Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 22 February presented by Kristiina Cooper.
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Hello and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament.
The Labour leader says the Government has put
England's NHS and social care in a state of emergency.
We need a Government that puts the NHS first,
But the Prime Minister says Labour policies would leave no money
That doesn't help doctors and nurses, it doesn't help
patients, it doesn't help the NHS, and it doesn't help ordinary,
working families up and down this country.
The Local Government Secretary says he understands only too well
the pain caused by increases to business rates.
Growing up above the family shop, I saw for myself the impact
an increase in rates can have on small businesses.
A rise in the costs lowered the mood of the whole family.
Even as a child, I knew it wasn't good when I found a stack of bright
red final reminders hidden away at the back of the drawer.
A fortnight ago, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sprang a surprise
on Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions.
He read out leaked text messages which, he said,
indicated the Government had offered Surrey County Council a special deal
His remarks were widely reported, and the Department
for Local Government spent the day rejecting the assertions.
At the latest session of PMQs, Mr Corbyn returned
to the same territory, saying that the Government had put
health and social care in a "state of emergency".
Her friend, the Tory chair of the Local Government Association,
Lord Porter, has said, and I quote:
Extra council tax income will not bring in anywhere near enough money
to alleviate the growing pressure on social care.
Two weeks ago, we found out about the sweetheart
When will the other 151 social services departments in England get
The right honourable gentleman refers to the questions he asked me
about Surrey County Council two weeks ago.
Those claims were utterly destroyed the same afternoon.
So rather than asking the same question, he should
Mr Speaker, far from apologising, it's the Prime Minister who ought
to be reading her correspondence and answering the letter
from 62 council leaders, representing social services
authorities, who want to know if they're going to get
the same deal as Surrey, as they are grappling
with the crisis which has left over a million people not getting
Theresa May insisted it was her Conservative Government
that was putting extra funding into the NHS.
I remind the right honourable gentleman that we are spending
1.3 billion more on the NHS this year than Labour planned to do if
Let's just look at what's happening in the NHS.
We have 1800 more midwives in the NHS than 2010.
We have more people being seen in accident
We have more operations taking place every week
Our National Health Service staff are working hard,
they're providing a quality of care for patients up
What they don't need is a Labour Party policy that leads
to a bankrupt economy, because Labour's policy is that
you spend money on everything, which means you
and have no money to spend on anything.
That doesn't help doctors and nurses, it doesn't help
patients, it doesn't help the NHS, and it doesn't help ordinary,
working families up and down this country.
Her Government has put the NHS and social care
Nine out of ten NHS trusts are unsafe.
18,000 patients a week are waiting...
Mr Speaker, I repeat the figure - 18,000 patients a week are waiting
We need a Government that puts the NHS first,
First of all, I have to say to the right honourable gentleman,
that he should consider correcting the record.
Because 54% of hospital trusts are considered good or outstanding.
Quite different from the figure he has shown.
Secondly, I will take no lessons on the NHS...
Oh, the deputy leader of the Labour Party says we should
I won't take any lessons from the party that presided over
Remember Labour used to talk about boom and bust?
Now it's no longer boom and bust, it's borrow and bankrupt.
Representatives of international children's charities have strongly
criticised the decision to wind down the scheme to give sanctuary
The Government says the arrangement is acting as an incentive
for children in warzones to make dangerous sea crossings to Europe.
The Home Affairs Committee is investigating the issue.
When the Dubs scheme was first announced,
it was very clearly about targeting the most vulnerable children,
and we thought that was absolutely the right thing to do.
It makes very little sense to us that the scheme
would be cancelled now, when we know there are still 2500
unaccompanied children in Greece, ten times as many in Italy and many
We are very disappointed that the Dubs scheme has closed.
We would like the Dubs scheme to remain open and remain as a safe
and legal route for unaccompanied child refugees that are in Europe
I think the impact we have seen of the closure,
and some of the confusion around what has been going on
To take a handful of local authorities, in Lewisham,
they've offered 23 places for unaccompanied minors,
only one of those has been filled since that offer was made.
Also aware of the real disjuncture between the National Transfer Scheme
and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales,
and if the Dubs provision is conflated with the National
Transfer Scheme, it denies those nations the opportunity
to make a full contribution we believe they desire to.
When a country that's as capable and relatively wealthy as the UK -
the fifth-largest economy in the world, a country that has
real expertise in child protection, that has real expertise in our staff
at the Home Office - when a country like ours is seen
to close the door in the face of child refugees and refuse
to help, it is really noticed by other countries in the world.
The Government has said that one of their reasons
for closing the Dubs scheme is because they think
it was increasing the pull factor, that it was increasing the risk
of children becoming involved in trafficking.
If there is ever some very strong evidence to suggest
that this kind of scheme or any one like it was doing harm
by encouraging children to make dangerous journeys,
then we would have a problem with that too.
For that reason, we accepted the need for a date cutoff
point when we first had the scheme announced.
I think there is very little evidence in this particular context
that a scheme like Dubs would act as a pull factor.
There is evidence that safe and legal routes protect children,
and the question we should be asking ourselves is,
what intervention is most likely to make children safe?
And we have evidence that a route to safety
is that intervention, so that's what we should pursue.
You spoke earlier on - forgive me, I didn't make
detailed enough notes - about what capacity you felt
that there was within local authories, because, unfortunately it
tends to contradict what we're told when local authorities tell us
that they don't have the capacity, that they already have children
in care that they need to find homes for.
If Lewisham has 22 spaces going, and only 150 children are proposed
to be resettled through the entire Dubs programme, in its entirety,
that's a very significant proportion to go to just one London borough.
Proportionally, actually, we're finding there are quite large
I think a huge amount could be done through the LGA and other forums
to help share learning and best practice at local authority level,
to, number one, help channel the interest and goodwill
that we know exists to try and support refugee
children into foster care that is actually
The committee then heard from local government representatives.
It is almost chicken and egg about capacity.
If they Dubs scheme continues, do you think local councils could offer
more? We have been clear that support is
contingent upon resourcing. We had been it clear that councils across
the country are under pressure, and want to know that commitment to
taking in a refugee child doesn't mean that they can't make a
responsibility to another child in the area. That message has been very
clear. The UK's former Ambassador
to the European Union has warned MPs that the EU will want to play
hardball with the UK over Brexit and could refuse to strike a free
trade deal unless the UK contributes Sir Ivan Rogers -
who quit in January - was making his second appearance
this year before The budgetary issue now comes
to the fore, and I think we can expect a number of them to think,
well, if the British want a future trade deal,
and they want some sort of transitional arrangements before
a future trade deal - all big ifs - then this will come together at some
gory European Council in the autumn of 2018,
and will come together And there will be some
who want to play hardball and say, well, absent British money over
a transitional period, why the hell should we give
them any trade deal? I'm not saying that's
a majority view, I wouldn't be in a position
from my discussions before Christmas to know exactly where people
will come out on that. It was very early days
there, pre-Christmas. All I was conscious
of from the discussions I was having with opposite numbers
was that there was a hell of a lot of work going on in the undergrowth
to examine the implications Sir Ivan also said that the EU
was unlikely to agree specific deals They will be very loath to have
individual sectoral deals done legally and ratified,
unless it's all agreed. The age-old Brussels mantra
of nothing is agreed They will think, rightly or wrongly,
that we'll care most passionately about financial services,
maybe automotive, and therefore, unless and until they've got other
things that they want, out of us on various other areas,
which may include money, they ain't going to sign
on the dotted line for any full-blown equivilancy agreement
on financial services which gives us We have precisely the sort
of problem that exists in every other international agreement,
but that's the issue... Yes, but we have enormously valuable
and competitive services sector, sector, with a huge surplus,
where we risk being screwed This is a very serious problem
unless we get a bespoke financial services deal with equivalence that
really works for us. I agree with you, then that comes
to the Government's arrangement. But this would be something
that the EU 27 have not done It didn't do that for the States,
it hasn't been prepared to do So we would have to say
of our financial services, we're big, you need access to us,
access to finance on good terms, there's a massive interest
for you still having London But we need a totally different type
of agreement with you than any that The Government has recently cut
the funding for an Ethiopian girl band, saying there were more
effective way" to invest UK aid. The International Development
Secretary, Priti Patel, reviewed the funding after reports
that the group had received Her decision was raised at
Question Time in the House of Lords. Popular culture is used to tackle
difficult issues because it works. For example, many in this House
will be familiar with the Archers, the storyline of domestic abuse
endured by Helen Archer resulted in a 20% increase in calls
to the Domestic Abuse Helpline. The very popular Ethiopian
girl group Yegna, dubbed the Ethiopian Spice Girls
by the Daily Mail, reaches 8.5 million people and helps
transform the lives of some of the hardest to reach and most
disadvantaged girls in the world. So may I ask the Minister why,
when faced by attacks from the Daily Mail,
did the Secretary of State withdraw funding from this
multi-A-rated project? The decision was taken,
as mentioned earlier, because it was deemed
there were other things that were more effective
that the money could be spent on. There is another programme operating
in Ethiopia aimed at child marriage, It focuses more on rural areas
that the Girl Effect And it was deemed more effective
because it worked directly Now, Girl Effect is going
to continue, we're not going to continue to fund it,
because we're going to send the money elsewhere,
but we hope that it will continue and we acknowledge that it did some
good work whilst it was there. My Lords, was that judgment made
after the Daily Mail had The review which took
place was actually begun We undertake an absolute review
of how taxpayers' money is being spent to make sure it gets
full value for money. And that is a very important thing,
because if we don't do things like that, then announcements such
as that which were made by the Secretary of State this
morning, announcing ?200 million in urgent humanitarian aid,
saving millions of lives, in Somalia and in South Sudan,
would not be possible. You're watching Wednesday
in Parliament with me, Back to PMQs, where Theresa May was
tackled over increases in business New rates will come
into force in April - following an assessment
of the rateable value of business properties such
as shops and offices. The Prime Minister hinted
at the prospect of special arrangements for businesses facing
large rises. The Government's business rates hike
could devastate the local Brighton pier is facing a 17%
increase, the World s End pub a 123% increase,
and Blanch House hotel Does the Prime Minister recognise
that Brighton will be Will she urgently set up
a discretionary fund to support small and micro-businesses,
and agree to a full review If we just stand back,
we can see that business rates are based on the rental
values of properties. Those values change over
time, they can go up that business rates change
to recognise that. That is the principle
of fairness that underpins However, we also want to support
businesses and we recognise that, for some, business rates will go up
when the revaluations take place. That is why we have put
significant funding in place I recognise that there has been
particular concern that some small businesses will be adversely
affected as the result of this revaluation,
and that is why I have asked the Chancellor and the Communities
Secretary to ensure that there is appropriate relief
in those hardest cases. Cash for local councils in England
was the main business in the Commons The Local Government Secretary Sajid
Javid said he understood how it felt And he promised more support
in next month's Budget. Growing up above the family shop,
I saw the impact that an increase in rates can have
on small businesses. A rise in the cost lowered the mood
of the whole family. Even as a child, I knew
that it was not good when I found a stack of bright red final
reminders hidden away My dad was never shy about sharing
what he thought of out-of-town retail parks and how they took
customers away from his shop If he were alive today,
I am sure that he would be the first to phone and lobby me
about the business In particular, I can just
imagine him telling me about how the treatment of large online
retailers compares with that of more traditional shops
on the high street. The amount that most businesses,
three quarters of them, in fact, the amount they pay will go
down or stay the same. As I have said, 600,000 small
businesses are being lifted out of business
rates altogether, permanently. Although those three
quarters of businesses will benefit or see no change,
I am also acutely aware of the impact on the quarter
that will see increases. If someone s rates are going up,
it is no consolation to hear that He said more needed to be done to
make the system fairer. I am working closely
with my right honourable friend, to determine how best
to provide further support to businesses facing
the steepest increases. We expect to be in a position
to make an announcement in the Budget in just
two weeks time. Labour said the Local Government
Secretary had had a rough week. He was accused by the former
Conservative party chairman of spinning the numbers,
and I hear that there was concern among Conservative Members
that the Secretary of State was being hung out to dry
by colleagues, so it was good to hear the Prime Minister s
spokesperson confirm that No 10 In truth, in just eight short
months, the Secretary of State has been found asleep at the wheel
twice, with a social care crisis entirely
of the Government s own making, about which he was warned
well in advance, and now a business rates crisis,
which he must have known might create a problem
for many businesses, given that his party delayed
the revaluation by two years, yet the seriousness of which it has
apparently taken him On Friday, MPs will be debating
a Bill that would ratify an international convention
requiring Governments to prevent The private member's bill
is being sponsored by the SNP MP for Banff and Buchan,
Eilidh Whiteford. But last time it was debated
a Conservative Philip Davies appeared to try and block
the legislation. At PMQs, the SNP leader
hoped the Prime Minister Will she join me in encouraging
Members to support the Bill and discourage any attempts
to use parliamentary The Government have tabled some
mutually agreed amendments, for which the Government
will vote this Friday. friends who are present on Friday
will support these measures. The Government have supported it,
and I hope it will be supported Companies involved in the so-called
gig economy have been Their workers get paid for each job
they do rather than being fully The boss of the food delivery firm,
Deliveroo, said this gave their workers flexibility -
85% of them had another form of income on top of what they earned
for their deliveries. And he said Deliveroo
wanted to do more. The developments we would like to
see, are greater support for our riders. Potentially some benefits
that employees might have. That's not from us to determine, that is
the Government to determine that legislation. We are supported of the
idea that if you have certain riders who work longer hours, perhaps it
should be entitled to benefits... Can I interrupt on that? I'm sitting
on my hands here, but I'm sorry, no, if you are buying people approaching
30 hours and your talking about National Living Wage, it is not
National Living Wage, because these people are not getting sickness,
maternity, holiday pay, anything. You have a handle on the number of
hours your people typically work, can you tell me, never mind waiting
for the Government, when a guy to start paying people properly when
they're doing something a regular basis something that is approaching
full-time? The way that it works, they provide
to us their availability which we then matched cadaver is that they
have available according to consumer demand. That can fluctuate. It is
not about flexibility. We are asking about your duties. I understand but
it is because of that flexibility that we are self-employed and within
the... It is because of your business model. If they were
self-employed, we could not offer them the same degree of Flex ability
that we do, even working 30 or 40 hours a week. If we were to make
them employees, would have to restrict that Flex ability which we
know that they value. If we were not to make them employees, we are
restricted from providing some of the benefits that we would as a
business like to provide. That, as they go through the next few months,
is hopefully something that the government will consider looking at.
That is not my question. If you have employees, and you can all get
underneath the information to understand where they're working for
someone else or not. If they are predominantly working for you, in my
view you need to look at their wages properly. They are now under
self-employed. And pay National Insurance. I understand. I've said
before, there is significant Flex ability, even those who were
significant hours, and so we maintain a self-employed model for
those individuals. There doesn't seem any Flex ability at all except
on your side. You're not paying National Insurance, you're not
covering other costs which taxpayers will have to pick up. It is a
marvellous model as you can get away with it, is it not?
We would like to protect them when they are out on the road. It is not
for us disability what that looks like and with a self-employed model,
we cannot offer those by the current letter of the war. Legislation would
need to change. If the government wanted to ask other efforts are
made, of course we welcome that. What I mentioned previously about
the national Living Wage, particularly in light of such a high
degree of using the feeble delivery scheme, is we cannot offer that
amount of flexibility to those riders if we are forced to pay a
given wage in a given average every single rider, you would have to
restrict, as I said before, the number of riders who login. You
would have to restrict their earning capacity during peak, which does not
tie into the Flex ability we know that they want. So you are prevented
because of people's wishes not to be employed by you. But also because
they have freely opted for self-employed? They have really
opted for self-employed and, usually because they are doing this
alongside something else. 85% have an ancillary income stream, they
have other commitments. Are ideal to build some extra money around those
extra commitments. Finally - finger pointing,
fist-shaking, thumping The Commons is a good place
to witness expressive gestures. But the deputy Labour leader
Tom Watson may be the first MP to perform what's known as a "dab"
in the Chamber. He was sitting on the front bench,
celebrating one of Jeremy Corbyn's contributions at Prime Minister's
Questions. Invest in our NHS! Let's have
another look at his technique. He says he has been practising with his
children. Invest in our NHS! Think I'll need a bit of practice
before I perform my dab move! Well that's it from
Wednesday in Parliament. I'll be back at the
same time tomorrow. Until then, from me,
Kristiina Cooper, goodbye!