Highlights of Wednesday 27 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.
On this programme, a taxing issue for the Prime Minister
or quite straightforward?
Jeremy Corbyn tries to pin David Cameron down on the size
of that tax payment by Google.
Why is there one rule for big, multinational companies and another
for ordinary, small businesses and self-employed workers?
The proposal to limit Universal Credit to two children,
Peers voice their concerns.
These proposals as a whole might be seen as signalling that not every
child is precious.
And after a winter of intensive flooding, is the Thames Barrier
fit for purpose?
A Labour Peer thinks action is needed.
To say categorically that we need to do nothing
with the Thames Barrier to 2070, seems to me,
a little bit over-hopeful.
But first, David Cameron has defended the deal the authorities
have struck with Google over tax, saying the Conservatives have done
more than any other Government.
The technology giant has agreed to pay ?130 million in tax
to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.
The payment covers money owed since 2005 and follows a six-year
enquiry by HMRC.
But critics have called the 130 million derisory.
It was an obvious subject for the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
to focus on at Prime Minister's Questions.
He said experts indicated Google was paying a tax rate on its UK
profits of, in effect, 3%.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer described this arrangement
as a major success while the Prime Minister's official spokesperson
only called it a step forward.
The Mayor of London described the payment as quite derisory.
What exactly is the Government's position on this 3%
rate of taxation?
We have put in place the diverted profit tax,
that means this company and other companies will pay more
tax in future.
And more tax in future than they ever paid under Labour,
where the tax rate for Google was zero percent.
We have done more on tax evasion and tax avoidance
than Labour ever did.
The truth is, Mr Speaker, they are running to catch up
but they haven't got a leg to stand on.
Mr Speaker, it was under a Labour Government,
enquiries begun into Google and in addition, as a percentage
of GDP, corporation tax receipts are lower under this Government
than they were under previous governments.
I have got a question here, Mr Speaker, from a gentleman called
You might well laugh but Geoff actually speaks for millions
of people when he says to me, can you ask the Prime Minister if,
as a working man of over 30 years, whether there is a scheme
which I can join that pays the same rate of tax as Google
and other large corporations?
What does the Prime Minister say to Geoff?
What I say to Geoff is that his taxes are coming down under this
Government and Google's taxes are going up under this Government.
Let me say again, if, like me, he's genuinely angry
about what happened to Google under Labour, can I tell him a few people
he could call?
Maybe he should start by calling Tony Blair, you can
get him at JP Morgan.
Call Gordon Brown, apparently you can get him at a Californian
bond dealer called Pimco.
He could call Alistair Darling, I think he is at Morgan Stanley
but it is hard to keep up.
Those are the people to blame for Google not paying their taxes.
We are the ones that got them to pay.
SHOUTING The problem is, Mr Speaker that the Prime Minister
is the Prime Minister, is responsible for the Government
and therefore is responsible for tax collection.
Millions of people this week are filling in their tax returns
to get them in by the 31st. They have to send the form back.
They do not get the option of 25 meetings with 17 ministers to decide
what their rate of tax is.
Many people, going to their HMRC offices or returning
them online this week, will say this, why is there one rule
for big, multinational companies and another for ordinary,
small businesses and self-employed workers?
All those people filling in their tax returns are going to be
paying lower taxes under this Government.
That is what's happening. The Shadow Chancellor is pointing.
The idea that those two right honourable gentlemen would stand up
to anyone in this regard is laughable.
Look at the record over the last week.
They met with the unions and they gave them flying pickets.
They met with the Argentinians, they gave them the Falkland Islands.
They met with a bunch of migrants in Calais,
they said they could all come to Britain.
The only people they never stand up for are the British people
and hard-working taxpayers.
Jeremy Corbyn did not pick up on David Cameron's phrase,
"a bunch of migrants" and moved on to the day's big legal judgment.
We've had no answers on Google, we've had no answers on Geoff.
Can I raise with him another unfair tax policy that does affect many
people in this country?
This morning, the Court of Appeals ruled that the bedroom tax
is discriminatory because of its impact...
I don't know why members opposite find this funny because it isn't.
The ruling is, because of its impact on vulnerable individuals,
including victims of domestic violence and disabled children.
Will the Prime Minister now read the judgment and finally abandon
this cruel and unjust policy which has now been ruled
to be illegal?
We always look very carefully at the judgments on these occasions
but of course, our fundamental position is that it is unfair
to subsidise spare rooms in the social sector if you don't
subsidise them in the private sector when people are paying their housing
benefit and that is a basic issue of fairness.
Isn't it interesting that the first pledge he makes is something that
can cost as much as ?2.5 billion in the next Parliament.
Who is going to pay for that? Geoff will pay for it.
The people filling in their tax returns will pay for it.
Why is it that he always wants to see more welfare,
higher taxes, more borrowing - all things that got us into the mess
in the first place?
January 27th is Holocaust Memorial Day, as it was in 1945
when the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Soviet
It is estimated six million Jewish men, women and children perished
in concentration camps over a five-year period.
There are a number of Holocaust memorials around the world,
now there is to be a new permanent one in London.
This site is at the Houses of Parliament as the Prime Minister
Mr Speaker, I know the whole House will want to join me in marking
Holocaust Memorial Day.
It is right that our whole country should stand together to remember
the darkest hour of humanity.
Last year, on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz,
I said we would build a striking national memorial in London to show
the importance Britain places on preserving the memory
of the Holocaust.
Today, I can tell the House, this memorial will be built
in Victoria Tower Gardens.
It will stand beside Parliament as a permanent statement
of our values as a nation and it'll be for our children to visit
for generations to come.
I am grateful to all those who have made this possible and who have
given this work the cross-party status that it so profoundly
On behalf of the opposition, could I welcome the remarks
the Prime Minister has just made about Holocaust Memorial Day.
It is the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz
We have to remember the deepest, darkest days of humanity
that happened then and the genocide that
has sadly happened since and educate another generation to avoid those
for all time in the future.
I thank the Prime Minister for what he said.
For his questions to the Prime Minister, the leader
of the third biggest party, Angus Robertson, the SNP,
focused on the issue of women's pensions.
During John Major's Government, plans were announced to raise
the state pension age for women from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020
but four years ago, the Coalition Government speeded up
the process and many have complained it has given women too little time
to prepare for the change.
He is aware of the state pension inequality that is impacting on many
women and in this Parliament voted unanimously for the Government to,
and I quote, "Immediately introduce transitional arrangements for those
women negatively affected by pension equalisation."
What is the Prime Minister going to do to respect the decision
of this Parliament and help those women who are affected,
those who were born in the 1950s and should have had proper notice
to plan their finances and their retirement?
What I would say to the honourable gentleman, first of all,
the equalisation of the retirement age came about on the basis
of equality which was a judgment by the European court,
that we put in place in the 1990s.
When this Government decided rightly, in my view,
to raise the retirement view, we made the decision that no one
should suffer a greater than 18 month increase in their retirement
age and that is the decision that this House took.
In terms of ending discrimination in the pension system,
I would say that the introduction of the single-tier pension and ?155
a week will be one of the best ways we can end discrimination
in the pension system because so many women retiring
will get so much more in their pension which of course,
in this Government, is triple-lock protected, so they will get
inflation earnings or 2.5%.
Never again, the derisory 75p increase in the pension.
The footage shown on the BBC's Panorama programme of staff
at a secure training centre apparently assaulting youngsters has
caused plenty of reaction.
The undercover team filmed the scenes at the G4S-run Medway
Secure Training Centre in Kent, which holds children aged
between 12 and 18.
The Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham called for G4S to be
stripped of its contract to run children's prisons.
The former head of the prison service of England and Wales,
Sir Martin Narey, has been a paid consultant for G4S, work
that he was asked about when he came before the Commons
Sir Martin is currently making a review of children's residential
care in England.
I just think for the perspective of transparency, you have
a connection with G4S so if anything, that drifts
into an area where G4S are managing establishments.
How would you manage that?
I did have a connection with G4S.
I wasn't required to do that but recently, I was asked
by Michael Gove to join the Home Office board
for presentation reasons, I severed my relationships with G4S.
Although I don't apologise for having that relationship
and even after the appalling events that Medway, I think
there are people in that part of G4S trying very hard in prisons
and accommodation for young offenders which treats offenders
with decency and dignity.
I make no apology for having tried to help them to do that
a little over the years.
I only did a total of about 15 days a year over three years,
but I have severed that entirely.
They understand why.
And certainly any recommendations I make in this report,
people will have to judge for themselves, but they will
certainly not be influenced by any of the interests of G4S or any other
provider in the private or voluntary sector.
Sir Martin Narey.
You're watching our round-up of the day in the Commons
and the Lords.
Still to come - is the Thames Barrier fit for purpose?
The government has agreed to make exemptions from its proposals
to limit Universal Credit to two children.
Universal Credit is the new system that merges existing benefits
into one monthly payment for people out of work
and those on low incomes.
The Welfare Minister, Lord Freud, said in the Lords that people
who adopt sibling groups will be exempt, to prevent brothers
and sisters being separated when they're adopted.
And people who take in the children of family members, to stop them
going into the care system, will also be exempt.
The exemptions to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill were put forward
by the Bishop of Portsmouth.
I, along with others in this House, indicated our regret that these
proposals as a whole might be seen as signalling that not every child
is precious and deserves love and support not only of parents
and families, but of community, society and nation.
Nevertheless, I recognise the intent of the government.
The first three exemptions relate directly
to unforeseen circumstances which could not have been planned
for when a decision was being made about family size.
However carefully and responsibly consideration took place,
these circumstances could not have been reasonably expected.
The death of a parent drastically changes family circumstances.
This is in fact about a family of three children
who are working, but struggling anyway.
It is about all those who have children, confident
they could provide for them, until, as the Right Reverend Prelate
pointed out, something went wrong.
Perhaps their spouse died, they got sick and couldn't work,
a parent lost their job, etc.
So, my lords, all the things a welfare state was meant
to protect against.
So it seems to me utterly astonishing to have a
situation where those who are prepared to take children
out of care or take, perhaps, members of the family
who they then adopt,
but already have children, will be penalised for doing
something that is actually entirely in line
with what the government has said in its adoption policies.
And so, it seems to me quite extraordinary that the government
does not exclude adoption and kinship care.
And the noble lady Baroness Sherlock has set it out
better than I could,
and in great detail, so I don't want to reflect
on it, but just to point out this that she said.
That it is very expensive to keep children in care.
I am pleased to announce today that in recognition of the important role
that family and close friends can play in caring long-term
for children who are unable to live with
their parents and could otherwise be at risk of entering the care system,
we are in favour of exemption for children in such circumstances.
We do recognise that it is often in the best interest of the children
for them to be placed in their sibling group.
Recognising this, I am also able to announce that we are in favour
of an exemption where there were previously fewer than
two children in a household and the adoption of a sibling group
causes the number of children to exceed two, again we intend
to use regulations to provide for this exemption.
Supported housing for vulnerable people -
such as the elderly,
homeless, disabled and victims of domestic violence -
is to be exempt from cuts to social rents for a year.
The cut could have made it difficult for providers
to deliver specialist services.
The announcement came as Labour used a debate in the Commons to call
on the Government to exempt supported housing from further
reductions in housing benefit - which the party's spokesman said
would put hundreds of thousands of elderly and vulnerable people
The Chancellor's crude housing benefit cut
could hit the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who totally
depend on this specialist housing,
many the most vulnerable people with nowhere else to turn.
The National Housing Federation now say that 156,000 homes,
or at least that number of people, are set to close.
A survey by Inside Housing found that one in four supported
housing providers are set to close everything while 19 out of 20 say
they will close some of their supported accommodation.
Surely he has got to concede that this is not
a back-of-a-fag-packet policy, that this government is doing
the sensible thing of actually collating
all the information, the data, the demonstrable data,
into a proper scoping exercise on assisted housing
with impact assessment?
Also put aside almost ?500 million for
discretionary housing payments and the changes will not be taking
effect until April 2018.
Surely that is a sensible policy this government is pursuing?
The test of a good society is you look after the elderly,
the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest in our society.
So will the government confirm today,
act immediately, confirm they will exempt in full
from this crude, sweeping housing benefits cut
those in supported and sheltered housing?
And will they work with those who provide this housing to make
sure that it is secure for the future?
This government has always been clear that the most vulnerable
will be supported through our welfare reforms.
We know that the welfare system is vital for supporting
And we know it is essential that all vulnerable people have a roof
over their head.
That is why we have been determined to support
their housing needs.
We have set aside over ?500 million to create a strong safety net
We recently pledged ?40 million for domestic abuse services
to ensure that no victim is turned away from the support
that they need.
And in the Autumn Statement, we announced a further
In just a few moments.
?400 million to deliver 8000 specialist affordable homes
for the vulnerable, elderly, all those with disabilities.
But the minister had a concession.
In the meantime, the 1% reduction will be deferred
for 12 months for supported accommodation.
We will get the findings of the review in the spring.
And we will work with the sector to ensure the essential services
they deliver continue to be provided whilst protecting the taxpayer.
Making sure that we make best use of the taxpayer's money and meet
government's fiscal commitments.
And we will look urgently at this to provide certainty for the sector.
I have to give way.
Thanks to the Minister for giving way.
And for setting out the next steps.
Can I just put it politely to him that
he ought to have done this kind of research before making
the announcement in the first place?
And can he now also tell the House, to give certainty to those housing
providers, precisely what kind of measures will be implemented
to offset the changes in housing benefit?
I would genuinely say to the honourable gentleman
that the mess that the last Labour government left
this country financially means that we have to take
difficult decisions and we have to move quickly to ensure
the hard-working taxpayers are properly
protected and I'm proud to be working with a Chancellor who sees
that as one of our first and foremost duties.
More information on the scale, shape and cost of the supported
accommodation sector should be available through the evidence
reviewed jointly commissioned
-- review jointly commissioned
by the Department for Communities and Local Government
and the Department for Work and Pensions.
If the government don't know the impact,
then why make the change?
Madam Deputy Speaker, this Tory government must
halt their continued assault on housing benefit
in order to ensure that those who need supported housing are not
literally left out in the cold.
At the end, a Labour motion calling for an exemption from housing
benefit cuts for supported housing was rejected by 47 votes.
Now, what does the future hold for the Thames Barrier?
Lying six miles to the east of the City of London,
the Barrier was constructed in the wake of the devastating
East Coast floods of 1953.
Finished in 1983, the 1,700 foot structure is said to have paid
for itself many times over in the three decades
it's been operating.
But the frequency of closures in recent months has led to fears
it could be operating close to the limits of what it can do,
to protect London.
In the Lords, a Government spokesman said the future performance
of the Barrier was assessed in the document,
the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan.
This plan, produced by the Environment Agency
and stakeholders along the estuary, sets out how to manage tidal flood
risk up to the end of the century.
The plan is reviewed every five years.
Based on these projections, the Thames Barrier
is expected to protect London to its current standard up to 2070.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble lord for that response,
but he will be aware that the Thames Barrier was raised
twice per annum on average in its first ten years of existence,
and is now raised on average eight times per annum.
And it reached a peak of 48 times in 2014.
The government, as a result, in 2012 decided it was appropriate
to extend the life of the Thames Barrier from 2030 to 2070.
And despite concerns about freak storms and rising sea levels,
we know that the government has been complacent as far
as the cities of York and Leeds and the county of Cumbria
have been concerned, in terms of floods.
Why should we have any more confidence in their
decision to extend the life of the Thames Barrier by 40 years?
My Lords, I reject the noble Lord's accusations about the goodwill
of this government.
And if I could compare expenditure, this government
is proposing capital expenditure of ?2.3 billion
in the next six years.
That compares with the last Labour government of ?1.5 billion.
A real-terms increase...
My Lords, I am normally a great believer in as much
salt water as possible, but I have to say I do believe
that there is just a slight element of complacency.
I know a lot of work has gone into this.
I was involved in the resilience work.
But the speed at which things are changing is such
that to say categorically that we need to do nothing
with the Thames Barrier until 2070
seems to me a little bit over-hopeful.
And will the noble Lord the minister agree
that we may well have do something well before that
and it will take a considerable time to put into place?
My noble Lord, I do apologise if I in any sense suggested
that this would only wait until 2070.
As I said, the review will be every five years.
It is absolutely essential that we keep up-to-date.
My Lords, as a Treasury minister I was much involved
in the original decision on the Thames Barrier.
I very much wanted to make it part of a hydroelectric scheme
but my officials said that would cause delay,
the Thames would break its banks, the London Underground would be
flooded and did I want to take that responsibility?
So we are where we are!
But, my Lords, will my noble friend consider
whether in the plans which he rightly set out a moment
ago, whether one should consider
that there is some possibility of using the tidal flow
of the Thames to generate electricity, given the increasing
claims for having fuel which is not carbon-based?
My Lords, I will certainly raise this with my noble friend
in the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Clearly it is important in this country that
we use many alternative sources of energy supply.
I think that is a very interesting concept.
And that's it for this programme.
But do join me for our next daily round-up.
Until then, from me Keith Macdougall, goodbye.