Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 25 May, presented by Alicia McCarthy.
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Hello there and welcome to Wednesday In Parliament.
With David Cameron away from PMQs,
it's a clash of the deputies over Europe.
We have before us a Government in utter chaos, split down the middle.
They are like rats deserting a sinking ship.
Both sides of the argument tell MPs
what they think the EU referendum result could mean for Scotland.
And the Bishop of Newcastle makes her debut in the Lords.
How could I have imagined as a 16-year-old girl up
in that gallery that one day I would find myself making a maiden
speech in your lordships' house?
But first, with David Cameron on his way to the G7 summit in Japan,
it fell to George Osborne to take the floor
for Prime Minister's questions.
And, as is tradition if the PM is away, the opposition
also fields a deputy, so Angela Eagle took
the place of Jeremy Corbyn.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, with the vote just under a month away,
Ms Eagle turned to Conservative divisions over the EU referendum
and comments made by a Minister, Priti Patel.
Mr Speaker, last week the Employment Minister called
for Brexit so there could be a bonfire of workers' rights.
Does the Chancellor agree with her or does he agree
with Len McCluskey that a vote to stay in
the European Union is the best deal for Britain's workers?
Well, first of all, she confirmed that when she
was in the Treasury, she asked absolutely no questions
about the tax affairs of Google.
When it comes to the European Union, as she knows, we agree on this,
I think it is better that Britain remains in the European Union.
Why don't we have some consensus now on some other issues
like having an independent nuclear deterrent?
Let's have a consensus on that.
Let's have a consensus on supporting businesses
rather than disparaging businesses.
Let's have a consensus on not piling debts
on the next generation but dealing with our deficit.
Let's have a consensus that the parties in this House
should have a credible economic policy.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
I think he's just agreed with Len McCluskey.
She moved on to remarks from former Work and Pensions secretary,
Iain Duncan Smith.
The former Works and Pensions Secretary said this week that the
Chancellor's Brexit report should not be believed by anyone and he
branded the Chancellor Pinocchio with his nose just getting longer
and longer with every fib.
Meanwhile, the general secretary to the TUC says that the Treasury's
report gives us half a million good reasons
to stay in the European Union.
Who does the Chancellor think the public should listen to?
His former Cabinet colleague
or the leader of Britain's millions of trade unionists?
I don't think it's any great revelation that different
Conservative MPs have different views on the European Union.
That's why we are having a referendum,
because this issue does divide parties and families and friends
and we made a commitment in our manifesto that the British people
would decide this question. CHEERING
And I might just observe that if she wants to talk about
divisions in parties, while she is sitting here,
the leader of the Labour Party is sitting at home
wondering whether to impeach the former leader of the Labour Party
for war crimes.
With 29 days to go until the most important decision
this country has faced in a generation, we have before us
a Government in utter chaos, split down the middle,
at war with itself.
The stakes could not be higher, and yet this is a Government adrift
at the mercy of its own rebel backbenchers,
unable to get their agenda through Parliament.
Instead of providing the leadership the country needs,
they're fighting a bitter proxy war over the leadership
of their own party and I notice that no outer,
all the Brexiteers have been banished from the front bench.
MP: Where are they?
Well, Mr Speaker...
Well, Mr Speaker, it's nice to see the Justice Secretary here.
I think the Chancellor has put the rest of
his Brexit colleagues in detention.
Instead of providing the leadership the country needs, they are fighting
a bitter proxy war over the leadership of their own party.
Instead of focusing on the national interest,
they are focusing on they are narrow self interest.
What we need, Mr Speaker, is a Government
which will do the best for Britain.
What we've got is a Conservative Party focused only on themselves.
She talks about our parliamentary party.
Let's look at her parliamentary party.
They are like rats deserting a sinking ship.
Because the Shadow Health Minister wants to be the mayor for Liverpool.
You've got the Member for Bury South wants to be
the mayor for Manchester.
The Shadow Home Secretary wants to be the mayor for both cities.
When we said we were creating job opportunities, we didn't mean job
opportunities for the whole Shadow Cabinet.
They are like a Parliamentary party on day release, aren't they?
When the Honourable Lady is here, but they know
the member for Islington will be back
and it's four more years of hard labour.
Mr Speaker, today we are voting on a Queen's speech that
delivers economic security, protects our national security,
enhances life chances for the most disadvantaged and it doesn't matter
who stands at that dispatch box for the Labour Party these days,
they are dismantling our defences,
they are wrecking our economy,
they want to burden people with debt and
in their own report published this week,
called Labour's Future - surprisingly long - they say this...
They say this in their own report, they are becoming increasingly
irrelevant to the working people of Britain.
Well, a little later, Remain and Leave campaigners
were putting their cases with a particularly Scottish slant.
The Scottish Affairs Committee is holding an inquiry
into the EU Referendum's impact on Scotland.
The Committee Chair, Pete Wishart, is from the SNP,
which supports the UK's continued membership of the EU.
But the SNP has also likened some of the Remain campaign's tactics
to those of so-called Project Fear
during the Scottish independence vote.
What we have observed thus far from the supporters of the
Remain Campaign is perhaps what we could say...
An over emphasis of the risks of Brexit
and I think those of us from Scotland anyway are perhaps
familiar with some of the themes and the tone
of some of the claims that are getting made
by the Remain Campaign from during the Scottish referendum
and how it was characterised simply as Project Fear
and some of the scaremongering campaign.
Are we going to do this differently in Scotland?
That has certainly been our intention.
I made a very small name for myself back in February
coining the expression Project Cheer because we
were very determined we weren't going to be going on the attack.
Definitely playing the ball, not the man, if you like.
The positives are all there in terms of cooperation,
engagement, meeting, joint opportunities,
dealing with common threats,
so there is no need to go into attack.
He said he couldn't think of any risks to Scotland
of remaining in the EU.
A Tory Committee member, who wants the UK to leave,
said there were a number.
One is that the European Union takes on more members
and those members will be primarily poorer countries
than Scotland and as a result, Scotland's...
The contributions that Scotland gets from the European Union,
although they are net contributors to the European Union,
they will get less back because the regional funds
will need to go to support Albania, Turkey and so on.
Isn't that a risk?
Well, I don't think Turkey is a risk for a
very long time but in case of Albania, I mean, Albania
is not exactly an enormous country.
We have been putting a lot of infrastructure work
into Albania already.
But that was true in 1981 when Greece joined.
That was true in 1986 when Spain and Portugal...
So you don't see any risk that the amount of money
that Scotland currently gets from the European Union would
be diminished as a result of further expansion of the European Union?
Well, it has collectively reduced over time as other countries have
come in that are poorer than those parts of Scotland
and the Highlands and Islands would say,
as they did at the time,
we accept the fact that we are now no longer the poorest part of Europe
and if you are going to redistribute the money
to where it is best used, redistribute it there.
Isn't it just a fact that the Scottish people
actually quite welcome membership of the European Union,
it's something we think is important and something that we have
enjoyed in the course of the past 30 or 40 years?
That remains to be seen, Chair.
I mean, I think the turnout will dictate how strongly
people feel about it and how engaged they are in this debate, but
from my own discussions that I have had first of all with fellow Labour
Party members, with neighbours, with parents at my kids' school,
I don't detect a great deal of knowledge and I don't mean that
in a condescending way, I just think it's something
people aren't all that interested him.
It's almost like it's a fact of life, it's there,
a shrug of the shoulders rather than enthusiastic.
I think, and I have said this before, I think support for the EU
in Scotland is very, very wide.
I don't think it's very deep.
And I think that once people actually hear
the very reasonable, middle of the road,
reasonable arguments against its membership,
I am confident that they will listen to them and act on them.
I have heard the calls for a positive campaign,
but then they are usually followed up by a whole range
of negative statements about the way the campaign is being run or process
or even the impact that it would have on having a second
independence referendum in Scotland.
I think those people who are positive about
Scotland remaining in the EU should be out there making a positive case
and that's all of us and I think we can all shape the debate
in Scotland by making a positive case.
Back now to Prime Minister's Questions, where the SNP's leader
at Westminster raised the case of an Australian 7-year-old
who's facing deportation.
Lachlan Brain and his family have lived in Dingwall
in the Highlands for four years.
Next week, as the Home Secretary is currently briefing him,
the Home Department plans to deport him and his family despite the fact
that he arrived as part of a Scottish Government initiative
backed by the Home Office to attract people
to live and work in the region.
This case has been front-page news in Scotland
and been repeatedly raised in the House.
What does the Chancellor have to say to the Brain family
and the community who want them to stay?
Well, as I understand it, the family don't meet
the immigration criteria but the Home Secretary says she is very
happy to write to the Right Honourable Gentleman on the details
of the specific case.
I'm sorry, this has been going on for weeks
and that frankly is not good enough.
Appeals have been made to the Home Secretary
by the First Minister, by the local MP, by the local MSP,
by the community...
It is wall-to-wall across the media of Scotland
and the Chancellor of the Exchequer clearly knew nothing about it.
The problem in the Highlands of Scotland
is not immigration, it has been emigration
so even at this late stage, knowing nothing about it,
will the Chancellor speak to the Home Secretary,
speak to the Prime Minister and get this sorted out?
Well, as I say, the Home Secretary will write to the Right Honourable
Gentleman on the details of the case but can I make a suggestion?
Can I make a suggestion to the Scottish National Party?
They now have very substantial tax and enterprise powers
and if they want to attract people to the Highlands of Scotland,
why don't they create an entrepreneurial Scotland
that people want to move to from the rest of the United Kingdom
where they can grow their business and have a successful life?
George Osborne, filling in for David Cameron at PMQs.
You're watching Wednesday in Parliament with me, Alicia McCarthy.
Now, MPs have been told that the man who bought high street retailer BHS
for ?1 from the billionaire Sir Philip Green was taking
a "punt" on a successful turnaround of the firm.
BHS was sold to Retail Acquisitions Limited or RAL in 2015.
It went into administration in April this year.
RAL was headed by Dominic Chappell, a former racing driver
who'd previously been declared bankrupt.
Continuing its inquiry into the collapse of BHS,
a joint committee of MPs heard evidence from City firms that
advised on the sale.
When you were meeting Mr Chappell,
and he was talking to you about his future ambitions,
what sort of empire was he sketching in to you
that he hoped this purchase would lead onto?
I'm probably the least...
Or I'm probably the most biased person
you could ask that question to.
My relationship with Dominic is...
That's why we want it from you.
So the starting point really is that when we are
interacting with Dominic, we're thinking,
this is hugely ambitious.
Is this real?
Does it have a realistic chance of success?
And for us, it's a success-only engagement.
It's a bit of a punt.
He said in the end, Mr Chappell found his funding elsewhere.
What other names was he suggesting might become part of his empire?
I don't want to be specific, but there was a Swiss retailer
that was mentioned, there was a small UK retailer
that was also mentioned.
So the plans, as I say, were ambitious and as time passed,
they seemed to gather credibility because they appeared to
be coming more and more real.
I say it was ambitious because he didn't have a CV
and it was a large acquisition that he was planning to make.
As you rightly say, many entrepreneurs have big ambitions and
big egos and sometimes things that don't seem plausible on day one
turn out to work subsequently.
What was his status for these negotiations?
Was he discharged?
He was discharged bankrupt, yes.
And that means what?
That means that an order has been made
to discharge the bankruptcy order,
so he is free and able then to carry on business as before.
So the court sets him free?
In correspondence that we have seen,
you've said that there could be question marks over
Mr Chappell's business acumen, but actually the only fault he's got
is that he was an eternal optimist.
Is that a fair summary of his character?
I couldn't make a judgment as I stand here now
about his character because that wouldn't be, I think, the right
thing for us to do as a professional advisory firm...
But you were talking to another law firm saying, do you know what?
We have done vigorous checks on him and yes,
we understand that he has been made bankrupt but actually,
he has seen himself as an entrepreneur
and he is optimistic.
What we can do is confirm to people if they ask,
it's an unusual occurrence but it did happen here, we can confirm to
people if they ask what due diligence checks we have done,
but what we don't do is we don't give references
on people's probity and competence.
Now back to the Commons, where the debate on the contents
of the Queen's speech continued.
The subject this time, education, skills and training.
The SNP spokesman turned to differences between education
policy in England and Scotland.
Whilst the bills contained in the Queen's speech
regarding education, skills, training, access
to employment, the subject of today's debate are,
of course, majorly related to England, or England and Wales
only, they do serve to highlight the contrast in approach to these
important matters between the SNP Scottish Government which has
independent powers of education and the Conservative UK Government.
The great spectre hanging over the higher education and research
bill is that of students facing fees of up to now more than ?9,000
per year whilst Scottish students that access their university
education without fees.
The right honourable member for Tatton, the Chancellor
of the Exchequer promised in a letter to one of his
constituents in 2003 that when the Conservative Party
were next in government, it would scrap tuition fees altogether.
Oh, what a conversion we have seen.
He now wants to see tuition fees rise even further.
The origin of the university in my fine city of Norwich,
the university of East Anglia, was in that great university
expansion of the 1960s and I welcome the clear emphasis that we have
in today's bill on making it easier for more high-quality universities
to enter the sector and boost choice for students.
Higher education is one of the greatest engines for social
mobility we have and we should celebrate the record application
rates we are seeing among students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
But there is a lot more to do.
In January this year, the social mobility and child
poverty commission identified the life chances of a poor child
growing up in the Norwich City out for area as some of the very
worst in the country.
The Conservative chair of the Education Committee said
he supported the expansion of academies and his committee
was going to look at the setting up of multi-academy trusts.
We do need to encourage academies to come together to support each
other because this is a partnership, cooperation, schools taking
the initiative to help other schools and I think that is a combination
that will work to drive up standards, especially in those areas
where standards are not high enough.
And we do know there are pockets of such places.
Yes, I will give way.
I thank the honourable member for giving way.
Is he, therefore, in favour of Ofsted inspecting
the academy chains?
At the moment, the government prevents them from doing so,
we don't know what their overheads are, we don't know how much
they are putting into each school, we don't know what they are spending
on the Chief Executive salaries.
What does he think of Ofsted inspecting Academy chains?
This is a matter the education select committee has been quite
forceful on both in the last Parliament and I expect it
will comment on that matter again.
I am personally in favour of a multi-Academy trust
being inspected and I think that is something we should
be looking into.
A Labour MP feared that despite a government U-turn,
schools could still be forced to become academies.
I really think that a Conservative government will to be
listening to head teachers, parents and local communities
in these matters are not continuing with their view that every school
should become an academy whether or not it is
in both interests.
Academisation can be a good thing, there are plenty of examples
where it has turned around the fortunes of a school,
but forced academisation is not.
While another Labour MP turned to proposed changes to school
funding in England.
And these concerns are extremely timely, giving the findings
of an IPPR North report earlier this week that secondary schools
in the North of England, or the Northern Powerhouse,
to give us our correct title, are currently receiving ?1300
per pupil less than schools in London.
The situation clearly needs rectifying and quickly
if the Northern Powerhouse is to ever become anything more
than an empty announcement.
A Labour peer has pressed the government over fears that
replacing bursaries with loans will mean a fall in the number
of student nurses. At question time in the Lords,
Lord Hunt, wanted to know if the minister
was aware of concerns from the Commons Public Accounts
Committee about the change.
The Labour peer argued there was a real risk
that the switch to loans would particularly put off older
students and those with children.
Given the desperate shortage of nurses and other professions,
shouldn't the government actually just take a little time to examine
whether its original decision was justified rather than simply
consulting on the way it was going to be implemented?
All the evidence from other, not just from nursing,
but other university courses, is that the loans have not reduced
the number of people wishing to become...
Wishing to go to university, quite the contrary.
The numbers of people going to university have gone up
since student loans were introduced.
And the demand from young men and women who wish to go
into nursing is very strong.
He will know that 57,000 people apply every year to become nurses
and there are only 20,000 places.
We are confident there will be...
This will result in more nurses, not fewer nurses.
How much will the Treasury save by shifting this debt from low
paid nurses to the government...
From the government to low paid nurses and given the demographic
of nurses who are overwhelmingly female and, as I said,
relatively low paid, surely quite a lot of that student
debt is never going to be repaid.
Is this really such a good deal for the government?
It is a good deal for the government, if you put it
like that, on a number of fronts.
It is good for patients that there will been more nurses,
it is good for the government because there will be less need
to recruit overseas nurses and agency nurses.
Of course, the noble lady is right that immature students coming in,
-- for mature students.
Time to repay the debt of the student loan will be less
than it will be for younger people, but the government will
see a return on that.
My noble friend said there were 20,000 nursing places
available for training and 54,000, I think over 50,000 people
wishing to fill them.
But we also read there is a shortage of nurses such as there are heavy
demands made for agency nursing.
What explains that discrepancy?
My Lords, the reason for the discrepancy is that
at the moment the bursary system effectively caps the number
of student places for nursing.
The purpose for moving...
Or one of the purposes for moving the system is to remove that cap
and our estimate is that by so doing, then additional 10,000
places will be created between 2017 and 2020.
Later in the day as peers continued their debate
on the Queen's speech there was a maiden speech
from the new Bishop of Newcastle - she spoke about her
One of those teachers was Mrs Boyd who started a debating
society in our school.
She had a passion for the art of debating and wanted us
to catch that passion.
Her sister, the noble Baroness the late Lady Burke,
had just been introduced into the Lords as one of those
pioneering early women life peers and through Lady Burke's good
offices, she brought our little debating team to this place
to inspire us by witnessing debating at its best.
How could I have imagined as a 16-year-old girl up in that
gallery that one day I would find myself making a maiden speech
in your lordships' House?
The Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Rev, Christine Hardman.
Bringing us to the end of this edition of the programme.
I'll be back at the same time tomorrow with another round up
of the best of the day day here at Westminster,
including the last day's debate on the Queen's speech.
But until then, from me, goodbye.