Anne Main MP

5 Dec 2012 11:09:15

70 Tory MPs vote to repeal the Human Rights Act

By Matthew Barrett
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BACON RICHARDYesterday 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" »

24 Nov 2012 08:54:59

The 118 Tory MPs the Daily Mail lists as being opposed to gay marriage

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

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.

  1. Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty)
  2. Peter Aldous (Waveney)
  3. Tony Baldry (Banbury)
  4. Guto Bebb (Aberconwy)
  5. Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk)
  6. Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley)
  7. Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen)
  8. Andrew Bingham (High Peak)
  9. Brian Binley (Northampton South)
  10. Bob Blackman (Harrow East)
  11. Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon)
  12. Peter Bone (Wellingborough)
  13. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West)
  14. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)
  15. Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire)
  16. Steve Brine (Winchester)
  17. Fiona Bruce (Congleton)
  18. Robert Buckland (South Swindon)
  19. Conor Burns (Bournemouth West)*
  20. Simon Burns (Chelmsford)
  21. David Burrowes (Enfield Southgate)
  22. Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan)
  23. Douglas Carswell (Clacton)
  24. William Cash (Stone)
  25. Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham)
  26. Christopher Chope (Christchurch)
  27. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds)
  28. Therese Coffey (Suffolk Coastal)
  29. Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon)
  30. Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire)
  31. David Davies (Monmouth)
  32. Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire)
  33. Philip Davies (Shipley)
  34. David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden)
  35. Nick de Bois (Enfield North)
  36. Caroline Dinenage (Gosport)
  37. Richard Drax (South Dorset)
  38. Charlie Elphicke (Dover)
  39. Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North)
  40. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford)
  41. George Freeman (Mid Norfolk)
  42. Richard Fuller (Bedford)
  43. Roger Gale (North Thanet)
  44. Edward Garnier (Harborough)
  45. John Glen (Salisbury)
  46. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)
  47. Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby)
  48. Robert Halfon (Harlow)
  49. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge)
  50. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings)
  51. Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey)
  52. George Hollingbery (Meon Valley)
  53. Philip Hollobone (Kettering)
  54. Adam Holloway (Gravesham)
  55. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot)
  56. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough)
  57. Gareth Johnson (Dartford)
  58. David Jones (Clwyd West)
  59. Marcus Jones (Nuneaton)
  60. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)
  61. Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire)
  62. Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire)
  63. Philip Lee (Bracknell)
  64. Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford)
  65. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)
  66. Julian Lewis (New Forest East)
  67. Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater and West Somerset)
  68. Peter Lilley (Hitchen and Harpenden)
  69. Jonathan Lord (Woking)
  70. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)
  71. Anne Main (St Albans)
  72. Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys)
  73. Anne-Marie Morris (Newton Abbot)
  74. Karl McCartney (Lincoln)
  75. Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton)
  76. Stephen McPartland (Stevenage)
  77. Esther McVey (Wirral West)
  78. Steve Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock)
  79. Nicky Morgan (Loughborough)
  80. David Nuttall (Bury North)
  81. Matthew Offord (Hendon)
  82. Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton)
  83. Priti Patel (Witham)
  84. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)
  85. Mark Pawsey (Rugby)
  86. Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead)
  87. Christopher Pincher (Tamworth)
  88. Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin)
  89. John Redwood (Wokingham)
  90. Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset)
  91. Simon Reevell (Dewsbury)
  92. Andrew Robathan (South Leicestershire)
  93. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury)
  94. Andrew Rosindell (Romford)
  95. David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds)
  96. David Rutley (Macclesfield)
  97. Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire)
  98. Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell)
  99. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)
  100. Henry Smith (Crawley)
  101. John Stevenson (Carlisle)
  102. Bob Stewart (Beckenham)
  103. Gary Streeter (South West Devon)
  104. Mel Stride (Central Devon)
  105. Robert Syms (Poole)
  106. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)
  107. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight)
  108. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester)
  109. Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West)
  110. Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes)
  111. Ben Wallace (Wyre and Preston North)
  112. Robert Walter (North Dorset)
  113. James Wharton (Stockton South)
  114. Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley)
  115. John Whittingdale (Maldon)
  116. Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire)
  117. Gavin Williamson (South Staffordshire)
  118. Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam)
* Conor Burns has stated that he will not be voting against gay marriage but may abstain.

2 Jul 2012 20:18:25

34 Conservative MPs write to Andrew Lansley to express "serious concerns" about plain tobacco packaging

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

Lansley2On 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" »

8 May 2012 13:03:56

The 2010-12 parliamentary session was the most rebellious on record

By Matthew Barrett
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Screen shot 2010-06-16 at 18.02.09Philip Cowley and Mark Stuart of the University of Nottingham have released a new pamplet - "The Bumper Book of Coalition Rebellions", which documents the 239  backbench rebellions so far in this Parliament, in which 544 votes have been held. 

The pamplet takes us from the first rebellion, on the government’s control of time in the Commons, to the last, on Sunday Trading during the Olympics. This Parliament has seen more rebellions by government MPs than in any other session in the post-war era. As "The Bumper Book" says, "It comfortably beats the previous record of 128, held by Conservative MPs in the 1971-72 session. Indeed, a figure of 239 is higher than all but three entire post-war parliaments."

In fact, there were more rebellions in the last two years than there were between 1945 and 1966 - a period which saw six Prime Ministers and six parliaments. On a different measure, the "relative rate of rebellion", this session's 239 rebellions constitute a rebellion by Coalition MPs in 44% of divisions, which is a record in post-war parliaments. The 44% figure can be broken down further: Conservative MPs have rebelled in 28% of votes, while Lib Dems have rebelled in 24% of votes.

It is also notable how much of a contrast there is between the 2010-12 session and most first sessions in a parliament. As the pamplet says: "The rebellion rate for coalition MPs collectively is way above all other first sessions in the post-war era (the previous record was 28%, for Labour MPs in the 2005-6 session, as the party entered its third, and most troublesome, parliament under Tony Blair)".

Continue reading "The 2010-12 parliamentary session was the most rebellious on record" »

17 Apr 2012 07:59:19

What is the 40 group? Matthew Barrett profiles the MPs trying to keep hold of the most marginal Tory seats

By Matthew Barrett
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I recently profiled the 2020 and Free Enterprise groups of Tory MPs. Those two groups are formed by ideology: MPs are attracted to the groups because, in the case of the Free Enterprise Group, members wish to open up markets and make Britain business-friendly enough to compete with other world class economies. The 2020's members want to renew and refresh Project Cameron, while considering how the country should look after a majority Conservative government.

The 40 is rather different as it is a group of MPs brought together solely by necessity - the members are those MPs who were elected in 2010 with the narrowest majorities in the Party.

Origins of the group and key members

The40

The group was founded early last year by Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood), Graham Evans (Weaver Vale), and David Mowat (Warrington South). There is no rigid structure to the group as such, given its non-ideological purpose, but when it meets, the convener is usually David Mowat. Other key "executive" members of the group include Evans and Ollerenshaw, as well as Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye), James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) and Ben Gummer (Ipswich).

Continue reading "What is the 40 group? Matthew Barrett profiles the MPs trying to keep hold of the most marginal Tory seats" »

21 Feb 2012 11:44:28

Tory MPs queue up to protest Cable's decision to ignore Select Cttee and appoint Les Ebdon to university access post

By Tim Montgomerie
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Some extracts from yesterday in Parliament are pasted below. The exchanges occured after Business Secretary Vince Cable had decided to go ahead with the appointment of Les Ebdon as university access tsar. Michael Gove, David Cameron and the BIS Select Committee had all expressed doubts about Mr Ebdon's suitability. On ConHome last week Jill Kirby explained why. Mr Ebdon does not seem convinced that the root causes of social mobility need to be tackled first and universities do not need more state inteference in who they admit. Supported by David Willetts, universities minister, Mr Cable decided, nonetheless, to go ahead with the appointment. Channel 4's Gary Gibbon interpreted Mr Cable's decision as a sign that, post-Huhne, he wants to lead the Lib Dems' awkward squad.

ClappisonJames Clappison MP expressed his concern at Mr Cable over-ruling the advice of the Select Committee: "Is the Secretary of State aware that this is only the second time that a Select Committee has been overruled in this way? The first such occasion did not set a particularly happy precedent. What effect does he think his decision will have on the authority and standing of Select Committees of this House, and on the confirmation processes that they carry out? Although he may technically have the power to overrule the Select Committee, is it not deeply unsatisfactory for him to have done so with this appointment?"

Mr Cable responded: "The obligation on me, as Secretary of State, was to establish whether any new evidence had emerged from the hearings, and I found that none had. Had the report been unanimous and based on cross-party consensus, we might have responded differently to it, but it was not."

Brian Binley, a member of the BIS committee, tried again: "Given that the Committee was unable to endorse Professor Ebdon’s appointment and instead called for a new recruitment exercise, is it not deeply regrettable that Ministers have been so unwilling to engage with its concerns? Does this exercise not prompt serious questions about Ministers’ approach to higher education, especially as training appears to have been given more priority than the views of Parliament?"

Continue reading "Tory MPs queue up to protest Cable's decision to ignore Select Cttee and appoint Les Ebdon to university access post" »

31 Jan 2012 18:15:43

Cameron today: Off the hook on the veto. On it over more IMF money.

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." »

11 Jan 2012 08:54:09

Tory MPs raise their grievances, hopes and caution with Justine Greening over HS2

By Joseph Willits 
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Greening

After Justine Greening's announcement giving the go-ahead for a high speed rail network, High Speed 2 (HS2), 37 Conservative MPs were able to question the Transport Secretary within 60 minutes. 

The exchanges demonstrated the opposition of those MPs whose constituencies are directly affected by high speed rail. However their reservations were outweighed by praise for the scheme from MPs namely in the North and the Midlands - and some in the South East who claimed that their seats have benefitted from HS1.

Fervent critic of high speed rail, Andrea Leadson MP (South Northamptonshire), questioned the project's costs in yesterday's debate. Leadsom praised the Transport Secretary's patience in listening to her concerns many times, but spoke of "communities blighted by this high-speed rail line". She continued: 

"How sure is she that the actual costs in their entirety will be kept to the amounts we have been talking about, and how realistic is it for Britain to afford this project at this very difficult time economically?".

The country "cannot afford not to do this" replied Greening, who cited High Speed 1 as an example of being both on time, and on budget. Once Crossrail had been completed, the cost to the taxpayer would begin, Greening said.

Another MP whose constituency will be touched by high-speed rail, Steve Baker MP (Wycombe), welcomed that "additional protections for the Chilterns will reduce costs", but asked whether Greening would "consider tunnelling the entire width of the Chilterns?". At £1.2 billion, although considered, was "unaffordable", replied Greening.

Drawing examples from both France and Spain, St Albans MP Anne Main raised concerns "that the north might not get the projected benefit and that instead it might be London that grows". Both Lyon and Seville were "caused expense" rather than growth as Paris and Madrid benefitted, she said.

Greening responded by reiterating the backing for the project, and that the cities of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield all believe "this project is vital." Rehman Chishti MP (Gillingham) reminded the House that "real concern was expressed prior to the introduction of High Speed 1 in Kent". This has now led to "real economic regeneration and growth in the south-east and Kent", he continued. Another Kent MP, Damian Collins (Folkestone & Hythe) echoed Chishti's sentiment with the hope that Kent will further benefit from connections north.

MPs from the North and the Midlands were most vocal in their support for the project. Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew spoke of the need to "rebalance the economy" nationwide, and allow the North "to become more attractive for business to invest in". The "solution", he said, was HS2. Martin Vickers MP (Cleethorpes), who has many constituents working at the Tata Steel plant in Scunthorpe, welcomed the announcement of HS2 as a boost to industry. He asked for "categorical assurance that everything possible will be done to ensure that the procurement procedures favour British-based companies". His sentiment was echoed by Nigel Mills MP (Amber Valley) who concluded that the decision would "be even more popular in Derbyshire if the trains are built at Bombardier".

Some MPs in the Midlands did seem to be slightly cautious about the region's positioning, leading to a lesser service and coverage by HS2. Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy spoke of businesses in north Staffordshire requiring stops between Birmingham and Manchester (of which Stafford would be one). This "stop is essential to the development of the regional economy", Lefroy said, and asked Greening to "confirm that it is still under serious consideration". Rugby MP Mark Pawsey's concern was slightly different in that the town's good service to London could be jeopardised by high speed rail. He hoped that even with high speed rail, "the legacy line will retain the speed and frequency of their existing rail links".

You can watch the debate on the BBC's Democracy Live.

9 Nov 2011 16:40:45

Government EU budget motion passes without rebellion

By Paul Goodman
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COMMONS-sittingThere are conflicting views at present about where Conservative Euro-revolts go next.  One is that they peaked on the vote over an EU referendum.  Another is that they will climb higher if Britain enters any new treaty negotiations without a repatriation of powers proposal. My view is the latter (were the Government to present a bill based on such a treaty).

But either way, it is worth recording briefly that a Government motion relating to future EU budgets was passed yesterday evening without a Tory backbench amendment.  Both a source loyal to the Government and a rebel used the same phrase to me yesterday about potential future rebellions - "guerilla warfare".

In other words, they are united in agreeing that rebellions will be back sooner or later, but for the moment there is no appetite for more among most of the 81 Conservative MPs who voted against the Government on the referendum motion.  I think that Tracey Crouch's letter to Mark Pritchard last week rather caught the mood.

Continue reading "Government EU budget motion passes without rebellion" »

3 Nov 2011 13:57:58

Tory MPs welcome Danny Alexander's public sector pensions statement to the Commons

By Joseph Willits 
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AlexanderIn a statement to the Commons yesterday, immediately after PMQs, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander talked of a "generous offer" being made by the Government to reform public service pensions. Alexander said he had "decided to revise the government's offer after negotiations with the TUC, since early October, and with recommendations from the Secretaries of State for Education and Health.

Alexander described the offer as "conditional upon reaching agreement" but believed it "should be more than sufficient to allow agreement to be reached with the unions". It was Alexander's hope, he said that "on the basis of this offer, the Trade Unions will devote their energy to reaching agreement not on unnecessary and damaging strike action".

Alexander announced an increase to the cost ceiling of pensions:

"Future schemes will now be based on a pension to the value of 1/60th of average salary, accruing for each year worked. That is an 8% increase on the previous offer ... A teacher with a lifetime in public service with a salary at retirement of £37,800 would receive £25,200 each year under these proposals, rather than the £19,100 they would currently earn in the final salary Teachers' Pension Scheme. A nurse with a lifetime in public service and a salary at retirement of £34,200 would receive £22,800 of pension each year if these reforms were introduced, whereas under the current 1995 NHS Pension Scheme arrangements they would only get £17,300."

Continue reading "Tory MPs welcome Danny Alexander's public sector pensions statement to the Commons" »

21 Sep 2011 10:36:45

Tory MPs go to Bangladesh as part of the party's social action project, Project Maja

By Joseph Willits 
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40 Tory volunteers, including MPs Tobias Ellwood, Nicky Morgan, Eric Ollerenshaw, Andrew Stephenson (pictured), Anne Main and MEP Syed Kamall, have all travelled to Bangladesh to welcome in Project Maja in the country.

Project Maja was set up by Party co-Chairman Sayeeda Warsi (who also joined the volunteers), in Bosnia in 2009.

The project has now been extended to Bangladesh, working in the capital Dhaka, and the north-eastern city of Sylhet.  The volunteers, and the project more generally, will be focusing on working with several UK charities and businesses in Bangladesh, including Islamic Relief, the London Tigers, BRAC and Save the Children.  Sport, community and health projects were the focus of the visit, and of Project Maja.

Continue reading "Tory MPs go to Bangladesh as part of the party's social action project, Project Maja" »

13 Jul 2011 11:15:30

Charles Walker and Anne Main highlight the burden of green taxes and carbon charging during Chris Huhne energy statement

By Matthew Barrett
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HUHNE BBC INTERVIEWSecretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, announced his Electricity Market Reform White Paper in the Commons yesterday. The White Paper plans for £110bn of investment in electricity generation over the coming years. 

In the questions that followed Mr Huhne's statement, two Conservative Members (coincidentally, both from Hertfordshire) asked critical questions of the Secretary of State:

  • Charles Walker, the Member for Broxbourne, said carbon charging is bad for economic growth: "Carbon charging is a tax on jobs. Why are we retarding economic recovery by introducing what is in essence a carbon tax on business and job creation?"
  • Unsurprisingly, Mr Huhne did not agree: "I do not accept my hon. Friend's analysis. Nick Stern has described the failure to take account of the carbon consequences of our actions as the greatest market failure of all time. Sometimes we have to incorporate the consequences of our actions for the environment into the market decision. That is what we are doing."
  • MAIN ANNE MPAnne Main (St Albans) asked why public subsidy is necessary for a market reform project: "The Secretary of State will be aware of the amount of green tax that is already put on people’s energy bills. I am puzzled about why his Department will set aside £30 million of taxpayers’ money for a certain technology. Surely if we are encouraging the market, it should be the market that puts up the money and not the taxpayer."
  • Mr Huhne replied to the point: "There is a sound argument in economic literature for encouraging early-stage technologies. Many British Governments have done that for many years. Green taxes are much lower than the estimates that have been bandied about recently in the press."

The full debate can be read on the Hansard website here

12 Jul 2011 08:32:49

29 32 Tory MPs rebel against Britain's £9.3 billion EXTRA contribution to IMF bailouts

By Tim Montgomerie
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Last night at least 32 Tory MPs (listed below) voted with Labour against an 88% hike in Britain's contribution to the IMF. The hike is to partly fund the IMF's ability to fund bailouts. I write "at least" because I've only quickly scanned the voting list. Please email tim@conservativehome.com if I've missed anyone off the list.

  1. Steve Baker
  2. Brian Binley
  3. Peter Bone
  4. Douglas Carswell
  5. Bill Cash
  6. Chris Chope
  7. James Clappison
  8. Philip Davies
  9. David Davis
  10. Zac Goldsmith
  11. James Gray (added at 9.30am)
  12. Gordon Henderson (added at 9.30am)
  13. Chris Kelly
  14. Edward Leigh
  15. Julian Lewis
  16. Anne Main
  17. Karl McCartney
  18. Nigel Mills (added at 11.30am)
  19. David Nuttall
  20. Matthew Offord
  21. Andrew Percy
  22. Mark Reckless
  23. John Redwood
  24. Simon Reevell
  25. Richard Shepherd
  26. Henry Smith
  27. Graham Stuart
  28. Peter Tapsell
  29. Andrew Turner
  30. Martin Vickers
  31. Charles Walker
  32. John Whittingdale

The Government won the vote to increase Britain's contribution from £10.7 billion to £20.15 billion by 274 votes to 246. This is the first time that the Labour frontbench has voted with Tory Eurosceptics. Labour was voting against an increase in the IMF subscription that was largely agreed during Gordon brown's time in office.

Redwood-on-NewsnightS On his blog John Redwood suggests that the 29 rebels are only one sign of Tory discontent. Given that there are more than 300 Tory MPs he calculates that AT LEAST 80 Conservatives were unavailable, abstained or voted against the government. He writes:

"Some of us want the UK government to use the influence it says it has at the IMF to halt the futile bail outs of Eurozone members. The debt markets show the markets do not believe that Greece can repay all its debts in full and on time. Yesterday was a day when market worries spread beyond Greece, Ireland and Portugal to Italy. Those in  charge of the Euro scheme need to get a grip. It is doing a great deal of financial and economic damage, and they no longer seem to be in control of their project. The IMF should decline to bail out rich countries that have shackled themselves to a currency scheme that was badly put together and needs a thorough re think."

Carswell Douglas Central Lobby 10.30am Douglas Carswell has just blogged this:

"The decision to raise our IMF subscriptions by 88 percent was first mooted when Gordon Brown was in charge – but was okayed by the current government last October.  While Canada, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium all managed to keep the increase in their subs low, whoever negotiated the deal on our behalf seems to have preferred to have UK taxpayers assume greater debt liabilities so that they could sit on a bigger chair at the various international summits they attend on our behalf. Alongside fiscal policy and monetary policy, our approach towards the bailouts and the IMF shows that there has been remarkably little change in economic policy at the Treasury since Gordon Brown was in charge." 

More from Douglas Carswell.

22 Jun 2011 07:00:00

The Government can't say how many non-British EU nationals claim benefits here - or even define what makes them eligible to claim them in the first place

By Jonathan Isaby
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MAIN ANNE MP Just how much is paid out in benefits to people from other EU countries living in Britain? We don't know, because the Government doesn't keep such records.

And how do those from elsewhere in the EU qualify to claim benefits in this country anyway? Again, there's no way of knowing because the Government has not defined the rules in law.

Readers may be alarmed to hear all this, but the explanations are below in black and white in written answers from the Work and Pensions Minister, replying to questions posed by the Conservative MP for St Albans, Anne Main, and passed exclusively to ConservativeHome.

Here are those stark questions and answers:

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether his Department plans to publish on its website information on the cost to the public purse of benefits claimed by nationals of other EU member states working in the UK.

Chris Grayling: The information referred to is not available. The UK's benefit and tax credit payment systems do not record the nationality of people receiving such benefits. I have therefore commissioned my officials to look at alternative ways of making this information available. EU nationals who have worked and paid sufficient National Insurance contributions and meet the other conditions of entitlement, may be entitled to contributory benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance. Those who have not paid sufficient contributions may claim income-related benefits (Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment Support Allowance, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit) providing they satisfy the Habitual Residence Test.

So what exactly is this Habitual Residence Test?

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what plans he has to bring forward proposals on the definition of habitual residence.

Chris Grayling: There are no plans to bring forward such proposals. To be eligible for an income-related benefit such as Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment Support Allowance, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit, a claimant must have a right to reside and be habitually resident in the Common Travel Area (ie the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland). This is known as the Habitual Residence Test. A person who fails either or both parts of the test is treated as a person from abroad and does not have access to such benefits.

The term "habitual residence" is not defined in social security legislation.  This means that each case is considered on its own merits, in the light of the person's individual circumstances. In deciding whether a person is actually habitually resident, decision makers, who decide entitlement to benefit, consider a wide variety of factors. These include reasons for coming to the United Kingdom, the length of their stay, future intentions, previous links with the country and, in the case of people returning to the United Kingdom, the reasons for their absence.

I suspect this is something we can expect Anne Main to be pursuing further...

21 Jun 2011 17:15:09

Iain Duncan Smith sets out and defends the Government's pensions legislation

By Matthew Barrett
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DUNCAN SMITH AT CSJYesterday saw the Second Reading in the Commons of the Pensions Bill - the legislation currently in the news which accelerates the existing timetable for increasing the State Pension age to 66. This will mean the pension age will be increased from 60 to 65 for women by 2018, before being raised to 66 for both men and women in 2020.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, said the core aim of the Bill is to "to secure this country’s retirement system, putting it on a stable and sustainable footing for the future."

The news headlines surrounding the Bill relate to the fact that women born in March 1953 will begin to receive their pension at 62, but women born in April 1953 will have to wait until 65. Mr Duncan Smith was asked about this early on in his remarks: 

"Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Given that the vast majority of the 600,000 people who will be excluded from getting a pension under the raised threshold are women, is the Secretary of State at all worried that the Bill is beginning to look as if it discriminates against women?

Mr Duncan Smith: I recognise the hon. Gentleman’s concern. We are not blind to the issue, but we have decided to strike a balance between making the scheme work from the beginning and avoiding driving people on very low incomes into sacrificing too much and therefore not seeing the rewards. It is important to make the point that in the Green Paper, as the hon. Gentleman will have noticed, we talk about the single tier pension, from which there will be very significant benefits to women. We hope that in due course that will achieve a balance.

I do not dismiss the hon. Gentleman’s considerations. We keep the issue constantly under review and will watch carefully to see what happens. It is important that we get auto-enrolment off the ground in a stable manner. I hope hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise that these are balanced decisions—sometimes nuanced decisions—that we have to take, but we will make sure that we review them."

Mr Duncan Smith was also asked about this specific group of women several times, by Members on all sides, including Conservatives Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) and James Gray (North Wiltshire), as well as Labour's socially conservative welfare reformer, Frank Field. Mr Duncan Smith stood his ground and defended the Government's policy:

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