Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday 28 February, presented by Alicia McCarthy.
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Hello there, and welcome
to Wednesday in Parliament,
where Theresa May makes clear
she will reject EU proposals
on Northern Ireland's border.
And denies a rift in her government.
The Foreign Secretary and I,
are absolutely committed to ensuring
that we deliver on no hard border
Ireland and Ireland.
Jeremy Corbyn said the Prime
Minister is incapable of delivering
a coherent Brexit plan.
When is she going to put
the country's interests
before the outsized egos
of her own Cabinet?
Also on this programme:
The international development
secretary says she is considering
stopping aid to a number
of charities in the wake
of misconduct claims.
And in the Lords, there's a dire
warning about the future of retail.
Retail trading may decline
by 22% in the next year.
And really, it is time
for the Government to move
very urgently indeed.
But first, Theresa May has told MPs
the EU's draft Brexit withdrawal
agreement would threaten
the constitutional integrity
of the United Kingdom.
The European commission
has published a draft
version of the treaty,
based on negotiations
held last year.
On the contentious issue
of the Irish border,
it proposes in effect keeping
Northern Ireland in a customs union.
If solutions cannot be found
for the post Brexit border.
But a prime Ministers questions,
Theresa May said no UK
Prime Minister could ever
agree to it.
The draft, legal text the commission
had published would, if implemented,
undermined the UK Common Market
and threaten constitutional
integrity of the UK by creating
a customs and regulatory
border down the Irish Sea.
And no UK Prime Minister
could ever agree to it.
Jeremy Corbyn turned his attention
to the Cabinet meeting at checkers,
at the end of last week.
Which was organized the thrash out
the Government's Brexit ambitions.
Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister
emerged from her checkers away
day to promise a Brexit
of 'ambitious managed divergence'.
Could she tell the country
what on earth ambitious managed
divergence will mean in practice?
He asks me about the Government's
position on the European Union.
Well, it's very simple.
We want to deliver on the pros
of his people that means
we will bring back control
of our laws, our
borders and our money.
Now, of course, that is in direct
contrast with the Labour Party's
position who want to be in a customs
union and a have free movement
and pay whatever it takes
to pay the EU.
That would mean giving away
control of our laws,
our borders and our money.
And that would be a betrayal
of the British people.
Jeremy Corbyn didn't turn
to the Northern Ireland border,
and a leaked letter
from the Foreign Secretary Boris
Johnson to Theresa May.
In it he said the Government should
focus on preventing the order
from becoming significantly harder.
And that comment came hot
on the heels of a BBC interview,
where he compared the issue
to crossing between London
boroughs and the use
of the congestion charge.
Three months ago, the Foreign
Secretary told the House with regard
to Northern Ireland, and I quote,
"There can be no hard border.
That would be unthinkable."
That's what he said.
Yet, in a leaked letter
to be prime Minister,
he wrote, "Even if a hard
border is reintroduced,
we would expect to see 95%
plus of goods pass."
He's shouting at the moment.
He's obviously mixing up the border
with the Camden-Islington border.
So, Mr Speaker.
Mr Speaker, can the Prime Minister
confirm that she will not renege
on commitments made in phase one
to keep an open border in Ireland?
The foreign secretary
and I are absolutely committed
to ensuring that we deliver on no
hard border between Northern
Ireland and Ireland.
That's the position of the UK
government, it's the position
of the parties in Northern Ireland,
it's the position of the Irish
government and it was what we agreed
in the December agreement
of the joint report.
We are all committed
to ensuring there is...
No hard border between Northern
Ireland and Ireland.
The Government is so divided
the Prime Minister is incapable
of delivering a coherent
and decisive plan for Brexit.
So when is she going to put
the countries' interests
before the outsized egos
of her own Cabinet?
But Theresa May insisted her
government would not only deliver
on Brexit, but on housing,
schools and the environment.
But the SNPs Westminster
leader returned to te
Northern Ireland border issue.
The Foreign Secretary's leaked
letter on the Irish border shows
he cannot get to grips with one
of the most fundamental
issues of Brexit.
The Foreign Secretary
compared to crossing
the Irish border to going
between Camden and Westminster.
Frankly, you cannot
make this stuff up.
This is a UK government that has
prepared to put at jeopardy
the Good Friday Agreement.
That is right.
Does the Prime Minister agree
with a bumbling Foreign Secretary
who is making the United Kingdom
a laughing stock was back this
government is absolutely committed
to the Belfast agreement?
Indeed we made sure
that the commitment was included
in the joint report that we agreed
with the European Union
So, the Belfast agreement stand
and we are committed to the Belfast
agreement and the institutions under
the Belfast agreement.
Returning from a jog
in the snow, Boris Johnson said
what is going on at the moment
is that the issue of
the Northern Irish border,
being used politically
to try to keep the UK
in the dust and union,
effectively the single market.
So they cannot really leave the EU.
But MPs wanted him to explain his
views and what he had said in that
leaked letter to them directly.
So, straight after PMQs, the shadow
Foreign Secretary Emily Thornbury
asked what's known as an urgent
question about Northern Ireland's
border, addressed to Boris Johnson.
But as you might be able to see
on the very left of the picture,
quite a reaction.
the Foreign Secretary stood up
to leave, prompting
quite a reaction.
And when Boris Johnson was gone
and Cabinet Office Minister David
Livingstone stood up to respond
for the Government, there was more
there was more shouting
from the labor side.
Where is he, where is he?
Where is he?
Mr Speaker, I have
been asked to reply.
This government has been
consistent in its commitments
to Northern Ireland
as the United Kingdom
leaves the European Union.
First, we will never accept any
solutions that threaten the economic
or constitutional integrity
of the United Kingdom.
Second, we will not accept a hard
border between Northern Ireland
and Ireland, which would reverse
the considerable progress made
through the political process
over recent decades.
That position has been consistent
from the Prime Minister's
Article 50 letter,
through to our position paper
published last summer.
And the Prime Minister's Florence
speech last autumn.
While I am always pleased to hear
from the Minister of State, I have
to say it is an absolute disgrace...
..And a huge discourtesy to this
House that the Foreign Secretary
is not here himself...
..to answer the questions
of his memo.
Especially, Mr Speaker,
given that we saw him
in London a few hours ago,
jogging in the snow and stopping
to answer questions from the media.
If he can answer their questions,
he really should be
prepared to answer hours.
What is he afraid of?
Perhaps it's this: These
questions go to the very
heart of his credibility
and the credibility of previous
statements that he's
made in this House.
David Livingstone defended the fact
that it was he, not Boris Johnson,
at the despatch box.
Since I both have Cabinet
responsability for constitutional
affairs, including for
the implementation of
the United Kingdom, and since I also
Chair the Cabinet committee
on domestic implementation
of our Brexit arrangement,
it seems to me to be perfectly
reasonable that I should be
responding to her urgent questions.
The leader of the Democratic union
spoke on the central issue.
It is ironic, is it not,
that some of those people
who campaigned hardest
about creating a hard border
between Northern Ireland
and the Irish Republic has today
welcomed proposals from the EU
which would actually create a hard
border between Northern Ireland
and the rest of the United Kingdom?
The fact of the matter
is that there is a border
between North and South.
A currency border, there
are different currencies,
different fiscal regimes,
different tax regimes,
different economic policies.
But it is managed in a way
that is sensible and pragmatic.
The same can be done in relation
to the future relationship.
It has already been spelt out in
the government's paper last August,
to use the Belfast agreement,
or more despicably to use the peace
process as an excuse to either
thwart Brexit or to
shape it in the way
some people want.
It's quite frankly
outrageous and disgraceful.
Let us back the arrangements that
are in place, but let us go
forward in a pragmatic,
sensible way and not create
troubles that are not there.
We've got to wake up now
as a country and realize
we are not going to rip our
nation further apart.
We don't only have to
have a pragmatic approach to Brexit,
but an honest approach to Brexit.
And the only solution to a hard
border is membership
of the customs union,
the single market, Mr Speaker
they will get there in the end.
The Foreign Secretary
did say this morning
after his dog that he was going
to publish the memo.
We don't publish internal
of, "He said it" and "Bring him back
their coastal. Sources told the BBC
that Downing Street had blocked the
release of the full text of the
letter from Boris Johnson. You're
watching Wednesday in Parliament
with me, Alicia McCarthy. Sandwiched
between the rough and tumble of
normal political debate, there was a
few hours of near consensus in the
comments as MPs gave their support
to the complaints and grievances
procedures governing Parliament. A
working group has spent 100 hours
drawing up a new behavioral code
that covers bullying and harassment
against anyone who works in the
Palace of Westminster. The leader of
the Commons explained what would
happen with regard to complaint
In the most serious of
cases, the Commissioner will refer
her findings to the committee on
standards. The committee can
recommend to the House that an
individual is suspended. And the
House will vote on the
recommendation. And it's through
this router that the existing
procedures under the recall of MPs
act of 2015 could be invoked. The
trigger for recall remains the same
as it is now, and there is no plan
for changes to primary legislation.
Several MPs said a change of culture
I hate that culture in
this House. I have never, ever been
fond of that in the House of Commons
will stop some of my friends think
it is a fantastic place to live in
Emre Can into their business. I
always find it a little bit
uncomfortable. Something, maybe the
Scottish Nationalist in me that
perhaps greats just a little bit.
But this House is a peculiar,
historic culture that practically
oozes patriarchy and an abuse of
power. I had a female friend in the
House just a few months ago, was
very conscious of these issues. And
she told me that departures is this
place practically sing to her rescue
because of the way that the images
are all set up and the defining
features of this House are embedded
in this historic patriarchy that we
have in this place.
89% of women MPs
and 58% of men MPs say that sexism
still exists in Parliament. And that
golf is significant. Almost all
women know that there is still those
instances of sexism. But only just
over half of men recognize that's
the case, and that golf is part of
the problem that we have, and it is
part of the complacency that still
The thing that strange isn't
that the behaviors are no longer is
it acceptable, actually they never
were acceptable. The difference is
now people cannot get away with
them, and that is right, and that is
an improvement. And I think what
we're really trying to deliver with
the training and the of culture is
that everybody accepts that not only
are those sorts of behavior is not
acceptable, no one is going to let
them get away with it.
strategy for breakfast. It is about
the culture. It is about the
leadership. You can have as many
reports or processes or training as
people have said as you want. If
that is not followed through, if
that is not lived and breathed by
deeds, not words, I'm afraid we
might as well all give up and go
Some kind of sanctions may have
I am so much more
in favour of our persuasion and
coercion. And in the and, can I just
tell the honourable lady, you can be
dead horse to water but you cannot
make them drink. And you could force
MPs to attend a training session,
but what kind of attitude with a
habit towards the training? If they
were, they did not feel it. They
want to do.
We are more powerful
than more -- most people are much
more frightening, if you get a
direct, I am, that's quite right. I
like to think that I can recognise
that, try to employ it with
appropriateness, but the truth is
that I still worried that there'll
be a power imbalance.
It's only when
processes are in place, and used
will we know they're robust and
command -- commanded support of
those who seek to use them. The
opposition support them own it --
motion as tabled an amended and look
forward to be updated, we thank the
staff are taking on this task, so we
have a truly modern Parliament.
Where everyone knows the boundaries
of acceptable behaviour in a safe
secure workplace. The International
Development Secretary is considering
stopping the UK aid for a number of
charities after they failed to
provide assurances over safeguarding
to her department. It follows the
scandals surrounding sexual
misconduct by eight agency workers.
On the 20th of that -- February I
asked all UK charities receiving UK
aid to give me assurances on
safeguarding and reporting of
historic cases, by Monday last. I
have received 161 responses. My
officials are analysing those with
independent oversight and we have
shared returns with Charity
commission. A number of
organisations unbelievably Mr
Speaker, have not replied. We are
following up, but without
justification they will have lost
our confidence and will consider
whether it was right to continue
their funding. I will share my key
findings trends and themes and in
response to the safeguarding summit
held by and with the Charity
commission on March five and I'll
keep the House informed.
asked about the situation for
civilians trapped in fighting was in
The you estimate this is my
one Syrians are displaced and with
fresh fighting despite the
cease-fire, this number will
continue to rise. What is her
department doing specifically to
support these families especially in
this region and whose that
challenges our increasing?
We had a
huge number of programmes that are
supporting those people in
particular, not just as I said, for
short-term needs, shelter, food and
so forth, but also education and
jobs and livelihoods. But I would
also say that these individuals have
some unique needs, but have not been
addressed I think to date with as
much focus by the international
community and setting up a panel to
actually look at those needs and
what more we can do to help in
similar situations, I think will be
a big step forward. The authorities
in me and Mark, formerly known as
Burma have blocked MPs and for
making a trip to the country. The
chairman of the international
development committee said the move
was direct roulette -- Italian --
retaliation for the report they
publish on the Rohingya crisis. I
get urgent questions, Stephen X but
what happened to.
passports were returned to us
without visas, and clearly the
failure of the Burmese government to
grant these visas, simply prevents
us from doing our job as a
committee, which is to oversee how
oversee development assistance is
spent in countries. I have no doubt,
that a major part of the reason this
has happened, is direct retaliation
for the report that we published
last month on the Rohingya crisis. I
believe there is a direct connection
between our report and these
actions. I understand Mr Speaker,
that it was Aung San Suu Kyi
herself, who brought -- a block to
the approval of the visas.
due to visit both Myanmar and
Bangladesh which is now home to many
He has described what has
been happening to the Rohingya
dictate textbook case of ethnic
cleansing. Is a withholding visas a
textbook case of an authoritarian
regime with something to hide trying
to shield itself from legitimate
international scrutiny? And if Aung
San Suu Kyi is indeed responsible
for that, then it's nothing short of
. I like him are at
disappointed by this, this
displeasure has been communicated to
the Burmese authorities, the
officials have indicated three
reasons for that refusal. First,
there is an extended public holiday
there. Second, the access to Rakhine
state remains restricted for
security reasons, and finally, I
think this was something that was
brought up in the press release
yesterday evening, they were unhappy
that individual members had signed a
letter calling for the senior
general of the Burmese army to be
held accountable for the military
It those atrocities are
being carried out, then it's for all
democracies to make the voices
heard, and on syzygy who's been
championing zinc dust trapping
democracy there, I hope she is
listening to the message today,
because she should also be speaking
The Minister is right, we must
keep supporting and helping the
vulnerable people in Myanmar
particularly Rohingya, but can I
press the issue of accountability
and those responsible for the
military, is it possible for him to
have discussions with others in the
Security Council that a possibility
for a resolution to the criminal
Mark said that the feeling
was any move would be vetoed by
China and Russia. He said the
Government wanted to keep the lines
of communication open with more
moderate elements within the Burmese
military. And was pursuing the use
of targeted sanctions through the
EU. Now there was a dire warning in
the north that trading in Britain
retail sector was -- nearly
declining. It comes after the UK's
biggest toy retailer, Toys "R" Us
went into administration. More than
3000 jobs are now at risk. It's
understood that it made losses in
seven out of the last eight years.
The electrical retailer collapsed as
well which could see two and a half
thousand jobs go. One peered Dom --
blamed on my John dice Giants.
is controlled by Amazon of the UK,
and 57% if you look at the stakes.
Will Her Majesty level the playing
field and look at what other
countries are looking at the terms
of digital taxation or special sales
task -- tax like the USA, or a
higher rate of VAT which is possible
under our legislation. And at the
very least, would they edit the up
now, bearing in mind that 39% of
today's billion Palomar kick, and
our country, set up a monopoly
commission inquiry for if they do
not, that our retail trade as we
know it would disappear.
Business Minister said the
Competition and Markets Authority
have powers to look into such claims
and the Government was acting.
believe that all those
multinationals in that world, ought
to be hang the taxes due, and we
will not settle for anything less
other than that, my lords, my noble
friend should accept that many of
the changes that are happening in
the marketplace are being driven by
what the consumer wants and our job
is to make sure that the marketplace
can adapt to that.
Today, Toys "R"
Us went into administration of
putting back 3000 jobs at risk, map
and has called in the
administrators, there was a crisis
on the high street. Can the Minister
tell us what the Government is doing
to recognise the pressure that the
Digital economy is putting on the
physical shops of our high streets?
Retailers have to pay business
rates, that means they have to start
off at a significant disadvantage.
They'd have to contribute their
producing responsibility levies,
another disadvantage. They have to
pay proper apprenticeship levy,
another disadvantage. We cannot wait
for a general statement, we have to
do this now. The latest proposal,
proposition, is that retail trading
may decline climb at 22% in the next
year. And really, it is time for the
Government to move very urgently
We have made changes in the
autumn budget, we have measures
worth to pointer billion, in terms
of cutting business rates and bring
a degree of fairness to the system,
there are limits to how far one will
go, one has to accept that a lot of
what is happening as a result of
what the consumers want, and this is
obviously up to the retail sector
itself to be able to adapt and
change in the face of changing
consumer and social trends.
Business Minister. Of the Government
has said it will find time to
increase maximum sentence for
causing death by dangerous driving.
Minister said last year they would
act when motorists speeding or on
under drinks, will face a life
sentence. In a short debate and
Westminster, conservative or is the
case of a 74-year-old man killed by
a drunk driver.
defendant had 15 previous
convictions for 34 offences.
Including two previous cases of
dangerous driving. But he was jailed
for just seven years, after
admitting causing death by dangerous
driving, failing to stop at a scene
of an accident, driving when
disqualified, drunk driving, and
having no insurance.
Justice Minister setup action have
to be taken.
These are people whose
recklessness with one and a half
tonnes of metal, this incredibly
dangerous weapon, it's unbelievable.
This is why we as a government have
committed to increasing penalties
for causing death by reckless
driving to a life sentence and why
we are now working to find the time
for that agenda to bring that in,
and this needs to happen.
said, families currently didn't feel
that they got justice. And that's it
from us for now, do join me at the
same time tomorrow, out for another
round up of the day here at
Westminster. But for now, for me,
Alysia McCarthy, goodbye.