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Summary

  1. MPs started their day with questions to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ministerial team.
  2. The Leader of the House outlined future business in the Commons.
  3. MPs debated the role of faith organisations in the voluntary sector.
  4. Peers met at 11am for oral questions, and had a busy day of business before the end of parliamentary term.

Live Reporting

By Kate Whannel and Alex Partridge

All times stated are UK

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Lords adjourn

House of Lords

Parliament

Baroness Evans concludes her speech and the debate comes to an end - as does the day in the House of Lords.

Peers will return on Monday for a week dominated by "ping-ponging" legislation. 

See you then.

Clock
HOL

Evans: System is confusing and lacking in quality

Polytechnics debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Government spokeswoman Baroness Evans of Bowes Park tells peers that technical skills "do need to be improved".

She says the system is sometimes confusing, lacking in quality and too often divorced from the reality of the workplace.

She gives the House a brief preview into an, as yet unpublished, review by Lord Sainsbury into technical education. She reveals: "He has not been shy about the problems and has put forward specific clear proposals."

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
HOL

Stevenson: Vocational courses are considered second class

Polytechnics debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour spokesman Lord Stevenson tells peers that science and innovation is at the heart of growth.

He believes that merely calling for a new class of institution "won't do it".

He argues that the real issue lies in the society's attitude that vocational courses are "second class".

Lord Stevenson
HOL

Lord Pearson wary of another 'polytechnic experiment'

Polytechnics debate

House of Lords

Parliament

UKIP's Lord Pearson of Rannoch is wary of another "polytechnic experiment". 

He favours technical colleges but warns against allowing such colleges to be compromised by "weak social sciences".

Lord Pearson of Rannoch
HOL

Haskel: Technical schools are the answer

Polytechnics debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour's Lord Haskel beings by telling peers that he went to a polytechnic college.

He is not sure technical colleges are the answer, but instead says technical schools could help to prepare young people earlier.

He argues that such schools help prepare young people for the world of work by teaching skills such as problem solving. 

He acknowledges that some technical schools fail but says that is the nature of innovation. "It is a process of trial and error."

Lord Haskel
HOL

'An amazing failure'

Polytechnics debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Baker of Dorking
HOL

Former Education Secretary Lord Baker of Dorking regrets the "amazing failure" that so few students in technical subjects reach level 4.

He therefore supports recreating polytechnics to prepare people for high level technical jobs.

However he hopes polytechnic training will extend beyond STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths) to other subjects including digital skills, logistics and graphic design.

Order, order

House of Commons clock
BBC

The House of Commons has adjourned for the day, giving MPs plenty of time to get back to their constituencies and help get out the vote before polls close at 10pm tonight.

Burundi situation 'extremely fragile'

Human rights in Burundi

House of Commons

Parliament

James Duddridge
BBC

Foreign Office Minister James Duddridge is outlining the action the UK has taken. He says the situation is "extremely fragile" and the Foreign Office is "extremely concerned". 

He says there has been an "alarming increase in targeted assassinations" in recent months, and says that it indicates that the "cycle of violence" is getting worse.

He says both the Burundian government and opposition groups are fuelling violence.

He warns against seeing the conflict as an ethnic one, and he points out that the conflict began as a purely political one, but says it is a reason for the international community to worry "more than it would otherwise".

He says the international community wants to achieve a peaceful solution and that Burundi "could be a great country again" and has the "attention of the UK government".

Debate on polytechnics

House of Lords

Parliament

It looks like an early bath in the Lords today, as peers come to the last item of business - a debate on how the new generation of polytechnics can address the technical skills gap.

Thirty polytechnics were opened in 1960s aimed at ensuring working class communities benefited from higher education. Polytechnics tended to offer vocational rather than academic qualifications. 

A report by the Employer Skills Study found that manufacturing employers are most likely to encounter skills shortages when recruiting.

A wrench on a workbench
Reuters

Energy efficiency statutory instrument

House of Lords

Parliament

Thermogram
Science Photo Library

Its a very bitty day in the Lords. The next item is a statutory instrument - Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England) and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2016.

These regulations postpone the date of the establishment of the "private rented sector minimum standards exemption register".

The government will require landlords to improve those properties which fall into the bottom two categories of energy efficiency.

However, landlords will be exempt under certain circumstances, for example where they cannot acquire planning permission. 

Such landlords would have to register their exemptions on a list.

This statutory instrument seeks to delay the date at which the register will be established in order to give time for the register to be designed and tested.

Labour spokeswoman Baroness Jones of Whichurch worries that the delay is symptomatic of the government's "lack of urgency" in dealing with energy efficiency.

Nevertheless the instrument is not opposed. 

Current circumstances in Burundi 'grave'

Human rights in Burundi

House of Commons

Parliament

Fiona Bruce is asking for more action from the UK. "I do not wish to sound more alarmist than current circumstances indicate, but they are grave," she says. She says it's vital we help prevent events in Burundi spiraling out of control.

Fellow Conservative Jeremy Lefroy says he "cares deeply" about Burundi, and says that despite the efforts of the international community "the terrible situation continues". He says he believes there is now an ethnic element to the strife in the country and that the UK must do all it can to help the country "pull back from the brink".

Burundi crisis: timeline of events

Burundi nationals from across the U.S. and Canada, along with supporters, demonstrate outside U.N. headquarters, calling for an end to political atrocities and human rights violations unfolding in Burundi
AP

Burundi has been hit by civil conflict since President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to stand for a third term.  

  • April 2015: Protests erupt after President Pierre Nkurunziza announces he will seek a third term in office.
  • May 2015: Constitutional court rules in favour of Mr Nkurunziza, amid reports of judges being intimidated. Tens of thousands flee violence amid protests.
  • May 2015: Army officers launch a coup attempt, which fails.
  • July 2015: Elections are held, with Mr Nkurunziza re-elected. The polls are disputed, with opposition leader Agathon Rwasa describing them as "a joke"
  • November 2015: Burundi government gives those opposing President Nkurunziza's third term five days to surrender their weapons ahead of a promised crackdown.
  • November 2015: UN warns it is less equipped to deal with violence in Burundi than it was for the Rwandan genocide.
  • December 2015: 87 people killed on one day as soldiers respond to an attack on military sites in Bujumbura.
  • January 2016: Amnesty International publishes satellite images it says are believed to be mass graves close to where December's killings took place.

You can find out more about the country here.

Human rights in Burundi

Adjournment debate

House of Commons

Parliament

Fiona Bruce, the MP for Congleton, stands for the adjournment debate - a busy afternoon for her.

She is raising the human rights situation in Burundi.

She is sharing the debate with Jeremy Lefroy, the MP for Stafford. 

Peers approve longer pub hours for Queen's birthday

House of Lords

Parliament

Next item of business is the Licensing Act 2003 (Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Licensing Hours) Order 2016, which would allow pubs to extend their opening hours on the occasion of the Queen's official birthday.

Labour's Lord Rosser insists that he does not want to be seen as a killjoy but does raise a few objections about additional police costs that would be occurred by extending licensing hours.

Nevertheless Labour is happy to support the statutory instrument. 

The Queen visits Eastenders studio
PA

'Fleet of foot'

Faith organisations in the voluntary sector

James Wharton
BBC

Communities and Local Government Minister James Wharton responds for the government. 

He remembers a trip out with the street pastors in his constituency, teams of volunteers who help people on the streets late at night. He says a "tired and emotional" young woman recognised him as "that Tory", while the street pastors helped her with a bottle of water and sensible shoes. He tells the House that he told her "we're here to help", to laughter from his colleagues.

He says the quick and practical response of faith organisation is often "unparalleled". He points out that they are "fleet of foot", in a way that government is not.

"I recognise and the government recognises the important contribution faith makes to our society, the incredible value it adds to our country," he says.

He finishes by saying the debate has shown the breadth and depth of the work that faith and charity organisations do.

Armed Forces Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Peers now move to the third reading of the Armed Forces Bill which essentially makes it legal for the army to continue to exist.

This dates back to 1688 when Parliament demanded the right of MPs to consent to the keeping of standing army in peacetime.

In addition, to keeping the Army legal, this bill also makes changes to recruitment and discipline practices.

The bill is welcomed by peers, particularly by Lord Touhig. He tells peers that as a minister in Tony Blair's government he was working on an Armed Forces Bill but had to stop when the prime minister awarded him a DCM - "Don't come in Monday".

He says he is delighted to see this bill to its conclusion. 

Lord Touhig
HOL

'Energy, new ideas and passion'

Faith organisations in the voluntary sector

House of Commons

Parliament

Anna Turley rises for Labour, saying the debate raises issues that may not make the national news every day, but which are important for the "fabric of our society".

The shadow Cabinet Office minister says faith groups are there when the state, and when "we in this place" have failed, to pick up the pieces. Responding to speeches from other MPs in the debate, she adds that faith groups are able to respond and take risks, in a way that the state or other institutions cannot.

"Faith organisations continue to be a source of energy, new ideas and passion in civic society today," she says, adding that volunteers are frequently councillors, school governors, and magistrates.

She says that faith organisations should be able to provide solutions for local needs, and that means ensuring local associations can have confidence in commissioning services from them.

Compensation for miscarriage of justice

Criminal Cases Review Commission Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Beecham
HOL

Labour's Lord Beecham uses the opportunity to bring up the case of two men who served a 24 year sentence between them for a crime they did not commit but were not considered entitled to compensation.

He says the decision may reflect a flaw in the system and asks the minister to undertake a review on giving courts the power to award compensation.

Minister Lord Faulks says his initial reaction is that such a review is "not the appropriate way forward". He says it is for the state not the courts to decide levels of compensation. 

Motions and private members bills

House of Lords

Parliament

The remaining statutory instruments are agreed to with little fanfare and peers move on to to considering private members' bills. 

Similarly the Driving Instructors Bill, which seeks to simplify the process for registering as Approved Driving Instructors, receives no objection from peers and will now pass into law. 

Crossbencher Lord Ramsbotham now rises to speak to his bill - the Criminal Cases Review Commission Bill, which seeks to extend the Criminal Cases Review Commission's powers to gather information.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission is an independent organisation set up to investigate suspected miscarriages of justice.

House of Lords
HOL

Walker: Amendment could undermine committee's transparency

High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Walker
HOL

Chair of the Committee Lord Walker of Gesingthorpe worries that appointing a technical special adviser would undermine the transparency of the committee's hearings, as the technical advice would be received in private. 

He hopes to assure the peer however by promising to review the hybrid bill procedure.

Hybrid bills have elements of both a public and a private bill - this means that the provisions affect the general public but also has a significant impact for specific individuals or groups. 

Lord Bradshaw says he is not unhappy with his response, but does not push his amendment to a vote. 

More on that hedgehog...

Conservative MP tweets

HS2 motion

House of Lords

Parliament

Peers move on to consider a motion to appoint the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill Select Committee.

The bill allows for the building of the proposed HS2 scheme from London Euston to Birmingham Curzon Street.

Lib Dem Lord Bradshaw has proposed an amendment which would allow the committee to appoint a technical engineering expert.

Lord Bradshaw
HOL

BreakingGovernment willing to 'pause' work on new junior doctors contract

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean now rises to ask a private notice question.

She asks what the government's response is to the suggestion that work is paused on the junior doctors contract and the BMA pauses work on planning further industrial action for five days to allow further talks to take place on junior doctors contract.

Minister Lord Prior of Brampton says the government is willing, provided junior doctors agree to focus on the outstanding issue of Saturday pay.

Baroness Symons finds the reply "more helpful" than she was expecting. She goes on to ask what the government will do if junior doctors refuse to sign the contract and opt instead to become locums. 

Lord Prior replies that it "probably not helpful" to pull out "what ifs".

Junior doctors hold a 24 hour strike objecting to the new contract
European Photopress Agency
Junior doctors hold a 24 hour strike objecting to the new contract

'Striking phenomenon' of foodbanks

Faith organisations in the voluntary sector

House of Commons

Parliament

A volunteer at a foodbank in Falkirk
Getty Images
A volunteer at a foodbank in Falkirk

Labour's Stephen Timms calls foodbanks a "striking phenomenon". He says he would never have predicted that faith groups would be the ones to "step up" to help those in need.

The Trussell Trust, an organisation that runs a network of 424 foodbanks, is "founded on Christian principles" and partners mainly with churches to distribute emergency food packages.

In the past year, the Trussell Trust says it has distributed over a million three day emergency food packages around Britain.

Ashdown: Government policy is inexplicable and inhumane

Oral questions

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Ashdown
HOL

Earl Howe tells peers that is it because of the "debt of gratitude" for Afghan staff that the government is relocating 500 people to the UK.

Lord Ashdown says there is "absolutely nothing" to stop the government being more generous to those who "have risked their lives in the service of the crown".

He calls the policy "inexplicable and inhumane".

Earl Howe insists that the government is doing "all it reasonably can". 

Talks on committee witnesses promised

Chris Grayling promises action on select committee witnesses who refuse to attend hearings
Leader of the House Chris Grayling promises cross-party talks on select committee witnesses who refuse to attend hearings.

Question on Afghan interpreters

Oral questions

House of Lords

Parliament

The final questions comes from Lib Dem Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon who asks what assessment the government has made of the treatment of Afghan interpreters seeking to come to the UK in the light of the death of Nangyalai Dawoodzai.

Nangyalai Dawoodzai, an Afghan interpreter who reportedly worked for the British Army, killed himself while facing deportation from Britain.

Lord Ashdown told Radio 4's Today programme the treatment of Afghan interpreters was "scandalous"

British troops in Afghan
Ministry of Defence

Doocey: Banks should be forced to provide compensation

Oral questions

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Keen of Elie tells peers that the government has set up a joint fraud taskforce and sets aside £1.9bn to tackle cyber security.

Baroness Doocey says one in three victims of bank fraud have to wait four weeks before the bank takes action. 

She suggests that if banks were forced to provide compensation when their security systems fail they would take it more seriously. 

Lord Keen responds that the onus already lies "very much" with the bank - "and they are doing that".

Baroness Doocey
HOL

Question on banking fraud

House of Lords

Parliament

Lib Dem Baroness Doocey has the third question and asks what steps the government is taking to tackle banking fraud including internet and telephone scams.

Yesterday eight men were sentenced over a £1m telephone scam that targeted pensioners.

The men would pose as police officers investigating bank fraud and instruct the victim to move thousands of pounds of savings.

Financial fraud losses totaled £755m in the UK in 2015 and figures suggest five million frauds occur every year.

Shredded bank documents
BBC

'It is hard to know what land ministers live on'

Oral questions

House of Lords

Parliament

Minister Lord Prior of Brampton says the NLW has been universally welcomed and argues that given the "incredibly difficult job" done by careworkers "£7.20 does not seem like a small fortune".

He acknowledges that some care homes are closing but predicts the decline will be balanced with an increase in domiciliary care. 

Labour spokesman Lord Hunt of Kings Heath tells peers "it is hard to know what land ministers live on" and criticises the government for postponing the introduction of the Dilnott care cap. 

Lord Prior of Brampton
HOL

Debate on faith organisations in the voluntary sector

House of Commons

Parliament

Conservative MP for Congleton Fiona Bruce is introducing a backbench debate on the contribution of faith organisations to the voluntary sector.

She says faith organisations represent "a glue which holds together the fabric of our communities".

New report on parliamentary procedure

Committee tweets

Question on the national living wage

Oral questions

House of Lords

Parliament

Lib Dem Lord Oates now gets to his feet to ask what effect the national living wage (NLW) will have on providers of social care.

The national living wage, introduced in April 2016, is set £7.20 an hour for workers aged 25 and above.

A spokeswoman for the Local Government Association, Izzi Seccombe, has raised concerns about the new wage, saying: "The cost of implementing the NLW will significantly add to the growing pressure" on care services.

BBC Radio 4's You and Yours yesterday reported that more than a quarter of care homes in the UK were in danger of going out of business within three years.

George Osborne
PA

Hayter: When will lobbying by business be tackled?

Oral questions

House of Lords

Parliament

Government Minister Lord Bridges of Headley assures peers that the government is currently considering the report.

Baroness Hayter accuses the government of imposing "chilling gags" on a number of organisations but has not tackled lobbying by business. She asks when the government will do so.

Lord Bridges says the government is always looking at these issues.

Baroness Hayter
HOL

Call to make select committee attendance mandatory

Labour MP calls for non-appearance before a select committee to be "a criminal offence".
Shadow leader of the House Chris Bryant calls for non-appearance before a select committee to become "a criminal offence".

Question on third party campaigning

Oral questions

House of Lords

Parliament

The first questions, asked by Crossbencher Lord Harries, concerns government plans to act on recommendations in the report: Third Party Election Campaigning – Getting the Balance Right.

“Third parties” are organisations or individuals that actively campaign at elections but are not political parties.

The report, produced by Lord Hodgson, recommended restricting third party expenditure in campaigns to ensure that “elections can’t be bought”.

Examples of “third party” organisations include the Fabian Society and the League Against Cruel Sports.

SNP welcomes refugee u-turn

Business Statement

House of Commons

Parliament

SNP benches
BBC

The SNP's Pete Wishart jokes about the "overwhelming" support from his colleagues. Just two other SNP MPs are in the chamber. They are, he says, otherwise engaged in campaigning for today's Scottish Parliament election.

He says his party welcomes what he calls a "u-turn" from the prime minister on the issue of unaccompanied refugee children. 

He seeks clarification as to whether the House of Lords' Alf Dubs amendment will be accepted, or if plans to take in refugees will take some other form.

Reluctant witnesses

Analysis: refusal to appear before a select committee

Mark D'Arcy

Parliamentary Correspondent

Sooner or later, there is going to be a serious test of the power of Commons select committees to summon unwilling witnesses to give evidence before them, the BBC's Mark D'Arcy explains.  

If a witness declines a select committee summons, their refusal can be treated as a matter of Parliamentary privilege, which would require the committee to seek leave from the Speaker to bring a motion before the House of Commons.

Were the motion to be passed, we could then have the entertaining sight of the Serjeant at Arms, in full regalia, setting off to apprehend the miscreant and bring them to Westminster. 

Except for the minor difficulty that the Serjeant has no powers of arrest or entry, and the police would have no legal basis to assist him, so the whole thing could become rather embarrassing.

The reality is that the House's powers to compel reluctant witnesses are legally pretty shaky. 

Read more here.

Time to make select committee attendance mandatory?

Business statement

House of Commons

Parliament

Chris Bryant
BBC

Labour shadow leader of the House Chris Bryant passes an unflattering verdict over the first year of the government. He suggests asking the Queen to say her government would take a "one nation approach" was a "sick joke".

He notes preparations around the Palace of Westminster for this year's Queen's Speech, "even you, Mr Speaker have taken your annual bath".

He also mentions the reluctance of some public figures to appear before Commons select committees, and suggests that it is "finally" time to make non-appearance before a committee "a criminal offence".

Chris Grayling says he fully agrees with Mr Bryant on the issue, and promises cross-party talks to make it happen.

Committees have been frustrated in recent weeks in attempts to get Sir Phillip Green and his wife Tina to appear to discuss their sale of the retail chain BHS.

You can read more about the issue on BBC parliamentary correspondent Mark D'Arcy's blog here.

What's on in the House of Lords today?

House of Lords

Parliament

The main piece of business in the Lords today is the third reading of the Armed Forces Bill.

Peers will also consider a cocktail of statutory instruments including one concerning the licensing hours on the Queen's birthday.

The day will conclude with a debate on the new generation of polytechnics.

First, however we have oral questions which this morning will cover third parties election campaigning, social care, banking fraud and Afghan interpreters