Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 15 November, presented by Alicia McCarthy.
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The controversial sport of fox
hunting is the origin for a word
that has become very much associated
with the portal politics. A whip her
in is an assistant huntsman he uses
to which to keep the hounds in check
and drive them into the main body of
the pack. By the late 18th century,
Parliament had adopted the term.
Officials whose job it was to make
their MPs behaved and make them vote
according to the party line were
jokingly referred to as the present.
And by the 1840s, people called them
whips. It became very common to use
the word whip in this way, for
example, in the mess, collection for
more wine which everyone was excited
to contribute to, was called a whip.
So eventually, any collection from
money among members of the group
became our modern phrase, whip
Hello, welcome to our round-up
of the day at Westminster.
On this programme, Jeremy Corbyn
warns thousands of families
will spend Christmas fearing
eviction due to the introduction
of Universal Credit.
But Theresa May defends the long
term impact of the new benefit.
Citizens' rights come under
the spotlight on the second
day of detailed debate
on the EU withdrawal bill.
And the Foreign Secretary urges
all sides in Zimbabwe
to refrain from violence.
We, and I think in everybody this
House, would want the people of
Zimbabwe to have the choice about
their future in free and fair
But first to Prime Minister's
Questions where Jeremy Corbyn
renewed his call for the Government
to pause the roll out of the new
welfare payment, Universal Credit.
It replaces six working age
benefits, but many MPs have
expressed concern that claimants can
have to wait up to six weeks
before getting any money,
leading to debt and rent arrears.
Jeremy Corbyn kept up the pressure
on the Government to make a change.
I was passed a letter, Mr Speaker,
from a lettings agency in
Universal Credit is
about to be rolled out.
The agency, and I have
the letter here...
The agency is issuing
all of its tenants
with a pre-emptive notice
of eviction because Universal Credit
has driven up arrears
where it's been rolled
out, and the letter,
and I quote, says...
The letter says, and I quote,
"GAP property cannot
sustain arrears at the potential
levels Universal Credit
Will the Prime Minister pause
Universal Credit so it can be fixed?
Or does she think it is right to put
thousands of families through
Christmas in the trauma of knowing
they're about to be evicted because
they're in rent arrears
because of Universal Credit?
Can I say to the Right
Honourable gentleman that
there have been concerns raised
in this House previously
over the issue of people
managing their budgets to
pay rent, but what we actually see,
what we see, is that...
We see that over four
months and number of
people on Universal Credit
in arrears has fallen by a third.
Now, it's important
that we do look at
the issues on this particular case.
The right honourable gentleman might
like to send the letter through.
I know in an earlier
Prime Minister's Questions,
he raised a specific
constituent, a specific case of an
individual who had written to him
about her experience on Universal
Credit, I think it was Georgina,
as far as I'm aware he's so far not
sent that letter to me
despite the fact I asked for it.
In truth this is a Government
that protects the super-rich
while the rest of us pick
up the bill through cuts, austerity,
low wages and slashing of local
services all over the country.
That is the reality
of a Tory government.
Labour have backtracked
on Brexit, they've gone
back on their promise on student
debt and they would cause and lose
control of public finances.
I say to the right
honourable gentleman, he
may have given momentum to his party
but he brings stagnation
to the country.
Earlier in the year the Prime
Minister told the country that
she was the only person that
could offer strong and stable
leadership in the national interest.
With her Cabinet crumbling
before our eyes,
can she tell us how it's going?
Let me say to the right
what we see this government
dithering post I have spoken about
--delivering, I have spoken about
some the things earlier.
unemployment down, we have
seen more record sums
going to our health
service and our schools
Government determined with a clear
plan, as set out in my Florence
speech, a clear plan
to deliver the best Brexit
deal for this country.
She is a member of a party that
can't even decide what it wants from
Brexit, let alone set a plan for it.
The Brexit Secretary gave a pledge
in the City that freedom of movement
would be preserved for bankers
and other members of the financial
Why can't the same pledge
be given to other key
economic sectors like
manufacturing and agriculture?
As we look towards the immigration
rules about will be introduced
once we leave the European Union,
we are clear about
the need to ensure we take into
account the needs of our economy,
that's precisely why my right
honourable friend the Home Secretary
has asked the independent migration
advisory committee to make
recommendations to the government.
We are leaving the European Union
and as the EU Withdrawal Bill goes
through the House of Commons, does
the Prime Minister agree with me
that it's part of our job as members
of Parliament, some might
even say it's our duty as members
of Parliament, to
scrutinise that legislation.
To debate considered amendments,
which seek to improve
the bill and which are constructive
and which seek to ensure a smooth
transition of our laws from the EU
to the UK and importantly that we
come together and deliver
Brexit for our country and
for the British people.
What we are doing as a Government is
listening to the contributions that
are being made, listening carefully
to those who wish to improve the
bill, they help we can all come
together to deliver on the decision
that the country took that we should
leave the European Union.
Now the second day of detailed
debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill saw
concerns that rights currently
enjoyed by British citizens
would not be protected after Brexit.
Labour's spokesman said that
after exit day, employment,
equality and other important
rights would be at risk.
The Bill seeks to
transfer European law
into British law.
It's true that the government has
promised to ensure that workers'
rights are fully protected
and maintained after the UK's
departure from the EU,
but in the absence of stronger legal
safeguards, there are good
reasons to be sceptical
about that commitment.
Happy to give way.
Would my friends agree with me
that given the political
events of this year,
who the government might be
in the future has become ever more
uncertain and that therefore
all of us have a job to protect
the process and institutions
of our democracy because we never
know what might
happen in the future?
I agree with that and I agree
with her, which is her point
that the public would expect these
rights to continue to have the level
of protection they have enjoyed
while being underpinned by EU law.
They should not have a reduced level
of protection going forward.
The bill seeks to transfer European
law into British law.
But the Conservative former
Attorney General, Dominic Grieve,
warned that could mean laws
were "brought to the lowest
The question is how do we make sure
bringing this law into our own law
we preserve its essence
because that's what the government
says it wants to do until such time
as we as a domestic parliament
decide that we want to do
something about it?
And the problem which has arisen
is that as presently drafted
the importation of EU law means that
legal protection and standards
in areas such as equality
and the environment will no longer
enjoy the protection that EU
membership gives them.
Indeed, they will then
for the most part be repeatable
by statutory instrument.
Something which on the whole in this
House we would not think
an appropriate thing to do
with our own primary legislation
and this legislation undoubtedly has
the importance of primary status.
Does he envisage a time
in the future where tariffs
are imposed, economic circumstances
are imposed, businesses
demand reductions in cost
and they would turn to the holiday
pay, to the 48 hours directive,
to anything that cuts their cost
and that government will be tempted,
then, to abolish these rights.
At I don't think I'm quite as
apocalyptic as the honourable
gentleman. I happen to think, as my
right honourable friend said
yesterday in his speech, that's the
idea that the UK suddenly wishes to
translate itself into a country of
no regulation, no protection at all,
But he said he wanted the Government
to look at these matters.
I don't wish to force the
Government's can, even though that
might appear superficially
attractive. I don't even intend to
put this amendment to the vote, it
has problems of its own. But I put
the Government on notice that we are
going to have to draw together the
issues that we are debating today
and indeed I'm convinced there will
be similar issues next week, all of
which derive from the same problem
as to the way the Government has
approached this and drafted this
legislation of the moment, and it
must be remedied.
The Brexit process
will in no way whatsoever be used to
undermine or curtail the rights of
workers that happening find both in
domestic law and by virtue of the
European Union. I hope that today
can in my remarks and indeed by
demonstration reassure the right
honourable members that the
Government's policy here is clear,
is deliberated and this is not some
out-of-control grab power to use
this bill, which is a framework
though, it is very much a process
bill, to somehow then use this as
the basis to change policy. That is
not the intention of this Bill.
from the recently-resigned
International Development Secretary:
I am speaking today in this debate
following an intensive course, over
the past week, I think it's fair to
say, on how to stage an exit.
Which was the focus of a degree of
international attention. So for
anyone who is still tracking my
movements, it is fair to say that I
can confirm that as I walked into
the chamber this afternoon, a past
studies and portraits commemorating
some of our greatest statesman
including Margaret Thatcher and
Winston Churchill, statesmen who
stood up and defended democracy,
freedom and sovereignty of our great
nation. So, this Bill paves way for
a smoother withdrawal from the
European Union and it complements
many of the discussions that have
happened around Article 50 and
delivers on the will of the British
people as exposed in the referendum.
Priti Patel, and MPs have six more
days of detailed debate on the EU
Withdrawal Bill still to come.
You're watching Wednesday
in Parliament with me,
Armoured vehicles have been
patrolling the Zimbabwean capital,
Harare, where President Mugabe has
been placed under house arrest
after the military declared it had
taken temporary control
of the country.
Mr Mugabe, who is 93, has dominated
the impoverished country's
politics since independence
from the UK in 1980.
Responding to an urgent question,
the Foreign Secretary urged
all sides to refrain from violence.
The events of the last 24 hours
are the latest escalation of months
of brutal infighting
within the ruling Zanu?PF party.
Including the sacking
of a vice president,
the purging of his followers
and the apparent positioning
of Grace Mugabe as a contender
to replace her 93 rolled husband.
of Grace Mugabe as a contender
to replace her 93 year old husband.
I will say frankly to the House
that we cannot tell how developments
in Zimbabwe will play out
in the days ahead and we do not know
whether this marks the downfall
of Mugabe or not and we call
for calm and restraint.
While it is not a coup in a sense
of the military wanting to run
the country it is a coup to ensure
the former vice
president takes over.
Does the Minister agree that
changing from one ruthless leader
to another ruthless leader does not
help to create the kind
of conditions that could lead
to a free and fair election
in the coming year in Zimbabwe,
nor will it solve the dire economic
situation where thousands of people
are destitute and food is scarce.
We, and I think everybody in this
House, would want the people
of Zimbabwe to have the choice
about their future in a free
and fair elections and that is
the consensus that we are building
up with our friends and partners
and I will be having a discussion
with the vice president
of South Africa later today.
The situation seems highly volatile.
Could I ask the Foreign Secretary
for his assurances that the 20,000
British nationals in Zimbabwe
will be given all the assistance
they need during this dangerous
period and in the past in times
of great tension, I understand
there have been Cobra plans
for the evacuation of British
nationals if necessary.
I wonder if there will be such
thought processes once more.
There are about 20,000,
the crisis centre has been working
overnight to ensure their welfare
and to the best of our knowledge
at present we have no reports of any
injuries or suffering involving them
and as I talked earlier
on to our head of mission in Harare
and he said as far as he understood
it UK nationals were very much
staying where they were and avoiding
trouble and I think that is exactly
the right thing to do.
If this does indeed presage
a move to easier times,
and I accept the caution
of the honourable lady of course,
will he acknowledge with me
that the British government does
have unfinished business
with Zimbabwe and will he assure me
that the government will offer
further assistance if we can to help
that wonderful country
and its remarkable people,
both black and white,
to hopefully transition
to a better government
and a more prosperous state.
He knows that Zimbabwe has
this is a country with a very
it has a great future if they can
get the right to political system.
There is reports that Grace Mugabe
is out of the country possibly
in Namibia so building on,
as he says, the important role
the regional organisations have
to play and the role of Difid
and the Foreign Office,
what steps can he make to make sure
instability that might be in place
in Zimbabwe does not spread
into the wider region?
I think it's a very acute question
and I think the answer lies,
as so often in matters of Zimbabwean
politics, the answer lies very
much with our friends
in South Africa and it is to them
we will be telling first.
Now, the Chief Minister
of Gibraltar knows all
about handling tricky borders.
So MPs on the Northern Ireland
Committee were keen to hear from him
as part of their work looking
at what happens to the Irish
border after Brexit.
Fabien Picardo offered some hi-tech
suggestions about how
to achieve frictionless trade
across an EU border.
Gibraltar Customs has led in terms
of technological solutions.
With the United Nations Conference
on Trade and Development Customs,
they've set up a centre
of excellence at Gibraltar
University, it's their only centre
of excellence in Europe.
And what they have created
is something called Asycuda,
which is a system that allows
trusted traders to pre-declare
what they are importing
into Gibraltar and
to have an account
with the Government
through which they pay their duty
in a frictionless way,
in an entirely frictionless way.
And that development of Asycuda
has been something where Gibraltar
technology is now being shared,
in Gibraltar is now being shared
in 100 other countries.
He issued a warning to those on
both sides of the Irish border.
I put it to you that I think
citizens expect us to do everything
It comes at a cost, but people
will expect us to invest in that
I mean, yes, we must use border
crossings for controls which relate
to criminality not being allowed
to run freely across continents,
but we must not allow anyone
to use a border crossing
as a political choke point.
Look, nobody is going to accept
something that looks like,
feels like or smells
like Checkpoint Charlie
in Europe in the future.
And if the Spanish authorities
have not realised that,
I think their citizens
would wish that they did.
The Middle East is entering
what many analysts see
as a dangerous new phase.
Experts fear that,
with the Islamic State group
on the brink of defeat,
there's a danger of the long-held
rivalry between Saudi Arabia
and Iran boiling over as they engage
in proxy battles in the region.
In Yemen, the two countries
are backing opposing sides,
while the Saudis are thought to be
behind the recent resignation
of the Lebanese Prime Minister
in an attempt to weaken Iran's
influence in the region.
Does the noble Lord, the Minister,
accept that we have to adopt a much
more even handed stance
between Tehran and Riyadh in order
to resolve the toxic instability
afflicting the entire
Gulf Middle East region?
And we are seen to be
allies of Saudi Arabia,
I don't dispute the need for that,
but we are seen to take
the side of Saudi Arabia
and the Sunni Muslim faith,
against Iran and the
Shia Muslim faith.
And we need to be equally
handed between the two,
in order to end the proxy wars
in Yemen, Lebanon increasingly,
Syria and also Iraq.
Even allowing for the fact
of jihadist terrorism,
is not the greatest threat to peace,
from the Middle East now
the imminent danger of a conflict
between the Sunnis and the Shias
led by Saudi Arabia and Tehran,
in which the West are backing
one side and Russia
is backing the other?
In the light of this,
is it not foolish for
the United Kingdom Government to be
supporting tacitly and with arms
Saudi Arabia while they are
committing such clearly illegal acts
in the Yemen?
First of all, as the noble Lord
knows, the UK is not
directly involved with
the Saudi led coalition.
He talks about alliances
and of course, our alliance
between the United Kingdom
and Saudi Arabia, as an ally,
is an important one.
But at the same time, as I have made
the point clear already,
we believe very strongly that
for peace and stability
in the region, it requires both
Iran and Saudi Arabia
to resolve their differences
and move forward in a positive vein,
and the agenda is not about taking
sort of one side over the other.
We make sure that any
representation we make,
including those to the Saudis,
on concerns we have particularly
in the conflict in Yemen,
are made clear and made
at the highest level.
There have been many lurid newspaper
headlines of late with allegations
of inappropriate behaviour,
harassment and even assault
going on at Westminster.
The Women and Equalities Committee
is holding an inquiry into women
in the House of Commons.
Its chair Maria Miller asked
representatives of the four
biggest Westminster parties
what was being done to make sure
anyone with a complaint was more
likely to come forward now
than they had been in the past.
I think there have been abuses
of power, and I think this
is something which goes right
across the political parties.
I'm appalled that we haven't
shown due leadership
on this, historically.
And I think the fact that it has
been public pressure and the media
that has brought this to the fore,
we actually should be ashamed
of ourselves that we haven't given
proper leadership on it.
We now know the scale of the problem
and we must all work together
to make sure that we get...
But what's changed which would make
somebody now come forward?
I think the traditional complaints
processes operated under
a criminal standard of proof,
which was very difficult
to establish and inhibited
people coming forward.
It's now done on the balance
of probabilities, which means that
cases are much more likely to be
determined for the complainer.
A Labour committee member asked
about the abuse directed
at candidates during elections.
What evidence does your party have
about the effect of fear and abuse
and harassment on the willingness
of people to come
forward as candidates
to remain in public life
once elected, and what do any
of your political parties do
to offer support to people,
to candidates responding
to such abuse?
Because we all have seen,
quite widely, that it exists.
If we're just about the kind
of aggressive language
that we encounter in politics,
I mean, to some extent, we have
to put up with it, men or women.
Do you think that
it's worse for women?
I think it probably is,
sort of what you could call casual
misogyny and the results of that...
As somebody who suffers from it,
it doesn't feel very casual.
And what about abuse
directed at other people?
If a candidate in an election
from an opposing political party
suffered from an abuse
from somebody within your
political party, if,
say, that abuse was
You would say that there be robust
processes in the Liberal Democrats
to stop a person in a candidate
again or being an activist, being
a member of the Liberal Democrats?
I think that would be
a reasonable request.
I shall test that.
Anybody else want to...?
I would put the same question
to everybody on the panel.
This is a massive issue, let's be
absolutely crystal clear about it.
There is clear evidence that women
candidates and women
parliamentarians have suffered
from far greater abuse
than anyone else has.
So what would you do about it?
There's things we can
do about it in terms
of providing support to people.
I think if anyone has crossed
the line, that is a member
of the political party,
then they have got to be
held account for that.
And held to account means...?
Well, suspension, expulsion,
if that's what it takes.
We do that as well...
How many people have you expelled?
I don't know that number,
I don't have that...
But you could tell us?
There was a Labour MP for Harlington
and Hayes who asked,
who was talking about lynching
a Conservative MP during
an election campaign,
repeating it, endorsing it,
going around and talking about it.
What did the Labour Party do?
They made him the Shadow Chancellor.
They promoted him to
the Shadow Chancellor.
So, if you're saying that,
yes, we expel people
for the kind of behaviour,
what are you going to do
about the Shadow Chancellor?
Or do you endorse that behaviour?
I think you're misrepresenting
I think going into individual cases
can be difficult to...
No, I don't think it is.
There is a real-life case,
we know exactly what he said,
it was on the record,
there is a recording
of what he said.
And so I want to know,
why did the Labour Party promotes
somebody in that situation rather
than do what you say you do?
Should we ask Dawn
write to us on that?
I'm just conscious of...
But I will happily
write to the committee.
Finally, to Westminster Hall,
where MPs debated
the subject of loneliness.
The session was opened
by Labour's Rachel Reeves,
a close friend of the murdered MP
Jo Cox, who'd campaigned
on the subject.
Loneliness, as we all know,
is bad for our mental health
but it's bad for our physical
health as well.
Research suggests that loneliness
is worse for us in terms
of mortality than obesity is,
and being lonely, being acutely
loneliness is bad for your health
as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
A Conservative MP worked
with Jo Cox to set up
a commission on loneliness.
I would like to put on the record
that, although this is a burden
I would never have wanted to carry,
it's been the honour
of my professional life to carry
on work in Jo Cox's name.
The MP who took over from Jo Cox
told how she'd been lonely
as a young actor living in Brighton.
There were more nights that
I cried myself to sleep off
loneliness than not.
Now, I am a gregarious,
can-do person, so I'd force
myself to go to gigs,
events, libraries, coffee bars,
just on the off chance that I might
meet someone I'd vaguely know.
But it was excruciating.
As a Government, we welcome
the Jo Cox Commission's work and it
has kick-started a national
conversation on loneliness
here in the UK.
And that's why we look forward
to receiving the recommendations
when they are published next month.
And that's it from me for now,
but do join me at the same time
tomorrow for another round up
of the day here at Westminster.
But for now from me, goodbye.