Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 19 April, presented by Alicia McCarthy.
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Hello, and welcome to the programme as MPs back Theresa May's call
for a general election on June 8th.
The ayes to the right, 522.
The noes to the left, 13.
So, the ayes have it, the ayes have it.
At Prime Minister's Questions, Theresa May is challenged over why
she won't take part in televised debates, and on her previous promise
not to call an early election.
She wants us to believe that she is a
woman of her word.
Is it the truth that we cannot believe a single word
The Prime Minister defends her decision.
I think it is right now to ask the British people to put their
trust in me and the Conservative Party to deliver on their vote last
year, a Brexit plan that will make a success for this country
and deliver a stronger, fairer, global Britain
in the future.
Also on this programme - is it time to ditch diesel cars?
And the Energy Secretary promises muscular action over fuel bills.
The House of Commons has backed the Prime Minister's call
for a general election on June 8th.
MPs voted by 522 to 13, meaning Theresa May secured well
over the two thirds majority she needed to dissolve Parliament.
Mrs May took Westminster by surprise on Tuesday by announcing she wanted
to go to the country - having previously said
she wouldn't hold an early poll.
She argued the vote was needed to give her a strong hand
in the Brexit negotiations.
At Prime Minister's Questions the Labour leader challenged
Mrs May's record.
We welcome the general election...
But this is a Prime Minister who promised there wouldn't be one.
A Prime Minister who cannot be trusted.
She says it is about leadership, yet is refusing to defend her record
in television debates.
And it is not hard to see why.
The Prime Minister says we have a stronger economy.
Yet she can't explain why people's wages are lower today
than they were ten years ago, or why more households are in debt,
6 million people earning less than the living wage,
child poverty is up, pensioner poverty is up, so why
are so many people getting poorer?
Well, I can assure the right honourable gentleman, first of all,
I would point out to the right honourable gentleman that I have
been answering his questions and debating these matters every
Wednesday that Parliament has been sitting since
I became Prime Minister.
And I will be taking, I will be taking out to the country
in this campaign a proud record of a Conservative government.
A stronger economy, an economy of a deficit nearly two thirds down,
with 30 million people with a tax cut.
4 million people taken out of income tax altogether.
Record levels of employment and ?1250 more a year for pensioners.
That is a record we can be proud of.
Mr Speaker, if she is so proud of her record,
why won't she debate it?
Wages are falling, more children are in poverty,
and the last Tory manifesto, page 28, said...
"We will work to eliminate child poverty."
They only eliminated the child poverty targets, not child poverty.
People will have a real choice at this election.
They will have a choice between a Conservative government
that has shown we can build a stronger economy,
and a Labour Party whose economic policy would bankrupt this country.
And what voters know is that under Labour it is ordinary working people
who pay the price of the Labour Party.
They pay it with their taxes, they pay it with their jobs,
and they pay it with their children's futures.
Most people know that the reason we are actually having a general
election is because of the woeful state of the Labour Party.
If the Prime Minister is so confident that her hard
Brexit, pro-austerity immigration case is right, then she should
debate it with opposition leaders during the campaign.
We look forward to the straight fight between
the SNP and the Tories.
Can the Prime Minister tell the people why she is running scared
of a televised debate with Nicola Sturgeon?
I can assure the right honourable gentleman that I will be out
there campaigning in every part of the United Kingdom,
taking out there our proud record of a Conservative government that
has delivered for every part of the United Kingdom.
And I might suggest to the Scottish Nationalists that
actually now is the time for them to put aside...
Wait for it.
Now is the time for them to put aside their tunnel vision
on independence and actually explain to the Scottish people why under
the SNP they are not putting as much money into the health service
as they have been given from the UK, they are not exercising the powers
they have been given, and Scottish education
is getting worse.
It is time they got back to the day job.
The British public deserve to hear the party leaders
set out their plans and debate them publicly.
But the Prime Minister has refused to take part
in televised leaders debates.
The Prime Minister and I, back in 1992, debated publicly,
forcibly and amicably when we were both
Indeed, Mr Speaker...
Indeed, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister called out
the then incumbent who did not show up for some of those debates.
Why will she not debate those issues publicly now?
What is she scared of?
I can assure the honourable gentleman that I will be debating
these issues publicly across the country,
as will every single member of the Conservative team.
The Prime Minister yesterday said she was calling a general election
because Parliament was blocking Brexit.
But three quarters of MPs and two thirds of the Lords
voted for Article 50.
So that is not true, is it?
And a month ago she told her official spokesman to rule out
an early general election, and that wasn't true either, was it?
She wants us to believe that she is a woman of her word.
Isn't the truth that we cannot believe a single word she says?
The House is rather...
The House is rather overexcited.
The question has been heard.
The answer will be heard.
The Prime Minister...
This House and this Parliament voted to trigger Article 50.
But the Labour Party made it clear they were thinking of voting
against the final deal.
The Scottish Nationalists...
The Scottish Nationalists...
The Scottish Nationalists have said that they would vote
against the legislation necessary to leave the European Union.
The Liberal Democrats since they are going to grind
government to a standstill.
And the House of Lords have threatened to stop us
every inch of the way.
I think it is right now to ask the British people
to put their trust in me and the Conservative Party
to deliver on their vote last year a Brexit plan that will make
a success for this country and deliver a stronger, fairer,
global Britain in the future.
A veteran Labour MP raised alleged breaches of election expenses
from the 2015 election which are still being investigated
by some police forces.
Will the Prime Minister give a guarantee that no Tory MP
who is under investigation by the police and the legal
authorities over election expenses in the last general election be
a candidate in this election?
Because if she won't accept that, this is the most squalid election
campaign that has happened in my lifetime.
I stand by all the Conservative MPs who are in this House
and who will be out there standing again, campaigning, campaigning
for a Conservative government that will give a brighter and better
future for this country.
Well, a short time later MPs began their debate on the motion -
with Theresa May returning to the despatch box
to set out her case.
I have set out the divisions that have become clear on this issue.
They can and will be used against us, weakening our hand
in the negotiations to come, and we must not let that happen.
I believe that at this moment of enormous national significance
there should be unity here in Westminster, not division.
And that is why it is the right and responsible thing for all of us
here today to vote for a general election, to make our respective,
to make our respective cases to the country and then to respect
the result and the mandate that provides to give Britain
the strongest possible hand in the negotiations to come.
The question is that there shall be an early
Parliamentary general election.
Mr Jeremy Corbyn.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
We welcome the opportunity of a general election,
because it gives the British people the chance to vote for a Labour
government that would put the interests of the majority first.
Britain is being held back.
Held back by her government.
The Prime Minister talks about a strong economy,
but the truth is most people are worse off than they were
when the Conservatives came to power seven years ago.
The election gives the British people the chance
to change direction.
It was then the turn of the smaller parties
and backbenchers to have their say.
There was strong support from the Prime Minister's own side -
but accusations of opportunism from opposition MPs.
A Conservative began by telling MPs that he'd told his local
newspaper there was no chance of a snap election.
And as I told them, with absolute confidence,
turkeys will not vote for Christmas.
I congratulate my right honourable friend for having achieved
the impossible and secured the fact that today those turkeys
will indeed vote for that.
If this election is, as the Prime Minister says,
about a more secure future for this country, if it is an election
of such national significance, we should have an urgent change
in the law to give Britain's 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds
a say in what will be very much their future
on the 8th of June.
The people of Northern Ireland will have a clear choice.
They will have a clear choice as to whether or not
they will want to rally round and say very, very firmly
they want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom,
or whether they want to go down the route presented by Sinn Fein,
which is this Marxist, Leninist concept of a republic
which has been rejected even by most people who accept their nationalism
at reject what they stand for in terms of their economic
outlook and all the rest of it.
And the only way to support the union is by rallying behind
the Democratic Unionist Party on the 8th of June.
She has accused others of playing games in this Parliament.
In essence, the Prime Minister's argument is that she has no
confidence in Parliament, so we have this bizarre situation
where we had a referendum that was about taking back control,
that was about Parliamentary sovereignty, but then
we have a Prime Minister who pronounces she has no
confidence in Parliament.
She doesn't trust parties in the opposition.
She confers on them all sorts of exaggerated powers
to block out to wreck, and then of course she has
complaints about the House of Lords.
Mr Speaker, against the European Union,
for the European Union, then against again.
Against holding a general election, and now determined
to have a general election.
Mr Speaker, the record is about as straight as a legendary
European Union banana.
Brexit for us is a very different and brittle world.
We fully support as Ulster Unionists that we need to find
the right way forward, but it is going to be used
by Sinn Fein to really try and break up the union.
And we need that support.
The justification which is given for having a general election
is quite frankly disingenuous.
To suggest that she needs a mandate to negotiate
Brexit is just ridiculous.
She was given that mandate on the 24th of June by a majority
of the British people, and it's up to her now
to carry that out.
If she then wishes to have another election at the end of the process,
or to have another referendum, then so be it, but to
justify it now is just, as my honourable colleague
says, purely opportunistic.
I believe this is the sort of thing that gives politics a bad
name in our country, and it's what's leading
to the alienation of many of our citizens from the political process.
There was only one reason why the Prime Minister wants a general
election on the 8th of June, and that is she figures she has
a better chance of winning it now than she does in the future.
It is therefore the most blatant abuse of the democratic procedure
for party political advantage.
And as this campaign goes on, it will be seen as that.
I know that this Government, which has delivered so much already
and has so much more to deliver, will have a resonance
with the British public when they look at what's on offer
from the other parties who are divided, they are wrangling,
they are scaremongering and they are in Brexit denial.
This Government will give us the best deal
for all of our businesses and all of our constituencies.
And at the end Mrs May comfortably got her way.
THE SPEAKER: Order, order.
The ayes to the right, 522.
The noes to the left, 13.
And that vote means the election will definitely go
ahead on June the 8th.
You're watching Wednesday in Parliament with me, Alicia McCarthy.
A scrappage scheme to encourage people to stop driving their diesel
cars should be carefully targeted, according to the chair of
Parliament's Environment Committee.
Neil Parish said the scheme mustn't become a subsidy for the well-off
motorist living in a rural location.
A decade ago, motorists were happily selling their petrol cars
and replacing them with diesel models - opting for better fuel
efficiency and heeding the advice of politicians at the time,
who believed diesel's lower emission of carbon dioxide
was crucial in curtailing greenhouse gas emissions.
Then came the discovery that environmental advantages
from driving diesel cars were more than outweighed by some
Diesel engines emit a higher level of nitrogen oxides.
These gases cause or worsen health conditions like asthma
and bronchitis, and even risk of heart attacks and strokes.
They are also linked to tens of thousands of premature deaths
in Britain every year.
Would he agree with me that many drivers of diesel cars will feel
that they were encouraged to go and buy these cars, and now
they are staring at the prospect of local authorities seeking
to fleece them for taxes in order to raise money
to plug their own funding gaps, and they will feel that
this is deeply unfair?
Yes, the honourable gentleman does raise a very good point,
and that's very much partly behind the idea of the scrappage scheme.
Not only would it help with air quality, but it is some recompense
for the fact that those who were perhaps moved
towards diesel will get a carrot as well as a stick.
However, I do not want a scrappage scheme becoming a subsidy entirely
for the middle classes.
Households should not just be able to trading multiple
diesels for a cash subsidy.
Instead, the Government should particularly consider targeting
a scrappage scheme at poorer households, or those earning less
than 60% of the median UK household income.
Given that most of the concentration of nitrous oxide and nitrogen
dioxide and particulates is in urban area, does he think that in any
scrappage scheme there should be a priority given to people who live
in urban areas?
It seems slightly generous and pointless to support people
who own diesels in the middle of North Yorkshire, say.
I think the honourable gentleman raised an interesting point,
because I think, yes, priority does need to be
given to the inner city, because that is where
we are particularly trying to get the quality better, in these
hotspots of poor air quality.
But another Labour MP criticised the scrappage idea.
It's all very well to say, yes, we'll give somebody ?1000.
?1000 towards what?
Towards buying a new vehicle?
What does that say to someone who needs his car for going to work,
probably has seen a drop in the value already
of around ?2000 in his asset, for people who are asset poor,
and who need their vehicle for going to work?
We're going to give them ?1000.
Who's going to lend them the money?
Are they buying new vehicles?
Are they buying vehicles from further up in the chain?
There may be answers out of this, but figures came there none
during the course of this debate.
The minister said the Government was consulting on diesel vehicles
and listed what had been done to improve air quality so far.
Since 2011, the Government has invested 2 billion to increase
the uptake of low emission vehicles and support greener transport
schemes as well as pledging 290 million to support electric
vehicles and low emission buses and taxis in the 2016 Autumn Statement.
But more than that, just last week, 109 million of Government funding
was awarded to 38 cutting edge automotive research and development
projects focused on greatly reducing automotive emissions
and their footprint.
So those are the facts.
The honourable member for Tiverton and Honiton proposed to put ultra
low emission vehicles up the heart of the scrappage scheme.
We are already investing a suitable amount of money to support the low
emission vehicle market, because we believe that the switch
to a zero emission economy is both inevitable and desirable.
We want almost every car to be low emission by 2050,
as the honourable gentleman will know because he has
heard me say it before.
The Transport Minister, John Hayes.
Energy companies have been warned that they face "muscular and strong"
action from the Government over "damaging" price rises.
The Business and Energy Secretary, Greg Clark, told MPs that he planned
to take decisive action - although, because of the imminent
election, he couldn't give a date for this move.
Appearing before MPs, he was challenged by the Labour
chair of the Energy Committee.
You say some really good warm words, but there is no action.
And in terms of energy customers facing price rises now,
what action is being taken?
Or do you think that energy prices are justified in increasing?
No, I think it is clear that the market isn't
working for those customers on the default tariffs.
The CMA established that.
It has been my very clear view as expressed to this committee
and expressed to the House of Commons, and when I say
that we have a duty to act, you will see that action.
It will be decisive, and it will address this completely
unacceptable detriment that ordinary working people have been suffering.
But you have not acted, Secretary of State, and one
of the arguments for EDF's price rise, its second, last week,
was that it is pre-empting any Government action.
Your delay is actually putting up energy prices for customers.
So why can't you act now?
There is no delay.
The response that we will make I think will be, you will see
will be muscular and will be strong, and it will apply to all
of the companies that are disadvantages consumers
in this way.
It's two years since a policy allowing fathers to take time off
to be with their children came into force.
The policy gives parents the right to split up to 52 weeks
of shared parental leave.
But some campaigners worry it's not being taken up by many families.
A former employment minister appeared in front of a committee
of MPs and was asked what could be done to make the policy work better.
How do you think that it needs to change, in your opinion,
to encourage more employers to be promoting that option?
We know that from our research last year more than seven in ten
employees did say that they thought shared parental leave
was complicated or very complicated, and that is an issue.
So part of that is about communication and leadership.
And I think looking at how it could be simplified,
I know from ministerial experience how it is difficult as a policy
to legislate for every single type of relationship and circumstance.
There is an element to which, just like maternity leave,
the detail of the policy does need to account for all of those.
But in many cases, the ways in which people use it will be
more straightforward, and I think that the working family
videos that Matthew mentioned were a really good example actually
of how by using different case studies you could actually explain
very simply what looks like a context policy and how
it works in real life.
And the other thing that I noticed was that there are four different
forms for notifying employers about shared parental leave,
and a little grid about which forms you need to fill in if both parents
are taking it, or just the mother or just the father.
And it struck me that actually, if you could have just one form,
possibly with different sections, certainly when I was in Government
that was my request, that there be one form that both
parents would sign, and that would actually mean that it
could go to both employers, they would know the score
and you wouldn't need to have this employers having to talk to each
other, which anecdotally I have heard many employers feel
that they do have to have that communication, and it was always
the intention that that wouldn't need to happen.
So I do think the Government needs to look at all of those ways that it
could be made simpler, and there is a review
that is planned which could pick up these issues as well as some
of the issues about paternity allowance or when it actually kicks
in in terms of day one right, and I think that would be a sensible
thing for the Government to do, to tweak and improve the policy.
Former Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson.
And that's it from me for now, but do join me at the same time
tomorrow for another round-up of the best of the day
here at Westminster, including environment questions
and a debate on the lessons to be learned from the EU referendum.
But for now, from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.