By Paul Goodman
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Eighteen months or so ago, I asked on this site why pro-EU Conservatives are so shy of making that case? That question may now become redundant - at least as far as a new group of Tory MPs is concerned.
Laura Sandys speaks for a newly-formed European Mainstream Group in the film above. "We feel very strongly that our voice hasn't been heard for many years," she says. "New people have come into Parliament who want to ensure that we have much stronger focus."
Ben Wallace, Ken Clarke's PPS, also speaks out. "I think the other lot are very good at getting their message across," he says - clearly intending to play a part in changing the balance. Richard Ottoway claims that a majority of the Parliamentary Party wants to stay in the EU.
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 Matthew Barrett
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Philip Hammond's statement to the House this afternoon announcing cuts to the Army was bound to be a challenging time for the Secretary of State for Defence. The announcement signals the beginning of a long transformation for the Army, and jobs will undoubtedly be lost as a result of the changes. Mr Hammond told the House that the 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, 2nd Battalion the Royal Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire regiment, 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment and the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh would all be "withdrawn" or disbanded. The Secretary of State said:
"These withdrawals and mergers, unwelcome as I know they will be in the units affected, are fair and balanced, and have been carefully structure to minimise the impact of the regular manpower reduction and optimise the military effectiveness of the Army."
By Matthew Barrett
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I have been passed a section from last week's humble Address to Her Majesty The Queen to mark the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne. In it, Ben Wallace, the Member for Wyre and Preston North and a former Captain in the Scots Guards, reveals how the Queen may have played a part in his selection as a candidate for the Scottish Parliament in 1999:
"On one occasion I was the officer of the guard at Buckingham palace and I had to accompany Her Majesty the Queen to an investiture. I was at that time seeking a seat in the Scottish Parliament and I had been for the selection meeting on the Monday at Balmoral, in Crathie, to try and stand for the seat of West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine in the Scottish Parliament. I was not lucky and did not get through to the final round. However, Her Majesty the Queen asked me what I had done and I said that I had been up in her neck of the woods, but unfortunately I thought that members of the selection board thought I was a bit too young. She said, “I think they should think again.” The next day I got a phone call, to be told that the shortlist of two was too small and would be expanded to five. I was then selected as the Conservative candidate for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, and elected to the Scottish Parliament, and perhaps that is why I am standing here today."
The full session is available in Hansard.
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.
In an emergency statement to the House, and in her first statement to the Commons in her new role, Theresa May MP reflected on the "senseless" murder of twelve people in Cumbria yesterday by Derrick Bird. She paid tribute to the emergency services. The Home Secretary announced that one hundred detectives had been assigned to the investigation of the tragedy. Mrs May confirmed that Mr Bird's two firearms were properly licensed. She will go to Cumbria tomorrow with the Prime Minister. More funds will be made available to the police, local government and local charities if necessary. Calls for a debate on Britain's gun laws are not just "understandable" but "right and proper" but, Mrs May continued, there should be no rush to judgment until full facts are established.
Most MPs did not press the Home Secretary to make instant judgments but John Pugh, the Liberal Democrat MP for Southport, did say that it was beyond his comprehension that a taxi driver could legally own such firepower as Mr Bird possessed. Labour's Kate Hoey said that Britain had among the most stringent gun laws in the world and urged caution in reviewing them. Mrs May said there would be no knee-jerk reaction but she hoped that the Commons would have an opportunity to debate related issues before the summer recess.
John Stanley MP urged that questions were asked about the rapid reaction times of armed police. Ben Wallace raised the issue of sharing 'protective services' between the Lancashire and Cumbrian constabularies.
It was Scottish questions yesterday.
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell asked about the block grant:
"Largely as a result of this Government’s reckless tax and spend approach, the Scottish block grant has, indeed, grown to twice the size of 10 years ago. Despite some implausibly optimistic forecasts in the Budget, it is clear that the Treasury is now on course to run out of money, yet all the First Minister has done is attempt to persuade the Government that no cut at all can be made to the block grant. Has the Secretary of State informed the Treasury that, following this development, the Chancellor now looks like only the second most deluded politician in Scotland?
Mr. Murphy: That is entirely pleasant. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has entered himself for the gold medal in that particular competition following his celebration of the 30th anniversary of Mrs. Thatcher’s ascent to power and the disruption of Scottish industry. I am glad to see him in his place following his celebration of that anniversary and Scotland’s commiseration of it over the weekend.
In the previous recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, a generation of young people were abandoned to a life of poverty and a life on benefit. It is our intention to do, wherever possible, the exact opposite to what the Tories did, so that a generation of young people are not abandoned to a life of unemployment free of any hope.
David Mundell: The Secretary of State can resort to all the old mantras that he wants, but they will do him no good because the public know where the buck stops for this crisis. Does he really disagree with the view of the Centre for Public Policy for Regions that the years of the Scottish Executive coffers being full to overflowing thanks to block grant increases are over? Will he confirm that, as a direct result of Labour’s financial mismanagement of the UK, up to £4 billion in real terms will have to be cut from the Scottish budget over the next four years? Is it not about time that he and his Prime Minister finally took responsibility for Labour’s catastrophic economic failures and, in particular, the damage that they have done to Scotland’s public finances?
Oral questions were put to the Scottish Office yesterday.
Wellingborough MP Peter Bone asked a bold question about the Barnett Formula:
"Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on potential changes to the Barnett formula. 
Mr. Bone: I am not entirely sure that that answers my question. My constituents pay the same taxes as the people of Scotland, yet receive £2,243 a year less public expenditure. Why should every man, woman and child in my constituency pay an extra £2,200 to subsidise the Scottish Government?
Mr. Murphy: That is not the case at all. The four nations of the United Kingdom are, of course, stronger together. We gain great strength from the cohesiveness of that unique union of the United Kingdom. I think the hon. Gentleman would do well to reflect on the fact that there is higher spending on policing in England, that the rate of growth in health spending is 7 per cent. in England while in Scotland it is 4 per cent. and that Sure Start is available in England and not in Scotland, and so much else besides. Of course, it is an issue for the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament how they allocate the specific funding available to them."
Shadow Minister for Scotland Ben Wallace offered a stout defence of the Union:
"It is perhaps tempting to remind the House of the Scottish National party’s military adviser, Colonel Crawford, who once proposed chemical weapons as a cheaper alternative to the nuclear deterrent in Scotland. May I urge the Minister not to waste any time or money on making unlikely and unnecessary plans for Scottish independence, which would see the demise of the defence industry in Scotland, and may I remind the House that our Army is better because of Scottish soldiers, and Scotland is safer because of the British Union?
Mr. Murphy: The hon. Gentleman is correct: Scotland is stronger because of the Union and the United Kingdom. There is remarkable pride and passion across Scotland about the enormous contribution made by Scots as part of the United Kingdom armed forces. We will continue to oppose plans by the SNP, of course. Much more important is the fact that the vast majority of Scots refute the suggestions from the SNP that we should break up Britain and destroy the UK armed forces."
The British Armed Forces most certainly do benefit from the brave service of Scottish people.