09/12/2015 Wednesday in Parliament


09/12/2015

Highlights of Wednesday 9 December in Parliament, presented by Keith Macdougall.


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Hello and welcome to Wednesday In Parliament,

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

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Labour teases the Government's attempt

:00:16.:00:18.

to win a better deal for Britain in Europe.

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I have to tell him, many of his own backbenchers

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are pretty unimpressed with how it is going so far.

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Most opposition parties are trying to get momentum,

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The Government faces fresh calls to release confidential files

:00:31.:00:35.

about a trade union dispute more than 40 years ago.

:00:36.:00:38.

This series of documents puts beyond any reasonable doubt

:00:39.:00:40.

the fact that the Shrewsbury trial was politically driven

:00:41.:00:44.

And an MP speaks about his own battle with depression.

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I know how it feels to be unable to function normally,

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to be unable to perform the most basic everyday tasks.

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at the weekly Prime Minister's Question time.

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Standing in for David Cameron was the Chancellor, George Osborne.

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Deputising for the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was Angela Eagle.

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The Prime Minister was out of the country, once again talking

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to European political leaders, as part of his mission to try to win

:01:17.:01:20.

improved terms for Britain's membership of the EU

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ahead of the coming In/Out referendum.

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And it was David Cameron's attempts at re-negotiations

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that Angela Eagle focused on at PMQS.

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Mr Speaker, I see that the Prime Minister cannot be with us

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because he is visiting Poland and Romania

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on the latest leg of his seemingly endless

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Mr Speaker, he has been jetting all over the place.

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No wonder we had to buy him his own aeroplane!

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So can the Chancellor tell us, please, how was it all going?

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Well, the good news is we have a party leader

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The Prime Minister is in central and Eastern Europe

:02:17.:02:34.

because we are fighting for a better deal for Britain.

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Something that never would have happened

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if there had been a Labour government.

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Well, Mr Speaker, I have to tell him that many of his own backbenchers

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are pretty unimpressed with how it is going so far.

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Mr Speaker, the Chancellor is well-known

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for cultivating his backbenchers.

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And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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So can I ask the question his own side wants answering.

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Given that the Prime Minister has pre-resigned, does he really aspire

:03:08.:03:11.

to be Britain's first post-EU Prime Minister?

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Not sure I'd be quoting the views of backbenchers

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if I was speaking for the Labour Party at the moment.

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Most opposition parties are trying to get momentum.

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We are fighting for a good deal for Britain in Europe.

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I notice he didn't answer the question about his own

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He might be worried about somebody a few places down on the bench,

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Oh, she's looking cross! Looking very cross!

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A reference to the Home Secretary, Theresa May.

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Mr Speaker, if he won't listen to the comments of his own

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backbenchers, perhaps he will listen to someone who has written in.

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Meaning Donald Tusk, president of the European Council.

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And he wrotes, "Uncertainty about the future of the UK

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in the European Union is a destabilising factor."

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Since the Conservative party announced its policy

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on the referendum, we have received the lion's share of investment

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It is because we have built a strong economy,

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that's because we stand up for Britain's interests abroad

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and we have made this a competitive place to grow and build a business.

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But, look, while we are quoting missives,

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there is someone called Tony who has been writing today.

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Happens to be the most successful Labour leader in history,

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and he is describing the Labour Party

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Can I suggest that she asks some serious questions about...

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..the Health Service, the economy, social care.

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We all know that the Chancellor is so preoccupied

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with his on leadership ambitions that he forgot about the day job.

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And that is why he ended up trying to slash working families'

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Isn't it about time he focused on the national interest

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We are fighting for a better deal for Britain in Europe.

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And the truth is this, we have shown that we have an economic plan

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Whether it is well-funded flood defences or putting money

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into our National Health Service, or backing our teachers

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in the schools, or introducing a national Living Wage,

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we are delivering security for the working people of Britain.

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The latest outspoken comments by Donald Trump,

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the front-running Republican candidate in the US presidential

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race, have caused plenty of anger, not to say disbelief.

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Mr Trump declared there should be a block on Muslims

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He also said police officers were scared

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The remarks led to calls in some quarters for Mr Trump

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Will the Chancellor take this opportunity to correct

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the bizarre claim made yesterday by Donald Trump

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about parts of London being no-go for the Metropolitan Police?

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Will he point out to Mr Trump there are in fact excellent

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relationships between the Muslim communities of London

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I think the honourable gentleman speaks for everyone in this House.

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The Metropolitan Police do a brilliant job and, of course,

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they have fantastic relations with British Muslims

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and British Muslims make a fantastic contribution into our country.

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Frankly, Donald Trump's comments fly in the face

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of the founding principles of the United States,

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and is one of the reasons why those founding principles

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have proved such an inspiration to so many people

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over the last couple of hundred years.

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I think the best way to defeat nonsense like this is to engage

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in robust democratic debate and make it very clear

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It is my understanding that the Home Secretary

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has banned 84 hate preachers from entering the UK.

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in considering making Mr Donald Trump number 85?

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I think the best way to confront the views of someone

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like Donald Trump is to engage in a robust democratic argument

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with him about why he is profoundly wrong about the contribution

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of American Muslims and, indeed, British Muslims.

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That is the best way to deal with Donald Trump and his views,

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rather than trying to ban presidential candidates.

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Labour's Andy Burnham has produced new documents,

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which he says reveal political interference in the trial

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of striking building workers in the 1970s.

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24 men were prosecuted in 1973 for an array of offences

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Six of the men were jailed, including the actor Ricky Tomlinson,

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who attended the debate in Westminster Hall.

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The Shrewsbury 24, as the group are now known,

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are campaigning to clear their names and for all Government documents

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who say the men are the victims of a miscarriage of justice.

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Andy Burnham read out a note from the Home Secretary

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at the time, Robert Carr, to the then-Prime Minister Edward Heath.

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It reads, "Thank you for your minutes

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of the 29th of January about picketing.

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I have taken a close personal interest in this problem

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I have myself discussed it with the chief officers

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of those police forces which have had to deal

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I believe the Chief Constables are now fully aware

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of the importance we attach to this matter."

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So, from this, there is no doubt at all that

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the Home Secretary was heavily interfering in operational police

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matters and, just over a week after his memo was sent

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to the Prime Minister, the Shrewsbury picketers

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were picked up by police and charged.

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A full five months after the strike had ended.

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This series of documents put beyond any reasonable doubt

:09:58.:10:01.

the fact that the Shrewsbury trial was politically driven

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The Home Secretary should have been concerned.

:10:05.:10:09.

At that time, the nation was bedevilled by strikes.

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We had not had the legislation that Lady Thatcher,

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It seems to me that if the case is making

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is that the Home Secretary should not have been involved,

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that is a fundamental misreading of the situation

:10:23.:10:24.

The Home Secretary was right to have been concerned

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because the British people were concerned at the way in which

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trade unionists were running rampant across the country.

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Perhaps the honourable gentleman should have been here

:10:39.:10:40.

at the start of the debate to hear the whole case,

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It was a political campaign against the trade unions.

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Mr Burnham said he had new information about a TV programme

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about communist infiltration of unions,

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to a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office official.

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From the head of the Information Research Department,

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a covert propaganda unit operating within the FCO.

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It says, I quote, "Mr Woodrow Wyatt's television programme,

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Red Under The Bed, was shown on national commercial television

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on Tuesday 30th of November at 10:30pm.

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We had a discreet but considerable hand in this programme."

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The Government stand by their decision not to release

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those documents on the basis of national security.

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I know that is perhaps not the answer that the honourable

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members on the other side wanted me to say,

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but that is the position of Her Majesty's government.

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I will be every thing I can to assist this case...

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Sorry, to assist the campaign as much as possible.

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If I was one of the members for the constituency

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of the campaigners, I would be sitting there today,

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as the right honourable ladies and gentlemen know,

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You're watching our round-up of the day in the Commons

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Reaction in both houses to the widespread flooding

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Once again, an MP has used a debate in the Commons to talk personally

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about his own battle with depression.

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Labour's Kevan Jones and Conservative Charles Walker -

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spoke openly about the different mental health battles

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Their frank admissions were welcomed by health campaigners.

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Now, an Opposition Day debate on mental health has prompted

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I have my own personal experience of mental ill-health.

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and I think there are a number of us, I have suffered from depression.

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As a result of those depressive episodes,

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I know how it feels to be able to unable to function normally,

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to be unable to perform the most basic everyday tasks,

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because the weight of the depression is so overwhelming.

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I know how debilitating depression and other mental ill health can be.

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It is quite difficult to explain it to people

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who have not experienced it, just how debilitating it can be.

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I really am heartened that, increasingly, mental health

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is not only being recognised but acknowledged and spoken about.

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Increasingly, people accept that this is an illness

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that should be without stigma or taboo.

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I think the more that mental health is discussed

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as an issue, the clearer it becomes that this is something

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that affects people in huge numbers from all walks of life,

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The culture of our society often makes it very difficult for men

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to admit that they are unable to deal with the stresses of life,

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And the statistics relating to the worst manifestation

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of that, suicide, are deeply worrying.

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British men are three times as likely to die by suicide

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Suicide remains the most common cause of death

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And over a quarter of the 24-34 males who die take their own lives,

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That is a huge, Madam Deputy Speaker, national scandal.

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And success or failure in dealing with mental illness

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in the world's fifth richest country,

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is not just a judgment on the Government or the NHS,

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but our society as a whole, and our basic humanity.

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Millions of people in North-West England and the Scottish Borders

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are not quickly going to forget Storm Desmond.

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Thousands of houses were flooded and one person died

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when a record-breaking amount of rain fell in the space

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In Cumbria, some of the flooding was the worst in the county's

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Particularly hard hit was the city of Carlisle,

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where scenes of rescues of trapped householders were numerous.

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The nearby main rail line was blocked, roads became

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impassable, and in one case the rising waters caused a main road

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In addition, thousands of homes in Cumbria and Lancashire were hit

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The situation was raised at Prime Minister's Questions.

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Our hearts go out to all those suffering the consequences

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of the severe flooding in the north-west this week.

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With thousands of families and businesses affected,

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the priority has got to be for the Government to get immediate

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Yet, one year on from the 2013/2014 floods, it emerged that only 15%

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of those affected had received payments from the Government's

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So does the Chancellor agree with me that this cannot possibly be be

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So will the Chancellor today give the house a guarantee that people

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will receive the help they need and quickly?

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The update is that we have just one severe flood warning still in place

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and power has been restored to 168,000 homes and the West Coast

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main line is open, but we have got to be there for the long term

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So first of all we continue to support the immediate rescue

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efforts, of course, the military have deployed.

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On recovery, the question she asks, I can today announced a ?50 million

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fund for families and businesses affected in the area.

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This will be administered by the local authorities to avoid

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some of the administrative problems that she alludes to in her question.

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And, when it comes to rebuilding the infrastructure of Cumbria

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and Lancashire and other areas affected, we are assessing now

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the damage to flood defences and the damage to the roads

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One of the benefits of having a strong and resilient economy

:16:52.:16:56.

I thank him for that answer. You wouldn't think from listening to him

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that he has cut flood dispense spending by ?115 million this year.

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-- flood defence. After visiting the floods in the Somerset levels in

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2014, the Prime Minister said that money is no object in this relief

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effort and whatever money is needed will be spent. I welcome the

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announcement that the Chancellor has just made, but will he confirm that

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the same will apply this time? Absolutely. Money will be made

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available to those affected and the communities that have seen the

:17:42.:17:46.

infrastructure damage. Up to ?5,000 will be made available to individual

:17:47.:17:49.

families to repair their homes and protect them against future

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flooding. Thank you. Carlisle and Cumbria have experienced a traumatic

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few days. I thank him for considering the direct effect of the

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floods on families. A charitable organisation has launched a flood

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appeal. I wrote to the Prime Minister asking for support for the

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appeal as it would help many affected people across the county.

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With the Chancellor be able to offer such support from the government

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towards this much-needed fund? First of all, I think everyone would pay

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tribute to the people of Carlisle and the extraordinary resilience

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they have shown in the acts of friendship neighbours had shown. The

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Prime Minister this morning before he left for Central Europe asked me

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to make sure that we would be able to help on the specific point that

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my friend raises. And the one he raised with the Prime Minister. And

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I can say that we will support the work that the Cumbrian foundation

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does and we will match by up to ?1 million the money they are raising.

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Meanwhile, members of the House of Lords were also reflecting

:19:09.:19:11.

on the weekend's serious flooding in the North West.

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My Lords, would not my friend agree that the priority must first be to

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get relief to those who have been so unfortunately unhappily and

:19:27.:19:28.

disastrously affected and to make sure that any additional rain that

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is threatened doesn't exacerbate existing problem? He makes a good

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point. And that is precisely what the initial response is designed to

:19:42.:19:46.

do. To make people safe and get them to temporary accommodation. And

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clear some of the devastation that has been caused. Is she aware there

:19:51.:19:54.

is another emergency service that has not been recognised? That is

:19:55.:20:02.

radio Cumbria. They went on for 24 others for two full days. Without

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their assistance, the county would not have done as well. Will she join

:20:08.:20:13.

me in paying tribute to them? And also, while it is too early to make

:20:14.:20:19.

an analysis, will she perhaps tell the house today whether there is any

:20:20.:20:25.

truth in the assertion that the ?4 million scheme for Kendall was

:20:26.:20:29.

actually delayed by the Coalition Government and will she give the

:20:30.:20:35.

house insurance that this government will not delay it any further? --

:20:36.:20:42.

give the house assurance. I will join him. I am sure that Radio

:20:43.:20:46.

Cumbria just like all the other members of the community pulled

:20:47.:20:50.

together over the last few days to help in quite a devastated area. So

:20:51.:20:56.

Radio Cumbria, I am sure like every other person that could play their

:20:57.:21:00.

part, I am sure has added to mitigating some of the agony of the

:21:01.:21:06.

people that live there. In terms of the Kendall scheme, we are looking

:21:07.:21:11.

at a potential scheme to reduce the risk of flooding in Kendal. But

:21:12.:21:18.

because it is at an early stage of planning, the proposed scheme is

:21:19.:21:22.

scheduled for 2021. We are considering with other funding

:21:23.:21:26.

partners how we can bring the scheme forward to improve protection for

:21:27.:21:32.

440 properties at a cost predicted at ?3.95 million. Could the minister

:21:33.:21:39.

tell us what cognizance has been taken by the government regarding

:21:40.:21:48.

the insurance industry. And the matter of 100 year events. I

:21:49.:21:57.

appreciate this is probably a matter for God. Every time we try to

:21:58.:22:03.

predict, and even worse event has occurred. We are constantly

:22:04.:22:07.

reviewing the flood defences and how we can respond.

:22:08.:22:09.

Now, does the law need strengthening on the keeping of exotic animals?

:22:10.:22:12.

The range of animals now kept as pets in the UK has increased

:22:13.:22:15.

dramatically over the last ten years.

:22:16.:22:18.

The advent of the internet has meant more people have been able

:22:19.:22:21.

to acquire such creatures as meerkats, macaws,

:22:22.:22:24.

A Conservative MP highlighted just some of the many species now

:22:25.:22:31.

There are many examples, which colleagues will know about. Boa

:22:32.:22:45.

constrictors, numerous amphibians. African pygmy hedgehogs and the list

:22:46.:22:55.

goes on. The pet food manufacturers association estimate that the exotic

:22:56.:23:01.

population has got to 42 million and that is staggering. The number of

:23:02.:23:04.

reptiles and amphibians alone kept in this country is now anywhere

:23:05.:23:09.

between two million and 7 million. There has been a huge increase in

:23:10.:23:15.

numbers. There was a badly neglected African pygmy hedgehog which was

:23:16.:23:20.

disposed in a cardboard box in London. It had to be rescued and

:23:21.:23:25.

taken to an animal hospital. There were two bearded Dragons found in a

:23:26.:23:29.

London cemetery. What has happened is these pets, which may be given

:23:30.:23:34.

for Christmas, and children are excited becomes very difficult to

:23:35.:23:40.

manage. None of these issues are original. The thing that has changed

:23:41.:23:44.

is the power of the Internet. That has changed. We have all fought a

:23:45.:23:51.

General Election campaign. As you go canvassing, I one door and I saw a

:23:52.:23:55.

cat with spots on. I thought they are keeping leopards now. The

:23:56.:24:02.

household over the years has kept various animals. We have drawn the

:24:03.:24:08.

line at giraffes. Let's be frank. Those individuals who want a meerkat

:24:09.:24:13.

should stick to collecting the stuffed toys. They should steer

:24:14.:24:21.

clear of the real thing. What is it that drives trends in the pet

:24:22.:24:27.

market? I would suggest one of the drivers is that they are seen as

:24:28.:24:34.

cute and cuddly. Transferrin disease and pathogens and the risk that

:24:35.:24:41.

these animals may be released into the wild. There is legislation that

:24:42.:24:47.

deals with abandonment or non-native species. It is clear that there is a

:24:48.:24:56.

thrive in the exotic pet trade. But it also means a rise in the risk of

:24:57.:25:08.

abandonment. There is much greater prospects for working, with regard

:25:09.:25:15.

to experts. With regard to exotics, we are looking at making it a

:25:16.:25:19.

requirement to have a licence. And making sure care sheets are given to

:25:20.:25:26.

owners before they are allowed to purchase pets. So through the

:25:27.:25:31.

licensing process, you would have a compulsion for that information to

:25:32.:25:36.

be given. We are also looking at whether to look at a more risk based

:25:37.:25:38.

approach. Until then, from me,

:25:39.:25:44.

Keith Macdougall, goodbye.

:25:45.:25:49.

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