26/10/2016 Wednesday in Parliament


26/10/2016

Highlights of Wednesday 26 October in Parliament, presented by Keith Macdougall.


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Transcript


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Hello and Welcome to Wednesday in Parliament, our look at the best

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of the day in the Commons and the Lords.

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So how are we going to leavd the European Union?

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The party leaders clash, again, over Brexit.

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Devolved governments don't know the plan,

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businesses don't know the plan, Parliament doesn't know

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the plan.

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It is this Government that hs listening to the voice of the

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British people.

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Also on this programme:

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The firm employed to root ott fraud in the tax credits system comes

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in for criticism by MPs.

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This is about the duty of the Government to preserve

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justice being abandoned by the profit motive this contract

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provided.

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But first:

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"It's a shambolic Tory Brexht"

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the phrase of the Labour le`der Jeremy Corbyn when Prime Minister's

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Questions returned to the stbject of Britain's EU departure.

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Mr Corbyn said it was time Theresa May gave some clarity over

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the Government's plans.

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Meanwhile, the Prime Ministdr accused him of trying to "frustrate

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the will of the British people" that had been expressed in

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the June referendum.

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First, the Labour leader quoted the remarks of the First

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Minister of Wales - remarks that followed

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Monday's Downing Street meeting between Theresa May and the leaders

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of all the UK devolved asselblies.

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First Minister for Wales Carwyn Jones said there is a great deal of

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uncertainty but they are sure they need full

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and unfettered access to

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the single market.

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Can the Prime Minister help the First Minister

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of Wales and indeed the othdr devolved administrations by giving

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them some clarity?

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In relation to the issue of clarity on the aims

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that the Government has in relation to Brexit I have been very clear and

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I will be clear again.

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There are those who talk about means and those

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who talk about ends.

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I am talking about ends.

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What we want to see is

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the best possible arrangement for trade with and operation within

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the single European market for businesses in goods and services

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here in the United Kingdom.

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I thought for a moment the Prime Minister was going to say Brexit

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means Brexit again.

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There are others...

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I am sure she will tell us what it actually means.

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The Mayor of London also added this is causing

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unnecessary certainty but it is also very important...

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Uncertainty.

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Mr Speaker, it would be also helpful if

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the Prime Minister could provide some clarity over the Northdrn

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Ireland border.

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Will we continue membership of a customs union or are

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we going to see border checks introduced between Northern Ireland

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and the Republic?

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The Leader of the Opposition tries to poke fun at the

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phrase, Brexit means Brexit, but the whole point is this.

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Brexit, it's this Government that is

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listening to the voice of the British people.

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What the...

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Brexit means Brexit, that means we're coming

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out of the European Union.

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What the right honourable gentleman tries to

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be doing is frustrating the will of the British people

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by saying that Brexit means something completely

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different.

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In relation to the Northern Irish border a considerable amount

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of work was already going on with the Irish Government to look at

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issues around the Common Travel Area.

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That work is continuing.

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We have been very clear, the Government

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of the Republic of Ireland have been very clear,

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the Northern Ireland Executhve has been very clear, that

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none of us want to see a return to the borders of of the past.

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Every day the Prime Minister dithers over this chaotic

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Brexit employers delay investment, and rumours circulate about

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relocation.

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This cannot carry on until March of next year.

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When is the Prime Minister are going to come

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up with a plan?

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I want this country to be a global leader in free trade.

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The Labour Party is against free trade.

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I want to introduce control on free movement so that we haven't

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got free movement.

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The Labour Party wants to continue with free movemdnt.

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I want to deliver on the will of the British people.

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He is trying to frustrate the will of the British

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people.

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Mr Speaker, there was no answer on the border, which was thd

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question.

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And on Monday, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister told the House,

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and I quote, we have a plan which is not to set

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out at every stage of the

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negotiation the details.

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I have been thinking about this for a

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couple of days, Mr Speaker.

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And I think...

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I think when you are searchhng for the real meaning and

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importance behind the Prime Minister's statement

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you have to consult the

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great philosophers.

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The only one I can come up with ..

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Mr Cleverley, calm yourself.

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You are imperilling your own health, man, which is a

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source of great concern to le.

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Jeremy Corbyn.

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All I could come up with, Mr Speaker, was Baldrick, who says

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our cunning plan is to have no plan.

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Brexit was apparently about taking back control but the devolvdd

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governments don't know the plan businesses don't know the plan,

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Parliament doesn't know the plan.

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When will the Prime Minister abandon this shambolic Tory Brexit

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and develop a plan that delhvers for the whole country?

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We are going to deliver the best possible deal for

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trade in goods and services both with and operation within the

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European Union.

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And we are going to deliver an end to free movement.

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That is what the British people want and that is

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what this Government is

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going to deliver for them.

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The Prime Minister's real plan for Brexit

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seems to be to pick winners, to cut a special deal for the City of

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London, to let the bankers `void the dire consequences of le`ving the

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Economic Union.

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Wales has an exporting economy

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wirth a ?5 billion trade surplus last year and 200,000 jobs,

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dependent on trade with the European Union.

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A soft Brexit for her friends in the City, a hard Brexit for

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everyone else.

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Will she cut a similar deal for Wales?

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I will be cutting the best deal for United

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Kingdom, all parts of it.

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Russia has withdrawn a requdst to refuel a naval flotilla

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at a Spanish port in north @frica.

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A battle group has been sailing for the past week from Russha,

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and Spain had been facing pressure from its Nato partners

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to refuse access to the port because of concerns that thd Russian

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warships could take part in attacks on the beleaguerdd

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Syrian city of Aleppo.

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At Prime Minister's Questions, the SNP's Westminster leader

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Angus Robertson called Syri`

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"one of the biggest humanit`rian catastrophes of our time".

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He said he expected the latdst ceasefire in Aleppo

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would end shortly.

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Will the Prime Minister tell us what efforts the UK is currdntly

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undertaking to support a pe`ceful resolution to the conflict but also

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to deal with those who are exacerbating the situation?

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My right honourable friend the Foreign

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Secretary has been involved in discussions with the United States

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Secretary of State, Senator Kerry, about these particular issuds,

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looking for that way forward.

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I raised the issue of Russian actions in

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Syria, particularly the bombing of Aleppo, at the European Tnion

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council at the end of last week

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It was only on the agenda because the

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UK had raised it and as a result of that

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discussion the EU agreed that

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should the atrocities continue then we will look at all available

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options for taking action to put pressure on Russia to stop

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indiscriminate bombing of innocent civilians.

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In recent years more than

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60 Russian naval vessels have been resupplied in Spanish ports.

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Will the Prime Minister join me and EU and Nato

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allies in unequivocally calling on Spain to refuse refuelling?

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What we have seen sadly is that the Russians

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are already able to unleash attacks on innocent civilians in Syria.

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What matters is that we put pressure on

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Russia to do what everybody agrees is the only way that we are going to

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resolve this issue, which is to ensure that we have a polithcal

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transition in Syria and that is where we should

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focus our attention.

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Later at Prime Minister's Qtestions, Theresa May faced an accusation

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that the Government had broken its promise over

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the provision of adequate mental health services.

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The Labour MP Luciana Berger said half of all clinical

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commissioning groups, or CCGs, in England were having

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to reduce the amounts they spend on mental health services.

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That claim came after anothdr Labour MP had raised the tragic case

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of one of his relatives.

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Mr Speaker, last year my 25-year-old nephew

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committed suicide after a

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very short period of depression

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His GP had referred him for talking therapy, counselling,

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but warned him it would be `t least six months

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before he got an appointment.

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Mr Speaker, this treatment in the NHS

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very often is a waiting gamd, and a dangerous waiting gamd, and a

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postcode lottery.

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What is the Prime Minister doing to sort this crisis

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out?

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Can I first of all recognisd and commend the honourable gentleman

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for raising the personal experience that he has of the terrible tragedy

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that can occur when mental health problems are not properly ddalt

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with?

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He raises a very serious issue and that is a serious issue for

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everybody in this House on how the NHS treats mental health.

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That is why we have established this concept

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of parity of esteem for mental health and physical health hn the

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National Health Service.

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It is why we are seeing record levels of

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funding.

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Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister just told us there are record

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levels of spending going into our mental health services.

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The Health Secretary stood at that dispatch box on

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the 9th of December and told us that the proportion of fundhng

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going into mental health from every one of our

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CCGs should be increasing.

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Why is it then that 57% of CCGs in our country

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are reducing the proportion of spending

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are reducing the proportion of spending on mental healtht?

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Yet

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another broken promise.

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When will we have real equality for mental health

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in our country?

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The fact that I set out that we are spending record

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levels in the NHS on mental health is absolutely right.

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But I have said in response to a number of people who

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have questioned on this that we recognise that there is mord for us

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to do in mental health and H would have thought that we should have

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cross-party support in doing just that.

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At the start of the month Jeremy Hunt pledged that thd NHS

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in England would be "self-sufficient" in doctors after

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the UK leaves the European Tnion.

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The Health Secretary promisdd that medical schools in the UK would be

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allowed to offer up to 1,500 extra training places a year.

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Mr Hunt questioned whether Britain should continue to "import" doctors

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from poorer countries while turning away domestic graduates

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keen to study medicine.

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In the House of Lords, a Conservative peer said he was

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pleased with the Health Secretary's new approach, but he said

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the problem went deeper.

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Today, 56% of the intake of medical students is female.

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Furthermore, 70% of female GPs today work part-time,

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and a recent survey from the King's Fund says that 0%

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of all medical students in training want to work part-time.

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Given that it costs 200,000 to train anybody as a medical practitioner,

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surely the time has come to consider a minimum full-time commitmdnt

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of at least four years after qualification,

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similar to what they do in Singapore and indeed in our own Armed Forces.

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My noble friend is absolutely right that over 55% of men and wolen

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who go to medical school are now women, and I think

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that is a fantastic change that has happened over the last 20 ydars

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And it is true that more wolen than men tend to work part-time

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as they have children and bring up their children,

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and that is taken into accotnt in the planning done by HEE.

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When my right honourable frhend the Health Secretary

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announced that he would be looking in our consultation at requhring

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people to whom we have paid to go through medical school to ghve

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at least four years back to the NHS, which I think is reasonable.

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The figure is actually six xears if you become an Army doctor,

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so I think four years is not unreasonable.

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Is the noble lord, the minister aware that whilst there may be

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enough people wanting to apply to medical school,

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many of the brightest and the best are now completely turned away

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from doing medicine because of the relationship with

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the Secretary of State for Health?

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Hear, hear.

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This is a very serious mistrust and whether they're male or female,

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the brightest and the best are often not applying,

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and there is increasing evidence of this in most medical schools

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and indeed in schools as well.

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You're watching our round-up of the day

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in the Commons and the Lords.

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Still to come: In the post-Brexit world, do we need a new roy`l yacht?

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MPs have turned their fire on the Government over

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the management of its contr`ct with Concentrix.

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Her Majesty's Revenue and Ctstoms employed the American firm to

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root out fraud and error in the tax credit system, but Concentrhx has

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made some surprising mistakds, leaving thousands of people

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short of money after their benefits were stopped on the basis

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of flawed information.

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Last month, HMRC stepped in to review cases previously

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dealt with by Concentrix.

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The firm has also been told that its contract

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will not be renewed.

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Labour is calling on the Government to investigate what went wrong,

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and many MPs shared examples of errors faced

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by their constituents.

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I was contacted not so long ago by a woman in a similar sittation.

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She had been accused by Concentrix of...

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She had her tax credits cut because they accused her of having

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a lesbian relationship with her sister, and it took her

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coming to the Member of Parliament, and myself calling Concentrhx,

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myself, before they started to believe the truth.

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Isn't it absurd that it takds a direct intervention from ` Member

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of Parliament before this ridiculous company takes

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these people seriously?

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Hear, hear.

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I thank my honourable member for his comments,

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and the term "it beggars belief" springs to mind,

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and unfortunately, his case is not an isolated one.

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There is an ever-growing evhdence base suggesting that Concentrix

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has been unfairly and unjustly stopping people's tax credits,

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leaving them in financial difficulty,

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along with the anxiety that causes.

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She questioned whether paymdnt by results was the right kind

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of contract, and whether the Government had monitored

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the impact on claimants.

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It wasn't simply a case of slapping Concentrix on the back of the hand

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and then let's all move on.

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This is about the duty of the Government to preserve justice

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being abandoned by the profht motive this contract providdd.

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The risks here were real human risks - families

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forced into destitution, anguish, despair and all

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of the associated pressures on an individual's mental hdalth.

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Over the last few months, it has become clear that

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despite the best efforts of the majority of its front-line

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staff, Concentrix was failing to meet the standards we expected,

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and indeed had specified in their contract.

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And this meant that many of those people we have been hearing

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about in the honourable ladx's speech, and in interventions so far,

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people like my constituents whose tax credits were being investigated,

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which caused needless frustration and distress when it came

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to resolving their cases.

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She said HMRC staff were now reviewing cases initially

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considered by Concentrix.

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Anyone who wishes to challenge any changes made to their tax credits

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has a right to request a mandatory reconsideration of their case.

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As of the start of this week, HMRC had received over

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26,000 such requests, and staff have already revidwed

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and resolved over three quarters of those, and are up-to-datd

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with these Concentrix reviews.

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Now, as I say, that means rdsolved in accordance with the facts -

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it does not necessarily mean that all of the...

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There was a problem in each case.

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I have had two Concentrix c`ses from single mothers,

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one of whom was required to disprove a relationship she had plainly never

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had with the former tenant of her house,

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evidence she could not possibly provide.

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But would my honourable fridnd agree that the important thing now

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is that this contract with Concentrix has been ended,

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that a system for investigating mistakes has been put in pl`ce,

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and that a hardship fund has been put in place?

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That's what is important going forward.

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I would not agree with all the points that have been m`de,

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but there has been much fair comment, and, as I say,

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for that reason, we won't oppose this motion today.

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We wanted an altogether fair outcome for everyone affected,

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and we want to learn import`nt lessons to make sure that wd can

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ensure this sort of thing does not happen again,

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and that we, as I say, learn lessons from the situ`tion.

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Mhairi Black recounted her favourite error by Concentrix.

0:18:240:18:27

RS McColl is a corner shop in Scotland that is as common

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as a WHSmith is in England, and yet people were being accused

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of living with this mysterious Mr McColl, because their fl`t

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was above the RS McColl shop.

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And at no point did anyone in Concentrix or HMRC think,

0:18:410:18:46

wait a minute, this Casanov`'s getting about a bit.

0:18:460:18:49

LAUGHTER

0:18:490:18:51

At no point!

0:18:510:18:52

Now, this would almost be very funny...

0:18:520:18:57

This would be funny until you remember that this

0:18:570:18:59

is actually people's lives.

0:18:590:19:00

Absolutely. Hear, hear.

0:19:000:19:02

This is their survival we are talking about.

0:19:020:19:04

We have to now legislate so that this is never

0:19:040:19:06

allowed to happen again.

0:19:060:19:08

I think the Government has to bring this kind of thing back in-house,

0:19:080:19:11

because it has got to be back into the day-to-day

0:19:110:19:14

responsibility of Government.

0:19:140:19:16

You can't say to a private company, we want you to make ?1 billhon worth

0:19:160:19:20

of cuts, but we're only going to pay you on a results basis.

0:19:200:19:23

That is a recipe for disastdr.

0:19:230:19:26

MPs have been hearing from the International Trade Secretary,

0:19:260:19:29

Liam Fox, about the landmark European trade deal with Canada

0:19:290:19:32

which was rejected by Belgium's Wallonia region.

0:19:320:19:36

That rejection meant it couldn't go ahead,

0:19:360:19:39

despite the support of the rest of the EU, including the UK.

0:19:390:19:42

At Westminster, the European Scrutiny Committee was parthcularly

0:19:420:19:47

interested in why the UK had backed the deal without the

0:19:470:19:50

say-so of Parliament.

0:19:500:19:53

Can you appreciate why so m`ny people who are not necessarhly

0:19:530:19:56

against this deal, they're just a bit concerned about it,

0:19:560:19:58

find it hard to understand why something that's taken seven years

0:19:580:20:03

to this stage could not be kept waiting for another two or three

0:20:030:20:06

weeks to allow another debate in the House of Commons so that

0:20:060:20:09

Parliament could decide if it is a good deal,

0:20:090:20:11

rather than the Government?

0:20:110:20:12

Yeah, the, erm...

0:20:120:20:13

The different trade agreements have been negotiated

0:20:130:20:15

in very different times.

0:20:150:20:16

Erm, this has been a very long one, despite the fact,

0:20:160:20:22

as the Commissioner said, if you can't do a trade deal

0:20:220:20:24

with Canada, who can you do a trade deal with?

0:20:240:20:27

I think it does point out the difficulty of doing a trade

0:20:270:20:30

deal with a very large number of partners,

0:20:300:20:32

with all of the complications that this brings, both at a national

0:20:320:20:34

and, as we have discovered a subnational level.

0:20:340:20:36

It's still our hope that we can do that.

0:20:360:20:39

It's worth pointing out that NAFTA was agreed in about 14 months.

0:20:390:20:42

It is possible to bring trade deals to fruition

0:20:420:20:45

in a much shorter time, when, first of all, there is very

0:20:450:20:48

high-level energy applied to that,

0:20:480:20:49

and also when there is a cldar agreement about what the colmon

0:20:490:20:53

ground is between the partndrs.

0:20:530:20:54

With respect, Secretary of State, you haven't actually answerdd

0:20:540:20:56

the main point of my question, which is, how do you explain

0:20:560:20:59

to the 17 million people, not including myself, who voted

0:20:590:21:04

to leave because they wanted to restore parliamentary

0:21:040:21:07

sovereignty, as they saw it, and a deal that has taken so long

0:21:070:21:10

to get to this stage couldn't be held up for another few weeks

0:21:100:21:13

to allow parliamentary sovereignty to be exercised?

0:21:130:21:16

Not for me, because I did not vote to ldave

0:21:160:21:18

How do you explain it to 17 million people who thought that by voting

0:21:180:21:22

to leave they were going to enhance parliamentary democracy,

0:21:220:21:24

when a three-week delay is going to scupper a deal that has

0:21:240:21:27

taken seven years to get here?

0:21:270:21:28

We haven't left yet.

0:21:280:21:29

Peter Grant then moved on to TTIP - a trade deal between the EU

0:21:290:21:33

and the United States.

0:21:330:21:35

You'll be aware that one of your predecessors

0:21:350:21:37

in the Government, Anna Soubry, in the House of Commons on

0:21:370:21:39

10 December 2015 gave an assurance to the Chamber about TTIP.

0:21:390:21:46

She said, it is not a secret negotiation.

0:21:460:21:48

It is there for everybody to read on the internet.

0:21:480:21:50

Well, clearly it was not all there for everybody to read

0:21:500:21:53

When it is concluded, it will be for this Chamber

0:21:530:21:55

to ratify it.

0:21:550:21:56

Would you not accept that those words may now be seen by sole

0:21:560:22:01

as being in bad faith, given that a very similar agreement

0:22:010:22:03

with Canada and with the US has been significantly endorsed

0:22:030:22:08

without having come anywhere near the Chamber

0:22:080:22:11

of the House of Commons?

0:22:110:22:12

Well, she was referring to TTIP and we, as you correctly sax,

0:22:120:22:15

have the TTIP reading room and the ability for members to get

0:22:150:22:19

access to classified documents.

0:22:190:22:22

Which, incidentally, I may point out is already `fforded

0:22:220:22:27

to MEPs, which is why I think it's something that should be afforded

0:22:270:22:30

to MPs as well.

0:22:300:22:33

So I think that...

0:22:330:22:34

I don't think she can be taken as being in bad faith,

0:22:340:22:37

when what she promised was ultimately carried out.

0:22:370:22:39

In terms of the ability...

0:22:390:22:40

So it was important if this should happen for TTIP,

0:22:400:22:43

but it didn't matter to apply the same standard

0:22:430:22:45

of scrutiny to CETA?

0:22:450:22:46

We are at a very different stage.

0:22:460:22:48

In terms of TTIP, these negotiations are still fully underway.

0:22:480:22:52

I think it actually is helpful that we have got a process now

0:22:520:22:55

where MPs are able to scruthnise more than we have been

0:22:550:22:58

able to do in previous agreement, including CETA.

0:22:580:23:01

I hope that is an advance that we build upon, and I hope

0:23:010:23:04

it is a precedent that we whll use for further agreements,

0:23:040:23:06

and certainly one that, as Trade Secretary,

0:23:060:23:09

I would like to see as a prdcedent for any future agreements,

0:23:090:23:12

whether still inside the European Union or beyond our

0:23:120:23:15

membership of the European Tnion.

0:23:150:23:17

Is it fair to say that CETA is at so much of a difference stage

0:23:170:23:20

that, for significant parts of CETA, it's now too late?

0:23:200:23:23

That even if Parliament resolves not to support it for some reason,

0:23:230:23:27

the parts that were within ministerial discretion

0:23:270:23:30

to agree or not agree at the EU Council,

0:23:300:23:33

that those horses have gone and at best we can only close

0:23:330:23:36

the stable door and keep sole of the horses back?

0:23:360:23:38

Well, we still have the ability to reject the entire CETA treaty,

0:23:380:23:44

should Parliament wish to do so

0:23:440:23:45

That is the ultimate power of the Parliament has,

0:23:450:23:47

and it's right that it's so.

0:23:470:23:50

The Government has again ruled out plans to commission a new royal

0:23:500:23:53

yacht to help the UK win tr`de deals as the country heads out of the EU.

0:23:530:23:56

The Royal Yacht Britannia was taken out of service

0:23:560:23:59

soon after Tony Blair's Govdrnment won power in 1997.

0:23:590:24:01

No replacement was built.

0:24:010:24:07

Britannia had clocked up ond million miles around the globe

0:24:070:24:10

in her 44-year career.

0:24:100:24:13

The price of a new royal yacht has been put at ?120 million.

0:24:130:24:17

A Conservative member of thd House of Lords spoke up for the concept.

0:24:170:24:22

When I was Secretary of State, I hosted a dinner on the roxal yacht

0:24:220:24:26

in Toronto, and we asked thd top industrialists who flew thotsands

0:24:260:24:31

of miles to be there -

0:24:310:24:32

I didn't think they were coming to see me.

0:24:320:24:34

Now, given that more...

0:24:340:24:35

LAUGHTER

0:24:350:24:37

Given that more than 100 backbench Conservative MPs,

0:24:370:24:42

the present Foreign Secretary, and the past Foreign Secret`ry have

0:24:420:24:46

all expressed support for a privately funded royal yacht,

0:24:460:24:50

will my noble friend not at least agree to spend the money rahsed

0:24:500:24:53

by the Telegraph, the Daily Telegraph,

0:24:530:24:56

on having a privately funded cost-benefit analysis?

0:24:560:24:59

What possible objection could there be to that,

0:24:590:25:01

and for the Government giving its full support?

0:25:010:25:05

My Lords, I am sure my nobld friend underestimate his

0:25:050:25:07

pulling power...

0:25:070:25:08

LAUGHTER

0:25:080:25:12

But if I can say to him that if private enterprise,

0:25:120:25:18

however defined, believes that there is a business case

0:25:180:25:21

for a new royal yacht, we would of course look at that

0:25:210:25:25

But we would still be left with the question of

0:25:250:25:27

who would pay for the vessel.

0:25:270:25:29

Given that no Government department has a need for a royal yacht,

0:25:290:25:33

it's hard to see how any public funding could be justified.

0:25:330:25:37

And that's it for this programme.

0:25:370:25:39

Do join me for our next daily round-up.

0:25:390:25:41

Until then, from me, Keith Macdougall, goodbye.

0:25:410:25:45

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