16/03/2016 Wednesday in Parliament


16/03/2016

Highlights of Wednesday 16 March in Parliament, presented by Keith Macdougall.


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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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The theme of the Chancellor as he unveils a new tax on sugary

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Today I can announce that we will introduce a new sugar levy on the

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soft drink industry. Among other measures,

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George Osborne announces a longer school day and a new lifetime ISA

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for young people. He says Britain is well-placed

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to handle a cocktail But the Labour leader denounces

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the Chancellor's performance He has failed on the budget, failed

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on debt, failed on investment, failed on productivity.

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The party leaders clash over air pollution.

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And a former Lib Dem leader makes a scathing attack

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on the Government's record on taking in migrants.

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What is it like to be the member of a Government, a British Government,

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that has to take lessons in leadership, compassion and courage

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from the German Chancellor? But first, it may not

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have all the trappings of State Opening Day at Westminster,

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but Budget Day still has its own And sure enough, outside

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Number 11 Downing Street, stepping into the March daylight,

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was the Chancellor. Complete with the famous red box

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containing all the closely-guarded secrets of the annual Budget speech

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he's about to give MPs. Once into a suitable vehicle,

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George Osborne made the short journey along Whitehall,

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around Parliament Square, and into the precincts

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of the Palace of Westminster. It was George Osborne's

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eighth Budget. He told the Commons the UK economy

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was set to grow faster than that of any other advanced

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country in the world, with a deficit that was

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now falling each year. The British economy is stronger

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because we confronted our country's problems and took the

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difficult decisions. The British economy is growing

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because we did not seek short-term fixes, but pursued

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a long-term economic plan. He turned to spending totals. My

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spending plan in the last Parliament reduced the share taken by the state

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from the unsustainable 45% we inherited to 40% today.

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My spending plans in this Parliament will see it fall to 36.9%

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In other words, the country will be spending no more than the country

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So I am asking my right honourable friends the Chief Secretary

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and the Paymaster General to undertake a further drive

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The aim is to save a further ?3.5 billion in the year 2019-20.

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At less than half a percent of Government spending in four

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years' time, that is more than achievable while maintaining

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He was confident the UK economy would show a ?10 billion

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We said our country would not repeat the mistakes of the past

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Today, we maintain that commitment to long-term stability

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Decisive action to achieve a ?10 billion surplus.

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He announced reductions in corporation tax, and then moved

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From April next year, 600,000 small businesses will pay no

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That is an annual saving for them of up to nearly ?6,000, forever.

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A further quarter of a million businesses will see their rates cut.

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Mr Osborne said the oil price had continued to fall.

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So we need to act now for the long term.

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I am today cutting in half the supplementary charge on oil

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and gas from 20% to 10%, and I am effectively abolishing

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petroleum revenue tax too, backing this key

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None of this support would have been remotely affordable if,

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in just eight days' time, Scotland had broken away

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from the rest of the UK, as the nationalists wanted.

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The Infrastructure Commission was urging stronger transport links

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So we are giving the green light to High Speed 3 between

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We are finding new money to create a four-lane M62.

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And we will develop the case for a new tunnelled road

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My honourable friends for Carlisle, Penrith and Wrexham have told us not

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to neglect the North Pennines. So we will upgrade the A66

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and the A69 too. The Government who are delivering

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Crossrail 1 will now commission I know this commitment to Crossrail

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2 will be warmly welcomed by the Leader of the Opposition,

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the right honourable It could have been designed just

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for him, because it is good for all those who live in north

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London and are heading south. I have listened to the case made

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by Welsh Conservative colleagues and I can announce today that

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from 2018 we are going to halve the price of the tolls

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on the Severn crossings. I am today providing extra funding

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so that by 2020 every primary and secondary school in England

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will be, or be in the process The Chancellor switched

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to the content of drinks. We all know one of the

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biggest contributors to childhood obesity

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is sugary drinks. A can of cola typically has nine

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teaspoons of sugar in it. Some popular drinks

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have as many as 13. I am not prepared to look back

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at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job, and say

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to my children's generation, We knew there was a problem

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with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease,

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but we ducked the difficult So today I can announce

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that we will introduce a new sugar We're going to use the money

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from this new levy to double the amount of funding we dedicate

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to sport in every primary school. And for secondary schools,

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we are going to fund longer school days for those that want to offer

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their pupils a wider range of activities,

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including extra sport. We have consulted widely

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on whether we should make compulsory But it was clear there

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was no consensus. Indeed, the former

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Pensions Minister, the Liberal Democrat Steve Webb,

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said I was trying to abolish Instead, we are going to keep

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the lump sum and abolish Mr Opperman, you may have been

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an amateur jockey, but I do not want From April 2017, anyone under

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the age of 40 will be able to open a Lifetime ISA and save up

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to ?4,000 each year. For every ?4 you save,

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the Government will give you ?1. So, putting ?4000, and the

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Government will give you ?1000 every year until you are 50. You don't

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have to choose between saving the first time or saving for your

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retirement. With the new Lifetime Iser, the Government is giving you

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the money to do both. One that reaches a surplus

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so the next generation does not have One that reforms our tax system

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so the next generation One that takes the imaginative steps

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so the next generation One that takes bold decisions

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so that our children grow up This is a Budget that gets

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the investors investing, savers saving, businesses doing

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business, so that we build for working people a low-tax,

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enterprise Britain, secure at home, I commend to the House a Budget that

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puts the next generation first. And with that, George Osborne

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concluded his speech. In line with parliamentary

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tradition and custom, the Budget is replied to not

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by the Shadow Chancellor but by the Leader of

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the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. It was his first time responding

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to a Budget since becoming Mr Corbyn said the speech

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the Chancellor had given the nation was, in fact, the culmination

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of six years of failure. It is a recovery built on sand

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and a Budget of failure. failed on debt, failed

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on investment, failed on productivity, failed

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on the trade deficit, failed on the welfare cap and failed

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to tackle inequality in this This Budget has unfairness

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at its very core, paid for by those He could not have made

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his priorities clearer. While half a million people

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with disabilities are losing over ?1 billion in Personal

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Independence Payments, corporation tax is being cut

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and billions handed out in tax cuts The gulf between what

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the Conservative Government expects from the wealthiest

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and what they demand from ordinary British taxpayers

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could not be greater. The "mates rates" deals for big

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corporations on tax deals is something they will be

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for ever remembered for. This is a Chancellor who has

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produced a Budget for hedge fund managers more than

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for small businesses. Every library that has been closed,

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every elderly person left without proper care,

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every swimming pool with reduced opening hours or closed altogether

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is a direct result of the Government underfunding our local

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authorities and councils. Far from presiding over

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good-quality employment, he is the Chancellor who has

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presided over underemployment I want to hear the Leader

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of the Opposition and I expect you to hear the Leader

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of the Opposition. If you do not want to hear him,

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I am sure the Tea Room awaits. Perhaps there will be a phone call

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for Mr Hoare if he keeps shouting. Security comes from knowing your

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income and knowing where your job is. If you are one of those nearly 1

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million people on a zero hours contracts, you don't know what your

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income is, you don't have that security.

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Over the past six years, the Chancellor has set targets

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on deficit, on debt, on productivity, on manufacturing

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He has failed in all of them, and he is failing this country.

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There are huge opportunities for this country to build

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on the talent and efforts of everyone, but the Chancellor

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is more concerned about protecting vested interests.

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The price of failure is being borne by some of the most vulnerable

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Next came the reaction to the Budget of the SNP.

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The current account will not be back in the black now until 2018/ 19. The

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targets keep getting pushed back, more broken promises. Borrowing in

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four years' time will still be higher than they promised it would

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be this year. That is the scale of the failure of the key economic

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methods. This is all about political choices. We said at the election,

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and we hold to it, a very modest half percent real terms increase in

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expenditure could have released money not just the investment but to

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make sure those on benefit did not fall any further behind. That would

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have been a sensible, humane and productive thing to do. The

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Chancellor and this Government have gone against that one more time. He

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may be able to sell that to some of his backbenchers, he has been unable

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to sell it in Scotland and I fear that will continue to be the case

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for him. And after that came the views of backbenchers. If we are

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going to have a tax based on sugar, I wonder whether over the longer run

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we shouldn't consider widening that base. After all, it is not just

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sugar in drinks that are held to be harmful. Whether we want to find tax

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bases all the time on health grounds is another matter, but that bridge

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has now been crossed now the levy has been introduced. Britain is now

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at a crossroads. The structural deficit will be gone next year, so

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the Chancellor is choosing to make unnecessary cuts to meet an

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unnecessary target. It is his choice to remove support from people with

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disabilities. It is his choice to cut universal credit. It is his

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choice to stand by as child poverty increases.

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And the Budget debate continues for another three days.

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

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The Justice Secretary talks of his plans for a new type of prisons.

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It's normally the main event, but on Budget Day,

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Prime Minister's Questions becomes the supporting feature.

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Little point in the party leaders debating the economy,

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as they've yet to hear the Budget speech.

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So the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn focused on a non-financial matter,

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It's an issue moving up the political agenda,

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All the candidates for Mayor of London have said they regard

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improving London's air as a top priority.

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Mr Corbyn produced some stark figures on the effects

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The sad truth is that 500,000 will die because of this country's

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failure to comply with international law on air pollution.

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Perhaps he could answer another question -

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pollution cost our economy every year?

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Of course it costs our economy billions, because people

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That is why we have the new clean air zones, and emissions from cars

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The Royal College of physicians estimates and pollution costs our

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economy ?20 billion per year. The failure to deal with air pollution

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is killing people. Only a few days ago, London faced a severe smog

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warning. His friend, the Mayor of London has resided over at legal

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breach of air quality in the capital bore many times since 2012.

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It was the Conservative government in the 1950 that passed the clean

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air act, and I am sure it is this government which will continue that.

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Things have moved on a bit since then. The governments... The

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government are now... The government are now threatened with being taken

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to court for its failure to comply with international law on air

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pollution. He is proposing to spend tens, if not hundreds of thousands

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of pounds of public money defending the indefensible. Why not invest

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that in clean air and better" to for everyone in this country? We are

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investing money in clean air. We are phasing out the use of coal-fired

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power stations, far in advance of what other European countries are

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doing, blazing a trail in terms of more renewable energy. The questions

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to the Prime Minister are these,... He once boasted he led the greenest

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government ever. No huskies was safe from his cuddles. Could he explain

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why the energy and climate change select committee has produced a

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damning report when it comes to green energy, saying major investors

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describe his policies as risky as a result of cuts and changes? The

:17:06.:17:13.

climate action network said Britain is the second best country in the

:17:14.:17:17.

world for tackling climate change after Denmark. That is our record.

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The leader of the SNP switched subjects to the situation in Libya.

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There is widespread reporting that the UK Government

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are about to commit to send ground troops to Libya to train

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Is this true, and why has Parliament not been informed about it?

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Libya is a people smuggling route, which is bad for Europe and bad

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for us, and we also have the growth of Daesh in Libya, which is bad

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for us and bad for the rest of Europe.

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If we have any plans for troop training or troop deployment

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in a conventional sense we will of course come to the House

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The UK spent 13 times more bombing Libya than it did on securing

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the peace after the overthrow of the hated Gaddafi regime.

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The critics of UK policy even include President Obama

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Will the Prime Minister give a commitment to bring to Parliament

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the issue of any potential Libyan deployment of any British forces

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for approval before giving the green light for that to happen?

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Very happy to give that commitment, as we always do. I think I am very

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clear that it was right to take action to prevent that slaughter

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that Colonel Gaddafi would have carried out against his people in

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Benghazi. I believe that was right. Of course Libya is in a state that

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is very concerning right now and everyone has to take their

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responsibilities for that. Regional elections in Germany

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at the weekend resulted in sweeping gains by the anti-immigrant

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AfD Party. Its success has been seen

:19:00.:19:01.

as a reaction against the policy of the German Chancellor Angela

:19:02.:19:03.

Merkel to accept a million migrants. A German government spokesman has

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said despite the outcome of the regional polls,

:19:07.:19:09.

the immigration policy In the House of Lords,

:19:10.:19:11.

a former Lib Dem leader sharply contrasted the approach of Germany

:19:12.:19:18.

with that of Britain. My Lords, Germany has provided a

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refuge for more than 1 million refugees. The German Chancellor has

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said that despite the recent election results, by the way, and

:19:36.:19:41.

relatively minor in their fact, she will not change course. In contrast,

:19:42.:19:46.

Britain provides refuge to not a single refugee currently seeking to

:19:47.:19:50.

flee from the Syrian battlefield. Many women and children amongst

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them. Our Prime Minister boasts he will have nothing to do with the

:19:56.:20:00.

European plan that deals with manifestly European and pan-European

:20:01.:20:03.

issue. What is it like to be the member of a government, a British

:20:04.:20:09.

Government, that has to take less than -- lessons in compassion from

:20:10.:20:15.

the German Chancellor? I find it a great honour to be part of this

:20:16.:20:23.

government. But the noble Lord refers to the refugees in Syria.

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The noble Lord referred to the refugees in Syria.

:20:39.:20:40.

We should also congratulate the Turkish people on all

:20:41.:20:42.

that they have done over this period; they have nearly 3 million

:20:43.:20:45.

I do not think that I need to draw the attention of the House to this,

:20:46.:20:50.

At the Syria conference at the beginning of February,

:20:51.:20:53.

11 billion euros was raised in a day - the largest amount ever raised

:20:54.:20:57.

Don't the elections in Germany and elsewhere in the EU just show the

:20:58.:21:05.

democracy is at last taking over from the failed corporate project of

:21:06.:21:14.

European integration? The quicker that is abandoned, surely be better.

:21:15.:21:30.

Democracy, as Lord Pearson Brannock said,... I would never dream of

:21:31.:21:35.

commenting on what has happened or advising on what has happened in

:21:36.:21:40.

Germany. Should we not take some comfort from the fact that although

:21:41.:21:45.

the vote in Germany was disturbing, 80% of those who voted did not vote

:21:46.:21:51.

for an ultra-right-wing party. It was clear last autumn, unless we

:21:52.:21:55.

stopped the flow of refugees from Libya and Turkey, into what was

:21:56.:21:59.

becoming a worse and worse Mediterranean, that there would be

:22:00.:22:03.

many deaths. We have still not really got together any composite

:22:04.:22:07.

plan to stop this blow of refugees before they leave territorial seas.

:22:08.:22:14.

-- this flow of refugees. Put the noble minister let us know are we

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coming to some conclusion to stop people going to see? If we don't,

:22:19.:22:22.

they will die, and they are dying every day. The noble Lord draws

:22:23.:22:32.

attention to some of the saddest aspects of this crisis. The whole

:22:33.:22:37.

point of the summit of last week was in fact to break the business model

:22:38.:22:46.

of the people traffickers. And end the link between getting in a boat

:22:47.:22:48.

and getting settlement in Europe. The Justice Secretary Michael Gove

:22:49.:22:51.

has said a new Bill will pave the way for prisons in England

:22:52.:22:54.

and Wales to follow the system of academy schools, with league

:22:55.:22:57.

tables and provision for failing jails to be taken over

:22:58.:23:00.

by more successful jails. At the Commons Justice Committee,

:23:01.:23:03.

Mr Gove admitted there was a problem with overcrowding in some prisons

:23:04.:23:07.

but said it was not extreme. There are steps we hope to introduce

:23:08.:23:16.

to ensure that prisons work better, and I'm sure we can talk more

:23:17.:23:20.

about some of the administrative Ideally, what we want to do

:23:21.:23:27.

is create a freestanding foundation, what we call a reform

:23:28.:23:32.

prison, and in order to allow governors to

:23:33.:23:34.

have a significantly greater degree of freedom than we currently grant

:23:35.:23:36.

them, we will need to create a new legal status, in the same way

:23:37.:23:39.

as the Blair government created We are looking at what the firm

:23:40.:23:43.

legal foundation should be for prisons

:23:44.:23:49.

that operate in an independent way. I'm interested in the prison

:23:50.:23:54.

league table idea. Essentially, could you tell

:23:55.:23:57.

us what it is the one measuring, how you are measuring it

:23:58.:24:01.

and not happen when it doesn't meet We have worked out or are working

:24:02.:24:04.

out three types of measurement. The first is a set of aspirational

:24:05.:24:15.

measurements that will let us know that prisons are doing

:24:16.:24:18.

well in three, four, And they would link to, for example,

:24:19.:24:20.

the quality as well as the number of qualifications that

:24:21.:24:30.

the prisoners are securing. They would link to the

:24:31.:24:31.

success of that prison in basic resettlement goals meaning

:24:32.:24:36.

prisoners find and staying in accommodation and find and stay

:24:37.:24:39.

in jobs, desist from criminality Then we think there

:24:40.:24:42.

should be some dipstick measures so that anyone visiting

:24:43.:24:53.

a prison or observing how it is operating,

:24:54.:24:55.

by a week by week or month by month, can

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see how it is doing. The broader picture there

:24:58.:25:04.

is about successful you think prison reform will be when we still have

:25:05.:25:06.

such a large prison population and when the result

:25:07.:25:09.

of that is the extreme overcrowding. I wouldn't say we have extreme

:25:10.:25:11.

overcrowding. It is certainly the case

:25:12.:25:16.

that the ideal would be one prisoner in each room

:25:17.:25:19.

and we are very far from that. I wouldn't over fixate on numbers,

:25:20.:25:34.

because I think there is a danger of being paralysed by the thought,

:25:35.:25:37.

we can't make any change I think let's make

:25:38.:25:40.

changes within the Do join me for our

:25:41.:25:43.

next daily round-up. Until then, from me,

:25:44.:25:47.

Keith Macdougall, goodbye.

:25:48.:25:51.

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