06/09/2017 Wednesday in Parliament


Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 6 September presented by Alicia McCarthy.

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Hello there and welcome to Wednesday in Parliament. The first Prime


Minister's Questions of the new term sees Theresa May being urged to lift


the public sector pay cap. NHS staff of 14% worse off than they were


seven years ago. Is she really happy that NHS staff use food banks? As a


result of the decisions the Labour Party took in government, we now


have to pay more on debt interest than an NHS pay. Peers argue it is


time for a new approach to illegal drug-taking. And their support for


the Government's plan for letting fees in England. If one letting


agent can charge ?6 for a check, how can others charge ?300? We start


with the first Prime Minister's Questions after the summer recess.


The Brexit talks have been continuing, in the mornings news


have been dominated by leaked report suggesting the UK could take a much


tougher approach to immigration once we have left the EU. Jeremy Corbyn


didn't raise the potential change for overseas workers, but did raise


pay and conditions for workers already here. With nurses protesting


outside the Houses of Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn stepped up his calls


for an end to the public sector pay cap. Mr Speaker, today, thousands of


nursing and other health care staff are outside Parliament. They are


demanding that this government scrapped the 1% pay cap. Poor pay


means experienced staff are leaving and fewer people are training to


become nurses. There is already a shortage of 40,000 nurses across the


UK. Will the Prime Minister please see sense and end the public sector


pay cap and ensure our NHS staff are properly... There are two pay body


review reports to be published, for police and prison officers, that


will happen shortly, and then later, as always happens every year, Lady


in the autumn we will publish the framework for 2018/19, and we will


continue to balance the need to protect jobs, the need to protect


public sector workers and the need to ensure that we are also


protecting and being fair to those who are paying for it, including


public sector workers. He asks consistently for more money to be


spent. He can do that in opposition because he knows he doesn't have to


pay for it. The problem with Labour is they do it in government as well,


and as a result of the decisions the Labour Party took in government, as


a result of the decisions the Labour Party took in government, we now


have to pay more on debt interest than an NHS pay. That's the result


of Labour. The Prime Minister had no problems finding ?1 billion to


please the DUP, no problems whatsoever. And NHS staff are 14%


worse off than they were seven years ago. Is she really happy that NHS


staff use food banks? Warm words don't play food bills. Pay rises


will help to do that. She must end the public sector pay cap. The


Westminster leader did turn to Brexit. Does the Prime Minister


agree with me that immigration is essential to the strength of the UK


economy as well as enhancing our diversity and cultural fabric? As I


have said on many occasions before, overall immigration has been good


for the UK, but what people want to see is control of that immigration.


But I think what people want to see as a result of coming out of the


European Union. We are already able to exercise controls in relation to


those who come to this country from outside the countries within the


European Union, and we continue to believe as a government that's it


important to have net migration and sustainable levels. We believe that


to be in the tens of thousands because of the impact particularly


at has on people at the lower end of the income scale in depressing their


wages. From the backbenches, a Conservative raise the EU withdrawal


bill which MPs are due to begin debating on Thursday. It transfers


EU laws into UK legislation, but there will need to be some changes


to make those laws work after Brexit. That has caused concern that


the Government may use potentially sweeping powers to make alterations


without Parliamentary scrutiny. Could my right honourable friend


assure me that she would use those measures to affect the withdrawal


bill so that it doesn't become an unprecedented and unnecessary


government power grab? I'm very grateful to my right honourable


friend from raising this issue, and I know that like me she wants to see


an orderly exit from the European Union, and will be supporting this


bill which enables is not just to leave the EU but to do so in an


orderly manner with a functioning statute book. As we do that, we will


require certain powers to make corrections to the statute book


after the Bill becomes law, because the negotiations are ongoing, and we


will do that via secondary legislation which will receive


Parliamentary scrutiny, an approach which has been endorsed by the House


of Lords Constitution committee. From this month, all three and


four-year-olds in England are entitled to 30 hours of free


childcare week, up from 15 hours. But Labour says parents are in limbo


because of failings in the Government's scheme. The shadow


Education Minister attacked the Tory policy for being shrouded in


secrecy, misinformation and mayhem. From the beginning, the application


process was not fit for purpose. Settings were run ragged trying to


help parents, and this afternoon, there are parents who have been


waiting weeks and are still in limbo. This childcare has been


advertised as free, but it is clear it will be subsidised by parents or


providers. This risks pricing out the poorest, and top providers


leaving the sector. Will he now listen and commit to reevaluating


the policies funding? Thank you, Mr Speaker. I'm afraid the honourable


lady's rhetoric doesn't accurately reflect the experience on the


ground. I can update her in terms of we predicted that around 75% of


eligible parents would apply and the scheme. There are some parents who


have a very good reasons in terms of family childcare would not apply,


that figure would have been 200,000, so we have exceeded that prediction,


and I can confirm that as we are only six days into September,


152,829 parents have secured a place, that is 71% of those parents


have now found a place six days in. That is a great success story. But


MPs continue to raise questions, some hostile and some not. He knows


that I wrote as the incoming chairman of the Treasury select


committee to the head HMRC over the summer, he replied the the 17th of


August saying that a total of ?45,000 or thereabouts had so far


been paid in compensation. Is that the list are able to update the


House, and Kenny confirm what he said about those parents who had


codes by the 31st of August that they will be able to access


childcare this autumn? I thank my right honourable friend for the


question. It is indeed a pledge that is being delivered. It is no secret


that there were technical problems with the IT system, and indeed my


honourable friend from the Treasury is here, listening to what we say.


Round about 1% of cases who applied online were stuck, that is a


technical reason those cases were not processed. There were another


group of cases that could not have been processed online, for example


person who applies for child care on the basis of a job offer rather than


on the basis of the job, that would give us a Catch-22 situation that a


person could deprive childcare Fichardt Kevin Olimpa a job and


didn't get the job because they didn't have childcare, so in


situations like that there is a manual system. There were 2200 stuck


cases, there are now 1500, but there are many new cases summer which have


only been on the system for a week, and certainly my honourable friend


will write to her with regards to compensation, but we have a small


number of people affected by this. The situation was operational 93% of


the time during which people could apply. I wonder if the Minister has


read the report published last week with the social market foundation


that showed that of the extra money the Government is pumping into the


early years over the course of this Parliament, 75% of that expenditure


is going on the top earners, the top 50% of earners, lesson 3% is going


on the most disadvantaged. This comes at a time when the


Government's own evaluation of the two-year-old office showing a good


quality early education is life changing for those families that


receive it. Is he happy with this distribution of expenditure, and


what more is he doing to ensure that low-income and disadvantaged


families are accessing this high-quality education? The SNP


Scottish Government confirmed that childcare entitlement will double


from August 20 20. The Tories have decided to cherry pick who receives


the childcare. The Minister told the SNP that he wouldn't take any


lessons from the Scottish Government. The Conservatives were


committed to spending billions of pounds and to transforming the lives


of working parents. You are watching Wednesday in Parliament with me,


Alysia McCarthy. Don't forget was much more from this programme on our


website. In Westminster Hall, there was broad


support for a Government plan to ban fees paid to letting agents in


England. A new tenants fees bill was announced in the Queen's Speech


which. Tenants having to pay. The money is used to taking references,


getting credit checks or investigating immigration status,


but MPs argued the amounts charged could be excessive.


A leading figure in the estate agency history was talking to


me about his daughter who went to college


student house with four fellow students and were charged ?500 as a


They use it to lower their charges to


landlords, to attract more landlords, and then


transfer that cost on


Others use it simply to maximise profits.


Take my constituent, David, for example.


He rents a small room in what was originally a three-bedroom


There are now two further bedrooms in the loft and two


reception rooms on the ground floor used as bedrooms.


There are currently ten households in that house.


And he is charged ?550 a month for his


Not the highest in the constituency, but still high enough.


And he was charged an astounding ?1250 in letting fees and a further


?50 to simply get the letter that explained how much his deposit was


On average, I'm told that it's up to five


hours repair for a tenancy, looking at all the different documentation,


going through the reference request, checking on the credit


history, liaising with external referencing companies.


I had a session with a couple of agents and


they explained to me all the work that has to be done.


And what they pointed out was that this is, in


And that is why it I was saying to the Minister that are there no other


possible ways forward that could be looked at?


For example, what about a cap on fees, would that not solve this?


What about taking referencing fees at the scope of the action


And further to the point the honourable member


made, he was saying that the landlord should pay


for those, to be fair, the potential


tenant would go to the agent and the tenant farms that


The agent carries out the referencing work on that


particular tenant and then the tenant has the


opportunity through the agent of bidding for those properties.


So what I would suggest is that, if the


onus is put on the landlord, that rents will go up.


The shadow Housing Minister pointed this out:


If the tenant wishes to stay in the property


beyond the length of the initial contract, they can be charged a fee


for renewing their tenancy, which well


in practice is as simple as


changing the dates on the contract, can set


tenants back by as much as


For an average of ?400 per household, private renters


received the servers that the landlord has already paid


The fees charged by different letting agents


Which shows that they bear little or no relation to the


One letting agent contract just ?6 for a


reference check, how can other agents justify charging the hundred


We hope that a ban will help to deliver


a more competitive and more affordable and transparent lettings


And I think we have heard from Scotland, it hasn't had a


negative consequences that some suggested that it might do.


Good letting agents provide a valuable service. The problem is


that the letting agent is chosen by the landlord, so tenants can be


charged on fair or excessive fees, with a limited ability to negotiate


or opt out. Evidence shows that this is a problem right across England,


and colleagues have referred to this. By banning tenant fees we will


enable tenants to see what a given property will cost them and the


advertised rent levels without any hidden costs. We believe this will


reduce the upfront costs that tenants face when moving home and


ensure that they are only committed to a property that they know that


they can afford. A new fleet of warships will be


built over the next six years. The Defence Secretary told the Commons


that they will be constructive at a cost of no more than ?250 million


each. So Michael Fallon acknowledged that previous warships have been


over budget and delivered late, but this time, the prize will be fixed


in advance. The first chips are said to be in service by 2023.


So, this will be the first demonstration of our


The new frigate will be procured competitively,


providing an opportunity for any shipyard across the United Kingdom


The strategy confirms in the clearest statement of this


policy for a decade that all warships will have a UK owned,


designed, and will be built and integrated


Warship build will be by competition between United Kingdom shipyards.


The Government's commitment to a ship building strategy


must be complemented by a comprehensive


So can I ask the Secretary of State, how he intends


to maximise opportunities for the UK supply chain?


And when determining best value, will he commit to giving weight


to the positive impact on local economies and employment


opportunities when awarding contracts?


The news that only 50% of the steel in the type 26 is UK sourced


So how does the Government intend to improve on this


Can you confirm that the type 31 frigate is a complex naval warship


and therefore should be built at the centre of excellence


which is on the Clyde which he entered them Prime Minister


promised in November 2015, and finally, in respect


of fleet and support ships, why are these being procured


internationally when surely the UK shipyards could be


Well, the honourable gentleman is doing his


best to turn sunshine into a grievance, and...


It is, you know, it is extraordinary,


just to be clear about Govan, Govan is going to build for 20


That is a frigate factory by any definition.


Will he give an undertaking today that wherever possible,


we will use British steel in the building of these ships?


Well, we are going, as I said, to take a very, very close interest


in the percentage of steel that will be used in each of the bids


We'll be watching that extremely closely.


I do remind the House, there are some specialist steels


that are not produced in this country that are needed


But we will be looking to those who submit their bids to demonstrate


just how much British steel they are using and also show how


they are going to fully engage their local supply chains


and indeed take the opportunity to refresh local skills in their area.


I recently wrote to the Secretary of State asking if he would consider


naming one of the type 26 frigates HMS Colchester and I got a very


pleasant and polite response from the Undersecretary of State


saying no, but I'm nothing but persistent and I would ask,


we waited patiently since 1746 for another HMS Colchester


and I would ask the Secretary of State to please consider one


of the new type 31 E class as HMS Colchester.


If my honourable friend has waited since 1746,


perhaps he can wait a little longer.


The Government says it has no plans to review a new law banning


psychoactive substances, formerly known as legal highs, following a


prosecution last month. The propagation service is reviewing two


cases after a judge said that nitrous oxide, no one is exempt from


the ban. The gas gas can be held as a recreational drug but the court


ruled it wasn't covered by the law as it is also used by doctors for


painterly. -- pain relief. It is believed that highlighted a flaw in


the legislation. It hasn't taken long for the courts


to expose the on work ability Faced with a very serious


and pressing problem of new psychoactive substances,


will the Government now see reason and accept that prohibition,


the orthodoxy of the last half-century, and reiterated


on a peculiarly crude model in the 2016 Act,


has failed with disastrous consequences in terms


of the growth of crime, the blighting of innumerable


lives, not to mention Will the Government now


both its policy not on the wishful thinking and populism,


but on the evidence of science, the analysis of specific harms


and the experience here and in other countries of what does work


and what does not work? My lords, I disagree with the noble


lord about the psychoactive substances act not working,


because we have managed to close down over 300 retailers


across the UK who sell psychoactive substances, and in 2016


there were 28 convictions in England and Wales and seven people jailed


under the new powers. Additionally coming from Manchester,


I would have to disagree with the noble lord if he saw some


of the sites that I have seen on the streets


of Manchester recently. The UN changed the basis of global


drug policy in April last year We now know that banning drugs


will never create a drug-free world. The UN therefore wants nations


to pursue evidence -based policies as the noble lord has mentioned,


public health policies to reduce addiction and reduce


the harm star young people. My lords, the Psychoactive


Substances Bill runs It increases the risks


to young people. They were the last vestige of any


kind of protection for young people, So I will therefore reiterate


the point already made, really. Will the Minister give an assurance


to this House that she will give the most serious consideration


to instigating an independent review We are simply making matters worse,


and to come forward I must say to the noble lady


that I don't disagree. In fact, on previous occasions


I haven't disagreed that evidence -based policies are absolutely


the right way forward, in fact the WHO is currently


undertaking some work of its own and will report next year


on the various elements of cannabis, and we wait with interest


on the results of that work. Finally, back to the Commons, where


MPs were debating finance. Nothing unusual about that, but this is


what's known as a ways and means debate, about the Budget. The Khan


budget was back in the spring but ways to enact it were delayed and


MPs are only just getting round to it now.


I appreciate having a chance to take part in this ways and means debate,


which I understand is one of very few that doesn't follow a Budget,


somebody told me that this is the first one since 1987 that


A Treasury minister argued it was much needed.


It changes this bill will make are important,


making a major contribution to the public finances,


tackling tax avoidance and evasion and addressing areas of unfairness


But the Labour front bench thought it was in a muddle.


A chaotic Government chaotically stumbling from crisis to crisis,


not knowing one part of its anatomy from another.


And after the election, we return to a zombie Parliament


where little in the way of business was put forward to be debated


in this House and I think the Speaker referred to this whole


question today about scrutiny, which we are supposed to be doing


and the Government is not putting anything forward


So not only is the Prime Minister one of the walking dead,


but she wants Parliament to be, to join her.


But the minister argued the alternative plan brought by Labour


at the election would not be good for the country.


To be going out there with a plan which will basically see corporation


tax rising up to 26%, for small companies as well,


and changing the higher rate tax threshold to bring many,


many more people into the higher rate of tax is not a way


of incentivising jobs, wealth and economic growth.


The SNP had reservations about the proposal in the bill but did well,


one item. -- welcome one item. The fact that the Government


is going to be taking action on those people that have been


enabling tax avoidance schemes and not just those people have been


participating in tax avoidance schemes, I think that is a really


positive move and I hope it will do what the Government is intending


in that it will discourage people from being clever and covering up


tax avoidance schemes. So my fingers are crossed


on that, we will wait That's it from me for now but to


join me at the same time tomorrow as MPs hold their first big debate on


the EU withdrawal bill. But now, from the, goodbye.


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