08/02/2017 Wednesday in Parliament


Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 8 February, presented by Keith Macdougall.

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Hello and welcome to Wednesday In Parliament,


our look at the best of the day in the Commons and the Lords.


On this programme, the Bill that triggers the UK's EU departure


process finally clears the Commons and heads for the Lords.


The ayes to the right, 494. The noes to the left, 122.


As a local authority abandons a large council tax rise


to pay for social care, the Labour leader presses Theresa


Is the same sweetheart deal on offer to every council facing


the social care crisis created by her government?


The last thing social care providers need is another one of Labour's


bouncing cheques! A minister in the Lords calms fears


about those absent vegetables The only shortage will be of iceberg


lettuce, which we think will be for about a few months


and there is a wonderful variety But first, the Bill that authorises


ministers to trigger Article 50, the process by which the UK


starts its departure from the European Union,


has cleared the House of Commons. The EU Notification


of Withdrawal Bill will now move on to the House of Lords,


where it will undergo Before the Bill's final day


of debate in the Commons, the Brexit process was brought up


at Prime Minister's Questions Angus Robertson focused


on the decision of the Scottish Parliament to reject the triggering


of Article 50. When the Prime Minister


was in Edinburgh on the 15th of July last year, she pledged


that she would, and I quote," not trigger Article 50 until she had


an agreed UK wide approach." So, given the Scottish Parliament


has voted overwhelmingly against her approach and all bar one


MP representing a Scottish constituency in this House


of Commons has voted against her approach, she does not


have an agreed UK-wide approach. Now, Mr Speaker, as the Prime


Minister knows, a lot of people in Scotland watch primaries this


questions so will she tell the viewers in Scotland


whether she intends to keep her word The Supreme Court was very clear


that the Scottish parliament does not have a veto on the triggering


Article 50. The Bill that is going through


the House obviously is giving the power to the government


to trigger Article 50 and I would also remind him of this


point because he constantly refers to the interests of Scotland


inside the European Union. An independent Scotland would not be


in the European Union. Then came a reference


to Kenneth Clarke's speech The Prime Minister's Right


Honourable friend the member for Rushcliffe last week pointed out


that her aspiration to achieve barrier-free, tariff-free trade


with the single market getting all the benefits but paying none


of the costs was actually akin to disappearing down the rabbit


hole to Wonderland. Mr Speaker, I think she makes a very


interesting choice for Alice but if she doesn't manage to achieve


that high ambition, would she produce an analysis


of what trading on WTO rules would actually mean for our economy,


so we can make a proper choice? We believe it is possible


within the two-year time frame to get the agreement,


not just for our withdrawal from the European Union, but also


the trade arrangements that will ensure we have a strong


strategic partnership with the European Union


in the future. Shortly after PMQs, the Commons


moved onto more discussion on the details of the EU


Notification of Withdrawal Bill, The co-leader of the Greens,


Caroline Lucas, seized on the fact that Theresa May has not expressed


any guarantees so far about the rights of EU nationals


living and working in the UK. What we talking about


here people's lives. People's lives are not


simply commodities to be traded at the convenience


of some wider bargain. The Prime Minister quite simply


could and should guarantee to people who have made their lives


here in good faith that of course The idea that it is appropriate


to do otherwise I think is quite Will the honourable lady


give way on that point? Is she aware as I am of EU nationals


in very senior positions in UK institutions who are already leaving


the country and people who are EU nationals who are being interviewed


for senior positions, who are now asking very searching questions


about what does Brexit mean for them I want to make sure that this issue


is put into perspective. Out of the 3.5 million EU nationals


currently residing in the UK, approximately 64% of them already


have the right to stay here. 8% of them are children of an EU


National parent and therefore they have a right to reside


here and 12% of the 3.5 million people will have accrued


there five years of permanent We can't even deport


convicted criminals. The truth is that not


a single EU national is ever I agree wholeheartedly with that,


and that would be against any ideas of natural justice,


legitimate expectation and the rule of law if we were to be going down


that course of action. The Prime Minister could vote to


guarantee those rights for EU nationals working here. She could


make clear that they will not be used as a bargaining chip and we


could end their uncertainty today. Likewise, we will also want to


safeguard the rights for Brits living in Europe too. But, I


believe, by adopting a positive approach today, we make it more


likely Brits living in the EU will be treated fairly.


The issue of EU nationals was once again raised this afternoon.


It has been debated also earlier this week.


I want to once again state to the House that the government


fully recognises that the issue of EU nationals resident


in the United Kingdom is an extremely important one


and one which we wish to address as a matter of priority,


just as we wish to address the issue of the rights of UK nationals


This, however, has got to be a matter that is addressed


And after the detailed committee stage of the Bill was finished,


the legislation entered what's known as its Third Reading stage.


And when a final vote of the House took place,


The ayes to the right 494. The noes to the left, 122. CHEERING


The ayes to the right, 494, the noes to the left 122. The ayes have it,


the ayes have it! Claims that the government agreed


a behind-the-scenes deal with a Conservative-controlled


council over the funding of social care have you made


by the Labour leader, Surrey County Council was due


to hold a referendum of its residents to gain approval


for a 15% rise in council tax to pay for the cost of care in Surrey


for elderly and vulnerable people. The vote was called off


and the 15% rise was withdrawn. A much smaller increase


will be made instead. At Prime Minister's Questions,


Jeremy Corbyn said the problems of paying for social care


across the country The crisis is so bad


that until yesterday, Mr Speaker, David Hodge,


the Conservative leader of Surrey County Council planned


to hold a referendum for a 15% And at the last minute


it was called off. Can the Prime Minister tell


the House whether or not a special I recognise the short-term


pressures, that's why we have enabled local authorities to put


more money into social care. Over the next two years


?900 million more will be Mr Speaker, my question was how


is there been a special The leaders said they had had many


conversations with the government. We know they have because I have


been leaked copies of texts sent by the Tory leader David Hodge


intended for somebody called Nick who works for ministers


in the Department for Communities These texts read, "I'm advised that


DCLG officials have been working on a solution and you will be


contacting me to agree Will the government now publish this


memorandum of understanding? What the Labour Party fail


to understand is that this is not just a question of looking at money,


it is a question of looking at spreading best practice


and finding a sustainable solution and I have to say to him that


if we look at social care provision across the entire country,


the last thing social care providers need is another one


of Labour's bouncing cheques. Mr Speaker, I wonder


if it is anything to do with the fact that the Chancellor


and Health Secretary both represent But Mr Speaker, there was a second


text from Surrey County Council leader to Nick and in the second


text it says "the numbers you indicated are numbers that


I understand are acceptable for me Now, I have been reading a bit


of John le Carr and apparently And he goes on to say


it his text to make, "If it is possible for that info


to be sent to myself, So, how much did the government


offer Surrey to kill this off and is the same sweetheart deal


on offer to every council facing the social care crisis


created by her government? Yet again, what we get from Labour


are alternative facts. What they really need


is an alternative leader. What he always fails to recognise,


what he fails to recognise, is you can only spend money


on social care and the National Health Service if you have a strong


economy to deliver the wealth A Labour MP has recently returned


to the Commons after going hospital It has been absolutely


wonderful, the service I got, but there is a flip side


and the flip is what We have dedicated nurses,


you call them corridor nurses, and they are in the corridor


and looking after To be quite honest with you,


Prime Minister, that's not the way we want the health service to run,


we want it to run the way Get your purse open and give them


the money that they want. Well, as the speaker said,


I welcome the honourable gentleman to his place again in this chamber


and I commend all those, the surgeon and all those


who have treated him in the National Health Service that


has enabled him to be here today There are, as we know,


surgeons, doctors, nurses, other staff up and down the NHS day


in and day out saving lives and we should commend them


for all that they do. The north-east actually is a very


good example of some of the really good practice that we see


in the National Health Service. What I want to see is that good


practice being spread across the NHS As we long suspected,


the Prime Minister is a keen During Prime Minister's Questions,


she told MPs how often should choose It all stemmed from a question put


to Theresa May by an SNP MP Does the Prime Minister agree that


in a 21st-century Parliament, the rules should not enable any


member to speak for 58 minutes Does she agree with me


that the rules of the House should be changed to prevent filibustering


and to ensure that members on all sides of the House get a fair


share of the time available? I have to say I find that


a rather curious question Last night as it happens I was out


of the House to wean the two votes. I switched on the BBC


parliamentary channel and I saw I switched back to the


parliamentary channel. I saw the honourable


gentleman still speaking. I switched back and the honourable


gentleman was still speaking. He's the last person to complain


about filibustering in this House. You're watching our round-up


of the day in the Commons As overseas veg


becomes more scarce in the an appeal for


shoppers to buy British. The Government's faced demands


for a limit on the amount that high street banks can charge customers


who have an unarranged overdraft. The calls follow an investigation by


the consumer organisation "Which?" into what it's called


the "punitive" charges. It found the cost to borrowers


of an unauthorised overdraft was even higher than the cost


charged by a payday lender. In a debate in Westminster Hall,


MPs joined "Which?" in urging the Government


and the watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority -


the FCA, to take action. The major banks currently make over


?1 billion per year on charges The majority of whom,


says the head of the Competition and Markets Authority,


from financially Step Change debt charity has


estimated that around 1 million people in the UK are trapped


in an overdraft cycle, and are consistently


using overdrafts to meet essential found consumers needing as little


as ?100 could be charged up to ?156 more by some major high street banks


than The Financial Conduct Authority allows payday loan companies


to charge when borrowing the same So as an example they compare


the cost of borrowing ?100 for 30 days and found that arranged


overdraft charges at some high street banks were as much a 7.5


times higher than the maximum charge of ?24 on a payday loan


on the same period. Sometimes it is in the banks'


interest to allow customers to amass massive overdrafts so they can push


them on to even higher personal loans and other products


which they might not need and may not be the right thing


for their circumstances. The Government is committed


to doing two things. Firstly, to making sure


that we support and encourage competition amongst financial


services providers, not only so people have more choice


over who to bank with, but because we know more competition


inevitably means better options on offer to customers who can vote


with their feet. But secondly we want to make sure


that British customers are supported in the important financial


decisions they make. The FCA, he said, was already


investigating high-cost credit, We will, I can reassure honourable


members, the Government will be monitoring closely the work


of the FCA in looking at this area and I am sure,


and I will say it again, that the views expressed


by honourable members this morning will be taken into consideration


as the Committee We will also be continuing our


efforts as a Government, We have taken steps


to encourage competition. We have taken steps


to support credit unions. We've taking steps to improve


financial education. Added to this, approach that this


Government will continue to take steps to ensure British customers


have the quality choices, good information, and strong


protections they need. Voters are to be asked to produce


a form of identification at polling stations under new plans


being trialled by the Government. It follows a review published last


year into tackling electoral fraud. But at question-time in the Commons,


a Labour MP said a requirement for ID could lead to some people


being denied their right to vote. In December 2008 I was an election


observer in Bangladesh, and because of previous voter fraud


they actually photographed 18 million people and it was clearly


identifiable when the people went Because we need in a democracy


as many people to vote as possible but we don't want theft of identity


when people vote. My right honourable friend makes


a very good point around There are many countries


across the world including Canada, Brazil, Austria, that already have


photographic ID when it comes to registering in polling stations,


including in Northern Ireland The Government is taking


forward pilots looking This will take place in local


government elections in 2018 and we will be willing to test these


forms of identification, photographic ID, non-photographic


ID, above all to ensure that no one is disenfranchised


when it comes to voting. The Government's talk of voter


fraud is a smoke screen They are putting obstacles


between people and the polling booth instead of working


to boost our democracy. If it is such a problem then


they must report how many convictions there has been


from voter fraud last year. I am surprised that the honourable


gentleman for somehow claiming It was a Labour Government


introduced photographic ID The Electoral Commission


and all other electoral administrators have called for ID


in polling stations. The case of Ched Evans,


the Wales international footballer eventually found not guilty of rape,


has thrown into the spotlight the issue of how far


cross-examinations in court In the Commons, a Plaid Cymru MP has


said women are being unfairly subjected to "humiliating"


questioning over their sexual history and, even,


their choice of clothing. She was introducing a Bill under


Parliament's 10-minute rule that would limit the ability


of barristers to bring in evidence about an accuser's sexual history


in an assault trial. The provisions in this Bill


are all based on the distressing experiences of victims


of serious sexual claims. Ivy, a rape victim, was told


at a ground rules hearing that her sexual history


would not be used. But in court she faced


questions and allegations Emma was followed by a stranger


who attacked and tried to rape her. Her screams were met with a threat


of stop or be killed. Fortunately two off-duty police


officers heard her screams. The trial fixated on why Emma


chose to wear a red dress The humiliation of victims of sexual


assault by reference to matters irrelevant to the case cannot be


allowed to continue. The Bill won the initial support


of MPs, but is not likely to become law without the support


of the Government. Now, it's probably not at the top


of the Prime Minister's in-tray. But the shortage of items


on the fruit and veg shelves of our supermarkets -


following recent bad weather in Southern Europe--


has certainly led to The absence of courgettes


in particular prompted a flurry Some reports have declared that


Britain is 'in the grip of a courgette shortage that


could last for months'. In the House of Lords,


a Minister was keen to calm our You will have seen the news reports


of empty shelves in supermarkets, with the crisis expected to last


until the spring, and meanwhile prices have trebled,


in part because it costs more to fly vegetables from the USA


and from Egypt than that does Can I ask, given the public


health implications, has the department ensured


that there are sufficient alternative sources of vegetables,


particularly in schools Can I also ask is the department


monitoring the prices to make sure My Lords, my officials have been


discussing this matter In point of fact the


situation is improving. The climate conditions in Spain


and the Mediterranean are enabling the situation to improve,


but not only that, there are other sources of supply from the Americas


which are coming in. But I would say that this is a time


when we should be reflecting about using our own wonderful


nutritious British vegetables, and at the moment, all I can say


is in the last few years food prices And I think that may


deal with what some of the Labour Baroness


may have been implying. Would not any rational man or woman


think that to describe a shortage of lettuces in the supermarket


as a crisis shows a lack of understanding of the meaning of


the words in the English language? My Lords, I was seeking to be


courteous to the noble Baroness The only shortage will be of iceberg


lettuce which we think will be for about a few months,


and there is a wonderful variety My Lords, my Lords, my Lords,


half of vegetables we eat in this country are imported,


including native crops Isn't it time for the Government's


forthcoming green paper on food and farming to tackle this decline


in home grown veg? My Lords, I thoroughly endorse


the wish that we all have It's precisely going


to be at the heart of But very much so, in fact


I was pleased only this morning to hear that cauliflowers


from Cornwall are coming So we have a great opportunity again


to buy some British vegetables. I think it is only fair


we go with the Greens My huge thanks to the


Leader of the House. Back in 2008 at the request


of the then mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, I produced a report


on how to make London more sustainable in its food supplies,


and part of that was actually Would the noble Lord the Minister


like me to forward a copy of my report for the Government's


use to contribute I am sure the paper,


and I would like to see a copy, endorses the importance of having


lower food miles, which means But do join me for our


next daily round-up. Until then, from me,


Keith McDougall, goodbye.


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