Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 22 March, presented by Alicia McCarthy.
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On this programme:
Parliament is put into lockdown after a terror attack
It seems that a police officer has been stabbed.
That the alleged assailant was shot by armed police.
As MPs are held in the chamber for their own safety,
the Scottish Parliament also suspends its sitting.
The fact that our sister Parliament has had a serious incident
is affecting this particular debate.
On a shocking and dramatic day, the first MPs knew
of the attack was this statement from the Deputy Speaker,
I am now going to suspend the sitting of the house.
This house is now suspended, but please wait here.
Outside the chamber, it was slowly becoming
clear what had happened.
At around 2:45pm, pedestrians and police had been mown down
as the attacker's car was driven across Westminster Bridge
and crashed into railings.
A man then tried to get into parliament and stabbed an armed
police officer who was protecting one of the entrances.
The officer was killed.
Police later said the attacker also died in the incident and that more
than 20 people had been wounded.
With the scale of the deaths and casualties still unclear,
inside Parliament the Commons chamber was locked down,
meaning MPs were unable to leave.
15 minutes after the sitting was suspended, the Leader
of the Commons updated MPs.
Events have been moving rapidly and I want to emphasise
that the knowledge that I have which is definite is
so far very limited.
What I am able to say to the house is that there has been a serious
incident within the estate.
It seems that a police officer has been stabbed.
That the alleged assailant was shot by armed police.
An air ambulance is currently attending the scene
to remove the casualties.
There are also reports of further violent incidents in the vicinity
of the Palace of Westminster, but I hope colleagues on all sides
will appreciate that it would be wrong of me to go into further
details until we have confirmation from the police and from the house
security authorities about what is going on.
The Shadow Leader of the House stood up.
Can I thank the leader for the statement and just to say
that our thoughts and prayers are with the police officer.
And to thank the police and security services,
and all the staff for looking after us so well.
To the honourable lady, I think those sentiments will be
shared without reservation in all parts of the house.
We remain suspended until further notice.
With that, the sitting was suspended again and David Lidington came back
to the chamber 20 minutes later with another update.
It is clear that the advice from the police, the director
of security, is still that the chamber should
remain in lockdown.
I think, as most colleagues will realise, a number of right
honourable and honourable members are also in other parts
of the estate and for obvious reasons are unable to be
present for business.
There have been conversations through the usual channels.
I hope the house would agree that in the current circumstances it
would not be right to continue with today's business.
Discussions between the usual channels will take place to ensure
that the business that has been interrupted can be rescheduled for
another mutually convenient date.
I know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you will want to keep the house,
although we remain in lockdown here, informed about any news
that comes through from the security authorities.
But in view of what I sense to be the mood of the house
and the situation in which we find ourselves, I beg to move
that the house do now adjourn.
The question is this house shall now adjourn.
As many of the opinion say aye.
The ayes have it.
And so Parliament was suspended for the day.
The Lords, which was due to sit at 3pm, called off its sitting.
Meanwhile, MPs were held in the Commons chamber for more
than two hours before being eventually released.
A joint statement from the Commons Speaker,
John Bercow, and Lord Fowler, the Lords Speaker, sent
thoughts to all those affected and their families,
and expressed gratitude to the police and all
the emergency services.
Before the attack, it had been a Wednesday like most others,
when the news agenda was set by Prime Minister's Questions.
The Labour leader had used the session to accuse
the Government of cutting school funding in England.
He said smaller budgets could lead to bigger class sizes
and less choice for pupils.
Theresa May defended a consultation that had been held on school funding
and she accused Labour of wanting to pull up the ladder
But the session began with Mrs May offering
condolences following the death of Northern Ireland's former
Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness.
Of course we do not condone or justify the path he took
in the earlier part of his life and we should never forget that,
nor the victims of terrorism.
However, as my noble friend Lord Trimble set out yesterday,
he played an indispensable role in bringing the Republican movement
away from violence to peaceful and democratic means,
and to building a better Northern Ireland.
A sentiment echoed by the Leader of the Opposition.
Martin played an immeasurable role in bringing about peace
in Northern Ireland and it's that peace that we all want to see
endure for all time, for all people in Northern Ireland.
He moved on to proposed changes to school funding.
He said school budgets were being cut by more than 6%
and he took a swipe at the former Chancellor George Osborne's new job.
The manifesto on which he fought the last election promised that
under a future Conservative government, the amount of money
following your child into school will be protected.
No wonder even the editor of the London Evening Standard
is up in arms about this!
Mr Speaker, the cut to school funding equates the loss of two
teachers across all primary schools, six teachers across
all secondary schools.
So is the Prime Minister advocating larger class sizes?
Shorter school days?
Or unqualified teachers?
Which is it?
We have, as we said we would, we have protected the schools budget.
We now see more teachers in our schools, we see more teachers
with first-class degrees in our schools.
We see 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding schools.
That's a result of the policies of this government.
Jeremy Corbyn quoted a letter from a primary school
teacher called Eileen.
She wrote to me to say teachers are purchasing items such as pens,
pencils, glue sticks and paper out of their own pockets.
Fundraising events have quadrupled as funds are so low that parents
are having to make donations to purchase books.
This is disgraceful, says Eileen.
Does the Prime Minister agree with Eileen?
Theresa May said her government wanted children to get
on on the basis of merit.
Jeremy Corbyn was unconvinced.
And in the Budget, the government found no more money for the schools
budget, but it did find ?320 million for her own special schools,
grammar schools, vanity project.
So there's no money for Eileen's schools, yet ?320 million
for divisive grammar schools.
What kind of priority is that?
We've put forward a proposal, we are consulting on it.
Consultation closes today.
We will respond to that consultation.
But he talks about the issue of the sort of system
in schools we want.
Yes, we want diversity.
We want different sorts of schools.
We have put money into new school places.
But I say to the right honourable gentleman,
his Shadow Home Secretary sent her child to a private school.
His Shadow Attorney General sent her child to a private school.
He sent his child to a grammar school.
He went to a grammar school himself.
Typical Labour, take the advantage and pull up the ladder behind you.
The SNP's Westminster leader turned to Brexit.
The Prime Minister says that she wants Article 50
negotiations to lead to a deal and she wants people to know
the outcome of that deal before it is approved.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that in the period for an agreement,
the House of Commons will have a choice, the House
of Lords will have a choice, the European Parliament
will have a choice, 27 member states of the European Union
will have a choice?
If it's right for all of them to have a choice about Scotland's
future, why should the people of Scotland not have a choice
about their own future?
This isn't a question about whether the people of Scotland
should have a choice on their future.
The people of Scotland voted, exercised their right
to self-determination, and voted in 2014 to remain a part
of the United Kingdom.
The people of the United Kingdom last year voted to leave
the European Union.
We are respecting both of those votes.
He is respecting neither of them.
The Transport Department has announced that the ban on airline
passengers carrying laptops and other devices in their
cabin baggage will be brought in by Saturday.
It affects flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon,
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan.
The Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, told
the Commons he wanted aviation to continue as normal.
These were extra security measures to make sure it was safe.
I know the whole house will recognise the fact that we face
a constantly evolving threat from terrorism and must respond
accordingly to ensure the protection of the public against those
who would do us harm.
The changes we're making to our security measures
are an important part of that process and I assure the house
we'll continue to work closely with airlines,
airports and the wider travel industry over the coming weeks
to ensure that passengers know what is expected of them.
Have checks on these items been stepped up in addition to changes
to their placements on the aircraft and what evidence does he have that
placing potentially problematic items in the hold is safer
than in the cabin, especially as potentially explosive devices
such as lithium ion batteries have been banned from hold luggage?
Mr Speaker, aviation security is rightly under constant review.
Can he assure all of us that all is being done to make sure these
regulations are effective, consistent and put
the passenger first?
We respond in aviation security to the evolving threat
that we face from terrorists.
There are some things that we make public and others that we don't.
I'm not going to give the honourable gentleman full details
of the background to the decision.
It's been taken, it's in response to an evolving threat.
He would not expect me to do that.
Suffice to say to the house, we have taken the steps we have
taken for good reason.
Having just returned from the Conservative Middle East
Council trip to Egypt, we were able to see the devastating
effects to the local economy in Sharm el Sheikh on the continuing
ban on flights to that region.
We were also able to meet with the president and hear first
hand from the Egyptians their concerns that they are being
singled out in some way.
That may be the reaction of other allies who are being named today.
Will my right honourable friend commit to discussing with other
ministers a diplomatic offensive to go to these countries to explain
to them why these actions are being taken and they are not
being singled out?
This is not a question of singling out countries.
We would never embark on a process of singling out countries.
The decisions we take are purely and simply taken on the basis
of what we believe the risks are and where we believe we need
to take steps to protect United Kingdom citizens.
Safety has to be our top priority, but there really
are too many loose ends.
If there really are clear security grounds for the restrictions
the Secretary of State has introduced, he has to be
clearer about what those security grounds are.
Otherwise both the UK government and the US government will remain
open to the suspicion that they are unreasonably singling
out particular countries in the Middle East and North Africa
rather than thinking through properly what precautions
can actually keep flights safe from terrorism wherever
the aircraft involved fly from.
I understand his desire for information, but the reality
is we have an evolving security threat to aircraft, we take
decisions as and when we believe it is necessary to do
so to protect our citizens.
I'm very clear, it's nothing to do with singling out
countries, it's nothing to do with what the destinations are.
The decisions we take are purely and simply based on an evolving
security threat and what we believe is the right way to protect
United Kingdom citizens.
Sir Desmond Swayne.
Why are they safer in the hold?
Mr Speaker, as I said, and I hate to be disingenuous
to my honourable friend in terms of repeating the answers,
but I can't discuss the detail of that evolving security threat.
Would he outline what steps will be taken to reassure passengers
as well as inform them on the work the government is doing?
We are not saying to people do not travel to these countries.
We are not saying to people cancel your flights.
We are not saying to people cancel your holidays.
We want aviation to continue as normal.
We are simply taking additional security measures to make sure
that aviation is safe.
Can I just ask the Secretary of State to give assurance
to my constituents and other Muslim people around the UK who may be
feeling that this is another attack on their liberties?
Can I ask him to give an assurance that it is not that
and that they will be treated properly and with dignity
as they travel through UK airports?
Let me also be clear about this point.
In recent years, we've seen a whole range of
horrendous terrorist events.
In those events, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and people with no
faith and many others have died side-by-side.
Our job is to protect every single citizen of the United Kingdom
whatever their faith.
This is about protecting every single citizen of the United Kingdom
whatever their faith.
You're watching Wednesday in Parliament with me, Alicia McCarthy.
The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales has strongly criticised
the Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, saying her view
of her constitutional duty towards the judiciary was completely
and utterly wrong.
Earlier this month, Liz Truss told the Lords Constitution Committee
that she was a huge believer in the independence of
the judiciary, but drew the line at saying what the press should print.
The Daily Mail branded the Lord Chief Justice and two
High Court judges "enemies of the people" after they ruled
against the Government in the first Brexit hearing last November.
Lord Chief Justice, I want to ask you about the press coverage
of the first judgment in the Article 50 proceedings, which you presided
over in the High Court.
He said the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005 placed a duty
on the Lord Chancellor to protect the independence of the judiciary.
The very words are, the need to protect that independence.
Before us a week or so ago, she said she will respectfully
disagree with some who have asked me to condemn what the press
are writing, stating that she draws the line at saying
what is acceptable for the press to print or not.
She thought the best way to proceed was to make the positive case.
In light of the constitutional requirements and those answers,
how and by whom, in your view and that of the judiciary, should
this independence be protected?
In short, I believe the Lord Chancellor is completely and utterly
wrong in the view she takes.
I regret to have to say that.
Can I explain the position I took?
First, it seems to me inappropriate to say anything
during the time of the decision.
Secondly, it was inappropriate to say anything until
the legislation had been passed.
Thirdly, I'm extremely reluctant to get into an argument that in any
way compromises the position that the judiciary have taken
on Brexit, which is to get on with the legal problems and leave
the politics to the politicians.
He said it was important to maintain a free press.
I think criticism is very healthy.
If you've got something wrong, fine.
But there's a difference between criticism and abuse.
I don't think that is understood.
I don't think it's understood, either, how absolutely essential
it is that we are protected.
Because we have to act as our oath requires us,
without fear or favour, affection or ill will.
It is clear, after Brexit, in relation to the first
Article 50 judgment, that the claimant had
been subjected to quite a considerable number of threats.
It's the only time in the whole of my judicial career that I've had
to ask for the police to give us a measure of advice and protection
in relation to the emotions that were being stirred up.
I think that it's very wrong that judges should feel it.
I've done a number of cases involving Al-Qaeda, I dealt
with the airline bombers plot, some very, very serious cases.
I've never had that problem before.
The circuit judges were very concerned.
They wrote to the Lord Chancellor because litigants in person
were coming and saying, you're an enemy of the people.
I regret to have to criticise as severely as I have,
but to my mind she's completely and absolutely wrong.
I'm very disappointed.
I can understand what the pressures were in November,
but she has taken a position that is constitutionally
Thank you, Lord Chief Justice.
I'm very glad that the committee has given you the opportunity
to set out your position.
You have done so very clearly.
I will do so with the whole of the history of this problem
on June 15th here in Parliament.
We shall look forward to that.
I'm relieved to be able to say that the committee produced a report
on the office and role of the Lord Chancellor a couple
of years ago which takes more or less the same view,
but not in such clear and robust terms as you were able to.
I'm sorry, there's no point in mincing words.
Why I feel so firm about this is that in the Financial Times
article, the Lord Chancellor went on to say that, and I can see
the force of her concern, that when the powers in the European
court are repatriated the decisions of the courts will come
under greater scrutiny.
Well, it really is absolutely essential that we have a Lord
Chancellor who understands her constitutional duty.
Yes, thank you.
I think we need to move on, however.
Before we leave controversy entirely...
I don't think I've said anything controversial.
At least to lawyers.
The Prime Minister is gearing up to trigger Article 50 next week,
the official start of the process for the UK leaving the EU.
The UK voted by 52% to 48% to leave the European Union
in a poll in June.
Negotiations over the terms of that exit will begin shortly.
In the Commons, the leader of the Liberal Democrats launched
an attempt to have a second referendum once the Brexit
deal is drawn up.
Bringing in what's known as a Ten Minute Rule Bill,
he explained what he wanted.
I accept that we have had our mandate referendum
in which the British people voted to leave.
But voting for departure is not the same as voting
for a destination.
Now the Government should give the British people a decision
referendum to be held when the EU negotiation is concluded
so that the British people have all the necessary information
and know what our future partnership will be.
It is the people who are suffering in this country.
It is the people who are sovereign in this country.
The people can and must have their say over what comes next.
This bill would enshrine in law their right to do so.
The detail or even the general nature of the deal that this
government may reach with the European Union
is currently completely unknown and a mystery to us,
a mystery to them.
Yet the British people are now told they must simply shrug and accept
any old deal irrespective of its content or its quality.
What started with democracy cannot end now with a stitch-up.
The deal must not be merely rubber-stamped by politicians,
it must be agreed by the people.
Tim Farron won the right to take his bill forward,
but as it doesn't have Government backing, it won't become law.
The terror attack at Westminster also had a dramatic impact
on events in Holyrood.
MSPs had gathered for the second day of, and crucially to vote on,
whether or not to back a motion giving the Scottish Government
a mandate to negotiate the terms of a second independence referendum
with the UK Government.
The debate had been opened by the External Affairs Secretary.
The UK withdrawing from the EU presents Scotland with one
of the most critical challenges it has faced in the modern era
as we face being taken out of the EU against our will.
If Scotland can be ignored on an issue as big and important
as this, it is clear our voice and our interest can be ignored
at any time on any issue.
The SNP wants to put the trading relationship with the EU ahead
of the internal UK market.
This refusal to recognise any benefit derived from being part
of the UK is a result of an increasingly
The First Minister says the people's voice must be heard.
She has conversed with them, consulted them, and asked them
a once-in-a-lifetime question.
They gave their answer and it was no.
Now the people are saying enough is enough.
Time to stop the campaign, not restart it.
To heal the wounds, not reopen them.
Listen to them, First Minister, for the love of Scotland.
Listen to them.
MSPs were told of the attack at Westminster by the Deputy
Presiding Officer partway through their debate, but carried
on for another half-hour before the presiding officer intervened.
I've certainly no wish to cause undue alarm here,
and security has been increased here, but I'm also aware
that the fact that our sister Parliament has had a serious
incident is affecting this particular debate and is affecting
the contribution of members.
It is for that reason we are deciding to suspend the sitting.
We will find time to resume this debate.
We will resume this debate and we will be able to do
so in a full and frank manner.
I think to continue at the moment would not allow members to make
contributions in the manner they would wish to.
And so that debate was halted and will now be rescheduled.
The Welsh Assembly also called a halt to its
proceedings for the day.
That's it from me for now.
Do join me at the same time tomorrow for another round-up of the day
here at Westminster.
For now, from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.