Madeleine Moon MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Bridgend

This Week in Parliament 9th-13th December

9th - 13th December:- Parliament met this week in the wake of the sad news of the death of Nelson Mandela. With commemorations and tributes taking place around the world, the House of Commons was no exception, with the entire of Monday’s business dedicated to tributes to the life and work of the former President of South Africa.

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9th - 13th December

 

Parliament met this week in the wake of the sad news of the death of Nelson Mandela. With commemorations and tributes taking place around the world, the House of Commons was no exception, with the entire of Monday’s business dedicated to tributes to the life and work of the former President of South Africa.

The rest of the week saw Prime Minister’s Questions as usual, as well as important developments from both the Defence Secretary and Work and Pensions Secretary. Parliament also turned its attention to financial issues, debating the National Insurance Bill and considered amendments to the Banking Reform Bill. 

 

 

 

MONDAY

 

Nelson Mandela Tribute

Mr Speaker: This is a special day for special tributes to a special statesman, Nelson Mandela. I hope that as many Members as possible will be able to contribute. Tributes may continue until 10.00pm. There will be no end-of-day Adjournment debate.

David Cameron (Prime Minister): Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our lifetime, a pivotal figure in the history of South Africa and the world, and it is right that we meet in this Parliament to pay tribute to his character, his achievements and legacy.

Of course the most important monument to Mandela must be the lessons he has taught us: that there is dignity and worth in every human being; that an ounce of humility is worth more than a ton of might; that lasting, long-term change needs patience, even the patience of a life-time, but that change can come with determination and sacrifice.

It is with sadness that we meet here today to remember Nelson Mandela, but it is with gladness that we can say this: it was a long walk to freedom, but the walk is over and freedom was won. For that, Nelson Mandela has the deepest respect of this House and his enduring place in history.

Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition): Today, we remember the incomparable life of Nelson Mandela...he is an enduring and unique symbol of courage, hope and the fight against injustice; he teaches us the power of forgiveness, having showed no bitterness towards his captors, just the love of a country that could be so much better if all its people could be free; and he demonstrates, even to the most sceptical, the power of people and politics to change our world.

Nelson Mandela taught us to acknowledge the truth about the past and, without rancour, to welcome the change that has come to pass, but also to honour his legacy by acknowledging that in every country, including our own, the battle against racial injustice still needs to be won. So we come here to honour the man, to acknowledge our history, and for one final purpose—to recognise and uphold the universal values for which Nelson Mandela stood: the dignity of every person, whatever his colour or creed, the value of tolerance and respect for all, and justice for all people wherever they may live and whatever oppression they may face. Nelson Mandela himself said “I am not a saint. I am a sinner who keeps on trying.” His extraordinary life calls on us all to keep on trying for nobler ideals, for higher purposes, and for a bigger, not a smaller politics. Inspired by his example and the movement that he led, we mourn his loss, we give thanks for his life, and we honour his legacy.

...

Gordon Brown (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, Labour): Fifty-one years ago, directly across from this House in Parliament Square, standing in front of the statues of Gladstone, Disraeli, Peel, Palmerston, Lincoln and General Smuts, and with his friend Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela asked the question when, if ever, a black man would be represented there. That day in June 1962 was an important one – his first visit to London, and possibly his last. He was on the edge of being arrested, imprisoned, put on trial twice – once for his life – and then spending 27 years incarcerated.

It was, therefore, a great privilege, on behalf of the people of Britain, to unveil in 2007 a statue of the first black man to be represented on that square—Nelson Mandela himself, in the presence of Nelson Mandela and his wife. That statue of Nelson Mandela stands there now and forever. Yes, his hands are outstretched, as the Prime Minister said, but his finger points upwards—as it always did—to the heights. He was the man most responsible for the destruction of what people thought was indestructible—the apartheid system—and the man who taught us that no injustice can last forever. Nelson Mandela was the greatest man of his generation, yes, but across the generations he was one of the most courageous people you could ever hope to meet. Winston Churchill said that courage was the greatest human virtue of all, because everything else depended on it. Nelson Mandela had eloquence, determination, commitment, passion, wit and charm, but it was his courage that brought all those things to life. We sometimes think of courage as daring, bravado, risk-taking and recklessness, and Nelson Mandela had all those in admirable quantities, but he was the first to say that true courage depends not just on strength of willpower, but on strength of belief. What drove Mandela forward, and what made him the great architect of a free South Africa—the first great achievement of Nelson Mandela—was the burning belief that everyone, every man and woman, was equal: everyone born to be free, everyone created not with a destiny to be in poverty, but created to have dignity in life.

Very few people know that Nelson Mandela loved not only to tell stories, but to gossip, about everybody, from the Spice Girls and celebrities in sport to political leaders—I will refrain from mentioning what he said about them, at least today. But he admired and respected Her Majesty the Queen, and he told me that he wanted the Queen to invite an African rain princess from his tribe to a reception at Buckingham palace. He had got nowhere with the diplomatic channels, so he decided to telephone her personally. The story goes of the conversation, in words that only Mandela could use—“Hello Elizabeth, how’s the Duke?” Although the official minute says that the Queen was non-committal, Mandela got his way.

Who else could unite the whole world of sport unanimously, in every continent of the world, with applause? We are mourning because as long as Mandela was alive we knew that even in the worst of disasters, amidst the most terrible of tragedies and conflict, amidst the evil that existed in the world, there was someone there, standing between us and the elements, who represented goodness and nobility. And we are celebrating today because the lessons that we have learned from him will live on. He teaches us that indeed no injustice can last forever. He teaches us that whenever good people of courage come together, there is infinite hope.

...

Peter Hain (Neath, Labour): I have never really been into heroes but Nelson Mandela was mine from when I was a young boy in Pretoria and unique among my school friends and relatives in having parents who welcomed everybody to their house regardless of colour—activists in the anti-apartheid struggle. I remember that one fellow activist, Elliot Mngadi, remarked, “This is the first time I’ve ever come through the front door of a white man’s house.” Blacks acting as servants or gardeners might be allowed in the back door occasionallyMy mother, Adelaine, was often alone in the whites-only section of the public gallery at Nelson Mandela’s 1962 trial in Pretoria and when he entered the dock, he would always acknowledge her with a clenched fist, which she would return. His beautiful wife Winnie attended the trial each day, often magnificent in tribal dress. Once, when my tiny younger sisters went with my mother during a school holiday, Winnie bent down and kissed the two little blonde girls to the evident horror of the onlooking white policemen. A black woman kissing two little white children disgusted them.

Forty years later, I was escorting Nelson Mandela to speak at the Labour party annual conference in Brighton, but before that he had an appointment with the Prime Minister that had been very carefully scheduled. We were going down in the lift in the hotel and he said, “How’s the family?” I mentioned that my mother had broken her leg and was in hospital. “Ah,” he said, “I must phone her.” The Prime Minister was kept waiting while Nelson Mandela chatted to porters and cleaners and waitresses and waiters, all lined up as the minutes ticked by. I desperately tried directory inquiries to get her phone number, eventually got the ward and was put through. I said to her, “There’s a very special person who would like to speak to you,” and I handed the phone to him. He said, “This is Mandela from South Africa. Do you know who I am?”

Mr Speaker, forgive me if, for a brief moment, I strike what I hope will not be seen as too discordant a note on this occasion, which sees the House at its very best, coming together to salute the great man. Were it not for interventions in the media in recent days, I would have let pass correcting the historical record. I give credit especially to you, Mr Speaker, for volunteering most graciously that you were on the wrong side of the anti- apartheid struggle as a young Conservative. I give credit to the Prime Minister for apologising for his party’s record of what I have to describe as craven indulgence towards apartheid’s rulers. And if Nelson Mandela can forgive his oppressors without forgetting their crimes, who am I not to do the same for our opponents in the long decades of the anti-apartheid struggle?

But it really does stick in the craw when Lord Tebbit, Charles Moore and others similar tried over recent days to claim that their complicity with apartheid – that is what I think it was – somehow brought about its end. To my utter incredulity, Lord Tebbit even told BBC World in a debate with me that they had brought about Mandela’s freedom. I know for a fact that Nelson Mandela did not think so. At every possible opportunity he went out of his way to thank anti-apartheid activists across the world for freeing him and his people.

President Bill Clinton, who has such a wonderful way with words, said: “Every time Nelson Mandela walks into a room, we all feel a little bigger, we all want to stand up, we all want to cheer, because we’d like to be him on our best day”. 

Sadly, Nelson Mandela will not be walking into our rooms ever again, but we can all still strive to be like him on our best days. For, as he said in one of his many memorable proverbs: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.”


http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131209/debtext/131209-0001.htm#1312098000342
 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday

 

Universal Credit Statement 

Following the announcement that the Government’s flagship Universal Credit system was set to be delayed for many people until 2017, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves asked an Urgent Question of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

Rachel Reeves (Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions): On 5 September, the Secretary of State told the House:“We will deliver this in time and in budget”.On 14 October, he said:“Universal credit will roll out very well and it will be on time and within budget.”And just last month, on 18 November, he said that “universal credit will roll out and deliver exactly as we said it would.”

The Secretary of State must answer these questions. How on earth can this be on time when in November 2011 he said that “all new applications for existing benefits and credits will be entirely phased out by April 2014”, but we now learn that this milestone will be reached only in 2016? Will the Secretary of State confirm that this is a delay of two years? Will he also confirm that, even by 2017, 700,000 people will not be on universal credit?

How can the Secretary of State say that universal credit will be on budget when, even by his own admission, £40.1 million is being written off on IT costs? What budget heading was that under? The Secretary of State also revealed yesterday that another £90 million will be written off by 2018. Does this mean an additional IT system is having to be built?

The reset exercise began in February. On 18 November, the Secretary of State still claimed that there would be no delay to universal credit. At what point did he learn that there would be a delay of two years?

Iain Duncan Smith (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions): Let me deal with a couple of the points raised by the hon. Lady. I said all along, and I repeat, that this programme essentially is going to be on time. By 2017, some 6.5 million people will be on the programme, receiving the benefits. Let me deal with the hon. Lady’s comments about what is written down and what is written off. For somebody who was supposed to have been working for the Bank at one point, she does not seem to know the difference between equipment of no use that is being written off and equipment—this is the case in any company over a period of time – that is written down each year. That is exactly right. If she drives a motor car, I wonder whether she has noticed that, over a period of years, its value actually depreciates. Perhaps she has not; perhaps she is still trying to sell the car for the same value she bought it for.

The reality is very simple. Let us take the legacy systems right now. The legacy computer systems that are working were written down years ago, but they are still delivering value to the Government by delivering benefits. Maybe the hon. Lady needs a teach-in about the difference between written-off equipment and written-down equipment.

... 

Dame Anne Begg (Aberdeen South, Labour): The Secretary of State promised that universal credit would be digital by default – it isn’t; he promised that all new claims would be on universal credit by May 2014 – they won’t; and he then promised that 10 areas would be assessing the simplest claims by the end of October – they aren’t; so why should anyone believe him when he says that the delivery of universal credit is now on track?

Iain Duncan Smith (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions): The proof of this will be as we roll out the programme. I say to the Chair of the Select Committee that we intervened early when there were problems. We did not let this programme roll out so that anybody was damaged, unlike the Government whom she served, who rushed IT programmes into service, damaged vast numbers of people and wasted a huge amount of money. I wonder whether the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee ever asked the shadow Chancellor or the previous Prime Minister why they did that.


http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131210/debtext/131210-0001.htm#13121055000010

 

 

 

 

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Defence Procurement

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond made a statement about the Government’s defence procurement policy, announcing that the previous plans for privatisation and the implementation of GoCo would be scrapped. Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker asked whether the Defence Secretary could clarify what the Government’s policies now were.

Vernon Coaker (Shadow Secretary of State for Defence): For the second time in a few weeks the Secretary of State has been forced to come to the House to explain and clarify, and reassure Members about, key components of his Defence Reform Bill, which will be read for a Second time later today in the other place. This is the statement that the Defence Secretary did not want to make and did not think he would have to make. His flagship policy on defence procurement has come crashing down around him – not so much GoCo or DE&S plus, but a no-go and D-minus for the Defence Secretary. It is another embarrassing U-turn from the Government.

Can the Defence Secretary tell us when he decided that he could no longer proceed with plans for a Government-owned, contractor-operated model for Britain’s defence procurement? It is three weeks since the Portfield consortium withdrew from the GoCo process. Why has it taken so long for the Government to bow to the inevitable and admit the difficulty of proceeding with only one bidder?

The Secretary of State is in danger of making a bad situation worse by what he has announced today. The Government cannot run Britain’s defence and national security on an ad hoc basis. They cannot make it up as they go along. But is it not clear today that that is exactly what the Government and the Defence Secretary are doing? Why is this the first time that we have heard of this new proposal? What consultation has he had on his new proposed model? When and how will Parliament be able to scrutinise these proposals? What resources did he allocate, and when did he allocate them, to ensure the expertise and time to test the model for robustness and make sure it was properly costed and tested for viability and sustainability? When he talks about new freedoms and flexibilities, what exactly does he mean? What was the process for appointing the chief executive of the new trading entity? Can he update us on what discussions he has had with the Treasury about his new proposal and when they began? This is a mess, and it poses more questions than it gives answers.

Philip Hammond (Secretary of State for Defence): That was predictable stuff. The honourable Gentleman claims that we have wasted three years. When it comes to reforming defence procurement, his lot are responsible for wasting 13 years. If I can give him a bit of friendly advice, I would be very careful about using the words “debacle” and “aircraft carrier” in the same sentence if I was sitting on the Opposition Front Bench. Let us remember that it was his Government who, by delaying the programme for two years to manage an in-year cash-flow crisis, drove £1.6 billion of cost into it.

The hon. Gentleman tells us that the Opposition support the DE&S plus model, but until now they have supported the competition, which is exactly what we propose to do. The former Labour Defence Secretary, John Hutton, said: “It is time for a radical rethink that can align the necessary project-management skills with the right performance incentives...This is precisely what the GOCO concept…can offer and why the British government would be well advised to pursue it.”

The former Shadow Secretary of State said: “There needs to be rigorous examination of all the possible options and a robust comparison between the two options of a GoCo model and DE&S+…we will support what we hope is a genuine competition.” That is what we have conducted and the hon. Gentleman is standing at the Dispatch Box complaining about it.

The hon. Gentleman tells me that this is the statement I did not want to make. Well, he gets the prize—of course it is the statement I did not want to make. I hoped that we would find a wide field of GoCo competitors able to engage with the process of delivering a value for money proposition to the taxpayer, but let me tell him how it works. The Opposition can stand on the sidelines slinging mud and insults, but the Government have to deal with the situation as it exists in the real world. We have to take the situation as we find it and manage the risks.



http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131210/debtext/131210-0001.htm#13121055000007

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday

 

Prime Minister’s Questions

Prime Minister's Questions was back to normal this week with the Prime Minister and Ed Miliband flying overnight back from the Funeral of Nelson Mandela. The pay rise being given to MPs by IPSA - the independent body that overseas MPs pay was the most notable topic with both leaders sharing opposition to the planned rise.

Stella Creasy: I am sure that the Prime Minister is as concerned as Labour Members are about the 42% increase in long-term unemployment among young women that has taken place on his watch. Will he confirm that the reason he does not support the No More Page 3 campaign is that, like his hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax), he believes that at least page 3 provides jobs for the girls?

The Prime Minister: We have seen quite a rapid reduction in unemployment over recent months under this Government, and there are a million more people in work than when I became Prime Minister. Of course, there is a lot more to be done to get the long-term unemployed, in particular, back into work, but the Work programme is performing twice as successfully as some of its predecessors. I think that the hon. Lady should get behind such programmes, rather than making points such as the one she has just made.

...

Edward Miliband
 (Doncaster North) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister agree that, given the crisis in living standards that ordinary families are facing, Members of Parliament should not be awarded a pay rise many times above inflation in 2015?

The Prime Minister: I do agree with the right hon. Gentleman about this issue. I think that it would be wrong for MPs to be given a big pay rise at a time of public sector pay restraint. All three party leaders agree on that, and we have all made the point to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. However, we should be clear about the fact that what IPSA has said is not a final recommendation.

Let me briefly make three points. First, I think that the idea of an 11% pay rise in one year at a time of pay restraint is simply unacceptable. Secondly, I think that IPSA needs to think again, and that unless it does so no one will want to rule anything out. No one wants to go back to the system of MPs voting on their own pay, but we must have a process and an outcome that can build public confidence. Thirdly, I think that all this should be accompanied by a cut in the cost of politics.

Edward Miliband: I am glad that the Prime Minister agrees with me about this issue. Does he also agree that we should not let it hang around as an issue until after the general election, and hang over trust in politics? May I urge him to work with me, on a cross-party basis, to find a way of making IPSA think again, and to stop this package happening?

The Prime Minister: My door is always open to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am always happy to discuss this or, indeed, any other issue. Let me stress, however, that what IPSA has said is not a final recommendation. I think that if the three party leaders and others in the House unite in saying that it is not right to award this pay rise, that will be the strongest message we can give.

...

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab): Given that the implementation of universal credit has become a shambles, how can the public have confidence in those who are responsible for it?

The Prime Minister: I think it is absolutely right that we introduce this benefits system in a very slow and deliberate way. I remember sitting in my surgery as a constituency MP when the tax credit system came in, in one big bang, and having case after case where people’s household finances were completely wrecked by the last Labour Government. I will not let that happen again. As we introduce this vital benefit, let us remember the fact that 480,000 fewer people are on out-of-work benefits and it is this Government who are making work pay.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131211/debtext/131211-0001.htm#13121176000005

 

 

 

 

 

Work And Pensions Select Committee:
Introduction of Personal Independence Payments

On Wednesday the select committee questioned the new Minister for Disabled People Mike Penning over the way the government has handled the introduction of the system of Personal Independence Payments for claimants and the timetable for the “natural reassessment” of existing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants, which began in some areas of the country in October 2013.

Wider issues relating to contractors’ capacity to deliver the large number of medical assessments and reassessments planned, including Work Capability Assessments, were also raised with the minister and senior civil servants from the department.

http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=14440

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday

 

Culture Media and Sport & Women and Equalities questions


Minsters from the two small but diverse government departments were present in the House of Commons Thursday morning to answer questions on their work from MPs of all parties. Questions ranged from ticket prices at the upcoming Rugby World Cup to the implementation of the royal charter for press regulation and the commemoration of World War I.

Natascha Engel (North East Derbyshire) (Lab): What steps she is taking to ensure that any future regulator of the press will be better equipped than the Press Complaints Commission to tackle allegations of discrimination during election campaigns. [901603]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller): The royal charter, which sets out a framework for the press to establish a self-regulatory body, was granted by the Privy Council on 30 October. It protects freedom of the press while offering real redress if mistakes are made. The Government have no role to judge any proposed self-regulator.

Natascha Engel: During our inquiry into electoral conduct, we found that if people from a particular group, such as Christian, Muslim, Jewish or gay, felt that they had been discriminated against in print, they could argue it only under the heading of “inaccuracy” with the Press Complaints Commission. Will the Secretary of State use her influence, while the new code of conduct is being drafted, to ensure that those who feel discriminated against have proper redress in the future?

Maria Miller: I thank the hon. Lady for her question and commend her for that report. My officials are talking to the Equality and Human Rights Commission about the findings of the report, but I would say that the Government have no influence on the code. I am sure, however, that others who are listening will take note of her comments.

...

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): The House will have heard the powerful points put by my hon. Friends. Next year, 2.3 million tickets will go on sale for rugby union world cup matches in this country. It is the third-largest sporting tournament in the world. As the Minister knows, the organisers want to protect rugby fans from ticket touts and are asking for us to do the same as we did in the Olympics and ban the secondary ticketing market. So far, she is refusing to do this. We would help with the legislation, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith) rightly said. Will she think again so that the 2015 rugby union world cup can be enjoyed by rugby supporters, not exploited by ticket touts?

Mrs Grant: The event will be enjoyed by rugby supporters and not exploited by ticket touts. I met England rugby 2015 recently and am aware of its concerns. I will always listen, but I am confident that mechanisms are in place to ensure that this event is enjoyed and not spoiled. There are many different mechanisms that can be put in place, including barcoding, named tickets and staggered releases, and I am delighted that 500,000 tickets will go on sale through the RFU’s members next May.

...

Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green) (Con): What plans her Department has to commemorate the beginning of the first world war. [901605]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller): The Government will mark the centenary of the first world war with a programme of national events, cultural activities, educational initiatives and community projects from 4 August next year through to Armistice day in 2018. We will deliver a centenary that will mark, with the most profound respect, this seminal moment in our modern history for the benefit of all parts of the community.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131212/debtext/131212-0001.htm#13121256000004

 

 

 

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Highlights of this week's debates and activity in Parliament

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