11/01/2017 Wednesday in Parliament


11/01/2017

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 11 January, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament.

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Coming up on this programme:

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Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn trade blows over the state

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of the NHS in England.

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The Governor of the Bank of England says Brexit is no

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longer the biggest risk to the UK's financial stability.

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And ministers are urged to do more to help the victims

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of modern slavery.

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It is thought by the police there are probably 10,000 people

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in a year who are victims, and 30 convictions.

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But first, at Prime Minister's Questions, Theresa May defended

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the Government's handling of England's NHS as Jeremy Corbyn

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accused her of being in denial over the pressures facing

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the health service.

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Nearly a quarter of patients waited longer than four

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hours in A last week, with just one hospital

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hitting its target.

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And huge numbers also faced long waits for a bed when A staff

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admitted them into hospital as emergency cases, with more

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than 18,000 trolley waits of more than four hours or more.

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The figures come from the document compiled by NHS Improvement,

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one of the regulators in England, and show that this winter is proving

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to be the most difficult in more than a decade.

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Jeremy Corbyn picked up on those figures and recent

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comments by the Red Cross.

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Last week, Mr Speaker, 485 people in England spent more

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than 12 hours on trolleys in hospital corridors.

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The Red Cross described this as a humanitarian crisis.

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I called on the Prime Minister to come to Parliament on Monday -

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she didn't, she sent the Health Secretary.

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But does she agree with him that the best way to solve

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the crisis of the four-hour wait is to fiddle the figures so that

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people are not seen to be waiting so long

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on trolleys in NHS hospitals?

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He talks about the pressures on the NHS and we acknowledge

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that there are pressures on the National Health Service.

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There are always extra pressures on the NHS during the winter,

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but of course we have at the moment those added pressures of the ageing

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population and the growing, complex needs of the population.

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He also refers to the British Red Cross' term

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of a humanitarian crisis.

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I have to say to him that I think we've all seen humanitarian crises

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around the world and to use that description of a National Health

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Service which last year saw 2.5 million more people treated

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in A than six years ago was irresponsible and overblown.

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Mr Speaker, she seems to be in some degree of denial about this

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and won't listen to professional organisations who have

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spent their whole lifetime doing their best for the NHS.

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Can I ask her if she'll listen to Sian, who works for the NHS?

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She has a 22-month-old nephew.

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He went into hospital, there was no bed, he was treated

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on two plastic chairs pushed together with a blanket.

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She says one of the nurses told her sister, it's

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always like this nowadays.

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She asked a question to all of us.

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Surely we should strive to do better than this.

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Does the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary think this

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is an acceptable way of treating a 22-month-old child needing help?

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I accept there have been a small number of incidents...

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..where unacceptable practices have taken place.

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But what matters, we don't want those things to happen,

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but what matters is how you then deal with them.

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That's why it's so important that the NHS does look into issues

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where there are unacceptable incidents that have taken place

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and then learns lessons from them.

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She highlighted the pressures the service was facing.

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Over the Christmas period, in the Tuesday after Christmas,

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we saw the busiest day ever in the National Health Service.

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Over the few weeks around Christmas, we saw a day when more people

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were treated in A within four hours than had ever happened before.

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This is the reality of our National Health Service.

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Jeremy Corbyn pressed on, attacking the Government's record

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on mental health and social care.

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Earlier this week, the Prime Minister said she wanted

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to create a shared society.

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We've certainly got that.

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More people sharing hospital corridors on trolleys.

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More people sharing waiting areas at A departments.

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More people sharing in anxiety created by this Government.

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Our NHS, Mr Speaker, is in crisis, but the Prime Minister is in denial.

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Can I suggest to her, on the economic question,

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cancel the corporate tax cuts, spend the money where it's needed -

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on people in desperate need in social care or in our hospitals.

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The right honourable gentleman talks about crisis.

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I suggest he listens to the honourable member

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for Don Valley, a former Labour Health Minister, who

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said the following.

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"With Labour, it's always about crisis.

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"The NHS is on its knees, we've got to be a bit more

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"grown-up about this."

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He talks to me about corporation tax and restoring the cuts

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in corporation tax.

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The Labour Party has already spent that money eight times.

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The last thing the NHS needs is a cheque from Labour that bounces.

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The only way we can ensure we've got funding

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for the National Health Service is a strong economy.

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Yesterday, the right honourable gentleman proved that he's

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not only incompetent, but that he would destroy

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our economy and that would devastate

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our National Health Service.

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A reference there to Jeremy Corbyn's comments the previous day

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on immigration and earnings limits.

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Later in the day, the head of the NHS in England,

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Sir Simon Stevens, told MPs that funding would be highly constrained

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over the next three years and that spending per person in real terms

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would reduce in England.

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He was asked if NHS England had got the money it had asked for.

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The Government is repeatedly telling us, I've had letters recently

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from the Secretary of State, that the NHS is getting more

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money than it asks for.

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What's your view on that?

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Well, it's right that by 2020 NHS England will be getting an extra

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?10 billion over the course of six years.

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I don't think that's the same as saying we're getting more

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than we asked for over five years because it was a five-year forward

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view, not a six-year forward view.

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Over and above that, we've been through a spending review

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negotiation in the meantime and that has set the NHS budget

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for the next three years.

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It's a matter of fact, it's not news, I've said it

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previously to a select committee back in October, that like probably

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every part of the public service we got less than we asked

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for in that process.

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I think it would be stretching it to say

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that the NHS has got more than it asked for.

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OK.

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Would you agree there's not enough money and there is a clear gap?

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There are clearly very substantial pressures and I don't think it

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helps anybody to try and pretend there aren't.

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But that's not a new phenomenon, to some extent, it's

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a phenomenon that's intensifying.

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In the here and now, there are very real pressures.

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Over the next three years, funding is going to be highly

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constrained and in 2018-19, as I previously said in October,

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real terms NHS spending per person in England is going to go down,

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ten years after Lehmann Brothers and austerity began.

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We all understand why that is, but let's not pretend that's not

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placing huge pressure on the service.

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You're watching Wednesday in Parliament with me,

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Alicia McCarthy.

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Now let's go back to Prime Minister's Questions

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and the situation in Northern Ireland.

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The Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein's Martin

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McGuinness, has resigned.

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Under Stormont's power-sharing agreement, his resignation

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means the First Minister, Arlene Foster, also loses her office

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and that could mean fresh elections have to be held.

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The SNP's Westminster group leader thought that breakdown could have

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wide-reaching implications.

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The Prime Minister has indicated that she wants to take the views

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of the elected representatives and the devolved institutions

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on Brexit seriously.

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So it stands to reason that if there is no Northern Ireland

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Assembly and there is no Northern Irish Executive for much

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of the time before the March timetable she has set before

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invoking Article 50, that she'll be unable

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to properly consult, to fully discuss and to find

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agreement on the complex issues during this time period.

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In these circumstances, will the Prime Minister postpone

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invoking Article 50...

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Will she postpone Article 50 or will she just plough on regardless?

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I'm clear that first of all we want to try to ensure that

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within this period of seven days we can find the result

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of into the political situation in Northern Ireland

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so that we can continue to see the Assembly government continuing.

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But I'm also clear that in the discussions we have

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it will be possible...

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It's still the case that ministers are in place and that obviously

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there are executives in place, that we are still able

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to take the views of the Northern Ireland people.

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Theresa May.

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Brexit is no longer the biggest risk to the UK's financial stability,

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the Governor of the Bank of England has told MPs.

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Mark Carney was making one of his regular appearances

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at the Treasury Committee.

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He was asked about remarks made by a colleague, Andy Haldane -

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the Bank of England's chief economist - about

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economic forecasting.

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Andy Haldane called the failure to predict the financial crisis

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of 2008 a "Michael Fish" moment for economists.

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He also accepted that a similar dynamic might have been in play over

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the bank's forecasts about Brexit.

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I feel I should begin by asking you, will you agree with the chief

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economist that the Bank of England's be having a Michael

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Fish moment, or two?

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Well, one of the advantages of managing group think is one

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doesn't always agree with everything that is said.

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By colleagues.

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Think the core point that Andy Haldane made,

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or tried to make, related to, no disrespect to Mr Fish, I should

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say, but was trying to make...

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Pertains exactly to what we are talking about today.

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Which is the ability to identify the risk to financial stability.

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And the poor performance of most in the economic profession,

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including some of the major topic institutions, the Bank of England.

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In identifying the major risks prior to the crisis.

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And he said the Bank had taken action to mitigate the risks

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around the referendum.

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I do think we helped make the weather.

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Meteorologists predict the weather, we helped make the weather

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in that we catalysed continuously continuously planned actions,

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pre-position of collateral, other steps within our

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major central banks.

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And better risk management, which helped make sure that this

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was a smooth process.

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He was asked whether Brexit remained the biggest domestic risk

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to the UK's financial stability.

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I am going to try and take you to a yes or no on it.

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Because...

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Well, strictly speaking, strictly speaking, the view of the

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committee is no.

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And he explained that the Bank of England had taken

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action to ease the risks.

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The UK's Green Investment Bank could be killed off if the Government goes

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ahead with plans to sell it, according to the Green

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party MP Caroline Lucas.

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The bank supports offshore wind farms and other green projects.

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The Government has announced plans to part privatise it,

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with Australian bank McQuarrie thought to be the preferred bidder.

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But former Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Sir Vince Cable said

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he fears it will be split up.

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The co-leader of the Green party urged ministers

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to halt the planned sale.

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This week, we had that the Green Investment Bank stands on the brink

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of not just being flogged off, but of being broken up

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with its green purposes discarded.

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Founded in 2012, the GIB has been widely recognised

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as a true success story, kick-starting truly innovative,

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low-carbon projects across the UK.

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And yet, this preferred bidder, McQuarrie, not only has a dismal

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and terrible environmental record, it also has an appalling track

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record of asset stripping.

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Why is the Government setting up a structure to invite

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in a profiteer asset stripper?

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If the GIB has been restructured in such a way as to allow it it's

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to be stripped of its assets, how can the Government guarantee

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that the special share supposedly introduced to protect the future

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of the GIB, will have the intended effect?

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Isn't this exactly the wrong time to be selling off

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the Green Investment Bank, given that the Government

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has decided to embark upon a new industrial strategy

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which must, to be in accord with our own climate change commitments,

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have low-carbon projects at its core?

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And finally, will the Minister admit that this selling off could lead

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to the bank being fatally undermined as an enduring institution.

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Will he stop the killing of the GIB?

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Will he halt the sale process with immediate effect?

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The minister said he couldn't comment on the process, potential

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bidders are media speculation.

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-- or media speculation.

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It is precisely because we want the Green Investment Bank

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to be able to do more, unfettered from the constraints

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of the state, that we are seeking to put it into the private sector.

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And the objectives that we have set out in the sale,

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they could not have been clearer.

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It has been discussed in this house.

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We are looking at very clear objectives around securing value

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for money for taxpayers, which must be our

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primary responsibility.

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We want to ensure that the GIB can be reclassified

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to the private sector.

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But we have also been very clear that the reason we want to move

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into the private sector is to enable the business to grow,

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and continue as an institution supporting investment

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in the green economy.

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We are selling it as a going concern, and potential investors

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will be buying into the company's green business plan

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and forward pipeline projects.

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These are the criteria we have set, these are the criteria

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against which we are evaluating the proposals that are before us.

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The Government's being urged to give victims of slavery the right

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to stay in the UK - to help ensure human

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traffickers can be locked up.

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MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee are looking

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into the treatment of those who've been enslaved.

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The former High Court Judge and independent peer

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Lady Butler-Sloss explained that victims receive financial and other

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support while their cases are being investigated,

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but when that period comes to an end, the help stops,

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even if a person has been officially recognised as a victim of slavery.

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She said this was "appalling" and explained some of

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the consequences of the process, known as the

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National Referral Mechanism or NRM.

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We had 31 convictions last year.

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And there were over 1000 people, I think,

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identified going through the NRM.

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It is thought by police there are 10,000 people per year who are

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victims, probably.

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And 30 convictions.

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One of the reasons is that the police, of

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course, can't keep track of these people because they have no idea

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where they are.

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They all disappear because they have no

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entitlements.

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If you don't have the witnesses, speaking as a former

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judge, you have a great difficulty in going ahead with the

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prosecutions.

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So it is actually in the public interest to keep these

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people with some entitlement in this country, at least until the time

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when there has been a trial and we have had a conviction.

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-- we hope a conviction.

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Otherwise, we don't get the traffickers.

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Do you think, to fix this so that they

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don't fall off at the end, does that need to be legislation?

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Can it just be guidance that can be put out to

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DWP?

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Immediately?

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What is your view on how we fix it?

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It occurs to me that another group of people I've

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witnessed recently, women who are domestic violence survivors

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and have been moved to another town in the

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country, and they are nobody with no paperwork.

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And they have the same battles with the local Jobcentre,

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who are you?

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We have never heard of you?

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Do we need legislation to do this, or some kind of guidance that

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the DWP can have?

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Do we maybe need a new category of people who are, ask

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no questions, you've got this label, this piece of paper, and you

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automatically have the entitlement to benefits?

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There is statutory guidance being drafted at this

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moment.

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Which makes me think that this committee is enormously

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important, because I hope that you will have a real impact on that

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statutory guidance.

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But it seems to me there is two things, really.

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One, the other two know better than I do,

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one is the immigration status.

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If you can get at least the leave to remain for a year, but preferably

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indefinitely to remain, but even one year would help.

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And then, there would be that guidance, I would

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hope, that they would then be expressed their entitlement to

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health care, housing and so on.

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So that they would have a piece of paper that they could show to all

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the authorities so that they would then become priorities.

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I know local authorities have appalling problems

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with housing.

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But these are people who really should be treated as

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priorities.

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The Committee also heard from the Independent

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Anti-Slavery Commissioner - he said victims were being let down.

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Is somebody who has been kept in slavery for six months then

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capable of doing a job straight after?

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It is very unlikely.

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There would be a period that they would

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need to be supported.

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And I think that that period, we need to say

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what is the period?

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I wouldn't want this to be a lifetime on benefits -

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I don't think...

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We need to be working about how we integrate people within

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the UK, or when they go home.

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But it needs to be enough time that professionals are able to assess and

0:19:000:19:04

say, this person needs to be supported for that period of time.

0:19:040:19:06

You know, some people may need long-term psychological support.

0:19:060:19:09

Now, let's go back to the state of England's health service.

0:19:090:19:15

MPs spent the afternoon in a Labour-led debate on NHS

0:19:150:19:17

and social care funding.

0:19:170:19:18

Where backbench MPs set out the problems facing the NHS

0:19:180:19:21

and some possible solutions.

0:19:210:19:22

What we are seeing is this Government is running out of places

0:19:220:19:25

to cut corners to save money on the NHS.

0:19:250:19:28

We are seeing the lack of respect and compassion given to

0:19:280:19:35

people, the health care they need and deserve.

0:19:350:19:37

We are seeing those that need care at home having to make do

0:19:370:19:40

with 15 minute flying visits.

0:19:400:19:41

We have seen the pressure in A E departments building over the last

0:19:410:19:45

six years, and yet, every year, we reach a winter crisis.

0:19:450:19:48

And somehow, this is a surprise to the

0:19:480:19:50

Government.

0:19:500:19:53

We have seen A E waiting times increasing were now

0:19:530:19:57

over 1.8 million people are waiting more than four hours.

0:19:570:20:04

In 2015-16, an increase of 400% since 2010.

0:20:040:20:06

Hospitals are under pressure in winter because of admissions.

0:20:060:20:16

Because the people who come to A E are sicker, are older, are more

0:20:170:20:21

competent.

0:20:210:20:24

-- complicated.

0:20:240:20:25

And that is the problem that we have at the moment.

0:20:250:20:28

But what we haven't seen as I just mention,

0:20:280:20:30

is any summer respite In NHS England at all.

0:20:300:20:32

It's not a catastrophe of people living longer.

0:20:320:20:34

All of us who are medical in the House remember

0:20:340:20:36

that was definitely the point of why we went into medicine, and that is

0:20:360:20:40

the point of the NHS.

0:20:400:20:41

But we are not ageing very well.

0:20:410:20:43

And for the age of 40 or 50 onwards, people are

0:20:430:20:45

starting to accumulate conditions that maybe they would not have

0:20:450:20:48

survived in the past.

0:20:480:20:49

By the time they are 70, they have four or five

0:20:490:20:51

core morbidities is that make treating even

0:20:510:20:53

something quite simple a challenge.

0:20:530:20:54

So my colleagues and friends who are still working on the front

0:20:540:20:57

line say it is not even just numbers, it is

0:20:570:21:00

complexity.

0:21:000:21:01

Someone comes with what sounds like an easy issue,

0:21:010:21:03

but in actual fact, with diabetes and renal failure and previous heart

0:21:030:21:06

attack, this is now a complex issue.

0:21:060:21:07

The Conservative and GP who chairs the Health Committee is one of those

0:21:070:21:10

calling for a cross-party convention to map out a future

0:21:100:21:13

for health and social care.

0:21:130:21:14

And I think what our constituents want us

0:21:140:21:16

to do as politicians is to

0:21:160:21:17

recognise the scale of the challenge.

0:21:170:21:19

And get to grips with it.

0:21:190:21:20

In future, would you agree with me that there should be a new funding

0:21:200:21:28

settlement, certainly in terms of the budget,

0:21:280:21:35

that the NHS and social care, and bring both of them

0:21:350:21:38

together.

0:21:380:21:39

At the moment, there have been cuts of ?4.6 billion.

0:21:390:21:42

That is what I am hoping.

0:21:420:21:43

We must end the silos of health and social care.

0:21:430:21:48

Thinking about this money has been social care money or health money,

0:21:480:21:52

and think of it as a patient pound and a taxpayer pound, and how to get

0:21:520:21:56

the very best from that.

0:21:560:22:00

What impact will our exit from the EU have

0:22:000:22:02

on the Labour market - more specifically on industries that

0:22:020:22:06

currently rely on large numbers of migrant workers to get the job

0:22:060:22:09

done - such as agriculture?

0:22:090:22:12

In the Lords, Peers urged Ministers to make a firm commitment that

0:22:120:22:15

foreign workers already in the UK would be able to stay after Brexit.

0:22:150:22:20

Isn't it time that the Government really

0:22:200:22:22

dropped this ridiculous pretence that there is a trade-off here?

0:22:220:22:27

The reality is that we have significant sectors of our

0:22:270:22:31

economy, like caring and hospitality and areas of agriculture, which

0:22:310:22:36

would virtually collapse if non-British nationals didn't remain

0:22:360:22:38

and work here.

0:22:380:22:48

There is massive and anxiety out there in the country,

0:22:480:22:51

amongst employer and employee.

0:22:510:22:52

Is it time now that the Government did the

0:22:520:22:54

right thing morally and commercially, and gave these

0:22:540:22:56

individuals the right to remain?

0:22:560:22:57

The Government has been absolutely clear

0:22:570:22:59

that it will seek to reach agreement on this issue at an early

0:22:590:23:02

stage of negotiations with the EU.

0:23:020:23:03

I dispute the notion of a trade-off

0:23:030:23:07

because the EU's refusal to guarantee the status of UK

0:23:070:23:10

nationals elsewhere in the EU prior to

0:23:100:23:14

negotiations shows that the Government has been absolutely

0:23:140:23:17

right not to give away the guarantee for

0:23:170:23:19

status of EU citizens in the UK.

0:23:190:23:23

Because the Prime Minister has said that would have left UK citizens

0:23:230:23:26

high and dry.

0:23:260:23:28

For agriculturalists and horticulturalists in Lincolnshire

0:23:280:23:32

and adjoining counties, the access to migrant labour

0:23:320:23:34

is very important indeed.

0:23:340:23:36

Without our migrant labour, it is probable that many of those

0:23:360:23:39

businesses would not survive.

0:23:390:23:42

Does the Minister appreciate that there

0:23:420:23:46

are tens of thousands of European citizens working in our health

0:23:460:23:49

service?

0:23:490:23:54

And indeed our health service would fall apart - I am not

0:23:540:23:59

exaggerating - fall apart if it wasn't for these workers?

0:23:590:24:02

Does the Minister agree with the statement

0:24:020:24:09

statement in the recent CBI report that we need a system informed by

0:24:090:24:12

business, rather than imposed on business?

0:24:120:24:15

And that this is essential to the future economic growth of

0:24:150:24:18

the UK?

0:24:180:24:27

Is the Government talking to employers, listening to them,

0:24:270:24:29

and what have they had to

0:24:290:24:30

say about the ?1000 levy about which we have heard today?

0:24:300:24:33

That was a reference to comments from Government minister

0:24:330:24:35

Robert Goodwill who told a lords committee that there

0:24:350:24:37

were suggestions that firms which hire European Union workers

0:24:370:24:39

could face an annual levy after the UK leaves the EU.

0:24:390:24:42

Mr Goodwill explained that businesses will from this April be

0:24:420:24:45

charged a ?1,000 a year for every skilled worker they employ

0:24:450:24:47

from outside Europe.

0:24:470:24:50

So for example, if one wishes to recruit an Indian

0:24:500:24:53

computer programmer on a four-year contract, on top of the existing

0:24:530:24:57

Visa charges and the administration involved around that, there will be

0:24:570:25:06

labour market tests and all these other things in place.

0:25:060:25:09

There will be a fee of ?1000 per year, so for a

0:25:090:25:15

four-year contract, that employer will have to pay ?4000 of an

0:25:150:25:19

immigration skills charge.

0:25:190:25:20

Now, that is something that is currently

0:25:200:25:21

applying to non-EU.

0:25:210:25:22

That maybe something that has been suggested to

0:25:220:25:25

us, and could apply to the EU.

0:25:250:25:27

As I say, I am not in a position at the

0:25:270:25:29

moment to really speculate as to what the settlement will be

0:25:290:25:32

post-Brexit negotiations.

0:25:320:25:34

But Downing Street later insisted that extending the levy wasn't

0:25:340:25:38

on the Government's agenda.

0:25:380:25:41

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

0:25:410:25:46

tomorrow for the best of the day here in Westminster.

0:25:460:25:48

But until then, from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.

0:25:480:25:52