Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 18 May, presented by Alicia McCarthy.
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Hello, and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament.
On the day the Queen came to Westminster for the state
opening, unveiling the bills the Government wants to make
into law in the next few months.
And the day politicians began their arguments over
the rights and wrongs of what's proposed.
This Government does not team to understand that cuts
have their consequences.
We are building a greater Britain again, with a sound economy, strong
defences and opportunity for all.
But first -
Her Majesty the Queen carried out the State Opening of Parliament,
reading out a speech that contained 21 bills.
The day began with the traditional pageantry of the State Opening,
with the Queen travelling to Westminster.
Parts of the annual ceremony date back as far
as the 14th century.
Her Majesty was opening parliament for the 63rd time in her reign,
accompanied, as ever, by the Duke of Edinburgh,
but also by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
As the Royal party made its way to Westminster,
in the House of Lords, peers in their traditional bright
red robes, had taken their seats.
Some familiar faces could be spotted among the sea of ermine, including
the former leader of the Commons, Sir George Young,
former health secretary Andrew Lansley and TV presenter
and Lib Dem, Floella Benjamin.
With the Lords in place, the Queen arrived at the
Sovereign's Entrance at Parliament.
In Parliament's Central Lobby came the familiar command,
shouted by a police inspector.
Hat's off, strangers.
The words that signal the start of the Commons Speaker's Procession.
The Speaker went through the members' lobby,
with MPs looking on,
and into the Commons chamber.
Then, the fanfare by the trumpets, and the Queen, now wearing her robes
of state and crown, moved through the Royal Gallery
to the House of Lords.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh took their places
on the thrones in the Lords.
And so Black Rod was sent to summons MPs from the Commons
to hear the speech.
Then the traditional slamming of the Commons door
in the face of Black Rod, a symbol of the supremacy
and independence of MPs.
Black Rod knocked three times and was then let in.
Black Rod summoned the MPs.
And there was the now traditional heckle from veteran Labour
backbencher Dennis Skinner.
Hands off the BBC!
Then that walk through from the Commons to the Lords.
Usually there's some chat between the party leaders,
but this year Jeremy Corbyn avoided any small talk with David Cameron.
The many MPs slowly funnelled into the Lords, some familiar
figures very visible, such as Hilary Benn, Boris Johnson
and the SNP's Westminster leader, Angus Robertson.
And with MPs gathered at the bar of the Lords,
the Lord Chancellor Michael Gove handed the Queen her copy
of the speech to read.
And the contents of the Speech revealed.
To spread economic prosperity, my Government will continue
to support the development of a Northern Powerhouse.
to support the development of a Northern Powerhouse.
In England, further powers will be devolved to directly elected mayors,
including powers governing local bus services.
My Government will continue work to deliver NHS services over seven
days of the week in England.
Legislation will be introduced to ensure that overseas visitors pay
for the health treatment they receive at public expense.
A bill will be introduced to ensure that children can be adopted
by new families without delay, improve the standard of social work
and opportunities for young people in care in England.
My Government will legislate to reform prisons and courts,
to give individuals a second chance.
Prison governors will be given unprecedented freedom,
and they will be able to ensure prisoners receive better education.
Old and inefficient prisons will be closed, and new institutions built
where prisoners can be put more effectively to work.
Action will also be taken to ensure better mental health provision
to individuals in the criminal justice system.
My Government will continue to work to bring communities together
and strengthen society.
Legislation will be introduced to prevent radicalisation,
tackle extremism in all its forms, and promote community integration.
My ministers will invest in Britain's Armed Forces,
honouring the military covenant and meeting the Nato
commitment to spend 2% of national income on defence.
They will also act to secure the long-term future
of Britain's nuclear deterrent.
My Government will hold a referendum on membership of the European Union.
Proposals will be brought forward for a British Bill of Rights.
The Queen, giving the speech written for her by the Government
and setting out the bills ministers plan to introduce over this session.
When the Commons reassembled a couple of hours later,
the Labour Leader gave his response, rounding on David Cameron's claim
to be striving to make a more equal society.
Still this Government do not seem to understand that
cuts have consequences.
When you cut adult social care, it has an impact on National
Health Service accident and emergency departments.
When you saddle young people with more debt,
it impedes their ability to buy a home or start a family.
When you fail to build housing and cap housing benefit,
homelessness and the number of families in temporary
When you slash local authorities budgets,
then leisure centres, libraries and children s
When you close fire stations and cut firefighters jobs,
response times increase and more people are in danger
of dying in fires.
This austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity.
It is a wrong choice for our country, made by a Government
with the wrong priorities.
Mr Corbyn spoke at length, going through the measures in the speech,
with Conservatives becoming increasingly restless and noisy
as Mr Corbyn refused to give way.
Point of order, Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker, am I not right in thinking
that it is a customary courtesy within this House for people,
though they do not have to, to give way in speeches that last
over 20 minutes?
The essence of the honourable gentleman s point was encapsulated
in that first sentence - customary, but it is not required.
Mr Corbyn pressed on, turning to the measures on prisons.
We will scrutinise carefully proposals to give prison
governors more freedom.
It seems the policies of this Government have been to give greater
freedoms to prisoners.
That is the consequence of overcrowding prisons and cutting
one third of dedicated prison officer positions.
We welcome proposals to give greater time for education and reform
and to reduce reoffending rates.
He moved onto the counter-extremism proposals.
Everyone in this House understands the risks
posed by terrorism.
This city, London, has experienced it before,
as have other cities around the world.
We will of course support strong measures to give the police
and security services the resources they need, but we will also support
checks and balances to ensure that powers are used appropriately.
And he concluded.
Mr Speaker, if anyone want to deliver a more equal society,
Mr Speaker, if anyone wants to deliver a more equal society,
an economy that works for everyone and a society in which there
is opportunity for all, it takes an active Government,
not the driverless car heading in the wrong direction that we have
with the present Government.
Then it was the turn of the Prime Minister,
who focused on improving life chances.
When I became Prime Minister, some social workers were refusing
to place black, mixed race or Asian children with
white adoptive parents.
I think that that is profoundly wrong and we changed
the law to prevent it.
As a result of that change and the other things we have done,
adoption is today up 72%, but there is still a lot more to do.
Believing in opportunity means never writing anyone off.
For too long the young offender institutions and prisons in our
country have not been working.
They give the public the security of knowing that offenders are locked
in, but they are not doing enough to turn around the lives of people
who will one day be let out.
So in our prisons, we are going to apply the lessons learned
in other public service reforms - publishing results, giving
the people who run the services proper control over them,
encouraging innovation, rewarding success, and not
tolerating persistent failure.
I give way to the honourable from Brighton.
I'm grateful to him for giving way.
If the Prime Minister is serious about prison reform,
why have prison budgets been slashed by a third since 2010,
at exactly the same time as the prison
populations are growing?
Given that 47,000 prisoners are currently incarcerated
for offences linked to drug use, is not it time to review
a policy that treats drug addicts only as criminals,
rather than as people who need our support as well?
I would make a number of points to the honourable lady.
First, I really think that we need to get away from the idea
that you only measure progress in public services by the amount
of money that is spent.
The whole aim here is to try to do more with less.
That is what we have done with so many parts
of the public sector.
For decades, we have been cramming people
into crumbling prisons that
were built for a different age, many of which, frankly,
are now unfit for human habitation.
These buildings do not help rehabilitation.
Indeed, they are rife with bullying, intimidation and violence.
So we have made a ?1.3 billion commitment to get rid
of ageing prisons and build nine new prisons with
modern, fit-for-purpose facilities.
Once again, this is bold reform from a progressive,
one-nation Conservative Government.
I give way to the honourable gentleman.
I'm grateful to the Prime Minister, but could he explain to the House
why figures for suicides in prison, attacks on prison staff
and contraband going into prison have gone up?
Could it be anything to do with the fact that there are 7000
fewer prison officers than there were in 2010?
As we were discussing this morning, one of the reasons for these
problems is the availability of legal highs in our prisons,
which we need to deal with, but I do not think that it is right
simply to lay this at the door.
What we need is prisons that are run well, where the management
are in control, and where they are able to turn around
the lives of the people who are there.
It is all very well for Labour to ask questions, but they had
13 years to reform our prisons.
It took a reforming Tory Government to put it on the agenda.
While a Conservative intervened to ask about the counter-extremism
proposals in the speech.
Extremists are adept at grooming and brainwashing our young people.
Does the Prime Minister agree that we should be even bolder
in offering greater support and encouragement to the brave
Muslims in our community who seek to stand up and challenge
the intolerance and hatred that is exported by Daesh?
My honourable friend is absolutely right.
Why what she says is so important is this -
if we give in to the idea that spokesmen who are extremist
but not violent can somehow represent their communities,
we completely disempower the moderate voices who want us
to stand up for the liberal values that we should champion
in this House.
And he concluded.
Mr Speaker, Britain has come a long way since the depth
of Labour s recession.
We are building homes again, with over 700,000 more since 2010.
We are creating jobs again, with over two million more
people in work.
We are investing in our NHS again, with almost 10,000 more doctors...
Over 10,000 more nurses on our wards than in 2010.
We are building a greater Britain again, with a sound economy,
strong defences and opportunity for all.
These are the actions of a progressive, one-nation
Conservative Government, and I commend this
speech to the House.
Well, it wasn't what was in the Queen's Speech but what wasn't
that seemed to exercise most the speakers that followed
the Prime Minister in the first day of debate on the Government's
new legislative programme.
The SNP's leader at Westminster began by noting that nearly
all of the bills set out in the speech only affected
England and Wales.
They relate to education, to adoption, to reforms
to democratic processes.
So when the Prime Minister talks about this being a one-nation
Queen's Speech, we on these benches know which nation
he's talking about.
Mr Robertson then set out some of the things that he would rather
have heard and seen.
A Scotland Home Rule Bill, a replacement for the House
of Lords, tough new rules on arms sales.
But most of all...
At the top of our list of what we have proposed
in advance of today's Queen's Speech, is a need
for an emergency summer budget.
Because it would give the Government an opportunity to put
about an end to austerity.
It could bring about an inclusive, prosperous economy through a modest
investment in infrastructure and vital public services.
The proposals are detailed.
It would be to boost investment and halt
the austerity programme that has strangled economic progress.
And the Lib Dems had a wishlist too.
An ambitious plan for housing that actually builds homes that
are genuinely affordable.
And rather than tinkering with Parliament,
let's replace the other place with a fully elected second chamber,
as the honourable member rightly pointed out moments ago.
Governments do sometimes get tired and clapped out
and run out of ideas.
But it usually takes 12 years, and not 12 months.
Others focused on the issue of the moment.
At the heart of this gracious speech is the statement,
"My ministers will uphold the sovereignty of Parliament."
In my humble submission, the only way in which that can be
delivered is by leaving the European Union.
Because our very membership of the European Union undermines
the sovereignty of our Parliament.
I feel provoked by the honourable member for Christchurch.
To firstly declare my firm support for remaining in Europe.
But to be clear that that is for the security of citizens.
I spent three years negotiating on home affairs for the then
Labour Government for security and safety issues.
And it is my firm belief that if you're at the table,
you can make a difference, as we have done and continue to do.
But if you are not there, you cannot influence.
And if we vote out, the very next day, we will be
out for the discussions that are necessary.
One measure that was in the Speech, which many considered
to have been put on hold, was the promise of a consultation
on a Bill of Rights.
This idea of a British Bill of Rights has been knocking around
the lampshade like a demented moth for some little while.
And it may well be that if it got an armour-plated head it could carry
on knocking itself around the lampshade
for a good while longer.
I really do think it's a waste of intellectual and political energy
for this - to mix my metaphors - dead horse to be revived.
Ditching the Human Rights Act would be a comfort to would-be
tinpot despots around Europe, and I think should be resisted.
And this party certainly will be doing so.
We're not talking about this country withdrawing from
the Convention of Human Rights.
We're talking about this House asserting that the final arbiter
in terms of decision-making will be this sovereign parliament.
So that the sovereign parliament cannot be overridden,
especially when it comes to decisions which are clearly
and utterly opposed by the vast bulk of people of the United Kingdom,
right across the board.
In the Lords, Peers started their debate
on the Queen's Speech too.
Labour's Leader in the Upper House reflected on the LAST session,
which saw 60 government defeats and looked to the year ahead.
For your Lordship's House to do its job well, it
requires Noble Lords to
use their expertise, their knowledge and skills
to work effectively and
cooperatively to scrutinise legislation that often takes much
time and a lot of stamina.
Can I thank all the Noble Lords who engage
in many hours debate on bills, propose amendments and engage in
seeking to resolve a process that the Government should,
for the most part, find valuable and helpful.
We respect and will continue to respect
those well-established conventions that have served this House well.
I can pledge that we will continue to
be a good and effective and the responsible Opposition.
With a note to the reference in her speech to
the privacy of the Commons.
That is right, but let us not confuse that
over the laws which is very much the issue
and it is the importance of
the legislature, standing up to the Executive and holding
the Executive to account.
This House improves legislation.
Every minister will agree that their bill is better
for the scrutiny it receives here.
And our scrutiny served an important purpose.
Yes, to hold the Government to account, and to help give the
public confidence in the laws parliament makes.
So upholding our role in the chamber is important to me.
But if we want to be legitimate as an elected House, we do have to
be mindful of the limits of that role.
And I believe it must always be the elected House who have the
But there was plenty of humour, too.
A former Conservative Cabinet
Minister opened this debate.
He said it had been
"brave" of the Leader of the Lords to let him do this,
without having the slightest idea what he was going to say!
As a young light infantry squaddie, I was given a day off from
the training camp and coming up to London and finding we could slip
into the back row of these stalls for a brand-new American musical
that had arrived in London.
And I remember particularly one
part of it.
"101 pounds of fun, that's my little honeybun.
"Get a load of honeybun tonight!
"Speaking of my sweetie pie, only 60 inches high and
"every inch was packed with dynamite."
And I have to say, whatever her
height, she has grown in stature, as a member
now, a full member of the
Cabinet and one of the toughest jobs there is,
obviously coping with the
difficulties of the composition of your Lordship's House, and I pay
tribute to her and her leadership.
Then it was a new Peer's turn to speak.
Scottish Conservative Leader said she wasn't sure why
she'd been chosen.
I do recall when attending one of the
delightful soirees, so charmingly hosted by the Leader of the House,
my noble friend, Baroness Stowell, making myself useful.
I trotted round with plates of canapes.
I thought I carried that off with some style, so this would
commended me the powers that be.
But if so, I have an uneasy sense of deception.
I would like to say that I was on that
occasion motivated to assist by social mores and a good Scottish
upbringing, but that would be disingenuous.
Quite simply, I had worked out it was the only way I
could obtain a regular and discreet access to the food.
This stratagem was entirely pragmatic.
Having been exposed to Edinburgh during 17 years
in the Scottish Parliament, I had no desire to find that the Edinburgh
custom, "You'll have had your tea!"
had been exported to
the Baroness's soirees!
Let's end the programme with the two MPs who spoke first
in the House of Commons.
Conservative Caroline Spelman opened the day's debate and
in keeping with tradition, she proposed the humble address
to the Queen to mark Her Majesty's speech to both Houses.
Kicking off the debate is considered a big honour and the job is always
given to a Government backbencher.
Ms Spelman reflected on the changing face of Parliament.
And that has changed since my first day here 19 years ago.
I was often the only woman in meetings.
I was one of very few women around a
Cabinet table with school-age children.
This could prove awkward.
Such as the Shadow Cabinet meeting interrupted by the news that one
of my sons
had fallen off a drainpipe at school.
In 1997, only 18% of MPs were women.
This has now risen to a total of almost 30%.
Not yet parity,
but we are heading in the right direction.
The speech was seconded by another Conservative who wondered
whether it was his experience in PR that had won him the honour.
As the House knows, I am a practising doctor.
Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, in a medical context, PR
does not stand for public relations.
But is shorthand for a type of examination
that involves putting on
rubber gloves, applying gel and asking a man to cough.
If I may give my right honourable friend the Prime Minister
a little advice, Mr Speaker?
If in the future he finds himself speaking
at a medical profession dinner, under no circumstances should he
tell the audience that in his life before politics, he was into PR and
that he found the work very stimulating.
If colleagues don't think I delivered the speech very
well today, just be grateful that we are not holding this
debate at a weekend, when I understand from some that
doctors don't perform as well.
Mr Speaker, I had hoped my medical background would be an
advantage in politics, but I have been disappointed.
My first came when I stood for election
as the Conservative party's candidate in Gwent.
I am not sure he is with us today, the current
member, but I'm sure he would agree that sporting a blue rosette
outside Kwik Save takes a certain type of character.
Perhaps even masochistic.
In fact, the president of my consituency's
association, Mr Rob Stanton,
was elected to Wokingham Borough Council with more votes I received.
I was however able to comfort myself with the fact that my modest 816
votes nevertheless represented the biggest swing to
the Conservative Party of any candidate in Wales
In retrospect, I should have taken more note of the lady in the
market who when I asked her why she supported labour, she replied,
"Don't you get complicated with me!"
Philip Lee with his prescription for a life in politics.
And that debate on the Queen's speech continues for the rest
of this week and into next.
So do join me tomorrow at the same time for the best of the debate
in the Commons and the Lords.
But until then from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.