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Summary

  1. MPs met at 9.30 GMT to put questions to Business, Innovation and Skills Secretary Vince Cable and his ministerial team.
  2. Leader of the House William Hague set out the forthcoming parliamentary business in the weekly Business Statement.
  3. Today's main business were two backbench business debates; the first on Higher education funding followed by a debate on Gibraltar.
  4. Conservative MP Chris Skidmore led the adjournment debate on disabled access to historic buildings.
  5. Peers met at 11.30 GMT for their daily oral question session.
  6. Main business in the House of Lords included three debates on: early years interventions, lessons learnt from the recent Ebola outbreak and the future of the NHS.
  7. Peers then debated the Insurance Bill at report stage.

Live Reporting

By Aiden James and Sam Francis

All times stated are UK

Goodnight from the Lords

House of Lords

Parliament

The Insurance Bill is briskly disposed of. Peers will return to the bill at a later date for third reading.

And that concludes business in the Lords for today and indeed for this week, as only the House of Commons is sitting tomorrow.

Peers return on Monday for debates including the second day of committee stage consideration of the Pension Schemes Bill.

Bill stages

House of Lords

Parliament

The committee stage enables detailed scrutiny of a bill and the opportunity to table amendments.

However, unlike in the Commons, amendments are rarely put to a vote during committee stage in the Lords.

Peers can re-introduce the amendments at report stage if they are not satisfied that the government has addressed their concerns and push them to a vote if they wish.

Report stage also offers the chance for the government to put forward its own amendments to address concerns raised during committee stage, if it accepts peers' arguments.

Insurance Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Peers have concluded the day's topical debates and move on to their final business, which is the report stage of the Insurance Bill.

The bill will result in changes to the insurance market across the UK, meaning that insurers will need to evaluate their internal policies and current practices.

The report stage of a bill gives peers an opportunity to consider further amendments following committee stage.

Five Year Forward View

House of Lords

Parliament

Replying for the government in the NHS debate, Health Minister Earl Howe raises NHS England's

Five Year Forward View on the future of the NHS.

With no further efficiency savings, he argues, the NHS will have a £20bn funding gap by 2020-21, but a combination of efficiency savings and new investment would avoid this.

In November, the government announced an extra £2bn for the health service.

This funding "fully delivers the investment required to make the Five Year Forward View a reality", Earl Howe claims.

Earl Howe
BBC

End of Commons business

House of Commons

Parliament

Ed Vaizey brings his comments to a close, ending the day's business in the House of Commons.

MPs will be back tomorrow at 09.30 GMT to debate private members' bills.

But stay with us this evening as over in the House of Lords, peers are about to begin their report stage scrutiny of the Insurance Bill.

Reform underway

House of Commons

Parliament

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey says the National Trust is currently being reformed, including a £18m investment to help it bring historic sites "up to scratch", which he suggests would include improving disabled access.

Mr Vaizey agrees that many historic buildings, including the palace of Westminster, are not fit for purpose in disabled access.

NHS continuation

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour health spokesman Lord Hunt of Kings Heath says he has "no doubt" that the NHS can continue as a comprehensive health service.

However, he claims that "it is a truth universally acknowledged" that the Coalition government's Health and Social Care Act has been "a disaster".

The act reorganised NHS services, handing commissioning powers to groups of GPs.

Culture change

House of Commons

Parliament

Chris Skidmore argues there needs to be a cultural change in the treatment of disabled people in the UK.

He tells MPs he has tabled this debate as it raises a far greater issues of what is acceptable in the treatment of the disabled, notably the access to some of the most important buildings in the UK.

"Is it really acceptable that on entering [the palace of Westminster] that disabled people are forced to walk different corridors of power to the rest of us?" he asks.

Adjournment debate

House of Commons

Parliament

MPs now move to today's final business: the adjournment debate, today led by Tory MP and historian Chris Skidmore on disabled access to historic buildings.

Disappointing end

House of Commons

Parliament

Concluding the debate Sir Richard Ottaway says he is disappointed by David Lidington's response - an unfortunate end to what he says was a good debate.

The motion is passed without a vote.

Government view

House of Commons

Parliament

David Lidington says he is as fed up as anyone with the "short sighted, outmoded and anti-democratic" attitude towards Gibraltar, which he admits is cooling relations with Spain - who, he points out, holds many common goals with the UK.

The UK is making its case to the European Commission to hold Spain to account and take legal action if necessary, he says.

However he preaches caution, telling MPs the UK must always take what action is most likely to deliver positive results.

Cost awareness

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour peer Lord Desai is taking part in the debate on the NHS in the Lords.

He argues that people "need to be made aware" of the costs involved in their own personal healthcare, for example by monitoring their visits to a GP and presenting them with a breakdown of the costs at the end of the year.

He believes that this will make people more responsible in their use of health services.

Lord Desai
BBC

Tribute to Jim Dobbin

House of Commons

Parliament

Foreign Office Minister David Lidington is responding to the debate for the government.

He begins his speech by paying tribute to the late Jim Dobbin, who was the chair of the all party group on Gibraltar until his

death last year.

Labour support

House of Commons

Parliament

Shadow Foreign Office Minister Pat McFadden gives Labour's support to the report's findings.

He argues that "it makes no sense" for the lives of the people of Gibraltar to be made more difficulty due to what amount to a campaign from Spain.

The row undermines what he describes a strong relationship between the UK and Spain and needs to be addressed, he adds.

Increased military presence

House of Commons

Parliament

Conservative MP and former army officer Bob Stewart argues for putting a greater military presence on Gibraltar to utilise its strategic position and disused training facilities, and demonstrate the UK's commitment to the Peninsula.

Mr Stewart argues that deliberate breaching of sovereign waters "can be seen as an act of war" and the UK's diplomatic responses to them so far has been too "wet".

"Spain wont like us reinforcing our military presence on the Rock but so what?" he asks.

Local public health

House of Lords

Parliament

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Barker says that it is right that public health initiatives, aimed at preventing illness and health problems, are the responsibility of local authorities.

She hopes that any future government will not be tempted to "take back" control over public health.

"We are finally beginning to understand the importance of mental health," she adds.

Article 259

House of Commons

Parliament

Several MPs have backed the Foreign Affairs Committee's call to take Spain to the European Court of Justice, using Article 259 of the Lisbon treaty.

Under Article 259, any EU member state which considers that another member state has failed to fulfil its treaty obligations may take them to court where they may receive sanctions.

If the situation at the border does not improve within the next six months then the committee recommends that the UK should make it clear that it intends to begin legal proceedings against Spain - pending the final results of the European Commission's investigation into the situation at the border.

'Same problems'

House of Lords

Parliament

Conservative peer Lord Horam says the NHS is having similar A&E problems to those seen in the 1990s when he was a health minister and Lord Turnberg was president of the Royal College of Physicians.

"We are having the same post-Christmas problems," he argues. "We might even be taking the same pills."

Citizens neglected?

House of Commons

Parliament

Conservative Bob Neill criticises the Foreign Office for viewing the defence of British citizens in Gibraltar as a "bit of an add on".

More needs to be done to "put that right" he tells MPs and the UK must be prepared to "escalate" its sanctions.

NHS figures

House of Lords

Parliament

The debate comes in the week that figures were published showing A&E waiting times in England between October and December were the worst for a decade.

However, despite missing the target of seeing 95% of A&E patients within four hours, the performance in England is still better than elsewhere in the UK.

Labour has called for a campaign to "save" the health service ahead of the general election.

David Cameron has defended his government's record, saying he would commit the funds needed to maintain the NHS.

Conservative monopoly

House of Commons

Parliament

Conservative Monopoly
BBC
Conservative MPs monopolise the debate in the face of nearly empty Opposition benches.

Government NHS record attacked

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Turnberg criticises the coalition government's record of funding the NHS.

"The slice of the national cake devoted to health has gone down from 8.5% in 2010, when Labour left office, to 7% now," he says.

He accuses the government of seeking to cut public spending to "pre-1940s levels".

Lord Turnberg
BBC

NHS debate

House of Lords

Parliament

The House of Lords now moves on to consider the future of the NHS, in a debate led by Labour peer Lord Turnberg.

Strategic importance

House of Commons

Parliament

Former defence secretary Liam Fox says Gibraltar's strategic importance for the UK's defence capabilities means it should be better protected.

Its Mediterranean base has been used in many of the UK's landmark military campaigns, including World War II and the Falklands, as well as recent military aid missions in Libya.

Gibraltar is also an important Nato base and contributes to the wider security of European countries, including Spain, he argues.

Ebola tribute

House of Lords

Parliament

Baroness Northover, summing up for the government, pays tribute to bravery of the nurse

Pauline Cafferkey and her colleagues, who have worked to mitigate the effects of Ebola in west Africa.

She tells peers that £230m has been committed to combat Ebola in Sierra Leone, where she says the UK is taking the lead in treating the disease.

She adds that in Sierra Leone that there are signs that the disease could have reached a peak.

Row over Gibraltar

House of Commons

Parliament

Spain has contested the UK's claim to Gibraltar - a British overseas territory - for centuries, but tensions have increased markedly in the past year amid a row over fishing rights.

Diplomatic rows began after

Gibraltar dropped 74 concrete blocks into disputed waters just off its coast. It said the blocks were intended to create an artificial reef and encourage sea life to flourish.

The Foreign Office has said there have been more than 600 Spanish incursions into British waters since the start of 2013.

Relations deteriorated further in November 2013 when

Spanish police opened a diplomatic bag at the border with Gibraltar.

The two countries are now at odds over the issue of Gibraltar's inclusion in the latest phase of the EU's Single European Sky project, which seeks to make air traffic management more efficient and harmonise standards.

‏@JamesNeish

Head of Radio Gibraltar & Online services at GBC James Neish tweets: Gibraltar debate in House of Commons now live on GBC TV and @RadioGibraltar PLUS (100.5FM & 1458MW).

Strong response needed

House of Commons

Parliament

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Sir Richard Ottaway says the Spanish policy towards Gibraltar cannot be ignored any longer.

Sir Richard goes on to criticise the "weak"

response to the committee's report, and derides the government's comments that they would rather leave it to the EU Commission to resolve the situation.

Sir Richard Ottoway
BBC
Sir Richard Ottoway calls on the government to "get off the fence" about Gibraltar and take action.

Gibraltar debate

House of Commons

Parliament

MPs now move to the second of today's debates on a report from the Foreign Affairs Committee concerning Gibraltar - it's entitled

Gibraltar: Time to get off the fence.

The report summarises that "the behaviour of Spain toward Gibraltar is unacceptable. A NATO and EU ally is, as a matter of policy, deliberately impacting the economy of a British Overseas Territory. It is time for the Government to get off the fence and take a tougher line."

Reforms 'allow more students'

House of Commons

Parliament

Greg Clark argues that without the government's flagship tuition fee reforms, fewer students would be able to go to university.

The reformed system has allowed increased resources for universities and allowed reduced fees for students from lower income backgrounds, he says.

Sustainable student finance

House of Commons

Parliament

Universities Minister Greg Clark is responding to the debate for the government.

Quoting figures from an OECD report, Mr Clark tells MPs that the UK is one of the few countries that have figured out a sustainable approach for higher education finance, and that England's model is the most sustainable.

Addressing the findings of the report Mr Clark argues that the amount written off in student loans is "more than made up for" by tax revenues from higher earning university graduates.

Greg Clark
BBC
Greg Clark disagrees with the findings of the BIS committee report.

Ebola debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Peers now move on to a short debate on the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Conservative peer Lord Fowler - a former health secretary - is opening the debate.

He pays tribute to healthcare workers from the UK and other countries who have travelled to the region to help fight the Ebola outbreak.

You can access BBC news and analysis on the Ebola outbreak

here.

'Financing trick'

House of Commons

Parliament

Shadow higher education minister Liam Byrne tells MPs that the level of student debt being written off amounts to "about half a million pounds an hour".

He accuses the government of conducting "one of the biggest off-balance-sheet financing tricks".

'Attainment gap'

House of Lords

Parliament

Education Minister Lord Nash, closing the debate on early years invention for the government, says there is an "attainment gap" between "the poorest children and their better off peers".

He says it is important to improve assessment of children's skills and progress in education.

Child poverty report

House of Lords

Parliament

A 2013 report said that the UK had become a wealthier society over the past few decades but had "struggled to become a fairer one" and had more children living in poverty and lower levels of social mobility than "many other developed nations".

The State of the Nation 2013 report was by the

Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, chaired by former Labour MP and government minister Alan Milburn.

The report described the UK as "a deeply divided country" where "being born poor often leads to a lifetime of poverty".

It warned that there was a danger that social mobility will go into reverse after rising in the middle of the last century and "flatlining" towards the end of it.

Talented children 'overtaken'

House of Lords

Parliament

Crossbench peer Lord Ramsbotham, speaking in the debate on early years intervention, argues that family income and social background have a bearing on a child's achievements.

The former chief inspector of prisons for England and Wales says: "A talented child from a poor background will be overtaken by a less talented child from a privileged background unless something is done."

Lord Ramsbotham
BBC

Employer engagement

House of Commons

Parliament

Labour's John Denham argues that the higher education sector to needs a wider overhaul to increase employer input and diversify the route to study.

The problem, he says, is not that there are too many students but that too many of them are being taught inappropriate subjects for their future careers.

Moral argument

House of Commons

Parliament

Conservative MP Brian Binley, the self-styled deputy chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, appeals to the government from a moral base.

The student loan system is leaving a massive black hole for future generations to deal with, he says.

"I find that immoral and totally unacceptable," he adds.

About early intervention

House of Lords

Parliament

Peers are debating "early intervention" which refers to dealing with the educational, welfare and behavioural needs of children from an early age.

Labour MP Graham Allen produced

a report on early intervention for the government, which was published in 2011.

The report argued that many "costly and damaging social problems" could be reduced by helping children and their families from an early age.

"Building their essential social and emotional capabilities means children are less likely to adopt antisocial or violent behaviour throughout life," the report said.

@Anna_SoubryMP

Conservative MP Anna Soubry tweets: The pen will always be the mightiest weapon #CharlieHebdo from a former journalist