Madeleine Moon MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Bridgend

This Week in Parliament 10th - 14th March

This Week in Parliament 10th - 14th March


There were a number of important statements in Parliament this week, including one from the Prime Minister on the European Council meeting over the situation in Ukraine. 

There were also Treasury Questions, the weekly Prime Minister's Questions with the Deputy Prime Minister standing in, and outside of this I was able to ask questions to the Home Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons. 


Home Office Questions

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend, Labour): What assessment has the Home Secretary made of the proportion of reported rapes which resulted in prosecution or conviction in the last two years?

Norman Baker (Minister of State for Crime Prevention): Rape is a devastating and under-reported crime. However, the coalition Government is committed to improving the response to rape at every point in the criminal justice system, which includes improving referrals from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Madeleine Moon (Bridgend, Labour): Whatever the rate of civilian success in prosecuting and investigating rape, it is higher than that in the Ministry of Defence system. Will the Minister agree to work with the MOD to improve joint police investigation and service prosecution of rape in the military justice system?

Norman Baker (Minister of State for Crime Prevention): We are, of course, aware of one particular instance, of which the hon. Lady is doubtless also aware. I know that the Ministry of Defence has apologised to the family concerned for the failures that the coroner identified in that case. I shall be happy to work with my colleagues in the Ministry of Defence to ensure that all the help that we can give them is available.
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European Council Statement

Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition): Let me welcome the summit measures that were agreed. Those include the unity of the EU in condemning Russia’s actions and the decision to provide support and encouragement to the Ukrainian Government, including €11 billion of aid. The Prime Minister referred to the suspension of visa talks and a new agreement on EU-Russia relations. Those measures are welcome, although they had been announced on 3 March before the developments that I referred to at the start. Does he accept that the evidence from recent days suggests that those measures alone will be insufficient to get Russia to change course, and that further action will be required?

Turning to what more needs to be done, I welcome the European Council’s decision to look at further measures, although the agreed language is weaker than we would have wished. I welcome what the Prime Minister said about asset freezes and travel bans. Will he confirm that the time frame for their implementation will be days and not weeks, particularly given that the United States is committed to such action? On the EU-Russia summit, which is referred to in the Council conclusions, surely it makes sense at the very least, unless there is an immediate change of course by the Russian Government, to suspend preparations for it, as has been done for the G8 summit in Sochi. Beyond that, I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement that we need to look actively at other measures. I urge him in the days ahead to build support for further measures among our European and other allies to prepare for the eventuality that they will be required.

David Cameron (Prime Minister): I thank the right honourable Gentleman for what he has said. He has welcomed our approach, which is a combination of pressure and dialogue. That is absolutely right: we should be trying to de-escalate the crisis, but an element of deterrence is required to discourage further aggressive steps from Russia.

Let me try to answer each of the right honourable Gentleman’s questions. He is right that this is a test of European resolve. It is clearly difficult, as he says, to get agreement among 28 countries. There are countries in the European Union that have a heavy dependence on Russian energy, for instance, so we have to try to bring everyone along in the argument. That is what happened at the European Council. A lot of people were expecting a strong US response and an EU response that was well behind it. That did not happen. Given everything, the EU response was a relatively good one.

The right honourable Gentleman asked whether further measures will be needed. That will obviously depend on the Russian response. We are trying to be clear, predictable and consistent in setting out what has been done, what will need to be done if the talks do not get going, and what further steps would be taken if Russia took further aggressive steps, for instance in eastern Ukraine. Setting that out in advance helps people to understand the depth of concern in the EU and the preparedness for action.

The right honourable Gentleman asked whether asset freezes would be put in place in days rather than weeks. Obviously, that depends on whether the Russians set up the contact group and start the dialogue with the Ukrainian Government. If they do not, asset freezes and travel bans will follow, and yes, that should follow in a matter of days not weeks, because the setting up of the contact group and the starting of talks is not a particularly difficult step for the Russians to take if they genuinely want to see this ended through a process of dialogue, rather than continuing with this conflict.

The right honourable Gentleman’s comment about linking the EU-Russia summit with the G8 is absolutely right. It would be unthinkable for a G8 not to go ahead while an EU-Russia summit did go ahead; these things have to be considered in tandem. He also asked whether it would be right to resuscitate the G7, rather than going ahead with the G8. If we do not make progress on a contact group and if Russia takes further steps, clearly one of the measures that we could bring forward relatively quickly would be to take a different approach by going back to a G7, rather than holding a G8, but let us hope that that is not necessary.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle, Conservative): Why is it acceptable for the Scottish nationalists to be granted a referendum in Scotland on constitutional arrangements dating back to 1707, but unacceptable for Russian nationalists in the Crimea to have a referendum about constitutional arrangements that date back only to 1954? Does my right honourable Friend agree that, if the Crimean referendum could be postponed until such time as international observers could be put in place to ensure that the referendum was genuine, that would be by far the most sensible solution to the problem?

David Cameron (Prime Minister:) To answer the Father of the House directly, the difference between the Scottish referendum and the one in Crimea is that the Scottish referendum is legal. It was discussed and debated in this House and in the Scottish Parliament, and we went a long way to put in place arrangements that I have described as not only decisive and fair but legal. The difference between those arrangements and the Crimean referendum is that the Crimean referendum is illegitimate and illegal under the Ukrainian constitution. That is not to say that the people of Ukraine or of Crimea cannot, over time, find a way of expressing their own preferences. That is what we have done in Scotland, and of course they can do it there too, but the way in which this referendum has come about is clearly illegitimate and illegal; that is the difference.

Jack Straw (Blackburn, Labour): Against the background of thugs in Crimea blocking the admission of OSCE monitors into Crimea, what does the Prime Minister think of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s claim last week that one of the ways of resolving the matter peacefully is by using the OSCE?

David Cameron (Prime Minister): The right honourable Gentleman, who served as Foreign Secretary, speaks with great knowledge. The fact is that a number of things our Russian interlocutors have said have turned out simply not to be true. We have to be very clear in challenging them on that. Of course Russia has an interest in having a strong and positive relationship with Ukraine, which we understand and welcome, but in these circumstances some of the things that have been said about what is happening on the ground, the consequences that would follow certain actions, and indeed the point he has just made, show that they have not been entirely straightforward with us.

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Treasury Questions

Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow, Labour): What steps has he taken to reduce the cost of living for people on low incomes?

Sajid Javid (Financial Secretary to the Treasury): The Government are protecting the incomes of low-income households by freezing fuel duty and council tax and taking 2.7 million people out of tax by freezing the personal allowance. The best way to raise living standards is to stick to the Government’s long-term economic plan, which delivers for all. Britain is back on the path of prosperity: the economy is growing, the deficit is falling and jobs are being created.

Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow, Labour): Now that’s nonsense. How on earth can this Government—the lot of them—justify this, let alone lie straight in bed at night, when they have given the top 1% richest people in this country a £100,000 pay rise and at the same time they are impoverishing the real workers of the country—the postmen, the nurses, the teachers—by making them up to £2,000 a year worse off?

Sajid Javid (Financial Secretary to the Treasury): The hon. Gentleman should put an end to the petty party politics and focus on the facts. He talks about the richest 1%, but the richest 1% are paying almost 30% of total income tax, which is the highest share ever. The richest 5% are paying almost 50% of total income tax. The only way this country will recover from Labour’s great recession is if we stick to our long-term economic plan, which is delivering for all.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth, Conservative): Is not creating more jobs the best way to help the lowest paid? Of the 200 businesses I have polled in my constituency, 83% say that they are optimistic about the future and want to expand to create more jobs. Would not the best way to help them be to lower their taxation so that they can create those job opportunities?

Sajid Javid (Financial Secretary to the Treasury): Of course my hon. Friend is right; the best way for anyone to raise their living standards is through having an economy that creates more paid employment. That is why we should welcome the fact that more than 1.3 million jobs have been added to our economy over the past four years.

Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West, Labour): The Minister is not having the best of days today, and I wonder whether I could help him by inviting him and the Chancellor to come to Coventry, where I could introduce him to many families in my constituency who are on very low wages and, despite both parents working, finding it very hard to make ends meet. Is he aware that the singular achievement of this Government, and this Treasury, has been to create a new social class—namely, the working poor?

Sajid Javid (Financial Secretary to the Treasury): The hon. Gentleman talks about people not having the best of days, but he should reflect on the policies of the Government he supported and on how many lives were destroyed by the great recession, which was the deepest in 100 years. The best way to raise living standards is to stick to our long-term economic plan. If we abandoned it, many more people would suffer.

Ian Swales (Redcar, Liberal Democrat): A good way to help those on low incomes is to take less money from them in tax. Next month, the Liberal Democrat manifesto target of a £10,000 income tax threshold will be achieved. Will the Minister help the low paid further by increasing that threshold to £10,500?

Sajid Javid (Financial Secretary to the Treasury): This Government are proud that we have been able to cut taxes for the lowest paid in society. In fact, people working full time on the national minimum wage will have seen their income tax bill more than halved because of this Government, and I welcome my hon. Friend’s support for that policy.

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North, Labour): Now we know that the Minister thinks there are no women in Britain good enough to be on the Monetary Policy Committee, let me ask him another question. The Chancellor’s Budgets and spending reviews have hit women, particularly those on low incomes, a staggering four times harder than they have hit men. Millions are struggling with the cost of living crisis, and people are on average £26 a week worse off since 2010, so why are the Chancellor’s top-rate tax cut and marriage tax break giving 80% of the benefit to men? Just take a look at the Government Benches. Are this Government completely out of touch with the women in this country?

Sajid Javid (Financial Secretary to the Treasury): Because of this Government’s economic plan to deal with the record budget deficit that the previous Government left behind, more women are employed in our economy than at any other time in history, and 1.4 million women have been taken out of income tax altogether because of our personal income tax allowance increases.
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Prime Minister's Questions

Harriet Harman (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): At the last general election, the Deputy Prime Minister said that local people should have more control over their health services. Will he explain to the House and the public why last night he voted against that?

Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister): Actually, we voted for measures that will ensure that there is local consultation. I am intrigued by the right honourable and learned Lady’s line of inquiry given the Labour party’s record on the NHS. We do not need to go any further than what is happening in Wales, where the NHS has not met its target since 2009. It was the Labour party in government that entered into a succession of sweetheart deals, with the covert privatisation of large parts of our NHS. I really do not think that, after the Francis report and all the other revelations of what happened in the NHS under Labour, it has much to stand on.

Harriet Harman (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): The right honourable Gentleman is even prepared to justify what he voted on last night. The truth is that the Health Secretary broke the law that gave local people a say, so decided to change the law. The Lib Dems could have stepped in and stopped it, but oh no, here is what they did instead. First, they said that they were against the change, then they put down an amendment, then they sold out to the Tories—and the Tories got their way again. Is there any logic to how the Lib Dems vote other than self-interest?

Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister): This from a party that spent £250 million on sweetheart deals for the private sector, which led to operations and procedures that did not help a single patient; a party that now rants and rails against competition in the NHS, but actually introduced it; a party that suffers from collective amnesia about the terrible suffering of the patients in Mid Staffordshire and other parts of the NHS mismanaged by it.

Harriet Harman (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Hospitals are under threat and they want a say. People will remember what the Deputy Prime Minister has said in the House today.

At their spring conference last week, Lib Dem Ministers were falling over themselves to denounce Government policies, and even their own departmental colleagues, describing them variously as “unfair”, “absurd” and “hated”, yet they keep supporting them. Take the bedroom tax. The right honourable Gentleman’s own party president says that the bedroom tax is wrong, unnecessary and causing misery, but they voted for it. Now they say they want to abolish it. Are they for the bedroom tax or against it? Which is it?

Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister): There are 1.7 million people on the housing waiting lists in our country and there are 1.5 million spare bedrooms. That is a problem that we inherited, like so many problems, from the Labour Party. We are trying to sort out the mess that it created. If it is incapable of taking any responsibility or expressing any apology for the mess that it has created, why should we take any of the right hon. and learned Lady’s questions seriously at all?

Harriet Harman (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): The Liberal Democrats are for the bedroom tax—only Labour will scrap it. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury said that cutting the top rate of tax would be “cloud cuckoo land”. If the Lib Dems were against this tax cut, why did they vote for it?
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Business Questions

Angela Eagle (Shadow Leader of the House of Commons): Reports this week have suggested that the House might prorogue at least a week earlier than the recess date the Leader of the House has announced, because there is so little business in the Commons. Will he confirm whether that is the case? If so, why will he not give us some more Opposition days so that we can set out our alternative to this clapped-out, zombie Government?

Last year, Eurosceptic rebels on the Tory Back Benches tried to amend their own Queen’s Speech in order to deliver a referendum on EU membership. In a panic, the Prime Minister was forced into setting an arbitrary date for an in/out referendum, proving that he is desperately trying to manage his own party rather than acting in the national interest. While the Prime Minister is banging on about Europe, Opposition Members are clear that our national interest is best served by remaining in Europe, focusing on tackling the cost of living crisis and providing an in/out referendum should there be a further transfer of powers. Is the Leader of the House expecting his Eurosceptic rebels to attempt to amend the Queen’s Speech again, and if so, what else will the panicking Prime Minister be forced to concede to buy them off this time?

On Saturday, the Deputy Prime Minister told his spring conference, without any sense of irony, that “consistency matters in politics”, so how are the Liberal Democrats doing? On Tuesday, the right hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow) failed to move a new clause in his name in relation to the hospital closure clause in the Care Bill, despite claiming to have led the opposition to it. Despite all the Lib Dem handwringing in public, when it came to it, not one Liberal Democrat voted to remove the draconian ministerial powers from the Bill. At the Lib Dem spring conference last weekend, the hon. Member for Bristol West (Stephen Williams) said that the new homes bonus was “incoherent”, “unfair” and “absurd”. Who would have thought that he is actually a Minister in the Department responsible for it? The Liberal Democrat Party President, the honourable Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale, has called the bedroom tax “wrong and unnecessary”, although the Deputy Prime Minister reaffirmed his strong support for it in the House yesterday. It is clear that what we get with the Liberal Democrats is the rhetoric of Arthur Scargill and the voting record of Mrs Thatcher. It is no wonder they were beaten into fifth place in a by-election last week by the Bus Pass Elvis Party. Come the general election next year, we will all just be waiting for the Liberal Democrats to leave the building.

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to the Shadow Leader of the House for her response. On the date of Prorogation, she is getting a bit confused. We have published the calendar, including the recess dates, which are not changing—Prorogation is not a recess; it is Prorogation—and as she knows, the date of Prorogation is subject to the progress of business.

We are using less time than we expected for two reasons. First, the House of Lords is not insisting on its amendments, but accepting the amendments that are made in this House. As far as the Government are concerned, that is a good thing, because we are securing agreement on Government legislation and consuming less time in ping-pong than would otherwise be the case.

The other reason, which the Shadow Leader of the House ought to acknowledge but does not, is that there is a zombie Opposition. Yesterday, the Intellectual Property Bill came forward on Report and Third Reading, and not one Labour Back Bencher spoke. The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which is a major piece of legislation, had its Second Reading a fortnight or so ago. Three Labour Back Benchers spoke all day, one of whom was a Labour Whip, hoisted rapidly on to the Back Benches in order to say something.
We have a zombie Opposition who do not have anything they want to say.


Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend, Labour): The Keogh Review looked at operations and other procedures that revise or change the appearance, colour, texture, structure or position of bodily features. May we have a debate on why the review makes no mention of the damage, disfigurement and permanent scarring that can result from tattooing and piercing, an area in which there is very little regulation of those without the skills and ability to carry out those procedures?

Mr Lansley: I confess that I have not had an opportunity to look through Bruce Keogh’s review in detail, although I was probably responsible for initiating it. I will look at it, and I will check with the Department of Health as to its position on this and ask it to respond directly to the honourable Lady.


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