Highlights of Wednesday in Parliament presented by Mandy Baker.
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Hello, and welcome to Wednesday
in Parliament, our look at the best
of the day in the Commons
and the Lords.
In a day of high drama
at Westminster, MPs tell
the government to hand
over their assessments of the impact
of Brexit to a committee of MPs.
With allegations of harassment
swirling around Westminster,
Theresa May says she'll work
with other party leaders to get
a grip on the problem.
There are proper processes in this
Parliament for people to be able to
report misconduct and for that to be
And a trio of ministers drop-
in on the committee corridor,
including one Foreign Secretary.
I don't want to deceive the
He is making a very good
job of it!
I don't think the
committee could be misled by
anything I have said because I
haven't said anything.
In a development which shook
Westminster, the defence
Secretary Sir Michael Fallon
suddenly resigned late on Wednesday,
of past behaviour.
He told the BBC he believed
it was the right
thing to do to resign.
He said that his behaviour
in the past had fallen short
of the standards expected
by the military.
The BBC understands his decision
was not in relation to any
new or specific allegations.
He said it was right
that the Prime Minister
and Parliament are now taking
this issue seriously.
Earlier, the Prime Minister has
asked other party leaders
to meet her to discuss
an independent process for tackling
sexual harassment at Westminster.
Allegations of misconduct by MPs
towards more junior staff have been
surfacing almost daily.
Mrs May's close colleague,
the First Secretary
of State, Damian Green,
has said claims that he made
towards a Conservative activist
are completely false.
He's contacted his lawyers.
Damian Green was sitting a few feet
away, as Theresa May addressed
the issue as soon as she stood up
at Prime Minister's Question Time.
Mr Speaker, members on both sides of
the House have been deeply concerned
about allegations of harassment and
this treatment here in Westminster.
This demands a response that is why
my right honourable friend, the
leader of the House, has been
meeting with their counterparts and
we're hoping all sides can work
together quickly to resolve this. I
have written to war party leaders,
inviting them to a meeting early
next week so we can discuss common
and independent grievance procedure
for all of those working in
Parliament. We have a duty to ensure
that everyone coming here to
contribute to public life is treated
Just put on record
that I am happy to meet with the
Prime Minister and all party leaders
to discuss this. We need better
protections for all in this House.
This House must involve workplace
trade unions in that but it is also
incumbent on all parties to have
robust procedures in place to
protect and support victims of
sexual abuse and harassment.
absolutely essential, and he is
right that we have processes that
political parties have processes to
deal with allegations of misconduct
and also that obviously we have the
mysterious code and proper
investigations take place against
the ministerial code when that is
appropriate and I believe it is also
crucial for everyone working in this
Parliament, be they working for a
member of Parliament or the House
authorities or a journalist working
in this Parliament that there are
proper processes in this Parliament
for people to be able to report
misconduct and for that to be dealt
with and I think that is very
important and I am grateful for him
for saying that he will meet with me
and I hope other political party
leaders, I see the leader of the SNP
is nodding his head at this point,
to look at this issue.
associate myself with the remarks
made by the Prime Minister when she
spoke about zero tolerance for these
sexual processes. I would like to
work with the government to make
sure we have a system that we can be
proud of to protect all members of
the houses of Parliament.
It's long been rumoured
that the party whips who enforce
discipline keep a note of MPs'
misdemeanours to use as leverage
One Labour MP accused
the Prime Minister of ignoring
concerns about that.
I would like to thank the Prime
Minister for her opening words about
the role of the revelations this
week but can I say to her that three
years ago I brought evidence to her
in this House that whips had used
information about sexual abuse to
demand loyalty from MPs. I brought
that information to her in this
House and I warned her at the time
that unless real action was taken we
risked repeating those injustices
again today. On three occasions I
asked her to act and on three
occasions she did not so can I ask
her, in this, of all weeks, for the
fourth time will she finally take
concrete action to tackle this?
will, of course, look back at the
questions that the honourable lady
had said that she raised with me
this House. I assume she raised
those with me when I was Home
Secretary. I will say to her that I
am very clear that the whips office,
I hope this goes for all whips
offices across this House, should
make clear to people that where
there are any sexual abuse
allegations that could be of a
criminal nature that people should
go to the police, it is not
appropriate for those to be dealt
with by whips offices, they should
get the police and that continues to
be the case. I will look at the
questions that she raised with me
but I am very clear that we take
action against those where there are
allegations that we see and the
evidence is there that there has
Ministers don't want to publish
the results of studies on 58
different economic sectors
and the impact leaving
the EU will have on them.
They say it's because disclosure
might damage the UK's
In the Commons, Labour opted to use
a rather obscure parliamentary
technique designed to make a vote
on releasing the documents
binding on the government.
But let's concentrate on the main
substance of the assessments.
Looking at the list which I have
here, two things are obvious. The
first is that in many ways it is
unremarkable and could and should
have been published months ago. The
second is that the wide range of
sectors analysed demonstrate why it
is so important for members of this
House to see the impact assessments.
I am going to highlight three
sectors on the list. Construction
and engineering where there are 2.9
million jobs involved, medical
services and social care, where
there are 3 million jobs involved
and pharmaceuticals where there are
50,000 jobs involved. These are just
three of the 58 sectors and it is
obvious why this is of such
But one Conservative
didn't like the way Labour
was going about this.
This is a foolish and irresponsible
debate to have been called. He knows
that there is a blanket ban on
disclosing advice to ministers. It
is in the ministerial code and in
the civil service code, that is
absolutely standard. It is normal
for select committees themselves to
request information, not to get the
official opposition to do it on
their behalf. This is gameplay.
Sir Keir Starmer was surprised
at Bernard Jenkin's remarks.
This is a shared concern across the
House. That intervention, I am
afraid, is typical of what has been
going on for 16 or 17 months, which
is that every time somebody raises a
legitimate question it is suggested
that somehow they are frustrating or
undermining the process.
The Brexit minister said many
thousand of documents
were being prepared with regard
to the UK's exit from EU.
Some of these would not undermine
our negotiating position though
others might have more of an impact.
The House will appreciate that the
more information that is shed more
widely the less secure our
negotiating position and the harder
it becomes to secure the right deal
for the British people. The House is
the right to require the release of
documents but I sincerely hope in
what is requested in terms of how
they guaranteed confidentiality
going forward and how much is
guaranteed, the select committee and
the House will be mindful of the job
that ministers need to do and that
job is to secure the vital national
interest of the United Kingdom as we
negotiate our departure from the
We can discuss all
sorts of processes and whether it
will undermine negotiations but will
you not agree that withholding this
information is now becoming very
counter-productive and it looks like
it is hiding bad news.
The government will always take a
careful view where we have disclosed
plenty of information during the
course of this process where we see
it is in the national interest to do
so, of course we will.
caused by Brexit could be even worse
than any of us had previously feared
and that would weaken the UK 's
negotiating position. It would
fatally undermined the UK's
negotiating position. It could be
that analysis shows that Brexit is
such a catastrophic decision that we
shouldn't do it at all. What kind of
government in possession of that
kind of information would choose to
hide it rather than to act on it? It
seems to me that the only scenario
in which releasing any information
can possibly undermine the UK's
position is if that information
shows that the damage caused by
Brexit is worse than any previous
analysis has indicated.
The chairman of the Brexit Committee
said impact assessments
were published all the time.
But on the single most important
decision that we have taken because
of the result of the referendum, as
the country since the end of the
Second World War, nothing has been
published in the way of an impact
assessment by government.
As to the
papers themselves, I have no
particular view that this is a
normal circumstances a matter for
the government and I would have gone
along with the government had it
wished to oppose today's motion, but
in the event that it does not it
must publish these papers to the
Brexit select committee in full.
People like me except that we are
going to leave the European Union
but I am not going to stand by and
see the future of my children's
generation and the grandchildren
that I hope will follow being
trashed and ruined without any form
of debate and disclosure as to the
consequences, and arguably the
options that might be available, as
disclosed in all these documents
that cover, as we know, so many
sectors in so many ways. This is
grown-up, Sirius Star. The days of
carping from the sidelines, I say to
honourable members on this side,
have gone. You have one and you are
in charge of this and now you have
to face up to the responsibility of
delivering a Brexit that works for
everybody in this country and for
generations to come.
And in dramatic, if confusing,
scenes at the end of the debate,
the Government abstained
on the motion, which meant Labour's
call for the documents to be
handed over was passed.
MPs then demanded ministers act
on the Commons' vote.
You're watching Wednesday
in Parliament with me, Mandy Baker.
Now, a string of Secretaries
of State sat down in front
of committees this Wednesday.
And one of them was Michael Gove.
The question facing him was:
will the price of our food
go up after Brexit?
And if so, by how much?
It's one of the issues a Committee
of Peers is looking into.
Lord Krebs, a former Chairman
of the Food Standards Agency,
told the Environment Secretary that
some of the major retailers
believed that cutting
formal ties with the EU,
or leaving with no deal
at all, would result
in significant price increases.
The chairman of Sainsbury's
estimated about 10% or thereabouts,
so I wondered what the figures
are that your officials have come up
with in different scenarios?
I think it's almost impossible
to predict with accuracy,
for a variety of reasons.
One of them is that some
of the biggest factors which bear
on food prices are beyond any
so there are world commodity prices,
and it's also the case
that there are the prices of inputs,
like energy and so on.
It's also the case that, if you have
reform in the supply chain,
you can also bring prices down
and ensure that you have a greater
degree of competitiveness.
So tariff barriers are simply
one factor in many that
help to determine what food
prices might be.
It is the case that,
if we were to have significant
tariff barriers, then we would find
ourselves in a position where,
depending on the foodstuff,
the tariffs in their own terms
could add to what otherwise might
be the cost of food,
but it is also the case that,
if you erect tariff barriers,
then there will be a process
of import substitution as well,
and it may well be the case that,
at the same time as there
being domestic suppliers replacing
those who were exporting to this
country, you might also find
that there are opportunities
to ensure that those domestic
suppliers become more efficient.
All of this is a way of saying that
to focus purely on the process of
leaving the European Union and the
moment at which we leave and the
creation of any tariffs as having a
decisive impact on food prices in
the absence of anything else is to
look only at one part of the
Since the food industry
has come up with estimates of its
own, perhaps I can put the question
the other way around, do you agree
or disagree with what the chairman
of Sainsbury's and British Retail
Consortium are saying?
I have huge
respect for everything that they had
said and I wouldn't want my name or
my department 's name alongside any
I will take
that as a no, you do not agree.
not want to be impolite to people
who I think are doing a great job in
running fantastic industries but
I... We must choose our own words
carefully so I wouldn't want to
disagree or distance myself from
them, simply say that I would
express my own approach towards
these issues in a slightly different
You saw that the impact Brexit
on food prices is a problem but are
you prepared to release anything to
The first thing I would
say is as the Secretary of State for
exiting European Union has made
clear, it is a very important
addition of the UK civil service
that it should be able to offer
advice to ministers candidly and
that there should be, as the
secretary of state pointed out a
safe space during which civil
servants can offer advice ministers
can challenge and you can have a
robust conversation that would go on
to show good policy. The second
thing to is that while I have the
highest regard for civil servants,
it is not as though within the
department or anywhere else there is
a magic formula that can explain
what will happen post-Brexit which
nobody else could possibly access so
supermarkets have made their
judgment and other economists have
made theirs and it is impossible to
predict with accuracy but what the
informed citizen can do is to look
at a variety of factors and draw
their own conclusions about what the
policy interventions should be in
order to achieve the maximum
Another Secretary of State to face
a committee was Boris Johnson.
He told the Foreign Affairs
Committee that he's not seen any
evidence that Russia interfered
in British elections.
He was asked about a possible
Russian role in UK affairs.
Is it your belief that the Russians
have played any role in British
elections and referendums?
I haven't seen any evidence of that.
You seem uncertain about whether
you've seen it or you haven't.
I can confirm to you, Mr Bryant,
that I don't think...
I haven't seen...
Not a sausage!
So you don't think the Russians
played any role or sought to play
any role in the elections?
I don't know about sought to play
but, as far as I know,
they have played no role.
During more than two hours
in front of the committee,
Boris Johnson was asked
about relations with many countries
and many organisations.
The new chairman of the committee,
the Conservative Tom Tugendat, had
a question about the Islamist group
Does the UK have any
direct links with Hamas?
We, obviously, talk to a wide range
of people across the world.
I'm sure that, in the course
of contacts with...
I wouldn't want to rule
out, Mr Chairman...
Is that a yes?
I wouldn't want to rule
out or to mislead the
committee on this matter.
I wouldn't want to exclude
the possibility of our talking
to Hamas but, let me just say,
on Hamas, that...
That's not a yes or a no, is it?
No, it's not!
I don't want to exclude
the possibility that we are...
In the end, good diplomacy involves
talking to all sorts of people
who are not necessarily...
That sounds like a yes!
I think that sounds like a yes!
I'm not saying...
I don't wish to disappoint you,
but I'm not going to offer you...
Are you aware of any contact?
If I were, I couldn't tell you.
What I will say is that...
I don't want to mislead
You're doing a very good job of it!
On the country!
I don't think the committee
can possibly be misled
by anything I've said
since I haven't said anything...
..on this matter!
And not to be left out,
Liam Fox appeared before
the International Trade Committee.
He said he was "frustrated" by
the fact that the European Council
had not yet given the green light
for talks to move on from any
divorce deal to discuss
the future trade relationship.
I am very keen that we get a deal
with the European Union,
but I'm not afraid of not getting
a deal and I think that we need
to work within those parameters.
I think that those who say we want
the deal at any price
undermine our negotiating hand,
and those who say we want no deal
and we want to walk away are not
taking a realistic view
of our economic position.
Are you not equally
frustrated by the lukewarm
attitude of the Chancellor
of the Exchequer towards Brexit?
I had a very constructive meeting
with the Chancellor yesterday,
and it was far from lukewarm!
Nigel Evans turned to the European
Union's attitude to Brexit.
There does seem to be this
image that certain people
within the European Union just
want to punish Britain to stop
anybody else from leaving
and to also pay us back,
so who do think is going
to win this battle?
I think the language,
which is regrettable,
that some people want to punish
Britain for leaving in case
any other people would want to leave
is the language of a gang,
not the language of the club.
And I think I think it should be
avoided because it doesn't make...
Who's employing that
language, do you feel?
Is that the language
of the European Union?
I think there have been some
unwise phrases used.
I think it's much better for us
to get away from the hyperbole.
In the longer term,
it's in the interests
of all European Union citizens
to maintain an open liberal
and I would add, one thing to that -
to go back to the
Just a minute.
Would part of that hyperbole be
that the European Union
will whistle for its money?
I think we need to stay away
from language that suggests we don't
want to deal or we want a deal
at any price.
You campaigned vigorously for Leave
and you stood by that bus that said
£350 million would be saved every
week from leaving
the European Union.
Are you prepared for any of that
money to be paid to the EU
to access the single market
on a favourable trade deal?
Well, if I am, with due respect,
I'm not going to set out any Cabinet
negotiation position here,
and I think that we need,
before we make any offer on any
to know what we're getting as that
end stage, and I think,
as I said to one of my fellow
ministers in another country,
would they be willing to guarantee
us a sum of money before we told
them what the agreement
that we were signing up to was,
and they said absolutely not,
so why should we?
The committee moved
on to contingency planning
in the event there was no deal.
Would you advise the private sector
to develop contingency plans
and to execute them for a no deal?
No, because, on balance,
at the present time,
I think that we are more likely
to get a deal, but I think it
would be reasonable for them
to develop such plans.
Clearly, the longer we take to get
into end state discussions
with the European Union,
the greater the likelihood that
people would want to implement
as well as develop, which is why
I think it's in all our interests
to get into those end state
discussions as early as possible
so that business has greater
certainty about what the potential
end state looks like.
A Labour peer has said he's sent
the Chancellor details of a British
bank's involvement in laundering
money allegedly stolen
from South Africa.
The former Cabinet minister
and one-time anti-apartheid
campaigner Lord Hain has previously
named other financial institutions
involved in a corruption scandal
linked to the wealthy Gupta family
and the South African
President Jacob Zuma.
In the Lords, the peer
gave a warning.
There are disturbing questions,
around both the complicity,
witting or unwitting,
of UK global financial
institutions in the Gupta-Zuma
transnational criminal network,
and also about these institutions'
wilful blindness to the reality
that the laundering process most
often necessitates financial systems
with lax regulation and controls.
Unless we urgently find ways
to leverage our respective
capabilities to coordinate
and influence action
between the law-enforcement
and banking sectors domestically
here in the UK and globally,
we cannot win this battle.
Mr Zuma and the Guptas
deny any wrongdoing.
A report into the experiences
of the families of the Hillsborough
victims has called for a change
in culture to stop the "burning
injustice" in the way bereaved
relatives are treated.
It was in 1989 that 96 Liverpool
fans died in the crush at an FA Cup
semifinal match against Nottingham
In a second inquest into the tragedy
last year, the coroner ruled
they were unlawfully killed.
At Prime Minister's Questions, the
report was raised by a Labour MP.
An hour ago, the government
published this report -
the Patronising Disposition
of Unaccountable Power.
It's a report of right
reverend James Jones,
which the Prime Minister herself
commissioned to ensure that the pain
and suffering of the Hillsborough
families is not repeated.
But, Mr Speaker, given what we've
heard in this session and given
the events surrounding
the Grenfell Tower disaster,
I think that I worry that the pain
and suffering of the Hillsborough
families is already being repeated.
So can the Prime Minister
commit her government to supporting
both the duty of candour
for all public officials and,
as this report requires,
and end to public bodies spending
limitless funds, providing
themselves with representation
which surpasses that
available to families?
I've always been very
clear that the experience
that the Hillsborough families had
should not be repeated.
That's why we have looked
and we are committed to the concept
of the public advocate,
because we want to ensure that
people have the support
that they need, and it's important
that we learn the lessons
I was, as she knows,
involved in making the decision that
enabled the Hillsborough families
to have legal support on a basis
that I felt was fair in relation
to the other parties involved
in that inquest, and I can
assure her that we will not forget
the Hillsborough families.
And that's all we've got time for.
So from me, Mandy Baker, goodbye.