16/12/2015 Wednesday in Parliament


16/12/2015

Kristiina Cooper presents highlights of Wednesday 16 December in Parliament.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament.

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The main news from Westminster:

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Winter pressures in the health service -

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the Labour leader accuses the Government of holding b`ck

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performance data.

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Is it because the number of people being kept waiting on trolldys

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in A has gone up more than fourfold

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that he doesn't want to publish these statistics?

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But David Cameron insists the NHS is in good health.

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There is more data published in our NHS that there

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ever was under Labour.

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Also on the programme, two weeks after the Commons voted

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for air strikes in Syria, there's a progress report

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from the Foreign Secretary.

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It continues to be the case that we have had no reports

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of civilian casualties as a result

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of UK air strikes in either Iraq or Syria.

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And the BBC is challenged over

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the nomination of Tyson Furx for Sports Personality of the Year.

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I think, like most people, there is a line has to be drawn

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between expressing offensivd views, which he is entitled to do,

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and expressing violent views about breaking women's

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jaws and shooting homosexuals.

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The final Prime Minister's Puestions before the Christmas break began

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on an uplifting note.

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I am sure the whole House will join me in wishing

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Major Tim Peake well as he begins his six-month stay

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at the international space station.

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We all watched his exciting take-off yesterday and,

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as the first Briton to visit the international space station

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it signals a landmark

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in this country s involvement in space exploration.

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I am proud that the Governmdnt took the decision to fund it

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and we wish him the best of luck.

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Tim Peake will be on the sp`ce station for six months.

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The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn kicked off with some festivd cheer.

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Could I start by wishing you, all Members

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of the House and all staff here and Major Tim Peake,

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who is not on the planet at this time...

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LAUGHTER

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..a very happy Christmas and a peaceful new year?

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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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When the chortling faded aw`y, it was down to the serious business.

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Mr Corbyn asked about the NHS and the availability of sochal care

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for people leaving hospital.

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The number of days that pathents are being kept in hospital

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because there is nowhere safe to discharge them to has dotbled

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since the Prime Minister took office.

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On the 4th of November, I asked him if he could guarantee

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that there will be no winter crisis in the NHS this winter.

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He did not answer then, I wonder whether he will be able

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to help us with an answer today

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First, let me join the right honourable

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Gentleman and be clear that I do not want to wish him the season s

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greetings, I want a full happy Christmas for him and everyone

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in the House.

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He specifically asked about the NHS, so let me

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answer specifically about the NHS.

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The average stay in hospital has actually fallen since I bec`me

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Prime Minister from five and a half days to five days.

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One reason for that is that we kept our promises on the NHS.

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We put in an extra ?12 billhon in the last Parliament

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and will be putting in ?19 billion in cash terms

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in the NHS in this Parliament.

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For the record, I did say happy Christmas.

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Maybe the Prime Minister was not listening at the time.

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If he is so happy about the national health service, will he explain why

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he has decided to cancel the publication of

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NHS performance data this whnter?

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Is it because the number of people being kept waiting on trolldys

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in A has gone up more than fourfold that he does not

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want to publish these statistics?

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First of all, the data that he quoted in his first question

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was not published before this Government came into office.

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Let me quote him some data about the NHS.

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Let me take an average day today compared with five years ago,

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when I became Prime Minister.

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On an average day in the NHS today,

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there are 4,400 more operathons and 21,000 more outpatient

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appointments than there were five years ago.

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Yes, there are challenges in A but there are 2,100 more people

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seen within four hours todax than there were five years `go,

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and there are more data published on our NHS than there ever

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were under Labour.

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There are huge pressures on the NHS

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and they are largely due to the pressures on the adult social

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care system, which is under enormous stress at the moment.

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Indeed, there have been hugd cuts in adult social care becausd of cuts

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in local government funding.

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The NHS chief executive, Simon Stevens, has called

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for a radical upgrade in prdvention and public health.

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Does the Prime Minister agrde that cutting these crucial

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services is a false economy?

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We are increasing the money that

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is able to go into social c`re through the 2% council tax precept,

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so that local councils can spend more.

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But I notice the right honourable Gentleman

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mentioned Simon Stevens but our NHS plan

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is Simon Stevens plan.

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For the first time, the NHS got together and wrote its plan.

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It asked for ?8 billion and it asked for the money up front.

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We committed to that plan, unlike Labour at the last election,

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and we funded it up front, which is why we see a bigger

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and better NHS.

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Mr Cameron has received somd advice on Europe from the former

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Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major.

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In a BBC interview, John Major warned Mr Cameron against flirting

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with leaving the European Union

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He told the Today programme on Radio Four that heading off

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into splendid isolation would not be in the UK's best interests.

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His remarks were seized on at PMQs by Angus Robertson,

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the Leader of the SNP at Westminster.

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The Prime Minister will shortly meet the Heads of State and of Government

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of the European Union.

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Will he heed the advice of former Prime Minister John Major and stop

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flirting with leaving the European Union,

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which would, in his words, be

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very dangerous and against our national interests?

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What I will be doing is getting the best

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deal for Britain. That is what we should be doing

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This Government were the first to cut the EU budget,

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the first to veto a treaty, the first to bring back

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substantial powers to Britahn.

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We have a great record on Etrope and we will get a good deal

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for the British people.

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We were reminded this week that there is a very

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strong majority in Scotland to remain within the Europe`n Union,

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and the Prime Minister has failed...

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I know his side does not like to hear it

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but the Prime Minister has failed to give any guarantees that Scotland

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will not be forced out of the EU by the rest of the UK.

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Does he have any idea of the consequences of taking

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Scotland out of the EU against the wishes of voters in Scotland?

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This is a United Kingdom and this is a United Kingdom issue.

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Why is he so frightened

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of listening to the people and holding this

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historic referendum, passed through both Houses

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of Parliament in the last wdek?

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I say get a good deal for Britain and then trust the people.

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Three years ago, the Prime Linister could not have been any cle`rer

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His EU renegotiation would lean returning control over soci`l

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and employment law. Is he still seeking that?

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I always find it hard to satisfy

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the honourable Gentleman.

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He joined the Conservative party

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when we were not committed to a referendum and he left

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the Conservative party after we committed to a refdrendum,

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so I am not surprised that he is giving his new boss

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as much trouble as he used to give me.

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With that, I wish them both a very festive Christmas.

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Later on at PMQs, Mr Cameron said that the UK has met its comlitment

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to giving refuge to 100 Syrhans fleeing the civil war.

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Later, the Foreign Secretarx, Philip Hammond, gave MPs a progress

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report on the fight against so-called Islamic State

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He said it was unacceptable that Russia continued

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to focus its attacks on Syrian opposition groups.

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He revealed that the RAF has flown 1600 missions

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over Iraq and Syria.

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I am pleased to be able to hnform the House today that it continues

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to be the case that we have had no reports

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of civilian casualties as a result of UK air strikes

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in either Iraq or Syria.

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I pay tribute to the precishon and professionalism of our

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RAF pilots in conducting these operations.

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With our coalition partners, including the United States,

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we will continue to urge the Russians at every opportunity

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to focus their fire solely on Daesh.

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It is unacceptable that Russian action

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is weakening the opposition and thus giving advantage to the verx Daesh

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forces that they claim to be engaged against.

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The International Syria Support Group will meet in New York this

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week following talks in Parhs aimed at ending the civil war.

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With so many different parthes to the Syrian civil war,

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maintaining a ceasefire will be extremely complex.

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Has the Government explored the possibility

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of a UN resolution reinforchng the outline agreement,

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including the ceasefire, agreed at that second

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Vienna conference?

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It remains the clear intenthon of US Secretary of State John Kerry

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to try to get agreement on Friday in New York to a ceasefire.

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Frankly, that will be highlx challenging but I commend hhm

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for his ambition.

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We are also holding this medting in New York on Friday,

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rather than Vienna, specifically to be able to go

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immediately to the United N`tions Security Council if it becoles

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clear, during the morning, that it is possible to reach

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an agreement that the Russi`ns will not veto

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in the UN Security Council.

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There is a possibility, but I would put it no

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higher than that, that Frid`y's meeting will end with

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the UN Security Council resolution.

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The Foreign Secretary said, and is

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welcome across this chamber, that there had been no reported

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casualties of UK action in Syria.

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Of course, he also knows the UK-based

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Syrian Observatory on Human Rights supported in the last few d`ys

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26 civilian casualties from the coalition of which we are

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a part, action in Syria.

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Including the reported deaths of seven children

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and four women.

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Following on from the comments of the member for Gordon,

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isn't the crucial differencd that the RAF goes out of its way

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to avoid civilian casualties, while Daesh goes out of its way

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to destroy and kill and maim as many innocent

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civilians as it possibly can?

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Isn't it clear Russia's priority is to protect the Assad reghme?

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Does it remain the position of the British Government that Assad

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cannot be part of any solution

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to the Syrian crisis?

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Mr Speaker, I long since gave up using the word "clear"

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to describe anything about Russian policy because it is anything

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but clear, it is always opapue.

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The truth is, we simply don't know what the Russian strategy is.

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We don't know what their objectives are and

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my assessment is that most people in the Russian system don't know.

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Perhaps Mr Putin has in his head an idea

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about what the endgame is hdre.

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What I do know is that some 75% of Russian air strikes

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are being conducted against people that we

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believe have to be part of the solution to the Syri`n

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problem, not against Daesh, which we are very

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clear is the enemy.

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When you sup with Vladimir Putin, you need to use a very long spoon.

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So it is very dangerous for some of our European

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colleagues to be saying that his involvement in this

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dispute, in this battle, is somehow helpful and that

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we should be reconsidering sanctions against him.

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The percentage of Russian air strikes that are

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targeting on Daesh has incrdased but it is still only around 25%

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of the total of the air strhkes

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The remainder are targeted against the moderate opposition

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and that is deeply unhelpful, to put it mildly.

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Philip Hammond there.

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Now, MPs have challenged thd BBC's Director-General Tony Hall over

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the controversial nomination of the boxer Tyson Fury for the BBC

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Sports Personality of the Ydar.

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He said - one of them was, "Don't like gays, should

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all be shot dead."

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Another one, "Off home now to break the wife's jaw."

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Do you think somebody sending tweets like that is an appropriate role

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model for the BBC to be putting on television

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for a prestigious award?

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Can I say two things?

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One is to stress again the panel decided, and I wasn't present

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in the panel discussions, to name him for his extraordinary

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achievement of - I think he's the fifth person to win

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a heavyweight title for the world.

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You know, he's getting - he's been put on that list

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because of his sporting prowess not for other things

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that he's doing.

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So...

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If I may just finish?

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It's actually up for now, for the people to judge,

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for them to vote as to whether he's the person who becomes

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Sports Personality of the Ydar.

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You know of course the sign`l that it sends out for him to be

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on the stage.

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I don't think for one moment he will win.

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It sends out a very strong signal to kids in particular

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across the country watching this, that our national broadcastdr

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is prepared to go along with his nomination.

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Or are you saying that once he was nominated,

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however the process worked in the end -

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and there is some dispute about how it did work -

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are you saying the BBC was locked into this process and that

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Tyson Fury could say or do `nything at this stage now and he will end up

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on your shortlist?

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I kind of believe in the process of Sports Personality of thd Year,

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namely that 12 names are put up there and then,

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as it were, the voters, in this case the British public

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will make their judgment.

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Like most people, a line has to be drawn between expressing offensive

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views, which he is entitled to do, and expressing violent views

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about breaking women's jaws and shooting homosexuals.

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For me, that crosses a line.

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The Americans call it fighting talk, don't they?

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Can I ask you a different qtestion?

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Do you think that had he said for instance,

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"Don't like Muslims, should all be shot dead."

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Do you think he would still be on your shortlist?

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I'm not going to get into hypotheticals like that.

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Can I go back and say...

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I don't, I have to say.

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I have my private views.

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Can I also say it is interesting to hear you talking about free

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speech, too, because one of the things which is key

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to the BBC is that we are ilpartial and we should be a place

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where people's views can be heard across a range of opinion

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in all things.

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You are watching Wednesday in Parliament with me,

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Kristiina Cooper.

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A trip to Holyrood now, where the Scottish Government has

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been setting out its budget for next year.

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It's the first time that Scotland has been able to determine hncome

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tax rates and the Deputy First Minister and Finance Secret`ry,

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the Scottish Nationalist, John Swinney, confirmed

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they would remain the same.

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Opposition parties baited hhm about the decision.

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The current power allows for one single rate to be set in Scotland

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and applied equally to all three income tax bands, the basic,

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higher and additional rate.

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Any rate set above 10p would increase the tax paid

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by all Scottish taxpayers.

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By its nature, exercising this power would have a disproportionate effect

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on the amount of tax paid bx those on the lowest of incomes.

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Likewise, whilst any rate bdlow 10p would cut the tax bill paid

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by all taxpayers, those on the highest incomes would see

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the greatest benefit.

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So the simple fact is this: The tax power does not enable me to target

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help to those on the lowest of incomes.

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I do, however, have the powdr to ensure that this tax does not

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inflict an additional burden on those on low incomes.

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I can therefore confirm that there will be no changd

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in income tax rates next ye`r.

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I propose that the Scottish rate of income tax will be set at 10p

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in the ?1.

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The rate people pay this ye`r will be the same rate

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that they will pay next year.

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I hope, Presiding Officer, that from 2017/18, this Parliament

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will have more flexibility in setting income tax rates.

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However, that will depend on reaching agreement

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on a new fiscal framework and final passage of the Scotland Bill.

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I can confirm that, subject to achieving these outcomes,

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the Government will set out our longer-term intentions

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with regard to income tax ahead of the dissolution of Parli`ment

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at the end of March.

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With major new tax and welf`re powers coming to Scotland,

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the Finance Secretary could have used today to outline detailed plans

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to end austerity and close the gap between the richest

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and the rest in Scotland.

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The Finance Secretary claims to have delivered on that in his st`tement,

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but he's not rejecting austdrity, he is simply managing it.

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The Finance Secretary could have chosen to raise the rate of income

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tax and he decided himself not to do so.

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For years, he has portrayed himself as the prisoner

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of Westminster austerity.

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But now that he has been given the key to the door of his cell

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he has chosen not to use it.

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So I trust we will hear no lore from the SNP about austeritx

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or about Westminster cuts when they themselves have m`de

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the choice not to increase the size of the budget available.

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Presiding Officer, they had their chance and they flunkdd it.

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The Finance Secretary said that if he had raised income tax,

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it would mean a 5% increase for the poor compared to a 2.6% rise

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for the rich.

0:18:450:18:47

Back to Westminster now, where the Health Minister apologised

0:18:470:18:50

for delays in a consultation to reform a scheme for victhms

0:18:500:18:54

of the contaminated blood scandal.

0:18:540:18:56

During the 1970s and early '80s more than 4,500 patients were given

0:18:570:19:01

blood infected with HIV and hepatitis C.

0:19:010:19:04

Schemes were set up to provhde for people affected,

0:19:050:19:07

but they have been widely criticised.

0:19:070:19:10

Can I recognise that I have committed in earlier debates

0:19:100:19:12

to consult on proposals to reform the current payment schemes before

0:19:120:19:16

the end of the year?

0:19:160:19:18

And despite our best efforts to meet this commitment we are not ready

0:19:180:19:21

to publish this before recess.

0:19:210:19:24

However, I can confirm todax that the consultation will be

0:19:240:19:27

published in January.

0:19:270:19:29

The delay I know will be disappointing for many

0:19:290:19:31

who are anticipating this consultation before the end

0:19:310:19:33

of the year, and I do want to apologise for the ddlay

0:19:340:19:37

The infected blood tragedy and reform of the payment schemes

0:19:370:19:40

remains a priority for us.

0:19:400:19:42

And we are currently assesshng what can be allocated

0:19:420:19:44

above and beyond the additional ?25 million already committed.

0:19:440:19:48

I am very disappointed that I have had to ask for this

0:19:490:19:51

urgent question today.

0:19:520:19:53

Ministers on three occasions promised a statement before

0:19:530:19:56

Christmas and they should not have been forced to come to this Chamber

0:19:560:20:00

for the second time this ye`r.

0:20:000:20:03

I assume when the Minister talks about a consultation being hssued

0:20:030:20:06

in January, she means January 2 16?

0:20:060:20:08

I would like clarification on that because dates always seem to slip.

0:20:090:20:13

Such action from the Governlent fuels distrust and resentment

0:20:130:20:16

amongst people who have been let down for far too long.

0:20:160:20:20

Over the years, the responsd of governments of all colours just

0:20:200:20:23

hasn't been good enough.

0:20:240:20:27

And it is a real shame that we are here yet again wondering

0:20:270:20:30

why action hasn't been taken.

0:20:300:20:33

Whilst I don't think anybodx doubts the sincerity of the commitlent

0:20:330:20:38

the Prime Minister made back in April, can the Minister

0:20:380:20:41

understand the disappointment that people have felt in recent lonths

0:20:410:20:45

as promises to publish arrangements and to make statements have

0:20:450:20:50

been repeatedly broken?

0:20:500:20:53

Does she accept that this h`s only raised false hope amongst

0:20:530:20:57

a community that already feels very betrayed?

0:20:570:21:01

Governments of all colours have not turned to this issue -

0:21:010:21:04

but we have turned to this hssue and we are addressing it in a great

0:21:040:21:07

deal of detail.

0:21:070:21:08

It's a complex area.

0:21:080:21:10

There are a very diverse range of effected groups impacted

0:21:100:21:12

by this tragedy.

0:21:120:21:14

We must get the consultation on reform right for all of them

0:21:140:21:18

MPs have approved controversial new regulations to allow fr`cking

0:21:180:21:20

under National Parks and other scenic areas.

0:21:210:21:24

The Commons took the decision on what is known as a deferred

0:21:240:21:27

division.

0:21:270:21:28

MPs voted earlier in the dax using ballot papers.

0:21:280:21:31

The result was announced by one of the Deputy Speakers,

0:21:310:21:33

Natascha Engel.

0:21:340:21:35

Order, order.

0:21:360:21:37

I have now to announce the result of the deferred division

0:21:380:21:40

on the question relating to petroleum.

0:21:400:21:43

The ayes were 298, the noes were 261, so the ayes have ht,

0:21:430:21:48

the ayes have it.

0:21:480:21:54

The proposals are controversial because at the start of the year,

0:21:540:21:56

the Coalition Government sahd there would be an outright ban

0:21:570:21:59

on fracking in National Parks.

0:21:590:22:02

Now, over to the House of Lords where peers seemed a bit fed up

0:22:020:22:05

with the delays to a decision on expanding airport capacity

0:22:060:22:08

in the south-east.

0:22:080:22:10

Lord Spicer.

0:22:100:22:12

I beg leave to ask the question standing in my name in the Order

0:22:120:22:13

Paper.

0:22:140:22:15

My Lords, on 10th December, the Government accepted

0:22:150:22:19

the Airport Commission's case for expansion in the south-dast

0:22:190:22:22

We agree with the Commission's shortlist of three options,

0:22:220:22:25

all of which it concluded were viable.

0:22:250:22:29

The Government will now conclude a packet of further work

0:22:290:22:31

by the summer and will ensure the timetable for delivering

0:22:310:22:33

additional capacity set out by the Commission does not `lter.

0:22:340:22:38

My noble friend, the Ministdr, will be relieved to hear I haven't

0:22:380:22:42

got a supplementary question for him.

0:22:420:22:46

LAUGHTER DROWNS OUT SPEECH.

0:22:460:22:51

It's also because the Government's producing the same answers which -

0:22:510:22:57

and I don't know how to put this tactfully -

0:22:570:22:59

have a short shelf life attached to them.

0:23:000:23:02

So, my Lords, I wish the Heathrow Airport,

0:23:030:23:08

the Government and your Lordships a Happy Christmas and an evdn better

0:23:080:23:14

New Year.

0:23:140:23:20

I think it would be only right to return the seasonal greetings

0:23:270:23:29

to my noble friend.

0:23:290:23:31

Is the Minister absolutely confident that a new runway will be btilt

0:23:320:23:35

or is this beginning to look increasingly like a figment

0:23:360:23:39

of the Government's imagination

0:23:390:23:43

The Government has made it very clear that we will expand south east

0:23:430:23:45

airport capacity and the noble Lord, of course, is right to point out

0:23:460:23:50

that failing to address this will, result in a ?30 billion to ?45

0:23:500:23:54

billion loss to the wider economy.

0:23:540:23:58

The Government is committed to expansion in the south-e`st,

0:23:580:24:00

that decision was made clear on 10th December.

0:24:000:24:02

We will be reporting back in September, in the summer of next

0:24:020:24:05

year on the final decision that will be taken on this issue.

0:24:060:24:10

We end where we started with Prime Minister's Questhons

0:24:110:24:13

and with fictional space tr`vel

0:24:130:24:16

With Star Wars Episode VII due to be released in the cinemas

0:24:160:24:18

for the Christmas season, it's a chance to recall the UK's

0:24:180:24:21

special connection with the film.

0:24:210:24:23

Back in 1976, the very first Star Wars was produced

0:24:230:24:27

at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire.

0:24:270:24:30

The triumphant Star Wars saga began life at Elstree Studios

0:24:300:24:34

in my constituency, which continues to produce hits such

0:24:340:24:39

as The King's Speech and Suffragette.

0:24:400:24:43

Order!

0:24:430:24:45

The honourable gentleman is banging on very eloquently about St`r Wars

0:24:450:24:47

and I want to hear him.

0:24:480:24:52

Will the Prime Minister join me in pledging support for our thriving

0:24:520:24:55

British Film Industry, which makes such a valuable,

0:24:550:24:59

social, cultural and economhc contribution in Hertsmere

0:24:590:25:02

and across the United Kingdom?

0:25:030:25:06

I think my honourable friend raises an important point.

0:25:070:25:09

This is not only very exciting for children -

0:25:090:25:12

and I have to say quite a lot of parents are looking forw`rd

0:25:120:25:15

to this film - but this is ` film being made in Britain,

0:25:150:25:18

with many British actors, with some brilliant British

0:25:180:25:20

technicians showing the strdngth of the British Film Industrx

0:25:200:25:23

and I would say this, but also backed by the British Government

0:25:230:25:26

and British taxpayers with the excellent resources

0:25:270:25:29

that we provide.

0:25:290:25:30

Let me just say to my honourable friend, as I've worked with him

0:25:300:25:32

for so many years, and in so many different ways, I know

0:25:320:25:34

that he will never join the Dark Side!

0:25:340:25:38

David Cameron quoting from Star Wars.

0:25:390:25:41

And good to see the light shde of Prime Minister's Questions.

0:25:410:25:44

That is it from Wednesday in Parliament.

0:25:450:25:46

I will be back with the best bits of Parliament from Thursday.

0:25:460:25:49

Until then, from me, Kristiina Cooper, goodbye.

0:25:490:25:53

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