Kristiina Cooper presents highlights of Wednesday 16 December in Parliament.
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Hello and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament.
The main news from Westminster:
Winter pressures in the health service -
the Labour leader accuses the Government of holding b`ck
Is it because the number of people being kept waiting on trolldys
in A has gone up more than fourfold
that he doesn't want to publish these statistics?
But David Cameron insists the NHS is in good health.
There is more data published in our NHS that there
ever was under Labour.
Also on the programme, two weeks after the Commons voted
for air strikes in Syria, there's a progress report
from the Foreign Secretary.
It continues to be the case that we have had no reports
of civilian casualties as a result
of UK air strikes in either Iraq or Syria.
And the BBC is challenged over
the nomination of Tyson Furx for Sports Personality of the Year.
I think, like most people, there is a line has to be drawn
between expressing offensivd views, which he is entitled to do,
and expressing violent views about breaking women's
jaws and shooting homosexuals.
The final Prime Minister's Puestions before the Christmas break began
on an uplifting note.
I am sure the whole House will join me in wishing
Major Tim Peake well as he begins his six-month stay
at the international space station.
We all watched his exciting take-off yesterday and,
as the first Briton to visit the international space station
it signals a landmark
in this country s involvement in space exploration.
I am proud that the Governmdnt took the decision to fund it
and we wish him the best of luck.
Tim Peake will be on the sp`ce station for six months.
The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn kicked off with some festivd cheer.
Could I start by wishing you, all Members
of the House and all staff here and Major Tim Peake,
who is not on the planet at this time...
..a very happy Christmas and a peaceful new year?
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
When the chortling faded aw`y, it was down to the serious business.
Mr Corbyn asked about the NHS and the availability of sochal care
for people leaving hospital.
The number of days that pathents are being kept in hospital
because there is nowhere safe to discharge them to has dotbled
since the Prime Minister took office.
On the 4th of November, I asked him if he could guarantee
that there will be no winter crisis in the NHS this winter.
He did not answer then, I wonder whether he will be able
to help us with an answer today
First, let me join the right honourable
Gentleman and be clear that I do not want to wish him the season s
greetings, I want a full happy Christmas for him and everyone
in the House.
He specifically asked about the NHS, so let me
answer specifically about the NHS.
The average stay in hospital has actually fallen since I bec`me
Prime Minister from five and a half days to five days.
One reason for that is that we kept our promises on the NHS.
We put in an extra ?12 billhon in the last Parliament
and will be putting in ?19 billion in cash terms
in the NHS in this Parliament.
For the record, I did say happy Christmas.
Maybe the Prime Minister was not listening at the time.
If he is so happy about the national health service, will he explain why
he has decided to cancel the publication of
NHS performance data this whnter?
Is it because the number of people being kept waiting on trolldys
in A has gone up more than fourfold that he does not
want to publish these statistics?
First of all, the data that he quoted in his first question
was not published before this Government came into office.
Let me quote him some data about the NHS.
Let me take an average day today compared with five years ago,
when I became Prime Minister.
On an average day in the NHS today,
there are 4,400 more operathons and 21,000 more outpatient
appointments than there were five years ago.
Yes, there are challenges in A but there are 2,100 more people
seen within four hours todax than there were five years `go,
and there are more data published on our NHS than there ever
were under Labour.
There are huge pressures on the NHS
and they are largely due to the pressures on the adult social
care system, which is under enormous stress at the moment.
Indeed, there have been hugd cuts in adult social care becausd of cuts
in local government funding.
The NHS chief executive, Simon Stevens, has called
for a radical upgrade in prdvention and public health.
Does the Prime Minister agrde that cutting these crucial
services is a false economy?
We are increasing the money that
is able to go into social c`re through the 2% council tax precept,
so that local councils can spend more.
But I notice the right honourable Gentleman
mentioned Simon Stevens but our NHS plan
is Simon Stevens plan.
For the first time, the NHS got together and wrote its plan.
It asked for ?8 billion and it asked for the money up front.
We committed to that plan, unlike Labour at the last election,
and we funded it up front, which is why we see a bigger
and better NHS.
Mr Cameron has received somd advice on Europe from the former
Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major.
In a BBC interview, John Major warned Mr Cameron against flirting
with leaving the European Union
He told the Today programme on Radio Four that heading off
into splendid isolation would not be in the UK's best interests.
His remarks were seized on at PMQs by Angus Robertson,
the Leader of the SNP at Westminster.
The Prime Minister will shortly meet the Heads of State and of Government
of the European Union.
Will he heed the advice of former Prime Minister John Major and stop
flirting with leaving the European Union,
which would, in his words, be
very dangerous and against our national interests?
What I will be doing is getting the best
deal for Britain. That is what we should be doing
This Government were the first to cut the EU budget,
the first to veto a treaty, the first to bring back
substantial powers to Britahn.
We have a great record on Etrope and we will get a good deal
for the British people.
We were reminded this week that there is a very
strong majority in Scotland to remain within the Europe`n Union,
and the Prime Minister has failed...
I know his side does not like to hear it
but the Prime Minister has failed to give any guarantees that Scotland
will not be forced out of the EU by the rest of the UK.
Does he have any idea of the consequences of taking
Scotland out of the EU against the wishes of voters in Scotland?
This is a United Kingdom and this is a United Kingdom issue.
Why is he so frightened
of listening to the people and holding this
historic referendum, passed through both Houses
of Parliament in the last wdek?
I say get a good deal for Britain and then trust the people.
Three years ago, the Prime Linister could not have been any cle`rer
His EU renegotiation would lean returning control over soci`l
and employment law. Is he still seeking that?
I always find it hard to satisfy
the honourable Gentleman.
He joined the Conservative party
when we were not committed to a referendum and he left
the Conservative party after we committed to a refdrendum,
so I am not surprised that he is giving his new boss
as much trouble as he used to give me.
With that, I wish them both a very festive Christmas.
Later on at PMQs, Mr Cameron said that the UK has met its comlitment
to giving refuge to 100 Syrhans fleeing the civil war.
Later, the Foreign Secretarx, Philip Hammond, gave MPs a progress
report on the fight against so-called Islamic State
He said it was unacceptable that Russia continued
to focus its attacks on Syrian opposition groups.
He revealed that the RAF has flown 1600 missions
over Iraq and Syria.
I am pleased to be able to hnform the House today that it continues
to be the case that we have had no reports
of civilian casualties as a result of UK air strikes
in either Iraq or Syria.
I pay tribute to the precishon and professionalism of our
RAF pilots in conducting these operations.
With our coalition partners, including the United States,
we will continue to urge the Russians at every opportunity
to focus their fire solely on Daesh.
It is unacceptable that Russian action
is weakening the opposition and thus giving advantage to the verx Daesh
forces that they claim to be engaged against.
The International Syria Support Group will meet in New York this
week following talks in Parhs aimed at ending the civil war.
With so many different parthes to the Syrian civil war,
maintaining a ceasefire will be extremely complex.
Has the Government explored the possibility
of a UN resolution reinforchng the outline agreement,
including the ceasefire, agreed at that second
It remains the clear intenthon of US Secretary of State John Kerry
to try to get agreement on Friday in New York to a ceasefire.
Frankly, that will be highlx challenging but I commend hhm
for his ambition.
We are also holding this medting in New York on Friday,
rather than Vienna, specifically to be able to go
immediately to the United N`tions Security Council if it becoles
clear, during the morning, that it is possible to reach
an agreement that the Russi`ns will not veto
in the UN Security Council.
There is a possibility, but I would put it no
higher than that, that Frid`y's meeting will end with
the UN Security Council resolution.
The Foreign Secretary said, and is
welcome across this chamber, that there had been no reported
casualties of UK action in Syria.
Of course, he also knows the UK-based
Syrian Observatory on Human Rights supported in the last few d`ys
26 civilian casualties from the coalition of which we are
a part, action in Syria.
Including the reported deaths of seven children
and four women.
Following on from the comments of the member for Gordon,
isn't the crucial differencd that the RAF goes out of its way
to avoid civilian casualties, while Daesh goes out of its way
to destroy and kill and maim as many innocent
civilians as it possibly can?
Isn't it clear Russia's priority is to protect the Assad reghme?
Does it remain the position of the British Government that Assad
cannot be part of any solution
to the Syrian crisis?
Mr Speaker, I long since gave up using the word "clear"
to describe anything about Russian policy because it is anything
but clear, it is always opapue.
The truth is, we simply don't know what the Russian strategy is.
We don't know what their objectives are and
my assessment is that most people in the Russian system don't know.
Perhaps Mr Putin has in his head an idea
about what the endgame is hdre.
What I do know is that some 75% of Russian air strikes
are being conducted against people that we
believe have to be part of the solution to the Syri`n
problem, not against Daesh, which we are very
clear is the enemy.
When you sup with Vladimir Putin, you need to use a very long spoon.
So it is very dangerous for some of our European
colleagues to be saying that his involvement in this
dispute, in this battle, is somehow helpful and that
we should be reconsidering sanctions against him.
The percentage of Russian air strikes that are
targeting on Daesh has incrdased but it is still only around 25%
of the total of the air strhkes
The remainder are targeted against the moderate opposition
and that is deeply unhelpful, to put it mildly.
Philip Hammond there.
Now, MPs have challenged thd BBC's Director-General Tony Hall over
the controversial nomination of the boxer Tyson Fury for the BBC
Sports Personality of the Ydar.
He said - one of them was, "Don't like gays, should
all be shot dead."
Another one, "Off home now to break the wife's jaw."
Do you think somebody sending tweets like that is an appropriate role
model for the BBC to be putting on television
for a prestigious award?
Can I say two things?
One is to stress again the panel decided, and I wasn't present
in the panel discussions, to name him for his extraordinary
achievement of - I think he's the fifth person to win
a heavyweight title for the world.
You know, he's getting - he's been put on that list
because of his sporting prowess not for other things
that he's doing.
If I may just finish?
It's actually up for now, for the people to judge,
for them to vote as to whether he's the person who becomes
Sports Personality of the Ydar.
You know of course the sign`l that it sends out for him to be
on the stage.
I don't think for one moment he will win.
It sends out a very strong signal to kids in particular
across the country watching this, that our national broadcastdr
is prepared to go along with his nomination.
Or are you saying that once he was nominated,
however the process worked in the end -
and there is some dispute about how it did work -
are you saying the BBC was locked into this process and that
Tyson Fury could say or do `nything at this stage now and he will end up
on your shortlist?
I kind of believe in the process of Sports Personality of thd Year,
namely that 12 names are put up there and then,
as it were, the voters, in this case the British public
will make their judgment.
Like most people, a line has to be drawn between expressing offensive
views, which he is entitled to do, and expressing violent views
about breaking women's jaws and shooting homosexuals.
For me, that crosses a line.
The Americans call it fighting talk, don't they?
Can I ask you a different qtestion?
Do you think that had he said for instance,
"Don't like Muslims, should all be shot dead."
Do you think he would still be on your shortlist?
I'm not going to get into hypotheticals like that.
Can I go back and say...
I don't, I have to say.
I have my private views.
Can I also say it is interesting to hear you talking about free
speech, too, because one of the things which is key
to the BBC is that we are ilpartial and we should be a place
where people's views can be heard across a range of opinion
in all things.
You are watching Wednesday in Parliament with me,
A trip to Holyrood now, where the Scottish Government has
been setting out its budget for next year.
It's the first time that Scotland has been able to determine hncome
tax rates and the Deputy First Minister and Finance Secret`ry,
the Scottish Nationalist, John Swinney, confirmed
they would remain the same.
Opposition parties baited hhm about the decision.
The current power allows for one single rate to be set in Scotland
and applied equally to all three income tax bands, the basic,
higher and additional rate.
Any rate set above 10p would increase the tax paid
by all Scottish taxpayers.
By its nature, exercising this power would have a disproportionate effect
on the amount of tax paid bx those on the lowest of incomes.
Likewise, whilst any rate bdlow 10p would cut the tax bill paid
by all taxpayers, those on the highest incomes would see
the greatest benefit.
So the simple fact is this: The tax power does not enable me to target
help to those on the lowest of incomes.
I do, however, have the powdr to ensure that this tax does not
inflict an additional burden on those on low incomes.
I can therefore confirm that there will be no changd
in income tax rates next ye`r.
I propose that the Scottish rate of income tax will be set at 10p
in the ?1.
The rate people pay this ye`r will be the same rate
that they will pay next year.
I hope, Presiding Officer, that from 2017/18, this Parliament
will have more flexibility in setting income tax rates.
However, that will depend on reaching agreement
on a new fiscal framework and final passage of the Scotland Bill.
I can confirm that, subject to achieving these outcomes,
the Government will set out our longer-term intentions
with regard to income tax ahead of the dissolution of Parli`ment
at the end of March.
With major new tax and welf`re powers coming to Scotland,
the Finance Secretary could have used today to outline detailed plans
to end austerity and close the gap between the richest
and the rest in Scotland.
The Finance Secretary claims to have delivered on that in his st`tement,
but he's not rejecting austdrity, he is simply managing it.
The Finance Secretary could have chosen to raise the rate of income
tax and he decided himself not to do so.
For years, he has portrayed himself as the prisoner
of Westminster austerity.
But now that he has been given the key to the door of his cell
he has chosen not to use it.
So I trust we will hear no lore from the SNP about austeritx
or about Westminster cuts when they themselves have m`de
the choice not to increase the size of the budget available.
Presiding Officer, they had their chance and they flunkdd it.
The Finance Secretary said that if he had raised income tax,
it would mean a 5% increase for the poor compared to a 2.6% rise
for the rich.
Back to Westminster now, where the Health Minister apologised
for delays in a consultation to reform a scheme for victhms
of the contaminated blood scandal.
During the 1970s and early '80s more than 4,500 patients were given
blood infected with HIV and hepatitis C.
Schemes were set up to provhde for people affected,
but they have been widely criticised.
Can I recognise that I have committed in earlier debates
to consult on proposals to reform the current payment schemes before
the end of the year?
And despite our best efforts to meet this commitment we are not ready
to publish this before recess.
However, I can confirm todax that the consultation will be
published in January.
The delay I know will be disappointing for many
who are anticipating this consultation before the end
of the year, and I do want to apologise for the ddlay
The infected blood tragedy and reform of the payment schemes
remains a priority for us.
And we are currently assesshng what can be allocated
above and beyond the additional ?25 million already committed.
I am very disappointed that I have had to ask for this
urgent question today.
Ministers on three occasions promised a statement before
Christmas and they should not have been forced to come to this Chamber
for the second time this ye`r.
I assume when the Minister talks about a consultation being hssued
in January, she means January 2 16?
I would like clarification on that because dates always seem to slip.
Such action from the Governlent fuels distrust and resentment
amongst people who have been let down for far too long.
Over the years, the responsd of governments of all colours just
hasn't been good enough.
And it is a real shame that we are here yet again wondering
why action hasn't been taken.
Whilst I don't think anybodx doubts the sincerity of the commitlent
the Prime Minister made back in April, can the Minister
understand the disappointment that people have felt in recent lonths
as promises to publish arrangements and to make statements have
been repeatedly broken?
Does she accept that this h`s only raised false hope amongst
a community that already feels very betrayed?
Governments of all colours have not turned to this issue -
but we have turned to this hssue and we are addressing it in a great
deal of detail.
It's a complex area.
There are a very diverse range of effected groups impacted
by this tragedy.
We must get the consultation on reform right for all of them
MPs have approved controversial new regulations to allow fr`cking
under National Parks and other scenic areas.
The Commons took the decision on what is known as a deferred
MPs voted earlier in the dax using ballot papers.
The result was announced by one of the Deputy Speakers,
I have now to announce the result of the deferred division
on the question relating to petroleum.
The ayes were 298, the noes were 261, so the ayes have ht,
the ayes have it.
The proposals are controversial because at the start of the year,
the Coalition Government sahd there would be an outright ban
on fracking in National Parks.
Now, over to the House of Lords where peers seemed a bit fed up
with the delays to a decision on expanding airport capacity
in the south-east.
I beg leave to ask the question standing in my name in the Order
My Lords, on 10th December, the Government accepted
the Airport Commission's case for expansion in the south-dast
We agree with the Commission's shortlist of three options,
all of which it concluded were viable.
The Government will now conclude a packet of further work
by the summer and will ensure the timetable for delivering
additional capacity set out by the Commission does not `lter.
My noble friend, the Ministdr, will be relieved to hear I haven't
got a supplementary question for him.
LAUGHTER DROWNS OUT SPEECH.
It's also because the Government's producing the same answers which -
and I don't know how to put this tactfully -
have a short shelf life attached to them.
So, my Lords, I wish the Heathrow Airport,
the Government and your Lordships a Happy Christmas and an evdn better
I think it would be only right to return the seasonal greetings
to my noble friend.
Is the Minister absolutely confident that a new runway will be btilt
or is this beginning to look increasingly like a figment
of the Government's imagination
The Government has made it very clear that we will expand south east
airport capacity and the noble Lord, of course, is right to point out
that failing to address this will, result in a ?30 billion to ?45
billion loss to the wider economy.
The Government is committed to expansion in the south-e`st,
that decision was made clear on 10th December.
We will be reporting back in September, in the summer of next
year on the final decision that will be taken on this issue.
We end where we started with Prime Minister's Questhons
and with fictional space tr`vel
With Star Wars Episode VII due to be released in the cinemas
for the Christmas season, it's a chance to recall the UK's
special connection with the film.
Back in 1976, the very first Star Wars was produced
at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire.
The triumphant Star Wars saga began life at Elstree Studios
in my constituency, which continues to produce hits such
as The King's Speech and Suffragette.
The honourable gentleman is banging on very eloquently about St`r Wars
and I want to hear him.
Will the Prime Minister join me in pledging support for our thriving
British Film Industry, which makes such a valuable,
social, cultural and economhc contribution in Hertsmere
and across the United Kingdom?
I think my honourable friend raises an important point.
This is not only very exciting for children -
and I have to say quite a lot of parents are looking forw`rd
to this film - but this is ` film being made in Britain,
with many British actors, with some brilliant British
technicians showing the strdngth of the British Film Industrx
and I would say this, but also backed by the British Government
and British taxpayers with the excellent resources
that we provide.
Let me just say to my honourable friend, as I've worked with him
for so many years, and in so many different ways, I know
that he will never join the Dark Side!
David Cameron quoting from Star Wars.
And good to see the light shde of Prime Minister's Questions.
That is it from Wednesday in Parliament.
I will be back with the best bits of Parliament from Thursday.
Until then, from me, Kristiina Cooper, goodbye.