Madeleine Moon MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Bridgend

This Week in Parliament 2nd-6th December

This Week in Parliament 2nd-6th December

2nd - 6th December:- The week began with Parliament discussing the sad news of the Helicopter crash in Glasgow the Friday previous. MPs also heard evidence from the Editor of The Guardian Newspaper as part of an inquiry into counter terrorism. With the Prime Minister in China on a diplomatic and trade mission, the Deputy Prime Minister took over the usual Wednesday Midday slot.

The biggest news of the week however was the Autumn Statement on Thursday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who outlined the government's central economic projections and performance.
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Madeleine Moon MP
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2nd - 6th December

The week began with Parliament discussing the sad news of the Helicopter crash in Glasgow the Friday previous. MPs also heard evidence from the Editor of The Guardian Newspaper as part of an inquiry into counter terrorism. With the Prime Minister in China on a diplomatic and trade mission, the Deputy Prime Minister took over the usual Wednesday Midday slot.

The biggest news of the week however was the Autumn Statement on Thursday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who outlined the government's central economic projections and performance.
Energy Statement 

On Monday, Ed Davey and the Department for Energy and Climate Change outlined the governments plans for tackling the rising cost of energy. A series of reforms to the environmental and social charges that are added to consumers bills were announced that the government estimates will reduce bills by around £50. Responding to the announcement, Caroline Flint questioned the impact the changes will have financially on consumers, the possible negative impact on the UK's green commitments as well as the minimal burden being shouldered by the energy companies for these changes.

Caroline Flint (Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change): May I start by asking the Secretary of State a very simple question: does he accept that the sum total of everything he has said in his statement today, which includes spending £600 million of taxpayers’ money and weakening the obligation on energy companies to deliver energy efficiency, is that the energy companies will still be allowed to put up people’s bills this winter? Does he really think that is a good deal for consumers?

Last month, the Secretary of State appeared to agree with our criticism of the way in which the energy companies had put up their prices, when he said that they were treating their customers like “cash cows”. In the light of that, will he confirm that there was not a single measure in the package that he announced today that will cost the energy companies a single penny? Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being spent, the energy companies are helping fewer households with energy efficiency, and people’s bills will still be higher this winter than last, yet the energy companies are still allowed to carry on overcharging people. Whatever the Secretary of State says today, if we genuinely want to get people’s bills down, nothing less than a price freeze and action to stop the energy companies overcharging will do.

Ed Davey (Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change): Members will notice that the right hon. Lady did not welcome this cut in energy bills for her constituents. Her constituents will want to know why she is not prepared to welcome it, and the constituents of every Labour Member who stands up to speak today will also want to know whether their Member of Parliament welcomes it.

We looked at the Opposition’s energy freeze proposal, and it was clear that it would not work. The energy companies would put up bills before it and afterwards. It was, and remains, a con. Worse than that, it would undermine competition and investment. Our proposals are real measures based on real facts, and they are going to help people across the country.

The right hon. Lady asked about the big six. We made it clear in our discussions that we expect them to pass on these cuts so that average bills go down by £50, and that is what will happen. She wants to know what we have said about the big six. We have pushed real competition measures. The big six were created by Labour. In 2000, there were 17 companies in the sector. By the time Labour left office, there were just six. The big six are Labour’s big six. This coalition has produced competition, which is really having an effect.

It was interesting to listen to the last Opposition day debate on this subject, in which the right hon. Lady revealed that she had not even read Ofgem’s proposals for competition in the wholesale market. That shows how much she is not on top of her brief. On the ECO, she has tried to suggest that we are cutting support for fuel poverty, but it is quite the reverse. As I made clear in my statement, we are not only maintaining support for the fuel poverty schemes within the ECO but extending them for two more years.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Kilburn, Labour): Despite the Secretary of State’s ploughing, he has markedly failed to deliver a straight furrow. Despite his criticism of the big six—they were the big six for the three years of his coalition Government and Labour’s big six for a week—there is not one penny coming from those companies to help reduce costs now, and this delay in the implementation of the ECO scheme means that there will be even bigger bills to be paid in the future.

Ed Davey (Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change): I am afraid that the hon. Lady is completely wrong. The ECO scheme remains—let us be clear about that. The affordable warmth component of the ECO not only maintains at its current level, but is extended for two years. Similarly, the carbon saving community obligation continues in force now and is extended. The only part of the ECO that is being cut at all—but it still remains—is the carbon emissions reduction obligation. She ought to welcome that, not least because the proposals published by the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) suggest that the Labour Party would get rid of that part of the ECO.
Statement - Glasgow Helicopter Crash

Following the tragic crash of a police Helicopter onto a central Glasgow pub last Friday, the Secretary of State for Scotland made a statement to the house on the latest that was known on how and why the tragedy occurred.

Alistair Carmichael (Secretary of State for Scotland): Some of the most remarkable stories of courage and selflessness from Friday night and Saturday morning have come from staff and customers of the Clutha bar and passersby who came to their assistance in the immediate aftermath of the accident. They responded with no thought for their personal safety. Hon. Members will know that among them was the right hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy), who happened to be one of the first on the scene. He is not in the House today, because he is in the Philippines in the course of his duties as shadow Secretary of State for International Development. He has been characteristically understated in describing his role, but I am sure I speak for the whole House when I say that his response, which was instinctive, did him credit.

Today, I wear a badge that was given to me this morning by Councillor Matheson. It reads simply: “People make Glasgow.” The response of the people who make Glasgow has demonstrated all the courage and character that has made that city famous throughout the world. We in this House, and the people we represent in communities throughout the United Kingdom, today stand in solidarity with the people of Glasgow as they mourn their loss and start to come to terms with their grief. People make Glasgow, Mr Speaker, and today I wear that badge with pride.

Margaret Curran (Glasgow East, Labour): I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. This has been a dark weekend for Glasgow and our whole country. When we should have woken to celebrate St Andrew’s day on Saturday, we were instead met with unexpected tragedy, and when I attended mass on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition in St Andrew’s cathedral on Saturday, yards from the site, there was a real sense of shock.

I have lived all my life in Glasgow, and I know that when we hurt, we grieve together and we mourn together. Today, all Glasgow and all Scotland are united in grief. I echo the Secretary of State’s tributes to the nine people whose deaths have been confirmed, and the whole House joins together to send a message of deep sympathy to their loved ones. We also remember the people who are still being treated in hospital.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Questions

The Foreign Secretary was questioned by members of the house on a variety of topics, though there was a focus on the issue of sexual violence in conflict received particular attention as a recent priority of the work of the Foreign Office.

Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West, Conservative): What progress has been made on the preventing sexual violence initiative following his recent visit to Sri Lanka for CHOGM?

William Hague (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs): At the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, the UK secured agreement to strengthen capacity to tackle sexual violence in conflict-affected states, to improve the monitoring and documentation of cases of sexual violence, and to empower victims to access justice. Thirty-four members of the Commonwealth have endorsed our declaration of commitment to end sexual violence in conflict.

Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West, Conservative): I thank my right hon. Friend for that response. He met many civil society groups in Sri Lanka recently and spoke at length about this issue. Will he assure me and the House that we will maintain the pressure on this issue, particularly in respect of our Commonwealth partners.

William Hague (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs): Yes, absolutely. I gave a speech on this issue at a special event in Colombo in Sri Lanka a few weeks ago. I also met local non-governmental organisations and civil society representatives to learn more about it. We will continue to raise this issue in Sri Lanka and other conflict-affected states, where such matters are controversial and sometimes historically difficult, and to gather the maximum possible support ahead of next June’s global summit, which I announced last week.

Gavin Shuker (Luton South, Labour): In Sri Lanka, it is not unusual for a rape case to take 12 years to be resolved or brought to court. There is little or no accountability for security forces that are involved in such violence. Will the Foreign Secretary outline the specific measures that were agreed with the Sri Lankan Government following his recent trip?

William Hague (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs): In common with other Governments, we have called on the Sri Lankan authorities to investigate in an independent and credible manner the allegations of sexual violence, including the allegations that it was committed by Sri Lankan forces during and after the recent conflict. The Prime Minister has made it clear that in the absence of an independent investigation, we will press for an international investigation. We will continue to put that case. Sri Lanka has not yet stated its support for our declaration on ending sexual violence in conflict, but we will continue, as I am sure will Members across the House, to argue that it should do so.

Mr Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury, Conservative): I warmly commend my right hon. Friend for his initiative on preventing sexual violence in conflict. To deliver the results that he and all of us want to see, what point has he found in his research to be the most incentivising on the leaders of countries that we need to encourage to make the matter a priority?

William Hague (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs): The crucial point is that although there is an overwhelming moral argument for dealing with the issue, there are also important considerations of conflict resolution. Conflicts are not resolved unless sexual violence is tackled, because it perpetuates conflict, divides communities and pits them against each other into the long-term future. Many leaders across the world can see that, which is why countries such as Somalia and Ministers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo support the initiative that we have taken.
Home Affairs Select Committee hearing on counter terrorism
On Tuesday afternoon the Home Affairs Select Committee heard evidence from the Editor of the Guardian Newspaper, Alan Rusbridger in relation to his newspaper's publication of a series of stories, based on leaks from Edward Snowden, revealing the activities of the British and American intelligence agencies. Mr Rusbridger maintained that his paper was not a "Rogue Newspaper" and that he had exercised serious discretion on the number and nature of the documents the published.
Forward to Friend

Prime Minister’s Questions

With the Prime Minister in China for most of the week it fell to the Deputy Prime Minister to fill in during the weekly question session with MPs. Naturally a significant focus was on the Liberal Democrats record in government with both Conservative and Labour MPs accusing Nick Clegg of being too similar or loyal to the Conservative Party.

Harriet Harman (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Will the Deputy Prime Minister tell the House whether, compared with last winter, this winter’s household energy bills will be lower or higher?

Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister): They would be higher if we had not taken the action that we have, and I would simply point out to the right hon. and learned Lady that her party’s economically illiterate policy is to fact, her energy spokesperson said on television just two days ago, “Well, you can’t” control energy prices. So there we have it. The right hon. and learned Lady does not need me to point out that her policy is a con; her energy spokesman has done it for her.

Harriet Harman (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): The Deputy Prime Minister has ducked and he has dodged and he has not answered the question I have asked. The truth is that household energy bills are not going down; they are going up. As for the measures—the £50 they have talked about—they are not enough to stop bills rising, but can he tell us exactly how much of the £50 will come from the profits of the energy giants?

Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister): I know the right hon. and learned Lady’s piece of paper says I did not answer the question, but I did actually answer the question: bills will on average be £50 lower than they otherwise would be. That is pretty simple. We have done that by adjusting the policies, while adhering to our green commitments, where Government policy has an influence on people’s energy bills. Her party’s policy is pure fantasy—total and utter fantasy. We have got £50; she has a fantasy freeze.


Harriet Harman (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): The Deputy Prime Minister says he has answered the question, but he has not. He has not stood at this Dispatch Box and admitted that, as a result of his Government’s policies, energy bills are going up, not down. He has not admitted that. He can, next time he answers. What he is trying to hide is that not one penny will come from the profits of the energy giants, who could well afford it. They are tiptoeing around the energy giants, allowing them to put up their bills. When it comes to standing up to the rich and powerful, this Government are weak, but when it comes to hitting the most vulnerable in our society, they have no qualms at all. Last week at the Dispatch Box the Prime Minister said that disabled people are exempt from the bedroom tax. That is not true. Will the Deputy Prime Minister apologise and put the record straight?



Autumn Statement

The Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his annual Autumn Statement, updating the House on the state of the nation's finances and how his economic plan was progressing. George Osborne claimed that some recent economic growth vindicated the approach that he had taken, but Labour's Ed Balls pointed out that living standards for most people were lower today than they were in 2010.  

George Osborne (Chancellor of the Exchequer): Britain’s economic plan is working, but the job is not done. We need to secure the economy for the long term, and the biggest risk to that comes from those who would abandon the plan. We seek a responsible recovery, one in which we do not squander the gains we have made, but go on taking the difficult decisions, and one in which we do not repeat the mistakes of the past, but this time spot the debt bubbles before they threaten financial stability. We seek a responsible recovery, in which we do not pretend we can make this nation better off by writing cheques to ourselves, and instead make the hard choices. We need a Government who live within their means, in a country that pays its way in the world.

Three and a half years ago, I set out our long-term economic plan in the emergency Budget. That plan restored stability in a fiscal crisis, but it was also designed to address the deep-seated problems of unsustainable spending, uncompetitive taxes and unreformed public services for which there are no quick fixes. Over the last three years we have stuck to our guns and worked through the plan. We have done so in the face of a sovereign debt crisis abroad, and at home in the face of opposition from those who got Britain into this mess in the first place and have resisted every cut, every reform, and every effort to get us out of that mess. We have held our nerve while those who predicted there would be no growth until we turned the spending taps back on have been proved comprehensively wrong.
This country is working through its long-term plan: bringing down the deficit and dealing with the debt; spending less on welfare and making the big decisions on infrastructure; living within our means and cutting tax on business; making work pay and letting people keep more of what they earn; and with confidence in the next generation, as they make their way in education and in the workplace. This statement shows that the plan is working. It is a long-term plan for a grown-up country. But the job is not done. By doing the right thing, we are heading in the right direction. Britain is moving again. Let us keep going.

Ed Balls (Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer): The whole country will have seen today that for all his boasts and all his utterly breathtaking complacency, the Chancellor is in complete denial about the central fact defining this Government in office: under this Chancellor and this Prime Minister, for most people in our country living standards are not rising, but falling year on year.

Let me ask the Chancellor to demonstrate, because he did not mention it, that he is not completely out of touch with the cost of living crisis facing millions of people in our country. Can he confirm that, on average, working people in our country are £1,600 a year worse off than they were when the Government came into office in 2010, that prices will continue to rise faster than wages this year and into next year and that, as a result, people will be worse off in 2015 than they were in 2010? Is not this the truth: after three damaging years of flatlining, after the slowest recovery for over 100 years


Ed Balls (Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer): There is a cost of living crisis, even if Government Members will not admit it in this House, and we all know why: after three damaging years of flatlining and the slowest recovery for over 100 years, from a Chancellor and a Prime Minister who said that we were all in this together and then gave a huge tax cut to millionaires—do we not know the truth?—working people are not better off under the Tories, but worse off. For all their complacent boasts, after three damaging and wasted years for most people in the constituencies of hon. Members on both sides of the House there is still no recovery at all.



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