By Matthew Barrett
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Conservative Friends of Israel is an influential affiliate group of the Conservative Party which contains perhaps the largest number of Conservative MPs of any group in Parliament. It exists to promote understanding of and support for the State of Israel in the Conservative Party, and its membership reaches the highest echelons of power, including the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. In this profile, I examine its origins, membership, role, and activities.
Origins of the group
Conservative Friends of Israel (CFoI) is the oldest group of Conservative MPs I have profiled so far: it was founded by Michael Fidler, who was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bury and Radcliffe between 1970 and the October 1974 election. After losing his seat, he decided to focus on building a pro-Israel group within the Conservative Party - there had been a Labour Friends of Israel group since 1957 - so Fidler launched CFoI in 1974, and served as its National Director.
Sir Hugh Fraser served as the first Chairman of CFoI, from 1974. Sir Hugh was a Conservative MP of the old school: after a distinguished military intelligence career in the Second World War, he entered Parliament in 1945, and he missed out on being Father of the House to James Callaghan in 1983 by only a few days. Sir Hugh had an interest in oil and the Middle East and served a number of positions in the War and Colonial Offices, before entering Cabinet as the Secretary of State for Air in 1962. He might be best known to some readers as the outsider candidate who came third in the 1975 party leadership contest, behind Mrs Thatcher and Edward Heath, gaining only 16 votes.
By Tim Montgomerie
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Dan Byles MP comments:
"The next few months will be critical to the HS2 debate. The Transport Select Committee will shortly publish their report on the economic case for and against HS2, and soon afterwards the Secretary of Sate for Transport will make an assessment of the recent public consultation and will publish his recommendations. That's why the Backbench Business Committee debate on HS2 on Thursday in the main chamber is so important. We need to make the case to MPs who don't believe HS2 affects them, from Kent to Cornwall to East Anglian, that HS2 will be paid for by every household in the country. The momentum behind the No to HS2 campaign is building, and today, together with my colleagues Andrea Leadsom MP and Chris White MP, I helped a small group of campaigners hand a petition bearing some 108,000 names in to 10 Downing Street. I believe the arguments against spending £32 billion on HS2 are compelling. I just hope the decision makers are prepared to listen to them."
By Jonathan Isaby
Yesterday the Private Member’s Bill being championed by Chris White, the MP for Warwick and Leamington, had its Second Reading Debate.
In short, the Public Services (Social Enterprise and Social Value) Bill aims to promote social enterprise in a national social enterprise strategy and in local authority sustainable community strategies. It would also make particular public authorities take account of wider economic, social and environmental well-being in commissioning goods, works or services.
“The idea of a big society, a responsible society, or a civic society, is timeless. It has inspired politicians from all political parties for centuries. I believe that it encapsulates the idea that people can truly flourish only if they feel part of an organic, evolving and strong society. It recognises that we are not merely economic units to be put into certain boxes and cut off from others, but human beings who wish to belong and to feel actively involved in a wider society.
“That is a powerful philosophy, and it has been the strong motivation behind my Bill. However, although it is easy merely to say what one believes, it is much more difficult to put forward concrete proposals that can help to realise those beliefs. This Bill is my attempt to do such a thing. In order to realise a stronger society and to build on those bonds within communities, we need to empower and champion civil society. We need to create the conditions for civil society to flourish. We need to create the opportunity for voluntary organisations, social enterprise, charities and socially responsible businesses to thrive. That will not happen by itself.”
He went on to explain the specifics that the Bill is proposing:
Private Member’s Bills are a great opportunity for backbench MPs to influence the actions of Government. So I am delighted when I came third in the recent ballot.
I am particularly proud of the wonderful array of social enterprises, charities and third sector organisations that flourish in my constituency, Warwick and Leamington. So when I was deciding on what my Private Member’s Bill should be about, I wanted to see what I could do to help these voluntary organisations in my constituency and across the country.
This is why I have put forward legislation that will seek to put social enterprises firmly on the agenda (both national and local), and will place social outcomes at the heart of public sector procurement.
Social enterprises are defined by the Government presently as “businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purposes in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners” and they are becoming an ever increasing part of our economy, generating over £20 billion a year or nearly 2% of our GDP.
These community-facing organisations combine a public-spirited ethos with a commitment to providing quality goods and services. For me, they embody the very principles that we fought our election campaign on: encouraging people and organisations to find innovative ways of providing goods and services; developing stronger communities and finding ways to maximise our public services.
My bill will mandate the Government to develop a strategy for all departments on encouraging social enterprises so that there is joined-up thinking when it comes to creating new initiatives and projects.
Thirteen Conservative MPs - including nine of the new intake - were successful in the Private Member's Bill ballot earlier in the month.
Today sees them formally presenting their Bills for the first time (there won't be any debate at this stage), which are summarised as follows on the parliamentary website:
PUBLIC SERVICES (SOCIAL ENTERPRISE AND SOCIAL VALUE) BILL - Chris White MP (Warwick and Leamington)
"Bill to require the Secretary of State and local authorities to publish strategies in connection with promoting social enterprise; to enable communities to participate in the formulation and implementation of those strategies; to require that public sector contracts include provisions relating to social outcomes and social value."
DAYLIGHT SAVING BILL - Rebecca Harris MP (Castle Point)
"Bill to require the Secretary of State to conduct a cross-departmental analysis of the potential costs and benefits of advancing time by one hour for all, or part of, the year; to require the Secretary of State to take certain action in the light of that analysis."
ESTATES OF DECEASED PERSONS (FORFEITURE RULE AND LAW OF SUCCESSION) BILL - Greg Knight MP (Yorkshire East)
"Bill to amend the law relating to the distribution of the estates of deceased persons."
ANONYMITY (ARRESTED PERSONS) BILL - Anna Soubry MP (Broxtowe)
"Bill to prohibit the publication of certain information regarding persons who have been arrested until they have been charged with an offence; to set out the circumstances where such information can be published without committing an offence."
LEGISLATION (TERRITORIAL EXTENT) BILL - Harriett Baldwin MP (Worcestershire West)
"Bill to require the Secretary of State, when preparing draft legislation for publication, to do so in such a way that the effect of that legislation on England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is separately and clearly identified; to require the Secretary of State to issue a statement to the effect that in his or her view the provisions of the draft legislation are in accordance with certain principles relating to territorial extent."
PLANNING (OPENCAST MINING SEPARATION ZONES) BILL - Andrew Bridgen MP (Leicestershire North West)
"Bill to require planning authorities to impose a minimum distance between opencast mining developments and residential properties."
COINAGE (MEASUREMENT) BILL - Mark Lancaster MP (Milton Keynes North)
"Bill to make provision about the arrangements for measuring the standard weight of coins."
SPORTS GROUNDS SAFETY AUTHORITY BILL - Jonathan Lord MP (Woking)
"Bill to confer further powers on the Football Licensing Authority and to amend its name."
WRECK REMOVAL CONVENTION BILL - Thérèse Coffey MP (Suffolk Coastal)
"Bill to implement the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks 2007."
FACE COVERINGS (REGULATION) BILL - Philip Hollobone MP (Kettering)
"Bill to regulate the wearing of certain face coverings."
PROTECTION OF LOCAL SERVICES (PLANNING) BILL - Nigel Adams MP (Selby and Ainsty)
"Bill to enable local planning authorities to require planning permission prior to the demolition or change of use of premises or land used or formerly used to provide a local service."
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, CRIME AND VICTIMS (AMENDMENT) BILL - Sir Paul Beresford MP (Mole Valley)
"Bill to amend section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 to include serious harm to a child or vulnerable adult; to make consequential amendments to the Act."
SECURED LENDING REFORM BILL - George Eustice MP (Camborne and Redruth)
"Bill to make provision regarding the rights of secured debtors; to reform the rights of certain creditors to enforce their security; to make other provision regarding secured lending."
I have invited them all to write for ConHome explaining why the have chosen to introduce their particular Bill, so I hope to be able to publish some pieces from them in the not too distant future.
Many of the new intake gave their maiden speeches during Thursday's debate on poverty.
"Over the past few days, I have sat through many speeches, many of which have been excellent. That is testimony to the talent that many hon. Members bring to the House. However, I have been struck by how many hon. Members opposite have felt the need to blame the present problems facing our nation on the events of the 1980s. What we need is not a history lesson, however inaccurate. The past, whatever our respective views upon it, will not provide us with an answer. We need to look forward and to understand that now, in this the second decade of the 21st century, we still do not have all the answers and solutions needed to tackle the desperate poverty still afflicting many areas of our nation.
"We will only begin to find these answers if we begin to seek to answer the right questions: how is it that, despite billions of pounds spent, in the past 13 years, the gap between the richest and the poorest has widened? How is it that, despite the state taking an ever interfering role in the lives of local neighbourhoods and communities, local people feel increasingly powerless over the decisions that matter in their own lives? And how is it that those men and women who once believed proudly in the value of work and the life-affirming capacity that it brings are being forced to stay at home and claim benefits for fear of losing the welfare on which they have become dependent?
"It is clear that the state and its money are not always the best solution. Poverty cannot simply be measured in pounds and pence. Those in desperate need cannot be measured by a line on a graph. Each has their own problems and concerns that cannot be met unless we, in the tradition of Whitefield and Wesley, reach out beyond our confines and not just listen, but hear, what they have to say. I do not have an answer to the complex problems that I know the right hon. Member for Birkenhead [Frank Field] will attempt to tackle. I merely know that the direction of the previous Government has not worked."
"We have a magnificent heritage of industry and manufacture, but the loss of that industry has been a source of rising unemployment and, indeed, poverty. Warwick and Leamington has many pockets of deprivation, and that is why I would rather make my maiden speech in this debate than in any other.
"In 2005 the jobseeker’s allowance claimant count was 884; it is now 2,166. The story of one of my constituents sums up the unfairness that many see in the current system. Having been made unemployed, she claimed jobseeker’s allowance, council tax benefit and housing benefit. As someone who wanted to work, she did the responsible thing and sought new employment, and after much searching she found a job in a nearby constituency, just over 10 miles away. She earned about £120 for a 20-hour week, and with rent of £30 a week and council tax of £12 a week to pay, she was left £11 a week better off. Unfortunately, travelling to work cost her £18 a week, which meant that, unbelievably, she was made worse off by trying to do the right thing.
"At a time when people speak of the need for higher pay and bonuses to attract people in top jobs, surely it cannot be right for people at the bottom to be given no encouragement to move into employment when they see that they will receive no financial benefit from their labours. We need to create new jobs locally. That is easier said than done, but there are reasons for great optimism. Warwick and Leamington has massive potential to attract new and diverse industry and create new jobs, not least in the thriving video games industry and the green economy, which are our particular strengths. Once we assembled parts for the automotive sector. What is to prevent us from using the same skills to assemble solar panels? The seeds of future growth are here, and we must create the environment in which they can flourish.
"The example of my constituent shows that it is not a question of people being unwilling to work; those who refuse to work can be penalised for not doing so. It is a question of making it financially beneficial to people who understand the benefits of working in terms of self-confidence, self-belief and social standing. Last Friday, I visited both the jobcentre and the citizens advice bureau. We must do all we can to reduce their work load and to reduce the anxieties that have been brought on by spiralling debt and crushing welfare dependency."