:22:00.

And do I think one of the key jobs that people like us

:22:01.:22:05.

As most of us, of course, have been on the other side of the fence.

:22:06.:22:11.

The shareholder executive employs people on secondment from law

:22:12.:22:13.

Meg Hillier wondered how it worked.

:22:14.:22:15.

If you are a corporate finance person in the private sector and you

:22:16.:22:19.

are being on secondment on Bis civil servants' rates, I'm sure Bis civil

:22:20.:22:26.

servants are paid jolly well but probably not as well-paid as people

:22:27.:22:29.

in corporate finance and the private sector. Are you

:22:30.:22:31.

saying they take a pay cut or does their firm pay the difference?

:22:32.:22:35.

The latter. Sorry? The latter. The latter, OK.

:22:36.:22:36.

And then they go back to their firm and then

:22:37.:22:39.

they bid to run business advice for the shareholder executive?

:22:40.:22:41.

Could you just explain for taxpayers' benefits, for our

:22:42.:22:46.

benefit, how you ensure the right safeguards to make sure they're not

:22:47.:22:49.

using their internal knowledge to go through a revolving door and go out

:22:50.:22:52.

again to make money for their firm on the basis... Typically, clearly

:22:53.:22:57.

they will go back to their firms and organisations with knowledge

:22:58.:23:00.

of Government and I wouldn't necessarily see that as a bad thing.

:23:01.:23:03.

No. Typically when those firms

:23:04.:23:13.

you won't generally find secondees being on those pitch teams.

:23:14.:23:17.

Labour has called on the Chancellor to abandon his plans to cut working

:23:18.:23:20.

tax credits and instead to boost investment in the UK economy.

:23:21.:23:24.

In a short debate, ahead of next week's spending

:23:25.:23:27.

review, the Government rejected the demand, insisting

:23:28.:23:28.

George Osborne has said he wants to cut Whitehall budgets

:23:29.:23:35.

by up to 40% to achieve a budget surplus by the year 2020.

:23:36.:23:40.

The Chancellor intends to make swingeing, potentially devastating

:23:41.:23:43.

cuts to Government departments on welfare spending.

:23:44.:23:46.

Let me make it clear, austerity is a political choice,

:23:47.:23:49.

The record of this Government shows that the political choices

:23:50.:23:56.

the Chancellor is making are having a devastating impact on people

:23:57.:23:59.

In many cases, his cuts are falling on the heads

:24:00.:24:03.

Does he seriously preach about making the right choices

:24:04.:24:09.

when his party was responsible for the highest level

:24:10.:24:11.

Is that the choice that he is recommending here?

:24:12.:24:19.

More borrowing, more burden on British men and women, just to

:24:20.:24:21.

Let me say that, next week, what many in our economy,

:24:22.:24:28.

who work in our economy, want to hear from our Chancellor.

:24:29.:24:31.

Firstly and most importantly, he must reverse in full and fairly,

:24:32.:24:34.

This should be his absolute priority.

:24:35.:24:37.

Reality for my constituents is the ?1300

:24:38.:24:40.

If it goes ahead in April next year, it will mean ?58 million taken out

:24:41.:24:48.

of our local economy for the poorest people

:24:49.:24:50.

in my constituency, three quarters of whom are actually at work.

:24:51.:24:53.

And will she commit to review that's today?

:24:54.:24:57.

Thanks to the hard work of the British people,

:24:58.:24:59.

We have more growth, more jobs, higher wages.

:25:00.:25:08.

We know there is still much more to do but, Mr Speaker,

:25:09.:25:11.

there is no economic security, there is a national security and there is

:25:12.:25:14.

no opportunity when you lose control of your public finances.

:25:15.:25:19.

To cut 40 billion more than is necessary to run a balanced current

:25:20.:25:25.

budget, almost all of it paid for by punishing the poorest and

:25:26.:25:29.

stripping the capital budget of ?5 billion is our policy we reject, it

:25:30.:25:33.

is one we have seen already fail and it is most certainly not one

:25:34.:25:39.

Do join me for our next daily round-up.

:25:40.:25:47.

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