06/01/2016 Wednesday in Parliament


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.


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