25/05/2016 Wednesday in Parliament


25/05/2016

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 25 May, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Transcript


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Hello there and welcome to Wednesday In Parliament.

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Coming up:

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With David Cameron away from PMQs,

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it's a clash of the deputies over Europe.

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We have before us a Government in utter chaos, split down the middle.

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They are like rats deserting a sinking ship.

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Both sides of the argument tell MPs

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what they think the EU referendum result could mean for Scotland.

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And the Bishop of Newcastle makes her debut in the Lords.

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How could I have imagined as a 16-year-old girl up

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in that gallery that one day I would find myself making a maiden

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speech in your lordships' house?

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But first, with David Cameron on his way to the G7 summit in Japan,

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it fell to George Osborne to take the floor

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for Prime Minister's questions.

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And, as is tradition if the PM is away, the opposition

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also fields a deputy, so Angela Eagle took

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the place of Jeremy Corbyn.

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Unsurprisingly perhaps, with the vote just under a month away,

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Ms Eagle turned to Conservative divisions over the EU referendum

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and comments made by a Minister, Priti Patel.

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Mr Speaker, last week the Employment Minister called

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for Brexit so there could be a bonfire of workers' rights.

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Does the Chancellor agree with her or does he agree

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with Len McCluskey that a vote to stay in

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the European Union is the best deal for Britain's workers?

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Well, first of all, she confirmed that when she

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was in the Treasury, she asked absolutely no questions

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about the tax affairs of Google.

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When it comes to the European Union, as she knows, we agree on this,

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I think it is better that Britain remains in the European Union.

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Why don't we have some consensus now on some other issues

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like having an independent nuclear deterrent?

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Let's have a consensus on that.

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Let's have a consensus on supporting businesses

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rather than disparaging businesses.

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Let's have a consensus on not piling debts

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on the next generation but dealing with our deficit.

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Let's have a consensus that the parties in this House

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should have a credible economic policy.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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I think he's just agreed with Len McCluskey.

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CHEERING

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She moved on to remarks from former Work and Pensions secretary,

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Iain Duncan Smith.

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The former Works and Pensions Secretary said this week that the

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Chancellor's Brexit report should not be believed by anyone and he

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branded the Chancellor Pinocchio with his nose just getting longer

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and longer with every fib.

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Meanwhile, the general secretary to the TUC says that the Treasury's

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report gives us half a million good reasons

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to stay in the European Union.

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Who does the Chancellor think the public should listen to?

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His former Cabinet colleague

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or the leader of Britain's millions of trade unionists?

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I don't think it's any great revelation that different

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Conservative MPs have different views on the European Union.

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That's why we are having a referendum,

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because this issue does divide parties and families and friends

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and we made a commitment in our manifesto that the British people

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would decide this question. CHEERING

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And I might just observe that if she wants to talk about

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divisions in parties, while she is sitting here,

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the leader of the Labour Party is sitting at home

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wondering whether to impeach the former leader of the Labour Party

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for war crimes.

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With 29 days to go until the most important decision

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this country has faced in a generation, we have before us

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a Government in utter chaos, split down the middle,

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at war with itself.

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The stakes could not be higher, and yet this is a Government adrift

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at the mercy of its own rebel backbenchers,

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unable to get their agenda through Parliament.

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Instead of providing the leadership the country needs,

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they're fighting a bitter proxy war over the leadership

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of their own party and I notice that no outer,

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all the Brexiteers have been banished from the front bench.

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MP: Where are they?

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JEERING

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Well...

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Well, Mr Speaker...

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Well, Mr Speaker, it's nice to see the Justice Secretary here.

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I think the Chancellor has put the rest of

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his Brexit colleagues in detention.

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Instead of providing the leadership the country needs, they are fighting

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a bitter proxy war over the leadership of their own party.

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Instead of focusing on the national interest,

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they are focusing on they are narrow self interest.

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What we need, Mr Speaker, is a Government

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which will do the best for Britain.

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What we've got is a Conservative Party focused only on themselves.

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CHEERING

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She talks about our parliamentary party.

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Let's look at her parliamentary party.

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They are like rats deserting a sinking ship.

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Because the Shadow Health Minister wants to be the mayor for Liverpool.

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You've got the Member for Bury South wants to be

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the mayor for Manchester.

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The Shadow Home Secretary wants to be the mayor for both cities.

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When we said we were creating job opportunities, we didn't mean job

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opportunities for the whole Shadow Cabinet.

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CHEERING

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They are like a Parliamentary party on day release, aren't they?

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When the Honourable Lady is here, but they know

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the member for Islington will be back

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and it's four more years of hard labour.

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Mr Speaker, today we are voting on a Queen's speech that

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delivers economic security, protects our national security,

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enhances life chances for the most disadvantaged and it doesn't matter

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who stands at that dispatch box for the Labour Party these days,

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they are dismantling our defences,

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they are wrecking our economy,

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they want to burden people with debt and

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in their own report published this week,

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called Labour's Future - surprisingly long - they say this...

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They say this in their own report, they are becoming increasingly

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irrelevant to the working people of Britain.

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Well, a little later, Remain and Leave campaigners

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were putting their cases with a particularly Scottish slant.

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The Scottish Affairs Committee is holding an inquiry

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into the EU Referendum's impact on Scotland.

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The Committee Chair, Pete Wishart, is from the SNP,

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which supports the UK's continued membership of the EU.

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But the SNP has also likened some of the Remain campaign's tactics

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to those of so-called Project Fear

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during the Scottish independence vote.

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What we have observed thus far from the supporters of the

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Remain Campaign is perhaps what we could say...

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An over emphasis of the risks of Brexit

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and I think those of us from Scotland anyway are perhaps

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familiar with some of the themes and the tone

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of some of the claims that are getting made

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by the Remain Campaign from during the Scottish referendum

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and how it was characterised simply as Project Fear

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and some of the scaremongering campaign.

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Are we going to do this differently in Scotland?

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That has certainly been our intention.

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I made a very small name for myself back in February

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coining the expression Project Cheer because we

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were very determined we weren't going to be going on the attack.

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Definitely playing the ball, not the man, if you like.

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The positives are all there in terms of cooperation,

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engagement, meeting, joint opportunities,

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dealing with common threats,

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so there is no need to go into attack.

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He said he couldn't think of any risks to Scotland

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of remaining in the EU.

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A Tory Committee member, who wants the UK to leave,

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said there were a number.

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One is that the European Union takes on more members

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and those members will be primarily poorer countries

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than Scotland and as a result, Scotland's...

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The contributions that Scotland gets from the European Union,

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although they are net contributors to the European Union,

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they will get less back because the regional funds

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will need to go to support Albania, Turkey and so on.

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Isn't that a risk?

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Well, I don't think Turkey is a risk for a

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very long time but in case of Albania, I mean, Albania

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is not exactly an enormous country.

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We have been putting a lot of infrastructure work

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into Albania already.

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But that was true in 1981 when Greece joined.

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That was true in 1986 when Spain and Portugal...

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So you don't see any risk that the amount of money

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that Scotland currently gets from the European Union would

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be diminished as a result of further expansion of the European Union?

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Well, it has collectively reduced over time as other countries have

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come in that are poorer than those parts of Scotland

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and the Highlands and Islands would say,

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as they did at the time,

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we accept the fact that we are now no longer the poorest part of Europe

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and if you are going to redistribute the money

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to where it is best used, redistribute it there.

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Isn't it just a fact that the Scottish people

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actually quite welcome membership of the European Union,

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it's something we think is important and something that we have

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enjoyed in the course of the past 30 or 40 years?

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That remains to be seen, Chair.

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I mean, I think the turnout will dictate how strongly

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people feel about it and how engaged they are in this debate, but

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from my own discussions that I have had first of all with fellow Labour

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Party members, with neighbours, with parents at my kids' school,

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I don't detect a great deal of knowledge and I don't mean that

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in a condescending way, I just think it's something

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people aren't all that interested him.

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It's almost like it's a fact of life, it's there,

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a shrug of the shoulders rather than enthusiastic.

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I think, and I have said this before, I think support for the EU

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in Scotland is very, very wide.

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I don't think it's very deep.

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And I think that once people actually hear

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the very reasonable, middle of the road,

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reasonable arguments against its membership,

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I am confident that they will listen to them and act on them.

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I have heard the calls for a positive campaign,

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but then they are usually followed up by a whole range

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of negative statements about the way the campaign is being run or process

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or even the impact that it would have on having a second

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independence referendum in Scotland.

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I think those people who are positive about

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Scotland remaining in the EU should be out there making a positive case

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and that's all of us and I think we can all shape the debate

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in Scotland by making a positive case.

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Back now to Prime Minister's Questions, where the SNP's leader

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at Westminster raised the case of an Australian 7-year-old

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who's facing deportation.

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Lachlan Brain and his family have lived in Dingwall

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in the Highlands for four years.

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Next week, as the Home Secretary is currently briefing him,

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the Home Department plans to deport him and his family despite the fact

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that he arrived as part of a Scottish Government initiative

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backed by the Home Office to attract people

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to live and work in the region.

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This case has been front-page news in Scotland

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and been repeatedly raised in the House.

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What does the Chancellor have to say to the Brain family

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and the community who want them to stay?

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Well, as I understand it, the family don't meet

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the immigration criteria but the Home Secretary says she is very

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happy to write to the Right Honourable Gentleman on the details

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of the specific case.

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I'm sorry, this has been going on for weeks

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and that frankly is not good enough.

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Hear, hear.

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Appeals have been made to the Home Secretary

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by the First Minister, by the local MP, by the local MSP,

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by the community...

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It is wall-to-wall across the media of Scotland

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and the Chancellor of the Exchequer clearly knew nothing about it.

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The problem in the Highlands of Scotland

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is not immigration, it has been emigration

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so even at this late stage, knowing nothing about it,

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will the Chancellor speak to the Home Secretary,

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speak to the Prime Minister and get this sorted out?

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Well, as I say, the Home Secretary will write to the Right Honourable

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Gentleman on the details of the case but can I make a suggestion?

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Can I make a suggestion to the Scottish National Party?

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They now have very substantial tax and enterprise powers

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and if they want to attract people to the Highlands of Scotland,

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why don't they create an entrepreneurial Scotland

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that people want to move to from the rest of the United Kingdom

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where they can grow their business and have a successful life?

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George Osborne, filling in for David Cameron at PMQs.

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

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Now, MPs have been told that the man who bought high street retailer BHS

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for ?1 from the billionaire Sir Philip Green was taking

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a "punt" on a successful turnaround of the firm.

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BHS was sold to Retail Acquisitions Limited or RAL in 2015.

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It went into administration in April this year.

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RAL was headed by Dominic Chappell, a former racing driver

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who'd previously been declared bankrupt.

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Continuing its inquiry into the collapse of BHS,

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a joint committee of MPs heard evidence from City firms that

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advised on the sale.

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When you were meeting Mr Chappell,

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and he was talking to you about his future ambitions,

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what sort of empire was he sketching in to you

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that he hoped this purchase would lead onto?

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I'm probably the least...

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Or I'm probably the most biased person

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you could ask that question to.

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My relationship with Dominic is...

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That's why we want it from you.

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It's poor.

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So the starting point really is that when we are

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interacting with Dominic, we're thinking,

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this is hugely ambitious.

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Is this real?

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Does it have a realistic chance of success?

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And for us, it's a success-only engagement.

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It's a bit of a punt.

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He said in the end, Mr Chappell found his funding elsewhere.

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What other names was he suggesting might become part of his empire?

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I don't want to be specific, but there was a Swiss retailer

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that was mentioned, there was a small UK retailer

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that was also mentioned.

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So the plans, as I say, were ambitious and as time passed,

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they seemed to gather credibility because they appeared to

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be coming more and more real.

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I say it was ambitious because he didn't have a CV

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and it was a large acquisition that he was planning to make.

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As you rightly say, many entrepreneurs have big ambitions and

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big egos and sometimes things that don't seem plausible on day one

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turn out to work subsequently.

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What was his status for these negotiations?

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Was he discharged?

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He was discharged bankrupt, yes.

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And that means what?

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That means that an order has been made

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to discharge the bankruptcy order,

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so he is free and able then to carry on business as before.

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So the court sets him free?

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Effectively, yes.

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In correspondence that we have seen,

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you've said that there could be question marks over

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Mr Chappell's business acumen, but actually the only fault he's got

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is that he was an eternal optimist.

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Is that a fair summary of his character?

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I couldn't make a judgment as I stand here now

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about his character because that wouldn't be, I think, the right

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thing for us to do as a professional advisory firm...

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But you were talking to another law firm saying, do you know what?

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We have done vigorous checks on him and yes,

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we understand that he has been made bankrupt but actually,

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he has seen himself as an entrepreneur

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and he is optimistic.

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What we can do is confirm to people if they ask,

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it's an unusual occurrence but it did happen here, we can confirm to

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people if they ask what due diligence checks we have done,

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but what we don't do is we don't give references

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on people's probity and competence.

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Now back to the Commons, where the debate on the contents

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of the Queen's speech continued.

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The subject this time, education, skills and training.

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The SNP spokesman turned to differences between education

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policy in England and Scotland.

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Whilst the bills contained in the Queen's speech

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regarding education, skills, training, access

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to employment, the subject of today's debate are,

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of course, majorly related to England, or England and Wales

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only, they do serve to highlight the contrast in approach to these

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important matters between the SNP Scottish Government which has

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independent powers of education and the Conservative UK Government.

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The great spectre hanging over the higher education and research

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bill is that of students facing fees of up to now more than ?9,000

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per year whilst Scottish students that access their university

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education without fees.

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The right honourable member for Tatton, the Chancellor

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of the Exchequer promised in a letter to one of his

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constituents in 2003 that when the Conservative Party

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were next in government, it would scrap tuition fees altogether.

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Oh, what a conversion we have seen.

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He now wants to see tuition fees rise even further.

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The origin of the university in my fine city of Norwich,

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the university of East Anglia, was in that great university

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expansion of the 1960s and I welcome the clear emphasis that we have

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in today's bill on making it easier for more high-quality universities

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to enter the sector and boost choice for students.

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Higher education is one of the greatest engines for social

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mobility we have and we should celebrate the record application

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rates we are seeing among students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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But there is a lot more to do.

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In January this year, the social mobility and child

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poverty commission identified the life chances of a poor child

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growing up in the Norwich City out for area as some of the very

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worst in the country.

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The Conservative chair of the Education Committee said

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he supported the expansion of academies and his committee

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was going to look at the setting up of multi-academy trusts.

0:19:150:19:20

We do need to encourage academies to come together to support each

0:19:200:19:24

other because this is a partnership, cooperation, schools taking

0:19:240:19:30

the initiative to help other schools and I think that is a combination

0:19:300:19:34

that will work to drive up standards, especially in those areas

0:19:340:19:36

where standards are not high enough.

0:19:360:19:40

And we do know there are pockets of such places.

0:19:400:19:42

Yes, I will give way.

0:19:420:19:44

I thank the honourable member for giving way.

0:19:440:19:46

Is he, therefore, in favour of Ofsted inspecting

0:19:460:19:48

the academy chains?

0:19:480:19:50

At the moment, the government prevents them from doing so,

0:19:500:19:54

we don't know what their overheads are, we don't know how much

0:19:540:19:57

they are putting into each school, we don't know what they are spending

0:19:570:20:00

on the Chief Executive salaries.

0:20:000:20:01

What does he think of Ofsted inspecting Academy chains?

0:20:010:20:04

This is a matter the education select committee has been quite

0:20:040:20:07

forceful on both in the last Parliament and I expect it

0:20:070:20:09

will comment on that matter again.

0:20:090:20:12

I am personally in favour of a multi-Academy trust

0:20:120:20:14

being inspected and I think that is something we should

0:20:140:20:18

be looking into.

0:20:180:20:20

A Labour MP feared that despite a government U-turn,

0:20:200:20:23

schools could still be forced to become academies.

0:20:230:20:27

I really think that a Conservative government will to be

0:20:270:20:29

listening to head teachers, parents and local communities

0:20:290:20:35

in these matters are not continuing with their view that every school

0:20:350:20:43

should become an academy whether or not it is

0:20:430:20:45

in both interests.

0:20:450:20:46

Academisation can be a good thing, there are plenty of examples

0:20:460:20:49

where it has turned around the fortunes of a school,

0:20:490:20:51

but forced academisation is not.

0:20:510:20:55

While another Labour MP turned to proposed changes to school

0:20:550:20:57

funding in England.

0:20:570:20:58

And these concerns are extremely timely, giving the findings

0:20:580:21:06

of an IPPR North report earlier this week that secondary schools

0:21:060:21:08

in the North of England, or the Northern Powerhouse,

0:21:080:21:11

to give us our correct title, are currently receiving ?1300

0:21:110:21:13

per pupil less than schools in London.

0:21:130:21:18

The situation clearly needs rectifying and quickly

0:21:180:21:21

if the Northern Powerhouse is to ever become anything more

0:21:210:21:23

than an empty announcement.

0:21:230:21:28

Catherine McKinnell.

0:21:280:21:29

A Labour peer has pressed the government over fears that

0:21:290:21:31

replacing bursaries with loans will mean a fall in the number

0:21:310:21:35

of student nurses. At question time in the Lords,

0:21:350:21:39

Lord Hunt, wanted to know if the minister

0:21:390:21:41

was aware of concerns from the Commons Public Accounts

0:21:410:21:44

Committee about the change.

0:21:440:21:46

The Labour peer argued there was a real risk

0:21:460:21:50

that the switch to loans would particularly put off older

0:21:500:21:52

students and those with children.

0:21:520:21:55

Given the desperate shortage of nurses and other professions,

0:21:550:21:59

shouldn't the government actually just take a little time to examine

0:21:590:22:03

whether its original decision was justified rather than simply

0:22:030:22:08

consulting on the way it was going to be implemented?

0:22:080:22:13

All the evidence from other, not just from nursing,

0:22:130:22:17

but other university courses, is that the loans have not reduced

0:22:170:22:23

the number of people wishing to become...

0:22:230:22:25

Wishing to go to university, quite the contrary.

0:22:250:22:27

The numbers of people going to university have gone up

0:22:270:22:29

since student loans were introduced.

0:22:290:22:32

And the demand from young men and women who wish to go

0:22:320:22:36

into nursing is very strong.

0:22:360:22:38

He will know that 57,000 people apply every year to become nurses

0:22:380:22:42

and there are only 20,000 places.

0:22:420:22:44

We are confident there will be...

0:22:440:22:46

This will result in more nurses, not fewer nurses.

0:22:460:22:51

How much will the Treasury save by shifting this debt from low

0:22:510:22:55

paid nurses to the government...

0:22:550:23:00

From the government to low paid nurses and given the demographic

0:23:000:23:03

of nurses who are overwhelmingly female and, as I said,

0:23:030:23:07

relatively low paid, surely quite a lot of that student

0:23:070:23:11

debt is never going to be repaid.

0:23:110:23:15

Is this really such a good deal for the government?

0:23:150:23:18

It is a good deal for the government, if you put it

0:23:180:23:23

like that, on a number of fronts.

0:23:230:23:29

It is good for patients that there will been more nurses,

0:23:290:23:31

it is good for the government because there will be less need

0:23:310:23:34

to recruit overseas nurses and agency nurses.

0:23:340:23:36

Of course, the noble lady is right that immature students coming in,

0:23:360:23:44

-- for mature students.

0:23:440:23:47

Time to repay the debt of the student loan will be less

0:23:470:23:50

than it will be for younger people, but the government will

0:23:500:23:53

see a return on that.

0:23:530:23:54

My noble friend said there were 20,000 nursing places

0:23:540:23:56

available for training and 54,000, I think over 50,000 people

0:23:560:23:59

wishing to fill them.

0:23:590:24:00

But we also read there is a shortage of nurses such as there are heavy

0:24:000:24:03

demands made for agency nursing.

0:24:030:24:05

What explains that discrepancy?

0:24:050:24:08

My Lords, the reason for the discrepancy is that

0:24:080:24:11

at the moment the bursary system effectively caps the number

0:24:110:24:15

of student places for nursing.

0:24:150:24:19

The purpose for moving...

0:24:190:24:20

Or one of the purposes for moving the system is to remove that cap

0:24:200:24:25

and our estimate is that by so doing, then additional 10,000

0:24:250:24:28

places will be created between 2017 and 2020.

0:24:280:24:33

Lord Prior.

0:24:330:24:36

Later in the day as peers continued their debate

0:24:360:24:41

on the Queen's speech there was a maiden speech

0:24:410:24:43

from the new Bishop of Newcastle - she spoke about her

0:24:430:24:46

inspirational teachers.

0:24:460:24:47

One of those teachers was Mrs Boyd who started a debating

0:24:470:24:51

society in our school.

0:24:510:24:55

She had a passion for the art of debating and wanted us

0:24:550:24:58

to catch that passion.

0:24:580:25:01

Her sister, the noble Baroness the late Lady Burke,

0:25:010:25:05

had just been introduced into the Lords as one of those

0:25:050:25:07

pioneering early women life peers and through Lady Burke's good

0:25:070:25:12

offices, she brought our little debating team to this place

0:25:120:25:16

to inspire us by witnessing debating at its best.

0:25:160:25:21

How could I have imagined as a 16-year-old girl up in that

0:25:210:25:29

gallery that one day I would find myself making a maiden speech

0:25:290:25:35

in your lordships' House?

0:25:350:25:37

The Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Rev, Christine Hardman.

0:25:370:25:39

Bringing us to the end of this edition of the programme.

0:25:390:25:42

I'll be back at the same time tomorrow with another round up

0:25:420:25:45

of the best of the day day here at Westminster,

0:25:450:25:47

including the last day's debate on the Queen's speech.

0:25:470:25:49

But until then, from me, goodbye.

0:25:490:25:54

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