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Summary

  1. The day in the Commons began with energy and climate change questions.
  2. MPs questioned the leader of the House, William Hague, during exchanges on his weekly business statement.
  3. The day's main business was a backbench business debate on UK foreign policy towards Iran, followed by a debate on the promotion of the living wage.
  4. Labour MP Keith Vaz led the adjournment debate on Sainsbury's roadworks in Belgrave, Leicester.
  5. The House of Lords began with the introduction of Baroness Brady and Lord Callanan, both Conservative peers.
  6. Peers held their daily questions session, debating the National Minimum Wage and the 25th Berlin wall anniversary.
  7. The main business in the Lords was two debates: the first on vulnerable women, followed by a debate on low income and vulnerable consumers.
  8. Peers also held two short debates: the first on Ebola, and the second on food waste.

Live Reporting

By Pippa Simm and Sam Francis

All times stated are UK

Goodbye for now

It's time for us to say goodbye, and thank you for joining us for our live coverage of Thursday in Westminster.

Lords wraps up

Environment Minister Lord de Mauley brings his remarks to a close, ending the debate, and the House adjourns.

Peers are back tomorrow morning at 10.00 GMT, when they will scrutinise Labour peer Lord Falconer's bill on assisted dying.

A staggering 175 amendments have been tabled, according to our very own parliamentary correspondent, Mark D'Arcy.

He has more on the bill,

here.

As mentioned earlier, it's also a sitting day in the House of Commons, where MPs will examine several private members' bills.

Closing speeches

We're on to the closing speeches of the debate now, beginning with Labour spokesman Lord Grantchester.

Environment Minister Lord de Mauley responds for the government.

'In my genes'

Expressing his strong feeling on the subject of food waste, crossbench peer Lord Trees remarks that as a son of parents from Yorkshire and Scotland, "thrift… is in my genes".

Lord Trees argues that the key to avoiding food waste in households is "planning meals and menu planning". There are also social and health benefits to be had in promoting family eating, he tells peers.

Leading the debate

Baroness Scott of Needham Market
BBC
Lib Dem and committee member Baroness Scott of Needham Market leads the debate on food waste

Surplus food

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, member of the all-party parliamentary group on food poverty and hunger, endorses the idea for surplus food being redistributed to charities and food banks.

If food is still fit for purpose it should go to feed the people first, the Tory peer argues.

Food waste

The British Retail Consortium said the report "had not appreciated what is already happening" to tackle food waste.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on 19 January 2012 on how to avoid food wastage.

It recommended that the European Commission take practical measures towards halving food waste by 2025.

The United Nations say one third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted before it is eaten.

In Europe, we throw away 100m tonnes of food every year.

The amount of land needed to grow all the food wasted in the world each year would be the size of Mexico.

Final item

The Lords moves on to the last item of business for today: a report on food waste.

It focuses on a report by the European Union Committee, which stated that 15m tonnes of food is wasted in the UK every year.

The committee criticised the EU's "fragmented and untargeted" attempts to tackle the problem and said more surplus food should be passed to charities and food banks.

The report also stated that retailers must behave more responsibly with farmers and avoid cancelling orders at the last minute.

Commons finishes for the day

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

First up on the agenda is the Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill, proposed by Conservative Jeremy Lefroy.

It seeks to improve the linkage and sharing of patient information between health and social care services.

'List of actions'

Communities and Local Government Minister Penny Mordaunt is responding for the Government.

While she is unable to interfere with specific planning cases, Ms Mordaunt says she will instead give Mr Vaz a "list of actions" he can take to appease his constituents.

What are adjournment debates?

Adjournment debates are short debates held at the end of a day's business and are often used to bring constituency matters to the attention of government ministers.

The House of Commons is scheduled to wrap up its business for the day at 17:30 GMT.

'Tackling poverty'

Business, innovation and skills spokesman Baroness Neville-Rolfe counters that the government is committed to helping those on low pay and protecting the most vulnerable consumers.

"We have taken action across government to tackle poverty, allow people to keep more of the money they earn and give the most vulnerable a loud clear voice," the Conservative peer adds.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe
BBC

Roadworks complaints

Labour MP for Leicester East Keith Vaz is leading today's adjournment debate on Sainsbury's roadworks in Belgrave, Leicester.

He says they are ruining the city's main shopping street, known as the "golden mile", after repeated delays and "shoddy management".

Labour MP for Leicester East, Keith Vaz
BBC

Labour's position

Representing the opposition, Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town accuses the government of placing the "burden of austerity on to the poor", whereas Labour would "protect the vulnerable" and spread the benefits of economic to "all workers".

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town
BBC

Different approaches

Winding up the debate for the government, Work and Pensions Minister Nick Boles says that all parties share the goal of wanting everyone in the country to be able to command at least the living wage for their work, they only differ on how to achieve this aim.

A stable economy that creates employment should be the focus, he argues, as those in employment are more likely to see their wages increase than those on benefits.

Work and Pensions Minister Nick Boles
BBC

Coming up in the Lords

Coming up a little later is the fourth and final debate of the day in the Lords, on food waste.

Peers will discuss a report by the European Union Committee, which state that 15m tonnes of food is wasted in the UK each year.

Lib Dem and committee member Baroness Scott of Needham Market will open the debate.

Lords schedule

The debate in the House of Lords on the low paid and vulnerable is time limited to three hours.

Labour peer Baroness Lister of Burtersett, currently making a speech on the cost of living, is the last of the backbenchers to speak.

It will be up to Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town to set out Labour's position, while Business Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe will summate for the government.

Living Wage Week

As many MPs have mentioned this week is 'Living Wage Week'. Set up by the

Living Wage Foundation, it takes place each November and is used to raise awareness of the living wage.

During the week, the foundation announces the living wage rates - calculated by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University - for the next year.

Opposition closing speech

Shadow work and pensions minister Stephen Timms is responding to the debate for Labour.

Working poor

Labour MP Stephen Lammy tells MPs he grew up in a "low pay" household where he couldn't guarantee the lights would stay on or the fridge would be full.

Though he supports the motion on the living wage he says it's introduction needs to be part of a wider reorganisation of the economy and the education and skills sector.

There needs to be a wider debate about "why the economy seems to be leaving so many people in work, but in poverty" he tells MPs. "The problems are deep and profound and that is why we must meet this need as quickly as possible," he adds.

Labour MP Stephen Lammy
BBC

'The usual waffle'

Lending his support to the motion, Conservative MP Chris Fuller says he is worried that "we will hear the usual waffle from the two front benches" on the living wage, and calls for clear mathematics on the consequences of their policies towards living wages.

Mr Fuller claims the living wage is likely to lead to greater unemployment as companies run on slim margins won't be able to keep workers on, and asks how much unemployment each party is willing to accept.

He calls on both parties to show how much the living wage will contribute to the Treasury and how much the workers will keep.

Mr Fuller says he backs incentivising businesses to provide the living wage, but adds that MPs "must be honest" and that there are limited tools to incentivise companies.

Conservative MP Chris Fuller
BBC
Conservative MP Chris Fuller calls for "honesty" over living wage

@KarlTurnerMP

Labour MP Karl Turner tweets: @DavidLammy making an excellent speech now on #LivingWage

National Minimum Wage background

The minimum wage was set up to prevent exploitation of the workforce and avoid extreme low wages. It was enshrined in law in the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, which implemented the policy of a standard minimum wage for all employees in the UK.

The current national minimum wage is £6.50 per hour for workers over 21, and £5.13 for 18-20 year olds. The minimum wage for adult workers was £5.80 at the time of the 2010 election.

Labour says that one in five working people in the UK are on low pay and has pledged to raise the minimum wage to £8 per hour by 2020 if they win the 2015 election. Labour's proposal is expected to impact around 1.4 million jobs.

The government says the rate would probably rise to £8 by the end of the next parliament if it continued on current trends.

The TUC union has expressed concern that wages are not keeping pace with inflation leading to a decline in living standards and has called for the minimum wage to be increase to £10 an hour.

The Confederation of British Industry has said the minimum wage is "set at the highest rate it can be without putting job creation at risk".

Tax policy defence

Baroness Noakes, a Conservative peer, defends the government's tax policies, asserting that Chancellor George Osborne has crafted a "careful combination of tax cuts and tax increases".

She notes that three million people have been taken out of income tax altogether, and 26 million have seen lower tax bills as a result of increases in the personal income tax allowance.

The personal allowance - the amount of money you earn that is free from income tax - rose to £10,000 in April, and is scheduled to rise by the increase in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) from 2015-16 onwards.

Going on the attack, Baroness Noakes criticises Labour's pledge to raise the top rate of income tax to 50p as "the worst kind of gesture politics", and quotes former Labour cabinet member and social mobility tsar Alan Milburn as saying the amount it would raise would be "incidental".

'Breaching the gap'

Newly-elected Conservative MP for Newark Robert Jenrick says that while he has come to believe the minimum wage is too low and that there is "room in many areas and many sectors for minimum wages to grow", the living wage is too high for many business, particularly in the Midlands and the north of England.

Instead he advocates "breaching the gap" between the minimum wage and living wage, and cutting tax for the working poor to allow them to keep more of their money.

Support for motion

Plaid Cymru leader in the House of Commons Hywel Williams, who says he has drafted his own party's policy on living wage, tells MPs that he will support the motion.

Plaid Cymru's focus is on building a "Welsh economic recovery" driven by "jobs that pay enough for people to live on", he adds.

Plaid Cymru leader in the House of Commons Hywel Williams
BBC
Hywel Williams offering Plaid Cymru's support for the living wage

Detrimental policies

Lord Whitty is seeking to argue that the government's economic, public spending and regulatory policies are having a detrimental impact on low income and vulnerable people.

He tells peers the number of households in fuel poverty is on the rise under the coalition, and that the "working poor" are being hit with "soaring" train and bus fares. The peer also criticises the "deplorable" cost of childcare.

Third debate in Lords

On to the third debate of the day now, which is being led by Labour peer Lord Whitty.

The focus is on the impact of government policies on low income and vulnerable consumers.

'Determination'?

Labour MP Willie Bain says that parliament already knows that introducing the living wage will put an end to the phenomenon of people living in poverty despite working; the question is "whether we have the determination to do it" he says, and calls on MPs to back the motion.

Importance of aid

Baroness Northover, the government's international development spokesman in the House of Lords, tells peers the Ebola epidemic highlights the importance of international aid. She says the UK will learn the lessons from the crisis.

Praise for living wage

Chris White concludes his remarks saying the living wage is "good for employees, good for business and good for society" and calls on the government to show business the benefits of installing it, so many more can "benefit in the proceeds of growth".

No legal requirement

The living wage, as opposed to minimum wage. is based on the amount an individual requires to earn to cover the basic costs of living. The living wage differs from the national minimum wage as it is an informal benchmark rather than a legal requirement

As living costs vary in different parts of the country there is one rate for London and another for the rest of the UK. The living wage is currently £8.80 an hour in London and £7.65 an hour in the rest of the country.

The national minimum wage is set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and is enforced by HMRC and is lower than the living wage - currently set at £6.50 an hour.

Living wage debate

Conservative MP Chris White begins the second of today's backbench business debates, on the promotion of the living wage.

Mr White says he hopes to build on a clear consensus form across the house that "hardworking people are rewarded for their efforts".

Conservative MP Chris White
BBC

Helping in West Africa

Speaking from the Liberal Democrat benches, Baroness Williams of Crosby notes the work of NHS volunteers and health medics from all over the world who are helping in the fight against Ebola in West Africa.

She adds that the WHO has named 15 countries - mostly in West Africa - which are at risk of slipping into an Ebola epidemic, unless preventative action is taken "as soon as possible".

Baroness Williams of Crosby
BBC

One hour debate

The Lords debate on Ebola is time-limited to one hour, which Labour peer Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top regrets is not enough.

She says the Ebola crisis is already a medical and humanitarian "disaster", with thousands of lives lost to the disease, and tens of thousands at risk without more effective action.

Telling off

Before opening the second of today's backbench business debates, Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing reassures MPs that the "strange and unusual noises" coming from builders outside the chamber have been stopped after MPs had reported being disturbed by the noises.

Ms Laing says she has made "those who have the duty to look after facilities in the House" are now aware of the "House's displeasure".

Eleanor Laing
BBC
Eleanor Laing: not taking any nonsense from builders

'Disease of the poor'

Baroness Hayman, a former Lords speaker, claims there is no vaccine for Ebola and other similar "neglected" tropical diseases because it is a "disease of the poor".

The crossbench peer calls for more resources to develop vaccines and treatments, arguing that this is not only the right humanitarian response, but also "our best protection" in a globalised world.

Baroness Hayman
BBC

Point of order

The backbench business motion is passed without the need for a division.

Conservative MP David Davis raises a point of order on the recent revelation that the intelligence services may have abused their access to intercepted, legally privileged communications between lawyers and their clients in sensitive security cases.

"It's long been taken as a standard that the relationship between a lawyer and a client is protected by privilege and protected from intervention by the state," he says, and asks the deputy speaker on advice on how the chamber may best deal with the breach.

Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing says that despite privilege being a key concern to the House of Commons it is not currently a matter for the chair to deal with.

Criticism of WHO

Conservative Viscount Ridley praises the government's "generous and effective response" to the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

But we shouldn't be so impressed with the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has been "dangerously complacent" for far too long, the peer adds.

Ebola crisis

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was first reported in March 2014, and is the deadliest occurrence of the disease since its discovery in 1976.

In August, the United Nations health agency declared an "international public health emergency".

The total number of reported cases is in excess of 13,500.

Ebola infects humans through close contact with infected animals. It then spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs.

The disease can also spread indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.

The incubation period can last from two days to three weeks, and diagnosis is difficult.