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tv   The Week in Parliament  BBC News  April 18, 2021 2:30pm-3:00pm BST

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once the world's largest iceberg, but now its broken apart — satellite images show the "mega—berg" has virtually gone. now, it's time for the week in parliament. hello again, and welcome to the week in parliament, a week that saw the worlds of money and politics collide. dodgy contracts, privileged access, jobs for their mates — this is the return of tory sleaze. the prime minister promises an independent review of lobbying, and acknowledges there's a problem. i, indeed, share the widespread concern about some of the stuff that
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we're reading at the moment, mr speaker. an mp sanctioned by china takes the campaign against human rights abuses to her own government. and it's shameful that the government's compromised, even though it was good that it tackled genocide, excluded the uighur. also in this programme, memories of prince philip and the advice he offered politicians. when it came to the length of a speech, he advised "what the backside cannot endure, the brain cannot absorb". but first, david cameron once predicted lobbying would be the next big scandal. he didn't know then that he'd be at the heart of it. lobbying — the art of trying to change a government's mind — isn't illegal, and the former prime minister insists he's broken no rules in arguing for the interests of a now—failed bank run by lex greensill, previously one of his advisers in downing street. but he has acknowledged that rather than text the chancellor or have a swift drink with the health secretary, he should have gone down more formal routes in putting forward
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greensill capital's case to be part of a covid loans scheme. the company, which was the main lender to liberty steel, has now collapsed, putting thousands ofjobs at risk. it later emerged a senior civil servant had been working both for greensill and the government. ministers saw off labour's attempt to force a parliamentary investigation, but half a dozen inquiries into aspects of the affair are now under way. at prime minister's questions, the labour leader sir keir starmer demanded answers. mr speaker, does the prime minister believe that the current lobbying rules are fit for purpose? i, indeed, share the widespread concern about some of the stuff that we're reading at the moment, mr speaker, and i know that the cabinet secretary shares my concern as well. i do think it is a good idea, in principle, that top civil servants should be able to engage with business and should have
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experience of the private sector. when i look at the accounts i'm reading today, it's not clear that those boundaries were — had been properly understood and i've asked for a proper independent review of the arrangements that we have, to be conducted by nigel boardman, and he will be reporting injune. and if he has any representations he wishes to make on that subject, he should do so to mr boardman. keir starmer. mr speaker, i know the prime minister's launching an inquiry. that inquiry isn't even looking at the lobbying rules. i'm not sure it's looking at very much at all. because every day, there is further evidence of the sleaze that's now at the heart of this conservative government. let's just look — you shake your heads — let's just look at the latest scandal. a wealthy businessman, lex greensill, was hired as a senior adviser to david cameron
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when he was prime minister. we've all seen the business card. after he left office, he — cameron — became a paid lobbyist for lex greensill. next thing we know, cameron arranged access for greensill with cabinet ministers, ministers and senior officials, and he lobbied for taxpayers�* money on behalf of greensill capital. officials were also involved, he said, with one, bill crothers, advising greensill while still a civil servant. does the prime minister accept there's a revolving door — indeed, an open door — between his conservative government and paid lobbyists? mr speaker, this is a government and a party that has been consistently tough on lobbying. and indeed, we introduced legislation saying there should be no taxpayer—funded lobbying. quangos should not be involved in getting involved with lobbying.
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we put in a register for lobbyists. keir starmer said what was needed was a full parliamentary inquiry. the prime minister disagreed. his own proposal is simply to have, yet again, to have politicians marking their own homework. what the country wants — that's all it is, a committee of mps to look at it — it won't do a blind bit of good. that's why we're having a proper independent review. and if he has any representations or allegations to make about what has taken place, he should make them to the eminent lawyer who's been asked to do it. he'll be reporting to us byjune. keir starmer. mr speaker, the prime minister should be voting with us, not blocking a proper inquiry. the greensill scandal is just the tip of the iceberg. dodgy contracts, privileged access, jobs for their mates — this is the return of tory sleaze. mr speaker, it's now so ingrained in this conservative government, we don't need another conservative party appointee
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marking their own homework. mr speaker, we know the prime minister will not act against sleaze, but this house can. so can i urge all members of this house to come together this afternoon to back labour's motion and start to clean up the sleaze and cronyism that's at the heart of this conservative government? prime minister. mr speaker, that's why we're putting in an independent review, that's why we have tougher laws on lobbying. a great shame that labour opposed them. after the leaders�* exchanges, a backbench labour mp tried a direct approach. will the prime minister tell this house when he last spoke to former prime minister david cameron? prime minister. the honest truth, i cannot remember when i last spoke to dave. but if she wants to know whether i've had any contact with him about any of the matters that have been in the press, the answer is no.
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borisjohnson. the northern ireland secretary has acknowledged that the brexit deal with the eu has been a factor in the recent violence, but brandon lewis told mps that the issues behind the riots were "complex and multi—faceted". almost 90 police officers have been injured in disturbances which have involved people as young as 12, have seen youths throwing bricks, fireworks and petrol bombs at lines of police officers and vehicles. brandon lewis condemned those behind the attacks. the violence witnessed last week is totally unacceptable. attacks on police officers are utterly reprehensible. those engaged in this destruction and disorder do not represent the people of northern ireland. the reasons, he said, were complex, but had been fuelled over a lack of prosecutions of those who attended a funeral for a former ira member and tensions over checks on goods entering northern ireland from great britain, agreed as part of that uk—eu brexit deal.
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but the answer to all these issues and any others lie in dialogue, engagement, and the democratic process, not through violence or disorder. it is incumbent on all of us engaged in political discourse to support northern ireland in leaving its divisive past behind and continuing instead to look ahead to all of the opportunities of the future. for labour, the violence was unjustified and unjustifiable. the prime minister made promises to the people of northern ireland that there would be no border with great britain, knowing full well his brexit deal would introduce barriers across the irish sea. he made those promises because he knew economic separation would be unacceptable to the unionist community, and the growing political instability we are seeing has its roots in the loss of trust that this caused. the snp said leadership and honesty were needed to resolve the situation.
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and there has sadly, to date, been a dearth of some of those qualities on show in the way that the protocol has been negotiated and implemented — and the price that's been paid for that now is sadly all too clear. this was a protocol which was entered into freely by the uk government, and it's here to stay. and surely, we can agree that the only route to amending it is through trust and goodwill on all sides. brandon lewis accepted the question of border checks needed to be addressed. that's why we're very clear that whilst we want to ensure that goods that are moving into the eu through the republic of ireland are properly dealt with, goods that are moving from northern ireland to great britain unfettered as they are, and goods moving from great britain and northern ireland can do so freely and flexibly in a pragmatic approach. there was a breach of trust in relation to the northern ireland protocol, and creating barriers to trade between great britain and northern ireland that we were told would not happen and have happened. and they undermined the sense of identity and the place of northern ireland within the united kingdom. what is the secretary
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of state going to do? we took unilateral action just a few weeks ago to ease some of the issues, and issues that would've made matters even more difficult, as i suggested at the time, and i think it's now very clear they were the right actions to take. and i think through that, people can see that we are determined to deal with some of the problems and the issues there in the protocol. brandon lewis. time now for a look at some other westminster news in brief. the government was defeated in the house of lords over plans to restrict prosecutions of serious crimes by british soldiers serving abroad. ministers say the overseas operations bill will protect service personnel and military veterans from what they call "vexatious prosecutions", but peers voted to remove the five—year time limit for prosecutions for torture and war crimes. a former chief of the defence staff warned that the bill could be seen by others as downgrading the seriousness of torture or genocide. one possible consequence of a diminished reputation for an unswerving opposition to torture or genocide could be
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the increased interest of the international criminal court in accusations against uk military personnel — an outcome that i would regard as disastrous. the united kingdom does not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture for any purpose. and we remain committed to maintaining our leading role in the promotion and protection of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. ministers will have to decide whether to try to reverse the defeat when the bill returns to the commons. the supreme court will be the venue for the latest clash between the uk and scottish governments — this time, overa bill on children's rights passed by the scottish parliament. uk ministers say they're concerned the legislation could exceed holyrood's devolved powers. the snp�*s westminster leader sees another motive. apparently, the only basis of the uk government's legal case is that the law constrains westminster powers. so, prime minister, can you do
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everyone a favour by explaining how protecting children's rights in scotland threatens the tory government in london? hear, hear! borisjohnson disagreed, and accused the snp of seeking to stir up division. if they really cared about the rights of the child, mr speaker, they would do much more to improve education in scotland, where they are so lamentably failing, mr speaker. mps sanctioned by china for spreading what it called "lies and disinformation" about the country have stepped up their campaign to highlight human rights abuses against the uighur muslim minority group in xinjiang. one of those sanctioned spoke out against the government's refusal to include in the trade bill a measure to prevent britain trading with countries committing genocide. with many colleagues, i led on the genocide amendment, and it's shameful that the government's compromise — even though it was good that they tackled genocide — excluded the uighur. i don't expect a change in law, but what i do expect the minister
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to say is that the uighur people can now come forward in any process in this place, which is put down to see if genocide taking place. a foreign office minister said it was for the courts to decide whether genocide was being committed. select committees will be able to come up with a report that the government has to consider, and that could very well lead to — depending on the response and the response of the select committees — to a debate on the floor, a meaningful debate on the floor of the house. during the pandemic, we've got used to mps contributing from their constituencies via big screens in the commons chamber, but labour's vicky foxcroft found another way to get her point across. silence. and if the prime minister doesn't understand, imagine how those who rely on british sign language feel at his press briefings. 2.6 million spent on the new pressroom, yet still no interpreter.
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what message does he think this sends to disabled people? the prime minister promised to get back to her as soon as he can. mps and peers were recalled from their easter recess a day early to pay tribute to the duke of edinburgh. the duke, who was 99, was no stranger to westminster, often accompanying the queen at the state opening of parliament. in the commons, the tributes were led by the speaker, sir lindsay hoyle. order, order. i now invite the house to rise and observe a minute's silence in memory of his royal highness prince philip, duke of edinburgh. silence. both the commons and the lords devoted their whole day to the duke. as the tributes got under way, mps recalled his years of public service, his war record, and support for the queen. in the constant love he gave
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to her majesty the queen, as her liege man of life and limb, in the words he spoke at the coronation, he sustained her throughout this extraordinary second elizabethan age, now the longest reign in our history. it is true that he occasionally drove a coach and horses through the finer points of diplomatic protocol. and he coined a new word — dontopedalogy — for the experience of putting your foot in your mouth. and it is also true, mr speaker, that amongst his more parliamentary expressions, he commented adversely on the french concept of breakfast. he told a british student in papua new guinea that he was lucky not to be eaten. and the people of the cayman islands that they were descended from pirates, and that he would like to go to russia except that, as he put it, "the bustards
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murdered half my family." well, mr speaker, the world did not hold it against him. the duke was a funny, engaging, warm and loving man. he loved to paint, his work has been described characteristically as "totally direct", "no hanging about", "strong colours", "vigorous brushstrokes". he was also a great lover of political cartoons, not something the prime minister and i can say that often. although i saw a cartoon this weekend that i think captured this moment of national and personal loss perfectly. it depicted her majesty dressed in black looking back at her shadow and seeing the duke standing there, as ever at her side, attentive, and holding her hand.
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mr speaker, britain will not be the same in his absence. throughout the years, i think it's fair to say. that he wasn't the man for drizzling honey in his words. _ that trait equally applied to the advice he gave - and there was one memorable piece of advice he gave on the length- of speeches, which i dare say some members might even thinks- applies to myself. laughter. when it came to the length of speeches he advised, i "what the backside cannot endure, the brain cannot absorb." - with that timeless piece of advice from the duke of edinburgh, - i shall bring my remarks to a close. a former prime minister recalled her stay at balmoral. my husband and i, as everybody knows, enjoy walking and we were able to do some walks there and prince philip very kindly suggested a particular walk to us. so, we were very grateful for this suggestion and we set off. when we got back to the castle several hours later... laughter. ..we were told that prince philip did indeed enjoy this walk but he normally drove around it
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in a car. as duke of edinburgh, prince philip was until 1999 a member of the house of lords, although, of course, he didn't take part in debates. although he never spoke in this house, he attended countless times alongside her majesty the queen for the state opening of parliament. the images of them walking through the royal gallery and seated on the thrones behind me are some of the most iconic images of our age. a former speaker of the northern ireland assembly recalled the duke's stoicism at a historic moment when he and the queen met sinn fein�*s martin mcguinness, the queen shaking the former ira commander's hand. and the man who was standing beside her majesty, the duke of edinburgh, was a victim because his uncle, who was in truth more of a father figure to him and who helped to bring the two of them together,
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had been murdered by the ira, an ira led by martin mcguinness. he did not shake his hand. he was not effusive. but he was there. and, my lords, to me, there something profoundly significant about the courage of a man and the steadfastness and the leadership of someone who can do that. and the current difficulties in northern ireland featured during tributes at stormont, which was also recalled for the occasion. as the the first minister, the dup�*s arlene foster, praised "a life well lived, to the full". in closing, mr speaker, i say that i do welcome the respectful way in which you and the parties have responded to the passing of his royal highness the duke of edinburgh. i think the unity of spirit has been evident. so let's all harness and channel that spirit moving ahead as the assembly and executive work through the very real and significant challenges that face us.
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significantly, there were also warm words from sinn fein. over the past two decades there have been significant interventions by the british royal family to assist in the building of relationships between britain and ireland. it's appropriate this contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation is rightly recognised. the duke of edinburgh had, of course, a long association with scotland. he was educated at gordonstoun school on the moray murray coast. and at their home at balmoral, the queen has regularly hosted prime ministers and first ministers. i always enjoyed my conversations with the duke of edinburgh on these visits, indeed, on all of the occasions that i met him, and i was struck by how different he was in private to the way he was sometimes characterised in public. he was a thoughtful man, deeply interesting, and fiercely intelligent. he was also a serious bookworm, which i am, too, so talking about the books we were reading was often, for me, a real highlight
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of our conversations. but i think anyone who, in their life, fought in world war ii, set up an organisation to help young people build resilience and change the course of their lives for the better, who helped found the world's largest conservation charity to save endangered species and who gave of his time to help 800 individual charities and was still working well into his 905, deserves to have that life recognised. there were many tributes to the duke of edinburgh awards scheme. when prince philip launched the awards in 1956, he said, "if you can get a young person to succeed in any one activity, j then that feeling of success - will spread over into many others." presiding officer, _ following the difficult year faced by so many young people, i with their lives and learning disrupted by covid, prince philip's words from 65 years ago are just i as relevant today. the scottish greens who, as republicans, had considered boycotting the tributes reflected on a year of loss. the toll has been heaviest
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on those with least. but while there is no great leveller in how we live our lives, we are today reminded that there is no extreme of wealth, privilege or status which can protect us from mortality. i used to wear a badge on my lapel. it was a little blue man. the duke of edinburgh spotted it at a reception. he bounced up, demanding to know what it was. "to show support for the prostate cancer campaign," i said. he looked at me closely. he said, "have you got it or are you against it?" then he bounced off again. on the day he became duke of edinburgh, on his marriage in 1947, prince philip also became earl of merioneth. and, like holyrood, the welsh parliament, the senedd, was recalled for tributes during a virtual sitting. the first minister, labour's mark drakeford, reflected on the changes the duke had seen during his long life. within our own election, 16—
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and i7—year—olds will vote for the first time. when prince philip was born, women in this country had never voted. in the year in which he became 16, stanley baldwin and neville chamberlain were both prime ministers. if it sounds like a lifetime ago, it is because it was. as a man who was always interested, always thoughtful, and ultimately always considered in hisjudgement and what he said and spoke to people as he went round the room in the senedd. welsh translation: in a year l of so much loss, our silence today is a mark of respect and commemoration to the royal family in their grief but it's also a heart—rending symbol of loss, as we grieve with all those who have lost loved ones during this most difficult of years. adam price. back at westminster, mps and peers paid tribute to one of their own.
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shirley williams — lady williams of crosby — died at the age of 90. the prime minister called her a pioneerfor women in politics and government. sir keir starmer said for many years she was labour's loss, but now she was britain's loss. the former labour cabinet minister was one of the founders of the social democratic party — the sdp — and went on to lead the lib dems in the house of lords. she's perhaps best known for her time as education secretary. and in an interview on bbc parliament filmed in 2017, sean curran asked lady williams about her legacy. is that the legacy you're most proud of, do you think, your time as education secretary and your championing of comprehensive education? i'm proud of comprehensive schools, and i'm sure people who watch will agree with this, i get ~~ _ almost all the speeches i make throughout the country are followed by people who went to comprehensive schools and come up to me and say, "i just want to let you know that i am the chair of this business company," or, "i'm one of the people who directed
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the theatre," or whatever it may be. there is a lot of feeling among people who went to comprehensive schools that they got the break they needed. people forget all the time that when we had grammar schools — i'm not saying they weren't good, they were in their way — but they only served about 10% of the population, and the rest were sent to secondary modern schools, where they couldn't even get a sixth form education. luckily, now they're coming through, but if we go back to grammar schools, the schools may be good, but there will be very few of them all. and i think the final point i want to make about education is that you have to educate your population for the world that's coming. the world that's coming is going to be one that will demand high technology understanding, high understanding of a modern country and all the rest of it. and that is why you have to have an education that serves almost all the people, not even the very carefully chosen small minority, which is never going to be enough for a modern country. shirley williams in conversation with sean curran. and the special hour—long interview is now available to watch on the bbc iplayer. that was the week in parliament.
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thank you for watching. until the next time, from me, david cornock, bye for now. good afternoon. a lot of sunshine across the uk this weekend and a fair amount across the uk this weekend and a fairamount of dry across the uk this weekend and a fair amount of dry weather as well. things won't change for most of us as we go through the week ahead either. people are talking a lot about high pressure and dry conditions. beautiful sunshine, the skies across england and wales are wild, quietly looking like this today. in northern ireland and western scotland, there was some rain today. you are likely to see cloud throughout the rest of the
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afternoon but a little bit of rain perhaps to the south of scotland. a lot of dry weather to be had out there still. the problem now will be that the rain that we saw overnight could be the wettest weather that we get through the next ten days or so. it is the start of growing season and it is pretty challenging. the overnight frost will be back again tonight, wide spread across england and wales. also across eastern scotland, when sky is clear. lows of -10 scotland, when sky is clear. lows of —10 minus two degrees. temperatures will hold up at about... here is the area of high pressure across scandinavia are keeping us warm across monday. this renter does need to make its way southwards. mendes is not the date for it. it gets pushed away from scotland throughout the day and rain towards the west. for mainland scotland, more
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sunshine. there will be sunshine to the east of northern ireland and overall, it will be the warmest day of the week. temperatures between 16 and 17 degrees for south england and wales. tuesday is fine across england and wales. here is the front. it is working its way into scotland on tuesday. it gets sweetened by that —— weakened by that high pressure. cold air comes into the north of it and ben that sets the tone as the next area of high pressure for the rest of the week. there won't be much to see as it gets weekend away. there will be a band of cloud. despite being settled with a lots of sunshine, we will see some overnight frosts on thursday and friday with temperatures on 13 or 11; degrees at
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best. so, our warmest day is tomorrow.
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this is bbc news with the latest headlines. a senior conservative mp warns borisjohnson he'll lose the support of so—called �*red wall�* voters in former labour seats unless he resolves the row about lobbying. the two russian men suspected of carrying out the salisbury nerve agent attack three years ago are being sought by police in the czech republic the czechs, for example, in the past, until quite recently, have been reticent about picking a fight with moscow and it is quite interesting how the czechs have pivoted, and they are being very robust in their response. a warning from nhs providers — its chief executive says it will take five years for some hospitals to catch up with the backlog caused by the pandemic. once the world�*s largest iceberg — but now no more — satellite images show the "mega—berg" has virtually gone.


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