18/05/2016 Wednesday in Parliament


18/05/2016

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 18 May, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Hello, and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament.

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On the day the Queen came to Westminster for the state

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opening, unveiling the bills the Government wants to make

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into law in the next few months.

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And the day politicians began their arguments over

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the rights and wrongs of what's proposed.

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This Government does not team to understand that cuts

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have their consequences.

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We are building a greater Britain again, with a sound economy, strong

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defences and opportunity for all.

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But first -

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Her Majesty the Queen carried out the State Opening of Parliament,

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reading out a speech that contained 21 bills.

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The day began with the traditional pageantry of the State Opening,

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with the Queen travelling to Westminster.

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Parts of the annual ceremony date back as far

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as the 14th century.

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Her Majesty was opening parliament for the 63rd time in her reign,

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accompanied, as ever, by the Duke of Edinburgh,

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but also by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

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As the Royal party made its way to Westminster,

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in the House of Lords, peers in their traditional bright

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red robes, had taken their seats.

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Some familiar faces could be spotted among the sea of ermine, including

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the former leader of the Commons, Sir George Young,

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former health secretary Andrew Lansley and TV presenter

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and Lib Dem, Floella Benjamin.

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With the Lords in place, the Queen arrived at the

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Sovereign's Entrance at Parliament.

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In Parliament's Central Lobby came the familiar command,

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shouted by a police inspector.

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Hat's off, strangers.

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The words that signal the start of the Commons Speaker's Procession.

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The Speaker went through the members' lobby,

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with MPs looking on,

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and into the Commons chamber.

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Then, the fanfare by the trumpets, and the Queen, now wearing her robes

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of state and crown, moved through the Royal Gallery

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to the House of Lords.

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The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh took their places

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on the thrones in the Lords.

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And so Black Rod was sent to summons MPs from the Commons

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to hear the speech.

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Then the traditional slamming of the Commons door

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in the face of Black Rod, a symbol of the supremacy

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and independence of MPs.

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Black Rod knocked three times and was then let in.

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Black Rod summoned the MPs.

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And there was the now traditional heckle from veteran Labour

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backbencher Dennis Skinner.

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Hands off the BBC!

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Then that walk through from the Commons to the Lords.

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Usually there's some chat between the party leaders,

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but this year Jeremy Corbyn avoided any small talk with David Cameron.

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The many MPs slowly funnelled into the Lords, some familiar

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figures very visible, such as Hilary Benn, Boris Johnson

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and the SNP's Westminster leader, Angus Robertson.

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And with MPs gathered at the bar of the Lords,

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the Lord Chancellor Michael Gove handed the Queen her copy

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of the speech to read.

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And the contents of the Speech revealed.

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To spread economic prosperity, my Government will continue

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to support the development of a Northern Powerhouse.

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to support the development of a Northern Powerhouse.

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In England, further powers will be devolved to directly elected mayors,

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including powers governing local bus services.

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My Government will continue work to deliver NHS services over seven

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days of the week in England.

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Legislation will be introduced to ensure that overseas visitors pay

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for the health treatment they receive at public expense.

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A bill will be introduced to ensure that children can be adopted

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by new families without delay, improve the standard of social work

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and opportunities for young people in care in England.

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My Government will legislate to reform prisons and courts,

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to give individuals a second chance.

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Prison governors will be given unprecedented freedom,

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and they will be able to ensure prisoners receive better education.

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Old and inefficient prisons will be closed, and new institutions built

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where prisoners can be put more effectively to work.

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Action will also be taken to ensure better mental health provision

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to individuals in the criminal justice system.

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My Government will continue to work to bring communities together

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and strengthen society.

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Legislation will be introduced to prevent radicalisation,

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tackle extremism in all its forms, and promote community integration.

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My ministers will invest in Britain's Armed Forces,

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honouring the military covenant and meeting the Nato

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commitment to spend 2% of national income on defence.

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They will also act to secure the long-term future

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of Britain's nuclear deterrent.

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My Government will hold a referendum on membership of the European Union.

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Proposals will be brought forward for a British Bill of Rights.

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The Queen, giving the speech written for her by the Government

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and setting out the bills ministers plan to introduce over this session.

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When the Commons reassembled a couple of hours later,

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the Labour Leader gave his response, rounding on David Cameron's claim

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to be striving to make a more equal society.

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Still this Government do not seem to understand that

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cuts have consequences.

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When you cut adult social care, it has an impact on National

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Health Service accident and emergency departments.

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When you saddle young people with more debt,

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it impedes their ability to buy a home or start a family.

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When you fail to build housing and cap housing benefit,

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homelessness and the number of families in temporary

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accommodation increase.

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When you slash local authorities budgets,

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then leisure centres, libraries and children s

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centres close.

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When you close fire stations and cut firefighters jobs,

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response times increase and more people are in danger

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of dying in fires.

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This austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity.

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It is a wrong choice for our country, made by a Government

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with the wrong priorities.

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Mr Corbyn spoke at length, going through the measures in the speech,

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with Conservatives becoming increasingly restless and noisy

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as Mr Corbyn refused to give way.

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Point of order, Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker, am I not right in thinking

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that it is a customary courtesy within this House for people,

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though they do not have to, to give way in speeches that last

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over 20 minutes?

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The essence of the honourable gentleman s point was encapsulated

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in that first sentence - customary, but it is not required.

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Mr Corbyn pressed on, turning to the measures on prisons.

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We will scrutinise carefully proposals to give prison

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governors more freedom.

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It seems the policies of this Government have been to give greater

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freedoms to prisoners.

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That is the consequence of overcrowding prisons and cutting

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one third of dedicated prison officer positions.

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We welcome proposals to give greater time for education and reform

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and to reduce reoffending rates.

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He moved onto the counter-extremism proposals.

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Everyone in this House understands the risks

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posed by terrorism.

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This city, London, has experienced it before,

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as have other cities around the world.

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We will of course support strong measures to give the police

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and security services the resources they need, but we will also support

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checks and balances to ensure that powers are used appropriately.

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And he concluded.

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Mr Speaker, if anyone want to deliver a more equal society,

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Mr Speaker, if anyone wants to deliver a more equal society,

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an economy that works for everyone and a society in which there

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is opportunity for all, it takes an active Government,

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not the driverless car heading in the wrong direction that we have

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with the present Government.

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Then it was the turn of the Prime Minister,

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who focused on improving life chances.

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When I became Prime Minister, some social workers were refusing

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to place black, mixed race or Asian children with

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white adoptive parents.

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I think that that is profoundly wrong and we changed

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the law to prevent it.

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As a result of that change and the other things we have done,

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adoption is today up 72%, but there is still a lot more to do.

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Believing in opportunity means never writing anyone off.

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For too long the young offender institutions and prisons in our

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country have not been working.

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They give the public the security of knowing that offenders are locked

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in, but they are not doing enough to turn around the lives of people

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who will one day be let out.

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So in our prisons, we are going to apply the lessons learned

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in other public service reforms - publishing results, giving

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the people who run the services proper control over them,

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encouraging innovation, rewarding success, and not

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tolerating persistent failure.

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I give way to the honourable from Brighton.

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I'm grateful to him for giving way.

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If the Prime Minister is serious about prison reform,

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why have prison budgets been slashed by a third since 2010,

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at exactly the same time as the prison

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populations are growing?

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Given that 47,000 prisoners are currently incarcerated

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for offences linked to drug use, is not it time to review

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a policy that treats drug addicts only as criminals,

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rather than as people who need our support as well?

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I would make a number of points to the honourable lady.

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First, I really think that we need to get away from the idea

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that you only measure progress in public services by the amount

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of money that is spent.

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The whole aim here is to try to do more with less.

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That is what we have done with so many parts

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of the public sector.

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For decades, we have been cramming people

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into crumbling prisons that

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were built for a different age, many of which, frankly,

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are now unfit for human habitation.

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These buildings do not help rehabilitation.

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Indeed, they are rife with bullying, intimidation and violence.

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So we have made a ?1.3 billion commitment to get rid

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of ageing prisons and build nine new prisons with

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modern, fit-for-purpose facilities.

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Once again, this is bold reform from a progressive,

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one-nation Conservative Government.

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I give way to the honourable gentleman.

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I'm grateful to the Prime Minister, but could he explain to the House

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why figures for suicides in prison, attacks on prison staff

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and contraband going into prison have gone up?

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Could it be anything to do with the fact that there are 7000

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fewer prison officers than there were in 2010?

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As we were discussing this morning, one of the reasons for these

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problems is the availability of legal highs in our prisons,

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which we need to deal with, but I do not think that it is right

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simply to lay this at the door.

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What we need is prisons that are run well, where the management

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are in control, and where they are able to turn around

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the lives of the people who are there.

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It is all very well for Labour to ask questions, but they had

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13 years to reform our prisons.

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It took a reforming Tory Government to put it on the agenda.

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While a Conservative intervened to ask about the counter-extremism

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proposals in the speech.

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Extremists are adept at grooming and brainwashing our young people.

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Does the Prime Minister agree that we should be even bolder

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in offering greater support and encouragement to the brave

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Muslims in our community who seek to stand up and challenge

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the intolerance and hatred that is exported by Daesh?

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My honourable friend is absolutely right.

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Why what she says is so important is this -

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if we give in to the idea that spokesmen who are extremist

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but not violent can somehow represent their communities,

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we completely disempower the moderate voices who want us

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to stand up for the liberal values that we should champion

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in this House.

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And he concluded.

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Mr Speaker, Britain has come a long way since the depth

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of Labour s recession.

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We are building homes again, with over 700,000 more since 2010.

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We are creating jobs again, with over two million more

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people in work.

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We are investing in our NHS again, with almost 10,000 more doctors...

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Over 10,000 more nurses on our wards than in 2010.

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We are building a greater Britain again, with a sound economy,

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strong defences and opportunity for all.

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These are the actions of a progressive, one-nation

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Conservative Government, and I commend this

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speech to the House.

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Well, it wasn't what was in the Queen's Speech but what wasn't

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that seemed to exercise most the speakers that followed

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the Prime Minister in the first day of debate on the Government's

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new legislative programme.

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The SNP's leader at Westminster began by noting that nearly

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all of the bills set out in the speech only affected

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England and Wales.

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They relate to education, to adoption, to reforms

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to democratic processes.

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So when the Prime Minister talks about this being a one-nation

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Queen's Speech, we on these benches know which nation

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he's talking about.

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Mr Robertson then set out some of the things that he would rather

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have heard and seen.

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A Scotland Home Rule Bill, a replacement for the House

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of Lords, tough new rules on arms sales.

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But most of all...

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At the top of our list of what we have proposed

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in advance of today's Queen's Speech, is a need

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for an emergency summer budget.

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Why?

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Because it would give the Government an opportunity to put

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about an end to austerity.

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It could bring about an inclusive, prosperous economy through a modest

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investment in infrastructure and vital public services.

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The proposals are detailed.

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It would be to boost investment and halt

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the austerity programme that has strangled economic progress.

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And the Lib Dems had a wishlist too.

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An ambitious plan for housing that actually builds homes that

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are genuinely affordable.

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And rather than tinkering with Parliament,

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let's replace the other place with a fully elected second chamber,

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as the honourable member rightly pointed out moments ago.

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Governments do sometimes get tired and clapped out

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and run out of ideas.

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But it usually takes 12 years, and not 12 months.

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Others focused on the issue of the moment.

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At the heart of this gracious speech is the statement,

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"My ministers will uphold the sovereignty of Parliament."

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In my humble submission, the only way in which that can be

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delivered is by leaving the European Union.

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Because our very membership of the European Union undermines

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the sovereignty of our Parliament.

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I feel provoked by the honourable member for Christchurch.

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To firstly declare my firm support for remaining in Europe.

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But to be clear that that is for the security of citizens.

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I spent three years negotiating on home affairs for the then

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Labour Government for security and safety issues.

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And it is my firm belief that if you're at the table,

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you can make a difference, as we have done and continue to do.

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But if you are not there, you cannot influence.

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And if we vote out, the very next day, we will be

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out for the discussions that are necessary.

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One measure that was in the Speech, which many considered

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to have been put on hold, was the promise of a consultation

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on a Bill of Rights.

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This idea of a British Bill of Rights has been knocking around

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the lampshade like a demented moth for some little while.

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And it may well be that if it got an armour-plated head it could carry

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on knocking itself around the lampshade

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for a good while longer.

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I really do think it's a waste of intellectual and political energy

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for this - to mix my metaphors - dead horse to be revived.

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Ditching the Human Rights Act would be a comfort to would-be

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tinpot despots around Europe, and I think should be resisted.

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And this party certainly will be doing so.

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We're not talking about this country withdrawing from

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the Convention of Human Rights.

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We're talking about this House asserting that the final arbiter

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in terms of decision-making will be this sovereign parliament.

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So that the sovereign parliament cannot be overridden,

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especially when it comes to decisions which are clearly

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and utterly opposed by the vast bulk of people of the United Kingdom,

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right across the board.

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In the Lords, Peers started their debate

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on the Queen's Speech too.

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Labour's Leader in the Upper House reflected on the LAST session,

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which saw 60 government defeats and looked to the year ahead.

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For your Lordship's House to do its job well, it

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requires Noble Lords to

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use their expertise, their knowledge and skills

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to work effectively and

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cooperatively to scrutinise legislation that often takes much

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time and a lot of stamina.

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Can I thank all the Noble Lords who engage

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in many hours debate on bills, propose amendments and engage in

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seeking to resolve a process that the Government should,

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for the most part, find valuable and helpful.

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We respect and will continue to respect

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those well-established conventions that have served this House well.

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I can pledge that we will continue to

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be a good and effective and the responsible Opposition.

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With a note to the reference in her speech to

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the privacy of the Commons.

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That is right, but let us not confuse that

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over the laws which is very much the issue

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and it is the importance of

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the legislature, standing up to the Executive and holding

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the Executive to account.

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This House improves legislation.

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Every minister will agree that their bill is better

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for the scrutiny it receives here.

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And our scrutiny served an important purpose.

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Yes, to hold the Government to account, and to help give the

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public confidence in the laws parliament makes.

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So upholding our role in the chamber is important to me.

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But if we want to be legitimate as an elected House, we do have to

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be mindful of the limits of that role.

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And I believe it must always be the elected House who have the

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final say.

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But there was plenty of humour, too.

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A former Conservative Cabinet

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Minister opened this debate.

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He said it had been

0:19:280:19:29

"brave" of the Leader of the Lords to let him do this,

0:19:290:19:32

without having the slightest idea what he was going to say!

0:19:320:19:35

As a young light infantry squaddie, I was given a day off from

0:19:350:19:38

the training camp and coming up to London and finding we could slip

0:19:380:19:41

into the back row of these stalls for a brand-new American musical

0:19:410:19:44

that had arrived in London.

0:19:450:19:48

And I remember particularly one

0:19:480:19:52

part of it.

0:19:520:19:53

"101 pounds of fun, that's my little honeybun.

0:19:530:20:02

"Get a load of honeybun tonight!

0:20:020:20:08

"Speaking of my sweetie pie, only 60 inches high and

0:20:080:20:13

"every inch was packed with dynamite."

0:20:130:20:18

And I have to say, whatever her

0:20:180:20:20

height, she has grown in stature, as a member

0:20:200:20:23

now, a full member of the

0:20:230:20:25

Cabinet and one of the toughest jobs there is,

0:20:250:20:27

obviously coping with the

0:20:270:20:30

difficulties of the composition of your Lordship's House, and I pay

0:20:300:20:32

tribute to her and her leadership.

0:20:320:20:34

Then it was a new Peer's turn to speak.

0:20:340:20:37

The former

0:20:370:20:38

Scottish Conservative Leader said she wasn't sure why

0:20:380:20:40

she'd been chosen.

0:20:400:20:42

I do recall when attending one of the

0:20:420:20:47

delightful soirees, so charmingly hosted by the Leader of the House,

0:20:470:20:49

my noble friend, Baroness Stowell, making myself useful.

0:20:490:20:52

I trotted round with plates of canapes.

0:20:520:21:02

I thought I carried that off with some style, so this would

0:21:060:21:09

commended me the powers that be.

0:21:090:21:10

But if so, I have an uneasy sense of deception.

0:21:100:21:13

I would like to say that I was on that

0:21:130:21:15

occasion motivated to assist by social mores and a good Scottish

0:21:150:21:18

upbringing, but that would be disingenuous.

0:21:180:21:20

Quite simply, I had worked out it was the only way I

0:21:200:21:23

could obtain a regular and discreet access to the food.

0:21:230:21:25

This stratagem was entirely pragmatic.

0:21:250:21:28

Having been exposed to Edinburgh during 17 years

0:21:280:21:31

in the Scottish Parliament, I had no desire to find that the Edinburgh

0:21:310:21:39

custom, "You'll have had your tea!"

0:21:390:21:41

had been exported to

0:21:410:21:43

the Baroness's soirees!

0:21:430:21:46

Let's end the programme with the two MPs who spoke first

0:21:460:21:48

in the House of Commons.

0:21:480:21:49

Conservative Caroline Spelman opened the day's debate and

0:21:490:21:51

in keeping with tradition, she proposed the humble address

0:21:510:21:56

to the Queen to mark Her Majesty's speech to both Houses.

0:21:560:21:58

Kicking off the debate is considered a big honour and the job is always

0:21:580:22:04

given to a Government backbencher.

0:22:040:22:05

Ms Spelman reflected on the changing face of Parliament.

0:22:050:22:09

And that has changed since my first day here 19 years ago.

0:22:090:22:13

I was often the only woman in meetings.

0:22:130:22:15

I was one of very few women around a

0:22:150:22:17

Cabinet table with school-age children.

0:22:170:22:23

This could prove awkward.

0:22:230:22:27

Such as the Shadow Cabinet meeting interrupted by the news that one

0:22:270:22:30

of my sons

0:22:300:22:32

had fallen off a drainpipe at school.

0:22:320:22:35

In 1997, only 18% of MPs were women.

0:22:350:22:40

This has now risen to a total of almost 30%.

0:22:400:22:43

Not yet parity,

0:22:430:22:45

but we are heading in the right direction.

0:22:450:22:47

The speech was seconded by another Conservative who wondered

0:22:470:22:49

whether it was his experience in PR that had won him the honour.

0:22:490:22:56

As the House knows, I am a practising doctor.

0:22:560:22:58

Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, in a medical context, PR

0:22:580:23:01

does not stand for public relations.

0:23:010:23:06

But is shorthand for a type of examination

0:23:060:23:08

that involves putting on

0:23:080:23:10

rubber gloves, applying gel and asking a man to cough.

0:23:100:23:19

If I may give my right honourable friend the Prime Minister

0:23:290:23:35

a little advice, Mr Speaker?

0:23:350:23:40

If in the future he finds himself speaking

0:23:400:23:44

at a medical profession dinner, under no circumstances should he

0:23:440:23:47

tell the audience that in his life before politics, he was into PR and

0:23:470:23:54

that he found the work very stimulating.

0:23:540:24:00

If colleagues don't think I delivered the speech very

0:24:000:24:03

well today, just be grateful that we are not holding this

0:24:030:24:05

debate at a weekend, when I understand from some that

0:24:050:24:08

doctors don't perform as well.

0:24:080:24:18

Mr Speaker, I had hoped my medical background would be an

0:24:190:24:22

advantage in politics, but I have been disappointed.

0:24:220:24:27

My first came when I stood for election

0:24:270:24:31

as the Conservative party's candidate in Gwent.

0:24:310:24:32

I am not sure he is with us today, the current

0:24:320:24:35

member, but I'm sure he would agree that sporting a blue rosette

0:24:350:24:38

outside Kwik Save takes a certain type of character.

0:24:380:24:43

Mostly delusional.

0:24:430:24:47

Perhaps even masochistic.

0:24:470:24:52

In fact, the president of my consituency's

0:24:520:24:54

association, Mr Rob Stanton,

0:24:540:24:55

was elected to Wokingham Borough Council with more votes I received.

0:24:550:24:58

I was however able to comfort myself with the fact that my modest 816

0:24:580:25:04

votes nevertheless represented the biggest swing to

0:25:040:25:10

the Conservative Party of any candidate in Wales

0:25:100:25:12

that night.

0:25:120:25:16

In retrospect, I should have taken more note of the lady in the

0:25:160:25:19

market who when I asked her why she supported labour, she replied,

0:25:190:25:23

"Don't you get complicated with me!"

0:25:230:25:28

Philip Lee with his prescription for a life in politics.

0:25:300:25:34

And that debate on the Queen's speech continues for the rest

0:25:340:25:37

of this week and into next.

0:25:370:25:38

So do join me tomorrow at the same time for the best of the debate

0:25:380:25:42

in the Commons and the Lords.

0:25:420:25:44

But until then from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.

0:25:440:25:50

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