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Summary

  1. The Commons sat from 09.30 GMT for its final day's business before the Christmas recess.
  2. The day began with energy and climate change questions, followed by urgent question A&E services and on the UK's anti-corruption plan.
  3. Then the leader of the House made his final announcement of Commons business for the year, followed by a ministerial statement on local government finance.
  4. A short statement on the DCLG committee's Operation of the National Planning Policy Framework follows and then MPs held the traditional recess debate before the House rises.

Live Reporting

By Aiden James and Sam Francis

All times stated are UK

Goodnight and happy Christmas

House of Commons

Parliament

Ms McVey draws her remarks to a close with no further controversy. Which brings an end to business in the House of Commons until after Christmas.

MPs will return at 14.30 GMT on Monday 5 January. Until then we wish you a Merry Christmas and we will see you in 2015.

Angry words

House of Commons

Parliament

The answer angers MPs.

Both Stephen Timms and his fellow Labour MP John McDonnell raise a series of points of order complaining about the misinformation and the lack of figures on welfare sanctions.

The debate then breaks down further as Esther McVey asks for an apology from John McDonnell over comments he is alleged to have made about lynching Ms McVey.

Lindsay Hoyle intervenes and the debate returns to its original subject matter.

A 'misunderstanding'

House of Commons

Parliament

Responding to the debate for the government Employment Minister Esther McVey says Mr Timms is working with inaccurate figures.

The government cannot estimate the amount of money withheld due to sanctions as people leaving welfare due to gaining a job. Mr Timms' previous answers were due to the government misunderstanding the question.

The original response were figures on "the maximum amount that the claimant who was sanctioned could have received", she tells him.

New figures needed

House of Commons

Parliament

Stephen Timms says he is using this debate as an opportunity to try to obtain information on the most recent figures for the total amount of money withheld that is due to JSA claimants in 2013 and 2014.

Estimates put the figure at £300m.

Increase in sanctions

House of Commons

Parliament

Opening the debate Stephen Timms says that in the year before the election the amount of money withheld from JSA claims due to sanctions was £11m.

Between April to October 2012 - the latest period for which figures exist - it was £60m.

This steep increase - which Mr Timms says is the result of harsher sanctions system under the current government - goes some way to explain the recent increase in the use of food banks, he says.

Adjournment debate

House of Commons

Parliament

MPs now move to the final business of the term, today's adjournment debate. Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle uses the change between debates to wish all of the House of Commons staff merry Christmas, before welcoming Labour MP Stephen Timms to lead today's debate on Jobseeker's allowance sanctions.

Pub types

House of Commons

Parliament

Deputy Leader of the House Tom Brake is now responding to the debate - and has compared MPs who spoke in the debate to the types of people you might meet in the pub - labelling himself the one who always complains when the train is late.

Labour response

House of Commons

Parliament

Shadow deputy leader of the house Thomas Docherty is now responding to the debate for Labour. He opens his comments by thanking MPs for their contributions and wishing his opposite number Tom Brake a merry Christmas.

Release of Shaker Aamer

House of Commons

Parliament

Labour MP John McDonnell calls for government intervention to secure the release of

Shaker Aamer, the last British resident being held in Guantanamo Bay, who Mr McDonnell says has been tortured in the presence of MI5 agents and subject to five years of solitary confinement.

Mr Aamer remains in Guantanamo after 11 years despite never being charged of any crime and having been cleared for release twice since 2007.

Mr McDonnell says there is now a window of opportunity following President Obama's agreement to release prisoners to

aid US-Cuba relations.

War with America

House of Commons

Parliament

Liberal Democrat MP Sir Bob Russell tells MPs that Christmas Eve is the 200th anniversary of the Treaty of Ghent- the peace treaty that brought to an end the war between the UK and the young United States of America - and he wants a celebration.

This war, which he says helped shape Europe and led to the creation of Canada as a Commonwealth country, is being airbrushed from history.

In one of the more historical debates in the chamber he takes the opportunity to inform MPs about the finer points of the War of 1812.

'Boris Island' savaged

House of Commons

Parliament

The UKIP MP for Rochester and Strood, Mark Reckless, uses the Christmas recess debate to attack Mayor of London Boris Johnson's plan for a new airport in the Thames estuary.

Mr Reckless calls it a "pie in the sky proposal" which has now been "ruled out".

The Airports Commission, set up to examine the need for additional UK airport capacity,

rejected the proposal - nicknamed "Boris Island" - in September.

Support for North Korean people

House of Commons

Parliament

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce speaks raising the human rights situation in North Korea.

Addressing the people of that country, she says: "Know that we are with you. Know that we are supporting your relatives and friends who have escaped to this country."

Christmas adjournment debate

House of Commons

Parliament

MPs now turn to their traditional end of term general debate on anything MPs happen to fancy talking about.

The debate on "matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment" as it is officially known should takes us up the adjournment at 17.00 GMT.

Conservative MP David Amess is moving the motion on behalf of the backbench business committee.

Government response

House of Commons

Parliament

Communities Minister Brandon Lewis welcomes the report on the behalf of the government and promises the government will look at all of the committees recommendations. Local plans are hugely important and local authorities should be getting on with delivering them, he adds.

Changes to the NPPF

House of Commons

Parliament

The committee has set out four changes they would like to see in the National Planning and Policy Framework itself and to the way it is applied:

  • ensuring that the same weight is given to the environmental and social as to the economic dimension of plans and all planning systems place due emphasis on the natural environment
  • creating a statutory requirement for councils to get local plans adopted within three years of legislation being enacted to give communities increased protection against the threat of undesirable development
  • closing loopholes in the provisions of land supply that are leading to inappropriate development and the publishing of clearer guidance about how housing need should be assessed.
  • ensuring the NPPF gives greater protection to town centres in the new age of internet shopping. Developments that allow shops and buildings used for financial and professional services to become homes without planning permission must be ended.

Clive Betts

House of Commons

Parliament

CLive Betts
BBC
Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee Clive Betts sets out his committee's concerns with the NPPF.

NPPF statement

House of Commons

Parliament

Keeping the local government winning streak going, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee Clive Betts is making a statement on his committee's

report on the National Planning Policy Framework.

The National Planning and Policy Framework (NPPF) has been in operation since March 2012 and was established with the aim of simplifying and speeding up planning decisions.

Vindicated

House of Commons

Parliament

Conservative MP Matthew Offord says that the Local Government Association's claim that councils would buckle under the cuts has not panned out. Does the government feel vindicated? he asks.

Kris Hopkins says the government should feel vindicated and local councils should be very proud of what they've achieved.

Birmingham problems

House of Commons

Parliament

Labour MP Jack Dromey says Birmingham is seeing a further cut of £338m over the next two years due to the announcement, meaning it is losing more than Surrey. "Is it not absolutely wrong that almost everything the government does is characterised by rank unfairness?" he asks.

Kris Hopkins says Birmingham is not being singled out but faces its own challenges, including bad leadership over recent years.

'War' on councils

House of Commons

Parliament

Labour MP David Winnick accuses the government of going to "war" with local councils.

In his constituency, local authorities have had a 40% overall reduction since 2010, and further reductions will have an "even more devastating effect" on services. He says: "War is the only way to describe it, it's outright war on the most deprived areas."

Kris Hopkins says the government wants to protect the most vulnerable and that is why they have given local authorities extra powers on the money they spend.

Why the celebration?

House of Commons

Parliament

Chair of the Local Government Committee Clive Betts asks why the government are congratulating themselves over a 1.6% reduction - the lowest level in this parliament - in funding.

The percentage cut that local councils will face next year is larger than all central government departments have faced collectively, he says.

Kris Hopkins says the fact that more money is being taken from this area is because local government is a quarter of all public spending.

'Open minded' councils

House of Commons

Parliament

Responding to Mr Benn's comments, Kris Hopkins says the government is confident that local councils can respond to the difficult circumstances they have inherited.

The NAO has found that many councils are doing well under the current circumstances.

All councils need to transform the way they operate which is happening in areas such as Labour-controlled Manchester. Councils like that are "more open-minded than the Labour frontbench", he says.

The reduction is of 1.8% , but if you include transitional funding and other revenue the cut in their spending power is 1.6%, he says.

The 10% of the most deprived authorities will receive 40% more than those in the more well-off areas. Giving councils the chance to grow "the monies" in their areas is the best way to ensure local councils futures.

Labour response

House of Commons

Parliament

Shadow work and pensions secretary Hillary Benn says councils have experienced the biggest spending reductions in the public sector, and they "resent" Eric Pickles' claims that these cuts are modest.

He asks if the government will confirm that they are planning a 10% reduction in the main component of central government funding to local authorities in 2015-156 as reported by the National Audit Office.

Councils serving the most deprived areas are receiving the biggest cuts, he says - and asks why it is that when claiming that those with the broadest shoulders should bear the biggest burden the government are doing the opposite.

"There is no justification for taking the most from those who have the least," he says.

Council tax measures

House of Commons

Parliament

Mr Hopkins says councils have increased their reserves by £2.2bn over the last year, meaning they now have £21.4bn.

He says the government will make funds available to allow councils to freeze council tax, which he hopes all councils will take up as "all councils should freeze their council tax".

Councils that want to put council tax up by more than 2% will have to hold a referendum, he adds.

Welfare assistance

House of Commons

Parliament

Mr Hopkins announces that £129.6m of the central government grant will be will be earmarked for unitary authorities' local welfare assistance.

'Bellwin thresholds'

House of Commons

Parliament

Following last year's flooding problems the government are announcing "illustrative Bellwin thresholds" for 2015-16 to give local authorities greater certainty when dealing with severe weather.

'Tools to help themselves'

House of Commons

Parliament

Mr Hopkins says it is not just about the amount of money the government gives to councils but about the tools given to councils to help themselves.

Local government can now keep business rates revenue. Mr Hopkins says 91% of them expect to increase their business rates revenue.

Home building funds

House of Commons

Parliament

The settlement will deliver £15.5m in additional resources to "the most rural councils", Mr Hopkins says.

Mr Hopkins adds that £1,2bn of new homes bonus funding has been "provisionally allocated" to local government for 2015-16, bringing the total to £3.4bn since the scheme began.

Spending reduction

House of Commons

Parliament

Mr Hopkins says central government funding will in fact be reduced by 1.8% in 2015-16 but today's settlement leaves councils with "substantial spending power".

Local government finance statement

House of Commons

Parliament

Communities and Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins is now making a statement on local government finance.

The Government has said that councils would face an average cut in their spending power of 1.8% in 2015-16.

Lima conclusions

House of Commons

Parliament

Conservative MP Matthew Offord calls for a debate on the UK's position on the conclusions of this weeks UN Climate Change conference in Lima, after there was no oral statement made on the subject.

William Hague says that a written statement on the government's position was made this morning and suggests there will be further opportunities to debate this before the UN meeting in Paris next year.

Governance Committee support

House of Commons

Parliament

Several MPs have now called for a debate on the report of the

House of Commons Governance Committee , including the committee's founder Bernard Jenkin and Committee Chair Jack Straw.

A prime spot for a debate early next year seems almost certain.

Women Bishops Bill

House of Commons

Parliament

Conservative MP Sir Tony Baldry welcomes the publication of the

Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill, which allows women bishops to be fast-tracked into the House of Lords. He asks William Hague if he will confirm if this bill will be passed in a single day through both Houses to ensure its speedy application.

The two Archbishops and the 24 most senior Bishops from the Church of England have an automatic right to sit in the House of Lords. Iran, Belize and the UK are the only elected parliamentary systems in the world to reserve places for religious representatives amongst its lawmakers.

Mr Hague says the bill is a short and simple one which will be dealt with quickly. However, he adds that he will look at the handling of the business before he confirms if it can be passed as quickly as Sir Tony would like.

Topics for debate

House of Commons

Parliament

MPs are raising topics which they want to see debated in the House of Commons with the leader of the House.

House of Commons
BBC

Death penalty debate call

House of Commons

Parliament

Conservative MP David Nuttall says that following the murder of 132 children by the Pakistani Taliban in an army-run school in Peshawar, the Pakistan government has re-introduced the death penalty.

He asks for a debate on re-introducing of the death penalty in the UK - to sarcastic cries of "merry Christmas" heard from opposing benches.

Mr Hague joins Mr Nuttall in condemning the Peshawar attacks, but says that the position of the government is to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances.

Moving 'with alacrity'

House of Commons

Parliament

After an exchange of compliments, William Hague says that the government will move "with alacrity" to find time to debate the report of the House of Commons Governance Committee, but time has not been found yet.

The list of special advisors will be published today, he says, pointing out that their average pay is less than under the last government.

The gender pay gap is closing under this government, Mr Hague claims, adding that he wants to see it narrow further.

Labour's requests

House of Commons

Parliament

Shadow leader of the House Angela Eagle asks if and when the report of the House of Commons Governance Committee can be debated.

The report set outs reforms for the administration of the House of Commons, including splitting the role of clerk of Parliament and chief executive, and sharing services with the House of Lords.

Ms Eagle asks why the list of special advisors, and their pay, has been delayed and when it will be published.

She asks if the government will give time to Sarah Champion's ten minute rule bill on forcing companies with over 250 staff to publish figures on their gender pay gap - and asks if Mr Hague is still paid more than his opposite number in the House of Lords, Baroness Stowell of Beeston.

Business statement

House of Commons

Parliament

Leader of the House William Hague is now delivering the weekly business statement, setting out what MPs will do on their first week back in the New Year.

He adds that next year's Budget will be delivered to Parliament on Wednesday 18 March, as announced by Chancellor George Osborne yesterday.

He ends by wishing the whole House and its staff a merry Christmas.

Government response

House of Commons

Parliament

Responding to Mr Murray's questions, Matt Hancock says funding will come from the Department for International Development, and that the government is looking at ways to utilise DfID funding to tackle corruption both at home and abroad.

But, he adds, the focus should be on the effectiveness of deployment of resources.

Mr Hancock tells MPs that the ministerial group has already met, contains representatives from across government and will be accountable to Parliament.