By Matthew Barrett
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This morning in the Commons, Alec Shelbrooke, the Member of Parliament for Elmet and Rothwell introduced a Bill calling for the introduction of a Welfare Cash Card to prevent welfare claimants from buying what Mr Shelbrooke called "NEDD" (Non-Essential, Desirable and often Damaging) items, including cigarettes, alcohol, paid television and gambling. This would apply to all claimants in work and out of work, and would cover all benefits other than disability payments and the basic state pension.
Mr Shelbrooke used the original "five giant evils" idea from the Beveridge Report to argue that introducing a Welfare Cash Card would remove the perception of idleness from welfare claimants. He said:
"It is seventy years this very month since the Beveridge Report identified the five giant evils that plagued society; disease, want, ignorance, squalor, and idleness. Members on all sides of this House will want to praise successive Governments for their advances to eradicate these evils. But idleness remains prevalent today. The something for nothing culture encouraged by the previous Labour Government created a two-tier benefits system where the strivers and low paid workers have been penalised for the idleness of the shirkers. This Bill seeks to work alongside this Government’s welfare reforms to support those hard working families who strive to be self supporting by ending the something for nothing stigma of the welfare system."
By Matthew Barrett
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The Daily Mail this morning reports on the 118 Conservative MPs who have written to constituents indicating their opposition to gay marriage proposals. The Mail says "Their opposition has been expressed in letters and emails sent to constituents who have contacted them with their own concerns", and points out that if these MPs voted against proposals, it would constitute the biggest Tory rebellion in modern times. However, Equalities Minister (and Secretary of State for Culture) Maria Miller pointed out on Twitter that since any vote on the issue would be a free vote, it would not technically be counted as a rebellion.
I have listed the MPs from the Mail's story below.
By Paul Goodman
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By Tim Montgomerie
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I published some photographs of Tory MPs - including the Prime Minister - enjoying the Jubilee celebrations on Sunday. Here are some more. They involve a lot of cake and quite a bit of rain.
First up is Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt. No doubt enjoying the break from the responsibilities he has for Middle Eastern policy he's judging a Jubilee cake competition at Wyboston, Chawston and Colesden Village Party.
By Matthew Barrett
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The 301 group is perhaps the most active and important group of backbench Tory MPs. Tim Montgomerie reported last week that three MPs - Charlie Elphicke, George Hollingbery and Priti Patel - want to organise a candidate to be elected to the 1922 Committee's executive who will give the '22 a focus on policy and campaigning. The Spectator's James Forsyth blogged that "The vote for their candidate, and his opponent, will give us the best idea yet of where the backbenches are at the moment politically. Indeed, I expect that the machinery of the 301 group, the most pro-Cameron of all the backbench groups, will be thrown behind the Elphicke-Hollingbery-Patel slate."
To organise or endorse candidates for the '22 is certainly the most power a backbench group has yet wielded in this Parliament. In this profile, I'll be looking at the origins, members, aims and plans of the group to get a sense of what the group wants to campaign for.
Origins of the group
The 301 was first organised by Kris Hopkins (Keighley), a former soldier and leader of Bradford Council, and Jessica Lee (Erewash), a former barrister, and now Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. The group began with small meetings of a handful of MPs who were "concerned that the narrative in Parliament was not representative of the conversation" that MPs had had with the electorate while campaigning during the 2010 general election, and also dissatisfied with the fact that the mechanisms of debate amongst backbenchers, and between the back and front benches, were not conducive to trying to correct that narrative. Each of those attending brought a friend, and so on, until after three meetings the group reached 60 members.
Among the maiden speeches made during the Second Reading debate on the bill to abolish ID cards were two from newly-elected Tory MPs from West Yorkshire.
"I want to say a few words about identity documents. As has been pointed out, I do not believe that terrorists will volunteer to get an ID card. I do not believe that after the public’s initial enthusiasm for ID cards they wanted to be taxed again for more paperwork.
"Many supporters of identity cards suggested that they would address illegal immigration. During the election campaign in Keighley and Ilkley, immigration was a big issue. Sadly, that was because many people had lost confidence in the Government’s addressing illegal immigration to this country. At that point, sadly, some people considered supporting right-wing extreme parties, as people in Keighley have done in the past. What was actually required to address the issue was not an ID card, but a strong, robust and sensible position on immigration—capping numbers and making sure that we secured our borders. The good news is that we did offer that, and the public listened and believed us. The two right-wing fascist groups that stood in Keighley were severely trashed."
"It is interesting that I am classed as a Leeds MP, and that is why I felt it appropriate to stand up in this debate to make my maiden speech. We are talking about the abolition of the Identity Cards Act 2006. If identity cards had been in place, they would not have stopped the 7/7 bombings in 2005 in any shape or form. Of course, the people involved came from Leeds, which took a very hard hit, not least in the international press, which described the north of England as some derelict wasteland and asked whether it was any surprise that terrorists came from it. It was described as some sort of third-world country. However, I can assure Members that Leeds is one of the most vibrant cities in this country, and one for which I was very proud to be a councillor for six years while we were governing the city."
He also took the opportunity to reveal a long term political ambition for his constituency:
"I have a long-term aim, and I made it quite clear to my constituents in the election that although it is a promise and something I want to move forward, they will not see any results for a very long time. Indeed, by the time they see results, I may well not even be the Member of Parliament for the area. I am talking about rail links. More than 30,000 people in my constituency, in a major metropolitan city, have absolutely no rail links whatever, after the branch lines were removed in the Beeching review. The town of Wetherby serves a huge number of people in the commuter belt to Leeds who must all travel down the A58 and, latterly, the A1 link road.
"However, rail links are not just about allowing those people to travel to Leeds more efficiently and effectively; they will also ease-up the congestion that blights everyone in constituencies on the east side of the city. Therefore, I am laying down that marker. I will be working with Network Rail and taking a keen interest in the high speed rail policy as it moves through the House. Let us be honest, in the economic circumstances, the chances of us getting a branch line rail link built to Wetherby and surrounding villages, just to serve them, are pretty slim. However, high speed rail is a major national project, and there would appear to be opportunities to branch off that line to serve people in my constituency much more effectively and efficiently."