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Summary

  1. The Commons began at 11.30 GMT and the first item of the day is International Development questions.
  2. PMQs was at noon; while the main business of the day was two Opposition day debates on housing benefit and food banks.
  3. Peers sat at 11.00 GMT - earlier than usual - for its last day before the Christmas recess.
  4. After oral questions, the main day's business was the Recall of MPs Bill at second reading.

Live Reporting

By Aiden James and Sam Francis

All times stated are UK

Goodnight

House of Commons

Parliament

And that brings an end to today's business.

MPs will be back tomorrow at 09.30 GMT with questions to Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey.

Government response

House of Commons

Parliament

Responding for the government, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey congratulates Mr White on securing the debate to celebrate Warwick on an event that only comes around "every eleven hundred years".

Cities like Warwick who have "a wonderful heritage" but are also able to adopt and accommodate "the modern economy" should be celebrated, he says.

Keeping Warwick's character

House of Commons

Parliament

Chris White
BBC
Chris White tells MPs that he has campaigned to prevent building works ruining Warwick's character, while giving the chamber a history lesson of the city.

Adjournment debate

House of Commons

Parliament

MPs now move to today's final business, the adjournment debate today on the 1100th anniversary of the town of Warwick led by Conservative MP for Warwick and Leamington, Chris White.

Motion rejected

House of Commons

Parliament

MPs reject the Labour motion by 293 votes to 237, a government majority of 56 - the Labour front bench is heard to say "that'll be the Lib Dems then" meaning the Liberal Democrat's 56 MPs made the difference in today's vote.

Government response

House of Commons

Parliament

Responding for the government, DEFRA Minister George Eustice reiterates that the reasons behind the increase in use of food banks are "complex".

Many MPs have claimed the main cause is delays to benefits payment. The "fact of the matter", he says, is that 90% of JSA claimants now get their benefit on time, up from 86% in 2009-10, while hardship payments are also being paid where needed.

The government is looking at ways to advertise hardship payments and speed up their delivery, he adds.

The best way to get people out of poverty is to get them off benefits and into work, he concludes.

'Hunger stalking the land'

House of Commons

Parliament

Stephen Timms says there needs to be all party recognition "that hunger is stalking the land" and a strategy to end hunger, which must he says must include putting right "the terrible problems" in the welfare system.

But as no Work and Pensions Ministers took part in today's debate, that'll take a change of government, he says.

'Unwilling' to face facts

House of Commons

Parliament

Shadow Work and Pensions minister Stephen Timms is now responding to the debate for Labour.

He says the Work and Pensions Secretary has refused to meet the Trussel Trust - who published a report on the use of food banks - as he was "unwilling to face up to the consequences" of his policies, which he says have led to hundreds of people going hungry.

Economic changes

House of Commons

Parliament

Labour MP Frank Field, who founded the APPG on Hunger and Food Poverty, says he does not believe it will be easy to abolish food banks. Food banks are present in similar countries all across the western world, he says, which he suggests means something very fundamental has happened to the economies in these countries.

He adds that both front benches must commit to making emergency payments available to those whose benefits are delayed and introduce a "yellow card" warning system, to ensure those who are sanctioned are able to seek help before their benefits are taken away, forcing them to use food banks.

Frank Field
BBC
Frank Field spearheaded the report on food poverty

Government changes needed

House of Commons

Parliament

Conservative MP Jeremy Lefroy, who co-chaired the launch of the Trussel Trust's report '

Emergency Use Only' - quoted in the motion being debated - tells MPs the use of food banks caused by "acute income crisis" is mostly due to problems with the complexities and delays in the welfare system.

The government must improve access to short term benefit advances, and must change its sanction system, he says - as many financial punishments are "completely over the top and unnecessary" - as well as improve the Employment Support Allowance to ensure that claimants are not left without income in order to combat food bank use.

Food banks must not become a readily accepted part of provision and relied upon to help those who get into difficulties, he warns.

Point of order

House of Commons

Parliament

Shadow DEFRA Minister Huw Irranca-Davies raises a point of order, pointing out that George Eustice, the minster responding to the debate, was not in the chamber for the opening speeches - which would normally exclude him from taking part in the debate - and asks what the protocol is in these situations.

Mr Eustice explains that he was required to be in another debate in Westminster Hall at the start and so could not make it into the chamber in time. Speaker John Bercow calls it a "regrettable state of affairs" but allows the debate to continue.

Committee session ends

House of Commons

Parliament

Treasury Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie wishes the Chancellor a merry Christmas and closes the question session on the EU budget.

Stay with us for coverage of the House of Commons, as MPs continue to debate an opposition motion on food banks.

Complex negotiations

House of Commons

Parliament

Do Treasury officials needs to learn lessons about legal details, when it comes to EU negotiations, MP Steve Baker asks the Chancellor - and are there lessons to learn for future negotiations.

You have to fight hard for your interests, George Osborne tells MPs.

Complex causes

House of Commons

Parliament

Cabinet Office Minister Rob Wilson sets out the government's stall on food banks.

The

APPG on food poverty found that the increase in food bank use is caused by multifaceted problems, and the reasons often overlap, he says.

The development of the use of food aid in other western economies - there are 1,000 found banks operating in Germany while one in seven Americans now rely on a food bank - is a moral problem, not just a sustainability issue.

This government has a long term economic plan, which he says is the best way to improve living standards. The growing economy means disposable income per capita is rising, while income inequality is falling he says.

Cabinet Office Minister Rob Wilson
BBC
Cabinet Office Minister Rob Wilson

EU budget deal

House of Commons

Parliament

Negotiators from the European Parliament and EU governments

have reached a deal on the EU's 2015 budget and amendments to the 2014 budget.

Spending in 2015 has been set at €141.2bn (£111.2bn).

The UK's total contribution to the current budget is €15.29bn (11% of the total).

Treasury Committee resumes

House of Commons

Parliament

The Treasury Committee have resumed their questioning of Chancellor George Osborne.

The second part of the evidence session focuses on the EU budget.

Chairman Andrew Tyrie asks the Chancellor about his claim to have "halved the bill" the UK faces.

Mr Osborne says the way the bill was presented was "completely unacceptable" and claims ministers have now achieved the "maximum rebate".

Food Banks motion

House of Commons

Parliament

MPs now turn to the second of today's opposition day debates on Food Banks.

The motion states that Food Bank use "has increased from 41,000 in 2009-10 to 913,000 in 2013-14", one third of whom are children. The motion blames this on prices rising faster over the last four years and failings in the operation of the social security system.

To tackle this Labour are calling on the government to:

  • bring forward measures to reduce dependency on food banks,
  • tackle the "cost of living crisis",
  • end delays and administrative problems in the benefits system,
  • introduce a freeze in energy prices,
  • introduce a national water affordability scheme,
  • introduce measures to end abuses of zero hours contracts,
  • bring in incentives for companies to pay a living wage, an increase in the minimum wage to £8 an hour by the end of the next Parliament,
  • guarantee a job for all young people who are out of work for more than a year
  • and introduce 25 hours-a-week free childcare for all working parents of three and four year olds.

New motion passed

House of Commons

Parliament

MPs vote to approve the newly worded motion - created by the government - by 300 votes to 262, a government majority of 38.

Motion defeated

House of Commons

Parliament

Labour's motion to abolish the spare room subsidy - also known as the "bedroom tax" by Labour - is defeated by 298 votes to 266, a majority of 32.

MPs now move to vote on the government amendment to reword the motion to something far more complimentary to the government.

Government response

House of Commons

Parliament

Responding to the debate for the government Pensions Minister Steve Webb asks how Labour would pay for this motion, which he says would cost £500m a year.

He says Labour's plans to fund the bulk of it from ensuring the building trade pays tax, is already being done he says - so the bulk of this money has already gone.

He accuses Labour of avoiding the plight of over crowding in the housing sector. Overcrowded tenants will be helped by this scheme, he says, but their voice has not been hear in this debate.

He also says there is an inconsistency in Labour's support of a spare room subsidy in the private sector but not council housing.

Kafkaesque and cruel

House of Commons

Parliament

Shadow work and pensions minister Kate Green is responding to the debate for Labour. She tells MPs that the housing welfare changes has failed in all its objectives - it was not saving money, while only 5.9% of families had downsized due to the policy.

"This Kafkaesque proportions of this policy is beyond even what we'd image, even from this government. The policy is perverse, it's cruel, it's unfair, it's unworkable," she says.

"Scrapping it would be the first move of a Labour government and for half a million people that can't come soon enough," she says.

Treasury Committee adjourns

House of Commons

Parliament

The Treasury Committee has adjourned its meeting to allow for votes in the Commons.

They will reconvene shortly to question the Chancellor on the EU budget.

Merry Christmas from peers

House of Lords

Parliament

That's it for the House of Lords for 2014. Peers are away for the Christmas recess, meeting again on 6 January.

Business is continuing in the House of Commons, as is our live coverage of Chancellor George Osborne's appearance before the Treasury Committee.

Tax rises?

House of Commons

Parliament

Labour's Andy Love asks George Osborne if the need to cut the deficit will lead him to "seriously consider tax rises".

The Chancellor says the UK does not need tax rises and spending cuts were needed instead.

"We have shown in this Parliament that we can deliver those savings whilst improving public services," he adds.

@BBCNormanS

Norman Smith

BBC Assistant Political Editor

What wd be the consequence of failing to meet Charter of Budget Responsbility ? Osborne: I'd get asked questions.

Labour's 'silence'

House of Commons

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Scottish National Party MP Eilidh Whiteford suggests that Labour forced its Scottish leaders to "keep quiet on the bedroom tax" for a year while they "made up their mind".

Labour MP Sheila Gilmour intervenes to say that Labour had been voting against the changes since they were first put forward.

Staff tributes

House of Lords

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Labour chief whip Lord Bassam of Brighton is paying tribute to staff who have retired this year, shortly before the House of Lords rises for its Christmas recess.

Debt target missed

House of Commons

Parliament

The Chancellor tells Labour MP Teresa Pearce that he accepts that the government has missed its debt target, or rather will achieve it "a year late".

He said he believes "a fiscal consolidation of £30bn" is needed to eliminate the deficit and run a budget surplus.

He argues that the government's fiscal rules had enabled it to cut the deficit "by a half".

In the Autumn Statement, the deficit was projected to fall to £75.9bn in 2015-6, £40.9bn in 2016-7, £14.5bn in 2017-8 before reaching a £4bn surplus in 2018-9.

Welsh concerns

House of Commons

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Labour MP Geraint Davies says Wales is disproportionately hit by the housing welfare changes - 46% of council housing tenants are affected in comparison to 31% in the rest of the UK.

People on council housing estates need stable communities to build stable futures for the benefit of everyone, he says. For this to happen the government's housing welfare must be abolished, he says.

Moving forward

House of Commons

Parliament

Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke says MPs have had this debate "again and again" but offer no solutions for moving forward.

He raises the issue of a welfare cash card - something he'd previously suggested in a ten minute rule bill - for payment of benefits that could not be spent on "luxury goods such as cigarettes, alcohol, Sky television and gambling" as a way to control people's benefits spending.

Trapped by the spare room

House of Commons

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Labour MP Jack Dromey says that "there simply are not enough homes in the UK "- and the government is building the lowest number of houses since the 1920s. This has led to tens of thousands of people all around the country "trapped" in homes having to pay a retrospective tax, and struggling as a consequence, he says.

The front bench just don't understand, he suggests, and adds that the increased housing benefit bill was due to low wages and high rent.

Autumn Statement

House of Commons

Parliament

George Osborne is answering the Treasury Committee's questions on the Autumn Statement.

The Chancellor made the Commons statement on the state of the UK economy on 3 December.

A BBC News summary of the main points is available

here.

George Osborne
BBC

18 March Budget

House of Commons

Parliament

George Osborne announces that the final budget of the current Parliament will take place on 18 March 2015.

@ChloeSmithMP

Conservative MP Chloe Smith tweets: We are challenging NATS today on @CommonsTrans re air traffic failure. They need to be ready for Christmas travel spike, & resilient & safe

Chancellor gives evidence

House of Commons

Parliament

Over in the select committee rooms, MPs on the Treasury Committee are taking evidence from Chancellor George Osborne and officials on the Autumn Statement.

'Reserve power'

House of Lords

Parliament

Cabinet Office spokesman Lord Wallace of Saltaire tells peers that "checks will be in place" to ensure that a person is eligible to sign a recall petition and that they cannot sign it more than once.

"The government sees this process as a reserve power," he says, predicting it would not be needed "very often".

Lord Wallace of Saltaire
BBC

Rival bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Concerns have been raised that the government's bill leaves too much power to parliamentarians rather than the public.

Conservative backbencher Zac Goldsmith introduced a rival proposal to Parliament in the form of a private member's bill.

The MP called his bill, which would not require an MP to be proven to have broken any rules, "a genuine Recall Bill".

An MP could be recalled if 5% of voters in a constituency sign a "notice of intent to recall" and 20% of voters then sign a "recall petition".

'Cynical' Labour

House of Commons

Parliament

Disabled Persons Minister Mark Harper accuses Labour of being cynical by choosing this debate to "contrive to scare people" rather than welcoming today's news on rising employment

Speaking over the shouts from the Labour benches he says Labour would rather talk about anything other than today's "positive jobs figures" which he goes on to set out.

Transport Committee proceedings

House of Commons

Parliament

The evidence session of the Transport Committee today will explore investment in air traffic management, compensation for airlines and passengers, and the forthcoming CAA investigation in relation to events on 12 December.

Evidence is being taken from representatives from National Air Traffic Services (NATS) - Chief Executive Richard Deakin and Managing Director of Operations Martin Rolfe - followed by the Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Authority, Andrew Haines.