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.
By Tim Montgomerie
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Lots of Tory MPs reacted angrily yesterday to the decision of the PCS union to disrupt border control on the eve of the Olympics. Here's a selection of what they Tweeted:
My hope is that the anger that we felt yesterday and today is not forgotten. We need to embrace the strike threshold laws that have long been advocated by the CBI, Policy Exchange and Boris Johnson - and supported by Tory members. Rob Halfon MP is right. We need to make a distinction between the many excellent union members and some of their very well-paid leaders who are intent on political warfare rather than representing those members. We have to take action, however, against the unions who enjoy heavy subsidy from the taxpayer and use those subsidies to organise in the way that the PCS organises - to disrupt the Olympics and embarrass Britain at a moment when the world and global investors are watching us.
By Matthew Barrett
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Robert Halfon, the Member of Parliament for Harlow, and one of the most successful campaigning MPs in Parliament, has organised a motion, backed by 60 MPs from all parties, and including 41 Tories, calling for the Office of Fair Trading to investigate allegations of price-fixing by British oil companies. The full motion is worded as follows:
"That this House urges the OFT to investigate oil firms active in the UK; calls on the Government to consider the emergency actions being taken in other G20 nations to cut fuel prices, for example President Obama strengthening Federal supervision of the U.S. oil market, and increasing penalties for “market manipulation”, and Germany and Austria setting up a new oil regulator, with orders to help stabilise the price of petrol in the country; finally urges the Office of Fair Trading to note that the Federal Cartel Office in Germany is now investigating oil firms active in the UK, after allegations of price-fixing."
By Matthew Barrett
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Of the Parliamentary groupings founded by MPs after the 2010 general election, the 2020 group is perhaps the least understood. Channel 4's Michael Crick and the FT (£) covered its launch during conference last year. Those two reports implied the 2020 group was a centre-left grouping pre-occupied with "countering the rise of the right". The 2020 is not about bashing the right. It's about upholding the ideas and optimism of the Cameron leadership era, and ensuring they can help inspire a majority Conservative government. In this profile, I will take a closer look at the 2020, its aims, role, and plans for the future.
Origins of the Group:
The 2020 was founded in Autumn 2011 by Greg Barker, the Minister of State for Climate Change, Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-upon-Avon), and George Freeman (Mid Norfolk), with Claire Perry (Devizes) joining soon after. It was launched at conference last year.
Members of the group (see below) are drawn from across the ideological spectrum (one member told me the 2020 tries to "reject the stale orthodoxies and dogmas of the old left versus right split in the Tory Party"), but members are united in wanting to develop conservatism and what the Party might look like in 2020. Founder George Freeman said: "The 2020 was set up as a forum to help the new Conservative generation define a modern progressive Conservatism for our times. What is the DNA that unites this diverse new generation? What are the long term social, economic, and technological changes that will shape our world? By tackling these and related questions we hope to help Conservatives define and dominate the radical centre ground of British politics."
Fellow founder Greg Barker explained another aspect of 2020's mission: "There's a strong strain of optimism that ran through the early Cameron message, and that message of change, hope and optimism, sometimes because of austerity, gets overshadowed, and we see ourselves as the guardians of that message".
By Matthew Barrett
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We reported on the policy content of the Chancellor's Autumn Statement on Tuesday. As well as the content of the Statement, it's worth noting the contributions from Conservative backbenchers in the Commons session that followed it. The Chancellor answered 96 questions in total, so it allowed a large window of opportunity for backbenchers to raise questions or points sceptical of the government's economic agenda - backbenchers could have urged the Chancellor to pursue fiscal consolidation more vigorously, or pressed for a more pro-growth direction, and so on.
However, backbench contributions were overwhelmingly positive. There were, generally, two kinds of question from Tory backbenchers. The first would be positive about measures announced in the Autumn Statement. For example:
"Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the welcome opportunity for private pension funds to invest in infrastructure will also give a good return for those pension funds by unlocking the growth that can come from such infrastructure, particularly in rural areas such as East Anglia?"
By Jonathan Isaby
The first of yesterday's opposition day debates in the Commons saw a Labour motion demanding a reversal in January's VAT rise with respect to road fuel and asking where the fuel duty stabiliser was - all in the name of the "hard pressed motorist".
The hypocrisy of Labour's position, given its record in government, was not lost on Conservative MPs, who proceeded to harry Angela Eagle, the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who was opening the debate.
Here is a selection of their interventions and her non-replies to their points:
Greg Knight: Will the hon. Lady help the House? Over the past 13 years, in every aspect of Government policy, the Labour Government were deliberately and decisively anti-motorist. Does the motion before the House today represent a seismic shift in policy, or is it, as we suspect, a transient spat of opportunism?
Ms Eagle: I am rather sorry that I gave way so early in my remarks to that kind of comment. I do not recognise the right hon. Gentleman’s caricature of our policies for motorists. Perhaps he has been reading too much of the Daily Express.
Robert Halfon: I find the Labour motion astonishing, because over the past few years the hon. Lady’s party crucified Harlow’s motorists by putting up fuel duty by 6% a year and increasing it more than 12 times—and it was going to introduce another tax.
Ms Eagle: I will come to the details of the motion later. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will do us the honour of staying in the Chamber and listening to that.
Charlie Elphicke: To clear up the addling of some minds in the House regarding the history of this matter, will she confirm that in 1997 duty was 36.86p and today it is 57.19p?
Ms Eagle: One has to remember that the price of petrol at the election was £1.20 a litre, at a time when the Conservatives were promising to cut 10p off the price of a litre because petrol prices were too high. It is now £1.32 a litre.
Brandon Lewis: Will she confirm that, despite what has been said, my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke) is right: there were 12 fuel duty rises under the Labour Government, and six more were set to come into force before they left office and would have done in the next few years?
Ms Eagle: As I said, we had six years when we did not even increase the price of fuel by inflation, so there were real-terms price falls. The number of increases in all sorts of duties tends to expand the more one is in government.
Andrew Bridgen: The Labour party’s apparent Damascene conversion on fuel taxes will amaze and intrigue the bulk of the electorate. Will the hon. Lady confirm whether she supported the crafty action of the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, who effectively excluded fuel from a VAT reduction in 2008 by raising duty, and then put the VAT on fuel back up to 17.5% in January 2010?
Ms Eagle: One minute Government Members say that we have no plan to deal with the deficit, and the next minute they complain that we had a plan that would have raised money. They really do try to have it both ways and are not remotely coherent.
"The previous Government increased fuel duty four times in their last 16 months in office... They left many tax bombshells, but perhaps that pre-planned tax increase was the tax road mine. There was a pre-planned additional per pence increase on fuel and a pre-planned year-on-year RPI increase—the so-called escalator. Ironically and utterly bizarrely, we are today debating a Labour motion that goes against the policy introduced by the previous Labour Government.
"Listening to the Opposition is stunning. The outgoing Chief Secretary’s message to the incoming Government was that there was no money left. Worse than that, the previous Government had pre-planned increases, which were due to come in now... The bottom line is that it is outrageous for the Labour party to cry crocodile tears about tax increases that it had planned—it is disingenuous in the extreme, and shows that it has no credibility and no leadership on the issues that matter to people, such as motoring, which we are debating today. The audacity of the motion is stunning."
Here is the latest in our series of Twenty Questions with members of the Class of 2010...
1. What is your earliest political memory?
Helping Robin Squire MP by delivering leaflets in Hornchurch many years ago.
2. Complete the sentence: “I’m a Conservative because… I believe in freedom of choice and small government."
3. Who is your political hero and why? Abraham Lincoln, an amazing man who overcame adversity with dignity and determination.
4. When did you decide you wanted to become an MP? In about 1998 when as a new councillor I came to see that you really can make a difference, even if only small sometimes.
5. What is your reading material of choice? ConservativeHome (of course), historical books (factual and fiction like Bernard Cornwell), sport books and magazines (reading up on triathlons!!).
6. Who is your favourite political interviewer/presenter on TV or radio? Jeremy Paxman on TV and John Humphrys on radio.
7. If you could run any government department, which would it be and why? Am very happy with the job I have :-)
8. Which non-Conservative politician do you most admire? Bill Clinton for being an amazing communicator, putting aside much of his politics.
9. Who would you least want to get stuck with in a House of Commons lift? Gordon Brown.
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? Time with the family, cinema and sport.
12. What is your favourite book? A Team of Rivals by Doris Goodwin for factual and Excalibur by Bernard Cornwell for fiction.
13. What is your favourite film? Shawshank Redemption.
14. What is your favourite music? Have a fairly eclectic taste. Not heard a bad Queen song though..
15. What would be your ideal meal and where would you eat it? With my family and my wife's roast dinner. If going out: Japanese.
16. What is your favourite holiday destination? Skiing.
17. What do you most want to achieve during your first term in Parliament? To repay the trust that the people of Great Yarmouth put in me and help promote Great Yarmouth and what it has and can do.
18. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about yourself. I have done two London Marathons and want to do a triathlon.
19. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about your constituency. We are the second largest seaside tourist resort in the country, so come visit and help make us number one.
20. Share with us your most amusing story or favourite anecdote from the campaign trail. Being mad enough to go for a two-hour walk to relax after fourteen hours a day walking each day, on an afternoon off!!
> Previously: Dominic Raab MP
“I come to politics from a background in film and music, and I shall channel my passion for each into supporting local talent. It is no secret that Hove is home to a great number of musicians, some of whom are internationally famous, but it is home also to the excellent Brighton institute of modern music. Hove's cinematic past, however, is often overlooked, and it is frequently forgotten that, at the end of the Victorian era, the pioneers of Hove developed techniques that are still in use throughout the world today.
“The distinctive beaches and buildings of Brighton and Hove translate extremely well on to film, and that is why they have featured in countless films over the years. Classics include "Brighton Rock", "Oh! What a Lovely War", "Carry On At Your Convenience", "Carry On Girls" and "Quadrophenia"; and in recent years there has been "The End of the Affair", "Circus", "London to Brighton" and the rather curiously named "Brighton Wok: The Legend of Ganja Boxing".
“Returning to music, I perhaps bring something new to the House in the form of my huge passion for rock and heavy metal. A few years ago I rashly pledged that I would be the first Member to wear an Iron Maiden T-shirt in the Chamber, so, Mr Deputy Speaker, I may be in touch soon to see how I can deliver that promise without breaking too many rules. The benefit of this country's musical success to our economy is often understated. In 2008, for example, overseas earnings rose by 15% to £140 million. I was particularly delighted, therefore, to see a commitment to live music in the coalition policy document.“
“Earlier, I was pleased to hear my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary mention the green agenda, climate change and the need for new energy sources in the future, because all that represents an opportunity for Great Yarmouth… Great Yarmouth can benefit from renewable energy. I believe that I can work with my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) to make Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth an epicentre for renewable energy in our region, as well as in our country and in Europe.
“We in Great Yarmouth already have the experience of working with the offshore oil and gas industries, and the offshore wind farm at Scroby Sands used to be the largest in Europe. A new wind farm is coming, and there is the local potential to exploit marine energy and other renewables because we have the necessary experience and expertise. Most importantly, our phenomenal new outer harbour has created a deep-water port that will allow us to service the industry, not just through facilitating its supply chain when it is built, but by acting as its construction base. I intend to play my part, loudly, in bringing that about. I have already talked to Ministers to ensure that Great Yarmouth gets a really good shot at delivering on some of the opportunities arising from the new energy industry. I want to protect and grow our economy, and to protect and grow energy for our country in the future.”