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Hello and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament.
Coming up on this programme:
Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn trade blows over the state
of the NHS in England.
The Governor of the Bank of England says Brexit is no
longer the biggest risk to the UK's financial stability.
And ministers are urged to do more to help the victims
of modern slavery.
It is thought by the police there are probably 10,000 people
in a year who are victims, and 30 convictions.
But first, at Prime Minister's Questions, Theresa May defended
the Government's handling of England's NHS as Jeremy Corbyn
accused her of being in denial over the pressures facing
the health service.
Nearly a quarter of patients waited longer than four
hours in A last week, with just one hospital
hitting its target.
And huge numbers also faced long waits for a bed when A staff
admitted them into hospital as emergency cases, with more
than 18,000 trolley waits of more than four hours or more.
The figures come from the document compiled by NHS Improvement,
one of the regulators in England, and show that this winter is proving
to be the most difficult in more than a decade.
Jeremy Corbyn picked up on those figures and recent
comments by the Red Cross.
Last week, Mr Speaker, 485 people in England spent more
than 12 hours on trolleys in hospital corridors.
The Red Cross described this as a humanitarian crisis.
I called on the Prime Minister to come to Parliament on Monday -
she didn't, she sent the Health Secretary.
But does she agree with him that the best way to solve
the crisis of the four-hour wait is to fiddle the figures so that
people are not seen to be waiting so long
on trolleys in NHS hospitals?
He talks about the pressures on the NHS and we acknowledge
that there are pressures on the National Health Service.
There are always extra pressures on the NHS during the winter,
but of course we have at the moment those added pressures of the ageing
population and the growing, complex needs of the population.
He also refers to the British Red Cross' term
of a humanitarian crisis.
I have to say to him that I think we've all seen humanitarian crises
around the world and to use that description of a National Health
Service which last year saw 2.5 million more people treated
in A than six years ago was irresponsible and overblown.
Mr Speaker, she seems to be in some degree of denial about this
and won't listen to professional organisations who have
spent their whole lifetime doing their best for the NHS.
Can I ask her if she'll listen to Sian, who works for the NHS?
She has a 22-month-old nephew.
He went into hospital, there was no bed, he was treated
on two plastic chairs pushed together with a blanket.
She says one of the nurses told her sister, it's
always like this nowadays.
She asked a question to all of us.
Surely we should strive to do better than this.
Does the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary think this
is an acceptable way of treating a 22-month-old child needing help?
I accept there have been a small number of incidents...
..where unacceptable practices have taken place.
But what matters, we don't want those things to happen,
but what matters is how you then deal with them.
That's why it's so important that the NHS does look into issues
where there are unacceptable incidents that have taken place
and then learns lessons from them.
She highlighted the pressures the service was facing.
Over the Christmas period, in the Tuesday after Christmas,
we saw the busiest day ever in the National Health Service.
Over the few weeks around Christmas, we saw a day when more people
were treated in A within four hours than had ever happened before.
This is the reality of our National Health Service.
Jeremy Corbyn pressed on, attacking the Government's record
on mental health and social care.
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister said she wanted
to create a shared society.
We've certainly got that.
More people sharing hospital corridors on trolleys.
More people sharing waiting areas at A departments.
More people sharing in anxiety created by this Government.
Our NHS, Mr Speaker, is in crisis, but the Prime Minister is in denial.
Can I suggest to her, on the economic question,
cancel the corporate tax cuts, spend the money where it's needed -
on people in desperate need in social care or in our hospitals.
The right honourable gentleman talks about crisis.
I suggest he listens to the honourable member
for Don Valley, a former Labour Health Minister, who
said the following.
"With Labour, it's always about crisis.
"The NHS is on its knees, we've got to be a bit more
"grown-up about this."
He talks to me about corporation tax and restoring the cuts
in corporation tax.
The Labour Party has already spent that money eight times.
The last thing the NHS needs is a cheque from Labour that bounces.
The only way we can ensure we've got funding
for the National Health Service is a strong economy.
Yesterday, the right honourable gentleman proved that he's
not only incompetent, but that he would destroy
our economy and that would devastate
our National Health Service.
A reference there to Jeremy Corbyn's comments the previous day
on immigration and earnings limits.
Later in the day, the head of the NHS in England,
Sir Simon Stevens, told MPs that funding would be highly constrained
over the next three years and that spending per person in real terms
would reduce in England.
He was asked if NHS England had got the money it had asked for.
The Government is repeatedly telling us, I've had letters recently
from the Secretary of State, that the NHS is getting more
money than it asks for.
What's your view on that?
Well, it's right that by 2020 NHS England will be getting an extra
?10 billion over the course of six years.
I don't think that's the same as saying we're getting more
than we asked for over five years because it was a five-year forward
view, not a six-year forward view.
Over and above that, we've been through a spending review
negotiation in the meantime and that has set the NHS budget
for the next three years.
It's a matter of fact, it's not news, I've said it
previously to a select committee back in October, that like probably
every part of the public service we got less than we asked
for in that process.
I think it would be stretching it to say
that the NHS has got more than it asked for.
Would you agree there's not enough money and there is a clear gap?
There are clearly very substantial pressures and I don't think it
helps anybody to try and pretend there aren't.
But that's not a new phenomenon, to some extent, it's
a phenomenon that's intensifying.
In the here and now, there are very real pressures.
Over the next three years, funding is going to be highly
constrained and in 2018-19, as I previously said in October,
real terms NHS spending per person in England is going to go down,
ten years after Lehmann Brothers and austerity began.
We all understand why that is, but let's not pretend that's not
placing huge pressure on the service.
You're watching Wednesday in Parliament with me,
Now let's go back to Prime Minister's Questions
and the situation in Northern Ireland.
The Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein's Martin
McGuinness, has resigned.
Under Stormont's power-sharing agreement, his resignation
means the First Minister, Arlene Foster, also loses her office
and that could mean fresh elections have to be held.
The SNP's Westminster group leader thought that breakdown could have
The Prime Minister has indicated that she wants to take the views
of the elected representatives and the devolved institutions
on Brexit seriously.
So it stands to reason that if there is no Northern Ireland
Assembly and there is no Northern Irish Executive for much
of the time before the March timetable she has set before
invoking Article 50, that she'll be unable
to properly consult, to fully discuss and to find
agreement on the complex issues during this time period.
In these circumstances, will the Prime Minister postpone
invoking Article 50...
Will she postpone Article 50 or will she just plough on regardless?
I'm clear that first of all we want to try to ensure that
within this period of seven days we can find the result
of into the political situation in Northern Ireland
so that we can continue to see the Assembly government continuing.
But I'm also clear that in the discussions we have
it will be possible...
It's still the case that ministers are in place and that obviously
there are executives in place, that we are still able
to take the views of the Northern Ireland people.
Brexit is no longer the biggest risk to the UK's financial stability,
the Governor of the Bank of England has told MPs.
Mark Carney was making one of his regular appearances
at the Treasury Committee.
He was asked about remarks made by a colleague, Andy Haldane -
the Bank of England's chief economist - about
Andy Haldane called the failure to predict the financial crisis
of 2008 a "Michael Fish" moment for economists.
He also accepted that a similar dynamic might have been in play over
the bank's forecasts about Brexit.
I feel I should begin by asking you, will you agree with the chief
economist that the Bank of England's be having a Michael
Fish moment, or two?
Well, one of the advantages of managing group think is one
doesn't always agree with everything that is said.
Think the core point that Andy Haldane made,
or tried to make, related to, no disrespect to Mr Fish, I should
say, but was trying to make...
Pertains exactly to what we are talking about today.
Which is the ability to identify the risk to financial stability.
And the poor performance of most in the economic profession,
including some of the major topic institutions, the Bank of England.
In identifying the major risks prior to the crisis.
And he said the Bank had taken action to mitigate the risks
around the referendum.
I do think we helped make the weather.
Meteorologists predict the weather, we helped make the weather
in that we catalysed continuously continuously planned actions,
pre-position of collateral, other steps within our
major central banks.
And better risk management, which helped make sure that this
was a smooth process.
He was asked whether Brexit remained the biggest domestic risk
to the UK's financial stability.
I am going to try and take you to a yes or no on it.
Well, strictly speaking, strictly speaking, the view of the
committee is no.
And he explained that the Bank of England had taken
action to ease the risks.
The UK's Green Investment Bank could be killed off if the Government goes
ahead with plans to sell it, according to the Green
party MP Caroline Lucas.
The bank supports offshore wind farms and other green projects.
The Government has announced plans to part privatise it,
with Australian bank McQuarrie thought to be the preferred bidder.
But former Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Sir Vince Cable said
he fears it will be split up.
The co-leader of the Green party urged ministers
to halt the planned sale.
This week, we had that the Green Investment Bank stands on the brink
of not just being flogged off, but of being broken up
with its green purposes discarded.
Founded in 2012, the GIB has been widely recognised
as a true success story, kick-starting truly innovative,
low-carbon projects across the UK.
And yet, this preferred bidder, McQuarrie, not only has a dismal
and terrible environmental record, it also has an appalling track
record of asset stripping.
Why is the Government setting up a structure to invite
in a profiteer asset stripper?
If the GIB has been restructured in such a way as to allow it it's
to be stripped of its assets, how can the Government guarantee
that the special share supposedly introduced to protect the future
of the GIB, will have the intended effect?
Isn't this exactly the wrong time to be selling off
the Green Investment Bank, given that the Government
has decided to embark upon a new industrial strategy
which must, to be in accord with our own climate change commitments,
have low-carbon projects at its core?
And finally, will the Minister admit that this selling off could lead
to the bank being fatally undermined as an enduring institution.
Will he stop the killing of the GIB?
Will he halt the sale process with immediate effect?
The minister said he couldn't comment on the process, potential
bidders are media speculation.
-- or media speculation.
It is precisely because we want the Green Investment Bank
to be able to do more, unfettered from the constraints
of the state, that we are seeking to put it into the private sector.
And the objectives that we have set out in the sale,
they could not have been clearer.
It has been discussed in this house.
We are looking at very clear objectives around securing value
for money for taxpayers, which must be our
We want to ensure that the GIB can be reclassified
to the private sector.
But we have also been very clear that the reason we want to move
into the private sector is to enable the business to grow,
and continue as an institution supporting investment
in the green economy.
We are selling it as a going concern, and potential investors
will be buying into the company's green business plan
and forward pipeline projects.
These are the criteria we have set, these are the criteria
against which we are evaluating the proposals that are before us.
The Government's being urged to give victims of slavery the right
to stay in the UK - to help ensure human
traffickers can be locked up.
MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee are looking
into the treatment of those who've been enslaved.
The former High Court Judge and independent peer
Lady Butler-Sloss explained that victims receive financial and other
support while their cases are being investigated,
but when that period comes to an end, the help stops,
even if a person has been officially recognised as a victim of slavery.
She said this was "appalling" and explained some of
the consequences of the process, known as the
National Referral Mechanism or NRM.
We had 31 convictions last year.
And there were over 1000 people, I think,
identified going through the NRM.
It is thought by police there are 10,000 people per year who are
And 30 convictions.
One of the reasons is that the police, of
course, can't keep track of these people because they have no idea
where they are.
They all disappear because they have no
If you don't have the witnesses, speaking as a former
judge, you have a great difficulty in going ahead with the
So it is actually in the public interest to keep these
people with some entitlement in this country, at least until the time
when there has been a trial and we have had a conviction.
-- we hope a conviction.
Otherwise, we don't get the traffickers.
Do you think, to fix this so that they
don't fall off at the end, does that need to be legislation?
Can it just be guidance that can be put out to
What is your view on how we fix it?
It occurs to me that another group of people I've
witnessed recently, women who are domestic violence survivors
and have been moved to another town in the
country, and they are nobody with no paperwork.
And they have the same battles with the local Jobcentre,
who are you?
We have never heard of you?
Do we need legislation to do this, or some kind of guidance that
the DWP can have?
Do we maybe need a new category of people who are, ask
no questions, you've got this label, this piece of paper, and you
automatically have the entitlement to benefits?
There is statutory guidance being drafted at this
Which makes me think that this committee is enormously
important, because I hope that you will have a real impact on that
But it seems to me there is two things, really.
One, the other two know better than I do,
one is the immigration status.
If you can get at least the leave to remain for a year, but preferably
indefinitely to remain, but even one year would help.
And then, there would be that guidance, I would
hope, that they would then be expressed their entitlement to
health care, housing and so on.
So that they would have a piece of paper that they could show to all
the authorities so that they would then become priorities.
I know local authorities have appalling problems
But these are people who really should be treated as
The Committee also heard from the Independent
Anti-Slavery Commissioner - he said victims were being let down.
Is somebody who has been kept in slavery for six months then
capable of doing a job straight after?
It is very unlikely.
There would be a period that they would
need to be supported.
And I think that that period, we need to say
what is the period?
I wouldn't want this to be a lifetime on benefits -
I don't think...
We need to be working about how we integrate people within
the UK, or when they go home.
But it needs to be enough time that professionals are able to assess and
say, this person needs to be supported for that period of time.
You know, some people may need long-term psychological support.
Now, let's go back to the state of England's health service.
MPs spent the afternoon in a Labour-led debate on NHS
and social care funding.
Where backbench MPs set out the problems facing the NHS
and some possible solutions.
What we are seeing is this Government is running out of places
to cut corners to save money on the NHS.
We are seeing the lack of respect and compassion given to
people, the health care they need and deserve.
We are seeing those that need care at home having to make do
with 15 minute flying visits.
We have seen the pressure in A E departments building over the last
six years, and yet, every year, we reach a winter crisis.
And somehow, this is a surprise to the
We have seen A E waiting times increasing were now
over 1.8 million people are waiting more than four hours.
In 2015-16, an increase of 400% since 2010.
Hospitals are under pressure in winter because of admissions.
Because the people who come to A E are sicker, are older, are more
And that is the problem that we have at the moment.
But what we haven't seen as I just mention,
is any summer respite In NHS England at all.
It's not a catastrophe of people living longer.
All of us who are medical in the House remember
that was definitely the point of why we went into medicine, and that is
the point of the NHS.
But we are not ageing very well.
And for the age of 40 or 50 onwards, people are
starting to accumulate conditions that maybe they would not have
survived in the past.
By the time they are 70, they have four or five
core morbidities is that make treating even
something quite simple a challenge.
So my colleagues and friends who are still working on the front
line say it is not even just numbers, it is
Someone comes with what sounds like an easy issue,
but in actual fact, with diabetes and renal failure and previous heart
attack, this is now a complex issue.
The Conservative and GP who chairs the Health Committee is one of those
calling for a cross-party convention to map out a future
for health and social care.
And I think what our constituents want us
to do as politicians is to
recognise the scale of the challenge.
And get to grips with it.
In future, would you agree with me that there should be a new funding
settlement, certainly in terms of the budget,
that the NHS and social care, and bring both of them
At the moment, there have been cuts of ?4.6 billion.
That is what I am hoping.
We must end the silos of health and social care.
Thinking about this money has been social care money or health money,
and think of it as a patient pound and a taxpayer pound, and how to get
the very best from that.
What impact will our exit from the EU have
on the Labour market - more specifically on industries that
currently rely on large numbers of migrant workers to get the job
done - such as agriculture?
In the Lords, Peers urged Ministers to make a firm commitment that
foreign workers already in the UK would be able to stay after Brexit.
Isn't it time that the Government really
dropped this ridiculous pretence that there is a trade-off here?
The reality is that we have significant sectors of our
economy, like caring and hospitality and areas of agriculture, which
would virtually collapse if non-British nationals didn't remain
and work here.
There is massive and anxiety out there in the country,
amongst employer and employee.
Is it time now that the Government did the
right thing morally and commercially, and gave these
individuals the right to remain?
The Government has been absolutely clear
that it will seek to reach agreement on this issue at an early
stage of negotiations with the EU.
I dispute the notion of a trade-off
because the EU's refusal to guarantee the status of UK
nationals elsewhere in the EU prior to
negotiations shows that the Government has been absolutely
right not to give away the guarantee for
status of EU citizens in the UK.
Because the Prime Minister has said that would have left UK citizens
high and dry.
For agriculturalists and horticulturalists in Lincolnshire
and adjoining counties, the access to migrant labour
is very important indeed.
Without our migrant labour, it is probable that many of those
businesses would not survive.
Does the Minister appreciate that there
are tens of thousands of European citizens working in our health
And indeed our health service would fall apart - I am not
exaggerating - fall apart if it wasn't for these workers?
Does the Minister agree with the statement
statement in the recent CBI report that we need a system informed by
business, rather than imposed on business?
And that this is essential to the future economic growth of
Is the Government talking to employers, listening to them,
and what have they had to
say about the ?1000 levy about which we have heard today?
That was a reference to comments from Government minister
Robert Goodwill who told a lords committee that there
were suggestions that firms which hire European Union workers
could face an annual levy after the UK leaves the EU.
Mr Goodwill explained that businesses will from this April be
charged a ?1,000 a year for every skilled worker they employ
from outside Europe.
So for example, if one wishes to recruit an Indian
computer programmer on a four-year contract, on top of the existing
Visa charges and the administration involved around that, there will be
labour market tests and all these other things in place.
There will be a fee of ?1000 per year, so for a
four-year contract, that employer will have to pay ?4000 of an
immigration skills charge.
Now, that is something that is currently
applying to non-EU.
That maybe something that has been suggested to
us, and could apply to the EU.
As I say, I am not in a position at the
moment to really speculate as to what the settlement will be
But Downing Street later insisted that extending the levy wasn't
on the Government's agenda.
And that's it for now, but do join me at the same time
tomorrow for the best of the day here in Westminster.
But until then, from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.