By Matthew Barrett
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Following on from the last few days' rolling blogs, I have below a final list of the MPs (and Baroness Warsi) appointed as Ministers for each department. I have put new appointments in bold.
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Department for Communities and Local Government
By Tim Montgomerie
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Project Maja is the Conservative Party's social action project in Bosnia and Bangladesh. This year it has returned to Bosnia and is involving a number of Tory activists and elected parliamentarians. They include MPs Stuart Andrew, Eric Ollerenshaw, Tobias Ellwood, Jacqui Doyle-Price, Iain Stewart, Brooks Newmark, Jessica Lee, Chris Skidmore and David Tredinnick.
MEPs include Dan Hannan and Syed Kamall. Dan wrote about his experience on his blog:
"I'm in Sarajevo where I've spent the past couple of days wrestling ineptly with saws, hammers and paintbrushes. The AECR and the Conservative Party have co-sponsored the refurbishment of a day centre for children with special needs. Centre-Right MPs from across Europe – from Iceland to Turkey – have been painting walls and building climbing frames... Initiatives of this kind do far more for European harmony than any number of EU directives. It can't be repeated too often: you don't have to be pro-Brussels to be in favour of European collaboration."
The photographs below are of Conservative Party Chairman Sayeeda Warsi, leader of Project Maja, remembering the tragedy of Srebrenica.
Baroness Warsi laying a wreath on behalf of the Conservative Party at the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 Genocide.
Baroness Warsi looking at one of more than 8,000 graves of the victims of the massacre.
The photographs were taken by Andrew Parsons.
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.
By Jonathan Isaby
So I was heartened to see during Question Time in the House of Lords yesterday that Baroness Warsi made rather a good fist of doing just that, in the following 51 words:
"The big society is defined by many in this House as being what most of them have done for most of their lives. It is a volunteering, social action, philanthropic approach to life, but it is also about the opening up of public services to local control and devolution of power."
Yesterday in the Lords, Conservatives led defeat of a Government amendment to the Equalities Bill that would have forced religious bodies to, for example, employ gay people. Below we publish extracts from the contributions of Baroness O'Cathain and Baroness Warsi in defence of the freedom of religious association.
Freedom of appointment: "Organisations that are based on deeply held beliefs must be free to choose their staff on the basis of whether they share those beliefs. It would, for example, be appalling if the Labour Party could be sued for not selecting Conservative candidates and no one would want to see Greenpeace sued for refusing to appoint oil executives to its board of directors."
We must defend freedom of association: "A belief in freedom of association demands that, even if we do not share the beliefs of an organisation, we must stand up for its liberty to choose its own leaders and representatives. That, in essence, is what this debate is all about. I accept that the Government intend to protect the freedom of churches to choose their own staff, but their wording does not mirror that intention. The exemption in paragraph 2 to Schedule 9 to the Bill allows churches to discriminate on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation and marital status when making appointments to key religious posts. An exemption along these lines has existed for more than 30 years. Some think that this is special pleading for the churches, but the principle of exemptions is widely accepted, not just for religion."It's not just churches that need protecting: "How would a rape crisis centre operate if it was forced to employ male counsellors? Beyond the employment sphere, Schedules 3 and 6 contain broad exemptions for insurance, political posts and for Parliament itself. Clause 193 even contains an exemption for sport, so the churches are not alone in needing limited exemptions from discrimination law in order to allow them to function normally."
Baroness Warsi:What is at stake: "As the law stands, where the employment is for the purposes of organised religion, an employer may apply a requirement for a person to be of a particular sex, or not to be a transsexual person, or make a requirement on the basis of the employee's marriage or civil partnership status or sexual orientation, as long as the requirement is in line with a genuine occupational requirement, "for the purposes of an organised religion". We believe that the Bill as currently drafted significantly narrows the scope of roles which would be included as "for the purposes of an organised religion". It does this by narrowing the definition of employment in this context to those roles which "wholly or mainly" involve, "leading or assisting in the observance of liturgical or ritualistic practices of the religion," or, "promoting or explaining the doctrine of religion". There is a clear difference between a more general "purposes of all religion" and the more narrow specification of what that entails. The current law is contained in regulation 7(3) of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, which states that a requirement may only be imposed by religious organisations "so as to comply" with religious doctrine or "so as to avoid conflicting" with religious convictions. The drafting of the Bill would add a requirement to be proportionate, which introduces another layer of legal necessity and so means that it is further removed from the status quo."
Baroness Warsi, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action, has asked a noteworthy question of the Government:
"To ask Her Majesty's Government what religions and faiths are recognised by the British Armed Forces. [HL1352]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The Armed Forces encourage people from all faiths to practise their religious observances as far as operational and health and safety considerations allow. While religion and belief is treated as a private matter, the services place a great deal of importance on the spiritual development of their personnel. Commissioned Armed Forces chaplains are drawn from the main Christian denominations practised in the UK. The first MoD
civilian chaplains to the Armed Forces from the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh faith communities were appointed in October 2005. The services have had an honorary officiating chaplain from the Jewish faith under long-standing arrangements, and action is underway to recruit a Jewish civilian chaplain."
It would be good to hear from readers, especially those who have served, as to whether the spiriutal needs of believers and non-believers alike get they attention they need in the Forces.