13/04/2016 Wednesday in Parliament


13/04/2016

Highlights of Wednesday 13 April in Parliament, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Hello there and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament.

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On this programme: In the wake of the Panama papers

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Prime Minister's questions is all about tax.

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Since 2010, we've put over ?1 billion into HMRC to increase its

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capabilities. The Government defends plans to turn

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all English schools into academies. And a handful of MPs get

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the chance every year to bring in their own laws -

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but there are demands The procedure for debating and 14 on

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private members bills is dishonest and misleading. It is an expensive

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and frustrating waste of time. But first, the Panama Papers tax

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revelations dominated The leaked documents showed how

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the rich moved money offshore The whole row prompted

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David Cameron, the Chancellor George Osborne and Labour leader

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Jeremy Corbyn to publish At Prime Minister's questions

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Jeremy Corbyn turned to how much tax was being collected in the UK

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and questioned how many people were being employed

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by Her Majesty's Revenue Wendy HMRC says that the tax gap is

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?34 billion, why then is he cutting HMRC staff I 20% and cutting down

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tax offices, which loses the expertise of people to close that

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tax gap? I'm glad he wants to get onto our responsibilities to pay our

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taxes. I think that's very important. His tax return was a

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metaphor for Labour policy, it was late, chaotic, inaccurate. Turning

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to the specific questions, he's absolutely right to identify the tax

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gap and that is why we closed off loopholes in the last Parliament,

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equivalent of ?12 billion. We aim to close off loopholes in this

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Parliament equivalent to ?16 billion to the HMRC is taking very strong

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action backed by this Government, backed by the Chancellor, legislated

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for by this House and I think I'm right in saying that since 2010, we

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have put over ?1 billion into HMRC to increase its capabilities to

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collect the tax that people should be paying. I am grateful to the

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Prime Minister for drawing your attention to my own tax return,

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warts and all. I made a generous to nation to HMRC. I paid more tax than

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some companies owned by people that he might know quite well.

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A reference there to George Osborne's family firm.

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Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister is cutting tax abuse, he's cutting down

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on tax collectors. The tax collected helps to fund our NHS and all the

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other services. Last month, the OBR reported that HMRC doesn't have the

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necessary resources to tackle of -- offshore tax disclosures. The

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Government is committed to taking ?4 million out of HMRC's budget by

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2020. Will he reversed that Carter we can collect the tax that will

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help to pay for services? Rather than his tax return, his figures

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aren't entirely accurate. At the summer budget 2015, we get ?800

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million to HMRC to find additional work and tackle tax evasion and

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noncompliance between now and 2021. This will enable HMRC to recover

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?7.2 billion in tax. 3250 DWP staff have been specifically investigating

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benefit fraud whilst only 300 HMRC staff have been systematically

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investigating tax evasion. Surely we should care equally about people

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abusing the tax system and those abusing the benefit system. Why has

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this Government had ten times more staff dealing often with the poorest

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in society abusing benefits than with the super rich invading their

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taxes? I will look carefully at those statistics but the centimetre

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entirely bogus. For this reason, the job of the DWP is to make sure that

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people receive their benefits, the predominant job of HMRC is to make

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sure people pay their taxes. The 26,000 people I spoke about early,

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all of them are making sure that people pay their taxes. The clue is

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in the title. As ever the subjects

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raised by back bench MPs ranged far and wide,

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including to the forthcoming If the British people vote to leave

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the European Union, will the Prime Minister remained in office to

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implement the decision? Yes. Over 200,000 economic migrants came from

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the European Union and yet the propaganda sheet sent out to the

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British people claims we maintain control of our borders. Having

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withdrawn from the free movement of people or is that she simply untrue?

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-- sheet. The truth is economic migrants who come to the European

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Union do not have the right to come to the UK, they are not European

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nationals. They are nationals of Morocco or Pakistan or Turkey. None

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of those people have the right and so this is very important. Frankly,

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this is important why we do send information to house can see the

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truth about what is being proposed. What might honourable friend is

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classic of the scare story we get. Britain has borders, Britain will

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keep its borders. We got the best of both worlds.

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The Government has defended its plan to force every school in England

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The proposal has led to teachers calling for a one-day strike

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as part of a campaign against the proposed changes.

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The cross-party Local Government Association has said the move defies

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reason and the leader of backbench Conservative MPs, Graham Brady,

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But the Education Secretary has said she has no intention of backing down

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and at Question Time, David Cameron, too, was adamant that there'd be no

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Research by the Sutton trust shows that turning schools into academies

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doesn't necessarily improve them. Thousands of excellent primary

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schools, parents want them to continue to be maintained by local

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authorities. Why are ministers are planning to overrule periods and

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force those schools to become academies? I think the evidence

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shows academies work as part of our education reforms. Let me give you

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the evidence. If you look at those schools that converted into

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academies, 80% of them are either outstanding or good schools. If you

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look at the sponsored academies, often failing schools, but which are

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actually now sponsored by academies, there has been an average 10%

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improvement over the first two years so the evidence is that the results

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are better, the freedoms we to improvements and also where there

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are problems, intervention happens far faster with academies.

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Later, Labour used a debate to urge the Government to put

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The Government's plan has been met with such concern even by the very

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school leaders they claim to be supporting because it is a bad

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policy with no evidence base. It is yet another policy from this

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Government that obsesses with school structures instead of standards.

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What's more, given the very real pressure being faced by schools

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today, huge teacher shortages, real terms cuts to school budgets for the

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first time in 20 years, major overhauls to curriculum is and

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exams, the idea that headteachers should be spending time, money and

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energy on a ?1.3 billion top-down reorganisation of our school system

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is at best a distraction and at worst will have a very damaging

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impact on the School standards. The academies programme takes our core

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belief that public services should be run by front-line professionals,

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heads and teachers and governments running our schools. Evidence shows

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autonomous schools leads to improvements and must be in place.

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Test scores are higher when schools manage their own budgets and recruit

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their own teachers. Schools don't have too follow a single way of

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doing things. Each can choose a different way that works. A third of

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primary schools will be academies by 2020 even if we didn't do anything

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else which as my honourable friend said, make it increasingly difficult

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for local authorities to manage an expensive bureaucracy with fewer and

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fewer schools. And while we're on the subject

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of youngsters, there were calls in the House of Lords

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for the Government to introduce a standard system of concessionary

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fares for young people travelling The plea came from a Liberal

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Democrat former teacher. Young people are twice as likely as

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the rest of us to rely on buses. They use them to access education

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and work. Some councils and bus companies to provide concessions but

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the situation is very patchy. Given the concessions to all the people

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that have proven very popular, isn't it time we played fair by young

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people by giving them a similar scheme? She is quite great to raise

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the issue of young people's travel and I appreciate the challenges that

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she has also put into context. If we look across England and 89 travel

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concessionary programmes outside of London and about 22 currently

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practised young people's schemes and I do think we look to ensure there

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is good practice but at the moment, there are no provisions being made

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for statutory provision across the country. The select committee on

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social mobility, which I had the privilege to chair, reported last

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week on the transition from school to work. Evidence we took from

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organisations including Barnardos was that young people who live in

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rural areas who would like to go to college or take up apprenticeships

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are prevented from doing so because of the cost of transport. Surely

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young people like that, if the Government is truly honest in its

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apprenticeship level levy should be given the opportunity to get to

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training or study with something of concessionary scheme. I will review

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the Lady's full report which I have not yet done so in terms of

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recommendations and perhaps we can meet in that regard after I had done

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so but she is quite great and I agree with that we do to ensure

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concessionary schemes across the country that provide access to those

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that require it but we do need to emphasise that local authorities do

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carry responsibilities in this regard. Would it not be sensible to

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look at the whole pre-bus scheme again and try to make some

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distinction between those who can actually afford a full fare and

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people like children who very often can't? I think the issue of

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affordability is an important one to recognise and of course the

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definition is one area which sometimes causes confusion because

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there are different definitions in different concessionary schemes

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about what constitutes a young person and I will take on board what

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my honourable friend said but anecdotally across Europe, I was in

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Spain recently will need to be confronted by a Spanish inspector

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who spoke no English. I speak very little Spanish, to be told that my

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four-year-old also required to pay an adult fare so I think we need to

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look at the schemes in a wider context.

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You're watching Wednesday in Parliament with me, Alicia McCarthy

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The green MP Caroline Lucas has pleaded for funds to be made

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available for community led flood prevention schemes. Five months have

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passed since storm Desmond and storm either brought havoc to large parts

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of northern Britain. 16,000 houses were flooded in Cumbria and

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Yorkshire alone. The North Yorkshire town of Pickering avoided any

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serious flooding, partly as a result of the resident initiative that

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became known as working with nature. The area was protected by the

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planting of the woodland and the building of a set of leaky dams made

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up of logs to slow down heavy flows of rainwater. Caroline Lucas

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referred to the scheme at the Commons committee. How do we get

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more funds going into it? There are lots of good examples like Pickering

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and yet what we're hearing from some of the giving as evidence is in

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terms of accessing the funding for those kinds of measures, the King --

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the people in my constituency wanted for Brighton, the point being that

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they are trying to access funds they are finding it really difficult,

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they find the kind of criteria they have to fulfil in order to access

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funds are not ones that are easily reached. They probably need to look

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at individual cases but Pickering was funded by us, a government

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funded project, money from the government. But to replicate that,

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these good -- what are the sources? You can look at using countryside

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stewardship scheme money, you can look at the Environment Agency money

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and save money from the capital programme. The fundamental challenge

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at the moment and this is true even of Pickering is specifying exactly

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what the consequences or benefits are of these particular schemes.

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That is why the Cumbria Flood partnership and the work they are

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doing is so central. We basically have two kinds of models we use for

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cost benefit analysis around flooding. One of them is about

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football rates and the second is river levels. In constructing your

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full rate model for specified catchments, so let's take a

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catchment about that big, you have two feed into that model various

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kinds of data so you feed in projected rainfall,... The MPs at

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the minister's answer was going on too long. You must look at ground

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water... Maybe it is really hot in this room, but I do not understand

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if the key question I am trying to ask which has been raised by many

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witnesses is that they want more funding, their perception is they

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cannot get funding for natural flood management, I don't understand if

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your answer is telling me that this is because we need more information

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about the different situations before funds can be leased, your

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answer is not relevant to my question. - Rory is try to tell you

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something very deep and it is worth going into later but let me answer

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the question, you're presupposing something that is leading to you

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asking a question that cannot be added as the wrong question. We are

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not going to be dealing with catchments on the basis of people

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coming up with their own schemes and applying for money. It is not a

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question of whether some local group has an idea comes along for a dot of

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money, this is very contributed interactive stuff so what you have

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to do is build up a picture of the whole catchment, work out what the

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sensible thing to do is, and that is the work of some months or years and

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then find the whole... I am not talking about scientists, I am

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talking about... We will be funding, any particular site is that one

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particular point cannot solve this... I am not suggesting that,

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Pickering wasn't bad. If the whole catchment is being modelled on the

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whole catchment has a complete plan what I'm telling you is we will then

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find that plan, fully. The session turned to a report highlighting

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serious flood risk to the London Underground. The reports this week

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said that 20% of London's tube stations are at risk of flooding,

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including London Bridge and Waterloo. The nation has invested

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very heavily over the past many years in flood defences in London,

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London is significantly better protected than any other course city

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at almost any other key city, in fact the four times better

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protected. We are currently looking at the other course cities before we

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get to London to bring them up to the level of London, that is another

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strength of the review. It will not be complete this year. We will be

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working on it. Back now to the main Commons chamber where MPs returned

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to the subject of tax. Following the lead of the Panama papers, Labour

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put forward the topic for debate, wanting the government in an -- to

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implement a policy of tax transparency. One Labour backbencher

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talked about why many people felt the current system is unfair. The

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last majority of people in this country play by the same rules and

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have little choice about the contribution they make to the public

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purse. It is not about envy or anger at 12 whether it be terrible

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inherited, but it is about the fact that those at the top of the income

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scale seem to play by an entirely different set of rules and it

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understandably makes people angry, and the government must take genuine

:18:51.:18:55.

steps to level the playing field and to regain the public trust. We do

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not measure success in terms of wealth but neither should be

:19:01.:19:03.

penalised those who have done well. It will be a sorry day of this

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country becomes a place where if you have done well and set up a

:19:07.:19:08.

successful business and are contributing to your local economy,

:19:09.:19:13.

you are employing people, that you should be penalised and not just

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penalised but be frowned upon. It is right that parents want to help the

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kids, every parent wants to do that, and in principle if your dad or

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mother has experience you would expect them to use their knowledge

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on behalf of their kids, that implies -- that applies to

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stockbrokers as much as stockmen, bakers and bankers. What is the real

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problem is that has as the range of opportunities that are only open to

:19:42.:19:46.

the rich and wealthy. This is what proves we simply aren't all in this

:19:47.:19:49.

together. Whichever way this is dressed up, what is clear is that

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those in the know have not just the opportunity or good fortune to make

:19:57.:19:59.

money, it is also clear that when they get that money that are many

:20:00.:20:03.

more avenues open to them to keep their hands on that money. Yes we

:20:04.:20:08.

need strong measures against tax avoidance, we need the public to

:20:09.:20:13.

feel we are all in this together and altering our fair share. On the

:20:14.:20:19.

point of everyone paying their way does he welcomed the fact that it is

:20:20.:20:22.

under this government that the top 1% of earners is only paying 28% of

:20:23.:20:28.

tax, which is a far higher percentage than the Labour

:20:29.:20:34.

government? This point was made earlier by me. But it is worth

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repeating. And deleted my friend mentioned it. It is such a strong

:20:43.:20:49.

point. At this point about the rich -- the writ is 1% paying the largest

:20:50.:20:54.

rid of tax has been battered out today, what it is a sign of is the

:20:55.:20:59.

gross inequality in the country and that is something that needs to be

:21:00.:21:07.

addressed. The rich pay more tax! And SNP MP called for cross-party

:21:08.:21:12.

action. Ignore all those people who operate under a cloud of anonymity

:21:13.:21:16.

to tell as we would not understand that it is too difficult, that's

:21:17.:21:19.

just allows them to keep doing what they have gotten no limit to this

:21:20.:21:23.

point because failure to do so will keep on feeding the cancer this,

:21:24.:21:28.

cancer this way in which our politics is going on and that will

:21:29.:21:32.

be to the detriment of all of us. Stuart MacDonald. A system of MPs

:21:33.:21:38.

trying to get their bills through Parliament is a disgrace according

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to a former deputy speaker of the Commons, at the start of every

:21:43.:21:45.

session a handful of backbenchers get the chance to bring in what is

:21:46.:21:48.

known as a private members bill. They debated on 15 sitting Fridays

:21:49.:21:54.

but frequently fall foul of being talked out by other MPs are

:21:55.:21:58.

government ministers. There have been some high profile recent

:21:59.:22:02.

examples, including a bill to exempt carers from hospital parking

:22:03.:22:06.

charges. The Commons procedure committee is currently looking at

:22:07.:22:10.

the issue. Opening a debate in Westminster Hall, one MP argued the

:22:11.:22:16.

time of company change. The system is broken, the procedure for

:22:17.:22:19.

debating and voting on private members bills is dishonest and

:22:20.:22:23.

misleading, it is expensive and frustrating waste of time. I believe

:22:24.:22:29.

that what happens on Fridays in this place not only brings Parliament

:22:30.:22:33.

into disrepute but feed into the cynicism and the increasing numbers

:22:34.:22:40.

of people feel about politics and politicians, it does us no good

:22:41.:22:44.

service. I absolutely agree with the honourable member about the

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absurdities of Fridays, it doesn't do any good for the image of

:22:49.:22:51.

parliament, it is wearisome even for those who are here and I think I can

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make the claim from what it is worth that in all other members of this

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house have set that resided over as many Friday the and it really is a

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disgrace. And other concerns disagreed. We have transferred

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sitting Fridays, we are sent here in Westminster to represent their

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constituents and we have turned it into constituency days. If these

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issues are important then we should be able to sit constituents, we will

:23:24.:23:29.

not be at the opening of the fate of the school, because I am discharging

:23:30.:23:33.

my duties as a member of Parliament in sitting Friday of which we only

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ever actually have 13 in one year. I think that there are things about

:23:39.:23:42.

timetabling it on a different state, because for all of us who live out

:23:43.:23:46.

with the commutable distance, Friday is our time in the constituency. We

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can still use Giuliani Monday morning before coming to the house,

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we can attend meetings on evenings and therefore it is a big deal and

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the fact that when a member gives up the time and attendance it is such a

:24:00.:24:06.

farce, that does not result in a vote, may not even lead to a debate,

:24:07.:24:11.

means that in actual fact most member - attend. One Labour member

:24:12.:24:15.

told MPs about the furious reaction when her bill to exempt carers from

:24:16.:24:20.

hospital parking charges was talked out. I had hundreds of people

:24:21.:24:24.

contact me, they could not believe it. He did not understand the

:24:25.:24:29.

system. How could it be that the great British democratic system

:24:30.:24:32.

could behave in this fashion? Sometimes week after week. Points

:24:33.:24:38.

were made about, if a Private members Bill is brought and it is

:24:39.:24:42.

against the will of the government then it cannot hope to succeed, I

:24:43.:24:47.

accept that, we live in a democracy. But should not we have the

:24:48.:24:51.

opportunity fully democratic vote? Because what is happening is

:24:52.:24:56.

dishonest. The minister argued that private members bills could

:24:57.:24:59.

encourage change even if they did not become law. Particularly the

:25:00.:25:04.

ones that have been successful at either change the lead, government

:25:05.:25:08.

policy or maybe modest change to the law, something people agree with. In

:25:09.:25:13.

this particular session six of such bills have made it through the House

:25:14.:25:16.

of Commons in which they have received Royal assent are in the

:25:17.:25:21.

Lawrence. It is important to say that those the government does not

:25:22.:25:27.

and should not have the monopoly on legislation it does have the

:25:28.:25:31.

mandate. Private members Bill to not necessarily have the mandate that

:25:32.:25:40.

has been elected by the country. That is it for now. Join me at the

:25:41.:25:45.

same time tomorrow when among other things there is a debate about

:25:46.:25:49.

reducing the amount of plastic in our seas. Until then, goodbye.

:25:50.:26:00.

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