By Matthew Barrett
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4pm update: People's Pledge sources tells me that Anne Marie Morris, the MP for Newton Abbot has come out in support of a referendum.
Mike Freer, the MP for Finchley and Golders Green, has also backed a referendum. This is significant because Freer was not one of the 81 rebels, but has now come round to the view that Britain should have an in/out European referendum.
These two new additions to the list of MPs supporting the People's Pledge means 68 MPs - from several parties - back a referendum.
Following on from their successful referendum campaign in Thurrock - turnout was higher than in the recent local elections - The People's Pledge campaign have announced further referendums, to be held in 3 contiguous seats. The campaign has announced a shortlist of 39 seats, grouped in 13 contiguous triples, from different regions, from which one triplet will be chosen in the next few days, with a polling date set for late July.
By Matthew Barrett
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Labour's Luciana Berger also retained her position as the most fanciable female MP, although Tory women are rated as the most attractive with 6 listed in the top 10, while Labour have 4 and the Lib Dems have none. Despite Goldsmith's first place, Labour men did best overall with 5 entries, but the Tories were just behind with 4 places.
Nick Clegg is the only Liberal Democrat to feature in this year’s list, and the only party leader to qualify - both David Cameron and Ed Miliband missed out, although the senior Miliband brother makes 6th place.
Here is the full list (with last year’s rankings in brackets) for Sky's Most Fanciable MP 2012:
By Jonathan Isaby
Yesterday saw MPs debating the merits of the Big Society on a backbench motion moved by Dover's Tory MP, Charlie Elphicke, which stated its support for the Big Society, "seeking stronger communities where power is decentralised and social action is encouraged."
"The big society has been "much discussed in the media", yet this was, Elphicke asserted, "practically the first proper occasion on which it has been discussed on the Floor of this Chamber."
His motion had been co-signed by a number of Conservative MPs, as well as Labour's Jon Cruddas and Tristram Hunt and Lib Dem Bob Russell.
Here are some excerpts from a variety of the 24 speeches delivered by backbench Tory MPs - who, interestingly enough, were all members of the 2010 intake.
What I want to talk about is the sense of annoyance that everyone has when an individual feels put off from simply sweeping the snow from the pavement outside their house for fear that they will be sued, or when they are scared to jump into a pond and rescue a drowning child.
How have we got to the situation where individuals do not feel that they can take responsibility, and that rules and procedures stop them doing so? It is important to encourage people to take more action and more responsibility for their own lives and for their communities. People in communities are frustrated, such as the head teacher who cannot decide which children are in his school and feels that he is being told what to do by diktat, and the hospital worker who wants to take responsibility for his area, but who has to follow detailed rules and procedures.
Communities as a whole-big communities such as mine in Dover-want a greater sense of being able to chart their own destiny and future direction, but feel hampered by central Government saying, "No, these are the rules. This is how it is going to be. It is all going to be top-down and what you say doesn't count for much." It is that sense of annoyance and frustration, which stalks the land up and down the country, that the big society aims to counteract.
By Jonathan Isaby
Charlotte Leslie, who won Bristol North West at the general election, yesterday introduced a ten-minute rule bill which would pave the way for those working in NHS acute medical and surgical services to be exempted from the EU's working time directive limiting them to 48-hour weeks.
She spoke from the experience of growing up in a family where her father was a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, and with the support of former GPs on the Tory benches, Phillip Lee and Sarah Wollaston.
She argued that the "well-meaning" directive aimed at protecting workers is now in fact "endangering patient safety in four key ways:
"First, continuity of care is being eroded. Secondly, trainee doctors are being denied the training that they need. Thirdly, appropriate clinical expertise is not available to patients when they need it, and fourthly, I add with a certain grim irony that junior and senior doctors are more exhausted by the shift rotas that the directive imposes than they were before."
"Continuity of care is sometimes an overlooked factor of medical health care, but it is absolutely key. It is what allows professionals to use their professional expertise on a patient. That link between the patient and the person caring for them is vital, but the shift rota system that has been imposed under the European working time directive has meant that there are far more handovers of patients to a new doctor. At those handover points, complications arise because crucial information can be missed out and not passed on. Handovers did occur under the old system, but they were far less frequent.
"From the patient's point of view, the shift system has meant that instead of having one or two doctors whom they know and begin to trust, and who have seen them from the beginning to the end of their treatment, patients are subjected to a seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of doctors. From the doctor's point of view, there is a kind of patient pass the parcel. That absolutely must stop. It is no good for the patient's care, no good for their experience of their treatment and it is clinically risky. In fact, a third of all doctors have said that since the European working time directive was implemented, they have seen significant deterioration in patients over the handover period.
"The training of our doctors for the future is also suffering. The Royal College of Surgeons has estimated that 400,000 hours of surgical time are lost every single month. It does not take a genius to work out that if the trainees are not getting the hours in, they cannot get the training that they need. Two thirds of trainees have said that they have seen significant deterioration in their training in the short time that the working time directive has been fully implemented. The irony is that the directive was supposed to alleviate the exhaustion of junior doctors, but because all their hours are clumped together in one go, it has actually led to more exhaustion. More exhausted doctors are getting less training, and it does not need me to expand on that for all Members to see that it is madness.
Below is a final quintet of excerpts from maiden speeches delivered during Wednesday’s debate on the Queen’s Speech.
“Breaking down the terrible and invisible barriers that divide the haves from the have-nots will not be easy, but I am delighted that one thing on which the coalition rests is the pupil premium. Quite a long time ago, back in 2005, I was lucky enough to work with my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) and James O’Shaughnessy on the pupil premium, and little did we know then that it would be a raft for such a friendly and successful coalition. The financial incentive directed to those most in need is just the beginning of eradicating the educational inequality that exists in my community.”
Gavin Barwell, newly elected MP for Croydon Central, agreed that education was the key “if we want to lift people out of poverty and to increase social mobility in our country”. He warmly welcomed the Government’s proposal to allow parents, teachers, charities and local communities to set up new schools:
“Each year, thousands of parents are told that the inn is full. They are told that there are no places at any of the schools where they want to send their children and that they have either to send them to a school they did not choose or educate them at home. The policy that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has championed with such passion will provide another option to those parents, and the knowledge that a new school could open if enough local parents are dissatisfied will put pressure on low-performing schools across the country to raise their game.”
“We have suffered for many years as one of the poorest-funded local education authorities in the country. That sets children in Tamworth apart; they start at a disadvantage. We need to even up the opportunities for young people there, which is why I welcome my right hon. Friend’s invitation to head teachers to apply for academy status, and his proposal to lift the burden of bureaucracy off the backs of teachers and to give them more power. Only if we give head teachers more power and more money to spend on their schools as they see fit, and only if we give teachers the time and the space to teach, which is what they want to do, will we drive up educational standards and improve the morale of the teaching profession.”
“I have already had a request for the Minister to visit to discuss the setting up of a new free school by parents who run Dame Catherine Harpur school in Ticknall. We also desperately need a new secondary school near Melbourne and that initiative will help with that too. I have held meetings with other colleagues who are in the House tonight who have also met with the unions at Rolls-Royce. We have been working on some innovative ideas for apprenticeships that I hope we will be able to take further. One glaring omission from the services that we have in South Derbyshire is a college. All our residents have to travel for full-time further education, and there is an opportunity for us to do better for my residents.”
Finally, there was Gordon Henderson, the new MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, who outlined his ambition to be a “true parliamentarian”, explaining that being elected an MP was fulfilling a lifelong dream, having grown up on a council estate, failed the eleven-plus and left school at 16.
He raised the case of a school in his constituency wanting to apply for academy status:
“Two years ago, one of the secondary schools in my constituency, Westlands school, received an outstanding Ofsted report. So good was the report that the head and his senior staff were seconded to help to improve standards in a number of other schools in Kent. More recently, Westlands decided to form a federation with a struggling local primary school so that it could help that school to drive up standards. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that that this is just the kind of initiative that we should welcome. But the staff and governors at Westlands are even more ambitious than that. To make their school even better, they are keen to become an academy. They have already made inquiries about obtaining academy status, but have been told that their bid would not succeed because they are in a federation with a school that was deemed to have been struggling. It seems that a key test for approving academy status is that the applicant school is “outstanding”.
“I have no problem with that criterion, except that it effectively prevents federated schools from gaining academy status unless both schools are “outstanding”. That seems a particularly perverse rule when one considers that one of the objects of the Academies Bill is to give schools “the freedoms and flexibility they need to continue to drive up standards”. I very much hope, when the new Academies Bill is drafted, that that rule can be amended to make an exception for outstanding schools like Westlands which, for the best of intentions, have linked up with a less successful school.”