10 Jan 2013 15:22:29
By Peter Hoskin
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the whole, Tory MPs don’t have much love for Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet
Secretary. For many of them, he is someone who wields too much power and who
uses it to influence the direction of government. Increasingly, they apply the
same lexicon of insults to him as they do to Nick Clegg. Some of it isn’t
mention this because Mr Heywood’s appearance before the Public Administration
Committee — chaired by Bernard Jenkin, and with the Conservative MPs Alun
Cairns, Charlie Elphicke, Robert Halfon and Priti Patel among its members —
will have done nothing to reverse this collective opinion. The Cabinet
Secretary was there to talk about his investigation into elements of the Andrew
Mitchell affair, but he managed little more than to raise further questions
about it all.
headline point from Mr Heywood’s testimony was probably his admission that he
considered the possibility of a conspiracy against Mr Mitchell, but that he let
it rest there:
that there were unanswered questions, including the possibility of a gigantic
conspiracy, or a small conspiracy. Those were unanswered questions, but we decided,
on balance, to let matters rest as they were.”
so passive? My Heywood claimed that he simply couldn’t do any more. David
Cameron had tasked him with investigating that infamous “eyewitness” email
which appeared to corroborate the police log, and which we now know was written
by an off-duty police officer — and that he did. Mr Heywood explained that,
after checking the email against CCTV footage of the incident, he concluded
that it was “unreliable,” and that he advised the Prime Minister against
heeding its contents. “I think I did the job competently and came to the right
conclusion,” he said.
Cabinet Secretary didn’t then start to question the police log. He didn’t look
into whether Mr Mitchell used the word “pleb,” or not. He didn’t discover that
the author of the email was linked to the police, although he was “mildly
suspicious” about him. He didn’t, he didn’t, he didn’t. Although, according to
Mr Heywood, he also shouldn’t have:
the role of a civil servant or the Cabinet Secretary to start investigating the
police. That’s not my job. I don’t have the powers. I don’t have the expertise.
It wouldn’t be right for the Cabinet Secretary to be involved in that sort of
wouldn't have been appropriate to ask the cabinet secretary to start
investigating the veracity of the police logs. That is a matter for the IPCC
not the cabinet secretary.”
clearly shocked several of the MPs on the committee. Even if it wasn’t appropriate
for the Cabinet Secretary to start wading through police logs, wasn’t that part
of the problem? As Bernard Jenkin put it:
“You weren’t asked to
get to the bottom of it, you didn’t think it was your obligation to get to the
bottom of it, and because of your failure to get to the bottom of it, the
government lost its Chief Whip.”
Which, appropriately enough for this
tangle of a story, leaves us back at the beginning of the post. Jeremy Heywood
will have enraged plenty of Tory MPs today, some of who have
already been expressing their anger to the Mail’s Tim Shipman. One said to me
this afternoon: “Now we know this wasn’t an actual investigation, just another
civil service box-ticking exercise.”
9 Jan 2013 09:34:08
By Tim Montgomerie
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Here is a selection of the arguments that Tory MPs made during yesterday's debate on limiting the increase in benefits to 1% for each of the next three years.
The Government's overall policies help those on low incomes: "The Opposition have argued that this uprating of 1% will impact on working people and not just those on benefits. Given that the previous Government made 90% of workers eligible as welfare recipients, that is inevitable. Unfortunately, Labour Members make the mistake of taking these measures in isolation. If we take the Government’s measures as a whole, including tax allowances, energy tariff changes and cutting petrol duty, low-income working households will be better off." - Aidan Burley MP
And the biggest burden of deficit reduction is being met by the better off: "I want to remind the Opposition of what they have done. They have opposed £83 billion-worth of savings this Parliament. That is equivalent to adding another £5,000 of debt for every working family in the country. We hear much about taxing the rich, yet, in this Parliament, the richest will pay more in tax than in any single year of the previous Government—more tax on capital gains, more stamp duty—they will be less able to avoid and evade tax and they will pay more when they take out their pension policies." - Iain Duncan Smith MP
Stop taxing people only to return that money via the benefit systems: "Is not the philosophical underpinning of this debate our wish to create a hand-back society, not a hand-out society? Is not cutting taxes on lower earners the best way to help those on low earnings, rather than recycling their hard-earned money through the benefits system?" - Robert Halfon MP
Fairness between those in work and those out-of-work:
- "My constituents in Erewash often say to me that fairness works both ways. One gentleman said to me that he is working around the clock and his wife has two part-time cleaning jobs, and that they are trying their best to keep things going. Like me, he wants to support people in this society who, for whatever reason, will never be able to stand on their own two feet and get work, but that was not his point. His point was about the standard of living of other people in the area on full benefits. He did not think it right that they should have a higher percentage increase than his family’s budget." - Jessica Lee MP
- "I was approached by a member of Manchester constabulary in my advice surgery recently. He said, “How can you justify putting out-of-work benefits up by 5.2% last year, when I have had a pay freeze and I risk my life every day?” Is that not the nub of the argument? People who are in work have to be treated fairly." - Jake Berry MP
Continue reading "The main arguments made by Tory MPs in defence of the benefits squeeze" »
5 Dec 2012 11:09:15
By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday in Parliament, Richard Bacon, a Conservative backbencher, tried to introduce a Bill which would repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. One of Mr Bacon's lines of argument was that the legal requirement for Ministers to amend legislation - without a vote in Parliament - in order to comply with European human rights legislation - is "fundamentally undemocratic":
"Under section 10, a Minister of the Crown may make such amendments to primary legislation as are considered necessary to enable the incompatibility to be removed by the simple expedient of making an order. In effect, because the accepted practice is that the United Kingdom observes its international obligations, a supranational court can impose its will against ours. In my view this is fundamentally undemocratic."
Mr Bacon also compellingly argued that the controversial social issues that judges often like to get involved in should be decided by "elected representatives and not by unelected judges":
"[T]here is no point in belonging to a club if one is not prepared to obey its rules. The solution is therefore not to defy judgments of the Court, but rather to remove the power of the Court over us. ... Judges do not have access to a tablet of stone not available to the rest of us which enables them to discern what our people need better than we can possibly do as their elected, fallible, corrigible representatives. There is no set of values that are so universally agreed that we can appeal to them as a useful final arbiter. In the end they will always be shown up as either uselessly vague or controversially specific. Questions of major social policy, whether on abortion, capital punishment, the right to bear firearms or workers rights, should ultimately be decided by elected representatives and not by unelected judges."
Continue reading "70 Tory MPs vote to repeal the Human Rights Act" »
22 Oct 2012 15:31:06
By Matthew Barrett
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Guido Fawkes has a list of new Conservative members of Select Committees, from Graham Brady's office. Mr Brady explains: "For the following committees I have received the same number of nominations as there are vacancies, the following are therefore elected". The appointments are:
Communities and Local Government
John Stevenson (Carlisle), replacing George Hollingbery (Meon Valley), who became PPS to Theresa May at the reshuffle.
Chris Skidmore (Kingswood), replacing Damian Hinds (East Hampshire), who became PPS to Mark Francois, the Minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans.
Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole), replacing Dr Daniel Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich), who was made the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Health Services.
Continue reading "Conservative Select Committee appointments announced" »
4 Sep 2012 16:03:59
By Matthew Barrett
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Since details of the reshuffle have emerged, Tory MPs, especially on the right of the party, have been reacting positively to David Cameron's appointments.
Lord Lawson was pleased with the reshuffle:
"I am on the whole very pleased with what has been done. There's another purpose why you need reshuffles. There is always a need to curb public spending and ministers become attached to their departmental budgets and therefore the Treasury needs to have new ministers who will look at their departmental budgets with fresh eyes and find ways of further savings and that is particularly necessary at the present time."
He had specific praise for Owen Paterson's promotion:
"I am very pleased to see in this reshuffle the promotion of Owen Paterson. Owen Paterson is little known to the British public because he has been Northern Ireland Secretary, so he is well known there, but really little known elsewhere. He is in fact one of the most able and promising young men or women around the Cabinet and therefore his promotion to Environment is extremely welcome….he is a man of reason and sense."
Andrew Bridgen said the reshuffle was more wide-ranging than many Tories had expected:
"I think the reaction from the backbenches is that this reshuffle is quite a lot more extensive than we actually predicted. So it is far more radical. But at the end of the day, these reshuffles are of great interest for those of us in the Westminster bubble and the media out there, but I think the people, your viewers, are really interested in policy, not necessarily personality, and it’s about reinvigorating the Government and pushing those policies forward to deliver economic growth that’s going to get the country out of recession."
Continue reading "Conservative MPs react positively to the reshuffle" »
28 Jul 2012 09:03:51
By Tim Montgomerie
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Aidan Burley MP has got himself into trouble (again). This time for some sour tweets about the Olympics' Opening Ceremony:
There's a report in The Telegraph. Number 10 quickly distanced himself from Mr Burley's Tweets. "We do not agree with him," said a Downing Street source. Fellow Tory MP Gavin Barwell tweeted his own rebuttal. There's nothing left-wing about embracing diversity, said the member for Croydon Central.
Robert Halfon MP was positive throughout the evening (writing a blog entitled "Olymptastic") but he did object to Shami Chakrabati's casting as Olympic flag carrier "given her senior role in LSE: the Uni that sucked up to Gadaffi". I agree with Rob, why not an Afghan war vetaran instead?
Most Tory MPs were completely uncritical, however. Here's a selection:
- Stuart Andrew: As you can see Mr Romney, we are ready! Well done all!
- Harriett Baldwin: Loved it all, but being a Worcestershire dog owner my best bits were Elgar and the corgis
- Steve Baker: Wonderful to see two great British engineers celebrated tonight: Brunel and Berners-Lee
- Dan Byles: Has Danny Boyle just secured his knighthood, with this incredible ceremony?
- Damian Collins: Absolutely stunning start to the London 2012 Olympics. Danny Boyle's opening ceremony really was the best of British.
- Alun Cairns: Fantastic opening ceremony and S&P confirm Britain's AAA rating. Looking good even without winning a medal so far
- Charlie Elphicke: An amazing #london2012 opening ceremony. Brilliant @DannyBoyleFilm celebration of our nation. Tonight we are #OneBritain
- Margot James: Jerusalem, Chelsea Pensioners, forging, James Bond and the Queen, nurses, great music, quirky history of our Isles loved
- David Jones: Over a billion people watching this. Watching our country. Very proud.
- Louise Mensch: Beyond awesome. We rule. #GodSaveTheQueen
- Nicky Morgan: Oh wow! The Olympics are here. Only city to host for a third time.
- Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: Well that was fantastic. The world was watching London and London delivered. Well done to all who made it happen.
- Rob Wilson: Oh Danny Boyle, English eyes are smiling! Sing it everyone.
2 Jul 2012 20:18:25
By Matthew Barrett
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On Friday, 50 MPs, including 34 Conservatives, wrote a letter to the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, expressing their "serious concerns" with the Department of Health’s proposal to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products.
The letter stated that:
"There is no reliable evidence that plain packaging will have any public health benefit; no country in the world has yet to introduce it. However, such a measure could have extremely negative consequences elsewhere. The proposal will be a smuggler’s charter. ... this policy threatens more than 5,500 jobs directly employed by the UK tobacco sector, and over 65,000 valued jobs in the associated supply chain. ... Given the continued difficult economic climate, businesses should not be subjected to further red tape and regulation"
The signatories of the letter also expressed concern about the freedom aspect of blocking any branding of tobacco products:
"...we believe products must be afforded certain basic commercial freedoms. The forcible removal of branding would infringe fundamental legal rights, severely damage principles around intellectual property and set a dangerous precedent for the future of commercial free speech. Indeed, if the Department of Health were to introduce standardised packaging for tobacco products, would it also do the same for alcohol, fast food, chocolate and all other products deemed unhealthy for us?"
Continue reading "34 Conservative MPs write to Andrew Lansley to express "serious concerns" about plain tobacco packaging" »
4 May 2012 12:05:47
A variety of reactions are pasted in this blog. The names of those calling for some change of message, priority or operational changes are emboldened. We have also included the contributions of MPs who have not advocated substantial changes.
5.45pm A little round-up of what Tory MPs have said during the day:
David Ruffley MP advocated radical economic measures - and a withdrawal from the Coalition if Lib Dems won't back them:
"I think now with the position now where there was a Coalition Agreement two years ago but quite a few senior colleagues think that was then, this is now. We didn't think two years ago that the economy would still be flat on its back and everything now has to be directed towards getting the British economy going. And yes it does mean looking at tax again but also, a freer labour market, the hiring and firing proposals to make sure that young people aren't turned away from jobs because of the very onerous social employment protection legislation in this country, so we should say to the Liberals on things like that which they are blocking, 'Listen we are in a real hole now. We need some radical economic polices put in place and you go with it and if you don't, we how would you like a general election?'"
Peter Bone MP urged the Government to drop any "wishy-washy" policies in the Queen's Speech:
"You can see what happens when there is a Conservative Government, because there was a Conservative Government run in London by Boris and he got re-elected. He put forward Conservative policies and he got re-elected and he bucked the national trend, and that really should be a message for the Coalition. Be more conservative and be less liberal wishy-washy and I think that’s what the voters would like to see in the Queen’s speech.”
Continue reading "Record of how Conservative MPs are reacting to the local election results " »
21 Apr 2012 11:32:06
By Matthew Barrett
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It's the London Marathon tomorrow, and five Conservative MPs have decided to take on the great task of completing it for charity. Last year, Edward Timpson and Stephen Crabb ran the Marathon, and this year, Timpson is competing again - with four other MPs who will join more than 35,000 other runners on the 26-mile course through the capital. The runners - and their charity causes - are listed below:
Edward Timpson, PPS to Theresa May and MP for Crewe and Nantwich
“Running a marathon is both a physical and mental challenge but it is well worth undertaking when you weigh up the benefits you can bring to people through the funds you raise. This year I am running my eighth marathon for Climb (Children Living with Inherited Metabolic Diseases) with my wife Julia who is also the charity’s patron. Climb does some truly excellent work in helping those living with metabolic diseases and is the only charity to do so nationally. Marathons are a great way for MPs to help raise the profiles of some great causes and I am glad to see so many of my Conservative colleagues taking part this year.”
You can sponsor Edward and his wife here.
Jack Lopresti, MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke
Lopresti, who is currently serving as an Army Reservist, and has previously run the Camp Bastion Half Marathon, said:
“I’m not really built for running so have undertaken a fairly gruelling training schedule since before Christmas. But it will all be worth it, I’m really looking forward to taking part in my first full marathon with 35,000 other runners and I want to raise as much money as I can for my chosen charity. I’m running for Action for Children, a charity that works with the most disadvantaged youngsters and provides them with the foundations and support to build their lives and prosper. I don’t really have a target but around 5 hours would be fantastic. Of course I am nervous, but I am also excited. Nerves are a good thing.”
Jack's sponsorship page is here.
Continue reading "Five Tory MPs are running the London Marathon tomorrow (and would appreciate your sponsorship!)" »
15 Mar 2012 12:34:10
By Tim Montgomerie
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Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) was one of forty or so MPs and peers from all parties who ran yesterday's Westminster Mile - a race to raise funds for Sport Relief. The winner, though, was another Tory MP, George Eustice. He beat last year's winner David Davies into second place. The Monmouth MP would probably beat George, however, in a boxing contest! Others taking up the challenge for Sport Relief included Alun Cairns MP for Vale of Glamorgan, Rob Wilson MP for Reading East and Karen Bradley MP for Staffordshire Moorlands.
31 Jan 2012 18:15:43
By Paul Goodman
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Last year, the Prime Minister flew to Brussels amidst rumour of a leadership challenge if he didn't achieve at least a token repatriation of power.
Today, he faced the Commons not only with no such repatriation realised but with his veto - so rapturously greeted at the time by Conservative MPs - arguably valueless, since it's now clear that he won't challenge the principle of the EU institutions being used to enforce the F.U agreement.
Yet there was no mass revolt from his backbenches, and no revival to date of the leadership challenge rumours. What explains this change in the Tory atmosphere? I hope to explore the question in detail soon, but will for the moment rest with an answer I've cited before.
Continue reading "Cameron today: Off the hook on the veto. On it over more IMF money." »
1 Mar 2011 06:53:46
By Jonathan Isaby
Yesterday at questions to Eric Pickles and his team of ministers from the Department of Communities and Local Government, a number of Tory MPs took the opportunity to highlight how their local Conservative-run councils are coping with the financial squeeze. Doubtless their local papers will be encouraged to cite the praise heaped upon them by the ministers.
Here's a sample:
Peter Bone (Wellingborough): Northamptonshire county council, East Northamptonshire district council and Wellingborough borough council have all frozen their council tax this year and they are all Conservative controlled. Is it not the case that Conservative councils cost you less and deliver more?
Eric Pickles: What a wonderful slogan. I wonder who first thought of it. [Interruption.] It is indeed mine and what it says has proved to be the case. There is a really strange thing about this whole process. If we match up councils authority by authority, we see that Liberal Democrat and Conservative authorities are protecting the front line, but under Labour authorities the front line is the first one to go, the voluntary sector is the first one to go and the most swingeing cuts are the first thing to happen. It is time that the right hon. Member for Don Valley [Caroline Flint] accepted some responsibility for that.
Greg Hands (Chelsea and Fulham): Will the Minister join me in congratulating Hammersmith and Fulham council, which, in four years of Conservative control, has reduced its staff by a third, from 4,087 to 2,787, with almost no redundancies? It has cut the communications staff by half and reduced the human resources headcount from 100 to 47, all at a time when its services are rated among the highest in the country.
Bob Neill: Hammersmith and Fulham is an exemplar of how councils with imagination and political courage can deal with the matter. My hon. Friend is right to point out that it has done so-without any significant redundancy-by deleting needless posts.
Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan): Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating and recognising the Vale of Glamorgan council, which is one of two authorities in Wales that have chosen to publish all invoices in excess of £500? The other authority is another Conservative-led council, Newport city council. What influence can my right hon. Friend bring to bear on the Welsh Local Government Minister to force Labour-run and independent-run authorities across Wales to follow their lead and do the same?
Eric Pickles: I am sure my hon. Friend has done more than enough to demonstrate to the people of Wales the desirability of transparency. It is gratifying that every local authority, with the exception of Labour-controlled Nottingham, now trusts the local population with that vital information.
Mel Stride (Central Devon): Conservative-controlled Devon county council has reduced chief executive pay and slimmed down middle and senior management, and it will reduce back-office expenditure by £14 million in 2011-12. Will my right hon. Friend join me in commending its efficiency savings? Does he agree that responsible councils should take such actions in order to protect front-line services?
Eric Pickles: I certainly join my hon. Friend in congratulating that council. He lays out a valuable lesson. One thing we are discovering in those authorities that are cutting libraries, Sure Start and all front-line services is that none of them has attempted any of the things that his local council has so excellently done.
Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye): Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Conservative-run East Sussex county council, which, after a disappointing grant from the Department for Education, has stepped in with £12 million of capital that it had not planned to give to ensure that the St Leonards academy is rebuilt to provide better education in Hastings?
Eric Pickles: I am always glad to congratulate my hon. Friend's council and have no hesitation in doing so today.
Later, in reply to a complaint from Labour MP Mary Glindon about cuts to the voluntary sector in her local council, the minister Greg Clark delivered a roll call of Tory councils that are dealing with the situation without such cuts:
"I am grateful for the hon. Lady's question. I hope that she recognises that different councils are doing things in different ways. With a maximum cut of 8.8%, there is no reason for any council disproportionately to cut the voluntary sector. I hope that she will look at the examples of positive councils such as Reading, Thurrock, Lancaster, Ipswich, Watford, Stafford, Rugby, Redditch, Crawley and Wolverhampton - 10 councils that are either maintaining or increasing their support to the voluntary sector at this time. She should look at them, and go back to her constituency and talk to her councillors."
19 Aug 2010 06:32:01
Here is the latest in our series of Twenty Questions with members of the Class of 2010...
Alun Cairns was elected MP for Vale of Glamorgan with a majority of 4,307.
1. What is your earliest political memory? The Falklands War.
2. Complete the sentence: “I’m a Conservative because… I believe that work and effort should be rewarded.”
3. Who is your political hero and why? Margaret Thatcher, because of the economic transformation she brought about.
4. When did you decide you wanted to become an MP? When there was a fear/risk of a Labour government in 1995.
5. What is your reading material of choice? PoliticsHome, ConservativeHome, Glamorgan Gem, Barry and District News, Glamorgan Gazette and Harvard Business Review.
6. Who is your favourite political interviewer/presenter on TV or radio? Jeremy Paxman.
7. If you could run any government department, which would it be and why? Business, Innovation and Skills - to make Britain more competitive.
8. Which non-Conservative politician do you most admire? Peter Mandelson - because of his brass neck.
9. Who would you least want to get stuck with in a House of Commons lift? No-one - they are tiny.
10. If you were in the US, would you be a Republican or a Democrat? Republican.
11. What do you enjoy doing to unwind and relax?
Ski and cycle.
12. What is your favourite book? The Downing Street Years by Margaret Thatcher.
13. What is your favourite film? The Shawshank Redemption.
14. What is your favourite music? Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan.
15. What would be your ideal meal and where would you eat it? Fish and chips on Barry Island.
16. What is your favourite holiday destination? Bardi, Emilia Romagna.
17. What do you most want to achieve during your first term in Parliament? The respect from constituents in the Vale of Glamorgan.
18. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about yourself. My first job was a petrol pump attendant - when we had them!
19. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about your constituency.
The Essex home in Gavin and Stacey is actually in Dinas Powys, about 5 miles from Barry!
20. Share with us your most amusing story or favourite anecdote from the campaign trail. After introducing myself on a doorstep, the man responded: “Of course I will vote for you. We need to do all we can to keep that Cairns guy out!”
> Previously: Andrew Bridgen MP