01/11/2017 Wednesday in Parliament


01/11/2017

Highlights of Wednesday in Parliament presented by Mandy Baker.


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Transcript


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Hello, and welcome to Wednesday

in Parliament, our look at the best

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of the day in the Commons

and the Lords.

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In a day of high drama

at Westminster, MPs tell

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the government to hand

over their assessments of the impact

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of Brexit to a committee of MPs.

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With allegations of harassment

swirling around Westminster,

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Theresa May says she'll work

with other party leaders to get

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a grip on the problem.

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There are proper processes in this

Parliament for people to be able to

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report misconduct and for that to be

dealt with.

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And a trio of ministers drop-

in on the committee corridor,

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including one Foreign Secretary.

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I don't want to deceive the

committee.

He is making a very good

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job of it!

I don't think the

committee could be misled by

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anything I have said because I

haven't said anything.

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In a development which shook

Westminster, the defence

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Secretary Sir Michael Fallon

suddenly resigned late on Wednesday,

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following allegations

of past behaviour.

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He told the BBC he believed

it was the right

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thing to do to resign.

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He said that his behaviour

in the past had fallen short

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of the standards expected

by the military.

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The BBC understands his decision

was not in relation to any

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new or specific allegations.

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He said it was right

that the Prime Minister

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and Parliament are now taking

this issue seriously.

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Earlier, the Prime Minister has

asked other party leaders

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to meet her to discuss

an independent process for tackling

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sexual harassment at Westminster.

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Allegations of misconduct by MPs

towards more junior staff have been

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surfacing almost daily.

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Mrs May's close colleague,

the First Secretary

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of State, Damian Green,

has said claims that he made

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inappropriate advances

towards a Conservative activist

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are completely false.

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He's contacted his lawyers.

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Damian Green was sitting a few feet

away, as Theresa May addressed

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the issue as soon as she stood up

at Prime Minister's Question Time.

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Mr Speaker, members on both sides of

the House have been deeply concerned

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about allegations of harassment and

this treatment here in Westminster.

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This demands a response that is why

my right honourable friend, the

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leader of the House, has been

meeting with their counterparts and

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we're hoping all sides can work

together quickly to resolve this. I

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have written to war party leaders,

inviting them to a meeting early

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next week so we can discuss common

and independent grievance procedure

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for all of those working in

Parliament. We have a duty to ensure

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that everyone coming here to

contribute to public life is treated

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with respect.

Just put on record

that I am happy to meet with the

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Prime Minister and all party leaders

to discuss this. We need better

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protections for all in this House.

This House must involve workplace

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trade unions in that but it is also

incumbent on all parties to have

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robust procedures in place to

protect and support victims of

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sexual abuse and harassment.

It is

absolutely essential, and he is

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right that we have processes that

political parties have processes to

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deal with allegations of misconduct

and also that obviously we have the

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mysterious code and proper

investigations take place against

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the ministerial code when that is

appropriate and I believe it is also

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crucial for everyone working in this

Parliament, be they working for a

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member of Parliament or the House

authorities or a journalist working

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in this Parliament that there are

proper processes in this Parliament

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for people to be able to report

misconduct and for that to be dealt

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with and I think that is very

important and I am grateful for him

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for saying that he will meet with me

and I hope other political party

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leaders, I see the leader of the SNP

is nodding his head at this point,

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to look at this issue.

Can I

associate myself with the remarks

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made by the Prime Minister when she

spoke about zero tolerance for these

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sexual processes. I would like to

work with the government to make

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sure we have a system that we can be

proud of to protect all members of

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the houses of Parliament.

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It's long been rumoured

that the party whips who enforce

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discipline keep a note of MPs'

misdemeanours to use as leverage

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against individuals.

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One Labour MP accused

the Prime Minister of ignoring

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concerns about that.

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I would like to thank the Prime

Minister for her opening words about

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the role of the revelations this

week but can I say to her that three

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years ago I brought evidence to her

in this House that whips had used

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information about sexual abuse to

demand loyalty from MPs. I brought

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that information to her in this

House and I warned her at the time

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that unless real action was taken we

risked repeating those injustices

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again today. On three occasions I

asked her to act and on three

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occasions she did not so can I ask

her, in this, of all weeks, for the

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fourth time will she finally take

concrete action to tackle this?

I

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will, of course, look back at the

questions that the honourable lady

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had said that she raised with me

this House. I assume she raised

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those with me when I was Home

Secretary. I will say to her that I

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am very clear that the whips office,

I hope this goes for all whips

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offices across this House, should

make clear to people that where

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there are any sexual abuse

allegations that could be of a

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criminal nature that people should

go to the police, it is not

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appropriate for those to be dealt

with by whips offices, they should

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get the police and that continues to

be the case. I will look at the

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questions that she raised with me

but I am very clear that we take

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action against those where there are

allegations that we see and the

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evidence is there that there has

been misconduct.

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Theresa May.

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Ministers don't want to publish

the results of studies on 58

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different economic sectors

and the impact leaving

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the EU will have on them.

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They say it's because disclosure

might damage the UK's

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negotiating position.

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In the Commons, Labour opted to use

a rather obscure parliamentary

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technique designed to make a vote

on releasing the documents

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binding on the government.

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But let's concentrate on the main

substance of the assessments.

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Looking at the list which I have

here, two things are obvious. The

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first is that in many ways it is

unremarkable and could and should

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have been published months ago. The

second is that the wide range of

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sectors analysed demonstrate why it

is so important for members of this

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House to see the impact assessments.

I am going to highlight three

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sectors on the list. Construction

and engineering where there are 2.9

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million jobs involved, medical

services and social care, where

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there are 3 million jobs involved

and pharmaceuticals where there are

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50,000 jobs involved. These are just

three of the 58 sectors and it is

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obvious why this is of such

importance.

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But one Conservative

didn't like the way Labour

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was going about this.

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This is a foolish and irresponsible

debate to have been called. He knows

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that there is a blanket ban on

disclosing advice to ministers. It

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is in the ministerial code and in

the civil service code, that is

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absolutely standard. It is normal

for select committees themselves to

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request information, not to get the

official opposition to do it on

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their behalf. This is gameplay.

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Sir Keir Starmer was surprised

at Bernard Jenkin's remarks.

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This is a shared concern across the

House. That intervention, I am

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afraid, is typical of what has been

going on for 16 or 17 months, which

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is that every time somebody raises a

legitimate question it is suggested

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that somehow they are frustrating or

undermining the process.

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The Brexit minister said many

thousand of documents

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were being prepared with regard

to the UK's exit from EU.

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Some of these would not undermine

our negotiating position though

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others might have more of an impact.

The House will appreciate that the

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more information that is shed more

widely the less secure our

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negotiating position and the harder

it becomes to secure the right deal

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for the British people. The House is

the right to require the release of

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documents but I sincerely hope in

what is requested in terms of how

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they guaranteed confidentiality

going forward and how much is

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guaranteed, the select committee and

the House will be mindful of the job

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that ministers need to do and that

job is to secure the vital national

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interest of the United Kingdom as we

negotiate our departure from the

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European Union.

We can discuss all

sorts of processes and whether it

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will undermine negotiations but will

you not agree that withholding this

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information is now becoming very

counter-productive and it looks like

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it is hiding bad news.

Absolutely!

The government will always take a

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careful view where we have disclosed

plenty of information during the

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course of this process where we see

it is in the national interest to do

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so, of course we will.

The damage

caused by Brexit could be even worse

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than any of us had previously feared

and that would weaken the UK 's

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negotiating position. It would

fatally undermined the UK's

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negotiating position. It could be

that analysis shows that Brexit is

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such a catastrophic decision that we

shouldn't do it at all. What kind of

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government in possession of that

kind of information would choose to

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hide it rather than to act on it? It

seems to me that the only scenario

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in which releasing any information

can possibly undermine the UK's

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position is if that information

shows that the damage caused by

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Brexit is worse than any previous

analysis has indicated.

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The chairman of the Brexit Committee

said impact assessments

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were published all the time.

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But on the single most important

decision that we have taken because

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of the result of the referendum, as

the country since the end of the

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Second World War, nothing has been

published in the way of an impact

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assessment by government.

As to the

papers themselves, I have no

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particular view that this is a

normal circumstances a matter for

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the government and I would have gone

along with the government had it

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wished to oppose today's motion, but

in the event that it does not it

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must publish these papers to the

Brexit select committee in full.

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People like me except that we are

going to leave the European Union

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but I am not going to stand by and

see the future of my children's

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generation and the grandchildren

that I hope will follow being

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trashed and ruined without any form

of debate and disclosure as to the

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consequences, and arguably the

options that might be available, as

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disclosed in all these documents

that cover, as we know, so many

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sectors in so many ways. This is

grown-up, Sirius Star. The days of

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carping from the sidelines, I say to

honourable members on this side,

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have gone. You have one and you are

in charge of this and now you have

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to face up to the responsibility of

delivering a Brexit that works for

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everybody in this country and for

generations to come.

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And in dramatic, if confusing,

scenes at the end of the debate,

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the Government abstained

on the motion, which meant Labour's

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call for the documents to be

handed over was passed.

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MPs then demanded ministers act

on the Commons' vote.

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You're watching Wednesday

in Parliament with me, Mandy Baker.

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Now, a string of Secretaries

of State sat down in front

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of committees this Wednesday.

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And one of them was Michael Gove.

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The question facing him was:

will the price of our food

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go up after Brexit?

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And if so, by how much?

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It's one of the issues a Committee

of Peers is looking into.

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Lord Krebs, a former Chairman

of the Food Standards Agency,

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told the Environment Secretary that

some of the major retailers

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believed that cutting

formal ties with the EU,

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or leaving with no deal

at all, would result

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in significant price increases.

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The chairman of Sainsbury's

estimated about 10% or thereabouts,

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so I wondered what the figures

are that your officials have come up

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with in different scenarios?

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I think it's almost impossible

to predict with accuracy,

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for a variety of reasons.

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One of them is that some

of the biggest factors which bear

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on food prices are beyond any

politician's control,

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so there are world commodity prices,

and it's also the case

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that there are the prices of inputs,

like energy and so on.

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It's also the case that, if you have

reform in the supply chain,

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you can also bring prices down

and ensure that you have a greater

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degree of competitiveness.

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So tariff barriers are simply

one factor in many that

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help to determine what food

prices might be.

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It is the case that,

if we were to have significant

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tariff barriers, then we would find

ourselves in a position where,

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depending on the foodstuff,

the tariffs in their own terms

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could add to what otherwise might

be the cost of food,

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but it is also the case that,

if you erect tariff barriers,

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then there will be a process

of import substitution as well,

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and it may well be the case that,

at the same time as there

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being domestic suppliers replacing

those who were exporting to this

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country, you might also find

that there are opportunities

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to ensure that those domestic

suppliers become more efficient.

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Michael Gove.

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All of this is a way of saying that

to focus purely on the process of

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leaving the European Union and the

moment at which we leave and the

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creation of any tariffs as having a

decisive impact on food prices in

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the absence of anything else is to

look only at one part of the

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landscape.

Since the food industry

has come up with estimates of its

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own, perhaps I can put the question

the other way around, do you agree

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or disagree with what the chairman

of Sainsbury's and British Retail

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Consortium are saying?

I have huge

respect for everything that they had

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said and I wouldn't want my name or

my department 's name alongside any

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specific prediction.

I will take

that as a no, you do not agree.

I do

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not want to be impolite to people

who I think are doing a great job in

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running fantastic industries but

I... We must choose our own words

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carefully so I wouldn't want to

disagree or distance myself from

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them, simply say that I would

express my own approach towards

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these issues in a slightly different

way.

You saw that the impact Brexit

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on food prices is a problem but are

you prepared to release anything to

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the public?

The first thing I would

say is as the Secretary of State for

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exiting European Union has made

clear, it is a very important

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addition of the UK civil service

that it should be able to offer

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advice to ministers candidly and

that there should be, as the

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secretary of state pointed out a

safe space during which civil

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servants can offer advice ministers

can challenge and you can have a

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robust conversation that would go on

to show good policy. The second

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thing to is that while I have the

highest regard for civil servants,

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it is not as though within the

department or anywhere else there is

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a magic formula that can explain

what will happen post-Brexit which

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nobody else could possibly access so

supermarkets have made their

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judgment and other economists have

made theirs and it is impossible to

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predict with accuracy but what the

informed citizen can do is to look

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at a variety of factors and draw

their own conclusions about what the

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policy interventions should be in

order to achieve the maximum

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possible benefit.

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Michael Gove.

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Another Secretary of State to face

a committee was Boris Johnson.

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He told the Foreign Affairs

Committee that he's not seen any

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evidence that Russia interfered

in British elections.

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He was asked about a possible

Russian role in UK affairs.

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Is it your belief that the Russians

have played any role in British

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elections and referendums?

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I haven't seen any evidence of that.

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You seem uncertain about whether

you've seen it or you haven't.

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I can confirm to you, Mr Bryant,

that I don't think...

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I haven't seen...

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Not a sausage!

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Niet!

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So you don't think the Russians

played any role or sought to play

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any role in the elections?

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I don't know about sought to play

but, as far as I know,

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they have played no role.

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During more than two hours

in front of the committee,

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Boris Johnson was asked

about relations with many countries

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and many organisations.

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The new chairman of the committee,

the Conservative Tom Tugendat, had

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a question about the Islamist group

Hamas.

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Does the UK have any

direct links with Hamas?

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We, obviously, talk to a wide range

of people across the world.

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I'm sure that, in the course

of contacts with...

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I wouldn't want to rule

out, Mr Chairman...

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Is that a yes?

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I wouldn't want to rule

out or to mislead the

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committee on this matter.

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I wouldn't want to exclude

the possibility of our talking

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to Hamas but, let me just say,

on Hamas, that...

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That's not a yes or a no, is it?

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No, it's not!

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I don't want to exclude

the possibility that we are...

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In the end, good diplomacy involves

talking to all sorts of people

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who are not necessarily...

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That sounds like a yes!

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I think that sounds like a yes!

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I'm not saying...

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I don't wish to disappoint you,

but I'm not going to offer you...

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Are you aware of any contact?

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If I were, I couldn't tell you.

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What I will say is that...

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I don't want to mislead

the committee.

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You're doing a very good job of it!

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On the country!

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I don't think the committee

can possibly be misled

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by anything I've said

since I haven't said anything...

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Exactly!

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..on this matter!

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Boris Johnson.

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And not to be left out,

Liam Fox appeared before

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the International Trade Committee.

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He said he was "frustrated" by

the fact that the European Council

0:19:140:19:17

had not yet given the green light

for talks to move on from any

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divorce deal to discuss

the future trade relationship.

0:19:210:19:24

I am very keen that we get a deal

with the European Union,

0:19:240:19:29

but I'm not afraid of not getting

a deal and I think that we need

0:19:290:19:33

to work within those parameters.

0:19:330:19:36

I think that those who say we want

the deal at any price

0:19:360:19:39

undermine our negotiating hand,

and those who say we want no deal

0:19:390:19:42

and we want to walk away are not

taking a realistic view

0:19:420:19:45

of our economic position.

0:19:450:19:46

Are you not equally

frustrated by the lukewarm

0:19:460:19:48

attitude of the Chancellor

of the Exchequer towards Brexit?

0:19:480:19:51

I had a very constructive meeting

with the Chancellor yesterday,

0:19:510:19:53

and it was far from lukewarm!

0:19:530:19:55

Nigel Evans turned to the European

Union's attitude to Brexit.

0:19:550:19:59

There does seem to be this

image that certain people

0:19:590:20:03

within the European Union just

want to punish Britain to stop

0:20:030:20:05

anybody else from leaving

and to also pay us back,

0:20:050:20:09

so who do think is going

to win this battle?

0:20:090:20:11

I think the language,

which is regrettable,

0:20:110:20:14

that some people want to punish

Britain for leaving in case

0:20:140:20:17

any other people would want to leave

is the language of a gang,

0:20:170:20:21

not the language of the club.

0:20:210:20:23

And I think I think it should be

avoided because it doesn't make...

0:20:230:20:26

Who's employing that

language, do you feel?

0:20:260:20:28

Is that the language

of the European Union?

0:20:280:20:30

I think there have been some

unwise phrases used.

0:20:300:20:36

I think it's much better for us

to get away from the hyperbole.

0:20:360:20:39

In the longer term,

it's in the interests

0:20:390:20:41

of all European Union citizens

to maintain an open liberal

0:20:410:20:44

trading environment,

and I would add, one thing to that -

0:20:440:20:49

to go back to the

international investors...

0:20:490:20:51

Just a minute.

0:20:510:20:52

Would part of that hyperbole be

that the European Union

0:20:520:20:54

will whistle for its money?

0:20:540:20:56

I think we need to stay away

from language that suggests we don't

0:20:560:20:59

want to deal or we want a deal

at any price.

0:20:590:21:03

You campaigned vigorously for Leave

and you stood by that bus that said

0:21:030:21:06

£350 million would be saved every

week from leaving

0:21:060:21:08

the European Union.

0:21:080:21:10

Are you prepared for any of that

money to be paid to the EU

0:21:100:21:14

to access the single market

on a favourable trade deal?

0:21:140:21:17

Well, if I am, with due respect,

I'm not going to set out any Cabinet

0:21:170:21:21

negotiation position here,

and I think that we need,

0:21:210:21:26

before we make any offer on any

financial settlement,

0:21:260:21:31

to know what we're getting as that

end stage, and I think,

0:21:310:21:35

as I said to one of my fellow

ministers in another country,

0:21:350:21:38

would they be willing to guarantee

us a sum of money before we told

0:21:380:21:42

them what the agreement

that we were signing up to was,

0:21:420:21:44

and they said absolutely not,

so why should we?

0:21:440:21:48

The committee moved

on to contingency planning

0:21:480:21:50

in the event there was no deal.

0:21:500:21:52

Would you advise the private sector

to develop contingency plans

0:21:520:21:56

and to execute them for a no deal?

0:21:560:21:59

No, because, on balance,

at the present time,

0:21:590:22:01

I think that we are more likely

to get a deal, but I think it

0:22:010:22:05

would be reasonable for them

to develop such plans.

0:22:050:22:11

Clearly, the longer we take to get

into end state discussions

0:22:110:22:13

with the European Union,

the greater the likelihood that

0:22:130:22:16

people would want to implement

as well as develop, which is why

0:22:160:22:19

I think it's in all our interests

to get into those end state

0:22:190:22:22

discussions as early as possible

so that business has greater

0:22:220:22:24

certainty about what the potential

end state looks like.

0:22:240:22:26

Liam Fox.

0:22:260:22:29

A Labour peer has said he's sent

the Chancellor details of a British

0:22:290:22:32

bank's involvement in laundering

money allegedly stolen

0:22:320:22:34

from South Africa.

0:22:340:22:39

The former Cabinet minister

and one-time anti-apartheid

0:22:390:22:41

campaigner Lord Hain has previously

named other financial institutions

0:22:410:22:44

involved in a corruption scandal

linked to the wealthy Gupta family

0:22:440:22:47

and the South African

President Jacob Zuma.

0:22:470:22:51

In the Lords, the peer

gave a warning.

0:22:510:22:53

There are disturbing questions,

around both the complicity,

0:22:530:22:57

witting or unwitting,

of UK global financial

0:22:570:23:01

institutions in the Gupta-Zuma

transnational criminal network,

0:23:010:23:05

and also about these institutions'

wilful blindness to the reality

0:23:050:23:09

that the laundering process most

often necessitates financial systems

0:23:090:23:14

with lax regulation and controls.

0:23:140:23:17

Unless we urgently find ways

to leverage our respective

0:23:170:23:19

capabilities to coordinate

and influence action

0:23:190:23:23

between the law-enforcement

and banking sectors domestically

0:23:230:23:27

here in the UK and globally,

we cannot win this battle.

0:23:270:23:30

Mr Zuma and the Guptas

deny any wrongdoing.

0:23:300:23:35

A report into the experiences

of the families of the Hillsborough

0:23:350:23:38

victims has called for a change

in culture to stop the "burning

0:23:380:23:41

injustice" in the way bereaved

relatives are treated.

0:23:410:23:46

It was in 1989 that 96 Liverpool

fans died in the crush at an FA Cup

0:23:460:23:51

semifinal match against Nottingham

Forest.

0:23:510:23:55

In a second inquest into the tragedy

last year, the coroner ruled

0:23:550:23:57

they were unlawfully killed.

0:23:570:24:00

At Prime Minister's Questions, the

report was raised by a Labour MP.

0:24:000:24:04

An hour ago, the government

published this report -

0:24:040:24:08

the Patronising Disposition

of Unaccountable Power.

0:24:080:24:11

It's a report of right

reverend James Jones,

0:24:110:24:13

which the Prime Minister herself

commissioned to ensure that the pain

0:24:130:24:17

and suffering of the Hillsborough

families is not repeated.

0:24:170:24:21

But, Mr Speaker, given what we've

heard in this session and given

0:24:210:24:25

the events surrounding

the Grenfell Tower disaster,

0:24:250:24:29

I think that I worry that the pain

and suffering of the Hillsborough

0:24:290:24:33

families is already being repeated.

0:24:330:24:37

So can the Prime Minister

commit her government to supporting

0:24:370:24:41

both the duty of candour

for all public officials and,

0:24:410:24:45

as this report requires,

and end to public bodies spending

0:24:450:24:48

limitless funds, providing

themselves with representation

0:24:480:24:52

which surpasses that

available to families?

0:24:520:25:00

I've always been very

clear that the experience

0:25:000:25:02

that the Hillsborough families had

should not be repeated.

0:25:020:25:05

That's why we have looked

and we are committed to the concept

0:25:050:25:08

of the public advocate,

because we want to ensure that

0:25:080:25:11

people have the support

that they need, and it's important

0:25:110:25:15

that we learn the lessons

from Hillsborough.

0:25:150:25:18

I was, as she knows,

involved in making the decision that

0:25:180:25:20

enabled the Hillsborough families

to have legal support on a basis

0:25:200:25:25

that I felt was fair in relation

to the other parties involved

0:25:250:25:28

in that inquest, and I can

assure her that we will not forget

0:25:280:25:33

the Hillsborough families.

0:25:330:25:35

Theresa May.

0:25:350:25:36

And that's all we've got time for.

0:25:360:25:38

So from me, Mandy Baker, goodbye.

0:25:380:25:44

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