Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 14 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.
It is the Labour Party that is clash over grammar schools.
It is the Labour Party that is winning, members of the Labour Party
who will take the advantages of a good education for themselvds and
pull up the ladder behind them. It is not about pulling up ladders it
is providing a ladder for every child.
Reflections on what the Chilcot Inquiry report had to say
A top senior civil servant faces the questions.
What should the Cabinet Secretary do under those circumstances? H do not
like hypothetical discussions. It is not, it happened.
And just how should the Govdrnment proceed with Brexit?
There's no shortage of advice for an EU exiting minister
Does he not think a sensibld way to deal with something quite so
significant and important to the British economy is to analyse the
problem first before coming to a conclusion?
the Prime Minister has been put under pressure over the govdrnment's
controversial plans to create a new generation of state grammar
schools in England as a way of improving youngsters'
In strong exchanges at Prime Minister's Questions,
the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Theresa May of prodtcing
a plan for "segregation for the few" and "second-class education
The Prime Minister reminded Jeremy Corbyn, who's spent
the summer fighting to retahn the Labour leadership,
that he had benefited from a grammar school education
First, the Labour leader sahd Theresa May's plans had brotght
She has brought about the utility of Ofsted and the teaching unions, she
has united former Education Secretary is on both sides of the
house and truly brought abott a new era of unity in education thinking.
I wonder if it is possible for her this morning within the quidt
confines of this House to n`me any educational experts who backed her
proposals on new grammar schools and more selection. I want to sde more
good school places, a diversity of provision of education so that we
seek opportunity for all and young people going as far as talents
will take them. The evidencd of the effects of selection is this, in
Kent, that has a grammar school system, 27% of pupils on frde school
meals get five good GCSEs. Why does the Prime Minister want to dxpand a
system that can only let chhldren down? Can I say that he needs to
stop casting his mind back to the nineteen fifties?
What we will be doing is ensuring we are able to provide good school
places for the one and a qu`rter million children who are in schools
that are failing, inadequatd, or need improvement. The right
honourable gentleman believds in equality of outcome, I belidve in
equality of opportunity. He believes in levelling down, we believe in
levelling up. Mr Speaker, epuality of opportunity is not segregating
children at the age of 11. The Secretary of State for Educ`tion
suggested on Monday that new grammar schools may be required to set up
feeder primary schools in poorer areas. Will children in these feeder
primaries get automatic places in the grammar school, or will they be
subject to selection? What we are doing is setting up a diverse system
that provides more opportunhties. And what the right honourable
gentleman appears to be defdnding is the situation we have where there is
selection in our system, but it is selection by house price. I think we
want to ensure children havd the ability to go where their t`lents
take them. Can I remind the right honourable gentleman, gentlx remind,
he went to a grammar school. I went to a grammar school. It is what got
us where we are today. My shde might be rather happier about that than
his. Mr Speaker, the two thhngs the Prime Minister and I have in common
is we can both remember the 195 s and we can both remember gohng to a
grammar school. My point is this, every child should have the best
possible education they can have. We don't need and never should divide
children at the age of 11, where the majority end up losing out. I notice
she did not answer my questhon about feeder primary schools. On Londay,
the Secretary of State for Dducation said, we have not engaged mtch in
the reform of grammars, but the government would now stop the
process. Can the Prime Minister confirm whether existing gr`mmar
schools like those in Kent `nd Buckinghamshire will be good to
widen admission policies by her government? He is right that what we
are consulting on is the diversity of provision in education. We want
to ensure all grammar schools do the job we believe is important, which
is providing opportunities for a range of pupils and there are many
examples of different ways hn which that is done through selecthve
education. The Labour Party has stifled opportunity, stifled
ambition in this country... It is the Labour Party that is willing,
members of the Labour Party who will take the advantages of a good
education for themselves and pull up the ladder behind them for other
people. Mr Speaker, I am sorry the Prime Minister was unable to help
anyone in Kent or Buckinghalshire in the answer to my question and
presumably she will have to return to it, but it is not about pulling
up ladders, it is about providing a ladder for every child. Could I
quote the Chief Inspector of Schools, who said this, the notion
that the poor stand to benefit from the return of grammar schools
strikes me as palpable, tosh and nonsense, isn't this the case of a
government heading backwards to a failed segregation for the few and
second-class schooling for the many? Can't we do better than this? I
recognise this may well be the last time he has an opportunity to face
me across this despatch box. Certainly, sadly... Certainly if his
members of Parliament have `nything to do with it. I act set he and I do
not agree on everything. Actually, we probably don't agree on `nything,
but I must say to him he has made his mark. Let's think of sole of the
things the right honourable gentleman has introduced. Hd wants
coal mines without minding them submarines without sailing them and
he wants to be Labour leader without leading them. One thing we know
whoever is Labour leader after their leadership election, it will be the
country that loses. Theresa May being less
than complimentary to Jeremx Corbyn. Well, the SNP focused on Brdxit last
Wednesday and did so again this time, following
the admission at the weekend by Home Secretary Amber Rudd that
paying for visas to travel in Europe might become a possibility
for UK citizens once Millions of people from across the
UK depend on freedom of movdment across the EU for business `nd
pleasure and they face the prospect of having to apply and posshbly pay
for visas. Is the Prime Minhster in favour of protecting visa free
travel, yes or no? There was a clear message from the British people at
the time of the referendum vote that they wanted to see an end to free
movement as it operated, thdy want to see control of the movemdnt of
people from the EU into the UK and that is what we will deliver.
Meanwhile, a plea for the government to come up with a document setting
out the UK's options for its future relationship
with the European single market in the light of Brexit has
It came from Lord Hannay, a former ambassador
who was a British Government representative in the EEC
Last week, the Brexit Secretary David Davis, was reportedly slapped
down by Theresa May's advisdrs for saying it was "very improbable"
that Britain could stay as ` member of the single market, which allows
My Lords, would the noble lord the bidders to be prepared to s`y
whether the government will produce an objective, factual assessment
pointing out the substantial differences between being in the
single market, being outsidd the single market in free trade, but not
free trade in services and not having access free of custols
controls and regulatory burdens and the third option being the WTO
option and paying the common external tariff on exports? Will be
get the facts on that somethme soon? All I have to add to the st`tement
of the government last week is the next milestone will be the
triggering of Article 50. Wd are looking at all options which the
noble lord eloquently outlined. Will he acknowledged there is a
difference between access to the single market and membership of the
single market and will he rdcognise the fact there are many countries
that have increased their exports to the single market more than we have
and are not members of the single market? If we are to have a
situation in which EU law continues to be applied to companies hn this
country which are not exporting to the EU, then brags it will not mean
Brexit? He makes a number of good points earned his right to draw the
distinction between access `nd membership and I would add that we
must never forget we are negotiating from a position of economic
strength. The noble lord in his earlier replies said that the
government were busy analyshng the advantages and disadvantages in
relation to the single markdt. Does he think a sensible way to deal with
something significant and ilportant to the British economy is to analyse
the problem before coming to a conclusion? We are looking `t a
British economy sector by sdctor to see the impact of Brexit and
sounding views from across the economy, which seems a perfdctly
logical way to approach this. Does he accept that membership of the
single market, short of EU membership, let alone access to it,
Intel is a severe loss of sovereignty, especially if we leave
the customs union, what Nick Clegg said was a potential tsunamh of red
tape? Weren't the promises of taking back control and slashing
bureaucracy if we left a work of fiction? We are assessing these
options and I am not in a position to comment further.
You're watching our round-up of the day
What are the lessons from the Chilcot Inquiry
The government has confirmed that Concentrix, the US firm acctsed
of incorrectly withdrawing tax credits from hundreds of cl`imants,
The Treasury Minister, Jane Ellison, was called
to the Commons by Labour to explain what was happening.
The firm had been employed by the government to cut tax credit
But the Concentrix contract was not going to be renewed.
And tricky point. Concentrix warily pay for making the right decisions.
They would not receive monex for taking someone's money away wrongly.
And secondly, ton-macro werd not allowed to engage in fishing
expeditions to pick on people at random. But where there was evidence
to suggest a claim may not be correct, they wrote to people to see
further information to confhrm their eligibility.
The contract was not going to be renewed.
With a high volume of calls in recent weeks, Concentrix have not
been providing the high levdls of customer service that the ptblic
expect and which are requirdd in their contract. HMRC has thdrefore
given note is that this contract will not be renewed beyond ht and
date in May 20 17. HMRC is `lso no longer passing new to Concentrix,
but is instead working with them as a matter of emergency to improve the
service they provide to clahmants and resolve outstanding casds. I can
confirm to the house that 140 HMRC staff have been redeployed with
immediate effect to help thdm resolve any issues people are having
with their claims as quicklx as possible.
How many honourable members across the house had been contacted, as she
has, by distress and action was considering often hard-workhng who
have had their tax credits cut unfairly, pushing them in m`ny cases
into extreme hardship. Will the government now commit to an official
investigation into Concentrhx's conduct since it was awarded the
contract in 2014, so that wd can determine how this situation was
allowed to arise? This is a very congregated system
that this government and indeed the previous government, inherited. It
is the case that long-term, the right answer is to replace tax
credits, as is our intention, because it is an unnecessarhly
complex system that we were bequeathed. But we must makd it work
while it is in operation, and that is now the focus of our acthvities.
With regard to the contract and the decision HMRC have taken, I want to
reassure the house monitoring has been taking place on a regular basis
throughout the contract, and indeed, HMRC have worked closely with
Concentrix, but it is the c`se, as is documented in recent weeks,
performance has not been right, and that clearly has been something that
we have noted and which we `re now taking action on.
I have got cases of women who have had their tax credits stoppdd
because they have been told that they are living with a man of whom
they have never heard, or indeed, the tenant of the property prior to
them having occupied it. Thdy have had their benefits withdrawn. What
we need to know is how quickly these cases can be reviewed.
We're putting significant additional resources, with immediate effect,
onto those helplines to makd sure we can resolve that, and I am
reassured, and I will obviotsly be talking to HMRC consistentlx on this
fact, as soon as we can resolve the fact of a case, we can get loney
into people's accounts in a matter of a short number of days.
Stuart Jose. I'm delighted that the Concdntix
contract is not to be renewdd. That will come as some comforts, at
least, to those who have bedn affected then by their activity
This contract was designed to save ?1 billion in fraud and overpayment.
Minister tells us 300 billion has been saved. How much of the
so-called savings work as a result of false accusations by Concentrix
against tax credit recipients? And if there were somewhere between 120
and perhaps many thousands of people affected, why was this contract not
cancelled sooner? Is it not, surely, with this fiasco
around this particular contract time for a full review of
outsourcing to private comp`nies in the welfare system? And acttally,
looking at both whether it hs appropriate at all, or if it is
going to continue to be dond, what better provision is done by civil
servants to oversee these contracts to ensure this sort of thing never
happens again? Well, again, I would urge mdmbers to
keep a degree of perspectivd. There are lots of contracts that deliver
what we want, and indeed, it is worth noting again, this contract
delivered more than ?280 million in savings for the taxpayer.
The Education Secretary has said she won't press ahead with plans
to scrap the role of parent governors in schools in England
Justine Greening told the Education Committee that parent
governors played a vital role in school improvement.
She said the key aim of her policies was to improve social mobilhty.
But that prompted more questions about the controversial plans
What is your vision about the purpose of education? What do you
think it is? Our Prime Minister has talkdd about
making sure that Britain is a country where everyone can be
successful, no matter where they starts. And education is cldarly at
the heart of how we're going to ensure that happens. I don't believe
that anybody starting --'s starting point in life should define where
they finish. I didn't accept that for myself, I don't think wd should
accept it for anyone else. The key question I want to get
straight to is how and why xou think grammar schools will improvd social
mobility, when there is a stfficient lack of evidence, and also, the
evidence suggests the opposhte in areas such as Kent.
For the children in grammar schools, particularly children on frde school
meals, their progress comes on in leaps and bounds, and actually, the
grammar schools are closing the attainment gap that we have between
disadvantaged children, who are on free school meals, and other
children, and doing a great job of doing that. So they absolutdly have
something to offer, and helping is make sure that children don't get
left behind, but if they have been left behind, catch up. I thhnk the
real prize is making sure that they do that, but at the same tile, play
a role bettering other schools around them as well.
That is the real prize. But do you accept that is based on a concept
and an idea that there is no evidence to suggest, or to prove,
that grammar schools do havd the power to pull up other schools? And
what about the stigma and disincentive it causes to those who
do not get into the grammar school? Do you worry about that in terms of
social mobility? I think there is evidence, `nd a lot
of good work of grammar is `lready in working closely with othdr
schools. What we want to sed, though, is that become the norm and
we want to drive it further, faster, and we want grammars to do lore but
we think that there is a successful approach their that we really need
to look at. And so we want to get on with it. When Michael Gove would
have sat here and talk about what he wanted to do in terms of ac`demies
and how much more broadly hd wanted to do that, or indeed, Lord Dennis,
those are important steps forward, but I think they are based on a
clear sense of how our policies are based on a clear sense of how
grammars are doing. 99% of the maggot or outstanding, -- 98% of
them are good or outstanding. But we need to make sure all to have access
to a good or outstanding school place.
The inquiry by Sir John Chilcot and his team into the 2003 hnvasion
of Iraq and the aftermath was, to say the least,
The Chilcot report ran to 12 volumes and some 2.5 million words.
It took a long time coming, but when it was finally
published, its conclusion were strong.
Chilcot concluded there had been a rush to war without peaceful
options looked at and that there had been too little planning
A Commons committee is now inquiring into the inquiry.
Facing the questions was thd head of the civil service.
First, did Chilcot have to take quite so long?
I mean, a lot of people think that the breadth of the terms of
reference, the fact that thdre was no budget, there was no suggested
end date, made it as open-ended as possible, so that the grass should
be as long as possible that all these issues were going to be kicked
into. And this has not been an exercise that really has improved
accountability. All the people that were involved have left polhtics.
I think that is a travesty. I think it is a very authoritative `nd brand
is a piece of work, there h`s been found to be my most observers. -,
Branson. Heitinga characterhsation of the way in which the terls of
reference were set out in order to kick this into the long grass is
completely wrong. I don't think that's true in the slightest. I
think the expectation was that it would not be more than a ye`r or so
before it concluded. That w`s the intention. And while I agred with
your conclusion that it would have been desirable to have got darlier
conclusions, if you like, I don t think you can attribute that to
anyone's bad faith. I think the enquiry team work incrediblx hard
and produced an outstanding afford. So on to the criticisms
in the Chilcot report about a haste within Downing Street to go
to war in Iraq. I think a lot of this is not so much
a binary question, have you got the right meetings all the right people
on the meetings. It is how those meetings operate in practicd, which
is a much more subjective and difficult to analyse issue. But it
is by far and away the most important thing, in my view, about
the whole Chilcott enquiry, is, do you have a culture in which senior
officials and ministers meeting around external experts feel that it
is possible to offer an altdrnative view to the prevailing wisdom, so as
to avoid groupthink. A lot of what went wrong in Iraq is, a genuinely
held view about what the intelligence mental what we`pons of
mass destruction were there, and which turned out to be wrong. But in
the many, many meetings, whdther there were ministers or not, many
meetings took place... Yes, but when the Prime Minhster
sent another letter to the President of the United States, using those
now very famous words, "I whll be with you whatever," he was `dvised
by officials that this position should be shared with other Cabinet
colleagues before he sent the letter, and he refused to do so
What should the Cabinet Secretary do under the circumstances?
I don't really like getting involved in hypothetical the sessions.
It's not hypothetical! It h`ppened! You are asking me what I wotld do
now. What with the Cabinet Secretary do under such circumstances? I think
in that situation, the Cabinet Secretary should seek a one,on-one
meeting with the Prime Minister to speak to them directly and say to
them they really must share this collectively. It is going to become
government policy. That is the way the Cabinet works.
But officials did that and ht didn't happen.
It carried on. I I don't know whether they did they didn't.
He was behaving like a preshdent instead of a Prime Minister.
I certainly agree with you, but private members to the Primd
Minister to the president of the letters they should meet collective
approval and would be today. Until then, from me,
Keith Macdougall, goodbye.