13/04/2016 Wednesday in Parliament


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

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Hello there and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament.


On this programme: In the wake of the Panama papers


Prime Minister's questions is all about tax.


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


capabilities. The Government defends plans to turn


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


the chance every year to bring in their own laws -


but there are demands The procedure for debating and 14 on


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


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


revelations dominated The leaked documents showed how


the rich moved money offshore The whole row prompted


David Cameron, the Chancellor George Osborne and Labour leader


Jeremy Corbyn to publish At Prime Minister's questions


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


and questioned how many people were being employed


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


A reference there to George Osborne's family firm.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


benefit fraud whilst only 300 HMRC staff have been systematically


investigating tax evasion. Surely we should care equally about people


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


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


in society abusing benefits than with the super rich invading their


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


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


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


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


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


in the title. As ever the subjects


raised by back bench MPs ranged far and wide,


including to the forthcoming If the British people vote to leave


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


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


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


British people claims we maintain control of our borders. Having


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


as part of a campaign against the proposed changes.


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


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


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


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


Research by the Sutton trust shows that turning schools into academies


doesn't necessarily improve them. Thousands of excellent primary


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


authorities. Why are ministers are planning to overrule periods and


force those schools to become academies? I think the evidence


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


are problems, intervention happens far faster with academies.


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


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


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


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


Government that obsesses with school structures instead of standards.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


heads and teachers and governments running our schools. Evidence shows


autonomous schools leads to improvements and must be in place.


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


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


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


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


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


for local authorities to manage an expensive bureaucracy with fewer and


fewer schools. And while we're on the subject


of youngsters, there were calls in the House of Lords


for the Government to introduce a standard system of concessionary


fares for young people travelling The plea came from a Liberal


Democrat former teacher. Young people are twice as likely as


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


concessionary programmes outside of London and about 22 currently


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


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


for statutory provision across the country. The select committee on


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


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


organisations including Barnardos was that young people who live in


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


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


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


apprenticeship level levy should be given the opportunity to get to


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


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


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


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


concessionary schemes across the country that provide access to those


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


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


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


distinction between those who can actually afford a full fare and


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


affordability is an important one to recognise and of course the


definition is one area which sometimes causes confusion because


there are different definitions in different concessionary schemes


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


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


Spain recently will need to be confronted by a Spanish inspector


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


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


look at the schemes in a wider context.


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


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


available for community led flood prevention schemes. Five months have


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


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


Yorkshire alone. The North Yorkshire town of Pickering avoided any


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


and save money from the capital programme. The fundamental challenge


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


what the consequences or benefits are of these particular schemes.


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


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


cost benefit analysis around flooding. One of them is about


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


about the different situations before funds can be leased, your


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


including London Bridge and Waterloo. The nation has invested


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


London is significantly better protected than any other course city


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


implement a policy of tax transparency. One Labour backbencher


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


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


have little choice about the contribution they make to the public


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


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


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


understandably makes people angry, and the government must take genuine


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


not measure success in terms of wealth but neither should be


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


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


successful business and are contributing to your local economy,


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


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


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


mother has experience you would expect them to use their knowledge


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


tax, which is a far higher percentage than the Labour


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


trying to get their bills through Parliament is a disgrace according


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


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


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


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


government ministers. There have been some high profile recent


examples, including a bill to exempt carers from hospital parking


charges. The Commons procedure committee is currently looking at


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


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


debating and voting on private members bills is dishonest and


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


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


into disrepute but feed into the cynicism and the increasing numbers


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


service. I absolutely agree with the honourable member about the


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


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


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


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


disgrace. And other concerns disagreed. We have transferred


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


opportunity fully democratic vote? Because what is happening is


dishonest. The minister argued that private members bills could


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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