29/03/2017 Wednesday in Parliament


Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 29 March, presented by Kristiina Cooper.

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Hello and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament,


The United Kingdom has triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty -


starting the process for leaving the European Union.


The Prime Minister issues a call for unity.


We can together make a success of this moment and we can


together build a stronger, fairer, better Britain.


A Britain our children and grandchildren are


I commend this statement to the House.


there were warnings from the Opposition parties.


Labour will not give this government a free hand to use


Brexit to attack rights, protections and cut services!


If she denies Scotland a choice in our future, she will make


Also on the programme, the Government's told there


should be no more cuts in support for disabled people.


And it's one week since the terror attack in Westminster,


Our thoughts will be, in particular, with the Metropolitan Police


as they mourn their colleague PC Keith Palmer.


Nine months ago, in last June's referendum, 52% of voters


ticked the box marked "Leave the European Union".


It set in train an enormous political upheaval.


A Prime Minister resigned and a new one was installed.


The Government fought and lost two court battles


Legislation authorising the Prime Minister to trigger


Article 50 had a rough ride, but made it on to the Statute Book.


Dozens of parliamentary inquiries have been launched.


And there have been hours of debate, inside and outside Parliament.


And now, a milestone has been reached.


At around 12.30pm, the UK's ambassador to the EU,


Sir Tim Barrow, delivered a six-page letter to Donald Tusk,


the President of the European Council.


Shortly after the letter was handed over, Theresa May


A few minutes ago in Brussels, the United Kingdom's permanent


representative to the EU handed a letter to the President


of the European Council on my behalf confirming the Government's decision


to invoke Article 50 of the treaty on European Union.


The Article 50 process is now underway and,


in accordance with the wishes of the British people,


the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.


from which there can be no turning back.


Britain is leaving the European Union.


We are going to make our own decisions and our own laws.


We are going to take control of the things


And we are going to take the opportunity to build


a stronger, fairer Britain - a country that our children


and grandchildren are proud to call home.


Loud cheers in the Commons, largely on the Conservative benches.


But outside, there was a protest against Brexit.


Pro-EU demonstrators waved placards saying,


Meanwhile, in the Commons, Theresa May said she wanted a deep


and special partnership between Britain and the EU.


And, unwittingly, she cheered the Liberal Democrats up.


the world needs the liberal, democratic values of Europe.






Perhaps, now more than ever, the world needs the Liberal


Perhaps, now more than ever, the world needs the liberal


values that the United Kingdom shares.


Mr Speaker, we understand that there will be consequences


We know that we will lose influence...


We know that we will lose influence over the rules that affect


We know that UK companies that trade with the EU will have to align


with rules agreed by institutions of which we are now longer a part,


with rules agreed by institutions of which we are no longer a part,


just as we do in other overseas markets, and we accept that.


However, we approach these talks constructively,


respectfully and in a spirit of sincere cooperation.


For it is in the interests of both the United Kingdom


and the European Union that we should use this process


to deliver our objectives in a fair and orderly manner.


And she promised to unite the country and act


I know that this is a day of celebration for some


The referendum last June was divisive at times.


Not everyone shared the same point of view or voted the same way.


The arguments on both sides were passionate.


Let us come together and work together.


Let us together choose to believe in Britain with optimism and hope.


For if we do, we can make the most of the opportunities ahead.


We can together make a success of this moment and we can


together build a stronger, fairer, better Britain.


A Britain our children and grandchildren are


I commend this statement to the House.


Mr Speaker, the direction the Prime Minister is threatening


to take this country in is both reckless and damaging.


And Labour will not give this government a free hand to use


Brexit to attack rights, protections and cut services!


So let me be clear, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister says...


The Prime Minister says that no deal is better than a bad deal.


But the reality is no deal IS a bad deal!


We all have an interest in ensuring the Prime Minister gets the best


we do need full access to the single market.


The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU seems to agree on this.


He stated, in this House on the 24th of January,


the government plan is, and I quote, "a comprehensive free


trade agreement and a comprehensive customs agreement that will deliver


So will the Prime Minister confirm today that she intends to deliver


a trade and customs agreement with the exact same benefits?


The SNP leader said the Prime Minister had promised not


to trigger Article 50 until she had reached an agreement with Scotland.


We on these benches have become accustomed to the views of members


on the other side of the House OF being incapable of understanding


that the people of Scotland voted to remain in the European Union.


The Prime Minister promised...promised...


Do honourable gentlemen and ladies opposite understand that


That viewers in Scotland can see the discourtesy


They don't like to hear it, but listen they must!


The Prime Minister promised an agreement.


Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister says that she thinks that


Brexit will bring unity to the United Kingdom.


On this issue, it is not a United Kingdom and the


Prime Minister needs to respect, respect the differences across


If she does not, if she remains intransigent, and if she denies


she will make Scottish independence inevitable.


The Commons Speaker allowed the question and answer session


It was a momentous day for Sir Bill Cash, who has been


campaigning for the UK to withdraw from the European Union


Today, Mr Speaker, is a historic day indeed.


Can my right honourable friend reaffirm that,


at the very heart of this letter, lies the democratic decision


in the referendum of UK voters, given to them by a sovereign act


of Parliament, by 6-1 in this House, enabling the British people


to regain their birthright to govern themselves, for which people fought


The Liberal Democrat leader was not in a celebratory mood.


Today, the Prime Minister is not enacting the will of the people.


She is at best interpreting that will, choosing a hard Brexit outside


the single market that was never on the ballot paper,


so this day, of all days, the Liberal Democrats will not


roll over, as the official opposition has done!


Our children and our grandchildren will judge all of us


I am determined that I will look my children in the eye


and be able to say that I did everything to prevent this


calamity that the Prime Minister has today chosen.


The Prime Minister is right that this should be for all the people,


the unity should be earned and not just asserted. We are a long way


away from it. I hope she will agree with that.


Could the Prime Minister give an assurance that she has not


turned her back on membership of the single market?


It would see off Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP's I'll register months




And these are serious matters that this United Kingdom faces.


And we'll be hearing what the House of Lords had to say about triggering


You're watching Wednesday in Parliament,


It's been one week since the terror attack in Westminster.


Khalid Masood drove at pedestrians on Westminster Bridge last


Wednesday, killing three people and injuring dozens.


He went on to kill PC Keith Palmer in a knife attack


The Palace of Westminster and the surrounding area went


A commemoration has been held on Westminster Bridge.


Hundreds of people gathered on the bridge,


At the start of the day in the Commons, the Speaker John Bercow


harked back to the events of last week.


2.40pm today marks a week on from the shocking


events of last week, and our thoughts will be,


in particular, with the Metropolitan Police as they mourn


The attack raised questions about security around Westminster.


As would be normal after such events, we are seeking to make sure


that any lessons are learned through two reviews.


The Lord Speaker and I are commissioning an external


independent review of how the perimeter of the parliamentary


estate, including outbuildings, is secured and protected to produce


a preliminary report by the end of April.


The two clerks are commissioning an externally-led Lessons Learned


review of the operation last week of Parliament s incident


management framework to report by the end of June.


At the start of Prime Minister's Questions,


Theresa May also recalled the terror attack.


Since my statement on Thursday, the names of those who have


They were Aysha Frade, Kurt Cochran, Leslie Rhodes and,


I am sure members across the House will join me in offering


our deepest condolences to their friends and families.


The police and security services' investigation continues and two


people have now been arrested and remain in custody.


I want to begin by paying tribute to the emergency services,


as the Prime Minister did, across the country, especially


all those that responded to the Westminster attack last


Wednesday and to those tha turned out to help the victims


of the New Ferry explosion last Saturday.


Our thoughts remain with the injured and those who have lost loved ones,


and we especially thank the police for their ongoing investigations.


Jeremy Corbyn challenged Theresa May over funding


A cross-party group of MPs has accused the Government of overseeing


the biggest funding shortage for schools in England


The Public Accounts Committee criticised Government "delusions"


over the situation which it said threatened to damage standards.


Between 2015 and 2018 there will be a real-terms cut of ?330 million


in central Government funding for police forces.


Can the Prime Minister assure the House that police forces


all over the country have the necessary resources


The former shadow Home Secretary, his colleague the right hon.


Member for Leigh, said during the 2015


Labour party conference that


The Police say 5 per cent to 10 per cent over the Parliament


is just about do-able. We did not accept that.


We have actually protected the police budget.


I have been speaking to police forces, as has my right hon.


Friend the Home Secretary, and they are very clear


about the fact that they have the resources that they need.


The Police Federation survey recently undertaken reveals that 55%


of serving police officers say they are morale is low due to the way in


which the funding has been treated. Front line policing is vital in


tackling crime and terrorism. Since 2010 however there are 20,000 fewer


police officers, 12,000 less on the front line so I have the Prime


Minister again will she think again about the cuts to policing and


guarantee policing on the front line will be protected so every community


can be assured it has the police officers in the community? Let's


think about what has happened since 2010. Since 2010 we have seen crimes


that are traditionally measured by the independent crime survey falling


by one third to a record low. That is the work of hard-working police


officers up and down the country. They have been backed by this


government. We have made them more accountable through the Police and


Crime Commissioners, there has been reform of policing including a


reform of the Police Federation which was very necessary, but we


have ensured the police have TV sources to do the job and we see


crime at a record low. Last week she told me four times we have protected


the schools budget. Though she still stand by that statement? We have


protected schools budgets and we are putting record funding into schools.


Today Mr Speaker the Public Accounts Committee says of the Department for


Education that it does not seem to understand the pressures that


schools are already under and they went on to say that funding per


pupil is reducing in real terms and goes on to say schools budgets will


be cut by 3 billion, the equivalent of 8%, by 2020. Is the Public


Accounts Committee wrong on this? What we see over the course of this


parliament is ?230 billion going into our schools. But what matters


is the quality of education we see. 1.8 million more children in good or


outstanding schools and a policy from this government to ensure that


every child gets a good school place. If the Prime Minister is


right then the parents and teachers are wrong, the ISS is wrong, the


National Audit Office is wrong, the educational policy Institute is


wrong and now the Public Accounts Committee which includes eight


Conservative members is also wrong. So which organisation does back the


Prime Minister's few on education spending in our schools? We said we


would protect school funding and we have, real terms protection for the


budget and we have sent money to schools. Wait like she accused


Jeremy Corbyn of demanding more spending. Earlier PMQ 's goes by


when he does not call for more public spending. When it comes to


spending money they haven't got the labour simply can't help themselves.


Same old Labour, spent today and give someone else the bill tomorrow.


We would do that to the next generation.


The government's been told there should be no more cuts


The call came as MPs held an emergency debate on changes


to a disability benefit - the Personal Independence Payment.


Ministers are seeking to overturn two tribunal rulings


which would increase the number of people entitled to higher


The Government insists the change is not a cut BUT restores


the original intention of the policy.


The shadow work and pensions secretary disagreed.


The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work claims


that the changes restore PIP to its original policy intentions,


The fact is that over a quarter of those on PIP receive


the highest level of support, which is much more than


the 15% of DLA working-age claimants who did so.


Are the regulations not doing exactly what was originally


intended: targeting resources at those who need them most?


I am sorry, but I do not see the honourable Gentleman s logic.


These new regulations are nothing more than a shameful cut.


Once again, this Government are trying to balance


the books on the backs of the sick and disabled.


The Government s own analysis estimates that the new regulations


will affect more than 160,000 people by 2023, the majority of whom will


Many of these will be newer applicants, but the regulations


will also affect those who are being reassessed,


who will not be eligible for the full support


to which they would have been entitled under the rulings


of tribunals, an effective cut of ?3.7 billion.


Having spent 14 very happy months as the Minister


responsible for these matters, I want to pass on some


of the observations that I made during that time.


Let me make it absolutely clear that stakeholders and charities recognise


that PIP is a better benefit than DLA.


It is not perfect`much more work is still to be done to deliver


further improvements`but the statistics show


Under DLA, only 16.5% of all claimants access the highest


rate of benefit, under PIP, the figure is over 25%.


The courts have given us a loud and clear message that we have got


In this age where we are desperately trying to change society s views


of mental health and parity of esteem, we have to listen


to the courts`they have given us a judgment for a reason.


Personal and and payments are supposed to support people with


additional costs for the disability, we have heard that the court ruling


these changes seem to undermine. If ruled that people live in the the


house because of anxiety panic attacks or other mental health


problems should be able to receive a higher rate of Pip. This bears


repeating. I thank you. Does this not run the risk of actually


increasing stigma again on mental health visitor to people clearly


that anxiety causes you to stay inside and is not something that a


serious and doesn't it conflict with the principle of equal treatment


between mental and physical health? I thank the honourable gentleman for


his intervention and completely agree. As I said and have said


before, this government cannot simply change the goalposts of


retirement was a battle. These regulations do nothing more than


pander to old attitudes and stigmas towards mental illness. As a person


needs help finding need help regardless of their age or


disability or health condition. It is important to be clear what these


regulations are not, they are not a policy change are intended to make


new savings. And they will not result in any claimant saying a


reduction in the amount of Pip previously awarded by DWP. There is


no change to the budget and no change to guidance.


We finish where we started - with the news that the UK Government


has triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.


Theresa May's statement was repeated in the House of Lords.


First to respond was the Labour leader in the Lords, Lady Smith.


Labour has set the Government six tests for the Brexit deal.


Just like any other divorce there will be some who rejoice in new


opportunities and those will despair of our shared past and was love. If


you find the look of the marriage divorces and remarriage of the -- of


Richard Burton and ultimately with Taylor is hope but through it all my


Lords the only people to get rich where those trying to unravel those


40 plus years of relative harmony. Lawyers.


Labour has set the Government six tests for the Brexit deal.


Lady Smith added a seventh - honesty.


This process must not be so ideologically driven


that the Government accept anything and claim it is a good deal.


If the Prime Minister is disappointed or dissatisfied


with the negotiations or the outcome of agreements, she must


in the national interest be prepared to say so.


But sadness is a passive emotion, and it is not the only


We feel a sense of anger that the Government are pursuing


a brutal Brexit, which will rip us out of the single market and many


other European networks from which we benefit so much.


The Minister reassured peers that Parliament would be fully invovled.


We have said there will be a Motion on the final agreement to be


approved by both Houses of Parliament before


We expect and intend that this will happen before


the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement.


We intend that Parliament s vote will cover not only the withdrawal


arrangements but the future relationship with the EU.


And we will give the last word to Lord Kerr, a former diplomat


The country will judge the outcome of the negotiations by the words


of those on the Government Front Bench.


Before the referendum, Mr Davis told us that there would be


no diminution of trade with the EU if we left the European Union.


This year, he has told us that the exact same benefits will be


secured as if we had remained in the single market


Before the referendum, Mr Johnson told us that there would be no


This year, Mr Brokenshire has told us that there will be


a frictionless border, even though that will be the border


of the EU s customs union and it will be for the EU to decide


Does the noble Baroness understand that, as this negotiation proceeds,


the country will not forget what it was told, and Ministers


The author of Article 50 - Lord Kerr - speaking on the day


Well that's it from Wednesday in Parliament.


I'll be back at the same time tomorrow but for now, from me -


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