22/03/2017 Wednesday in Parliament


22/03/2017

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 22 March, presented by Alicia McCarthy.


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Transcript


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On this programme:

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Parliament is put into lockdown after a terror attack

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outside Westminster.

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It seems that a police officer has been stabbed.

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That the alleged assailant was shot by armed police.

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As MPs are held in the chamber for their own safety,

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the Scottish Parliament also suspends its sitting.

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The fact that our sister Parliament has had a serious incident

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is affecting this particular debate.

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On a shocking and dramatic day, the first MPs knew

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of the attack was this statement from the Deputy Speaker,

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Lindsay Hoyle.

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Order!

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I am now going to suspend the sitting of the house.

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This house is now suspended, but please wait here.

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Outside the chamber, it was slowly becoming

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clear what had happened.

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At around 2:45pm, pedestrians and police had been mown down

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as the attacker's car was driven across Westminster Bridge

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and crashed into railings.

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A man then tried to get into parliament and stabbed an armed

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police officer who was protecting one of the entrances.

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The officer was killed.

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Police later said the attacker also died in the incident and that more

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than 20 people had been wounded.

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With the scale of the deaths and casualties still unclear,

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inside Parliament the Commons chamber was locked down,

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meaning MPs were unable to leave.

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15 minutes after the sitting was suspended, the Leader

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of the Commons updated MPs.

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Events have been moving rapidly and I want to emphasise

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that the knowledge that I have which is definite is

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so far very limited.

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What I am able to say to the house is that there has been a serious

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incident within the estate.

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It seems that a police officer has been stabbed.

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That the alleged assailant was shot by armed police.

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An air ambulance is currently attending the scene

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to remove the casualties.

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There are also reports of further violent incidents in the vicinity

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of the Palace of Westminster, but I hope colleagues on all sides

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will appreciate that it would be wrong of me to go into further

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details until we have confirmation from the police and from the house

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security authorities about what is going on.

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The Shadow Leader of the House stood up.

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Can I thank the leader for the statement and just to say

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that our thoughts and prayers are with the police officer.

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And to thank the police and security services,

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and all the staff for looking after us so well.

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To the honourable lady, I think those sentiments will be

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shared without reservation in all parts of the house.

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We remain suspended until further notice.

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With that, the sitting was suspended again and David Lidington came back

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to the chamber 20 minutes later with another update.

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It is clear that the advice from the police, the director

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of security, is still that the chamber should

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remain in lockdown.

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I think, as most colleagues will realise, a number of right

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honourable and honourable members are also in other parts

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of the estate and for obvious reasons are unable to be

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present for business.

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There have been conversations through the usual channels.

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I hope the house would agree that in the current circumstances it

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would not be right to continue with today's business.

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Discussions between the usual channels will take place to ensure

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that the business that has been interrupted can be rescheduled for

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another mutually convenient date.

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I know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you will want to keep the house,

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although we remain in lockdown here, informed about any news

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that comes through from the security authorities.

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But in view of what I sense to be the mood of the house

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and the situation in which we find ourselves, I beg to move

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that the house do now adjourn.

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The question is this house shall now adjourn.

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As many of the opinion say aye.

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Aye!

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The ayes have it.

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And so Parliament was suspended for the day.

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The Lords, which was due to sit at 3pm, called off its sitting.

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Meanwhile, MPs were held in the Commons chamber for more

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than two hours before being eventually released.

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A joint statement from the Commons Speaker,

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John Bercow, and Lord Fowler, the Lords Speaker, sent

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thoughts to all those affected and their families,

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and expressed gratitude to the police and all

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the emergency services.

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Before the attack, it had been a Wednesday like most others,

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when the news agenda was set by Prime Minister's Questions.

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The Labour leader had used the session to accuse

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the Government of cutting school funding in England.

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He said smaller budgets could lead to bigger class sizes

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and less choice for pupils.

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Theresa May defended a consultation that had been held on school funding

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and she accused Labour of wanting to pull up the ladder

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on achievement.

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But the session began with Mrs May offering

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condolences following the death of Northern Ireland's former

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Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness.

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Of course we do not condone or justify the path he took

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in the earlier part of his life and we should never forget that,

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nor the victims of terrorism.

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However, as my noble friend Lord Trimble set out yesterday,

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he played an indispensable role in bringing the Republican movement

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away from violence to peaceful and democratic means,

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and to building a better Northern Ireland.

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A sentiment echoed by the Leader of the Opposition.

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Martin played an immeasurable role in bringing about peace

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in Northern Ireland and it's that peace that we all want to see

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endure for all time, for all people in Northern Ireland.

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He moved on to proposed changes to school funding.

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He said school budgets were being cut by more than 6%

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and he took a swipe at the former Chancellor George Osborne's new job.

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The manifesto on which he fought the last election promised that

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under a future Conservative government, the amount of money

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following your child into school will be protected.

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No wonder even the editor of the London Evening Standard

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is up in arms about this!

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Mr Speaker, the cut to school funding equates the loss of two

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teachers across all primary schools, six teachers across

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all secondary schools.

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So is the Prime Minister advocating larger class sizes?

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Shorter school days?

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Or unqualified teachers?

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Which is it?

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We have, as we said we would, we have protected the schools budget.

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We now see more teachers in our schools, we see more teachers

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with first-class degrees in our schools.

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We see 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding schools.

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That's a result of the policies of this government.

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Jeremy Corbyn quoted a letter from a primary school

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teacher called Eileen.

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She wrote to me to say teachers are purchasing items such as pens,

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pencils, glue sticks and paper out of their own pockets.

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Fundraising events have quadrupled as funds are so low that parents

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are having to make donations to purchase books.

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This is disgraceful, says Eileen.

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Does the Prime Minister agree with Eileen?

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Theresa May said her government wanted children to get

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on on the basis of merit.

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Jeremy Corbyn was unconvinced.

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And in the Budget, the government found no more money for the schools

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budget, but it did find ?320 million for her own special schools,

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grammar schools, vanity project.

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So there's no money for Eileen's schools, yet ?320 million

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for divisive grammar schools.

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What kind of priority is that?

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We've put forward a proposal, we are consulting on it.

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Consultation closes today.

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We will respond to that consultation.

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But he talks about the issue of the sort of system

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in schools we want.

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Yes, we want diversity.

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We want different sorts of schools.

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We have put money into new school places.

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But I say to the right honourable gentleman,

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his Shadow Home Secretary sent her child to a private school.

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His Shadow Attorney General sent her child to a private school.

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He sent his child to a grammar school.

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He went to a grammar school himself.

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Typical Labour, take the advantage and pull up the ladder behind you.

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The SNP's Westminster leader turned to Brexit.

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The Prime Minister says that she wants Article 50

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negotiations to lead to a deal and she wants people to know

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the outcome of that deal before it is approved.

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Will the Prime Minister confirm that in the period for an agreement,

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the House of Commons will have a choice, the House

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of Lords will have a choice, the European Parliament

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will have a choice, 27 member states of the European Union

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will have a choice?

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If it's right for all of them to have a choice about Scotland's

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future, why should the people of Scotland not have a choice

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about their own future?

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This isn't a question about whether the people of Scotland

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should have a choice on their future.

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The people...

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The people of Scotland voted, exercised their right

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to self-determination, and voted in 2014 to remain a part

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of the United Kingdom.

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The people of the United Kingdom last year voted to leave

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the European Union.

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We are respecting both of those votes.

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He is respecting neither of them.

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Theresa May.

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The Transport Department has announced that the ban on airline

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passengers carrying laptops and other devices in their

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cabin baggage will be brought in by Saturday.

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It affects flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon,

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Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan.

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The Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, told

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the Commons he wanted aviation to continue as normal.

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These were extra security measures to make sure it was safe.

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I know the whole house will recognise the fact that we face

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a constantly evolving threat from terrorism and must respond

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accordingly to ensure the protection of the public against those

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who would do us harm.

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The changes we're making to our security measures

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are an important part of that process and I assure the house

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we'll continue to work closely with airlines,

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airports and the wider travel industry over the coming weeks

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to ensure that passengers know what is expected of them.

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Have checks on these items been stepped up in addition to changes

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to their placements on the aircraft and what evidence does he have that

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placing potentially problematic items in the hold is safer

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than in the cabin, especially as potentially explosive devices

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such as lithium ion batteries have been banned from hold luggage?

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Mr Speaker, aviation security is rightly under constant review.

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Can he assure all of us that all is being done to make sure these

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regulations are effective, consistent and put

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the passenger first?

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We respond in aviation security to the evolving threat

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that we face from terrorists.

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There are some things that we make public and others that we don't.

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I'm not going to give the honourable gentleman full details

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of the background to the decision.

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It's been taken, it's in response to an evolving threat.

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He would not expect me to do that.

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Suffice to say to the house, we have taken the steps we have

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taken for good reason.

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Having just returned from the Conservative Middle East

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Council trip to Egypt, we were able to see the devastating

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effects to the local economy in Sharm el Sheikh on the continuing

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ban on flights to that region.

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We were also able to meet with the president and hear first

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hand from the Egyptians their concerns that they are being

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singled out in some way.

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That may be the reaction of other allies who are being named today.

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Will my right honourable friend commit to discussing with other

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ministers a diplomatic offensive to go to these countries to explain

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to them why these actions are being taken and they are not

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being singled out?

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This is not a question of singling out countries.

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We would never embark on a process of singling out countries.

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The decisions we take are purely and simply taken on the basis

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of what we believe the risks are and where we believe we need

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to take steps to protect United Kingdom citizens.

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Safety has to be our top priority, but there really

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are too many loose ends.

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If there really are clear security grounds for the restrictions

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the Secretary of State has introduced, he has to be

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clearer about what those security grounds are.

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Otherwise both the UK government and the US government will remain

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open to the suspicion that they are unreasonably singling

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out particular countries in the Middle East and North Africa

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rather than thinking through properly what precautions

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can actually keep flights safe from terrorism wherever

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the aircraft involved fly from.

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I understand his desire for information, but the reality

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is we have an evolving security threat to aircraft, we take

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decisions as and when we believe it is necessary to do

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so to protect our citizens.

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I'm very clear, it's nothing to do with singling out

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countries, it's nothing to do with what the destinations are.

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The decisions we take are purely and simply based on an evolving

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security threat and what we believe is the right way to protect

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United Kingdom citizens.

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Sir Desmond Swayne.

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Why are they safer in the hold?

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Mr Speaker, as I said, and I hate to be disingenuous

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to my honourable friend in terms of repeating the answers,

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but I can't discuss the detail of that evolving security threat.

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Would he outline what steps will be taken to reassure passengers

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as well as inform them on the work the government is doing?

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We are not saying to people do not travel to these countries.

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We are not saying to people cancel your flights.

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We are not saying to people cancel your holidays.

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We want aviation to continue as normal.

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We are simply taking additional security measures to make sure

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that aviation is safe.

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Can I just ask the Secretary of State to give assurance

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to my constituents and other Muslim people around the UK who may be

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feeling that this is another attack on their liberties?

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Can I ask him to give an assurance that it is not that

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and that they will be treated properly and with dignity

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as they travel through UK airports?

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Let me also be clear about this point.

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In recent years, we've seen a whole range of

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horrendous terrorist events.

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In those events, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and people with no

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faith and many others have died side-by-side.

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Our job is to protect every single citizen of the United Kingdom

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whatever their faith.

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This is about protecting every single citizen of the United Kingdom

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whatever their faith.

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Chris Grayling.

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You're watching Wednesday in Parliament with me, Alicia McCarthy.

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The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales has strongly criticised

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the Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, saying her view

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of her constitutional duty towards the judiciary was completely

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and utterly wrong.

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Earlier this month, Liz Truss told the Lords Constitution Committee

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that she was a huge believer in the independence of

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the judiciary, but drew the line at saying what the press should print.

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The Daily Mail branded the Lord Chief Justice and two

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High Court judges "enemies of the people" after they ruled

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against the Government in the first Brexit hearing last November.

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Lord Chief Justice, I want to ask you about the press coverage

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of the first judgment in the Article 50 proceedings, which you presided

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over in the High Court.

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He said the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005 placed a duty

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on the Lord Chancellor to protect the independence of the judiciary.

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The very words are, the need to protect that independence.

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Before us a week or so ago, she said she will respectfully

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disagree with some who have asked me to condemn what the press

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are writing, stating that she draws the line at saying

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what is acceptable for the press to print or not.

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She thought the best way to proceed was to make the positive case.

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In light of the constitutional requirements and those answers,

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how and by whom, in your view and that of the judiciary, should

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this independence be protected?

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In short, I believe the Lord Chancellor is completely and utterly

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wrong in the view she takes.

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I regret to have to say that.

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Can I explain the position I took?

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First, it seems to me inappropriate to say anything

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during the time of the decision.

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Secondly, it was inappropriate to say anything until

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the legislation had been passed.

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Thirdly, I'm extremely reluctant to get into an argument that in any

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way compromises the position that the judiciary have taken

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on Brexit, which is to get on with the legal problems and leave

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the politics to the politicians.

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He said it was important to maintain a free press.

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I think criticism is very healthy.

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If you've got something wrong, fine.

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But there's a difference between criticism and abuse.

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I don't think that is understood.

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I don't think it's understood, either, how absolutely essential

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it is that we are protected.

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Because we have to act as our oath requires us,

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without fear or favour, affection or ill will.

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It is clear, after Brexit, in relation to the first

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Article 50 judgment, that the claimant had

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been subjected to quite a considerable number of threats.

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It's the only time in the whole of my judicial career that I've had

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to ask for the police to give us a measure of advice and protection

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in relation to the emotions that were being stirred up.

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I think that it's very wrong that judges should feel it.

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I've done a number of cases involving Al-Qaeda, I dealt

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with the airline bombers plot, some very, very serious cases.

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I've never had that problem before.

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The circuit judges were very concerned.

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They wrote to the Lord Chancellor because litigants in person

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were coming and saying, you're an enemy of the people.

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I regret to have to criticise as severely as I have,

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but to my mind she's completely and absolutely wrong.

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I'm very disappointed.

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I can understand what the pressures were in November,

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but she has taken a position that is constitutionally

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absolutely wrong.

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Thank you, Lord Chief Justice.

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I'm very glad that the committee has given you the opportunity

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to set out your position.

0:20:080:20:09

You have done so very clearly.

0:20:090:20:11

I will do so with the whole of the history of this problem

0:20:110:20:14

on June 15th here in Parliament.

0:20:140:20:17

We shall look forward to that.

0:20:170:20:18

I'm relieved to be able to say that the committee produced a report

0:20:180:20:22

on the office and role of the Lord Chancellor a couple

0:20:220:20:24

of years ago which takes more or less the same view,

0:20:240:20:27

but not in such clear and robust terms as you were able to.

0:20:270:20:30

I'm sorry, there's no point in mincing words.

0:20:300:20:32

Indeed not.

0:20:320:20:35

Why I feel so firm about this is that in the Financial Times

0:20:350:20:39

article, the Lord Chancellor went on to say that, and I can see

0:20:390:20:42

the force of her concern, that when the powers in the European

0:20:420:20:50

court are repatriated the decisions of the courts will come

0:20:500:20:53

under greater scrutiny.

0:20:530:20:57

Well, it really is absolutely essential that we have a Lord

0:20:570:21:00

Chancellor who understands her constitutional duty.

0:21:000:21:02

Yes, thank you.

0:21:020:21:04

I think we need to move on, however.

0:21:040:21:06

Before we leave controversy entirely...

0:21:060:21:09

I don't think I've said anything controversial.

0:21:090:21:14

At least to lawyers.

0:21:140:21:15

Indeed not.

0:21:150:21:16

The Prime Minister is gearing up to trigger Article 50 next week,

0:21:160:21:20

the official start of the process for the UK leaving the EU.

0:21:200:21:24

The UK voted by 52% to 48% to leave the European Union

0:21:240:21:27

in a poll in June.

0:21:270:21:30

Negotiations over the terms of that exit will begin shortly.

0:21:300:21:34

In the Commons, the leader of the Liberal Democrats launched

0:21:340:21:37

an attempt to have a second referendum once the Brexit

0:21:370:21:39

deal is drawn up.

0:21:390:21:45

Bringing in what's known as a Ten Minute Rule Bill,

0:21:450:21:48

he explained what he wanted.

0:21:480:21:49

I accept that we have had our mandate referendum

0:21:490:21:51

in which the British people voted to leave.

0:21:510:21:53

But voting for departure is not the same as voting

0:21:530:21:55

for a destination.

0:21:550:21:57

Now the Government should give the British people a decision

0:21:570:21:59

referendum to be held when the EU negotiation is concluded

0:21:590:22:03

so that the British people have all the necessary information

0:22:030:22:06

and know what our future partnership will be.

0:22:060:22:10

It is the people who are suffering in this country.

0:22:100:22:20

It is the people who are sovereign in this country.

0:22:210:22:23

The people can and must have their say over what comes next.

0:22:230:22:26

This bill would enshrine in law their right to do so.

0:22:260:22:28

The detail or even the general nature of the deal that this

0:22:280:22:31

government may reach with the European Union

0:22:310:22:33

is currently completely unknown and a mystery to us,

0:22:330:22:35

a mystery to them.

0:22:350:22:36

Yet the British people are now told they must simply shrug and accept

0:22:360:22:39

any old deal irrespective of its content or its quality.

0:22:390:22:43

What started with democracy cannot end now with a stitch-up.

0:22:430:22:46

The deal must not be merely rubber-stamped by politicians,

0:22:460:22:49

it must be agreed by the people.

0:22:490:22:52

Tim Farron won the right to take his bill forward,

0:22:520:22:55

but as it doesn't have Government backing, it won't become law.

0:22:550:23:00

The terror attack at Westminster also had a dramatic impact

0:23:000:23:03

on events in Holyrood.

0:23:030:23:06

MSPs had gathered for the second day of, and crucially to vote on,

0:23:060:23:09

whether or not to back a motion giving the Scottish Government

0:23:090:23:13

a mandate to negotiate the terms of a second independence referendum

0:23:130:23:15

with the UK Government.

0:23:150:23:18

The debate had been opened by the External Affairs Secretary.

0:23:180:23:23

The UK withdrawing from the EU presents Scotland with one

0:23:230:23:26

of the most critical challenges it has faced in the modern era

0:23:260:23:30

as we face being taken out of the EU against our will.

0:23:300:23:35

If Scotland can be ignored on an issue as big and important

0:23:350:23:39

as this, it is clear our voice and our interest can be ignored

0:23:390:23:42

at any time on any issue.

0:23:420:23:47

The SNP wants to put the trading relationship with the EU ahead

0:23:470:23:50

of the internal UK market.

0:23:500:23:55

This refusal to recognise any benefit derived from being part

0:23:550:23:59

of the UK is a result of an increasingly

0:23:590:24:02

nasty nationalism.

0:24:020:24:06

The First Minister says the people's voice must be heard.

0:24:060:24:10

She has conversed with them, consulted them, and asked them

0:24:100:24:13

a once-in-a-lifetime question.

0:24:130:24:17

They gave their answer and it was no.

0:24:170:24:21

Now the people are saying enough is enough.

0:24:210:24:25

Time to stop the campaign, not restart it.

0:24:250:24:29

To heal the wounds, not reopen them.

0:24:290:24:32

Listen to them, First Minister, for the love of Scotland.

0:24:320:24:36

Listen to them.

0:24:360:24:38

MSPs were told of the attack at Westminster by the Deputy

0:24:380:24:42

Presiding Officer partway through their debate, but carried

0:24:420:24:44

on for another half-hour before the presiding officer intervened.

0:24:440:24:48

I've certainly no wish to cause undue alarm here,

0:24:480:24:51

and security has been increased here, but I'm also aware

0:24:510:24:54

that the fact that our sister Parliament has had a serious

0:24:540:25:01

incident is affecting this particular debate and is affecting

0:25:010:25:04

the contribution of members.

0:25:040:25:07

It is for that reason we are deciding to suspend the sitting.

0:25:070:25:10

We will find time to resume this debate.

0:25:100:25:14

Thank you.

0:25:140:25:18

We will resume this debate and we will be able to do

0:25:180:25:22

so in a full and frank manner.

0:25:220:25:24

I think to continue at the moment would not allow members to make

0:25:240:25:27

contributions in the manner they would wish to.

0:25:270:25:30

And so that debate was halted and will now be rescheduled.

0:25:300:25:34

The Welsh Assembly also called a halt to its

0:25:340:25:36

proceedings for the day.

0:25:360:25:39

That's it from me for now.

0:25:390:25:40

Do join me at the same time tomorrow for another round-up of the day

0:25:400:25:44

here at Westminster.

0:25:440:25:45

For now, from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.

0:25:450:25:48

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