With the Prime Minister in China, Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington took her place, and Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, took Jeremy Corbyn’s slot. Lidington faced questions from MPs on Carillion, female representation in Parliament, lowering the voting age to 16 and the leaked Brexit document. Here’s the word cloud for Lidington’s answers:
MPs were left in a flutter throughout the session as they discovered a robin was on the loose in the House. SNP leader Ian Blackford used this as an opportunity to poke fun at David Lidington, asking if he is sending out a round robin letter, hinting that he is eyeing up a leadership challenge.
Labour MP Ian Mearns asked if the government will act to stop directors siphoning off money from pension funds, Lidington assured that efforts are being made to ensure Carillion apprentices can stay in work. He said that it will be wrong for him to pre-empt the inquiry from the official receiver and said the government will publish proposals to protect pension funds later this year.
With next week marking the centenary of women securing the right to vote, Thornberry asked what can be done to increase female representation in parliament. Lidington agreed that there is more to do to increase female MPs in parliament and reminded the house that the Conservatives have had two female Prime Ministers, while Labour have had none.
Thornberry then asked if the voting age will be lowered to 16, arguing that over 2,000 16 and 17-year-olds having caring responsibilities. Lidington said that 18 is the normal age of majority, and said the age of majority should be set matching rights and responsibilities. He said that while it’s important for young people to be interested in current affairs, the voting age should remain 18. Thornberry retorted that as the Conservative Party and DUP are the only parties that don’t support lowering the voting age to 16, they are not the ‘coalition of chaos’ but the ‘coalition of cavemen’.
SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford asked if the minister believes the single market is essential for jobs and prosperity, in light of the leak from Buzzfeed. Lidington said that we must leave the Single Market and Customs Union if we want to leave the EU, and said the UK is seeking ‘a new partnership with our neighbours in the European Union’, which is beneficial to everyone in all EU countries. Blackford described this as a government in crisis and an international embarrassment, adding that the Chancellor and Home Secretary support the Single Market while the PM wants to make everyone poorer. Lidington said that the most important single market for Scotland is the rest of the UK.
Conservative MP Ranil Jayawardena asked about the attainment gap and free schools, and Lidington stated that the government’s ambition is to ensure the schools system works for every child in every community. Cambridge’s Labour MP Daniel Zeichner, asked about the contribution of international students to the economy, arguing that there is a ‘steady increase’ in students threatened by the policies of the current government. Lidington said that the UK is the second-most popular destination for students in the world and added that university-sponsored student visa applications are up by nearly a fifth since 2010. Conservative MP Robert Neill asked about schools funding and questioned the Education & Skills Funding Agency. Lidington admitted that more work needs to be done on this front.
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