07/12/2016 Wednesday in Parliament


07/12/2016

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 7 December, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Transcript


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Hello there and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament.

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On this programme, the government's accused of still not knowing

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how to handle Brexit.

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We have a government that cannot tell us the plan,

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because they do not have a plan!

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But the Leader of the Commons says it's Labour that's in disarray.

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It's quarrelling, like Mutiny on the Bounty

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as reshot by the Carry On team!

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The government's defeated in the Lords over calls

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for funding for some bereaved families at inquests.

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And there's a demand for the government

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to create more woodlands.

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It can create habitats for wildlife and wonderful places

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for people to enjoy, and it can provide the raw material

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to build the new homes that this country needs.

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But first, before the day got underway, there was something

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of a tussle before the government agreed to publish some

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sort of plan for Brexit, before triggering Article 50 -

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the formal process for leaving the EU.

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Some Tory MPs were set to gang up with Labour in a vote to force

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the Prime Minister's hand and, eventually, the government put

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forward its own amendment to Labour's motion for debate

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agreeing that it would publish its plans on negotiating the exit deal.

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But before all that got underway, there was the small matter

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of Prime Minister's Questions.

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With Theresa May out of the country, it was down to

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the Leader of the Commons to field the questions and

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Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary to try to put him on the spot.

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She began by accepting that the government had given ground.

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We welcome the government's decision to accept our motion today

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that they will show Parliament their plan for Brexit

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before Article 50 is triggered.

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So, can I ask the Leader of the House one

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central question about this plan?

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Does the government want the UK to remain part of the customs union?

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The government has always made it clear that we would seek

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to give additional clarity about our position at

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the earliest opportunity.

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But it's been the case, as my right honourable friend,

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the Prime Minister, has said many times that one of our core

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objectives is going to be to secure the maximum freedom

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for British companies both to have access to and operate

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within the single European market.

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I thank the Leader of the House for that answer,

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but I would respectfully say to him that surely, on this

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issue, the answer should be straightforward.

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We all know that it would be a disaster for British business

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if we do not remain part of the customs union.

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As the Leader of the House himself said in February,

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everything we take for granted -

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trade without customs checks or paperwork at national frontiers -

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would all be up in the air. It is massive what is at risk.

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Now, on this side of the House, we would agree with him.

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We couldn't agree with him more!

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So can he put it beyond doubt right now, today, tell us -

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does the government want the UK to stay in the customs union?

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The honourable lady and I...

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She's right, Mr Speaker.

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The honourable lady and I both argued passionately for the Remain

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cause during the referendum.

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What separates us now is that I am part of a Conservative government

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which is working together to respect the democratic verdict

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of the British people and to secure the best possible outcome

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for the prosperity and security of the entire United Kingdom

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from those negotiations.

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Whereas the honourable lady, even just two months ago,

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was telling us that she wanted to go back to the

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British people in some way.

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She needs to decide whether she accepts

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the democratic verdict or not.

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The Leader of the House has made the familiar arguments

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that he can't give answers,

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that it's all to be resolved through negotiations,

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Brexit means Brexit, Brexit means breakfast,

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but that is not what the Secretary of State for Brexit himself said

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when he was asked about the customs union in September.

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Because he said, and I quote, "We have looked at this matter

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carefully and that is exactly the sort of decision

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that we will resolve before we trigger Article 50."

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So, if the government is going to decide the position

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on this issue before March the 31st, can the Leader of the House confirm

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that the British people and the British Parliament will be

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told some answers to my questions before they tell the rest of Europe?

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Mr Speaker, if the answers sound familiar, it may be because we need

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some repetition before the honourable lady will understand

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and appreciate the, um...

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The government is, at the moment, engaged in a consultation with more

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than 50 sectors of United Kingdom business to ascertain precisely

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which aspects of European Union membership work well for them,

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which they see as harmful, where the opportunities

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beyond EU membership live.

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beyond EU membership lie.

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We will come to a decision and we will go into negotiations

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on behalf of the full 100% of the United Kingdom population

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and all four nations of the United Kingdom.

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We have a government that cannot tell us the plan,

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because they do not have a plan! They do not have a plan!

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In February, in February, the Leader of the House said,

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when he was hearing about the... what he was hearing about from

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the Leave campaign was confusing, contradictory nonsense!

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My final question is this...

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Are we hearing anything different from this government today?

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Mr Speaker, we will publish before Article 50 is triggered a statement

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about our negotiating strategy and objectives, as the Prime

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Minister has said yesterday.

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But the honourable lady seems again to be in a state of utter denial

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about the consequences that flow from the referendum decision.

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And he accused Labour of being in disarray.

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It's like, um...

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It's quarrelling like Mutiny on the Bounty as reshot

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by the Carry On team! LAUGHTER

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They are... Order!

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There's far too much noise! I want to hear the words flowing!

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They are rudderless, they are drifting on Europe,

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as on so many other aspects of policy!

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It's little wonder that so many decent working people,

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who for generations looked to Labour to be champion, have given up

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who for generations looked to Labour to be their champion, have given up

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in despair and are turning to this party as the authentic voice

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of working families.

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A DUP MP looked ahead to the debate on Brexit that was due

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to begin immediately after Prime minister's questions.

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Does the Leader of the House agree that tonight's vote

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on the Prime Minister's amendment, which we fully support,

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is a vote of the highest significance and great importance,

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because, for the first time, honourable and right honourable

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members of this House will have the opportunity to vote

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on whether they respect the will of the people

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of the United Kingdom and whether they will get

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on in implementing it.

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The people will be able to read in Hansard tomorrow who stands

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by respecting the will of the people of the United Kingdom.

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And would he also agree that the more...

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And I'm sure that he will!

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..the more red, white and blue he makes it, the better for us

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on the Unionist benches?

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The, um, the right honourable gentleman, as so often,

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makes a very powerful and important point.

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The vote tonight will be the first opportunity for members of this

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House to decide whether or not they support the government's

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timetable of triggering Article 50 by the end of March 2017 and any

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right honourable member who votes against that motion will,

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in my view, be seeking to thwart the outcome of the referendum

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in the most profoundly undemocratic fashion.

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David Lidington.

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And soon after Prime Minister's Questions came the six hour

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Commons debate on Brexit.

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Much of the heat had been taken out of the debate by the government's

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decision on Tuesday night to agree to publish its plan

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on how it intends negotiating Britain's exit deal.

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Nonetheless, there was still room for plenty of argument

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on how events might unfold.

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First, Labour explained why it wanted a plan.

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The purpose of this motion, calling for a plan, is not

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to frustrate or delay the process.

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That is not the purpose, that is not why we're calling for a plan.

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It does present a challenge for the government.

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Because it now means the government has got to produce a plan in good

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time to allow the proper formalities and processes to be gone through.

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It's a challenge...

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The timetable actually is more of a challenge for the government

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than it is for the opposition.

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I can understand him pressing the government for its plans

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and him setting down his red lines.

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I can't understand him wanting to enshrine it in legislation.

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The only reason for doing that is so that the Labour Party can

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set the government up to be sued later.

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Isn't that the truth? Will he come clean?

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It's wrecking tactics by any other name.

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The answer to the question is no.

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Mr Speaker, when he talks about a plan, could he explain

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to the House does he mean that should be a series of hints?

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Is it an explanation of principle? Or is it specific priorities?

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I understand the point that is made about not producing a plan

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on the basis that saying anything might undermine the negotiations.

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I don't accept that.

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He does understand that no plan survives engagement with the enemy.

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And whilst I do not characterise...

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That is a military metaphor from a soldier.

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WOMAN: The enemy?!

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And what I would say to the honourable gentleman

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is that it is plain that our negotiating hand is clear,

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and it's clear it is not compatible with the position being taken

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by our 27 partners.

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I think, on reflection, the honourable member may think

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that he didn't use the right word in describing

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our partners as the enemy.

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It's widely accepted that the negotiation of our

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departure from the European Union is the most important and most

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complex negotiation in modern times, and it's overwhelmingly important

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that we get it right. I think that is common ground.

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It's normal even for basic trade negotiations to be carried out

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with a degree of secrecy, a degree of secrecy.

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We will need to find a way through a vast number of competing

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interests to manager exit from the union,

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interests to manage our exit from the union,

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so that our people benefit from it.

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That's the aim of this exercise, so that our people benefit from it.

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To do this, the government must have the flexibility to adjust

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during negotiations.

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It's like threading the eye of a needle.

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If you've got a good eye and a steady hand, it's easy enough.

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If somebody jogs your elbow, it's harder.

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If 650 people jog your elbow, it's very much harder.

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Will he not accept that, given the French election is in May,

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the German election is in October,

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nothing will be achieved in that timeframe?

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And if we trigger in March, there will be lost negotiating time

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within a two-year window, therefore the Article 50

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should be triggered in the autumn, in November?

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The language used is the rather vague one of a plan.

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Well, we'll probably be told the plan is to have

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a red, white and blue Brexit and that we are believers

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in free trade whilst giving up all the conditions that govern

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free trade in the single market!

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Can I say...?

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The honourable member is no longer in his place,

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but to say that it might consist of hints, I would merely

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remind the House that, when Moses came down

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from the mountain bearing the tablet, it did not

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contain the ten hints! LAUGHTER

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He was pretty clear!

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He was pretty clear about what he was telling people what to do!

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All of a sudden, we see the issue of parliamentary oversight

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being used in effect as a break, a break against taking back control,

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against bringing our democracy home.

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Once again, the Labour front bench sides with the supranational elites.

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They're out to try to frustrate and overturn the way

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people voted in June.

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It is 167 days, almost six months, since the referendum,

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and we have 113 days to go until the 31st of March deadline

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that the government has set itself.

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We are almost two thirds of the way there.

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To talk about a glacial pace of progress might be something

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of an overstatement in this case.

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How we conduct, as a government, the next two years says much

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about our constitution and values as a country.

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And I think the Parliament has to rise to the occasion.

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And I have to say I don't think either front bench speech

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quite got there today.

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I think that contributions from other members of the House

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have got closer to appreciating the magnitude of what we are doing.

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This parliament has the opportunity to shape...

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No, thank you!

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..to shape an economic policy and an immigration policy

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and a knowledge policy which can make us once again a world beater.

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But if we do not take that opportunity, if instead

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we concentrate on seeking to dilute the result of the referendum,

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then I'm afraid we will fail the people of this country

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at this historic moment.

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Michael Gove.

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And at the end of that debate, MPs backed a motion calling

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on the Prime Minister to commit to publish the government's plan

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for leaving the EU before Article 50 is invoked,

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and that that should happen by the end of March next year.

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You're watching Wednesday in Parliament, with me Alicia McCarthy.

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The Government's been defeated in the Lords when peers demanded

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The Government's been defeated in the Lords when peers demanded

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families involved in inquests have access to the same public

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funding as the police.

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The subject came up during detailed debate

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on the Policing and Crime Bill.

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For Labour, Lord Rosser explained it was an issue that had come

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to light during the Hillsborough inquests, but was not confined

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to major tragedies.

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It was something more likely to affect individual families

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after a single death.

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Many bereaved families can find themselves in an adversarial

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and aggressive environment when they go to an inquest.

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They are not in a position to match the spending of the police or other

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parts of the public sector when it comes to their own

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legal representation.

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Bereaved families have to try, if possible,

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to find their own money to have any sort of legal representation.

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Public money should pay to establish the truth.

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It is surely not right, and surely not justice,

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when bereaved families trying to find out the truth, and who have

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done nothing wrong, find that taxpayers money is used

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by the other side, sometimes to paint a very different

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picture of events in a bid to destroy their credibility.

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After Hillsborough, the Government asked the Bishop of Liverpool,

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the Rt Rev James Jones, to report on the Hillsborough

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families experience and says it's waiting for his report,

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but Lord Rosser feared it could be a long way off.

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We surely do not need further delay for the outcome of an inquiry

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where the terms of reference have apparently not even been finalised,

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where there is little likelihood of a speedy report

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and where the Government's commitment is only to consider

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the review in due course.

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A former policeman said he'd been a witness for the family

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in the inquest into the death of John Charles de Menezes,

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who was shot at Stockwell tube station after being wrongly

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identified as a terrorist suspect.

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I experienced first-hand the tactics deployed by some police counsel

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at inquests, that a search for the truth turns into a bruising

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adversarial encounter.

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As I said in Committee, the coroner had to warn the police

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counsel over the aggressive tactics he was using in cross-examination.

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As far as the family of the deceased is concerned,

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I do not believe there can be any argument.

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It cannot be right that the police can employ as large and as eminent

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a legal team as their considerable budgets will allow to represent them

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while the families of those who die at the hands of the police struggle

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to raise the funds to be represented at all.

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a legal team as their considerable budgets will allow to represent them

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But the minister said there'd be cost implications of the change.

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In the last financial year, 200 persons died

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following contact with the police.

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All of those deaths would have been subject to an inquest.

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Of course, the financial implications of this amendment

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are but one of the matters noble Lords will wish to take

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into consideration, but we cannot be blind to the impact

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on the public purse.

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However, I come back to my core objection to this amendment:

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that this is neither the time nor the place to pursue this matter.

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As I have said, the Government are firmly of the view

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that we should wait for Bishop Jones s report and then

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determine, in the light of that, the most appropriate way forward.

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But when it came to the vote the Government was defeated

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by 243 votes to 208.

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Ministers will now seek to overturn the amendment at a later stage.

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Now back to Brexit.

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And business and union leaders

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were asked what should be in that plan promised by Theresa May?

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They were appearing before the Commons Exiting the EU Committee.

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The Director-General of the Confederation

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of British Industry, the CBI, said five principles should

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underpin the negotiations for withdrawal from the EU.

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The first is barrier-free access to the single market,

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both tariff and nontariff barriers.

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Second is the access to skills and talents

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that our businesses need.

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Thirdly is a regulatory equivalence, the ability to trade

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under known and certain regulatory principles and rules within the EU.

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The fourth is the best possible trade deals around the

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world, and we will talk more about any of these.

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Finally, protecting the economic and social benefits

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that we currently enjoy from European funding.

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Our concern is that we should see a plan that

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prioritises people's jobs, their wages and their rights at work.

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We are conscious that since the financial crash

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workers wages in Britain

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have dropped further than any other country except Greece.

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As unions have exposed in companies like Sports

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Direct and Asos and Uber, there are many workers who feel deeply

0:19:080:19:13

insecure and exploited at work and worried

0:19:130:19:17

about the future of their children.

0:19:170:19:21

That there are parts of Britain

0:19:210:19:28

who have suffered from the absence of an active and intelligent

0:19:280:19:33

industrial strategy that puts a decent jobs at its heart.

0:19:330:19:38

So there is lots of work to be done and

0:19:380:19:41

whatever deal is negotiated we want to see jobs,

0:19:410:19:43

wages and rights at the

0:19:430:19:44

heart of that deal.

0:19:440:19:47

I don't want to see the plan because if you are a

0:19:470:19:52

business person going into negotiations I would actually be

0:19:520:19:57

very keen to make sure I keep my cards close to my chest.

0:19:570:20:02

I do think the Government ought to declare a

0:20:020:20:05

direction of travel so businesses can prepare and plan

0:20:050:20:08

for Brexit day.

0:20:080:20:09

So I think it is important the Prime Minister

0:20:090:20:11

declares the Government is minded to leave the internal market and

0:20:110:20:19

customs union, so businesses can plan for that and that will also

0:20:190:20:23

substantially strengthen their negotiating position because it will

0:20:230:20:26

become very quickly apparent to the EU

0:20:260:20:27

that they do not hold all the

0:20:270:20:29

cards.

0:20:290:20:34

A Conservative and Leave campaigner asked the witnesses

0:20:340:20:36

about the "burden" of EU regulation.

0:20:360:20:41

I quite understand the TUC is going to fight to protect employment

0:20:410:20:44

protection rights, and you've made that very clear, but to what extent

0:20:440:20:48

do you see there are regulations imposed from Europe which are

0:20:480:20:53

increasing costs and therefore potentially destroying jobs in this

0:20:530:20:58

country which are have nothing to do with employment

0:20:580:21:03

rights, are in other areas for which it is very difficult

0:21:030:21:06

to see any justification at all, and I wonder if

0:21:060:21:08

the TUC have looked at that?

0:21:080:21:10

John Longworth spoke first - giving an example of what was

0:21:100:21:12

wrong with the rules:

0:21:120:21:19

We had a manufacturer of smoked salmon, who

0:21:190:21:22

had to relabel the smoked salmon that they were producing because the

0:21:220:21:25

European Union required that manufacturer to put on the label,

0:21:250:21:28

"May contain fish."

0:21:280:21:31

Now that is actually a cost to that business, a

0:21:310:21:40

considerable cost, because they have to produce new artwork, employ

0:21:400:21:43

people to make sure it is in the right

0:21:430:21:47

place on the packets and in

0:21:470:21:50

the right format and then they have to produce the actual packaging.

0:21:500:21:54

That sort of stuff happens all the time

0:21:540:22:01

in European legislation and

0:22:010:22:04

when we have control of our own affairs we can choose what we want

0:22:040:22:09

to do and it will be a considerable saving

0:22:090:22:11

of cost to business by

0:22:110:22:12

removing some of the silliest of the regulations.

0:22:120:22:14

We can easily find 10% of the regulations to remove and

0:22:140:22:17

reduce the cost on a business without attacking major part of

0:22:170:22:19

employment law.

0:22:190:22:20

We have to be very careful not to be anecdotal, I

0:22:200:22:23

think and just putting the silly, funny examples, because there will

0:22:230:22:26

always be some.

0:22:260:22:27

What common labelling allows you to do if you are a small

0:22:270:22:30

business,

0:22:300:22:31

we have a fantastic small-business cheese manufacturer

0:22:310:22:32

in Somerset and they are hugely concerned at divergences in

0:22:320:22:35

labelling because labelling is one of their biggest

0:22:350:22:37

costs and they value

0:22:370:22:38

greatly the fact they have got a level playing field within Europe.

0:22:380:22:40

I am a little sceptical about the volume of noise on

0:22:400:22:43

some of these issues.

0:22:430:22:44

When you dig a bit deeper, as the TUC has, for example, on

0:22:440:22:47

health and safety, which came under sustained criticism as being

0:22:470:22:50

bureaucratic and red tape, very often those stories

0:22:500:22:54

proved to be untrue.

0:22:540:22:57

The TUC General Secretary - making the case FOR regulations.

0:22:570:23:02

Finally - in Westminster Hall there was a call for action

0:23:020:23:05

on an altogether different policy - trees.

0:23:050:23:07

According to one MP just 10% of England

0:23:070:23:11

is given over to woodland.

0:23:120:23:13

That compares to 18% percent in Scotland,

0:23:130:23:16

whilst the European average is 37%.

0:23:160:23:20

Germany, France, Italy and Spain all have more than 30%

0:23:200:23:24

of their land covered by trees.

0:23:240:23:26

Chris Davies said that meant the UK was towards the top

0:23:260:23:28

of a different table.

0:23:280:23:32

It surprises most people when they are told the UK is the

0:23:320:23:35

third largest net importer of wood products in the world.

0:23:350:23:37

China, with a population of 1.35 billion, topped

0:23:370:23:47

the league table, and Japan, with a population

0:23:480:23:56

double that of the UK, in

0:23:560:23:58

second place.

0:23:580:23:59

The Worldwide Fund for Nature has calculated global demand

0:23:590:24:02

for timber, paper and energy from forests is set to triple by 2050.

0:24:020:24:09

If we do not plant more trees now and

0:24:090:24:11

if we continue to rely on imports the UK will be competing against

0:24:110:24:15

other growing economies for a natural resource that we can and

0:24:150:24:18

indeed perhaps should grow more of at home.

0:24:180:24:21

Significant new tree-planting can provide solutions

0:24:210:24:23

to a whole range of 21st-century problems.

0:24:230:24:25

It can deliver jobs and investment to our rural areas, it

0:24:250:24:29

can help reduce the impact of climate change and flooding, it can

0:24:290:24:31

create habitat for wildlife and wonderful places for people

0:24:310:24:34

to enjoy and they can provide the raw

0:24:340:24:36

materials to build new homes this country needs.

0:24:360:24:39

The minister said the Government was commited to planting 11m

0:24:390:24:42

trees this parliament.

0:24:420:24:44

Trees deliver many benefits, whether recreation

0:24:440:24:47

opportunities, wildlife, biodiversity,

0:24:470:24:49

but the benefits go far

0:24:490:24:52

further than that.

0:24:520:24:56

The roots of trees can provide a greater land

0:24:560:24:58

stability on slopes and help reduce flooding by allowing water to

0:24:580:25:01

penetrate more rapidly into the soil, rather

0:25:010:25:03

than running into rivers and

0:25:030:25:04

can help improve water quality by reducing soil erosion.

0:25:040:25:06

There are other benefits as well in terms of

0:25:060:25:08

trees are very important to us in absorbing carbon from the

0:25:080:25:13

atmosphere, providing a valuable and relatively inexpensive carbon

0:25:130:25:15

sink which can contribute towards meeting

0:25:150:25:16

our ambitious carbon targets and tackling climate change.

0:25:160:25:21

We recognise there are also potential

0:25:210:25:23

benefits with air quality and also regulating

0:25:230:25:25

the flow of rain into the

0:25:250:25:27

sewers or whether as a canopy for shade from the sun, but it all

0:25:270:25:30

comes back to the right tree in the right place.

0:25:300:25:32

The environment minister, Therese Coffey, who added

0:25:320:25:34

her favourite tree was the horse chestnut!

0:25:340:25:38

And that's it from us for now, but do join me at the same time

0:25:380:25:41

tomorrow for another round up of the best of the day

0:25:410:25:44

here at Westminster.

0:25:440:25:45

But until then from me, goodbye.

0:25:450:25:52

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