Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 7 September, 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...
Summer is over, new term, new mockery from the new Prime Minister.
Lewis writes, "Does she know that in a recent poll on who would make
a better Prime Minister, 'don't know' scored higher
than Jeremy Corbyn?"
But Labour says the Government is muddled and confused over Brexit.
The outcome has left this country divided with increased
levels of hate crimes, huge uncertainty about what comes
next for our country.
And the great education debate...
In improving children's life chances, do grammar schools pass
the test or should they be given a fail mark?
Grammar schools will benefit a minority of pupils.
It was their destruction, it was a major cause
of the reduction in social mobility.
But first, Wednesday at Westminster means Prime Minister's Question Time
and the still emerging duel between Theresa May
and Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr Corbyn could, in theory, have only a couple of
weeks left in the job.
The outcome of the battle with his leadership contender,
Owen Smith, will be known two weeks on Saturday.
Facing the Prime Minister, the Labour leader stuck to one
of his main priority issues, namely housing.
He said the average price of a house in Britain is now ?215,000,
eight times the level of the average wage.
For those who are desperate to get their own place,
I just refer the Prime Minister to a note I received
from a lady called Jenny, whose partner and herself
work in a supermarket earning ?7.37 an hour each.
They are trying to get a mortgage and have been told
they can borrow ?73,000 - not much hope for them then.
The former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Witney,
promised that there would be a one-for-one replacement
for every council house that is sold under Right to Buy.
Sadly, the reality is that there is only one for every five sold.
Will the Prime Minister give us a commitment on the one-for-one
replacement and when it will be a reality?"
Well, firstly, can I say to Jenny that I fully understand
and appreciate the concerns that individuals have about wanting to be
able to have their own home and to set up that home.
I fully recognise the difficulties that there are for some people
in doing that.
I have to say to the right honourable gentleman that
in relation to the figures on council housing, he is wrong,
we have delivered on the one-for-one replacement on the Right to Buy.
But, I was...
I am very interested because I did notice that the right honourable
gentleman had asked all his Twitter followers what questions he should
ask me this week, so I thought I would look to see what sort
of responses he'd received.
I have to say that the first one was quite good.
In fact, he might want to make sure he stays sitting down for this.
Lewis writes, "Does she know that in a recent poll on who would make
a better Prime Minister, 'don't know' scored higher
than Jeremy Corbyn?"
Mr Speaker, what we do know is that whoever wins the Labour Party
leadership, we're not going to let them anywhere
near power again.
Mr Speaker, the number of first-time buyers has halved in the last 20
years and their average age has increased a great deal.
There is a housing crisis in Britain.
What I say is what this government is doing,
is ensuring that we are looking across the board so we will see
more houses being built, we're looking to ensure
that there is a diversity of opportunity for people in terms
of getting their own home.
But I have to say to the right honourable gentleman that everything
he says just tells us all we need to know about modern Labour...
The train has left the station, the seats are all empty,
the leader is on the floor...
Even on rolling stock, they are laughing stock.
Jeremy Corbyn went back to the conditions of
some rented housing.
The Citizens Advice Bureau says one sixth of housing benefit goes
to private sector landlords renting out unsafe homes.
Does the Prime Minister think this really is a satisfactory
state of affairs?
We are introducing new regulations in relation to housing
in multiple occupation, so we're looking at
all of these issues.
I recognise, as every Member of Parliament in this house will,
the problems that people sometimes have when they are living
in accommodation that is not up to the standard that we would all
wish to see people living in.
That is why we are looking, we are changing the rules
and we are ensuring that the regulations are there.
Well, that is extremely interesting, Mr Speaker, because only one year
ago the Prime Minister voted against a Labour amendment
to the Housing Bill which quite simply said all homes rented
in the private rented sector should be fit for human habitation.
And just over one year ago the Treasury estimated
that it is losing half of ?1 billion per year on unpaid tax
from landlords renting in the private rented sector.
So there we have it, ?9.5 billion in housing benefit,
half a billion not being collected, a very large number of homes not
really fit for human habitation.
Does this not require government intervention on the side of the
tenant and those in housing need?
He may have a model of society where he does not want to see
private landlords, where he wants to see the Government owning
everything, the Government deliberating on everything
and the Government doing everything for everybody, that
is not what we want.
We want opportunities for people and to help them take
those opportunities, there is a big difference
between him and me.
Of course, we all recognise there is a mixed housing economy
but we want to make sure that those living in the private rented sector
are properly treated and not having to pay excessive levels of rent.
Well, ten weeks have gone by since the momentous vote
for the UK to leave the EU.
But are we any closer to knowing more about the terms
of Britain's departure and what the country's future
relationship with the continuing EU will be?
The issue was focused on at PMQs by the Scottish National Party.
The UK Government has had all summer to come up
with a plan, a strategy.
So far we have just had waffle.
So may I ask the Prime Minister a very simple question,
but it is quite important?
Does she want the UK to remain firmly in
the European single market?
What I want in the UK is that we put into place and into practice
the vote that was taken by the people of the United Kingdom
to leave the European Union.
And that we get the right deal for the trading goods and services
within the European Union and a new relationship
that we will be building with them and that we will also introduce
control of the movement of people from the European Union
into the United Kingdom.
And I would say to the right honourable gentleman that we can
approach the vote that took place on 23 June in two ways.
We could try to row back on it, have a second referendum and say
that we did not really believe it, but actually we are respecting
the views of the British people.
More than that, we will be seizing the opportunities that leaving
the European Union now gives us to forge a new role
for the United Kingdom in the world.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
We on these benches respect the views of the people of Scotland,
who voted to remain in the European Union.
The European single market...
The right honourable gentleman must be heard and he will be heard.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
The European single market is the biggest market in the world
and it really matters to our businesses and to our economy.
I asked the Prime Minister a very, very simple question, to which there
is either an in or an out answer.
Let me ask it again.
Does she want the United Kingdom to remain fully part
of the European single market?
Yes or no?
The right honourable gentleman does not seem to quite understand
what the vote on 23 June was about.
The United Kingdom will leave the European Union and we will build
a new relationship with the European Union.
That new relationship will include control over the movement of people
from the EU into the UK, and it will include the right deal
for trade in goods and services.
That is how to approach it.
I also say to him that, in looking at the negotiations,
it would not be right for me or this government to give a running
commentary on negotiations...
May I just comment that following the EU referendum
and under her leadership, I feel more confident
about the future of this country than ever in my lifetime?
And will she beware those who are trying to make leaving
the European Union ever more complicated and protracted?
To that end...
Order, progress is very slow.
There is far too much noise, the honourable gentleman will be
heard, it is as simple as that.
He will be heard.
And to that end, will the Prime Minister confirm
that there is no basis in law to require the Government to seek
the permission of Parliament before invoking Article 50?
As he alludes to in his question, no one should be in any doubt
that those who are trying to prolong the process by their legal
references in relation to Parliament are not those who want to see
us successfully leave the European Union, they are those
who want to try to stop us leaving the European Union.
Well, a few minutes after that, the Prime Minister gave
the customary report back to MPs on the outcome of the weekend's
summit in China of the G20 group of leading nations.
It allowed the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
to challenge the Prime Minister on the Brexit issue.
Mr Speaker, when the British people voted to leave the European Union,
they did not vote to leave Europe.
To turn inwards or to walk away from the G20 or any
of our international partners around the world.
That's never been the British way.
We've always understood that our success as a sovereign
nation is inextricably bound up in our trade
and cooperation with others.
The G20 met in the wake of the vote to leave the European union.
We have to be clear, we accept the decision taken
by the majority of our people, however, we cannot ignore the fact
that the outcome has left this country divided,
with increased levels of hate crimes, huge uncertainty
about what comes next for our country and an extraordinary
lack of planning and preparation on how to navigate
the post-referendum situation in relation to Europe.
He said ministers had come up with contradictory
messages that did not add up to a considered position.
The Brexit Secretary said that staying in the single
market was improbable.
The Prime Minister's spokesperson said that was not the case.
It is one or the other.
It cannot be both.
So, can the Prime Minister tell the House what the Government's
policy actually is?
It will be a new relationship and as indicated in my statement
and indeed in Prime Minister's Questions earlier, I will not be
giving a running commentary, nor will the Government,
on our negotiations.
And there is a very good reason for doing that, we want
to get the best deal, we want to get the right deal
for the United Kingdom and if we were to give a constant
running commentary and give away our negotiating hand,
then that would not be what we would achieve.
Now Australia today has joined the United States at the G20
last week in slapping down her government,
telling us we are in fact at the back of the queue for a trade
deal, the plain fact is that this government is not
concealing its hand, it hasn't got a hand,
or it would appear a clue.
I would like like to thank the Prime Minister for clarifying
that her Brexit Secretary was wrong to rule out membership
of the European single market and that her Foreign Secretary
was wrong to campaign for a points-based immigration
system and that her International Trade Secretary was wrong to say
that we are leaving the customs union.
But is it not the case, Mr Speaker, that if we are to strike
trade deals with non-EU countries - and I am somebody who appreciates
the value of free trade deals - then we will have to leave
the customs union and that will bring disadvantages
for UK businesses and for foreign direct investment?
In the European Union, we currently run a deficit
with the other 27 member states - according to the Office
for National Statistics - of 62 billion each year.
However, we run a surplus for the same goods and services
with the rest of the world at over 30 billion, which went up
by 10 billion last year alone.
Will my right honourable friend therefore continue her crusade
for free trade to develop our world opportunities through Brexit
and to make sure that the European Commission and the European Union
are no longer continuing to run our trade policy -
we will do it ourselves and do it really well?
Why did the Prime Minister authorise a very public dressing down
of the Brexit Secretary merely for telling the House that
membership of the single market and free movement of people tend
to go together?
Is it not possible that the Brexit Secretary,
who has believed in this stuff for years, has thought more deeply
about it than a Prime Minister who has been a Brexiteer
for a matter of weeks?
Can we revert in this House to the traditional practice
where ministers are disciplined for misleading the House
as opposed to the odd occasion when they are caught
telling the truth?
Please could she tell us and clear up the confusion from yesterday,
does she value membership of the single market?
Does she think it should be an aim or an objective of the negotiations
and that we should be trying to stay in it if we can?
I would have to say to the right honourable lady, I have answered
this question on a number of occasions already today.
And she will find that she can, you know...
People ask me a question, I give an answer.
If they ask the same question, they will get the same answer.
You're watching our round-up of the day in the Commons and Lords.
Still to come, the new Home Secretary tells MPs how she sees
the immigration question.
Now, are grammar schools the way to improve the life chances
of children from disadvantaged backgrounds?
The debate over selective or comprehensive education was a big
political topic in previous decades.
Many hundreds of grammar schools were closed across England
and replaced by comprehensives.
But the arguments could now be rekindled.
Theresa May is said to favour re-instigating grammar
schools in certain areas as part of her mission
to improve social mobility.
This week, a private document by a civil servant about ending
restrictions on grammars was captured by a photographer
outside 10 Downing St.
The issue was taken up in the House of Lords by a Labour peer.
The inadvertent leak yesterday, if indeed that is how it was,
that the Government is seeking to create new grammar schools,
has caused widespread alarm.
Now, the noble lord the Minister has not accepted that that is the case,
but I think something must be afoot.
The Prime Minister has made it quite clear she wants a society
that works for everyone, she wants children to have access,
all children, to have access to a good education.
We are exploring our options for delivering this and we want
all good schools to help us in this endeavor.
Will the Minister agree that the majority...
Grammar schools will benefit a minority of pupils,
that's well-recognized, but they will not benefit
the majority of pupils, because the majority of pupils,
if I may say so, like me, are deprived the opportunity
to go to grammar schools?
Anyone who is really concerned about the great lack of social
mobility in recent years will be delighted about any possibility
of the return of grammar schools, since it was their destruction
that was a major cause of the reduction in social mobility.
Will the Minister tell the House what representations his department
has received for the return of secondary modern schools?
Well, as I said, this is a long-running debate.
We've had plenty of representations for the return of grammar schools.
In the great Butler Education Act, there was a provision
for a tripartite system - grammar schools, the secondary
moderns and the technical schools.
The failure of successive governments has been to institute
a suitable number of high-quality technical schools and that is one
of the reasons why we have lagged behind our rivals
in Germany in the provision of a skilled workforce.
Does the Minister not accept that, for every grammar school,
there is consequentially three secondary modern schools?
In other words, the comprehensive schools become secondary modern
schools, so that one child's social mobility is bought at the expense
of the destruction of opportunity for three other children?
As one who benefited from a grammar school education and who lives
in a county of Lincolnshire which has excellent grammar schools
which do no damaged to children at all, could I urge my noble
friends to support our right honourable friend
the Prime Minister, if indeed she is inclined to increase
the number of grammar schools in this country?
Of course, my job is to support the Prime Minister and I'm
fully aware that many, that most grammar schools
do an excellent job, but this is a long-running argument
and there are strong views on both sides and I can assure the House
that we won't do anything without detailed consideration
Next week, we'll get an idea of what parliamentary constituencies
in England and Wales might look like in future.
The Boundaries Commissions will be publishing their
The idea is to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and redraw
constituency boundaries in time for the general election of 2020.
In the Commons, Labour laid into the plans.
The review next week is going to be a sham.
Nearly 2 million voters haven't been counted, so why doesn't the Minister
start again so our democracy isn't undermined by next week's
Without the implementation of these reforms, legislated by a majority
in the previous Parliament, members will continue to represent
constituencies that were drawn up on data over 20 years ago,
disregarding significant changes in the population
since that happened.
The status quo cannot and must not be an option and in future
the boundary reviews will take place every five years to ensure
constituencies remain up-to-date as they should be.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
The number of electors in the Welsh parliamentary
constituencies varies hugely.
Cardiff South, over 72,000 electors, others have less than 40.
My constituency sits roughly in the middle with about 48,000.
Now, does the Minister agree that it can't be right for each
of these constituencies to elect one MP, when the number
of voters within them is so radically different?
It's absolutely right.
We cannot continue with the historic injustice of allowing such
unequal representation - representation that currently allows
for one seat to be twice the size of another,
or to be put in other words, allow one of elector's vote to be
worth twice that of another.
This injustice, long recognised, must be resolved.
Labour said ministers hoped to save ?12 million by cutting
the number of MPs, but...
Is it not the case that this town three redistribution is proceeding
on the basis of a register where 2 million people are excluded
and is that not an absolute affront to democracy?
-- boundary redistribution.
He is absolutely right to recognise that cutting the number of MPs
of MPs from 650 to 600, will not just save ?12 million,
it will save ?66 million over the course of a Parliament.
At the time, Mr Speaker, when many areas of public
life have found savings, it is right that we should
put our own house in order, equally it is right that we should
be finally establishing the Democratic principle of equal
size constituencies, first called for by the Chartists
back in 1838 and more recently endorsed by the committee
on standards in public life.
Does the Minister agree with the Lord Speaker that
membership of the House of Lords should be less
than that of the Commons?
The other place has an important role in scrutinising,
improving draft legislation, as a revising chamber.
The Government is clear that an unelected chamber should not seek
to block the will of the Commons.
The Conservative manifesto is clear that a reform of the House of Lords
is needed and we have seen significant reforms including
the retirement of peers.
Over 150 peers have left the Lord since 2010 and the chamber is 400
members smaller than 1998.
The operating cost of the Lords have also fallen by 14% since 2010.
The new minister, Chris Skidmore, who by the way studied
history at Oxford.
It may take some time, that was the phrase
of the Home Secretary Amber Rudd on Britain reaching the flagship
pledge on immigration, namely to reduce it to tens
of thousands - it was the target that the previous Prime Minister
David Cameron famously missed during his years in power,
a miss that could've played a key part in voting intentions in the EU
referendum in June.
Amber Rudd, who campaigned for a Remain result
in the referendum, has been facing questions for her first time
in the new job from the Home Affairs Committee.
The Prime Minister rejected the Australian style points system
as a vehicle to control immigration to the United Kingdom at the G20.
Given that this was a key opponent of the Brexit campaign,
given that many people understood this to be the mechanism
under which we could regain control of our borders
and that the public are, I believe, rightly concerned
about immigration, you may wish to comment on that,
how do you propose controlling migration and immigration
if a points-based system is not the way forward?
I think that with the Prime Minister drew attention to was
that the points-based system has not been a successful system
for limiting migration into a country.
Although the Prime Minister is committed, as I am,
to making sure we produce migration and we make sure that the public get
what they have voted for, which is more control
over their borders with European countries, the points-based
system is not going to be the way to deliver it.
We need to find a different way.
So two questions.
First, the points-based system could well be used, as in Australia,
to increase migration in certain areas, but it could also be used
to control migration if the bar was set high enough.
So perhaps that's a failing of the points-based system
in the past, but not a reason to rule it out.
I would welcome your comments on that.
But second, if it is not a points-based system,
how do you propose that migration is controlled going forward?
The Home Office is looking at the various alternatives.
I can't reveal anything more than that at the moment
because we want to make sure that we explore all the different
options and that the Prime Minister is armed with all the information
she needs, although it is fair to say she has a fairly substantial
expertise in this area.
And then she will be able to proceed with the negotiations
within the European Union.
-- with the European Union.
But I want to be absolutely clear that leaving the European Union
will mean having more control over our borders in a way
that we haven't to date when engaged with the European Union.
So are we still going for the tens of thousands?
We are still going to be looking to achieve tens of thousands,
but it may take some time.
And that's it for this programme.
Do join me for our next daily round-up.
Until then, from me, Keith McDougall, goodbye.