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
of the day in the Commons and the Lords.
The theme of the Chancellor as he unveils a new tax on sugary
Today I can announce that we will introduce a new sugar levy on the
soft drink industry. Among other measures,
George Osborne announces a longer school day and a new lifetime ISA
for young people. He says Britain is well-placed
to handle a cocktail But the Labour leader denounces
the Chancellor's performance He has failed on the budget, failed
on debt, failed on investment, failed on productivity.
The party leaders clash over air pollution.
And a former Lib Dem leader makes a scathing attack
on the Government's record on taking in migrants.
What is it like to be the member of a Government, a British Government,
that has to take lessons in leadership, compassion and courage
from the German Chancellor? But first, it may not
have all the trappings of State Opening Day at Westminster,
but Budget Day still has its own And sure enough, outside
Number 11 Downing Street, stepping into the March daylight,
was the Chancellor. Complete with the famous red box
containing all the closely-guarded secrets of the annual Budget speech
he's about to give MPs. Once into a suitable vehicle,
George Osborne made the short journey along Whitehall,
around Parliament Square, and into the precincts
of the Palace of Westminster. It was George Osborne's
eighth Budget. He told the Commons the UK economy
was set to grow faster than that of any other advanced
country in the world, with a deficit that was
now falling each year. The British economy is stronger
because we confronted our country's problems and took the
difficult decisions. The British economy is growing
because we did not seek short-term fixes, but pursued
a long-term economic plan. He turned to spending totals. My
spending plan in the last Parliament reduced the share taken by the state
from the unsustainable 45% we inherited to 40% today.
My spending plans in this Parliament will see it fall to 36.9%
In other words, the country will be spending no more than the country
So I am asking my right honourable friends the Chief Secretary
and the Paymaster General to undertake a further drive
The aim is to save a further ?3.5 billion in the year 2019-20.
At less than half a percent of Government spending in four
years' time, that is more than achievable while maintaining
He was confident the UK economy would show a ?10 billion
We said our country would not repeat the mistakes of the past
Today, we maintain that commitment to long-term stability
Decisive action to achieve a ?10 billion surplus.
He announced reductions in corporation tax, and then moved
From April next year, 600,000 small businesses will pay no
That is an annual saving for them of up to nearly ?6,000, forever.
A further quarter of a million businesses will see their rates cut.
Mr Osborne said the oil price had continued to fall.
So we need to act now for the long term.
I am today cutting in half the supplementary charge on oil
and gas from 20% to 10%, and I am effectively abolishing
petroleum revenue tax too, backing this key
None of this support would have been remotely affordable if,
in just eight days' time, Scotland had broken away
from the rest of the UK, as the nationalists wanted.
The Infrastructure Commission was urging stronger transport links
So we are giving the green light to High Speed 3 between
We are finding new money to create a four-lane M62.
And we will develop the case for a new tunnelled road
My honourable friends for Carlisle, Penrith and Wrexham have told us not
to neglect the North Pennines. So we will upgrade the A66
and the A69 too. The Government who are delivering
Crossrail 1 will now commission I know this commitment to Crossrail
2 will be warmly welcomed by the Leader of the Opposition,
the right honourable It could have been designed just
for him, because it is good for all those who live in north
London and are heading south. I have listened to the case made
by Welsh Conservative colleagues and I can announce today that
from 2018 we are going to halve the price of the tolls
on the Severn crossings. I am today providing extra funding
so that by 2020 every primary and secondary school in England
will be, or be in the process The Chancellor switched
to the content of drinks. We all know one of the
biggest contributors to childhood obesity
is sugary drinks. A can of cola typically has nine
teaspoons of sugar in it. Some popular drinks
have as many as 13. I am not prepared to look back
at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job, and say
to my children's generation, We knew there was a problem
with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease,
but we ducked the difficult So today I can announce
that we will introduce a new sugar We're going to use the money
from this new levy to double the amount of funding we dedicate
to sport in every primary school. And for secondary schools,
we are going to fund longer school days for those that want to offer
their pupils a wider range of activities,
including extra sport. We have consulted widely
on whether we should make compulsory But it was clear there
was no consensus. Indeed, the former
Pensions Minister, the Liberal Democrat Steve Webb,
said I was trying to abolish Instead, we are going to keep
the lump sum and abolish Mr Opperman, you may have been
an amateur jockey, but I do not want From April 2017, anyone under
the age of 40 will be able to open a Lifetime ISA and save up
to ?4,000 each year. For every ?4 you save,
the Government will give you ?1. So, putting ?4000, and the
Government will give you ?1000 every year until you are 50. You don't
have to choose between saving the first time or saving for your
retirement. With the new Lifetime Iser, the Government is giving you
the money to do both. One that reaches a surplus
so the next generation does not have One that reforms our tax system
so the next generation One that takes the imaginative steps
so the next generation One that takes bold decisions
so that our children grow up This is a Budget that gets
the investors investing, savers saving, businesses doing
business, so that we build for working people a low-tax,
enterprise Britain, secure at home, I commend to the House a Budget that
puts the next generation first. And with that, George Osborne
concluded his speech. In line with parliamentary
tradition and custom, the Budget is replied to not
by the Shadow Chancellor but by the Leader of
the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. It was his first time responding
to a Budget since becoming Mr Corbyn said the speech
the Chancellor had given the nation was, in fact, the culmination
of six years of failure. It is a recovery built on sand
and a Budget of failure. failed on debt, failed
on investment, failed on productivity, failed
on the trade deficit, failed on the welfare cap and failed
to tackle inequality in this This Budget has unfairness
at its very core, paid for by those He could not have made
his priorities clearer. While half a million people
with disabilities are losing over ?1 billion in Personal
Independence Payments, corporation tax is being cut
and billions handed out in tax cuts The gulf between what
the Conservative Government expects from the wealthiest
and what they demand from ordinary British taxpayers
could not be greater. The "mates rates" deals for big
corporations on tax deals is something they will be
for ever remembered for. This is a Chancellor who has
produced a Budget for hedge fund managers more than
for small businesses. Every library that has been closed,
every elderly person left without proper care,
every swimming pool with reduced opening hours or closed altogether
is a direct result of the Government underfunding our local
authorities and councils. Far from presiding over
good-quality employment, he is the Chancellor who has
presided over underemployment I want to hear the Leader
of the Opposition and I expect you to hear the Leader
of the Opposition. If you do not want to hear him,
I am sure the Tea Room awaits. Perhaps there will be a phone call
for Mr Hoare if he keeps shouting. Security comes from knowing your
income and knowing where your job is. If you are one of those nearly 1
million people on a zero hours contracts, you don't know what your
income is, you don't have that security.
Over the past six years, the Chancellor has set targets
on deficit, on debt, on productivity, on manufacturing
He has failed in all of them, and he is failing this country.
There are huge opportunities for this country to build
on the talent and efforts of everyone, but the Chancellor
is more concerned about protecting vested interests.
The price of failure is being borne by some of the most vulnerable
Next came the reaction to the Budget of the SNP.
The current account will not be back in the black now until 2018/ 19. The
targets keep getting pushed back, more broken promises. Borrowing in
four years' time will still be higher than they promised it would
be this year. That is the scale of the failure of the key economic
methods. This is all about political choices. We said at the election,
and we hold to it, a very modest half percent real terms increase in
expenditure could have released money not just the investment but to
make sure those on benefit did not fall any further behind. That would
have been a sensible, humane and productive thing to do. The
Chancellor and this Government have gone against that one more time. He
may be able to sell that to some of his backbenchers, he has been unable
to sell it in Scotland and I fear that will continue to be the case
for him. And after that came the views of backbenchers. If we are
going to have a tax based on sugar, I wonder whether over the longer run
we shouldn't consider widening that base. After all, it is not just
sugar in drinks that are held to be harmful. Whether we want to find tax
bases all the time on health grounds is another matter, but that bridge
has now been crossed now the levy has been introduced. Britain is now
at a crossroads. The structural deficit will be gone next year, so
the Chancellor is choosing to make unnecessary cuts to meet an
unnecessary target. It is his choice to remove support from people with
disabilities. It is his choice to cut universal credit. It is his
choice to stand by as child poverty increases.
And the Budget debate continues for another three days.
You're watching our round-up of the day in the Commons
The Justice Secretary talks of his plans for a new type of prisons.
It's normally the main event, but on Budget Day,
Prime Minister's Questions becomes the supporting feature.
Little point in the party leaders debating the economy,
as they've yet to hear the Budget speech.
So the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn focused on a non-financial matter,
It's an issue moving up the political agenda,
All the candidates for Mayor of London have said they regard
improving London's air as a top priority.
Mr Corbyn produced some stark figures on the effects
The sad truth is that 500,000 will die because of this country's
failure to comply with international law on air pollution.
Perhaps he could answer another question -
pollution cost our economy every year?
Of course it costs our economy billions, because people
That is why we have the new clean air zones, and emissions from cars
The Royal College of physicians estimates and pollution costs our
economy ?20 billion per year. The failure to deal with air pollution
is killing people. Only a few days ago, London faced a severe smog
warning. His friend, the Mayor of London has resided over at legal
breach of air quality in the capital bore many times since 2012.
It was the Conservative government in the 1950 that passed the clean
air act, and I am sure it is this government which will continue that.
Things have moved on a bit since then. The governments... The
government are now... The government are now threatened with being taken
to court for its failure to comply with international law on air
pollution. He is proposing to spend tens, if not hundreds of thousands
of pounds of public money defending the indefensible. Why not invest
that in clean air and better" to for everyone in this country? We are
investing money in clean air. We are phasing out the use of coal-fired
power stations, far in advance of what other European countries are
doing, blazing a trail in terms of more renewable energy. The questions
to the Prime Minister are these,... He once boasted he led the greenest
government ever. No huskies was safe from his cuddles. Could he explain
why the energy and climate change select committee has produced a
damning report when it comes to green energy, saying major investors
describe his policies as risky as a result of cuts and changes? The
climate action network said Britain is the second best country in the
world for tackling climate change after Denmark. That is our record.
The leader of the SNP switched subjects to the situation in Libya.
There is widespread reporting that the UK Government
are about to commit to send ground troops to Libya to train
Is this true, and why has Parliament not been informed about it?
Libya is a people smuggling route, which is bad for Europe and bad
for us, and we also have the growth of Daesh in Libya, which is bad
for us and bad for the rest of Europe.
If we have any plans for troop training or troop deployment
in a conventional sense we will of course come to the House
The UK spent 13 times more bombing Libya than it did on securing
the peace after the overthrow of the hated Gaddafi regime.
The critics of UK policy even include President Obama
Will the Prime Minister give a commitment to bring to Parliament
the issue of any potential Libyan deployment of any British forces
for approval before giving the green light for that to happen?
Very happy to give that commitment, as we always do. I think I am very
clear that it was right to take action to prevent that slaughter
that Colonel Gaddafi would have carried out against his people in
Benghazi. I believe that was right. Of course Libya is in a state that
is very concerning right now and everyone has to take their
responsibilities for that. Regional elections in Germany
at the weekend resulted in sweeping gains by the anti-immigrant
AfD Party. Its success has been seen
as a reaction against the policy of the German Chancellor Angela
Merkel to accept a million migrants. A German government spokesman has
said despite the outcome of the regional polls,
the immigration policy In the House of Lords,
a former Lib Dem leader sharply contrasted the approach of Germany
with that of Britain. My Lords, Germany has provided a
refuge for more than 1 million refugees. The German Chancellor has
said that despite the recent election results, by the way, and
relatively minor in their fact, she will not change course. In contrast,
Britain provides refuge to not a single refugee currently seeking to
flee from the Syrian battlefield. Many women and children amongst
them. Our Prime Minister boasts he will have nothing to do with the
European plan that deals with manifestly European and pan-European
issue. What is it like to be the member of a government, a British
Government, that has to take less than -- lessons in compassion from
the German Chancellor? I find it a great honour to be part of this
government. But the noble Lord refers to the refugees in Syria.
The noble Lord referred to the refugees in Syria.
We should also congratulate the Turkish people on all
that they have done over this period; they have nearly 3 million
I do not think that I need to draw the attention of the House to this,
At the Syria conference at the beginning of February,
11 billion euros was raised in a day - the largest amount ever raised
Don't the elections in Germany and elsewhere in the EU just show the
democracy is at last taking over from the failed corporate project of
European integration? The quicker that is abandoned, surely be better.
Democracy, as Lord Pearson Brannock said,... I would never dream of
commenting on what has happened or advising on what has happened in
Germany. Should we not take some comfort from the fact that although
the vote in Germany was disturbing, 80% of those who voted did not vote
for an ultra-right-wing party. It was clear last autumn, unless we
stopped the flow of refugees from Libya and Turkey, into what was
becoming a worse and worse Mediterranean, that there would be
many deaths. We have still not really got together any composite
plan to stop this blow of refugees before they leave territorial seas.
-- this flow of refugees. Put the noble minister let us know are we
coming to some conclusion to stop people going to see? If we don't,
they will die, and they are dying every day. The noble Lord draws
attention to some of the saddest aspects of this crisis. The whole
point of the summit of last week was in fact to break the business model
of the people traffickers. And end the link between getting in a boat
and getting settlement in Europe. The Justice Secretary Michael Gove
has said a new Bill will pave the way for prisons in England
and Wales to follow the system of academy schools, with league
tables and provision for failing jails to be taken over
by more successful jails. At the Commons Justice Committee,
Mr Gove admitted there was a problem with overcrowding in some prisons
but said it was not extreme. There are steps we hope to introduce
to ensure that prisons work better, and I'm sure we can talk more
about some of the administrative Ideally, what we want to do
is create a freestanding foundation, what we call a reform
prison, and in order to allow governors to
have a significantly greater degree of freedom than we currently grant
them, we will need to create a new legal status, in the same way
as the Blair government created We are looking at what the firm
legal foundation should be for prisons
that operate in an independent way. I'm interested in the prison
league table idea. Essentially, could you tell
us what it is the one measuring, how you are measuring it
and not happen when it doesn't meet We have worked out or are working
out three types of measurement. The first is a set of aspirational
measurements that will let us know that prisons are doing
well in three, four, And they would link to, for example,
the quality as well as the number of qualifications that
the prisoners are securing. They would link to the
success of that prison in basic resettlement goals meaning
prisoners find and staying in accommodation and find and stay
in jobs, desist from criminality Then we think there
should be some dipstick measures so that anyone visiting
a prison or observing how it is operating,
by a week by week or month by month, can
see how it is doing. The broader picture there
is about successful you think prison reform will be when we still have
such a large prison population and when the result
of that is the extreme overcrowding. I wouldn't say we have extreme
overcrowding. It is certainly the case
that the ideal would be one prisoner in each room
and we are very far from that. I wouldn't over fixate on numbers,
because I think there is a danger of being paralysed by the thought,
we can't make any change I think let's make
changes within the Do join me for our
next daily round-up. Until then, from me,
Keith Macdougall, goodbye.