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Summary

  1. MPs began the day with questions to the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin
  2. Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham was granted an urgent question on the NHS in England
  3. That was followed by the weekly business statement from the leader of the Commons, William Hague
  4. The business for the day was two backbench business debates on the repeal of Fixed-term Parliament Act 2011 and oral hormone pregnancy tests
  5. The adjournment debate was on cyberbullying and digital anonymity, called by Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke
  6. Following questions in the Lords, peers conducted three debates on the construction industry, young people not attending university, and Malawi
  7. Immediately after oral questions Earl Howe repeated a statement on made in the House of Commons on the NHS' five year plan.

Live Reporting

By Pippa Simm and Sam Francis

All times stated are UK

Good evening

Thank you for following our coverage of proceedings in the House of Commons, House of Lords and select committee today. Friday sees sessions from both MPs and peers - hope you can join us then.

Lords rises

The House of Lords session ends as Department for International Development Spokesperson Baroness Northover tells peers that the government is not planning to reverse its decision to stop all payment of aid to Malawi, made in November 2013, due to fears over corruption.

"The UK is committed to ensuring that every pound of aid money achieves its intended," she says.

Peers will be back at 10.00 BST on Friday to debate Lord Saatchi's Medical Innovation Bill, that would allow terminally-ill patients in England and Wales to be voluntarily treated with unlicensed drugs.

Lords debate on Malawi

Labour Spokesman Lord Collins joins the debate praising the Department for International Development's (DfID) impact on the country which he says has led to Malawi's economy showing "some signs of improvement".

"This progress has been achieved through DfID focussing on key priorities of alleviating poverty and inequality through education, health and agriculture and with an emphasis on the equal rights of girls and women," he says.

Commons returns on Friday

The House of Commons has finished for the day, but MPs return at 09.30 BST tomorrow to debate private members' bills put forward by backbench MPs.

First up on the agenda is the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill, proposed by Conservative Richard Bacon.

Malawi-UK relations

Relations between the UK and Malawi suffered a setback in April 2011, following the expulsion of the High Commissioner

A new High Commissioner was appointed in September 2012, and the relationship improved; the UK government says it is committed to supporting Malawi to implement growth, and political and economic reforms.

Hate-filled attacks online

"Hate-tweeting trolls make peoples lives hell," and they have got out of control on social media, Charlie Elphicke tells MPs.

He says evidence suggests that people's behaviour worsens when there is anonymity, and calls for people to be stripped of their anonymity on social media to "discourage hate-filled attacks".

Charlie Elphicke MP
BBC

Malawi's progress

Many Malawians rely on subsistence farming, but food supply is precarious and the country is prone to natural disasters.

The country has made progress in achieving economic growth, as part of programmes initiated by President Mutharika, but Malawi has been urged by world financial bodies to further free up its economy.

Healthcare, education and environmental conditions have improved and the country now relies less on overseas aid.

Lords debate

Malawi has been a "good friend to the UK and to Scotland especially" Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale tells peers, ever since the days of Dr David Livingstone and his missions in Africa.

Lord McConnell calls on the government to continue to help Malawians "to help themselves", in the "same spirit" as Dr Livingstone.

Adjournment debate

That brings the debate to a close and business moves on the day's adjournment debate, which is on cyberbullying. It is being led by the Conservative MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke.

Assurances welcomed

Summating the debate, Yasmin Qureshi welcomes the minister's assurances, repeating her earlier claims of a "medical cover up".

Review ordered

Health Minister George Freeman confirms he will instruct that all relevant documents held in the Department for Health that pertain to oral hormone pregnancy tests are released, and order an independent review of all of the evidence, which he suggests could be carried out by the Medicines for Women's Health Expert Advisory Group.

He pledges that ministers will continue to monitor the evidence closely and take "appropriate steps" if it "becomes clear that there is any reason to believe there is a causal link".

Supporting Malawi

Peers are now moving on to a debate on what the government can do support economic and social development in Malawi, led by former First Minister of Scotland Lord McConnell of Glenscorrdale.

Review evidence

Health Minister George Freeman points out that earlier this year the Department for Health commissioned the lead regulator, MHRA, to review all key evidence on the issue, which found that "the data do not provide conclusive evidence of an association between hormone pregnancy tests and birth defects".

While acknowledging that "several" studies did show a "statistically significant" association, and that many people have visible defects, the minister adds that these "don't yet constitute the proof that a causal association exists".

Youth figures positive

Government Spokesperson Baroness Williams of Trafford, the product of a polytechnic educations as she tells peers, begins the government response to the debate reaffirming the government's commitment to apprenticeships and training, pointing to figures that showed that youths not in training or education were at their lowest recorded level.

Government stance

Health Minister George Freeman is charged with responding to the debate on behalf of the government.

He stresses that the government takes "very seriously" the concerns raised, and expresses his "deepest sympathy" to all those who believe they have been affected by oral hormone pregnancy tests.

Raising aspirations

Responding to the debate - on improving alternatives to university - for Labour, Lord Young of Norwood Green, tells peers the government's current work on apprenticeships was building on Labour's legacy.

While Labour "didn't get everything right" it did raise the "aspirations of a lot of young people who wouldn't have ever thought about going to university", Lord Young said.

Labour's position

Shadow health minister Luciana Berger is summarising the points raised by MPs, and setting out Labour's position - which is in support of the motion.

Ms Berger says the "scale of the proportion of women" who took the drug and gave birth to babies with abnormalities suggests there are "some serious questions to answer".

And she questions why there were "so many delays" in communicating warnings to GPs about the safety of the drug for pregnant women, which meant "so many women" continued to take the drug "long after it was known it was known to be unsafe".

Luciana Berger
BBC

Skilled worker shortage

Labour peer Lord Jones of Cheltenham warns that a shortage of skilled workers is returning the UK to the days of "loadsa money" plumbers, plasterer and painters, that "plagued the Thatcher era, and that are symptomatic of a cost pushed inflation spike".

Referring to Harry Enfield's character, the money-obsessed plasterer, Lord Jones told peers a shortage of skilled trades people has allowed bricklayers and other such skilled construction workers to ramp up their hourly rate.

Full disclosure

Former Care Minister Paul Burstow questions why "thousands" of prescriptions of Primodos continued to be issued to women in the 1970s despite safety warnings about the drug, and it being unlicensed.

Supporting the campaign for an inquiry, the Lib Dem MP says the medical companies who manufactured the drug and "protest their innocence" should fully disclose "all of their information about trials and anything else they have done".

We need to shine "a light on a very dark period in our medical history", Mr Burstow tells the Commons.

Looking for answers

Labour's City of Durham MP, Roberta Blackman-Woods, tells the Commons that "mothers are unable to forget the guilt for using the drug and their children, now grown up, continue to look for answers as to why they were born with abnormalities".

It is up to MPs to help them secure the answers they are seeking, she appeals.

Meanwhile, her party colleague, John McDonnell, says he can see "no reason" why the government should not allow an inquiry. Anything less would "compound" the scandal, he adds.

'Raising the status of apprenticeships'

Lord Sheik, one of Prime Minister David Cameron's chief advisors, warns that the UK's vocational qualification system has grown "too complicated, bureaucratic and hard to understand".

But he commends the government for "raising the status of apprenticeships" so that young people see them as equal to higher education.

What is Primodos?

Primodos was not licensed to be used as a pregnancy test after 1970 but it continued to be prescribed until 1977.

It was voluntarily withdrawn by its manufacturer Schering (now Bayer Pharma) in 1978.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirms that Primodos was unlicensed in the UK from 1970 but continued to be prescribed by GPs.

It found the data inconclusive on a link between hormone pregnancy tests and congenital abnormalities.

What is Primodos?

A hormone pregnancy test drug called Primodos was widely prescribed by GPs to women across England in the 1960s and 1970s.

It was a test consisting of a course of two oral pills; one dose contained the equivalent amount of hormones as 157 contraceptive pills.

Apprenticeships available

Labour peer Baroness Nye argues that there is a case for requiring "every supplier that bids for public contracts over a certain amount to provide apprenticeships and training" as a part of a drive to increase the amount of apprenticeships available for school leavers.

Half of UK's largest companies do not offer apprenticeships, she tells peers.

Commons timings

Deputy Commons Speaker Dame Dawn Primarolo interrupts the debate to advise on timings. She recommends MPs keep their speeches to under 10 minutes to fit in all those wishing to take part in the debate, which will finish at 17.00 BST.

MPs can play a 'positive role'

Conservative MP Nick de Bois follows, and adds his support to the motion. He says it is a "reasonable request" for the government to allow an independent panel to look into the paperwork, history and documents pertaining to oral hormone pregnancy tests.

He says the debate highlights how active constituency MPs can play a "positive role" for the people they are elected to represent.

Conservative MP Nick de Bois
BBC

Oral hormone pregnancy test debate

Geoffrey Robinson, the Labour MP for Coventry North West, is supporting calls for an independent inquiry, arguing that it would give people "closure".

‏@nickdebois

Conservative MP Nick de Bois tweets: Shortly speaking in the #Primodos debate - nothing learnt from Thalidomide tragedy it seems

'Must do better'

Opening the debate on improving alternatives for young people not attending university Labour peer Lord Monks tells peers there needs to be a more "settled framework" for apprenticeships following years of inconsistent government policies.

A new framework with "clear principles and less jargon and acronyms" would develop an apprenticeship system that could offer a "genuinely attractive" alternative to higher education, which would in turn help "raise the nation's woeful production rate" Lord Monks told peers.

"We can do better, we must do better," he adds.

New debate

That brings the debate on fixed-term parliaments to a close, and MPs turn their attention to a backbench debate on oral hormone pregnancy tests, led by Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi.

The motion notes that children were born with "serious deformities due to hormone pregnancy test drugs taken by expectant mothers between 1953 and 1975".

It also states that "no official warnings were issued about these drugs until eight years after the first reports indicated possible dangers".

Ms Qureshi wants full disclosure of government documents about the tests, and an independent investigation.

Vote result

MPs vote by 68 to 21 to reject a call to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act - a majority of 47.

Vote on the motion

A brief summation by Sir Edward Leigh paves the way for a vote on the motion, which calls for the 2011 Fixed-term Parliaments Act to be repealed.

Votes in the Commons - also referred to as "divisions" - typically tend to last about 15 minutes.

MPs must register their vote by filing through the Aye or No lobbies situated just outside the chamber.

Once the votes have been counted, the tellers (ie two people in favour of the motion and two against) will announce the result to the Speaker.

Lords debate

More than 37,000 places were posted on the National Apprenticeship Service's website between August and October 2013, a 24% increase, according to the organisation.

The sector with the highest ratio of applications was education and training, which attracted 27 per vacancy. The government has said that apprenticeships offer the chance to "earn and learn".

Good idea?

Defending the Fixed-term Parliaments Act - which removed the right of the prime minister to call a general election at a time of his choosing - Sam Gyimah tells MPs: "It cannot be right for key decisions about our democratic process... to be decided by the executive on the basis of political advantage."

Tory Sir Edward Leigh intervenes to ask why, if it was such a good idea, it was not in the Conservative Party's 2010 manifesto? Mr Gyimah responds by saying there were lots of good ideas that did not make it into the document.

Lords debates

Peers move on to a debate on improving alternatives for young people not attending university led by Labour peer Lord Monks.

Lord Monks says the debate has come at a time when apprenticeships are "centre stage" and might even become "a sexy political subject".

Government response

The government's response to the debate is coming from Cabinet Office Minister Sam Gyimah.

Enhancing the power of the Commons

Reaffirming Labour's support for fixed-term parliaments, Stephen Twigg says they create "a more equitable playing field" between the government and parties of opposition, and enhance the power of the House of Commons by removing the prime minister's power to call an election.

Stephen Twigg
BBC

Labour stance

We're on to the closing speeches of the debate, beginning with the opposition - who is being represented by shadow political and constitutional reform minister Stephen Twigg.

He rejects earlier claims by Tory MP Bernard Jenkin that Labour supported the Fixed-term Parliament Act because it would not have been prepared for a snap general election - pointing out that the party's 2010 manifesto committed to four year parliaments.

Return to the House of Lords

We will now rejoin the House of Lords as Transport Minister Lord Popat concludes the debate on the contribution of the construction industry to the United Kingdom economy.

Call to order

Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle calls Sir Bill Cash to order for making too long an intervention in his colleague Richard Drax's speech. "He's already had a speech, we don't want another," Mr Hoyle quips.