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Summary

  1. MPs met at 09.30 GMT for environment, food and rural affairs questions.
  2. After the Business Statement, there were ministerial statements on Birmingham schools and on growth deals.
  3. Backbench business debates followed: on the Iraq Inquiry and on financial support for the restoration of opencast coal sites.
  4. Peers met at 11.00 GMT and after oral questions, they conduct a series of debates.
  5. Topics included a report from the Procedure Select Committee, school reforms, and recognising the state of Palestine.

Live Reporting

By Sam Francis and Aiden James

All times stated are UK

Goodbye

Peers agree to the motion unanimously, which brings the week in parliament to an end.

Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords will be back at 14.30 GMT on Monday.

Government: 'fully committed' to two state solution

House of Lords

Parliament

Foreign Office spokesman Lord Wallace of Saltaire is responding to the debate for the government.

The government "remains fully committed" to the two state solution with ,but the best way to arrive at a "sovereign, independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestrina state living side by side with Israel" is through negotiation, he argues.

The UK government "reserves the right" to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at the moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace, he adds.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire
BBC

Labour response

House of Lords

Parliament

Shadow foreign office minister Baroness Morgan of Ely is now responding to the debate.

Labour fully supports Palestine being recognised by all of its neighbours and the UN she tells peers.

But she accepts that the conflict can only be resolved "by both sides engaged in a peace process."

The timing of Palestine's recognition needs to be carefully chosen, she says, as "both sides will seize on any excuse to stop the talking."

'Strengthening the hand'

House of Lords

Parliament

Former UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Lord Williams of Baglan argues that today's motion will "strengthen the hands of those genuinely seeking a peace agreement on both side".

"Recognising a Palestinian state in line with other great democracies will be a great step forward [in the peace process]" as it will mean "two states" are at the table during peace negotiations, he tells peers.

Lord Williams of Baglan
BBC

The full text of today's motion reads:

House of Lords

Parliament

To move that this House takes note of the Resolution of the House of Commons of 13 October 2014 that "this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution", and that this recommendation has also been adopted by the European Parliament, and the Parliaments of Sweden, France, Ireland, Portugal and Luxembourg.

'Only game in town'

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour peer Lord Mitchell tells peers that while he "abhors" the Israeli West Bank settlements, he believes that if Israel were to pull out of the contested area Hamas would "entirely predictably" overthrow the Palestinian Authority, and increase its attacks on Israel.

It would be "suicide", he says.

Unilaterally backing the Palestinian cause would derail negotiations, he argues, and "no matter how difficult or frustrating it may be negotiation is still the only game in town".

Goodnight from the Commons

House of Commons

Parliament

And that's it from the Commons for today and, indeed, for this week.

MPs will return on Monday from 14:30 GMT to consider legislation including the Armed Forces (Service Complaints and Financial Assistance) Bill and the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill.

They will also debate a motion on the transfer of functions to Scottish ministers.

Stay with us today as the House of Lords continues to debate the recognition of a Palestinian state.

Undermining peace negotiations?

House of Lords

Parliament

Conservative peer Lord Leigh of Hurley argues that "unilateral" declarations like today's motion undermine any bilateral peace discussions.

"Both sides' signatures" need to be on any peace deal, he tells peers.

He argues today's motion would fail to dissuade Hamas and other Palestinian factions from "using violence to advance to their agenda" and "allow them to ignore Israel's legitimate security concerns, and deny the absolutely basic need to accept the right of Israel to exist".

About HMS Victory

House of Commons

Parliament

The HMS Victory which sank in 1744 was a predecessor of Nelson's ship of the same name.

In October, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced that

artefacts from the shipwreck can be recovered to save them from damage.

'Not to the benefit of peace'

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour peer Lord Mendelsohn warns today's motion is not "to the benefit of peace".

He argues that the motion will increase pressure on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and "restrict" the Palestinian Authority's ability to make any concessions when negotiating a two state solution.

While he agrees it is in Israel's interest to "advance towards the creating a Palestinian state" - a point he says is recognised by most of the political spectrum in Israel - "massive external pressure" cannot force Israel to do things it does not want.

Desperation in Palestine

House of Lords

Parliament

Conservative peer Baroness Warsi, who quit as

Foreign Office minister over the government's policy on Gaza, warns peers that as Palestinians see the two state solution disappearing they will begin to fight for "Palestine they want to exist".

"That is the desperation we see from the Palestinians," she says.

Adjournment debate

House of Commons

Parliament

The final business in the Commons today is the adjournment debate.

Labour MP Kevan Jones is speaking about the wreck of HMS Victory.

HMS Victory sank in 1744 during a storm in the English Channel, drowning more than 1,000 sailors.

The wreck was found in 2008 by Odyssey Marine Exploration and artefacts are currently being recovered.

Palestine signing up to the ICC

House of Lords

Parliament

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Williams of Crosby argues that Palestine's signing up to the International Criminal Court (ICC) "is of the greatest possible importance".

It could pave the way for other Arab states to recognise "the role of the international criminal court in the steady development of the rule of law internationally" she says.

Israel-Palestine conflict

The BBC's coverage of and in-depth analysis of the Israeli-Palestine conflict can be found

here.

'Burden of restoration'

House of Commons

Parliament

Business, Innovation and Skills Minister Matthew Hancock says he appreciates "the scale of the difficulties" and wants to work with MPs on all sides on a resolution.

However, he argues against "the burden of restoration falling on the taxpayer" when mining companies have profited from opencast mines.

Reduced speaking time

House of Lords

Parliament

In all, 32 peers have put their names done to speak in today's debate, meaning speaking time has been limited to four minutes per peer.

'Something to show'

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Steel tells peers that he has tabled this debate today because peaceful protestors campaigning for a two state solution "need something to show for their pains".

Approving this evening's motion will send "a sign that we welcome and echo what the other House has already done".

Lord Steel
BBC

'Falling price'

House of Commons

Parliament

Shadow business, innovation and skills minister Iain Wright asks if ministers believe "the existing framework" for providing funds for restoration is adequate.

The "falling world price for coal" is also a factor, he argues, as revenues for operators fall while they are "quite rightly" expected to restore sites.

Picture: Jonathan Edwards

House of Commons

Parliament

Jonathan Edwards
BBC
Plaid Cymru's Jonathan Edwards speaks in the debate on restoring opencast mining sites

Commons vote on Palestine

House of Lords

Parliament

In October MPs

voted in favour of recognising Palestine alongside the state of Israel.

The House of Commons backed the move "as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution" - although less than half of MPs took part in the vote.

The result, 274 to 12, was non binding on the government and did not change policy but carried symbolic significance.

Palestine debate.

House of Lords

Parliament

Former leader of the Liberal Democrats, David Steel, now Lord Steel of Aikwood, now stands to open his debate on recognising the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.

Every child in a good school

House of Lords

Parliament

Reeling off some figures, Baroness Garden tells peers there are now "one million more pupils in good and outstanding schools" under a "tougher inspection framework".

The government aims to get "every child to be able to go to a good local school," she adds.

Government's response

House of Lords

Parliament

Education Spokeswoman Baroness Garden of Frognal has been given the task of responding to the debate for the government.

Immediately going on the offensive, she accuses the Labour party of overseeing a dramatic slide down the academic league table in UK schools.

The government reforms to GCSE are helping to reverse this decline she argues.

Labour response

House of Lords

Parliament

Shadow education minister Baroness Jones of Whitchurch is responding to the debate for Labour.

She argues that the government's focus on structural reforms is distracting from the "fundamentals of good teaching" and succeed only in "putting up barriers" in the education sector.

"You don't need to be an academy or a free school, or any other category of school to deliver outstanding teaching. The best schools are doing it all the time. Our job should be to encourage and nurture that process," she says.

Baroness Jones of Whitchruch i
BBC

Restoring opencast mines

House of Commons

Parliament

Opencast mines in the UK produce around 10 million tonnes of coal per year.

In the last decade the number of opencast coal mines has increased, prompting criticism from environmental activists.

A taskforce was set up in 2013 to discuss the restoration of opencast mines in Scotland.

In Wales, politicians have called on a mining firm to accept

moral responsibility for restoring two opencast sites.

@IrrancaDaviesMP

Labour MP Huw Irranca-Davies tweets: Beginning debate on open-cast remediation. @MadeleineMoon opening the debate very well. Important for our constituents in Cefn Cribwr & Pyle

About opencast mining

House of Commons

Parliament

Opencast mining involves removing coal from an open pit rather than tunnelling into the earth.

Once mining has finished, the site must be restored to stabilise the land and try to make the soil acid neutral.

Opencast mine sites that have not been maintained can pose health and safety risks to the local area.

Opencast coal sites debate

House of Commons

Parliament

The second backbench debate today concerns financial support for restoration of opencast coal sites.

Labour MP Madeleine Moon is opening the debate.

Madeleine Moon
BBC

Future planning

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour peer Lord Whitty argues that taking schools out of local authority control means that school places can no longer ensured for future generations.

Planning to ensure there are enough school places for the local population to be educated in the area can only be done at the local level, Lord Whitty warns.

The "two tier" system of state schools and free schools means that many local children cannot get into any school within their locality and one in five parents is having "great difficulty" finding places for their children in primary school, he adds.

Iraq Inquiry motion agreed

House of Commons

Parliament

MPs agree to the motion asking the Iraq Inquiry to publish a timetable for publication and an explanation of the causes of the delay by 12 February 2015.

'Maxwellisation'

House of Commons

Parliament

Rob Wilson mentions "Maxwellisation".

After a case involving Robert Maxwell in 1969, people criticised in draft reports have a legal right to respond before publication.

Those criticised in the Chlicot inquiry received the draft report before Christmas.

'Unprecedented in scope'

House of Commons

Parliament

Cabinet Office Minister Rob Wilson is replying for the government.

He says that when the Chilcot Inquiry began in 2009, "none of us thought it would still not be completed".

He describes the lack of a publication date as "disappointing and deeply frustrating".

But, he adds, "this inquiry is unprecedented in scope".

Spotting learning difficulties

House of Lords

Parliament

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Addington, who suffers from dyslexia, warns teachers must be properly trained in order to spot hidden learning difficulties.

"Any structures do not address this properly is going to guarantee failure," he tells peers.

About the Iraq Inquiry

House of Commons

Parliament

The

Iraq Inquiry was launched in 2009 to examine the decision to go to war, post-invasion planning and whether UK forces were properly equipped.

The inquiry was originally expected to publish its report in 2011 and has been widely criticised for the length of time it is taking.

Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot has said that the report will not be published before the next general election.

MPs are debating a motion regretting the delay and calling for an explanation.

Don't turn away

House of Lords

Parliament

Conservative peer Lord Forsyth of Drumlean warns against turning away from the government's reforms.

He tells peers about St Mary's in Dunblane which became the best primary school in Scotland after opting out of local authority control under the

1989 Self governing School Act (Scotland).

When the Scottish Parliament was created in 1999, its first act was to return such schools to local authority control, leading to a decline in standards, he says.

"In 1997 the number of pupils who got five good grades was 10% higher than in England, today that position has been completely reversed," he adds.

@HackneyAbbott

Labour MP Diane Abbott ‏tweets: Really interesting speech by Tory MP & former serving army officer in #iraq condemning #iraq war & failure to publish #chilcotinquiry

Too much too fast

House of Lords

Parliament

Former Schools minister Lord Knight of Weymouth accuses the government of rolling out its reforms too quickly.

The government fully rolled out their free school programme before the reform's impact on school management was known, potentially endangering pupils learning, Lord Knight says.

'Come to terms with failure'

House of Commons

Parliament

Conservative MP Rory Stewart says a major factor in the continuing debate on the war is an inability "to come to terms with failure, our inability to come to terms with what went wrong in Iraq".

The chairman of the Defence Select Committee argues that the debate "can't just be reduced to legality and post-war planning" - it is about the UK's role in the world and understanding "our limits".

In 2003 Rory Stewart was appointed as the Coalition Provisional Authority's deputy governor of a province in southern Iraq.

'Quite simply divisive'

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour peer Baroness Massey of Darwen says she has "enormous concern" about the the introduction of free schools - independent, state-funded schools not controlled by a local authority.

Many free schools are run by religious organisations which are "quite simply divisive" she says, telling peers that four out of five Sikh schools have no white British pupils while eight out of 15 have no white British pupils.

House of Commons - 18 March 2003

There has been much discussion in the House of Commons about the debate on 18 March 2003 on the decision to go to war in Iraq.

From the archives: here's

a list of how MPs voted on the Iraq war and here's the link to the
beginning of the debate as recorded in Hansard.