Madeleine Moon MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Bridgend

This Week in Parliament 20th - 24th January

This Week in Parliament 20th - 24th January


20th - 24th January

This week Parliament saw more debate on the rapidly evolving situation in Syria and whether the UK should do more to help the desperate situation. There was also an important statement on the restructuring of the Armed Forces, a debate on changes made by the House of Lords to the controversial Lobbying Bill, the usual Prime Minister’s Questions clash and a debate on the release of papers relating to the “Shrewsbury 24”.   


Urgent Question on Syria

Monday saw an urgent statement by the Government regarding Syrian refugees, where I and many other MPs from all parties took the opportunity to call on the Government to do more.

Mark Harper (Minister for Immigration): More than half the Syrian population of 9.3 million is in need of humanitarian assistance, and 2.3 million people have been displaced from Syria to neighbouring countries. This is a crisis of international proportions and needs a commensurate response from the international community. The Government are proud to be playing their part in that response, and share the view of the UN Secretary-General that the priorities must be to “assist the Syrian parties in ending the violence and achieving a comprehensive agreement for a political settlement”, and ending the suffering of the Syrian people.

No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead, but we are determined to strive for a peaceful settlement through the Geneva II process, which starts later this week and is working towards the establishment of a transitional governing body for Syria. The Government continue to believe that the best way to address the suffering of the Syrian people should be to provide humanitarian assistance to displaced people, in partnership with neighbouring countries and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Before last week, the Government had provided £500 million for the Syrian relief effort, of which more than £480 million had been allocated to partners in Syria and the region.

That has helped more than 1 million people. Almost 320,000 people are being provided with food assistance each month in Syria and neighbouring countries, and more than 244,000 people in Syria have been offered medical help. The Government continually press for better access and protection for humanitarian convoys inside Syria so that aid can get to the millions in need inside the country. That represents the UK’s largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis. We are leading the way in helping the Syrians suffering from the humanitarian crisis as the second largest donor, behind the US, helping refugees, and through consideration of Syrian asylum claims under our normal rules. In the year to last September, we had already recognised more than 1,100 Syrian nationals as refugees.

Yvette Cooper (Shadow Home Secretary): I am sorry the Home Secretary has not come to the House for this question. When the House opposed military intervention in Syria, both sides were adamant that we had an even greater moral obligation to provide humanitarian support in that dreadful conflict. The position is now desperate. Two million refugees have fled their country, more than half of whom are children.

Most of the support is rightly being provided in the region, particularly by Syria’s neighbours. Britain has led the way, through Government aid and the generosity of the British people, in providing outside help, but we have also been asked by the UN to join its programme for the most vulnerable refugees. I spoke to the UN this morning. The programme is for those whom the UN believes will find it hardest to survive in the camps in the region, such as abandoned children who have no other protection or support; torture victims, who may be suffering immense physical and mental distress; those who need urgent medical help; mothers of young children who have lost their husbands and relatives and are vulnerable; and those who have been abused in the camps. They are not asylum seekers. They cannot travel here or elsewhere to apply for asylum. They are already UN-certified refugees.

Other countries—France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Norway, Sweden Finland, even Luxemburg and Moldova, and Australia, Canada and the USA—have agreed to help. Those countries have offered places, taking the UN well on its way towards its target. Britain is being asked to provide only limited help as part of the wider programme, but the Government have refused. The Minister described such help as “token”, but it is not token for a child who is given a home. He dismissed the UN programme in favour of regional support, but it is not an either/or question. As every other major western country understands, some vulnerable refugees need a different kind of help. This is not about border control or immigration policy, but about our long tradition of sanctuary. How can we ask Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon to keep their borders open or to keep helping millions of people if Britain will not do its bit for a few hundred of the most vulnerable, or if we will not even take in those with British relatives who are desperate to help? Charities like Oxfam and Save the Children are urging us to join this programme. It would be shameful for Britain to refuse.


Madeleine Moon (Bridgend, Labour): We know that al-Qaeda and the Syrian Government have been targeting medical personnel, including British medical personnel who have gone to provide assistance. Given that there are problems with accessing medical aid in Syria and in the neighbouring countries that are providing asylum to refugees, is it not right that the UK offers humanitarian admission—not refugee status—to this country for those needing medical aid, including children, disabled children and those who have been tortured? Is it not our moral responsibility to act in that way?

Mark Harper (Minister for Immigration): What the honourable Lady says about medical support for people who require it—critically injured or sick people—is very important, which is why the work we are doing with the World Health Organisation has supported, across Syria and in neighbouring countries, nearly a quarter of a million people. That is a significant number, and it is far more than anyone is talking about providing for in the United Kingdom.


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Foreign and Commonwealth Office Questions 

On Tuesday there were questions to the Foreign Secretary and his ministerial team.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth, Conservative): What recent discussions has he had with his EU counterparts on reforming the principle of free movement within the EU?

William Hague (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs): I discussed free movement with my Hungarian and Bulgarian counterparts last week. My right honourable Friend the Minister for Europe raised free movement at the December General Affairs Council and the Prime Minister was clear at the December European Council that free movement cannot remain completely unqualified.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth, Conservative): When my right hon. Friend discusses these issues with his counterparts in Europe, will he remind them that because British immigration was previously out of control, if there is to be confidence here in the single market, and if we are to welcome talented and skilled migrants to work in our country, a broken system that allows mass population movements from the south to the north of Europe—because migrants think that if they cannot get jobs, they can certainly get generous benefits—must be fixed?

William Hague (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs): Certainly I make the point to colleagues across the European Union that the long-term sustainability of the free movement of workers requires the sort of reforms that my colleagues in the Government have announced in recent weeks, particularly on rules that govern our social welfare system. Other member states share our concerns on abuse of free movement, particularly Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, so we will continue to make these points.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour): Following the Prime Minister’s statement after the European Council meeting, there was a suggestion that there should be a cap. Does the Foreign Secretary have a figure as to what that cap should be?

William Hague (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs): No, we have not set out a particular figure, because that is for discussion with member states in the future. There needs to be a discussion about how we handle these things. In the long-term future, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, across the House we are strongly in favour of the enlargement of the European Union, but the next member state to join the EU is quite some years away in all probability. These are things that need to be discussed in the context of the whole future of the EU.

Phillip Lee (Bracknell, Conservative): What recent progress has been made on securing a comprehensive agreement with Iran on its nuclear programme?

William Hague (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs): I welcome the entry into force yesterday of the Geneva joint plan of action. This agreement halts progress in Iran’s nuclear programme in return for proportionate sanctions relief, and will be implemented in parallel with the negotiations on a comprehensive agreement.

Phillip Lee (Bracknell, Conservative): There has been an encouraging start to these negotiations, so will the Foreign Secretary give his assessment of the wider possible implications of success for other challenges in the region, including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, and for the prospect of a normalisation of diplomatic relations between the UK and Iran?

William Hague (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs): Some encouragement should be taken, as my hon. Friend says, from the start of the negotiations and from yesterday’s agreement to begin implementing the interim deal. I must stress that a huge amount of work remains to be done to arrive at a comprehensive settlement of the nuclear issue. It will be formidably difficult to do so, but it must remain the main priority. It is too early to say whether that will be accompanied by wider changes in the foreign policy of Iran. In the meantime, we are working, step by step, on building up our bilateral relations, including two visits in recent weeks by our new chargé d’affaires.

Jack Straw (Blackburn, Labour): May I draw it to the House’s attention that I am co-chairman of the all-party group on Iran and was recently a guest of the Iranian Parliament on a parliamentary delegation?

I commend the work of the Foreign Secretary and welcome the progress that has been made, but will he take account of the fact that many of those in the current Administration in Iran felt, I think quite rightly, badly burned by their experiences of acting in good faith 10 years ago and finding that their best efforts were thwarted, in this case, by forces inside the United States. We must ensure that that does not happen again.

William Hague (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs): Absolutely, we must take account of events 10 or 11 years ago and make sure that we give encouragement to those in Iran who are in favour of better relations with the west and with the region. That has been one of the arguments for proceeding quickly with an agreement on an interim deal. Indeed that was one of the reasons for urgency, apart from the advances of the Iranian nuclear programme, in coming to that deal, so I hope that we can now build on that, and we will make every effort to do so.


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There was the regular session of Prime Minister’s Questions, followed by the House of Commons considering amendments that had been made by the House of Lords to the Government’s controversial “Lobbying Bill”.

Prime Minister's Questions

Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition): I want to start by paying tribute to the two British nationals, Simon Chase and Del Singh, who were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan. Simon Chase had served Britain in the Army, and my condolences go to all his family and friends. Del Singh was one of Labour’s European candidates, and one of the most decent people one could ever hope to meet. He was an international development worker who dedicated his life to helping people across the world, and we all grieve with his family.

Recent reports of the murder of thousands of innocent civilians by the regime in Syria are a reminder of the horror unfolding there. We all hope for significant progress from today’s talks. Last month the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and I made a joint statement about the plight of Syrian refugees, which welcomed the Government’s leadership in the aid programme. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has also called on Britain to be part of a programme to help resettle a small number of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees. Eighteen countries are part of that programme, but so far Britain is not among them. Does the Prime Minister not agree that we should be?

David Cameron (Prime Minister): First, I completely agree with the right hon. Gentleman on just how dreadful the news is that has come out of Syria in recent days, with allegations of torture and worse. I think that we are fulfilling our moral obligations to the people of Syria. We are the second largest bilateral aid donor. The money that British taxpayers are providing is providing food, shelter, water and medicine for literally hundreds of thousands of people.

We are also fulfilling all our obligations in terms of asylum seekers. We have taken over 1,000 asylum seekers from Syria in recent months. We are also making sure that when we can help very vulnerable children who are ill, including a child who is in a British hospital today, we take action as well. I do not believe that we can solve a refugee crisis of this scale, with almost half of Syria’s population of 9 million either displaced or at risk of displacement, with a quota system by which countries are taking a few hundred refugees. But I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that if there are very difficult cases of people who do not belong in refugee camps who either have been disabled by the dreadful attacks or are in very difficult circumstances, I am happy for us to look at that argument. Britain always plays the right role in these desperate humanitarian crises.

Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition): I thank the Prime Minister for that answer. Let me make just a few points in reply, because this is an important issue. First, we all agree on the leadership that this Government have shown in relation to Syrian aid, and I pay tribute to him, the International Development Secretary and others. On the point about asylum seekers, they are of course the people who have been able to get here, but we are talking about the people who are in the refugee camps at the moment. On his point about whether this can solve the problem, of course it cannot, but the UN is talking about a small number of the most vulnerable people, including children who have lost their parents and victims of torture. I was somewhat encouraged by the end of the Prime Minister’s answer. We are all proud of Britain’s tradition of taking refugees. Why does he not look at it again, say that Britain will participate in the programme, take just a few hundred refugees and, indeed, set an example?

David Cameron (Prime Minister): I do not think that there is a disagreement between us. The problem I see is that some countries are using the quota system as a way of saying, “Therefore, I have fulfilled my obligations.” When almost half of the population of 9 million is at risk of displacement, the fact that the Finns, the French or the Swedes will take a few hundred people is not fulfilling their obligations, whereas the massive amount of aid that Britain is putting forward—the second largest in the world—is playing the most important role. As I have said to the right hon. Gentleman, I think that there are individual cases that we should be looking at, and I am happy to look at those arguments and issues, but let us not pretend that a small quota system can solve the problem of Syrian refugees.

Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition): I do feel we are gradually inching forward on this issue. Let me be clear about this. It must not be an excuse for failing to provide aid—of course it must not—but we are not talking about either providing aid or taking vulnerable refugees; we are talking about doing both. Given the Prime Minister’s reasonable tone, will he now open discussions with the United Nations about Britain making its contribution to this programme? I think colleagues in all parts of the House want this to happen; will he now say he will do so?

David Cameron (Prime Minister): I have made this very clear. We are prepared to listen to the arguments about how we can help the most vulnerable people in those refugee camps. Just to correct the right hon. Gentleman, some of the countries that are participating include in their quotas both asylum numbers and refugee numbers, which is not the argument we should be making. Let me be absolutely clear: Britain is leading the world in terms of humanitarian aid in Syria; we should be proud of that. We are fulfilling our obligations on asylum claims, and we should be proud that we give a home to those who flee torture and persecution. Where there are extreme hardship cases, we should look at those again. That is the approach that we should take. I think there should be all-party support for it, and I think Britain can be proud of the role that we are playing.
Lobbying Bill

Graham Allen (Nottingham North, Labour): I am delighted to initiate the debate. The Bill has a chequered history as regards Parliament’s involvement in it so far, which, I am sorry to say, has demonstrated in spades the contempt that the Executive have for the legislature. I would like to expand on that just a little before I get into the detail of the amendments.

The contempt started when this Bill first came to the House, and is continuing to the very end of the process without relenting. We started this Bill having had some pre-legislative scrutiny of what we all called the lobbying Bill, only to find that one day before the summer recess a mega-Bill was presented, two thirds of which had not even seen the light of day in public let alone been discussed, analysed or subjected to pre-legislative scrutiny by this House. That is our job, but we were prevented from doing our job because this Bill was presented far too late in the day, one day before a summer recess. Just to add insult to injury, it was then stuffed into the parliamentary sausage machine one week after we returned from the summer break.

That story has been repeated throughout the passage of the Bill. One might have thought that, even if only for the sake of window-dressing, there would be the odd pause, the odd break, the odd extension, or a gap between consideration by their Lordships and this House, but not a bit of it. That demonstrates the way the Government treat this House, particularly when they have an embarrassment like this Bill in front of them.


Tom Brake (Deputy Leader of the House of Commons): I ask colleagues to disagree with Lords amendment 1, and to support amendments (b) and (c) in lieu. I hope the House will also be persuaded to disagree with amendment (a), which was tabled by the Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, the honourable Member for Nottingham North. I wish to say at the outset that I cannot agree with his comments about the lack of consultation. If he looks at what has happened since this Bill got under way and, for example, at the ministerial quarterly reports, he will see the extent of consultation that has taken place on the Bill. The fact that many of today’s amendments have been the subject of consultation in this place and in the House of Lords, and have reflected to a great extent the concerns expressed by a range of organisations, underlines the fact that substantial consultation has taken place on this subject. Indeed, many of those changes are inspired by his Committee.

I must also say that repeatedly stating that charities will not be able to campaign on policy matters, as we have heard Opposition Members do, does not make it true. Simply repeating it again and again does not make it true. The changes we have made to the registration thresholds indicate our willingness to move on this subject.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion, Green): On the process by which we are having to deal with this Bill, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that Parliament is being made a laughing stock by the fact that we are trying to concertina such a complex issue into such a short time? Does that not undermine any credibility this Government had? They are supposed to be championing the big society, but they are trying to muzzle it, both in the Bill and in the process they are setting out here today.

Tom Brake (Deputy Leader of the House of Commons): First, it is not unusual for things to proceed at this pace. I should also point out that what we are supposed to be focusing on in this debate is a limited number of amendments that have come from the Lords and some amendments in lieu that the Government are proposing—that is today’s subject. I do not want to make too long a speech, because I can see from the requests for interventions that a lot of honourable Members want to speak on this group.

Amendment 1 was moved on Report in the House of Lords by Lord Tyler and was agreed to by a majority of 18 votes. The amendment would extend the scope of the register to those who lobby special advisers, in addition to those who lobby Ministers and permanent secretaries. We debated this issue ourselves when discussing the amendments tabled in Committee by the Opposition, the Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee and other Members. During that debate, the Government made it clear that the register was designed to complement the existing government transparency regime and to address a specific problem.

It may help if I first remind the House of the context for the part 1 provisions—the unique open government context in which they have been developed. Transparency is at the heart of this Government’s agenda. We are opening up government and the public sector, and by doing so we are enhancing transparency, participation and accountability. 

The noises from Opposition Members need to be quiescent for just a couple of seconds because I want to outline the things the Government have done since 2010 to open up transparency. We have published unprecedented amounts of information about decision makers and decision making. Since 2010, we have proactively and regularly published the following details: Ministers’ private interests; Ministers and permanent secretaries’ meetings with external organisations or individuals; Ministers and special advisers’ meetings with media proprietors, editors, and senior executives; all gifts of hospitality received by Ministers, permanent secretaries and special advisers; ministerial overseas travel; all official and charity receptions held at No. 10; and those who have received hospitality at Chequers and Chevening.

Paul Flynn (Newport West, Labour): Will the Minister explain when the Government will release the vital information on exchanges between President Bush and the then Prime Minister of this country as it is delaying the Chilcot inquiry and has delayed it for the past three years?

Tom Brake (Deputy Leader of the House of Commons): The honourable Gentleman must be familiar with the Chilcot inquiry website, so he can access that. I am sure that Mr Speaker will not allow me to take this debate on to the subject of Chilcot when it is very much a focused debate on the amendments under consideration.

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Business Questions took place as usual, where I was able to ask for an urgent debate on Capita, followed a debate on the Shrewsbury 24 case.

Business Questions

Angela Eagle (Shadow Leader of the House of Commons): I thank the Leader of the House for announcing yet another agenda that is jam-packed with thrilling Government business. I wonder what on earth he will do with all the endless spare time when the Backbench Business Committee has used up its allocation of 35 days.

I note that the elusive Immigration Bill has made a sudden and dramatic reappearance this morning. After nine weeks of radio silence, we now have an eleventh-hour change to Government business, which The Spectator seems to have managed to find out about before anyone else. I know the Leader of the House is an expert at pausing and rewriting Bills, so the House could be forgiven for thinking the Immigration Bill will look very different when it finally reappears in the Chamber next week. I hear that rebel amendments are already being tabled, and the Government’s highly unusual decision to table the Bill on a Thursday means a maximum of only four and a half hours will be available for that crucial debate. Will the Leader of the House confirm that that is the case, and tell us whether the amendments mean that they have done a behind-the-scenes deal with their rebels? Will he also guarantee that Labour’s important amendments and new clauses on private landlords, on the minimum wage and on abolition of appeals tribunals will have time to be heard in that shortened debate?

Last week the Leader of the House refused to rule out scheduling the Queen’s Speech during pre-election purdah, giving the impression that the Government are still considering ignoring conventions and politicising the Queen’s Speech. Is the Leader of the House finally willing to rule that out, or is there another reason for him being so coy? Some reports have suggested the state opening might be delayed until well into June because the coalition parties have no idea what their legislative programme will be for the final year of this Parliament. Could the Leader of the House tell us what is actually going on? Does he now regret the Government’s rush to legislate for a five-year Parliament, and why did the Government settle on five years as the appropriate length for a fixed term given that it is obvious that they have nothing to do in the final year but fight and fall out?

This feels increasingly like a zombie Government marking time to the next general election. We all know this coalition of convenience is heading rapidly towards an inevitable and messy divorce. After all if they are not fighting each other, they are fighting among themselves. Last week 95 Tory Back Benchers signed a letter demanding that the Prime Minister deliver an impossible veto on all EU legislation. This week they were denounced as “thick” by an unnamed Tory Minister, and The Times claimed to have uncovered a fifth column of Tory MPs who want the Prime Minister to lose the election. On top of that, the honourable Member for Loughborough, a Treasury Minister, complained that the Tory message was far too negative, confirming what we all know already: the nasty party is well and truly back.

By comparison, the Liberal Democrats have been having a quiet time. The Deputy Prime Minister has been denounced by one of his most eminent colleagues for acting like a mixture of Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un rolled into one, and Liberal Democrat peers seem to think the party is in need of a truth and reconciliation process similar to that used in post-apartheid South Africa. It is clear that the Deputy Prime Minister has no authority over his own party, so can we have a debate on whether he is capable of helping to run the country?

Not only have this Government run out of ideas for future business, they are running out of ways of hiding their record, too. This week alone we have learned that they are sitting on a report on EU migration because it does not support the nasty caricatures demanded by Lynton Crosby to fit in with his nasty election campaign plans. We have had to correct their misleading figures on flood defence spending. The crime figures have lost their kite mark because they cannot be trusted. This morning the National Audit Office has said the NHS waiting list figures cannot be trusted either, and there is still no sign of the reports on food banks, on garden cities and the risk assessment for Help to Buy. This Government have been ticked off for fiddling the figures more times than the Chancellor has had to amend his plans to balance the books. They have sat on more reports than the Liberal Democrats have sat on fences, and they have flip-flopped so many times that I keep thinking summer has come early—although if I listen to UKIP’s flood warnings I now realise why summer will never come for me.

Andrew Lansley (Leader of the House of Commons): I am grateful to the shadow Leader for her response. I am sure that the sun shines in many places in this country, contrary to the views of at least one member of UKIP. It is curious—the Shadow Leader asked me last week and the week before to bring forward the remaining stages of the Immigration Bill; this week I have done it and she complains. We are just bringing forward Government business. I explained previously that we have been dealing with other Bills and now we are proceeding with the Immigration Bill. I am afraid she chose rather a bad day to make a speech written in advance saying that the Government lacked ideas for future business when today we are publishing the Consumer Rights Bill and the Deregulation Bill and I have announced that we will debate those two Bills and the Immigration Bill next week. I am afraid that her prior argument has been thoroughly disproved.

Madeleine Moon (Bridgend, Labour): May we have an urgent debate on the complete failure of Capita in relation to personal independence payments? Many people have been waiting six or seven months for their assessments to get from Capita to the Department for Work and Pensions. The DWP helpline for MPs is in despair. The Capita website, contact e-mail and telephone numbers do not respond. What is happening to desperately ill people is awful. The Secretary of State has said that his policies are about changing lives, not just saving money. They are changing lives, but not for the better, and he is certainly saving a lot of money from desperately ill people.

Andrew Lansley (Leader of the House of Commons): I cannot offer an immediate debate on that, and the hon. Lady will know that questions to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions are...

Madeleine Moon (Bridgend, Labour): I asked a question during Work and Pensions questions.

Andrew Lansley (Leader of the House of Commons): Yes, exactly. Therefore, the next questions are some way off. To be as helpful as I can to the hon. Lady, I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to address to her specifically the points that she raises.


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Shrewsbury 24 Case

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot, Conservative): It is very interesting to see no fewer than 34 Labour Members present.

Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley, Labour): And trade unionists.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot, Conservative): And trade unionists; I thank the hon. Gentleman for that helpful intervention. It is quite clear that old Labour is still alive and well and, in some respects, seeking both to justify and to romanticise mob rule and violence and intimidation.

Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley, Labour): You have not been listening.

Sir Gerald Howarth: Not only have I been listening, but I was party to the public debate at the time, for I had a letter published in The Times on 14 January 1975, when I was director of Freedom Under Law, calling on the then Home Secretary to allow the law to be upheld and for the jail sentences of Tomlinson and Warren to be maintained, so I have an interest in the matter. It is important for Labour Members to realise that if they wish to secure the support of the British people at the next election, they need to make it clear that they renounce the kind of practices that prevailed in the 1970s and 1980s.


Dawn Primarolo (Deputy Speaker): I call Dennis Skinner. [Interruption.] I am sorry. I will call Sir Bob Russell next. 

Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover, Labour):
 Well, that has put the Lib Dems in their place, hasn’t it? I have always wanted to do it. I know Clegg’s got a sour face—[Interruption.]Anyway, we live in the age of transparency, don’t we? We have transparency coming out of every pore. Every day I turn up in the House of Commons, from all sides I am assailed by people saying, “We need transparency.” At the beginning, I was unsure what it meant; I am sure now. It is a class thing. It applies only to the things that affect us, but it does not give us an inch when we are asking for something from the other side. We can have transparency about hospitals, care homes, schools, and everything else, but not about this. Isn’t it strange that we are being told again today, by this tin-pot coalition, that we cannot have it? [Laughter.] It really is tin-pot, although I know the last Labour Government did not pull their weight either. It has to be put on the record.
But this is a debate about class, and we do not get many of those in here. Every so often, it erupts, and we talk about class. That is what this is. It was the same with Hillsborough, when my honourable Friend the Member for Liverpool Walton got that debate, and it was the same with Thatcher and the funeral and all the rest of it. I do not want to go into that, but the truth is that it is very rare. Here are a few people who were on the picket line, they ordered a bus from a bus company, and they talk about conspiracies—all the records are there! I know it was not the age of social media, Twitter and God knows what else—if it had been, they would have won, because they would all have had a mobile phone, with a camera, and they could have took some pictures. Yes, it’s about class, and that is why we are here today, thanks to my honourable Friend the Member for Blaydon and other colleagues.


Tom Watson (West Bromwich East, Labour): What lies behind this motion is a belief by many that there has been an abuse of state power and a subversion of the legal process. Successive Governments have said repeatedly that there are just a handful of files relating to the Shrewsbury trials. I would like to focus today on just one single file—PREM 15/2011, with which I hope the Minister can acquaint himself. It is described as “Woodrow Wyatt’s TV programme, ‘Red Under the Bed’”. On 27 August 2012, the National Archives website said that this file was “retained” by the Cabinet Office under section 3(4) of the Public Records Act 1958. Why would such a file be kept back when it relates to a current affairs programme that was broadcast on ITV in November 1973? Following a freedom of information request by the Shrewsbury 24 campaign’s incisive researcher in August 2013, the Cabinet Office finally conceded and released some of the papers.

Why is this file relevant? It is relevant because the film was broadcast on 13 November 1973, the day on which the prosecution completed its case against the pickets. It was featured in the TV listing section of the local evening newspaper, the Shropshire Star, which would have been read by many of the jurors. The film included a highly tendentious commentary by Woodrow Wyatt, interspersed with footage that showed the following: two of the six defendants, John Carpenter and Des Warren; Shrewsbury Crown Court, surrounded by police officers, with a group of demonstrators attending a meeting nearby; images of a march through Shrewsbury in which the defendants could be made out; violence and damage alleged to have been caused by pickets on building sites during the national building strike of 1972; and violence and damage alleged to have been caused by pickets during a recent coal strike and a recent dock strike.



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