29/11/2017 Wednesday in Parliament


29/11/2017

Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 29 November, presented by Mandy Baker.


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Transcript


LineFromTo

Hello, and welcome to the programme.

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In the next half-hour:

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That Brexit divorce bill,

are the rumours true?

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If they've got £60 billion

to spare, it should go

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to the National Health

Service and social care.

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A new strategy for the railways

is announced, but Labour say

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the plans are unambitious.

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And fears of an unwelcome

new role for one county.

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The county will be a car park.

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The issue of how much

the UK is going to have

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to pay to leave the EU,

the so-called divorce bill,

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has been heavily debated.

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And that was before reports that

suggest the Government had

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substantially increased its offer

to somewhere between

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40-50 billion euros.

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The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

was called to the House

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to explain what was going on.

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Can I ask the Chief Secretary,

how do her constituents react

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to the idea that they're going to be

lumbered with all these extra costs?

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Don't they ask her, what exactly

are we getting for this?

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What wondrous new advantages

will we gain by shelling out

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these astronomical sums?

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Won't to the Chief secretary be

straight with the House?

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That we are paying for the privilege

of voting the world's most

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efficient free trade,

tariff-free, frictionless

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agreement into the bin,

and we're being told to pay

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for the privilege of downgrading

to an inferior deal with our

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European neighbours?

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Why is the Chief Secretary

being so coy about the deal

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that is being done?

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They've gone from "go whistle"

to "where do we sign?"

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The honourable gentleman

knows perfectly well

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we are in negotiations as we speak.

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If, in this House, we were to talk

about numbers and we were to talk

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about the aspects of the deal,

that would cut across our

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negotiating position.

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What the people of Britain

want to see is us get on with it,

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they want to see us take

the advantages of leaving

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the European Union, make the most

of those opportunities,

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secure the best possible deal.

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We're well on the way to doing that,

and I suggest the honourable

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gentleman, rather than trying

to re-fight the referendum battle,

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which is what he seems to be doing,

he needs to get with the programme,

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and start talking about

how he can be helpful.

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Those who oppose paying any

money are presumably

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wanting a no-deal Brexit,

and that would actually be

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catastrophic for this country,

and stop the opportunity my right

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honourabel friend,

the Brexit Secretary,

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has of negotiating a deal that

retains many benefits for jobs,

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investments and the growth

of the economy of this country

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as we possibly can in the future.

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Could she please remind those

who have raised this question that,

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even if we agreed a figure

of something in the order

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of 40 billion over 40 years,

because we will not be paying

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contributions the European Union,

that means the UK Exchequer will be

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better off by £360 million

in the course of that

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40 years, a net gain

with a free-trade arrangement.

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Will the Chancellor,

given there was a Budget last week

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which did not make provision

for this 40-£50 billion,

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will he now bring forward

an emergency Budget to expand

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on where he is finding the money?

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Well, I thought, Mr Speaker,

when the honourable lady stood up,

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it was to be to thank the Government

for the £2 billion additional

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spending power that we gave

to the Scottish Government

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in the Budget, which no doubt,

they will be able to use

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to improve their public services.

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As I've said before,

and as been pointed out

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by the Opposition front bench,

to talk about the money now

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would cut across the negotiations

and prevents us from getting

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the best possible deal, and that

is not in anyone's interests.

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70% of the people that voted

in Bolsover voted to leave.

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But can I also say this to you,

those same people in Bolsover,

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I believe, would expect me to tell

the honourable lady from the Finance

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Department that if they've got

£60 billion to spare,

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it should go to the National Health

Service and social care.

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For the first time in my

Parliamentary career,

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I'm going to agree

with the honourable

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member for Bolsover.

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He's absolutely right.

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The 60%-odd of people

in Wellingborough who voted to leave

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would want to know what we were

doing with £60 billion.

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Would want it spent on the NHS,

social care and defence.

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They would not want it given

to the European Union.

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Would the Minister agree such a move

would be betraying the trust

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of the British people?

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The money that we've been reading

about in the press is speculation.

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These negotiations are ongoing.

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The discussion is ongoing,

and we want to secure value

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for money for the British taxpayer.

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Liz Truss.

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Well, Prime Minister's

Questions looked a little

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different this Wednesday,

no Prime Minister.

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Theresa May is on a visit

to the Middle East,

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so the First Secretary of State,

Damian Green, was understudy.

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And taking on the role of

Jeremy Corbyn was Emily Thornbury,

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Shadow Foreign Secretary.

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She opened with a few jokes.

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See if you can get the references.

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And congratulating Prince Harry and

Meghan Markle on their engagement.

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That's one Anglo-American couple

we on this side would be delighted

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to see holding hands.

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I'm sure that Prince Harry,

the patron of Rugby Football League,

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will join us all in supporting

England in the World Cup

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final on Saturday.

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And I, for one, will be

waving my St George's flag.

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That was a reference to the tweet

she sent 2014 about a terraced house

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flying three England flags,

for which she was

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sacked by Ed Miliband.

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And the handholding was of course

Donald Trump taking Theresa May's

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hand in Washington.

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But it was first question

that raised eyebrows.

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The First Secretary of State

is currently be investigated

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by the Cabinet Office over

allegations about his

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past behaviour.

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Can I ask the First Secretary

a simple point of principle -

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is he happy to be held to the same

standards in Government

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that he required of others whilst

he was in Opposition?

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Yes, I am, I think all ministers

should respect and obey

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the ministerial code.

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And I absolutely think that

that's very important part

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of confidence in public life.

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I merely wondered if he remembered

the question he asked

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at Prime Minister's Questions almost

17 years ago, when

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John Prescott stood

in for Tony Blair,

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and whether he could answer

the same question today.

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So, what's the question?

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The question was this -

what percentage of new nurses

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recruited in the past 12 months

are now working full-time?

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I can't remember...

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I can't remember asking

the question then, and I'd love

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to know what the then

Deputy Prime Minister answered then.

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What I'm happy to assure

the right honourable lady

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is that we have more nurses,

more midwives, more doctors...

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Working in the Health Service now,

the Health Service is performing

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more operations now,

certainly than it was 17 years ago.

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And in particular, in the Budget

last week, my right honourable

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friend the Chancellor was able

to announce more than £6 billion

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extra on health spending,

which will make the Health

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Service even stronger

in the future than it is now.

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We have an NHS in the grip

of a chronic funding

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and staffing crisis.

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GPs are quitting in record numbers,

junior doctors are running A&Es

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without supervision,

our nurses are at breaking point

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and all this is before the winter

crisis which is coming.

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So, Mr Speaker, let me finally ask

the First Secretary, what does it

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say about the Government's

priorities that last week's Budget

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could only find £350 million

to help the cash-strapped,

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stretched-to-the-limit NHS,

cope with the winter fuel crisis?

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JEERING

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Keep going, keep going!

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Only £350 million to cope

with the winter crisis,

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and was able to find 11 times that

amount to spend on a no-deal Brexit?

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Isn't that the very definition

of a Government fiddling away

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while the rest of the country burns?

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The right honourable lady's

determined to talk the NHS down.

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It's the Conservative Government

which is increasing funding

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on the NHS so it remains the best

health service in the world,

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as the Independent Commonwealth Fund

has repeated for the

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second year in a row.

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It's this party which promised

and delivered more money

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for the NHS in 2010,

2015 and in last week's Budget,

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when my right honourable friend

the Chancellor promised 6.3 billion

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extra for the NHS.

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More patients treated,

more operations carried out by more

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doctors and more nurses.

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And when she says at the end

that the Government is wasting

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£3 billion on preparing for Brexit,

we now know that the Labour Party

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doesn't think it's worth

preparing for Brexit.

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They do, though, think it's

worth preparing for a run

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on the pound, that's all you need

to know about Labour.

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Damian Green.

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Well, at the end of PMQs,

news reached the Commons chamber

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that the US president,

Donald Trump, had retweeted

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three imflammatory videos

from a British far-right group.

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Two Labour MPs for the Home

Secretary should come

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to the dispatch box to condemn

the President's actions.

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The Speaker though said

he wouldn't expect a Minister

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to respond immediately.

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Downing Street later said

Donald Trump was wrong to retweet

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the anti-Muslim videos.

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And you're watching

Wednesday In Parliament

0:11:020:11:03

with me, Mandy Baker.

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Firms which operate passenger

services would also manage

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the tracks their trains run on,

under new Government plans.

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And some rail routes lost

under Richard Beeching

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in the 1960s could be restored.

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The closing of some

4000 miles of tracks,

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mainly in the rural areas,

became known as the Beeching Cuts.

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Chris Grayling said railway lines

would be reopened if they encouraged

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house-building and eased congestion.

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His plans also give us the chance

to show you these lovely pictures.

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The move is part of a new

Government rail strategy.

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I know the party opposite

doesn't believe this,

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but privatisation brought

a revelation to our railways.

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That's why there's twice

as many passengers as

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there were 20 years ago.

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But now is the time,

Mr Speaker, for evolution

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to build on that success,

joining up track and train,

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expanding the network,

modernising the customer experience,

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opening the railway

for new innovation.

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We have a vision, Mr Speaker,

of a revitalised railway,

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used to its full potential

by a partnership between the public

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and private sectors.

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Supporting people,

communities and the economy.

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And we're taking real action to make

that vision a reality.

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The Government's proposals

are more window-dressing,

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which will solve none

of the rail's urgent problems.

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Only Labour has the vision

and courage to deliver the railway

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the public deserves.

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The public want public ownership

of the railways and the next

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Labour Government will deliver it.

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Beeching itself was typical

of the Tory policy of knowing

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the price of everything

and the value of nothing.

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And this attitude continues with

the Secretary of State's ideological

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adherence to privatisation.

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Now, while he worships the private

sector, what he needs to remember,

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already there are four

foreign state-owned

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companies operational

in the existing UK franchises.

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So if it's good enough for foreign

state-owned companies,

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it should be good enough for UK

state-owned companies

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to run these franchises.

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And hopefully he supports

the Scottish Government's move

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to bring a public

sector bid in Scotland.

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The SNP have sought to put pressure

on the Government over the plight

0:13:150:13:18

of women born in 1950s who've lost

out because of changes

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to pension law.

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In a rowdy debate, the SNP claimed

the 3.8 million Waspi women have

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waited far too long.

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It is an absolute outrage that

when the evidence is before us,

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of the fact that the women did not

get appropriate notice

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and the fact that acceleration has

taken place so quickly,

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we have had nothing yet

from this government.

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I will give way.

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I will give way.

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I'm grateful for the honourable

member for giving way.

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It's an important debate,

last week I attended

0:13:560:13:58

the one in Westminster Hall

because it is a very important issue

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but would he accept that it is wrong

to say that the government has

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taken no action?

0:14:040:14:06

In 2011 they made sure that nobody

waited for an extended

0:14:060:14:08

period beyond 18 months?

0:14:080:14:09

period beyond 18 months?

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That's not true!

0:14:140:14:22

I have heard about spinning

but let's deal with

0:14:220:14:24

the facts of the matter,

because what the honourable lady

0:14:240:14:26

is referring to is the fact

that the government brought

0:14:260:14:29

in an act of 2011 that

increased the acceleration,

0:14:290:14:31

to talk about the fact

that the government have mitigated

0:14:310:14:33

is a distortion of the reality,

and the government benches should

0:14:330:14:36

stop spinning the way

that they are doing,

0:14:360:14:38

and start telling the truth

to the 3.8 million women affected.

0:14:380:14:44

That is that pensionable age

is increasing by three

0:14:440:14:46

months per calendar month.

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That is the reality.

0:14:470:14:52

And for the government to try

and argue against it is something

0:14:520:14:55

they should be utterly ashamed of.

0:14:550:14:57

But a former Tory minister

said he was prepared

0:14:570:14:59

to vote with the SNP.

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This is very much a women-focused

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injustice.

0:15:140:15:15

Of men approaching

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retirement expect to rely just on

0:15:160:15:17

the state pension

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but for women it is as many as 53%,

which is why it is such an important

0:15:180:15:22

issue to them and all of us.

0:15:220:15:28

Other conservatives intervened

to say that the Scottish Government

0:15:280:15:30

could take action.

0:15:300:15:31

In section 28 of the Scotland act,

you can create a new benefit,

0:15:310:15:34

and you can make that argument

by not reason of old age,

0:15:340:15:37

which the DWP have accepted,

that argument, and in section 26

0:15:370:15:40

of the act, it allows

the Scottish Government to make

0:15:400:15:47

short-term payments to people

who need them to "avoid risks

0:15:470:15:54

to the well-being of an individual".

0:15:540:15:59

They have the powers

but they choose not to use them.

0:15:590:16:02

Ian Blackford insisted

the Scottish Parliament did not

0:16:020:16:04

have the ability to introduce

new benefits based on age.

0:16:040:16:06

This is a failure of policy

of the UK Government.

0:16:060:16:09

Nobody can get away from that.

0:16:090:16:10

Are the Conservatives

in Scotland really saying

0:16:100:16:12

that the Scottish parliament,

the Scottish Government,

0:16:120:16:13

should clear up the mess, again,

which was left by this

0:16:130:16:16

Conservative government?

0:16:160:16:17

We've already spent £400 million

of the Scottish Government

0:16:170:16:19

mitigating the worst effects

of Tory austerity.

0:16:190:16:22

I think the government

can find this money.

0:16:220:16:32

It's no good blaming

the Scottish parliament.

0:16:340:16:36

It is a UK issue, full stop.

0:16:360:16:43

And I can assure the

honourable gentleman that

0:16:430:16:45

I will be backing him.

0:16:450:16:46

We made a manifesto pledge

regarding this issue.

0:16:460:16:48

The reason why I am here

as a spokesman of the party today

0:16:480:16:51

is because we do support it,

we will go through the lobby on it

0:16:510:16:55

and I do think that the Waspi women

will be better served if we had

0:16:550:17:04

a debate that was not devisive

or about point-scoring.

0:17:050:17:07

It's not a party.

0:17:070:17:09

Whether it is the liberal,

Labour or Conservative parties

0:17:090:17:14

which has not cause this problem.

0:17:140:17:15

But the minister said, the

government wasn't changing track.

0:17:150:17:18

We cannot change of policy which has

been implemented over 22 years,

0:17:180:17:20

and supported by all three

major political parties.

0:17:200:17:22

The government has to ensure

that the costs of an ageing

0:17:220:17:25

population are shared out fairly

without placing an unfair financial

0:17:250:17:27

burden on future generations.

0:17:270:17:28

But MPs voted by 288-0

in support of the SNP demand

0:17:280:17:31

that the government improve

transitional arrangements

0:17:310:17:33

for the Waspi women.

0:17:330:17:34

The vote is not binding

on the government, but the Deputy

0:17:340:17:37

Speaker said the Commons

leader promised that

0:17:370:17:39

after a result like this,

it would be a ministerial

0:17:390:17:41

response within 12 weeks.

0:17:410:17:44

Returning to Brexit,

and MPs have heard fresh warnings

0:17:440:17:46

that our departure from the EU

could cause gridlock at airports

0:17:460:17:48

that our departure from the EU

could cause gridlock at ports

0:17:520:17:54

and railway stations.

0:17:540:17:55

The home affairs committee heard

concerns raised by representatives

0:17:550:17:58

of border and immigration staff.

0:17:580:17:59

The 300 additional staff

that the border force

0:17:590:18:01

are recruiting at the moment,

do you understand that

0:18:010:18:04

that is entirely additional to meet

Brexit preparations,

0:18:040:18:11

or will some of that be backfilling

for existing staffing gaps?

0:18:110:18:13

My understanding is that it is

entirely backfilled...

0:18:130:18:15

Entirely?

0:18:150:18:19

It is only intended to bring orders

up to where it should already be.

0:18:190:18:29

So if there were changes,

what would be the impact

0:18:290:18:31

with that number of staff?

0:18:310:18:32

Very long queues.

0:18:320:18:40

Not only of people,

but also possibly and more

0:18:400:18:42

significantly of freight.

0:18:420:18:43

If we had to move to freight

checking on day one,

0:18:430:18:46

like Dover, for example,

it would grind to a halt

0:18:460:18:48

and we wouldn't be able

to bring the lorries off

0:18:480:18:51

the ferry fast enough.

0:18:510:18:52

There isn't enough physical

space in that port.

0:18:520:18:55

It would be a car

park, in actual fact.

0:18:550:18:58

Because at the moment

there is around 4 million units

0:18:580:19:06

of freight which come through,

Dover and the Channel

0:19:060:19:08

tunnel at the moment,

only 1% of that is non-EU so they go

0:19:080:19:12

to the Western docks to be

checked over, and it

0:19:120:19:14

normally takes 2-3 hours.

0:19:140:19:15

Per lorry.

0:19:150:19:18

If you are looking at around

40,000 being checked now,

0:19:180:19:21

you need to do 4 million.

0:19:210:19:23

You can see the scale

of the problem.

0:19:230:19:27

If there were continental checks

in place, if they are agreeable

0:19:270:19:31

to that, then that does certainly

take off the pressure of a large

0:19:310:19:38

stacking system of lorries

when they arrive at Dover?

0:19:380:19:42

It puts the stacking

system somewhere else

0:19:420:19:45

but if they are willing to have

those checks in that country,

0:19:450:19:48

it would make a huge difference.

0:19:480:19:50

I don't know what the benefit

to those countries would be though.

0:19:500:19:54

The MPs also heard from

the independent inspector

0:19:540:19:56

of borders and immigration.

0:19:560:19:57

He was asked about plans

for 700 staff to deal

0:19:570:19:59

with applications from EU nationals.

0:19:590:20:07

with applications from EU

nationals for settled status,

0:20:070:20:09

allowing them to remain in the UK.

0:20:090:20:10

3 million people to be registered

in the space of two years,

0:20:100:20:15

2.5 years, and then a further

250,000 a year additional.

0:20:150:20:18

What would your expectations be

of the level of staffing

0:20:180:20:20

needed to deliver that,

given the staffing ratios that

0:20:200:20:22

you have got already?

0:20:220:20:25

It will essentially be

a different sort of regime

0:20:250:20:34

exists at the moment.

0:20:340:20:36

Essentially one where the onus

is on the department to grant

0:20:360:20:42

settlement in all but most cases

where there are particular

0:20:420:20:44

reasons for not doing so.

0:20:440:20:46

But that said, 700,

if you do the maths,

0:20:460:20:52

that we tried to do the other

day, it did come out

0:20:520:20:55

at something like 100 decisions

per day per person.

0:20:550:21:02

I may have got the maths wrong

but that is a lot of decisions,

0:21:020:21:08

even with a relatively

light touch process.

0:21:080:21:11

If that were to be the case,

that would be around...

0:21:110:21:13

You would need someone taking

a decision every 3-4 minutes.

0:21:130:21:16

Is that remotely realistic on any

kind of casework system

0:21:160:21:18

that you have ever seen?

0:21:180:21:19

I think the point to be made

is that it isn't intended to be

0:21:190:21:23

like any casework system that any

of us have seen.

0:21:230:21:25

That's what the minister was saying.

0:21:250:21:26

But...

0:21:260:21:27

Do you think it is conceivable?

0:21:270:21:29

I wouldn't want to be

doing it myself.

0:21:290:21:31

David Bolt.

0:21:310:21:32

Now, do we need

an Arctic ambassador?

0:21:320:21:34

A couple of years ago,

a Lords committee called for just

0:21:340:21:38

such a person to be appointed,

peers said Britain could and should

0:21:380:21:40

be more active in Arctic affairs.

0:21:410:21:43

The SNP's Douglas Chapman agrees,

and he led a debate on the idea

0:21:430:21:46

in Westminster Hall.

0:21:460:21:48

He pointed out that the North

of Scotland is closer to the Arctic

0:21:480:21:51

than it is to London,

and he focused

0:21:510:21:53

on shared interests...

0:21:530:21:54

Like Iceland, Scotland is the home

of some of the world's most

0:21:540:21:57

beautiful scenery and natural

wonders which attracts

0:21:570:22:00

millions of visitors

to our shores every year.

0:22:000:22:06

We need to make sure that these

valued resources are protected,

0:22:060:22:09

so they can continue to be enjoyed

by Scots and tourists alike

0:22:090:22:12

for generations to come.

0:22:120:22:14

It's very generous.

0:22:140:22:17

I too am a Scot and Scotland has

a great deal to offer to the north

0:22:170:22:21

and the south but I'm puzzled

as to his logic why Scotland has

0:22:210:22:25

nice scenery, and why it should lead

to a leap that there should be

0:22:250:22:28

an Arctic ambassador.

0:22:280:22:29

After all, that is what

the debate is about?

0:22:290:22:32

Well, I think it fits

absolutely perfectly.

0:22:320:22:33

The need for an Arctic ambassador,

I will cover other areas

0:22:330:22:38

in my speech but it is absolutely

crucial that we make these links

0:22:380:22:41

and have these friendships,

and collaborative projects

0:22:410:22:43

across the whole of the Arctic.

0:22:430:22:47

You know, I hope the honourable

member has a wide range of interests

0:22:470:22:51

and am asking him to open his mind

to the possibilities

0:22:510:22:55

if we have an Arctic ambassador

fighting for the UK and for Scotland

0:22:550:22:58

over a wider range of issues.

0:22:580:23:00

The minister said he didn't

think that appointing

0:23:000:23:03

an Arctic ambassador,

as some countries have done,

0:23:030:23:05

was the right approach for the UK.

0:23:050:23:09

Particularly given our wide

diversity of interests

0:23:090:23:18

and established engagement

across the Arctic States

0:23:180:23:20

and in the Arctic Council,

we do not think that this

0:23:200:23:23

would add value.

0:23:230:23:26

As Minister for the Polar Regions,

I'm already supported

0:23:260:23:28

by a senior Foreign &

Commonwealth Office official.

0:23:280:23:30

That official oversees

the development and implementation

0:23:300:23:40

of the UK's Arctic Policy framework.

0:23:420:23:45

Chairs across government Arctic

network, and ensures that the UK

0:23:450:23:47

is appropriate representation

at the Arctic Council and other key

0:23:470:23:49

international Arctic events.

0:23:490:23:51

The Minister for the Polar Regions.

0:23:510:23:52

There is to be an emergency debate

in the Commons on Thursday

0:23:520:23:55

on the crisis in Yemen.

0:23:550:23:56

The bitter conflict there has been

going on for more than two years.

0:23:560:24:00

The Yemeni government,

supported by a coalition

0:24:000:24:01

led by Saudi Arabia,

is battling the rebel Houthi

0:24:010:24:06

movement, aided by Iran.

0:24:060:24:10

The Saudis have recently

lifted their blockade of Yemen's

0:24:100:24:12

borders but it is estimated

there are more than 20 million

0:24:120:24:15

people in need of humanitarian help.

0:24:150:24:17

When Theresa May visits

Saudi Arabia for trade talks,

0:24:170:24:19

she is expected to broach

the subject of the growing

0:24:190:24:21

humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

0:24:210:24:24

The SNP raised the matter

at Prime Minister's Questions.

0:24:240:24:27

The UK Government received

£4.6 billion in serving arms

0:24:270:24:30

to Saudi Arabia since the war

in Yemen began.

0:24:300:24:36

A war that has created a devastating

humanitarian crisis.

0:24:360:24:43

Yemen is now on the brink of famine,

and Unicef has said that 150,000

0:24:430:24:47

children will die by the end

of this year.

0:24:470:24:49

Doesn't the first secretary

agree that the best thing

0:24:490:24:51

that the Prime Minister could do

with their meetings today

0:24:510:24:53

is to follow the example

of the Netherlands and suspend

0:24:530:24:56

licences for arms

sales to Saudi Arabia.

0:24:560:25:01

To stop killing children!

0:25:010:25:04

after Conservatives secured

an emergency debate.

0:25:040:25:06

Today we are witnessing an almighty

catastrophe of biblical

0:25:060:25:12

proportions unfolding in Yemen,

in which Britain,

0:25:120:25:13

Madam Deputy Speaker,

is dangerously complicit.

0:25:130:25:18

Britain is respected throughout

the world for bringing hope

0:25:180:25:21

and relief to those caught up

in humanitarian misery

0:25:210:25:23

but today, in Yemen,

which I visited earlier this year,

0:25:230:25:25

we are in danger of

earning a reputation

0:25:250:25:27

for precisely the reverse.

0:25:270:25:31

We will have full coverage

on the debate on the programme

0:25:310:25:34

at the same time tomorrow.

0:25:340:25:37

But for now from me,

Mandy Baker, goodbye.

0:25:370:25:41

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