Highlights of Wednesday 6 January in Parliament, presented by Keith Macdougall.
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Hello and welcome to Wednesday In Parliament,
in the Commons and the committees.
Can he say the same to the people of Leeds, of Rochdale, York, Whitby,
Teesside? Or is one rule for his constituents and another for us in
the North? The Prime Minister derides
Jeremy Corbyn's reshuffle Since I walked into the chalber this
morning, his shadow defence minister resigned, he couldn't run anything.
And Labour claims the abandoned cuts to tax credits
are about to reappear in a different form.
There is no difference betwden these cuts and those which the government
was proposing to introduce tnder tax -- tax credits.
It was a stormy day for the parliamentary Labour Party.
Jeremy Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet reshuffle had angered some
of his front-bench colleaguds, who found his changes not
But it was the more literal storms that provided the focus
for Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons.
December's record rainfall, which came courtesy of Storl Desmond
and Storm Eva, left many thousands of people with flood-damaged homes
in the North of England and Scotland.
The weather was exceptional, but could blame also lie
with financial cutbacks to flood prevention systems?
The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn first reminded David Cameron
what he'd said at the time of the last severe winter flooding
In January 2014, following the devastating floods at that time,
now two years ago, the Prime Minister
said, there are always lessons to be learned and I will make surd
Having seen my own constituency very badly
flooded in 2007, having had floods while being Prime Minister,
I think a number of lessons have been learned.
This time, the military camd in far faster than ever before.
The Bellwin scheme was funded at 100%, not 80%.
More money was put into communities more quickly.
So a lot of lessons have been learned.
There always are, that is why we will
review everything that has been done.
In 2011, a ?190 million flood defence project in the River Aire
in Leeds was cancelled on cost grounds by the government.
1,000 homes and businesses hn Leeds were flooded in recent weeks.
The government is still onlx committed to a scaled-down version
of the project, worth a fraction of its total cost.
The Prime Minister claimed that money was no object when it came
When he meets the Leeds MPs and Judith Blake,
the leader of the council in the near future, or the Secretary
of State does, will you guarantee the full scheme will
go ahead to protect Leeds from future flooding?
Well, first of all, let me just make one point
It is worth putting on record, before we get on to flood ddfence
investment, and I will cover it in full, this was the wettest
And actually, in Leeds and in Yorkshire, it was thd wettest
And that is why rivers in Yorkshire, including
the River Aire in Leeds, was a metre higher than it has ever
No flood defence schemes have been cancelled since 2010.
In 2014, Cumbria County Council applied
for funding for new schemes in Keswick and Kendall.
Both were turned down, both areas flooded
Does the Prime Minister belheve that turning down those schemes was also
We are spending more on flood defence schemes and are stacking up
a whole series of schemes that we will spend more on.
If he is going to spend ?10 billion on re-nationalising our railways,
where will he find the monex for flood defences?
The idea that this individu`l would be faster in responding
to floods, when it takes him three days
to carry out a reshuffle, is, frankly, laughable.
And, Mr Speaker, since I walked into the chamber this morning,
his Shadow Foreign Minister resigned,
his Shadow Defence Minister resigned.
Mr Speaker, it's very strange when I have asked a question
about Leeds flood defence, then on Cumbria Flood defence,
the Prime Minister seems unable to answer.
Can he now tell us if there is going to be funding
After every incident of flooding, you go back and you look
at what you have spent, what you built, you look
at what you are going to spdnd, what you are planning to buhld,
But the head of the Environlent Agency was absolutely clear
that he had the money necessary to take the action
The Labour leader said he h`d met flood victims in York.
They are asking all of us wholly legitimate questions.
Why was it that the insufficient pump capacity in the Foss B`rrier,
again, alerted to in 2013 by a government report,
was not dealt with and those pumps were not upgraddd,
thus people were flooded in York and their possessions
Those people want answers from all of us and in particular,
I have the greatest sympathx with anyone that has been
flooded and we have to do what it takes to get people and get
And that is why we have put record sums
Are there more lessons to learn, there
But frankly, we don't need a lecture from Malta
In 2014, in response to the flooding of the Thames Valley,
the Prime Minister said that money would be no object.
In the light of his cuts to the flood defences,
his cuts to the Fire and Rescue Service, his cuts
to the Environment Agency, can you say the same to the people
of Leeds, of Rochdale, of York, of Whitby, and of Teesside?
Or is it one rule for his constituents and another fotr hours
-- and another for our constituents in the North.
about the funding figures, as I have explained in great detail.
?1.5 billion to ?1.7 billion, to ?2 million.
But the point is, what we ptt in place under this governmdnt
is not funding under Bellwin Of 85% of what a council spends,
So what I said absolutely stands good.
Backbench Conservatives werd also expressing their flooding concerns.
It was reported in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus
this week that the Bradford district would not receive any of thd extra
funding the Prime Minister `nnounced for Yorkshire for flood defdnces.
We take this opportunity to confirm that that is not the case,
that whatever money is necessary to protect my constituency
And if he is struggling to find the money,
perhaps you could use money from the overseas aid budget,
because I'm sure he believes that victims of flooding in Shipley
should not be discriminated against in terms of
victims of flooding in other parts of the world.
On Boxing Day, a village in my constituency suffered
With damage to scores of homes and businesses.
Will my right honourable frhend join with me in praising the efforts
of everybody in Croston who pulled together to protect their community
and will he ask is honourable friend, the member for
Penrith and The Border, to review the decision
by the Environment Agency to switch of the pumps at all crossings.
After floods like this, there are always questions
about which pumps were used, which flood
gates were open, what decishons were made by the experts
And it is very important, having seen many community flooded,
my own constituents, very important to hold
meetings with community after community and work out
what lessons can be learned and work out whether the right
David Cameron answering questions about
A side issue to the severe flooding last month was the whereabotts
of the Environment Agency chairman Sir Philip Dilley.
After going to flood strickdn Cumbria at the start of Decdmber,
Sir Philip wasn't able to vhsit any of the areas hit by the subsequent
The reason, it emerged, was because he was four thotsand
While the flooding was at its most severe in Yorkshire,
a spokesman for the Environlent Agency had said Sir Philip
was in "regular contact" with the organisation,
a subject for the Commons Environment committee to follow up.
In your pre-appointment hearing before this committee just
about a year ago, you suggest that your personal response
to a crisis would be to turn up in wellingtons,
Why did you not return to the UK from holiday when the recent storms,
it became clear that they wdre going to have a catastrophic effect?
Well, I was in Cumbria, I was in the UK and
in Cumbria of course, during those events.
I was away, as you are well aware, over the Christmas period.
And the severity of the flooding became apparent to us,
So I was in regular contact with the Chief Executive,
James, and my own deputy, a woman called Emma, very rdgularly.
I started looking at opportunities for
return on the 27th and actu`lly returned on the 29th.
So, could I have comeback earlier by one
In hindsight, do I wish I had, yes I do.
But I don't feel guilty of leaving it many weeks.
Disaster for you, personally, wasn't it?
Yes, as I said, in hindsight, it would have been much
better if I had come back as early as I could,
But the first answer from the Environment Agency
as to your whereabouts was, at home with your
that was qualified to say that you were in Barbados.
And a further 12 hours before it was confirmed as Barbados
That focusing on me hast attracted from what really matters
As you heard giving evidence earlier, and all
those other people who have been affected.
That expression that was put out, lots of things are written for me
and sent to meet for agreement, for approval.
I saw it, I approved so it is my problem.
But I also should explain that I do have
My wife's from the Caribbean and have a home there and I spent
some time there over Christmas particularly.
And when I'm there, I don't feel I'm away,
I feel I am at home because I'm completely
And as I said earlier, I do keep in regular contact.
It was more of a holiday because it was Christmas,
but in normal times, I work from there.
Do you accept that the role of chairman is there
because you are seen to be in charge?
If there is a moment of gre`t flood, we expect you to be there.
Yes. I don't think it is unreasonable...
The people that are suffering in the North of England also think
Can I just add, chairman, that the Chief Executive also needs
I was the person responsibld, I remain the person
responsible for managing this crisis.
I think the team have done a fantastic job.
I was there on Boxing Day with the Secretary of State
and I was there the day aftdr, I had been up in Cumbria
at the beginning of December and I was in Yorkshire
So the leadership of the Environment Agency
was present on the ground and will remain present
on the ground, wherever we need to be.
It was his desire to reduce the welfare budget that led
the Chancellor to put forward his plan last year
for cutting tax credits, the payments that are made
As you may recall, George Osborne had to perform a U-turn,
withdrawing the tax credit cuts in the face of objections from,
among others, members of the House of Lords.
But Labour says all is not what it seems.
In the Commons, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith
said Ministers are instead planning to make cuts to Universal Credit,
the new welfare system that merges a range of existing benefits
If you are a single mother with one or more children,
the work allowance will be halved from April of this year,
In cash terms, that working mother would lose ?2628 next year.
7000 in my constituency, will be equally horrified to know
this thing is still in the tail and working
-- that the sting is still hn detail and working
people are going to lose out dramatically as the Univers`l Credit
I think, more than that, Mr Speaker, I think they will be absolutely
cheesed off to the back teeth that this government has
tried to pull the wool over their eyes.
Because, the truth is, these are precisely the samd cuts
that were proposed through tax credits.
Almost the exact amount of loney will be saved through these cuts
to the work allowances as was proposed.
Well, a member says, from a sedentary position,
I think... I would be delighted to givd way.
Every penny paid out in benefits has to be
raised in tax out of working people's taxes.
The money paid out in tax credits is not wages,
Does he not recognise the great advantage of Universal Credht
is that it reduces the harsh impact of means tested
It is working people in work, paying tax, working long
hours, many on the minimum wage working every hour they get,
who are getting hit by his government!
This is not a different set of people, these are not
the scroungers they like to talk about, these are the strivers
And the truth is, as the IFS has said...
The truth is, as the IFS has said, there
is no difference between thdse cuts and those that the government
was proposing under tax credits and on which they did a U-ttrn.
We are introducing a nation`l living wage only made possible
because we have been so successful in reducing unemployment,
employers can bear the burddn of that higher national livhng wage.
And the effect of that is that we will cease to subsidise
low paid jobs, whether they are in supermarkets all the cleaning
With all the changes that are happening
during this Parliament, with the introduction
of the national living wage, it will mean that families
and someone working full-tile on the current minimum wage,
With the free childcare introduced for their three-
and five-year-old, a family will also benefit to about ?5,000 a year.
The Chancellor was right to do a U-turn on the proposed cuts to
They were an abhorrent attack on the financial well-being
of millions of hard-working people in Britain.
And over 7000 people in my constituency of
However, here we are, faced with the same work penalty
Once again, it will be the hard-working families
This time, it is cuts to Universal Credit and not
I have real fear that this decision is being pushed through will ensure
that many in Hampstead and Kilburn will reach breaking point.
Many people who are already making the choice between eating
8000 of my constituents are expected to be on Universal Credit
by the time it is rolled out properly.
It is not too late for the government to rethink
the cuts to the work allowance if they truly have any ambition
After years of Labour's dependency culture.
This government is continuing to reform the welfare
It wants to continue taxing, that is why they are
They are the welfare party and not the Labour Party.
Madam Deputy Speaker, welfare is much more than shmply
giving money to people and writing blank cheques.
It is about removing the barriers that prevent
people from finding work and progressing in work.
It is about giving people the support they need
to stand on their own two fdet and live independently
You're watching our round-up of the day in the Commons
Still to come, are Britain's farmers facing a crisis?
Well, we saw earlier, while flooding was being discussed
at Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron deploying a bht
of mockery at the expense of the Labour leader.
It was a turbulent morning within the parliamentary
A series of front bench reshgnations followed Jeremy Corbyn's not
entirely smooth Shadow Cabinet reshuffle.
It was all a gift for the Conservatives, as we fotnd out
when the MP for Stratford-upon-Avon got up to ask his question.
Mr Speaker, 2016 sees us mark the 400th anniversary
of William Shakespeare's passing away.
Does my right honourable frhend agree with me that our country
should unite to commemorate his works?
There are special events taking place at the RSC,
the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust are renovating
and King Edward School are opening his original cl`ssroom.
Can I invite my right honourable friend, the whole House
and the world to come and cdlebrate the greatest living bard?
My apologies for almost interrupting his soliloquy.
I think it's a very good molent the 400th anniversary of thd death
of Shakespeare, for us to cdlebrate everything he has given our language
I think it's going to be a fantastic moment for people
to come and visit Britain and to come and see Stratford
and all the other places th`t have such a great association
I find that Shakespeare provides language for every moment.
Let's consider what is happening at the moment.
There was a moment when it looked like this reshuffle could go
It was a revenge reshuffle so it was going to be
I think though we can concltde it has turned into something
There will be those who worry perhaps "much ado about nothing !
Meanwhile, the SNP Westminster leader focused on the looming
The Health Service is devolved but junior doctors in Scotl`nd
are not planning to strike next week.
Why does the Prime Minister think the Scottish Government has good
relations with junior doctors and his government does not?
Doctors know it, patients know it, the management of the NHS knows it,
the BMA knows it, that therd is a problem with the NHS
at the weekend and one of the ways to correct that is making stre
we have new contracts, including with junior doctors,
to make sure not that they work longer hours.
In fact, under our plans, many will work much less hotrs,
not to reduce doctors' pay, no-one who works legal hours
will see a cut in their pay, indeed 75% of doctors will see
So we think this is a good deal for a good advance in the NHS
and I'm sure in Scotland they will be looking at it too.
So time to consider image consultants in politics?
Cut the number of government special advisers and the Chancellor wants
to limit pay increases to ptblic sector employees to 1%,
so how does he possibly squ`re that with now having 26 more special
advisers than in 2010 and a 42% pay increase for the Chancellor's
There are fewer special advhsers under this government
than there was under the last government.
British agriculture is under threat from low prices paid to the nation's
farmers, according to a Cornish Conservative MP.
Leading off a 90-minute debate on food security,
Derek Thomas said the last two years had seen falls in incomes for many
farmers around the UK of between 20% and 30%.
He said farmers needed to bd paid a fair price so they were able
Basic business sense says that you do not invest in a business
when you don't know what thd return will be from one month to the next
and you cannot expect a bushness to survive if you are consistently
being paid less than the cost of production, yet this is ` daily
reality for large parts of the British farming industry
They persevered when any other business would pack up and go home.
But we cannot afford for British farmers to pack up,
we must not ignore the thre`t to British producers.
Food security assessments ddpended on being able to source food
from a variety of countries and this diversity of supply and sectrity
by spreading risks, widening options and keeping prices competithve.
One of my farmers in the agriculture industry tells me it's cheaper,
I try to comprehend it, it's cheaper to import some
vegetables from South America to use in his salads in Northern Ireland.
I don't understand how that works economically
Farmers and fishermen to assist them in coming forward with solutions.
This includes backing British production and the important
I believe it is important too that the food you are buying comes
All products that carry the red tractor mark meet responsible
production standards and are traceable back
By historical standards, we are still producing far loreof
Just before the Second World War in the 1930s, our food
self-sufficiency was only around 35% so things are not as bad as some
would suggest, but if we do what we want to as a governlent
produce more, sell more, export more, import less,
we will, over time, see an improvement in our current
Now, what effect are electronic screens having
Children gazing at their sm`rtphones and tablets are a common enough
sight just about everywhere, from streets to shops
But is all the screen watching healthy?
A survey for the charity Action for Children found that one in four
parents are struggling to get their children
At the Education Committee, the Children's Commissioner
for England had some advice for parents.
There was something in the news today around how parents can curtail
the time for children on their smartphones and thd like.
We have to wise up to the rdality of the digital world for chhldren.
We think there is something you can change.
If you are 12 years old, you think this is your commtnity.
We have to understand what that means.
There is some research on the impact on children but very little.
What are you going to do about it? Obviously there is a risk.
I will take some of that research around the impact on childrdn.
There is plenty of people looking at the way that parenting controls
can work and can be a lot bdtter and part of my role is to advise
parents on how they themselves can wise up and be more informed
There are ways you can work with children, to bring
I don't think it is a case of taking their smartphone off them,
you can talk to them about how much time they spend on it,
planning their time and then actually and physically doing things
with children which means they are not left
Do join me for our next daily round-up.
But for now, from me, Keith Macdougall, goodbye.