09/12/2015 Wednesday in Parliament


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

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Hello and welcome to Wednesday In Parliament,


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


Labour teases the Government's attempt


to win a better deal for Britain in Europe.


I have to tell him, many of his own backbenchers


are pretty unimpressed with how it is going so far.


Most opposition parties are trying to get momentum,


The Government faces fresh calls to release confidential files


about a trade union dispute more than 40 years ago.


This series of documents puts beyond any reasonable doubt


the fact that the Shrewsbury trial was politically driven


And an MP speaks about his own battle with depression.


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


to be unable to perform the most basic everyday tasks.


at the weekly Prime Minister's Question time.


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


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


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


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


improved terms for Britain's membership of the EU


ahead of the coming In/Out referendum.


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


that Angela Eagle focused on at PMQS.


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


because he is visiting Poland and Romania


on the latest leg of his seemingly endless


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


No wonder we had to buy him his own aeroplane!


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


Well, the good news is we have a party leader


The Prime Minister is in central and Eastern Europe


because we are fighting for a better deal for Britain.


Something that never would have happened


if there had been a Labour government.


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


are pretty unimpressed with how it is going so far.


Mr Speaker, the Chancellor is well-known


for cultivating his backbenchers.


And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.


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


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


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


Not sure I'd be quoting the views of backbenchers


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


Most opposition parties are trying to get momentum.


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


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


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


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


A reference to the Home Secretary, Theresa May.


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


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


Meaning Donald Tusk, president of the European Council.


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


in the European Union is a destabilising factor."


Since the Conservative party announced its policy


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


It is because we have built a strong economy,


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


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


But, look, while we are quoting missives,


there is someone called Tony who has been writing today.


Happens to be the most successful Labour leader in history,


and he is describing the Labour Party


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


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


We all know that the Chancellor is so preoccupied


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


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


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


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


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


Whether it is well-funded flood defences or putting money


into our National Health Service, or backing our teachers


in the schools, or introducing a national Living Wage,


we are delivering security for the working people of Britain.


The latest outspoken comments by Donald Trump,


the front-running Republican candidate in the US presidential


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


Mr Trump declared there should be a block on Muslims


He also said police officers were scared


The remarks led to calls in some quarters for Mr Trump


Will the Chancellor take this opportunity to correct


the bizarre claim made yesterday by Donald Trump


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


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


relationships between the Muslim communities of London


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


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


they have fantastic relations with British Muslims


and British Muslims make a fantastic contribution into our country.


Frankly, Donald Trump's comments fly in the face


of the founding principles of the United States,


and is one of the reasons why those founding principles


have proved such an inspiration to so many people


over the last couple of hundred years.


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


in robust democratic debate and make it very clear


It is my understanding that the Home Secretary


has banned 84 hate preachers from entering the UK.


in considering making Mr Donald Trump number 85?


I think the best way to confront the views of someone


like Donald Trump is to engage in a robust democratic argument


with him about why he is profoundly wrong about the contribution


of American Muslims and, indeed, British Muslims.


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


rather than trying to ban presidential candidates.


Labour's Andy Burnham has produced new documents,


which he says reveal political interference in the trial


of striking building workers in the 1970s.


24 men were prosecuted in 1973 for an array of offences


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


who attended the debate in Westminster Hall.


The Shrewsbury 24, as the group are now known,


are campaigning to clear their names and for all Government documents


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


Andy Burnham read out a note from the Home Secretary


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


It reads, "Thank you for your minutes


of the 29th of January about picketing.


I have taken a close personal interest in this problem


I have myself discussed it with the chief officers


of those police forces which have had to deal


I believe the Chief Constables are now fully aware


of the importance we attach to this matter."


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


the Home Secretary was heavily interfering in operational police


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


to the Prime Minister, the Shrewsbury picketers


were picked up by police and charged.


A full five months after the strike had ended.


This series of documents put beyond any reasonable doubt


the fact that the Shrewsbury trial was politically driven


The Home Secretary should have been concerned.


At that time, the nation was bedevilled by strikes.


We had not had the legislation that Lady Thatcher,


It seems to me that if the case is making


is that the Home Secretary should not have been involved,


that is a fundamental misreading of the situation


The Home Secretary was right to have been concerned


because the British people were concerned at the way in which


trade unionists were running rampant across the country.


Perhaps the honourable gentleman should have been here


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


It was a political campaign against the trade unions.


Mr Burnham said he had new information about a TV programme


about communist infiltration of unions,


to a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office official.


From the head of the Information Research Department,


a covert propaganda unit operating within the FCO.


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


Red Under The Bed, was shown on national commercial television


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


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


The Government stand by their decision not to release


those documents on the basis of national security.


I know that is perhaps not the answer that the honourable


members on the other side wanted me to say,


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


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


Sorry, to assist the campaign as much as possible.


If I was one of the members for the constituency


of the campaigners, I would be sitting there today,


as the right honourable ladies and gentlemen know,


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


Reaction in both houses to the widespread flooding


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


about his own battle with depression.


Labour's Kevan Jones and Conservative Charles Walker -


spoke openly about the different mental health battles


Their frank admissions were welcomed by health campaigners.


Now, an Opposition Day debate on mental health has prompted


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


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


As a result of those depressive episodes,


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


to be unable to perform the most basic everyday tasks,


because the weight of the depression is so overwhelming.


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


It is quite difficult to explain it to people


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


I really am heartened that, increasingly, mental health


is not only being recognised but acknowledged and spoken about.


Increasingly, people accept that this is an illness


that should be without stigma or taboo.


I think the more that mental health is discussed


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


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


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


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


And the statistics relating to the worst manifestation


of that, suicide, are deeply worrying.


British men are three times as likely to die by suicide


Suicide remains the most common cause of death


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


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


And success or failure in dealing with mental illness


in the world's fifth richest country,


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


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


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


are not quickly going to forget Storm Desmond.


Thousands of houses were flooded and one person died


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


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


Particularly hard hit was the city of Carlisle,


where scenes of rescues of trapped householders were numerous.


The nearby main rail line was blocked, roads became


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


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


The situation was raised at Prime Minister's Questions.


Our hearts go out to all those suffering the consequences


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


With thousands of families and businesses affected,


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


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


of those affected had received payments from the Government's


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


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


will receive the help they need and quickly?


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


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


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


So first of all we continue to support the immediate rescue


efforts, of course, the military have deployed.


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


fund for families and businesses affected in the area.


This will be administered by the local authorities to avoid


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


And, when it comes to rebuilding the infrastructure of Cumbria


and Lancashire and other areas affected, we are assessing now


the damage to flood defences and the damage to the roads


One of the benefits of having a strong and resilient economy


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


available to those affected and the communities that have seen the


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


families to repair their homes and protect them against future


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


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


floods on families. A charitable organisation has launched a flood


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


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


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


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


tribute to the people of Carlisle and the extraordinary resilience


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


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


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


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


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


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


Meanwhile, members of the House of Lords were also reflecting


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


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


get relief to those who have been so unfortunately unhappily and


disastrously affected and to make sure that any additional rain that


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


actually delayed by the Coalition Government and will she give the


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


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


Cumbria just like all the other members of the community pulled


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


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


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


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


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


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


scheduled for 2021. We are considering with other funding


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


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


tell us what cognizance has been taken by the government regarding


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


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


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


reviewing the flood defences and how we can respond.


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


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


dramatically over the last ten years.


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


to acquire such creatures as meerkats, macaws,


A Conservative MP highlighted just some of the many species now


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


constrictors, numerous amphibians. African pygmy hedgehogs and the list


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


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


reptiles and amphibians alone kept in this country is now anywhere


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


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


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


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


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


for Christmas, and children are excited becomes very difficult to


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


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


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


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


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


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


should stick to collecting the stuffed toys. They should steer


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


approach. Until then, from me,


Keith Macdougall, goodbye.


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