02/03/2017 Wednesday in Parliament


Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 1 March, presented by Keith Macdougall.

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Now it's time for a look back at the day in parliament.


Hello and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament, our look at the best


of the day in the Commons and the Lords.


Drama in the House of Lords, as the Government suffers its first


defeat on the Bill that starts the UK's departure process


The Labour leader attacks Theresa May over changes


This is a shameful decision that will affect people with dementia.


Why will they not let local authorities decide what's best


We're back to the situation where every Labour councillor


is trying to set up their own bus company.


Lots of ideas on how to run our bus services.


But first, the Government has suffered a setback in the House


of Lords in its plans to start negotiations on leaving the EU


Peers decisively backed a Labour-led amendment to guarantee the rights


The defeat means the EU Notification of Withdrawal Bill,


better known as the Brexit Bill, will now have to return


to the Commons, where MPs will either accept or reject


The crucial vote in the Lords came after a three-hour debate


First, Labour's Lady Hayter spoke about the interests of British


citizens living in the 27 countries of the EU outside the UK.


We all have heard lots of representations of the serious


worries of Britons who have settled abroad.


They've got homes, children, jobs or lives there and they now


fear for their rights, their access to medical treatment


and other services and wonder what the future holds for them.


And it's not acceptable to place such people under that pressure.


And it is quite clear to everyone in this House that there is no


chance that Parliament would approve the expulsion of EU citizens legally


And this is understood by the Government.


There is no way the Government would propose this so there is no


danger what ever to EU citizens resident in the UK so apart


from a certain amount, too much I would say,


in my personal opinion, of virtue signalling,


what is the purpose of this amendment?


This amendment has no place in this Bill whatever.


In the end, this is a matter of principle.


This House can, in fact, make a unilateral decision and give


a unilateral guarantee and, my Lords, that is what we should do.


Let us all remember how shocked we were when Idi Amin expelled


So shocked that we offered them refuge in this country.


The question that your Lordships have to decide this afternoon


is what action to take in the light of the truth,


perhaps unpalatable to many of your Lordships,


unpalatable to me because I have made it clear on numerous occasions


that I actually favour a unilateral guarantee,


that I think that is what the Government should give,


but nevertheless, what actions should your Lordships take


in the face of the unpalatable truth that the Government is not


As we've heard, over 3 million people live in this country


It's not just them who are experiencing anguish.


It's also their family members, it's also their employers,


Indeed, it affects a whole cadre of people well


And I suspect that our committee is at the receiving end


of the greatest number of communications from those people


about their distress, their anxiety, the fears of their children


and the fears that they have as to their future.


Why is everybody here today so excited about this amendment


which looks after the foreigners and not the British?


I just would like to point out to the noble Lord that the reason


that the amendment is structured as it is because we are conscious


of the powers of the British Government and the British


Government is able to determine the lives of the EU citizens


resident in this country but we are not able to determine


the lives of our own citizens abroad but that does not mean to say


we think any less of them and we are fighting for them.


So, of course, we don't have the power to look


Not in these days when we don't have many gunboats.


But we have an obligation to look after the rights of those


people and to look after those rights first and I think


that the best way in which we can in fact preserve the rights


of all those concerned, EU citizens here, our citizens


on the continent, is to allow the process of section 50 to be


proceeded with as expeditiously as possible.


Lord Bragg believed the outcome of the referendum was a disaster.


One major aspect of the disaster is to turn our backs on those


who come here and give their talents and skills to the United Kingdom,


settle here, transforming us in so many ways for the better.


They're now reduced to pawns in a Government strategy that too


many observers here and abroad seems largely clueless and without any


response, save bluster, to any critical questions.


I think that the Government ought to accept that the weight of opinion


is in favour of that unilateral guarantee which will then trigger


What has changed is the Prime Minister has said


She has said that the fate of those people living in this country


from Europe will be determined by primary legislation and that no


change will be made other than with the agreement of the other


That's good enough for me not to wish to amend a Bill


Which allows us to get on with the process


These people are not bargaining chips.


If we say, quite freely, that they are now free to stay,


that actually does give the moral high ground to our Government


in its negotiations and I would argue that all noble Lords,


including noble Lord Howard, should vote with their consciences


If, as I do, we want to see this decision which the Government makes


on the half of all of us, that citizenship should be


guaranteed to remain, the best way to do it is to call


the bluff of Angela Merkel by saying, we have now triggered


Article 50 and we will go in unilaterally and talk


It will be much quicker than the three months of proposals


which have been written for this amendment.


My Lords, this is a matter of principle.


It is a simple matter of principle of being prepared to do the right


thing because it is the right thing and being prepared to say


so and that is what I hope these benches and members on all sides


of the House, not all members, but members on all sides


of the House, including the Bishop's bench, will be prepared to do


The reason why I cannot support these amendments is the fundamental


flaw that lies at the heart of these amendments is that they will create


more uncertainty in particular for the million British


The noble Lord said we should trust the British Government.


The Home Secretary's written a letter to all of us


in which he says, I reassure my colleagues that Parliament


This is the same Home Secretary who wanted companies to list


This is the same home department that has a minister who wants EU


workers, for companies to pay ?1000 per EU worker.


The law can only be changed with the agreement of Parliament.


That is why these amendments are at the wrong time in the wrong


bill on the wrong subject and we should support the rights


of British citizens living in Europe.


But when the House divided, peers voted for the Labour-led


amendment and against the Government.


Later, Government sources said Ministers would seek to overturn


the Lords defeat on the Brexit Bill in the Commons.


At Prime Minister's Questions, Jeremy Corbyn has claimed Ministers


have made a "shameful decision" on the entitlement of people


The Government intends changing the criteria for the daily living


component of Personal Independence Payments,


or PIPs, to make the system "fairer."


The Labour leader asked why Ministers couldn't find the money


to support people with mental health conditions.


A year ago, the new Work and Pensions Secretary said you can


tell the House, "We're not going ahead with the changes to PIP


Her friend, the member for South Cambridgeshire,


said "In my view, the courts are there for a reason.


If they've come up with this ruling that says that the criteria should


be extended, I believe we've got a duty to honour that."


He referred to the Social Security advisory committee and they can


My right honourable friend the Work and Pensions Secretary called


the chairman of the Social Security advisory committee and spoke to him


about the regulations on the day they were being introduced.


He called the chairman of the Work and Pensions select committee


and spoke to him about the regulations that


He called both offices of the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary,


but they were still outside and they didn't come back to him


Mr Speaker... Mr Speaker...


Calling the... Mr Speaker, calling the...


Mr Speaker, calling the chairs of two committees and making


a written statement to the House does not add up to scrutiny and,


as I understand it, there was no call made to the office of my friend


Mr Speaker, the reality is this is a shameful decision that


will affect people with dementia, those suffering cognitive disorders


due to a stroke, military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder


Can she look at the effects of her decision to override


what an independent court has decided and think again?


The issues that he raises, the conditions that he raises,


these are taken into account when decisions are made


about the personal independence payments.


What the court said was that the regulations were unclear.


That is why we are clarifying the regulations and we are ensuring


that they respect that they reflect the original intention


Theresa May said the Government wasn't cutting benefits and said


no-one would see a reduction from the benefit already


This week, her policy chair suggested people with debilitating


conditions were those who, and I quote, "who take pills


at home, who suffer from anxiety and were not really disabled."


Isn't that proof the nasty party's still around?


My honourable friend has rightly apologised for the comments


that he made and I hope that this whole House will accept his apology.


The right honourable gentleman asks me about the parity


between mental health and physical...


Mental health conditions and physical conditions.


It is this Conservative Government that has introduced parity of esteem


in relation to dealing with mental health in the National Health


There are 6600 fewer mental health nurses and 160,000 people


with severe mental health conditions are about to lose out on support.


Can she not recognise parity of esteem means funding it properly


and not overriding court decisions that would benefit people suffering


We should reach out to them, not deny them the support they need.


As I say, we are spending more than ever on mental health.


More people each week are now receiving treatment in relation


to mental health than have done previously.


Is there more for us to do on mental health?


I've said that in this chamber in answer to questions that


"Well, do it," shouts the Shadow Foreign Secretary


from her normal sedentary position, commenting...


We are doing it, that's why we're putting record


That's why we're seeing more people actually being provided with mental


health treatment every week under this Government.


Theresa May has tried to reassure Scottish Nationalists that those


negotiating Britain's exit terms from the EU will be taking "full


account" of the concerns of the devolved administrations


At Prime Minister's Questions, the SNP's Westminster leader said


Ministers had failed to come up with any answers


as to what the future will be for Scottish agriculture and fishing


These are important industries for the rural economy


and they are devolved areas to the Scottish Government


With Brexit ending the role of Brussels in these areas,


we'll all decisions about agriculture and fisheries be


Well, the right honourable gentleman knows very well


that we are discussing with the devolved administrations


the whole question of the UK framework and devolution of issues


During the Brexit referendum, people in Scotland, including those


working in the agriculture and fisheries sector,


were told that farming and fisheries powers would be exercised fully


by the Scottish Government and the Scottish parliament,


Now, it seems judging by the Prime Minister's answer,


Will the Prime Minister confirmed today, she has the opportunity,


will she confirmed today that it is her intention to ensure


that it is UK ministers that will negotiate and regulate over


large areas that impact on Scottish fisheries


When he asks about the negotiations were Brexit with the European Union,


it will be the UK Government that will be negotiating


with the European Union, taking full account of the interests


And, indeed, of all the other regions of England.


Then came a link between Brexit and supposed leadership manoeuvring


The Prime Minister I'm sure cannot fail to have noticed


the intervention by two former prime ministers recently in relation


And as a result, very helpful they were, I'm sure.


I'm sure the Prime Minister will know, of course,


what they and everybody else means by hard Brexit,


what is meant by soft Brexit, but we're all now wondering


what is meant by a soft coup and when, indeed...


And when indeed it might be triggered and when we will know it


Perhaps the Prime Minister can elucidate on that as well


since she's been so helpful in so many other ways.


Would she take the opportunity today, however, to make it clear


that whatever former prime ministers may say and whatever members


of the unelected upper house may say, the reality is that her plan


to trigger Article 50 by the end of March is now clearly on track?


I thank the right honourable gentleman for the question


It is indeed my plan to trigger by the end of March when I refer


to that, I refer of course to the triggering of Article 50


rather than attempting to trigger any coup,


soft or otherwise, that might take place.


It is still our intention to do that.


You're watching our round-up of the day in the Commons


Still to come: Parliament's newest MP gets a warm welcome,


from one half of the House of Commons.


There's been growing concern in recent months about Russia's


Russia is building up its forces there, causing the US


to describe its actions as "aggressive".


It is also planning a new wave of giant icebreaking ships.


The region is believed to contain massive and,


as yet untapped, reserves of oil and gas.


A Commons defence committee is investigating what is happening


in the region and what the UK should be doing about it.


In its first session the committee heard from the Ambassadors of three


To what degree do you sense any kind of threat in the Arctic?


Quite clearly, Poland has expressed a threat coming from Russia.


To what degree is there a threat to the peace and security


If I can ask you to talk about Greenland.


One of the main elements in our defence strategy


for the Arctic region is a priority for us in Denmark to maintain


the Arctic as a low tension region, which it actually is.


We have a significant operation of all the Arctic states,


both on a bilateral basis and a multilateral basis.


We see the same things as I think everyone else sees.


We see a Russia that is upgrading, modernising, building


up its military forces in general and that takes place


We also see a Russia that, in general, has showed itself ready


to use military force to further its objectives


in contravention of international law and we see, obviously,


the Arctic is an area that is strategically crucial


for Russia in several ways, not least being the basing area


for their nuclear deterrent in Murmansk.


The Russian official line is the re-militarisation,


as we would see it, of the Arctic, with an additional 6000 troops


which have been deployed recently, and the reopening of Arctic bases


as well as a considerable, it would seem, investment in capabilities.


It's merely an answer to the bad days of the Soviet Union


when the infrastructure has been degraded and it is no more


than an assertion of Russian sovereignty and with planet changing


A different view, a second scenario, would be that this


is a manifestation of Mr Putin's ambitions, that it fits


with a greater Russian strategy and that in the shadow of Ukraine,


Crimea, Georgia and indeed I would go back as far as the second


Chechen war, that this could be preparation,


So what role could and should the United Kingdom play in the region?


I suppose that the United Kingdom could play a very positive role


as a noble broker in the Arctic, because it has no geographical


access to the region, but still, it plays a very substantial


historical role of this region in exploration,


and it could serve as a intermediary between Russia and other neutral


countries at least with an understanding of This Place.


And so my recommendation is that yes, we should think about some


military and security developments in the Arctic and be cautious


in formulating these ideas and projects.


that was the pledge of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling


when MPs debated the bus services bill.


Among other things, it gives a new generation of directly elected


mayors in the city regions of England responsibility


But in the Lords, peers have altered the bill.


Their change would allow local councils to set


The Transport Secretary disagreed with that.


We're not going back to the 1970s world, of local authority plans


It was one of indifferent services that cost the taxpayer.


We want decommissioning and provision of bus services to be


kept separate as far as possible and to ensure that it will retain


Although we will seek, Mr Speaker, to return this bill so that it


What I was seeking to ask the Secretary of State


was to understand his approach to municipal bus operators.


When we look at the UK bus awards, and in four of the last five years


it has been won by a municipal bus operator.


I don't think the municipals are the answer to everything


and I certainly wouldn't expect every local authority to want to set


one up, but why will he not let local authorities decide what's


We do not want to go back to the situation where every Labour


council is trying to set up its own bus company.


We think it will absorb private sector capital that could be


The by-election winner in Copeland in Cumbria was welcomed


into the Commons at the end of Prime Minister's Question Time.


Huge cheers sounded from the packed benchers of the Conservatives


as 40-year-old Trudy Harrison entered to take a seat.


It had been, to say the least, a notable election victory


for the former parish councillor in West Cumbria,


as it was the first time a governing party had made a by-election gain


The seat had been made vacant by the departure of the previous


Labour MP for a job in the nuclear industry.


Trudy Harrison took the oath in the traditional way.


I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear


true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors,


Do join me for our next daily round-up.


Until then, from me Keith McDougall, goodbye.


Well, a very blustery night out there for some of us,


particularly across southern parts of the UK, especially


the south-west, around the Bristol Channel.


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