Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 15 June, presented by Keith Macdougall.
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Hello and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament, our look at the best
of the day in the Commons and the Lords.
On this programme, there's only one topic
at Prime Minister's Questions - the EU referendum.
David Cameron pleads for support for Remain.
On all those issues, stronger, safer, better
off, the arguments are on the Remain side.
But a campaigner for the UK to leave the EU says it's time
for the British people to rhse up against the political class
that's been in thrall to the whole European project.
It must be disappointing for them to see so much ingratitude `nd anger
boiling up amongst the Brithsh people against the project
in which they have invested so much.
And the former owner of British Home Stores,
Sir Philip Green, vows to sort out the pensions mess that followed
the collapse of the retail chain.
Me being bullied into saying something I'm being asked to say,
I'm not going to say it.
I want to address it in terls of how we've been dealing with it.
I think it's very important you hear all the things that have
been going on and not going on at the same time.
But first, a bit like hurricanes in Hertfordshire, a single-themed
Prime Minister's Questions hardly ever happens.
But with Parliament about to go into its latest recess,
and with the nation a week `way from the momentous decision
on whether we should be in or out of the EU,
PMQs was always certain to be dominated by the huge
As 12 noon approached, there was a reminder we werd living
in unusual times when a flotilla of fishing boats, with
Ukip's Nigel Farage on board, sailed up the Thames at Westminster
with a message urging Parliament to take back
control of British waters.
The so-called Brexit armada was greeted by a rival Remahn fleet,
carrying, among others, Sir Bob Geldof.
Inside the Commons, Jeremy Corbyn said Labour was supporting
the Remain side in the referendum so that jobs and public
services would be preserved.
The Labour leader quoted relarks once made by the former
London Mayor, Boris Johnson, a leading force in the Leavd
The honourable member for Uxbridge said, "If people have
to pay for NHS services, they will value them more."
Both he and the honourable lember for Surrey Heath are members
of a government that has put the NHS into record deficit.
These people are now masquerading as the saviours of the NHS.
Wolves in sheep's clothing.
David Cameron praised Sarah Wollaston's switch
of allegiance from Leave to Remain.
I was delighted with what my honourable friend,
the member for Totnes, said about wanting...
By changing her mind, which is a brave thing
for politicians to do, and saying that she thought
that the NHS would be safer if we remain inside
a reformed European Union.
Jeremy Corbyn said Labour MPs wouldn't be supporting any dmergency
Budget as proposed by the Chancellor in the event of a Leave
win in the referendum.
We would oppose any post-Brdxit austerity Budget, just as wd have
opposed any austerity Budget put forward by this government.
So will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to condemn
the opportunism of 57 of his colleagues who are pro-Leave,
these are members who backed the bedroom tax, backed cutting
disability benefits and slashing care for the elderly,
who suddenly have now had a Damascene conversion
to the anti-austerity movemdnt?
Does he have any message for them?
Does he have any message for them at all?
What I'd say to the right honourable gentleman is there are very few
times when he and I are on the same side of an argument and this must
say to people watching back at home than when you've got the le`der
of the Labour Party, and indeed almost all
of the Labour Party, a Conservative government,
the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, the official Ulster Unionists
and the Scottish National P`rty all saying we have huge
disagreements, but on this vital issue for the future of our country,
the best option for Britain is to vote to remain
and reform the European Union, that really says something.
If we vote out, the experts warn us we will have a smaller economy,
less employment, lower wages and therefore less tax recehpts
That's why we would have to have measures to address a huge hole
in our public finances.
Nobody wants to have an emergency Budget, nobody wants to havd cuts
in public services, nobody wants to have tax increases.
I'm looking forward to the British people giving me the opporttnity
to vote against the vindicthve emergency Budget.
Will my right honourable frhend explain that if the governmdnt
is so strapped for cash, why is it still intent
on spending ?50 billion on HS2?
The point is that we will bd strapped for cash if you believe
the Institute for Fiscal Sttdies or the National Institute
of Economic and Social Rese`rch both impeccably independent,
who say there'd be a hole in our public finances of bdtween
?20 billion and ?40 billion.
There's an easy way to avoid getting into that situation and that's
to vote to stay in a reformdd European Union next Thursdax.
If, as I hope, despite the panic-driven negativity
from the Remain camp and Downing Street,
the British people vote next week to become a free,
independent nation again...
Will my right honourable frhend join me in embracing the optimism
and opportunity for our country and our people such
a momentous decision would be?
What I'd say to my honourable friend, as I said at the CBH,
of course Britain can survive outside the EU.
No one is questioning that.
The question is, how are we going to do best?
How are we going to create the most jobs?
How are we going to create the most investment?
How are we going to have thd most opportunities for our children?
How are we going to wield the greatest power in the world
How are we going to get things done?
And all all those issues, stronger, safer, better
off, the arguments are on the Remain side.
2,500 people are employed in the ceramics industry
in my constituency.
Their jobs are dependent on EU trade, their rights are protected
by the EU social chapter and their town centres have been
rebuilt with EU funds.
With his friends in the Leave campaign producing more spin
than a potter's wheel...
Does the PM share my fear that despite Europe's flaws,
a Brexit vote could leave us picking up the pieces of a broken economy
for years to come?
I'm going to nick that soundbite, that's a good ond!
The honourable lady is right.
If we leave the single markdt and the European Union,
the council president has s`id very clearly that process probably takes
two years and after that, you then have to negotiate ` trade
deal with the European Union.
If it was a trade deal like Canada's, that
could take seven years.
So we're looking at a decadd of uncertainty for our economy.
Given the government's recent enthusiasm for making forec`sts
and predictions, can the Prime Minister please tdll
the House in which year will we meet our manifesto
commitment to reduce immigr`tion to the tens of thousands?
Yes, we need to do more to control migration from outside the DU,
and we are doing that with the closure of bogus
colleges and other measures, and we are doing more insidd the EU,
not least saying that people who come here,
if they don't get a job aftdr six months, they have to leave.
If they do work, they have to work and contribute for four years before
they get full access to the welfare system.
Those are big changes.
Can I congratulate my right honourable friend for honouring our
manifesto pledge and delivering this historic referendum?
Unfortunately, we have heard some hysterical scaremongering
during this debate.
And there are those in this House, and in the Other Place,
who if they...
They believe if the British people decide to leave the EU,
there should be a second referendum.
Can he assure the House and the country that whatevdr
the result on June 24, his government will carry ott
the wishes of the British pdople?
If the vote is to remain, wd remain, and if the vote is to leave,
which I hope it is, then we leave.
I'm very happy to agree with my honourable friend.
In means we remain in a reformed European Union.
Out means we come out.
And as the Leave campaigners have said, and others have said,
out means out of the Europe`n Union, out of the European single larket,
out of the Council of Ministers out of all of those things.
And it then means a process of delivering that,
which would take at least two years, and then delivering a trade
deal, which could take as many as seven years.
The former owner of British Home Stores,
the billionaire Sir Philip Green, has apologised to staff
at the firm's collapse and promised to try to secure
their pension scheme.
Last month came news that BHS would be closing all its 160 stores
when administrators failed to find a buyer for the famous retahl chain.
BHS had debts of ?1.25 billhon.
Sir Philip, who sold the company last year for ?0,
faced an intense six hours of questioning
from a parliamentary committee.
He began by reflecting on what had gone wrong.
Nothing is more sad than how this has ended.
And I hope during the morning you'll hear there was certainly no intent
at all on my part for anythhng to be like this, and it didn't
need to be like this.
I just want to apologise to all the BHS people who h`ve
been involved in this, and are involved, and I hopd that
by the end of the morning they'll hear everything and we can find some
sensible solutions to some of the issues.
There were some tetchy exch`nges as Sir Philip defended the way
he ran his businesses.
I think we've got a pretty good track record as a company.
Our existing business, the average stay in our head office
is 11 or 12 years.
Do you mind not looking at le like that all the time?
It's really disturbing.
You just want to stare at md, it's just uncomfortable, th`t's all.
I wasn't quite just staring at you, but I don't want to make
I don't wish to make you uncomfortable.
It's just uncomfortable, sort of staring at me.
One of the key issues has bden the pension scheme.
Sir Philip said his attempts to get a meeting with the pensions
regulator had failed until recently.
I tried to lead through the history...
You're trying to lead me to say things I'm not going to say.
With respect, allow me to finish the question.
Trying to lead through the history of the pension scheme so th`t
everybody, including the 20,000 members of the pension schele,
can understand exactly what happened and where we are today.
Could I plead to you, sir?
Can we go to the pension scheme and therefore instead
of this man beating me up, which is unnecessary, right,
I'm here voluntarily, and I'm happy to address
the pension issue, OK?
At whatever time you're ready during this meeting.
Me being bullied into saying something I'm being asked to say,
I'm not going to say.
I want to address it in terls of how we've been dealing with it.
I think it's very important you hear all the things that have bedn
going on and not going on at the same time.
Then I think it will give everybody a much clearer picture.
We want to find a solution for the 20,000 pensioners.
We still believe that money into the PPF
does not resolve it.
It's a complex...
Without getting into it, I don't want to get into spdcifics,
the schemes are quite compldx, but from what I've seen,
I would say it's resolvable, sortable, we will sort it,
we will find a solution and I want to give an assur`nce
to the 20,000 pensioners, I'm there to sort this
in the correct way.
The committee moved on to the sale of BHS to Dominic Chappell,
who was running the firm at the time it went into administration.
What happened is beyond horrible.
There was direct intention.
There was zero intention.
I said when I leave here today you'll either think I'm a lhar
or I'm telling you the truth, but I'm not a liar, OK?
Unfortunately, we found the wrong guy.
And during that corporate governance and board arrangement,
did anyone challenge you or the subgroup on this point?
In terms of selling to Chappell
I think you've heard...
Whether we got misled, whether we got duped,
unfortunately there seems to be a lot of people that acceptdd
this guy at face value.
Lawyers, accountants, all sorts of other people,
happy to take shares in his company, banks prepared to write letters
whether they're good or not, right?
These are the facts.
Unfortunately, sadly, it was the wrong owner.
We could keep going over...
You said you don't want to be here all day, you could be
here for the rest of your life.
Would I do that deal again? No.
Am I sorry we did it? Yes.
One of the things I'm reallx interested in about corporate
governance is it's very cle`r, I've never met you before,
but three and a half hours in you seem a very
dominant personality, but you seem extraordinarilx...
There's ten of you and one of me.
And you're holding your own, believe me, you're holding xour own.
But you seem extraordinarilx thin-skinned to quite
courteous questions, as if you don't want
to be challenged in any way, shape or form...
Let me finish.
In terms of that wider corporate governance point, in respect
of the selling of BHS.
Did anybody, particularly a nonexecutive director, sax,
Phil, I'm not entirely certain this is correct,
can we challenge you on this?
That doesn't seem to be the culture of the organisation.
That's your opinion.
The latest in the saga of BHS.
You're watching our round-up of the day in the Commons
and the Lords.
Still to come, why are therd so few women at the top
of the civil service?
The arguments over staying in or departing from
the European Union continued later in the day in the Commons as MPs
debated and backed a Labour motion saying the UK
was better off inside the ET.
MPs calling for a Remain vote heavily outnumbered
those supporting Leave, warning that exiting
would hit the economy.
But those in favour of Brexht rejected that, saying we'd be
better off out of the EU.
Opening the exchanges, the Shadow Chancellor said dveryone
should be clear that Labour was for Remain.
It is about jobs, investment, trade with our largest markdt
and the protection of emploxment rights for workers,
so that they can secure the benefits of participation in the market.
But for many of us, it's also about creating another Europe.
A Europe that is more democratic, that promotes social justicd
as well as prosperity, a Europe that is more equal
and sustainable economicallx and environmentally.
He asked Labour voters if they would trust the leaders
of the Leave campaign with jobs and public services.
We have witnessed in the last 7 hours the reaction of the world
markets to just shifts in the bowls pointing towards a possible Brexit.
markets to just shifts in the polls pointing towards a possible Brexit.
100 million has been knocked off the value of shares and the value
of the pound has dropped.
The Brexit campaign in four days have done more damage to capitalism
than the Socialist Workers Party in 40 years.
It is difficult to see how dven the most upbeat Brexiteer couldn't
see that we are likely to face months, years,
perhaps a decade of confidence sapping, investment and job
destroying uncertainty that will take this country back
to the dark days of 2008.
And I for one, Mr Speaker, never want to go there again.
All the gloomy and bogus forecasts we've been getting from the people
who wish to Remain in are b`sed on the assumption that the single
market is some precious and virtuous body we can belong to,
which has fuelled our prospdrity and manufacturing growth so far
and which would no longer bd available to us if we left.
And of course they are wrong on both counts.
Our membership of the singld market has not helped our manufacttring,
and when we Leave we will still have access to the single market,
just as the 165 other countries around the world have access to that
market daily without being lembers and having to accept the frdedom
of movement provisions, without having to accept thd taxes
and laws that are imposed on us on a wide range of issues that have
nothing to do with trade wh`tsoever.
I tell you what will happen.
That pound will plummet.
Inflation and prices for ordinary people will go up.
We will be caught in a whirlwind, an economic whirlwind,
which these people irresponsibly want to inflict on millions
of our citizens.
It is a scandalous view to take
Inside the single market, we ran a monumental trade ddficit
and we have an enormous trade surplus with the rest
of the world which is growing.
That is the future.
That is the vision, that is the means by
which we will get jobs.
That is the means by which we will ensure the future
of our children and grandchhldren.
And, to conclude, Mr Deputy Speaker, it is very simple.
It is about who governs us.
And if we get this wrong we will not be able to organise and to dstablish
a democracy in this country which is what the people fotght
and died for not just in ond world war, but twice.
The SNP warned of a right wing Tory power grab.
You cannot trust them with social protection, you cannot trust them
with our environment and you certainly cannot trtst them
with workers' rights.
This is a Tory excuse for more austerity and it is what is coming
if you vote to Leave.
There are no economic benefhts to the UK fishermen from melbership
of the European Union.
Around 92% of fishermen are calling for the UK to Leave.
I say, let's throw them a lifeline and Vote Leave.
The referendum debate in the Commons.
A last-minute rush of peopld to get registered to vote in the ET
Referendum caused a governmdnt website to crash last week.
The deadline for registration was extended by 48 hours.
Some members of the Leave c`mp saw the extending of the deadline
as a ploy to get more peopld likely to vote Remain on to the register.
At Lords Questions, two Labour peers said the addition of extra dlectors
on to the list might also m`ke the map of re-drawn Commons
constituencies out of date.
Of course, it is well known that substantially increased numbers
Of course, it is welcome th`t substantially increased numbers
of people have registered to vote in recent weeks.
Doesn't this have clear implications as far as the work
of the parliamentary boundary commission is concerned?
Due to report in September but now likely to report on the bashs
of substantially out of datd electoral registration figures.
We have now perhaps as many as million new people on the rdgister,
arising out of what has happened in the referendum.
Surely those people on thesd registers should now be takdn
into account in the setting of boundaries?
Otherwise the boundaries ard false boundaries, they're not reldvant.
And isn't the fact that if the government don't do this
it shows that they are showing political bias.
I repute the final point thd noble Lord makes.
Unless you have a defined d`te and a set of registers to assess,
it's impossible to run a review
And registers for a boundarx review are necessarily a snapshot.
As regards the number of registrations, no,
it is always the case that this has always been conducted like this
And I would further like to say that we need to wait for thdse
registers to be compiled to see how many of those who have applhed
to register to vote are exactly duplicates or not.
And soon after that the Lords also debated the arguments over leaving
or exiting the European Union.
The one-time leader of Ukip, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has
for years been deeply critical of the workings of the EU and has
long argued Britain would be better off out.
He took a swipe at the political class which, he said,
was largely pro-EU.
Your Lordships House is a vdry Europhile place.
Well-stocked with former government ministers,
Members of Parliament and servants of the EU,
who between them have been responsible over long
and what they no doubt regard as successful lives for bringing
this country to its present state of subservience to the corrtpt
octopus in Brussels.
My Lords, it must be disappointing for them to see so much ingratitude
and anger boiling up amongst the British people against
the project in which they h`ve invested so much and in
which they so fervently belheve
My Lords, that's why during this referendum campaign you havd seen
Project Octopus turning into Project Fear.
And we are told to be fearftl of leaving the clutch
of its tentacles.
A former EU Trade Commissioner criticised the Leave campaign.
Their plans would pitch Britain in my view, into limbo,
a state of ill-defined economic legal uncertainty that would be
a state of ill-defined economic and legal uncertainty that would be
I think the most serious self-inflicted damage to thd UK
economy since the three-day week, which I remember being imposed
in December 1973.
But one of the things that we know about divorce in the real world
is that it is usually expensive and it is very often acrimonious.
So even if a couple think that they will be happier
apart than together, it's very rare to have a divorce
that doesn't include lawyers, who benefit probably
more than anybody else.
And it doesn't end up being costly.
Migration both into Europe and across Europe intensifids
resentment and generates extremism.
The governing structures of the EU threaten to be as disastrous
as the euro.
The system is an aggregation of democracies but it is not
It was never intended to be so by its authors.
Rational public servants who were horrified at what they had
seen weak democracies and populist fascism do.
Policy initiative continues to rest with the unelected commission,
the Council of Ministers as such has no accountability.
I just want to say how dism`yed I am by the way in which the pied pipers
of Leave are attempting to lead the people of this country
into a dark mountain, from which we can only emerge
reduced and poorer.
The Lords debate on Europe.
The Prime Minister has been accused of having re-assembled the so-called
glass ceiling in Whitehall, with just one in five of top senior
roles going to women.
Latest figures show that 80$ of permanent secretaries,
the highest-ranking civil servants, are men.
As a result, Labour is callhng for the shortlists from
which permanent secretaries are appointed to be made public
In 2011, 50% of permanent secretaries were female
for the first time.
Since then, and since the Prime Minister took control
the glass ceiling has been painstakingly reassembled.
If he can't be trusted to appoint women, then isn't it
about time we introduce some positive discrimination?
We have in fact appointed a range of permanent secretaries
who are women in the last fdw months and I am glad to be able to tell
the honourable member that we are also doing a grdat deal
to try to make sure that thd pool from which we draw the perm`nent
secretaries in the first pl`ce, obviously the directors gendral
is significantly improving.
As the minister has just confirmed, since the Prime Minister gave
himself the power to appoint, 80% of permanent secretaries
are now men.
In the spirit of open government, will the minister commit
to publishing the shortlists from which the Prime
Minister has appointed?
I will go back and talk to colleagues about the methods
by which we publish what happens in that procedtre.
But I would like to point ott to the opposition spokesman
that the pool from which we...
The pool from which we draw the permanent secretaries
is the secretaries general.
And that's it for this programme.
MPs and peers are now off for a week and a half,
enabling them to play a full part in the final, remaining days
of the Referendum campaign.
Voting is, as we all know, on Thursday the 23rd.
This programme returns on the day that Parliament is scheduled
to return, Monday 27 June.
In the meantime, do join me for the best of this week's events,
in The Week in Parliament, at 11pm on Friday night.
Until then, from me Keith Macdougall, goodbye.