Highlights of Wednesday 20 January in Parliament, presented by Keith Macdougall.
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Hello and welcome to Wednesday In Parliament,
our look at the best of the day in the Commons and the Lords.
The party leaders clash over the move to turn
Why are they abolishing those maintenance grants?
If you want to be on the side of more university students,
if you want to want to help people make the most of their lives,
the system we've got is one that's working.
Outrage in the Commons about the red paint applied to front doors that
housed asylum seekers in Middlesbrough.
If there is an acceptance that these doors were
painted in a certain colour, that is appalling.
And the outgoing Chief Inspector of Prisons says the independence
When Mr Grayling was Secretary of State, we had some
pretty robust discussions about the content of what I was saying.
But first, the replacement of grants with loans for less well-off
students in England has dominated the weekly round of
The Chancellor announced the change last summer,
saying the ending of maintenance grants represented a good deal
for the taxpayer, as well as being fairer to students.
The grants were costing the Government ?1.6 billion a year,
but Labour has criticised the move and say Ministers have brought it
The party leader Jeremy Corbyn told David Cameron the policy hadn't
featured in the Conservative election manifesto.
This proposal will affect 500,000 students -
I have a question from a student by the name
of Liam, who says, I am training to be a mathematics teacher,
and will now come out at the end of my course
to debts in excess of ?50,000, which is roughly twice as much
What I would say to Liam is that he is now in a country
with a university system with more people going to university than ever
before, and more people from low-income backgrounds
going to university than ever before.
In addition, what I'd say to Liam, and I wish him well,
is that he will not pay back a penny of his loan
I'm pleased to say, Mr Speaker, that Liam is actually trying to be
a maths teacher, which might be able to help the Prime Minister,
because he did say he was earning ?25,000, which is more than ?21,000,
In 2010, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister's Government
trebled tuition fees to ?9,000, defending it by saying they would be
increasing maintenance grants for students
They're now scrapping those very same grants -
they used to boast about them being increased.
Why are they abolishing those maintenance grants?
The sense in doing this is we want to uncap university
places, so as many young people in our children...
In our country, who want to go to university, can go to university,
And before too much shouting from the party opposite,
when they were in Government, it was Labour
that introduced the fees and loans system.
If you want to be on the side of aspiration, if you want to be
on the side of more university students, if you want to help people
make the most of their lives, the system we've got is one that's
Mr Speaker, that is from the very same Prime Minister who is taking
away the grants that are designed to help the poorest
within our society, and give them access to higher education.
Then on to plans to axe bursaries for student nurses.
The Prime Minister and I would probably agree that we need to be
spending more and directing more resources in dealing with
the mental health crisis in this country.
And I've got a question, from somebody
who wants to help us get through this crisis,
by becoming a mental health nurse, and it's a woman
called Vicky from York, and she's got a very real problem.
I would not have been able to, or chosen to study to be
a mental-health nurse, without a bursary,
I've got debts from a previous degree.
I would not take on further debts, which
would be impossible for me to pay back, and be fair on my daughter.
She is somebody who we need in our NHS.
We are losing her skill, her dedication, her aspiration
Two out of three Vickys that turn up wanting to be nurses are sent away
So we're bringing people in from Bulgaria or Romania,
or the other side of the world, to do nursing jobs -
we should be training British people who want to do it.
The Prime Minister will be aware that nine out of ten hospitals
Isn't what he is proposing for the nurse bursary scheme
going to exacerbate the crisis, make it worse
for everybody and make our NHS less effective, not more effective?
I'll give him a very direct answer, which is we are going to see 10,000
extra nurse degree places, because of this policy.
Because we are effectively uncapping the numbers
that can go into nursing, and I have to say, Mr Speaker,
a retreat of the Labour Party into the past.
We've seen it with wanting to bring back secondary picketing.
Wanting to bring back flying pickets.
We have seen it with the idea of stopping
businesses paying dividends, and with the absurd idea that
nuclear submarines should go to sea
Anyone watching this Labour Party - and it is not now just
the leader, the whole Labour Party - they are a risk to our national
security, a risk to our economic security, a risk to our health
service and to the security of every family in our country.
A Tory backbencher used music titles to
Does my right honourable friend agree with me that our nuclear
deterrent only works against our nation's enemies
if our nuclear submarines are actually equipped
And that those, such as the Leader of the
Opposition, who do not believe this, have a defence policy inspired
And shows that while the members opposite may Twist And Shout,
their current leader certainly needs Help.
Well, I congratulate my honourable friend on his ingenious question.
There is a comic element to sending submarines to sea
but, in fact, it is absolutely serious, because the deterrent has
been, on a cross-party basis, an absolutely key part
of our defence, and making sure we've got the...
We've got the ultimate insurance policy, which we support on this
side, and we should vote on in this House, and all I can say when it
I suspect that the Leader of the Opposition
David Cameron using a Beatles approach to attack Labour.
Well, the third-biggest party in the Commons is,
of course, the Scottish National Party.
Its leader at Westminster often takes up an international
matter with David Cameron, and did so again this time,
Thousands of civilians have been killed in Yemen,
including a large number by the Saudi Air Force.
They have done that using British-built planes,
with pilots who are trained by British instructors,
who are dropping British-made bombs and are coordinated by the Saudis
in the presence of British military advisers.
Isn't it time for the Prime Minister to admit that Britain
is effectively taking part in a war in Yemen that is costing thousands
of civilian lives, and he has not sought
I think the right honourable gentleman started in a serious place
It is in our interest that we back the legitimate government of Yemen,
We have some of the most stringent arms measures
of any country anywhere in the world, but just to be
absolutely clear about our role, we are not a member
British military personnel are not directly involved
in the Saudi-led coalition's operations.
The Government has been defeated in the House of Lords over
Labour believes it that it will lose as much as ?6 million in its income
each year as a result of alterations the bill makes.
Under the bill, each trade union member would have to agree
in writing every five years to opt in to paying what's called
the "political levy", as opposed to opting out.
The new rules would apply to all 4 million political levy-payers
in the unions that are affiliated to the party.
In the Lords, the leader of the Labour peers said the whole
issue of the future funding of parties should be handed over
Our genuinely-held concern is that this aspect of the bill
will have a significant impact on the resources of one major
political party - my party, the Labour Party -
and in doing so, it will both disrupt the political balance
in the UK and have a damaging effect on the electoral
But whatever our views are, I hope we would be able to find agreement
that it would be totally wrong for any Government,
any Goverment of any colour, to use its power to attack the funding
of any political party, other political parties,
My Lords, we now have, in this measure presented
as a technical change to make union members'
donations to political parties more transparent,
an extraordinary attempt to fully stymie
I believe that it is wrong to single out one political party,
if we are looking at the funding of parties in this country,
and, frankly, to suggest that this bill is not
singling out a political party is disingenuous.
Here today, we have a proposition that this...
These clauses have no impact, they are related to the trade unions
and nothing to do with political parties, and yet we know
the practical effect on one political party
We have to reconcile and resolve those issues
and have them debated in a committee, where they can be
To attack the funding, I think, is misguided,
The people will say, well, let's have a look at the Tory party.
And we will get into a war of mutual destruction,
and in so doing, I do not think this will help to enhance the reputation
of Parliament or of the political parties.
And those who support this bill will actually say,
that certain supervisions are actually designed to enhance
and freedom of choice of trade union members, etc.
I understand that that is a possible argument,
but, Lords, matters will not start here.
We are in a different place and the way that these matters
It is impossible that wider questions about the big donor
culture, and the role of business, will go away.
My Lords, this bill is a package of
measures, and it is disappointing
that the party opposite have chosen
We would merely be adding confusion if
Our reforms in this bill look at how trade union members choose
to contribute to trade union and political funds.
We are not looking at how trade unions fund political parties.
Opt-ins and opt-outs for trade union political funds have always been
a matter for trade union legislation.
Party funding and its regulation have always been a matter
Party funding is rightly outside the scope
of this bill and I call on the House to reject this motion.
At the end of the debate, Labour peers won the day.
My Lords, they have voted:
Contents - 327. Not contents - 234.
You're watching our round-up of the day in the Commons
An MP tells the Commons he's a popper-user.
The front doors of houses used by asylum seekers in Middlesbrough
are to be repainted, after claims they were targeted
because nearly all of the doors were red.
Asylum seekers in the town told The Times newspaper that
eggs and stones had been thrown at their houses because the doors
The newspaper visited 168 houses in Middlesbrough owned by Jomast,
a subcontractor for the global security firm G4S.
In the Commons, a Minister was summoned to explain
Anything which identifies asylum seeker accommodation for those
who may wish to harm those accommodated in the properties
I have spoken to the Chief Executive of G4S this morning,
and he has assured me that neither they, nor Jomast,
their subcontractor in Middlesbrough, have a policy
which states that asylum seeker property should be identified
Although, Jomast does accept that the company uses
red paint across its portfolio of properties.
The local MP questioned how long the sub-contractor was going to take
At the moment, Jomast is saying that they are acknowledging it now,
and will do it over a three to six months.
I just suggest to the Minister that that is simply not acceptable.
This must be done as a matter of supreme urgency.
I had more in mind of a timescale of three to six weeks,
And if the Minister concludes that this is discriminatory action,
a discriminatory action on their behalf,
In short, if you could outline what penalties he has available
to him to make sure that this contractor G4S,
who, quite frankly, have suffered a great deal of reputational damage
over recent times, and Jomast, are held to account?
If what is required in the short term is to repaint 150 front doors
then frankly this should not be taking three months,
the painters should be out now and it should be done
I hope the minister can assure the house that will be shown.
It's extraordinary with all these inspections that have occurred it
took a journalist as distinguished as Andrew Norfolk to expose
Though I accept what the minister says, he has acted with speed to put
measures in place, the fact remains the home affairs committee has
written to ministers in the past worrying and concerned
What ministers have done is given contracts to big companies like G4S
and Serco who are removed from the real providers.
And G4S, as this house knows, are serial offenders in respect
And with the greatest will the world and his commitment to make sure
something is done, I don't believe an audit will be sufficient.
If there is an acceptance the doors were painted
in a certain colour, that is appalling and it should have
My understanding is that concerns of painting doors read was raised
in 2012 by the Lib Dem colleague and Middlesbrough councillor.
She has pursued the issue doggedly ever since and it is largely due
to her influence the matter has come to light today.
She was told by G4S that they had received no complaints
That could manifestly not be the case.
Now, the Government has faced calls from MPs to order a fresh
investigation into the case of Poppi Worthington.
A family court judge ruled that 13-month-old Poppi had been sexually
assaulted by her father, Paul Worthington, at the family home
in Barrow, in Cumbria, shortly before her sudden
and still unexplained death back in 2012.
Paul Worthington denies any wrong-doing.
The area's MP tabled an urgent question about the case.
Justice Jackson was clear in the judgment yesterday that
Paul Worthington raped the child and she died soon afterwards.
Yet it was a full eight months later that the parents were first
questioned by the police despite a pathologist saying,
raising at the time the death was caused
By this time, crucial evidence had been lost by the police such
as her nappy she was wearing and her bedding.
He said social services allowed the siblings to return to the family
home. Although the failures happened
after the child's death and not before, the combined failure
of several agencies is every bit as serious as if it contributed
to the death of Victoria Climbe Will the government make clear
that they value Poppi Worthington's life by ordering a similarly
thorough independent investigation He knows there was an investigation
by Ofsted in 2015 into Cumbria social services and it was found
to be inadequate and the Department is currently in the process
of intervention into Cumbria social services to ensure child social
services are properly working in Cumbria and all children
in Cumbria have the support We need to learn lessons from this
case but we need to wait for the second inquest,
the attorney general has granted that and until the inquest has
completed, we will not tap the full facts and he knows for the case
to be reopened new evidence will need to come to light which may
or may not be the case depending I urge her to keep pursuing the case
and not to be deterred And also particularly to clarify
what is the situation about the police investigation now
because we don't need to wait for the inquest for the police
investigation to be continuing. The IPCC are verifying
whether the police previously did
the right job or not, investigation now into this case
and could that be done The right honourable lady has
campaigned on these matters for years and I assure her I will
personally take this case and make sure we get to the bottom of it
and we learn the lessons Robust, hard-hitting and forthright,
the adjectives used to describe Nick Hardwick who is stepping down
as HM Inspector of prisons. Since he took over the job,
six years ago, he has published a series of damning reports charting
a growing crisis inside jails. He has been critical
of the arrangement where the Inspectorate receives funds
from the Ministry of Justice. It has or has been my view
since I started that it is not appropriate for us to be sponsored
by the Ministry of Justice. It was considered and
that was not successful. As long as we continue to be
sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, we do need a clear
protocol that sets out how that relationship works and it respects
where we should be independent and it is important there
is a proper distinction that... If it is necessary to make life
uncomfortable for the Department, the Inspectorate feels
it is able to do that. You set out that ideally
the Ministry of Justice would not be the sponsor but in those
circumstances what measures do
you say could be put in place independence or are you
saying it can't be done? You can improve the situation
from how it is now. My experience has been that it has
worked in a very British constitutional way, nothing has been
written down clearly but by and large it has worked,
there has been proper... People understand it and personnel
move and they forget what the relationship should be
and it is we educate chin. It would be possible
to have a protocol that sets some Can you assist the committee
with one or two points you think should be the pillars
of the protocol? Well, it should be clear
for instance and written out that the basic principles
are the reports and findings and the criteria we use
for the inspections are down to the Chief Inspector to decide
and not the ministry so you might
want to consult the Secretary proper notice of what he says
but they should be for Presumably it would reject
the suggestion ministers have exercised any influence over
the content of your policy. I reject they have been
successful in doing that. Isn't that the most important
influence, indicator It is the most important
indicator, I certainly had with when Mr Grayling
was Secretary Of State robust discussions about the content
of what I was saying. So, I think it would be helpful
to make sure those things The Conservative MP Crispin Blunt
has said in the Commons he's a user of the recreational drug known
as poppers and said a ban on its supply would be
"fantastically stupid". Mr Blunt, a former Prisons Minister,
said users of the drug Supply of the drug could be outlawed
under the Pyschoactive Substances The government wants to crack down
on the sale and use of so-called legal highs, substances chemically
designed to mimic drugs that There is sometimes when something
is proposed which becomes personal to you and you realise
the government is doing something fantastically stupid and I think
in those circumstances one has I would be directly affected
by this legislation. And I am astonished to find
it is proposing to be banned. And frankly so are
many other gay men. And if I follow my own mindset
reaction to this, it is simply serving to bring the whole
law into disrepute. Including poppers in the ban may
undermine the bill and make it far more difficult to get
across the vital message that psychoactive substances can be
and often are very dangerous. There is a risk the bill
would become synonymous with a ban on poppers a substance thought to be
relatively harmless. And that as a result the public
will come to believe all the substances banned
by the bill are relatively harmless. Later, MPs voted not to exempt
poppers from a ban on psychoactive Do join me for our
next daily round-up. Until then, from me,
Keith Macdougall, goodbye.