09/03/2016 Wednesday in Parliament


09/03/2016

Highlights of Wednesday 9 March in Parliament, presented by Keith Macdougall.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament, our look at the best

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of the day in the Commons and the Lords.

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On this programme:

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Should we shop till we drop?

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Or ought we to continue to make Sunday a little bit

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different from the rest of the week?

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We are all capable of deciding whether we work or shop on a Sunday.

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Why is it that in this country, this Government thinks

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that we should put the free market above everything else?

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That deal between the EU and Turkey aimed at easing the migrants crisis.

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One MP sounds a stark warning about Turkey.

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Over a period of time, the president of Turkey has

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done his best to undermine democratic rights

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in that country.

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And the Health Secretary says it's time for a cultural change

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in the NHS.

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Other industries, in particular the airline in nuclear

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industries, have learned the importance of developing

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a learning culture and not a blame culture if safety is to be improved.

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But first - ministers have suffered a defeat in the Commons

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over their plans to allow shops in England and Wales to open

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for longer on Sundays.

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Rebel Conservative backbenchers combined with Labour and the

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SNP to inflict the second Government defeat in the Commons

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since last year's election.

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Under the plans, local councils would be given

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the power to allow large shops to open longer than the current

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six hours on Sundays.

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Trade unions say the changes might have added

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as much as another six hours to the time the shops would stay

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open for business.

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The Commons battle was keenly fought.

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Don't we understand that while we have this

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great job here with all the privileges we have,

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we have a duty to look after people who are much

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less better off than us, who work unbelievably hard,

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often in fairly grim jobs.

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And do we want to force them - because ultimately all the pressure

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will be on them, from these big businesses -

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do we want them to sit behind a till on a Sunday,

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or do we say to them, yes, we do believe that

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Sunday is special.

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Doesn't he agree with me that we should actually just

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trust our constituents to make up their own minds?

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In life we all have to find our own balance,

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and we are all capable of deciding whether we work

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or shop on a Sunday.

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This isn't actually the most complicated

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decision that our constituents will make in their lives.

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Isn't it also misleading of the Government to

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describe this as a devolutionary measure?

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Isn't it simply the fact that the moment one particular

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council adopts these powers,

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every other neighbouring council will be forced to follow suit?

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I think it is important to bear in mind that the laws

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in England and Wales on trading were last updated in 1994,

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back when the only time we heard of Amazon

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was when you were talking about a river.

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The high street faced no external pressure.

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The internet is liberating, it changes the way we

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live and work.

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But the pressures on our high street are rising and internet

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But the pressures on our high street are rising and the internet

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plays a part.

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Surveys of internet shoppers show there is no relationship

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between them internet shopping on a Sunday,

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because they can't or want to go to extended hours at local stores.

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If we follow that argument, those who are on the internet

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between midnight and 3am, is that an argument for shops

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being open at that time?

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In my own constituency - which I accept is a relatively

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exceptional constituency in a city centre -

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there would be a demand, particularly at tourist times,

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that the local authorities should give permission.

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But it would be up to the local authority to manage that.

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I think this is a good compromise, given the great changes

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that have taking place in the last 30 years,

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not least with the internet, in that shopping pattern.

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Even in workplaces with trade union reps to support members,

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many staff are pressured into not using the Sunday opt-out.

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In fact, something like a third of workers,

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shop workers, are pressured into working Sundays

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or having their working hours cut.

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To those who say we need to keep Sunday special,

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I respect that.

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But I ask, do you not shop on the internet on a Sunday?

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Do not visit your local leisure centre?

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Goods are delivered on a Sunday, we eat in restaurants on a Sunday,

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call centres are open on a Sunday, many sectors work on a Sunday.

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You talk about rights, what about their rights?

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Many of us been abroad, Spain, Portugal or France -

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and we have found real restrictions on

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finding things open on a Sunday.

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We have been out at lunchtime and found the shops on siesta.

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Why is it, in this country, this Government

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thinks that we should put the free market above everything else?

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I rise to speak in favour of Sunday trading, because I feel in a place

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like central London, and I stand as a London MP,

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we should have some freedom for people to trade and choose how

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they do business.

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You don't have to go shopping, but if you want to go shopping,

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you should have the opportunity to do so.

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The Treasury have been taking media flak for this.

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The Treasury are putting out the lines to take.

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In fact, if you are and obscure backbench Tory MP, you're likely -

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In fact, if you are an obscure backbench Tory MP, you're likely -

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if you vote the right way today - to get a brand-new bypass.

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Or perhaps become special representative to some warm

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and exotic place you've never heard of.

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Before entering this place, I was in business for 25 years.

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It is absolutely right to consider the needs of business

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and the family lives of workers.

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But as all business people know, shouldn't the customer first?

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But as all business people know, shouldn't the customer come first?

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If the customer wants to shop at other times in a

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weekend, shouldn't they be allowed to do that?

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Isn't a pilot the right way to take this forward?

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People work to live, they don't live to work.

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There are lots of other things we could do that would be more

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efficient - we could propose to our partners by text,

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we could read to children on Skype from the office,

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no-one would suggest these things!

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This constant denigration of family life is truly unhelpful.

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And at the end of the debate, MPs voted in favour

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of an Opposition amendment.

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The ayes to the right, 317,

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the noes to the left, 286.

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The "skill ambitions" of young people in the UK are being held back

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by the Government's economic policies -

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the claim of Jeremy Corbyn as he tackled David Cameron

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at the weekly round of Prime Minister's Questions.

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It was during this latest half-hour session that the Labour

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leader notched up his first hundred questions to the Prime Minister.

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Mr Corbyn focused on the state of the economy.

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Last week, the Prime Minister told the House that we had

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a strong economy with a sound plan.

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If the economy is so strong, then why this week has he forced

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through a ?30 per week cut, hitting some of

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the poorest disabled people in the country?

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As we speak today we have inflation at 0%, unemployment at 5%,

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our economy is growing, wages are growing, and we're cutting

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the taxes that people are paying.

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That, combined with reforming welfare - and we are reforming

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welfare - is a way to get the deficit down, continue

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with growth and help deliver for the working people of Britain.

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Mr Speaker, I don't believe the majority of people in this

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country are content to see someone diagnosed with cancer today,

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unfit to work next year, reduced to poverty,

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because of the cuts this Government is putting through.

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If we really do have the strong economy

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the Prime Minister claims, then why did the Chancellor warn

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last week, and I quote, we may need to make

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further reductions?

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Who will these reductions fall on?

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The disabled?

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Pensioners?

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Young people?

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Women?

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Is he going to rule out attacking those groups?

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He will see the budget next week, when my right honourable

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friend the Chancellor - who has an excellent record

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of steering this nation's economy - will stand up to give that.

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As he well knows, the poorest have paid the most for the

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cuts, and women have paid for 81% of those cuts.

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Mr Speaker, on 99 previous attempts to ask questions

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to the Prime Minister, I've been unclear or dissatisfied

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by the answers, as indeed many other people have.

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So, on this auspicious 100th occasion, can I ask the

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Prime Minister to help out a young man called Callum.

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Last week, the Prime Minister told the Engineering

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Employers Federation that we have a skills shortage -

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a good admission.

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Callum asks - and he's a bright young man who wants to make his way

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in the world - says, will the Government acknowledge...

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Maybe the Prime Minister does as well.

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Will the Government acknowledge the importance of sixth-form

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colleges and post-16 education services in Britain?

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First of all, let me congratulate the honourable gentleman on getting

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to 100 not out.

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I'm sure it will be welcomed across the House.

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What I say to Callum is what we are introducing

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in our country is a situation where we uncap university places,

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so as many people who want to go can go.

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And we will be introducing in this Parliament

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three million apprentices.

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Mr Speaker, we have a construction industry in recession at a time that

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has an acute need for new housing.

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Construction apprenticeships have fallen by 11% since 2010.

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With the lowest rate of house building since

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the 1920s, almost 100 years ago.

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Will the Prime Minister look again at this issue,

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stop the cuts to skills training, and cuts to

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investment which are holding back this country, holding back the skill

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ambitions of so many young people, and invest in them and invest

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in our future?

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I do have to pick up the right honourable gentleman

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on his statistics, because we have seen a massive boost to apprentices

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and apprenticeship funding under this Government.

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Two million in the last Parliament, three million in this Parliament.

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On housing, let me give him the figures,

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house building under Labour fell by 45%, since then it's increased

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by two thirds.

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David Cameron.

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104 days to go until the European Referendum -

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plenty of time for both the Leave EU camp and the Remain In camp to argue

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their respective cases.

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David Cameron faced questions from both sides

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at Prime Minister's Questions, including one that concerned

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him very directly.

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If the British people vote to leave the European Union,

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will the Prime Minister resign, yes or no?

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No.

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JEERING

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It is very much to the Government's credit that over two million jobs

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have been created since 2010.

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But nearly one million of those have gone to non-UK EU nationals.

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Does the Prime Minister agree with me that the EU's free movement

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of people is damaging UK nationals' employment prospects,

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and has contributed to the 1.6 million British

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people remaining unemployed?

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And this has not been compensated for by equivalent-level jobs

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in other European countries for UK nationals?

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In combination with the welfare reform we've introduced

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for EU citizens and the tougher control of migration from outside

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the EU, we should see welfare reform in the UK as the flip side

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of migration control.

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We want to make sure it always pays for

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British people to train up to do the jobs that are being made

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available, so we should see immigration control and welfare

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reform together with a growing economy as the way of getting

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more of our people into work.

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Does the Prime Minister agree with me that it is very important

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that we make the positive case for Britain remaining in the EU?

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That each of us get ?1200 back for every ?120 we put in.

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We have lower prices and choice in shops and easier travelling

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for holidays and businesses.

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Can the Prime Minister explain how our

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membership of the EU benefits so many aspects of our lives?

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I think the honourable lady makes an important point,

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which is in all the arguments about single markets and sovereignty

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and the rest of it, we can sometimes lose some of the simple consumer

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benefits of being a member of the European Union.

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And the things she mentions about cheaper

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air travel, ease of travel, not having any tariffs,

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these are things that we take for granted now, that simply

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weren't the case 40 years ago.

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I agree that's a strong part of the very

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positive case we should make remaining in the EU.

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The SNP's Westminster leader focused on allegations about how

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some refugees arriving in the UK are being treated.

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Mr Speaker, the refugee crisis is the biggest issue

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facing governments right across Europe.

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Is the Prime Minister ashamed that in a UK Government

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programme, we now know that in Folkstone, trafficking victims

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were locked up without food, asylum-seekign children were forced

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to sleep on concrete floors, that patients with diarrhoea

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were denied access to showers, and also a naked woman was allegedly

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beaten at a detention centre.

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Is the Prime Minister ashamed of this?

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I will look very carefully at the points the right

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honourable gentleman makes.

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I would say our asylum system is fair, and Britain,

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down the ages, has given people asylum who are fleeing

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torture and persecution.

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When it comes to the issue of resettling

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Syrian refugees, it was instructive at this week's European Council

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there was a chart showing how many countries have actually resettled

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Syrian refugees, Britain has done far better than any other

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country bar Germany.

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David Cameron talking about claims about the treatment of some

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refugees reaching Britain.

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Earlier this week a deal was drawn up aimed at easing the migrant

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crisis, generally reckoned to be the biggest mass movement

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of people since the Second World War.

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Last year, more than a million people, most fleeing the conflict

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in Syria, entered the EU by boat, mainly going from Turkey to Greece.

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Under Monday's deal, all migrants arriving in Greece

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from Turkey would be returned.

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For each Syrian sent back, a Syrian already in Turkey would be

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resettled in the EU.

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Turkey would also get extra funding and progress on EU integration.

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MPs have been discussing the plan.

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Agreements that were reached in principle at the EU-Turkey summit

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on Monday represent a basis that could mean that in future

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all migrants who arrived in Greece could be returned to Turkey.

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That would, if implemented, break the business

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model of the people smugglers and end the link between getting

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in a boat and getting settlement in Europe.

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This is something which the Prime Minister and the government

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have been arguing for for nearly a year.

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The agreement would not impose any new obligations on the UK in respect

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of either resettlement or relocation.

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Does the Minister agree that the only way to deal with this

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crisis is to work with our European neighbours and with other countries

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affected in the region, including Turkey?

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We welcome the fact, therefore, that European nations are working

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together to try to find a solution rather than individual

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countries trying to find individual solutions to what is clearly

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a collective challenge.

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Actually this deal is a rather grubby one.

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We all know that the government, our own

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government in particular but the whole of the European Union,

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is desperate to try and be seen to be

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resolving this migration crisis, that this is a self-inflicted crisis

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to some extent because the free movement area in the Schengen area

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is a temptation, and attraction for refugees to get

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into the European Union so they can travel anywhere,

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and the refusal to close down the Schengen agreement means

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they want to keep that invitation open, so they are doing a very

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grubby deal with a country with a very

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indifferent human rights record to subcontract the deportation

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of these terrori...

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these refugees back to their country of origin.

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We share the deep concern expressed by the United Nations that these

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proposals would contravene refugees' right to

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protection under European and international law.

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Vincent Cochetel, the UNHCR Europe regional director,

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said yesterday that an agreement on this basis would not be

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consistent with either European or international law.

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Over a period of time the President of Turkey has

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done his best to undermine democratic rights in that country,

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outright intimidation of critics, a newspaper taken over last week

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by his henchmen and has now become a mouthpiece for the regime.

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More recently than that, a news agency.

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Does the Minister realise that there can be no question

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of Turkey becoming in any way associated

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with the European Union while this intimidation of critics continues,

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and indeed the President of Turkey gives a very good example of trying

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to follow Putin.

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I wish to associate the Liberal Democrats with the comments

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on free speech and also the comments just made with regard to the very

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troubling one-for-one refugee agreement, which raises both

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practical and moral concerns.

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The Minister is a very honourable man.

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Surely he cannot be comfortable with an

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agreement that actually requires refugees to risk their lives

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travelling to the EU in return for another refugee only from Syria

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to get safe passage.

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That is entirely unacceptable.

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The purpose that...we have is to put in place a set of arrangements

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which remove the incentives for people to entrust

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their safety to the people traffickers, and unless we are able

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to do that then the risk is exactly that the flow of people

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and the appalling casualties that result

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from that flow of people across the Aegean will continue.

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

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and the Lords.

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Still to come...

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A minister declares himself at the end of his tether over

0:19:080:19:10

the issue of broadband.

0:19:100:19:11

Now, how safe is the NHS?

0:19:110:19:13

The Health Secretary has announced a number of changes

0:19:130:19:15

designed to improve patient safety in England.

0:19:150:19:17

He told MPs that progress was being made, but still too many

0:19:170:19:20

mistakes were taking place.

0:19:200:19:25

Twice a week in the NHS we operate on the

0:19:250:19:28

wrong part of someone's body.

0:19:280:19:29

Twice a week we leave a foreign object in someone's body.

0:19:290:19:32

The pioneering work of Helen Hogan, Nick Black and Ara

0:19:320:19:35

Darzi has estimated that 3.6% of hospital deaths have a 50%

0:19:350:19:38

or more chance of being avoidable, which equates to over 150

0:19:380:19:40

deaths every week.

0:19:400:19:44

We should remember that, despite this, our standards

0:19:440:19:51

of safety still compare well to many other countries but I want England

0:19:510:19:54

to lead the world in offering the highest possible standards

0:19:540:19:56

of safety in healthcare.

0:19:560:19:59

He called for cultural change.

0:19:590:20:01

Other industries, in particular the airline and nuclear industries,

0:20:010:20:03

have learned the importance of developing a learning

0:20:030:20:07

culture and not a blame culture if safety is to be improved,

0:20:070:20:11

but too often the fear of litigation or

0:20:110:20:15

professional consequences inhibits the openness and transparency

0:20:150:20:22

we need if we are to learn from mistakes.

0:20:220:20:24

Madam Deputy Speaker, I will always support sensible steps

0:20:240:20:27

to improve safety and transparency in the delivery of health services

0:20:270:20:31

but what I can't do is stand here today and pretend that other

0:20:310:20:36

actions taken by this government won't have a detrimental effect

0:20:360:20:39

on patient care.

0:20:390:20:45

The Health Secretary's kamikaze approach to the junior-doctor

0:20:450:20:49

contract means that no matter how this dispute ends he will have lost

0:20:490:20:52

the goodwill of staff on which the NHS survives.

0:20:520:21:00

How can he stand here and talk about patient safety when it is him

0:21:000:21:03

and him alone who is to blame for the current industrial

0:21:030:21:08

action, for the destruction of staff morale and for the potential exodus

0:21:080:21:12

of junior doctors to the southern hemisphere?

0:21:120:21:15

We do need to look at the ratio of staff.

0:21:150:21:20

Both France's and other research has shown the importance of nursing

0:21:200:21:27

staff - staff who do not have a minute to stop and think

0:21:270:21:30

will make mistakes and they will not have time to report them.

0:21:300:21:33

We need to make it easy, people do need to have time

0:21:330:21:36

to minimise mistakes and there has to be that culture.

0:21:360:21:38

A minister has declared himself "at the end

0:21:380:21:41

of his tether" with BT Openreach.

0:21:410:21:46

Ed Vaizey was replying to a debate about customer-service

0:21:460:21:48

standards at the firm, which provides cables,

0:21:480:21:50

fibre and infrastructure for BT's phone lines and broadband.

0:21:500:21:53

A recent report by the regulator Ofcom pledged to introduce tougher

0:21:530:21:56

rules on BT's faults, repairs and installations.

0:21:560:22:00

The Conservative who raised the subject in Westminster Hall said

0:22:000:22:02

she'd had a myriad of complaints about the service.

0:22:020:22:12

Caroline Nokes gave the example of the village of Up Somborne

0:22:140:22:16

in her Hampshire constituency.

0:22:160:22:17

We had an interesting experience a few weeks ago when most

0:22:170:22:20

of the village's lines were crossed and neighbouring houses

0:22:200:22:22

were providing a message service to each

0:22:220:22:24

other as lines were swapped and numbers redistributed

0:22:240:22:26

in an apparently random fashion.

0:22:260:22:27

The spectacle of neighbours running up

0:22:270:22:31

and down the road passing messages to each other may sound amusing

0:22:310:22:36

but in the 21st century it is really not acceptable.

0:22:360:22:39

Another Conservative had an altogether more serious example.

0:22:390:22:41

In my constituency there was a 99-year-old lady whose phone

0:22:410:22:45

line was down with BT refusing to send an engineer out.

0:22:450:22:52

Thankfully my office forced BT to send an engineer -

0:22:520:22:56

after the work was done when she had a stroke and her son managed to make

0:22:560:23:00

phone contact to discover this.

0:23:000:23:01

It could have been so very different had the line not been fixed

0:23:010:23:04

and her son unable to get through.

0:23:040:23:06

She could have died without immediate

0:23:060:23:07

assistance and it shows the importance of phone lines.

0:23:070:23:09

Ofcom will need the right kind of political support in order

0:23:090:23:12

to ensure that these measures are put in place.

0:23:120:23:15

As our digital infrastructure is critical and it is strategic,

0:23:150:23:18

we have wasted five years in the policy wilderness,

0:23:180:23:21

not improving our digital infrastructure.

0:23:210:23:24

The Minister shared the frustration.

0:23:240:23:27

I have no truck with Openreach and its

0:23:270:23:30

customer-service levels.

0:23:300:23:31

They are absolutely woeful.

0:23:310:23:35

I find myself, as the Minister responsible for telecoms,

0:23:350:23:39

a bit like a person who has had a sort of forced adoption

0:23:390:23:42

of an unruly teenager.

0:23:420:23:46

I tell my colleagues that he means well,

0:23:460:23:51

he is doing his best, and they simply tell me

0:23:510:23:53

about the latest outrage they have suffered at his hands,

0:23:530:23:57

and that's unfortunately the position I find myself in,

0:23:570:23:59

in terms of Openreach customer service.

0:23:590:24:01

I am completely at the end of my tether, I agree

0:24:010:24:03

with all of the complaints made by all of

0:24:030:24:05

my colleagues in this debate, and I want to make sure

0:24:050:24:08

there is action, and I hope we have this debate in a year's time

0:24:080:24:11

and we have seen some action.

0:24:110:24:13

You may see a different minister if I don't succeed

0:24:130:24:15

but we will do our best to make some progress.

0:24:150:24:18

Now, does the Lords have too many members who've come from the lofty

0:24:180:24:21

heights of university and too few with a more practical background?

0:24:210:24:23

That seemed to be thrust of a remark by the former

0:24:230:24:26

Labour Minister Lord Rooker, as the Lords debated the value

0:24:260:24:28

of working adults doing evening Further Education courses.

0:24:280:24:36

Many noble Lords in this chamber will remember the day when night

0:24:360:24:45

school was a major instrument of social mobility.

0:24:450:24:48

Yet today night school has almost disappeared and the number of adults

0:24:480:24:51

on part-time courses has plummeted.

0:24:510:24:52

So please can I ask the Minister, what can the government do

0:24:520:24:57

to increase the availability of part-time higher-education

0:24:570:25:01

and further-education courses, including

0:25:010:25:03

night school, and to encourage people in work to better themselves

0:25:030:25:05

in this old-fashioned but tried and trusted way.

0:25:050:25:08

For 2016-17, learners aged 19 and over studying at level

0:25:080:25:11

three to six will be able to access this support,

0:25:110:25:16

so we are doing what we can to provide people who want to study

0:25:160:25:20

part-time support to do so.

0:25:200:25:25

Would it not be a good idea with respect to further education,

0:25:250:25:33

and I declare an interest as someone who did three nights a week in day

0:25:330:25:37

release at one point, instead of stuffing this place

0:25:370:25:42

with chancellors of universities of higher

0:25:420:25:43

education, do we actually put some people with direct knowledge

0:25:430:25:46

of further education into this place?

0:25:460:25:47

I'm afraid I think the noble Lord has an over...over-view of my...

0:25:470:25:50

Gosh, sorry!

0:25:500:25:51

Basically there's nothing I can do about it but I have sympathy.

0:25:510:25:54

Lady Evans trying to get the right words out in the House of Lords.

0:25:540:25:57

I think we know what she meant.

0:25:570:25:59

And that's it for this programme.

0:25:590:26:01

Do join me for the next daily round-up.

0:26:010:26:02

Until then, from me, Keith Macdougall, goodbye.

0:26:020:26:05

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