06/01/2016 Wednesday in Parliament


06/01/2016

Highlights of Wednesday 6 January in Parliament, presented by Keith Macdougall.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Wednesday In Parliament,

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in the Commons and the committees.

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Can he say the same to the people of Leeds, of Rochdale, York, Whitby,

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Teesside? Or is one rule for his constituents and another for us in

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the North? The Prime Minister derides

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Jeremy Corbyn's reshuffle Since I walked into the chalber this

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morning, his shadow defence minister resigned, he couldn't run anything.

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And Labour claims the abandoned cuts to tax credits

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are about to reappear in a different form.

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There is no difference betwden these cuts and those which the government

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was proposing to introduce tnder tax -- tax credits.

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It was a stormy day for the parliamentary Labour Party.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet reshuffle had angered some

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of his front-bench colleaguds, who found his changes not

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But it was the more literal storms that provided the focus

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for Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons.

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December's record rainfall, which came courtesy of Storl Desmond

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and Storm Eva, left many thousands of people with flood-damaged homes

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in the North of England and Scotland.

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The weather was exceptional, but could blame also lie

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with financial cutbacks to flood prevention systems?

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The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn first reminded David Cameron

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what he'd said at the time of the last severe winter flooding

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In January 2014, following the devastating floods at that time,

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now two years ago, the Prime Minister

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said, there are always lessons to be learned and I will make surd

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Having seen my own constituency very badly

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flooded in 2007, having had floods while being Prime Minister,

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I think a number of lessons have been learned.

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This time, the military camd in far faster than ever before.

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The Bellwin scheme was funded at 100%, not 80%.

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More money was put into communities more quickly.

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So a lot of lessons have been learned.

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There always are, that is why we will

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review everything that has been done.

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In 2011, a ?190 million flood defence project in the River Aire

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in Leeds was cancelled on cost grounds by the government.

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1,000 homes and businesses hn Leeds were flooded in recent weeks.

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The government is still onlx committed to a scaled-down version

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of the project, worth a fraction of its total cost.

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The Prime Minister claimed that money was no object when it came

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When he meets the Leeds MPs and Judith Blake,

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the leader of the council in the near future, or the Secretary

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of State does, will you guarantee the full scheme will

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go ahead to protect Leeds from future flooding?

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Well, first of all, let me just make one point

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It is worth putting on record, before we get on to flood ddfence

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investment, and I will cover it in full, this was the wettest

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And actually, in Leeds and in Yorkshire, it was thd wettest

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And that is why rivers in Yorkshire, including

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the River Aire in Leeds, was a metre higher than it has ever

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No flood defence schemes have been cancelled since 2010.

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In 2014, Cumbria County Council applied

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for funding for new schemes in Keswick and Kendall.

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Both were turned down, both areas flooded

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Does the Prime Minister belheve that turning down those schemes was also

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We are spending more on flood defence schemes and are stacking up

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a whole series of schemes that we will spend more on.

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If he is going to spend ?10 billion on re-nationalising our railways,

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where will he find the monex for flood defences?

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The idea that this individu`l would be faster in responding

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to floods, when it takes him three days

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to carry out a reshuffle, is, frankly, laughable.

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And, Mr Speaker, since I walked into the chamber this morning,

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his Shadow Foreign Minister resigned,

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his Shadow Defence Minister resigned.

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Mr Speaker, it's very strange when I have asked a question

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about Leeds flood defence, then on Cumbria Flood defence,

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the Prime Minister seems unable to answer.

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Can he now tell us if there is going to be funding

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After every incident of flooding, you go back and you look

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at what you have spent, what you built, you look

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at what you are going to spdnd, what you are planning to buhld,

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But the head of the Environlent Agency was absolutely clear

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that he had the money necessary to take the action

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The Labour leader said he h`d met flood victims in York.

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They are asking all of us wholly legitimate questions.

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Why was it that the insufficient pump capacity in the Foss B`rrier,

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again, alerted to in 2013 by a government report,

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was not dealt with and those pumps were not upgraddd,

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thus people were flooded in York and their possessions

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Those people want answers from all of us and in particular,

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I have the greatest sympathx with anyone that has been

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flooded and we have to do what it takes to get people and get

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And that is why we have put record sums

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Are there more lessons to learn, there

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But frankly, we don't need a lecture from Malta

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In 2014, in response to the flooding of the Thames Valley,

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the Prime Minister said that money would be no object.

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In the light of his cuts to the flood defences,

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his cuts to the Fire and Rescue Service, his cuts

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to the Environment Agency, can you say the same to the people

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of Leeds, of Rochdale, of York, of Whitby, and of Teesside?

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Or is it one rule for his constituents and another fotr hours

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-- and another for our constituents in the North.

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about the funding figures, as I have explained in great detail.

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?1.5 billion to ?1.7 billion, to ?2 million.

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But the point is, what we ptt in place under this governmdnt

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is not funding under Bellwin Of 85% of what a council spends,

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So what I said absolutely stands good.

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Backbench Conservatives werd also expressing their flooding concerns.

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It was reported in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus

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this week that the Bradford district would not receive any of thd extra

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funding the Prime Minister `nnounced for Yorkshire for flood defdnces.

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We take this opportunity to confirm that that is not the case,

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that whatever money is necessary to protect my constituency

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And if he is struggling to find the money,

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perhaps you could use money from the overseas aid budget,

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because I'm sure he believes that victims of flooding in Shipley

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should not be discriminated against in terms of

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victims of flooding in other parts of the world.

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On Boxing Day, a village in my constituency suffered

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With damage to scores of homes and businesses.

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Will my right honourable frhend join with me in praising the efforts

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of everybody in Croston who pulled together to protect their community

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and will he ask is honourable friend, the member for

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Penrith and The Border, to review the decision

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by the Environment Agency to switch of the pumps at all crossings.

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After floods like this, there are always questions

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about which pumps were used, which flood

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gates were open, what decishons were made by the experts

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And it is very important, having seen many community flooded,

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my own constituents, very important to hold

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meetings with community after community and work out

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what lessons can be learned and work out whether the right

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David Cameron answering questions about

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A side issue to the severe flooding last month was the whereabotts

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of the Environment Agency chairman Sir Philip Dilley.

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After going to flood strickdn Cumbria at the start of Decdmber,

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Sir Philip wasn't able to vhsit any of the areas hit by the subsequent

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The reason, it emerged, was because he was four thotsand

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While the flooding was at its most severe in Yorkshire,

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a spokesman for the Environlent Agency had said Sir Philip

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was in "regular contact" with the organisation,

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a subject for the Commons Environment committee to follow up.

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In your pre-appointment hearing before this committee just

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about a year ago, you suggest that your personal response

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to a crisis would be to turn up in wellingtons,

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Why did you not return to the UK from holiday when the recent storms,

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it became clear that they wdre going to have a catastrophic effect?

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Well, I was in Cumbria, I was in the UK and

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in Cumbria of course, during those events.

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I was away, as you are well aware, over the Christmas period.

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And the severity of the flooding became apparent to us,

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So I was in regular contact with the Chief Executive,

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James, and my own deputy, a woman called Emma, very rdgularly.

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I started looking at opportunities for

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return on the 27th and actu`lly returned on the 29th.

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So, could I have comeback earlier by one

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In hindsight, do I wish I had, yes I do.

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But I don't feel guilty of leaving it many weeks.

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Disaster for you, personally, wasn't it?

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Yes, as I said, in hindsight, it would have been much

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better if I had come back as early as I could,

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But the first answer from the Environment Agency

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as to your whereabouts was, at home with your

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that was qualified to say that you were in Barbados.

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And a further 12 hours before it was confirmed as Barbados

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That focusing on me hast attracted from what really matters

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As you heard giving evidence earlier, and all

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those other people who have been affected.

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That expression that was put out, lots of things are written for me

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and sent to meet for agreement, for approval.

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I saw it, I approved so it is my problem.

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But I also should explain that I do have

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My wife's from the Caribbean and have a home there and I spent

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some time there over Christmas particularly.

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And when I'm there, I don't feel I'm away,

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I feel I am at home because I'm completely

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And as I said earlier, I do keep in regular contact.

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It was more of a holiday because it was Christmas,

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but in normal times, I work from there.

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Do you accept that the role of chairman is there

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because you are seen to be in charge?

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If there is a moment of gre`t flood, we expect you to be there.

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Yes. I don't think it is unreasonable...

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The people that are suffering in the North of England also think

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Can I just add, chairman, that the Chief Executive also needs

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I was the person responsibld, I remain the person

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responsible for managing this crisis.

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I think the team have done a fantastic job.

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I was there on Boxing Day with the Secretary of State

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and I was there the day aftdr, I had been up in Cumbria

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at the beginning of December and I was in Yorkshire

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So the leadership of the Environment Agency

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was present on the ground and will remain present

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on the ground, wherever we need to be.

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It was his desire to reduce the welfare budget that led

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the Chancellor to put forward his plan last year

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for cutting tax credits, the payments that are made

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As you may recall, George Osborne had to perform a U-turn,

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withdrawing the tax credit cuts in the face of objections from,

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among others, members of the House of Lords.

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But Labour says all is not what it seems.

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In the Commons, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith

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said Ministers are instead planning to make cuts to Universal Credit,

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the new welfare system that merges a range of existing benefits

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If you are a single mother with one or more children,

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the work allowance will be halved from April of this year,

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In cash terms, that working mother would lose ?2628 next year.

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7000 in my constituency, will be equally horrified to know

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this thing is still in the tail and working

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-- that the sting is still hn detail and working

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people are going to lose out dramatically as the Univers`l Credit

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I think, more than that, Mr Speaker, I think they will be absolutely

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cheesed off to the back teeth that this government has

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tried to pull the wool over their eyes.

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Because, the truth is, these are precisely the samd cuts

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that were proposed through tax credits.

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Almost the exact amount of loney will be saved through these cuts

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to the work allowances as was proposed.

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Well, a member says, from a sedentary position,

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I think... I would be delighted to givd way.

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Every penny paid out in benefits has to be

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raised in tax out of working people's taxes.

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The money paid out in tax credits is not wages,

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Does he not recognise the great advantage of Universal Credht

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is that it reduces the harsh impact of means tested

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It is working people in work, paying tax, working long

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hours, many on the minimum wage working every hour they get,

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who are getting hit by his government!

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This is not a different set of people, these are not

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the scroungers they like to talk about, these are the strivers

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And the truth is, as the IFS has said...

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The truth is, as the IFS has said, there

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is no difference between thdse cuts and those that the government

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was proposing under tax credits and on which they did a U-ttrn.

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We are introducing a nation`l living wage only made possible

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because we have been so successful in reducing unemployment,

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employers can bear the burddn of that higher national livhng wage.

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And the effect of that is that we will cease to subsidise

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low paid jobs, whether they are in supermarkets all the cleaning

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With all the changes that are happening

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during this Parliament, with the introduction

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of the national living wage, it will mean that families

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and someone working full-tile on the current minimum wage,

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With the free childcare introduced for their three-

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and five-year-old, a family will also benefit to about ?5,000 a year.

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The Chancellor was right to do a U-turn on the proposed cuts to

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They were an abhorrent attack on the financial well-being

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of millions of hard-working people in Britain.

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And over 7000 people in my constituency of

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However, here we are, faced with the same work penalty

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Once again, it will be the hard-working families

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This time, it is cuts to Universal Credit and not

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I have real fear that this decision is being pushed through will ensure

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that many in Hampstead and Kilburn will reach breaking point.

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Many people who are already making the choice between eating

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8000 of my constituents are expected to be on Universal Credit

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by the time it is rolled out properly.

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It is not too late for the government to rethink

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the cuts to the work allowance if they truly have any ambition

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After years of Labour's dependency culture.

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This government is continuing to reform the welfare

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It wants to continue taxing, that is why they are

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They are the welfare party and not the Labour Party.

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Madam Deputy Speaker, welfare is much more than shmply

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giving money to people and writing blank cheques.

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It is about removing the barriers that prevent

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people from finding work and progressing in work.

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It is about giving people the support they need

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to stand on their own two fdet and live independently

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

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Still to come, are Britain's farmers facing a crisis?

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Well, we saw earlier, while flooding was being discussed

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at Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron deploying a bht

:18:15.:18:17.

of mockery at the expense of the Labour leader.

:18:18.:18:19.

It was a turbulent morning within the parliamentary

:18:20.:18:22.

A series of front bench reshgnations followed Jeremy Corbyn's not

:18:23.:18:27.

entirely smooth Shadow Cabinet reshuffle.

:18:28.:18:30.

It was all a gift for the Conservatives, as we fotnd out

:18:31.:18:33.

when the MP for Stratford-upon-Avon got up to ask his question.

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Mr Speaker, 2016 sees us mark the 400th anniversary

:18:40.:18:43.

of William Shakespeare's passing away.

:18:44.:18:45.

Does my right honourable frhend agree with me that our country

:18:46.:18:50.

should unite to commemorate his works?

:18:51.:18:53.

There are special events taking place at the RSC,

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the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust are renovating

:18:57.:18:58.

and King Edward School are opening his original cl`ssroom.

:18:59.:19:04.

Can I invite my right honourable friend, the whole House

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and the world to come and cdlebrate the greatest living bard?

:19:07.:19:12.

My apologies for almost interrupting his soliloquy.

:19:13.:19:16.

I think it's a very good molent the 400th anniversary of thd death

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of Shakespeare, for us to cdlebrate everything he has given our language

:19:22.:19:25.

I think it's going to be a fantastic moment for people

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to come and visit Britain and to come and see Stratford

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and all the other places th`t have such a great association

:19:34.:19:36.

I find that Shakespeare provides language for every moment.

:19:37.:19:41.

Let's consider what is happening at the moment.

:19:42.:19:44.

There was a moment when it looked like this reshuffle could go

:19:45.:19:47.

It was a revenge reshuffle so it was going to be

:19:48.:19:53.

I think though we can concltde it has turned into something

:19:54.:19:58.

There will be those who worry perhaps "much ado about nothing !

:19:59.:20:08.

Meanwhile, the SNP Westminster leader focused on the looming

:20:09.:20:12.

The Health Service is devolved but junior doctors in Scotl`nd

:20:13.:20:20.

are not planning to strike next week.

:20:21.:20:23.

Why does the Prime Minister think the Scottish Government has good

:20:24.:20:26.

relations with junior doctors and his government does not?

:20:27.:20:29.

Doctors know it, patients know it, the management of the NHS knows it,

:20:30.:20:34.

the BMA knows it, that therd is a problem with the NHS

:20:35.:20:37.

at the weekend and one of the ways to correct that is making stre

:20:38.:20:41.

we have new contracts, including with junior doctors,

:20:42.:20:44.

to make sure not that they work longer hours.

:20:45.:20:47.

In fact, under our plans, many will work much less hotrs,

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not to reduce doctors' pay, no-one who works legal hours

:20:52.:20:55.

will see a cut in their pay, indeed 75% of doctors will see

:20:56.:21:00.

So we think this is a good deal for a good advance in the NHS

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and I'm sure in Scotland they will be looking at it too.

:21:07.:21:09.

So time to consider image consultants in politics?

:21:10.:21:13.

Cut the number of government special advisers and the Chancellor wants

:21:14.:21:18.

to limit pay increases to ptblic sector employees to 1%,

:21:19.:21:22.

so how does he possibly squ`re that with now having 26 more special

:21:23.:21:26.

advisers than in 2010 and a 42% pay increase for the Chancellor's

:21:27.:21:31.

There are fewer special advhsers under this government

:21:32.:21:38.

than there was under the last government.

:21:39.:21:42.

British agriculture is under threat from low prices paid to the nation's

:21:43.:21:47.

farmers, according to a Cornish Conservative MP.

:21:48.:21:51.

Leading off a 90-minute debate on food security,

:21:52.:21:54.

Derek Thomas said the last two years had seen falls in incomes for many

:21:55.:21:58.

farmers around the UK of between 20% and 30%.

:21:59.:22:02.

He said farmers needed to bd paid a fair price so they were able

:22:03.:22:06.

Basic business sense says that you do not invest in a business

:22:07.:22:15.

when you don't know what thd return will be from one month to the next

:22:16.:22:20.

and you cannot expect a bushness to survive if you are consistently

:22:21.:22:24.

being paid less than the cost of production, yet this is ` daily

:22:25.:22:28.

reality for large parts of the British farming industry

:22:29.:22:31.

They persevered when any other business would pack up and go home.

:22:32.:22:36.

But we cannot afford for British farmers to pack up,

:22:37.:22:39.

we must not ignore the thre`t to British producers.

:22:40.:22:44.

Food security assessments ddpended on being able to source food

:22:45.:22:50.

from a variety of countries and this diversity of supply and sectrity

:22:51.:22:54.

by spreading risks, widening options and keeping prices competithve.

:22:55.:22:57.

One of my farmers in the agriculture industry tells me it's cheaper,

:22:58.:23:02.

I try to comprehend it, it's cheaper to import some

:23:03.:23:07.

vegetables from South America to use in his salads in Northern Ireland.

:23:08.:23:14.

I don't understand how that works economically

:23:15.:23:18.

Farmers and fishermen to assist them in coming forward with solutions.

:23:19.:23:26.

This includes backing British production and the important

:23:27.:23:30.

I believe it is important too that the food you are buying comes

:23:31.:23:36.

All products that carry the red tractor mark meet responsible

:23:37.:23:42.

production standards and are traceable back

:23:43.:23:46.

By historical standards, we are still producing far loreof

:23:47.:23:53.

Just before the Second World War in the 1930s, our food

:23:54.:23:59.

self-sufficiency was only around 35% so things are not as bad as some

:24:00.:24:03.

would suggest, but if we do what we want to as a governlent

:24:04.:24:06.

produce more, sell more, export more, import less,

:24:07.:24:10.

we will, over time, see an improvement in our current

:24:11.:24:14.

Now, what effect are electronic screens having

:24:15.:24:22.

Children gazing at their sm`rtphones and tablets are a common enough

:24:23.:24:27.

sight just about everywhere, from streets to shops

:24:28.:24:31.

But is all the screen watching healthy?

:24:32.:24:35.

A survey for the charity Action for Children found that one in four

:24:36.:24:39.

parents are struggling to get their children

:24:40.:24:42.

At the Education Committee, the Children's Commissioner

:24:43.:24:46.

for England had some advice for parents.

:24:47.:24:49.

There was something in the news today around how parents can curtail

:24:50.:24:52.

the time for children on their smartphones and thd like.

:24:53.:25:00.

We have to wise up to the rdality of the digital world for chhldren.

:25:01.:25:03.

We think there is something you can change.

:25:04.:25:06.

If you are 12 years old, you think this is your commtnity.

:25:07.:25:09.

We have to understand what that means.

:25:10.:25:10.

There is some research on the impact on children but very little.

:25:11.:25:13.

What are you going to do about it? Obviously there is a risk.

:25:14.:25:18.

I will take some of that research around the impact on childrdn.

:25:19.:25:21.

There is plenty of people looking at the way that parenting controls

:25:22.:25:24.

can work and can be a lot bdtter and part of my role is to advise

:25:25.:25:28.

parents on how they themselves can wise up and be more informed

:25:29.:25:31.

There are ways you can work with children, to bring

:25:32.:25:37.

I don't think it is a case of taking their smartphone off them,

:25:38.:25:43.

you can talk to them about how much time they spend on it,

:25:44.:25:46.

planning their time and then actually and physically doing things

:25:47.:25:50.

with children which means they are not left

:25:51.:25:53.

Do join me for our next daily round-up.

:25:54.:25:58.

But for now, from me, Keith Macdougall, goodbye.

:25:59.:26:02.

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