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tv   The Week in Parliament  BBC News  April 25, 2021 5:30am-6:01am BST

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of new coronavirus cases for the fourth day in a row. nearly 350,000 infections were reported in the latest daily figures, as well as more than 2,700 deaths. 0vercrowded hospitals are struggling to secure enough oxygen and patients are being turned away. borisjohnson is being asked to explain how the refurbishment of his official downing street flat was paid for, following allegations from his ex—chief advisor. dominic cummings has claimed the prime minister had "possibly illegal" plans to get tory donors to fund the interior design work. turkey has summoned the us ambassador in ankara, following president biden�*s recognition of the massacre of armenians during the first world war as genocide, in a change to longstanding us policy. now on bbc news,
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the week in parliament. hello again and welcome to the week in parliament. texts for tax breaks or ventilators to save lives? labour keep up the pressure on the prime minister over lobbying. sleaze, sleaze, sleaze. and it's all on his watch. race in the uk — the equalities minister denounces critics of a major report. the government even more firmly condemns the deeply personal and racialised attacks against the commissioners, which have included death threats. why are our rivers so dirty? feargal sharkey gets vocal. it's time for everybody to put on their big boys�* pants and start taking
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this seriously. and planning a big wedding? think again, says an expert. the fees for a church wedding or a simple registry office ceremony are very modest indeed. all that to come and more. but first, a week dominated by the continuing row over lobbying, with labour determined to target borisjohnson as the head of what it calls a �*whatsapp government'. the row deepened after the bbc revealed a series of text messages between the prime minister and the businessman sirjames dyson. they were sent at the height of the pandemic. in the texts, borisjohnson offered to "fix" tax rules in response to concern that dyson workers returning to the uk to develop ventilators for the nhs would have been penalised. labour staged a stunt outside downing street to suggest this development was part of a pattern, with one rule for those who have ministers�* phone numbers and another for everyone else. sirjames dyson has said the urgent correspondence was only about compliance
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with rules and that his company didn't benefit from the project which had cost it £20 million. but at prime minister's questions, the labour leader sir keir starmer focused his attack on the latest twist. what does the prime minister think is the right thing to do if he receives a text message from a billionaire conservative supporter asking him to fix tax rules? if he's referring to the request from james dyson, i make absolutely no apology at all, mr speaker, for shifting heaven and earth and doing everything i possibly could — i think any prime minister would, in those circumstances, to secure ventilators for the people of this country and to save lives. let's be clear what these texts show. the prime minister was lobbied by a wealthy businessman and a close friend for a change in the tax rules. tax rules. the prime minister responded, "i'll fix it". then, after a discussion with the chancellor, who everybody seems to be
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lobbying these days, the prime minister texted his friend to say, "it's fixed". how many other people with the prime minister's personal number has he given preferential treatment to? can ijust remind the house what we were facing in march last year, mr speaker, which was when we had a new virus which was capable of killing people in ways that we didn't understand. the only way to help them was to incubate them and put them on ventilation. we had 9000 ventilators in this country, mr speaker, and we secured 22,000 as a result of that ventilator challenge. i think it was entirely the right thing to do, to work with all potential — all potential makers of ventilators at that time, mr speaker. keir starmer wondered whether a text from a self—employed person, a steelworker or a nurse to the prime minister's phone would have the same impact. borisjohnson defended his government's support for the steel industry, the self—employed and nurses, but the labour leader pursued his point.
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every day — every day — there are new allegations about this conservative government. dodgy ppe deals. tax breaks for their mates. the health secretary owns shares in a company delivering nhs services. sleaze, sleaze, sleaze. and it's all on his watch. with this scandal now firmly centred on him, how on earth does he expect people to believe that he is the person to clean this mess up? i'll tell you why — i'll tell you why this government is doing the right thing at the right time, because the difference between us and the labour party is — is, i'm afraid, staringly obvious. and we get on with taking the tough decisions to protect the people of this country and to take our country forward, uniting and levelling up. we — we take the tough decisions to procure thousands, tens of thousands of ventilators in record time — which apparently
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he now opposes. the snp added to the pressure. will the prime minister reveal today how many more covid l contracts he personally fixed? and if he has nothing to hide, will he publish all personal. exchanges on these contracts before the end of the day? i mr speaker, of course there is actually nothing to conceal about this and i'm happy to share all the details with — as i, indeed, i've shared them with my officials — immediately. this tory text—for—contract scandal is growing more i and more serious - with every revelation. dog barks in background. the prime minister was eager to initiate an inquiry- into his predecessor- david cameron, while he is quick to commit to a public and comprehensive inquiry| into himself and his own government. . well, mr speaker, he says we had all the time in the world. in fact, as the house will recall at the end of march
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last year, the pandemic was taking off very fast and we had to act very fast, as i think people up and down this country understand. and i thought that his dog just made a more sensible contributionjust now than he did. and in case you were wondering, the noises off came from ian blackford's collie maisie, who's now in the doghouse. sorry. now, there were angry exchanges in the commons over a report on race in britain. the commission on race and ethnic disparities said racism was "a real force" but the uk "no longer" had a system rigged against minorities. the report, commissioned by the prime minister after last summer's black lives matter protests, concluded that family structure and social class had a bigger impact than race on how people's lives turned out. but the commission was accused of ignoring black and ethnic minority people's concerns and downplaying
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institutional racism. in the commons, the equalities minister criticised "bad faith" attempts to discredit its findings. it is true that this landmark analysis challenges a number of strongly held beliefs about the extent and influence of racism in britain today. the commissioners have followed the evidence and drawn conclusions which challenge orthodoxy and they were prepared for robust and constructive debate. however, they were not prepared for the wilful misrepresentation of the report which occurred following its publication, such as false accusations that they denied that racism exists or that they wished to put a positive spin on the atrocities of slavery orfalse statements that commissioners did not read or sign off their own report, or that they are breaking ranks. i had been informed by the chair and by individual members that the commission remains united and stands by their report. she wanted to "set the record straight". the government even more firmly condemns the deeply personal and racialised attacks against the commissioners, which have included death threats. and in fact, one member
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from the opposition benches presented commissioners as members of the ku klux klan — an example of the very online racial hatred and abuse on which the report recommended more action be taken by government. following the black lives matter movement, the commission had an opportunity to meaningfully engage with structural racism in the uk. instead, they published incoherent, divisive and offensive materials that appear to glorify slavery, downplay the role of institutional and structural racism, and blame ethnic minorities for their own disadvantage. it is absolutely clear to all of us on this side of the house and across civil society that this report has no credibility, so i'm disappointed to hear the minister double down on it here today. how she can she stand before us in this house and defend the indefensible? marsha de cordova claimed downing street had rewritten parts of what she described as... ..a shoddy, point—scoring polemic which ignores evidence
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and does not represent the country that i know and love. it is reprehensible, mr deputy speaker, and i hope the minister will reject it today so that we can get on with the task of tackling institutional and structural racism, which is the lived experience of many. kemi badenoch saw things very differently. we continue to push for a fairer britain for levelling up. they continue to look for division, they continue to stoke culture wars and then claim that we are the ones fighting them. i completely reject all the assertions that she has made — many of them false, many of them hypocritical. whose party is it that has been described as institutionally racist by the equality and human rights commission? it's not my party, it's hers. a united nations' working group has strongly rejected this - report, saying it further distorted and falsified l historic facts, it could fuel racism and it twists data, i amongst other. pointed criticism. the minister'sjust spoken about a lack of evidence . of institutional racism, -
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but as the runnymede trust has rightly pointed out, - evidence of institutional racism was submitted to the commission. . the group grossly misrepresents the commission's report and is clearly born out of the device of narratives being perpetrated by certain media outlets and political groups while seeking to sow division in our ethnic minority communities. kemi badenoch. tens of thousands of predominantly black and asian service personnel who died fighting for the british empire were not properly commemorated due to "pervasive racism". a report by the commonwealth war graves commission found that some troops were commemorated collectively, or their names were recorded in registers, while their white counterparts had headstones. the defence secretary outlined the findings to mps. there can be no doubt prejudice played a part in some of the commissioners�* decisions. in some cases, the iwgc assumed that communities of forgotten personnel would not recognise or value individual forms of commemoration.
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in other cases, they were simply not provided with the names or burial locations. mr speaker, on behalf of the commonwealth war graves commission and the government both of the time and today, i want to apologise for the failures to live up to their founding principles of all those years ago and express deep regret that it has taken so long to rectify the situation. and as we think of the hundreds of thousands of muslims, sikhs, hindus, animists and those of no religion who have not been commemorated because they did not fit the white ideal of what is supposed to fit into uniform, i think it's important for those of all faiths and none to be assured that they are valued not only in our armed forces, but in the police, in the nhs or wherever they served. the inquiry was set up after a documentary made by the labour mp david lammy. he said its findings were a watershed moment. there is no higher service
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than to die for your country in war, and it is the case that every single culture on the planet honours those who die in those circumstances. it is a great travesty and the statement has shown that this country failed to do that for black and brown people across africa, india and the middle east. david lammy. the government has defended the decision to withdraw uk troops from afghanistan in the face of cross party concerns in the commons. the uk will begin to draw down its troops in afghanistan from next month, following the decision by nato and the united states to pull their forces out of the country. british troops have been in afghanistan since 2001. a57 have died during the conflict with the taliban and fighters from al-qaeda. the defence ministerjames heappey is a former army officer who carried out two
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tours of afghanistan. my battalion lost 13 men in that second tour, with many more killed in our wider battle group. i have friends who will walk on prosthetic limbs for the rest of their lives, and i know people who have suffered severe mental pain that tragically caused them to subsequently take their own lives. like every other afghanistan veteran, when i heard of nato's decision last week, i couldn't help but ask myself was it all worth it? but he said the uk was leaving the country in a very different state. only in the most binary of state—on—state wars can the military instrument alone be decisive. but two generations of afghan children have now grown up with access to education. the afghan people have tasted freedom and democracy. they have an expectation for what life in their country should be like in the future. and the taliban apparently have no appetite to be an international pariah like they were in the late �*90s. the chair of the defence
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committee chair wants to see an inquiry similar to that held into the iraq war. we now withdraw from afghanistan after enormous cost towards another civil war, and the taliban on the ascent. i visited the country many times, this cannot be the exit strategy that we ever envisaged. our nation and our military deserve answers. so i request a chilcott—style inquiry so we can learn the lessons of what went wrong. afghanistan is more failure than successj for the british military. and now with the full- withdrawal of nato troops, it's hard to see a future i without bloodier conflict, wider taliban control, - and greaterjeopardy for those afghanis who worked _ with the west and for the women now in political, judicial, - academic and business roles. the chief of defence staff said this was not the decision - we hoped for.
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this might be the end of one of america's forever wars, as it's sometimes known, but for afghanistan, it still remains immensely unsettled. so what does the post—september relationship look like with the afghan government? and i say this too on foreign aid. you can either have peace and stability in countries like afghanistan, or you can have foreign aid cuts. you cannot have both. stewart mcdonald. time now for some other westminster news in brief. the commons united to condemn the prospect of the richest six english football clubs joining a european super league. the proposal swifty unravelled after the government threatened to block it, but a review of english football led by the former sports minister tracey crouch will still go ahead. it will cover the financial sustainability of the men's and women's game, governance and regulation, and the merits of an independent regulator. crucially, in the light of this weekend's proposal, it will also consider how fans
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can have an even greater say in the oversight of the game and the models which might best achieve that. labour said change was long overdue. we know there are members across this house who have for the past 11 years of conservative—led governments supported reform. so it's time, madame deputy speaker, for the government to get off the subs bench and show some leadership on the pitch because we need reform of football. johnny mercer says he was forced to resign as a defence minister over the treatment of veterans who served in northern ireland. his exit was confirmed the night a new law designed to protect veterans from unfounded prosecutions returned to the commons. but british soldiers who served in northern ireland will be excluded from the overseas 0perations bill. mr mercer called that a red line for him staying in government. he left the government half an hour after this speech. i am determined to continue to do all i can to support this
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cohort of veterans. it is fundamental to me and this country that there is no tiered approach to veterans. those who have served for any period under any circumstance are recognised and supported as veterans. it was left to his successor to announce a climb—down that will mean british soldiers can still face prosecution for genocide, crimes against humanity and torture more than five years after an alleged incident. the u—turn follows a defeat in the lords. although we can be absolutely reassured that our armed forces would never resort to acts of genocide or crimes against humanity and that it would be extremely unlikely for individual members of the service to be charged with such offences. not explicitly excluding these offences from the bill is clearly an omission and must be rectified and i'm happy therefore to propose that now. almost four years after
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the grenfell tower fire, which killed 72 people, the arguments over who should pay for fire safety work in flats in england continue. the government was again defeated in the lords over the fire safety bill so the owners of a building cannot pass the costs of the work onto leaseholders or tenants. a church of england bishop highlighted the issue. surely these leaseholders, who went into this, the people of aspiration trying to get their place, saving for the deposit, could have no indication this was coming. it's one of these dreadful tragedies. nobody�*s pointing the finger at government or anybody like that. one of these dreadful tragedies they could not have foreseen coming. the fire safety bill now returns to the commons but a minister warned that delaying its journey into law could ultimately cost lives. i want to underline that this government is committed to protecting leaseholders and tenants from the cost of remediation. hundreds of thousands of leaseholders will be protected from the cost of replacing unsafe cladding on their homes as part of the government's five point plan to provide
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reassurance to homeowners. and the house of lords has a new speaker. lord mcfall, who was once a labour mp, was elected by peers to succeed the retiring lord fowler on may the first. lord fowler offered this welcome. i first met lord mcfall in the house of commons when he came up to congratulate me on a political book i had written. i of course immediately recognised him as a man of sound judgement and discernment. laughter. but over the last almost five years, i recognised him as a man of action who brings forward his plans to completion and to success. no lord speaker could have had a better or more loyal deputy. and no lord speaker has ever had such a better preparation for the woolsack as lord mcfall. the retiring lord fowler. now, how clean are our rivers? not very, seems to be the answer. water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers in england more than 400,000 times last year. that's according to figures published recently by the environment agency.
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untreated effluent, including human waste, wet wipes and condoms, were released into waterways for more than three million hours in 2020. mps on the environmental audit committee heard from someone who confronted the officials after noticing sewage building up in the local river. there was a narrative, and the narrative was that the public knows we do this, it'sjust common and we cannot afford to do anything about it, so what's the problem? you don't want to pay any more money. and that was the underlying culture, and we said the public does not know about this and would be absolutely horrified! so the first thing was to try and understand what was really happening and what the environment agency was telling us at the time was the water quality is good, the sewage
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isn't spilling very much — and i think the language is very interesting here, which is the language is used to tone down the problem. a spill is what you do with a cup of tea. it's not when you discharge, for days, volumes and volumes of raw sewage into the river. another witness was feargal sharkey, once lead singer with the punk band the undertones. he told the committee how he'd started campaigning for cleaner rivers. simply approaching the environment agency and asking what i thought was a very innocent and very straightforward question. that was some five years ago and i'm still here working what was the question? where has our water gone, and what little water we have, why does it smell on occasion? as someone who also spends a lot of time fishing, whether you can give an overview to the panel on the health of the rivers of the uk, and evidence you've seen of the impact of this pollution. the top line figure as we all now know is according to the last set of data
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released by the environment agency. there is not a single river in england in good overall environmental health. not one. and that is normally measured using two criteria, the ecological condition of the rivers — as we know, 86% of rivers do not meet good ecological condition — and every single river fails the chemical test. every single river is polluted. with the pandemic forcing indoor swimming pools to close, there's been a a dramatic rise in wild swimming. we know that swimming itself makes you happier, from research we've done. it makes you 4.3% happier, but swimming outdoors actually makes you 8.9% happier. so out in the open air, out in the freshness, out in nature, it wouldn't make you that happy if you knew what you were swimming again. it really wouldn't. and people don't know, and that's what worries me. we know that it causes mild and serious illnesses, difficult to prove, you go swimming, you get a funny tummy, is that because you want swimming or is this something you ate, the chinese
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the night before? canoeing has also surged in popularity and it's also suffering from sewage. we would never in a million years accept this on our football pitches or cricket pitches or our tennis courts. but we seem to be able to accept the places where millions of people play, you know, it's ok to tip raw sewage into it. and i find that personally quite frustrating, especially as it has an impact on were i paddling with my children. feargal sharkey said there'd been a vacuum in political leadership. the secretary of state can do with nothing more with the stroke of a pen, that he now demands that the water industry and the regulators deliver a plan that is fully costed, deliverable, timetabled, scheduled and delivered with a sense of urgency and with ambition to it. that in itself again would be a massive political and significant and positive step forward. it's time for everybody to put
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on their big boy's pants and start taking this seriously. feargal sharkey. we get all the big names on the week in parliament. now during the pandemic we've all got used to smaller wedding ceremonies and many couples will be looking forward to the lifting of restrictions and the chance to have a big do. but a church of england bishop had an alternative suggestion to mark national marriage week. one of the themes this year is that a wedding doesn't have to be an expensive extravaganza. the fees for a church wedding or a simple registry office era are very modest indeed. but the wedding industry is busily ramping up expectations of what a special day should involve. how will her majesty's government work to encourage couples to understand marriage itself matters far more than the commercial trappings of a wedding day? i have to agree with the right reverend on the cost of weddings and the ever—increasing cost
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of weddings. i'm not sure the government can get involved in weddings but i do think that what's been happening through covid—19 and smaller weddings, has perhaps made people think that they do not need the huge weddings that they've had in the past. although if you do still fancy a big do, the house of commons still has two venues licensed for marriages. other wedding venues are available. well, that was the week in parliament. thank you for watching. alicia mccarthy will have the latest from the commons and the lords on bbc parliament at 11 o'clock on monday evening. but from me, david cornock, bye for now. hello. the temperature rose to near 20 celsius in the warmest parts of wales and scotland on saturday
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in a day of virtually unbroken sunshine once again. plenty of sunshine again during sunday. if you are looking for some rain though, there is a bit coming in the forecast. how much? you may be left feeling underwhelmed. high—pressure still around on sunday, the flow of air around that, particularly to england and wales will be a stronger easterly. it will feel a bit cooler but especially if you're along that north sea coast it will be a rather chilly day even when you do get to see some sunshine. it's a cold start to sunday with another frost in many areas away from larger towns and city centres, —3 possible in the coldest parts of eastern scotland. there will be some areas of patchy cloud around to begin with. a lot of that will clear away though, some areas will stay hazy during the day. some cloud will continue to push in towards eastern parts of england.
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maybe producing a light shower. and wales. very gusty through the channel, channel islands and into southwest england, overall it's a bit cooler. especially along that north sea coast but around 17 in the sunniest parts of the west. 0n through sunday night and into monday, we do start to bring in more cloud.
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good morning. welcome to breakfast with chris mason and sally nugent. 0ur headlines today: hospitals issue an sos for oxygen supplies and beds as the number of people dying from coronavirus in india increases. pressure grows on the prime minister over his flat refurbishment. labour calls for the government to face mps. good morning. and united we stand: english football's governing bodies agree on a social media boycott in response to the ongoing abuse suffered by many connected to the sport. and hollywood gears up for its biggest night of the year, but not as we know it. it's the oscars, 2021.
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