20 Sep 2013 10:42:23
By Paul Goodman
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Stop me if you've heard it already, but ConservativeHome has the crucial detail from the Tory awayday - namely, that Robert Buckland's table won the quiz at yesterday evening's dinner. Take a bow, too, Henry Bellingham, Nicky Morgan and Christopher Pincher, whose knowledge, according to my source, won the victory.
5 Dec 2012 11:09:15
By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday in Parliament, Richard Bacon, a Conservative backbencher, tried to introduce a Bill which would repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. One of Mr Bacon's lines of argument was that the legal requirement for Ministers to amend legislation - without a vote in Parliament - in order to comply with European human rights legislation - is "fundamentally undemocratic":
"Under section 10, a Minister of the Crown may make such amendments to primary legislation as are considered necessary to enable the incompatibility to be removed by the simple expedient of making an order. In effect, because the accepted practice is that the United Kingdom observes its international obligations, a supranational court can impose its will against ours. In my view this is fundamentally undemocratic."
Mr Bacon also compellingly argued that the controversial social issues that judges often like to get involved in should be decided by "elected representatives and not by unelected judges":
"[T]here is no point in belonging to a club if one is not prepared to obey its rules. The solution is therefore not to defy judgments of the Court, but rather to remove the power of the Court over us. ... Judges do not have access to a tablet of stone not available to the rest of us which enables them to discern what our people need better than we can possibly do as their elected, fallible, corrigible representatives. There is no set of values that are so universally agreed that we can appeal to them as a useful final arbiter. In the end they will always be shown up as either uselessly vague or controversially specific. Questions of major social policy, whether on abortion, capital punishment, the right to bear firearms or workers rights, should ultimately be decided by elected representatives and not by unelected judges."
Continue reading "70 Tory MPs vote to repeal the Human Rights Act" »
4 Sep 2012 16:03:59
By Matthew Barrett
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Since details of the reshuffle have emerged, Tory MPs, especially on the right of the party, have been reacting positively to David Cameron's appointments.
Lord Lawson was pleased with the reshuffle:
"I am on the whole very pleased with what has been done. There's another purpose why you need reshuffles. There is always a need to curb public spending and ministers become attached to their departmental budgets and therefore the Treasury needs to have new ministers who will look at their departmental budgets with fresh eyes and find ways of further savings and that is particularly necessary at the present time."
He had specific praise for Owen Paterson's promotion:
"I am very pleased to see in this reshuffle the promotion of Owen Paterson. Owen Paterson is little known to the British public because he has been Northern Ireland Secretary, so he is well known there, but really little known elsewhere. He is in fact one of the most able and promising young men or women around the Cabinet and therefore his promotion to Environment is extremely welcome….he is a man of reason and sense."
Andrew Bridgen said the reshuffle was more wide-ranging than many Tories had expected:
"I think the reaction from the backbenches is that this reshuffle is quite a lot more extensive than we actually predicted. So it is far more radical. But at the end of the day, these reshuffles are of great interest for those of us in the Westminster bubble and the media out there, but I think the people, your viewers, are really interested in policy, not necessarily personality, and it’s about reinvigorating the Government and pushing those policies forward to deliver economic growth that’s going to get the country out of recession."
Continue reading "Conservative MPs react positively to the reshuffle" »
30 May 2012 13:10:28
By Matthew Barrett
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On yesterday's Today programme, Justin Webb, introducing a section on the Lords, said "MPs are still on holiday but the House of Lords is sitting..."
Although he was later happy to acknowledge MPs are not, in fact, "on holiday", Webb set off a series of tweets from Tory MPs miffed at the fact they were being portrayed as taking too much time off. David Jones (Clwyd West) got the ball rolling
Dan Byles (North Warwickshire) continued:
Continue reading "Tory MPs refute media myth that Parliament being in recess means they are "on holiday"" »
31 Jan 2012 18:15:43
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.
Continue reading "Cameron today: Off the hook on the veto. On it over more IMF money." »
6 Dec 2011 15:29:57
By Joseph Willits
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Proposals to give Parliament the power to take action on ministers who leak announcements to the media, before informing the Commons, have failed. The motion tabled by Phillip Hollobone MP (Kettering), aimed to be as "non-partisan as possible", was defeated by 228 votes to 119. Hollobone accused all three major parties of mistreating the House of Commons:
"All Governments, whether this Government, the previous Government or the one before that, have leaked information, and that is not how our great House of Commons ought to be treated".
On Sunday, Tim outlined the Speaker's exasperation, after last week's Autumn Statement was the latest example of policy being leaked to the press beforehand. Naturally, Hollobone expressed the same sentiment as the Speaker, saying that Parliament "should be the first place to hear of major new Government policy initiatives". He continued:
"Should it be “The Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday, the “Today” programme on Radio 4 in the morning or ITV’s “Daybreak”; or should it be the Chamber of the House of Commons?"
Continue reading "A motion seeking to prevent ministers leaking policy before addressing Parliament is defeated" »
9 Sep 2011 07:37:57
By Paul Goodman
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Here is the Defence Secretary's statement, and below are questions from Conservative MPs with his answers. It's worth noting that Fox went out of his way to disagree with former serviceman Kris Hopkins - who features in Gazette this morning - that the incident was a dark day for the army as a whole, rather than for the individuals responsible. Ministers usually strive to avoid disagreeing with colleagues on the floor of the Commons, and Fox is an extremely skilful performer in the Chamber. That he felt he had to make the distinction reflects its importance to him (and I think he was right).
Continue reading "Liam Fox's Commons Baha Mousa statement in full" »
19 Jun 2011 16:18:35
By Matthew Barrett
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The company Key Business Insight's "Commons Performance Cockpit" ranks MPs by their total cost - that is, staffing costs, travel expenses, office costs, salary, and so on. The majority of the 50 "most efficient" MPs, in terms of total cost, are Conservatives.
The top 50 "most efficient" MPs between 1st April, 2010 and 31st March, 2011 are listed below:
- Dan Jarvis (Labour, Barnsley Central) £5,457*
- Deborah Abrahams (Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth) £12,472**
- Eric Illsley (Labour, Barnsley Central) £57,485***
- Zac Goldsmith (Conservative, Richmond Park) £59,242
- Rushanara Ali (Labour, Bethnal Green and Bow) £59,242
- Ben Gummer (Conservative, Ipswich) £60,422
- Gavin Shuker (Labour, Luton South) £60,687
- George Eustice (Conservative, Camborne and Redruth) £60,692
- Sam Gyimah (Conservative, East Surrey) £60,899
- Matthew Offord (Conservative, Hendon) £61,077
- Anne-Marie Morris (Conservative, Newton Abbot) £61,292
- Teresa Pearce (Labour, Erith and Thamesmead) £61,776
- Mark Reckless (Conservative, Rochester and Strood) £61,780
- Guy Opperman (Conservative, Hexham) £61,857
- Gemma Doyle (Labour, West Dunbartonshire) £62,324
- Christopher Pincher (Conservative, Tamworth) £62,583
- Stella Creasy (Labour, Walthamstow) £63,510
- Ian Paisley, Jnr (Democratic Unionist, North Antrim) £64,755
- Richard Drax (Conservative, South Dorset) £65,102
- Owen Smith (Labour, Pontypridd) £65,157
- Damian Hinds (Conservative, East Hampshire) £65,365
- Julian Huppert (Liberal Democrat, Cambridge) £65,396
- Kwasi Kwarteng (Conservative, Spelthorne) £65,571
- Gavin Barwell (Conservative, Croydon Central) £65,651
- Jonathan Lord (Conservative, Woking) £66,162
- Rebecca Harris (Conservative, Castle Point) £66,576
- Anas Sarwar (Labour, Glasgow Central) £67,630
- Andrea Leadsom (Conservative, South Northamptonshire) £67,940
- Claire Perry (Conservative, Devizes) £68,047
- Sajid Javid (Conservative, Bromsgrove) £68,171
- Sarah Newton (Conservative, Truro and Falmouth) £68,172
- Conor Burns (Conservative, Bournemouth West) £68,443
- Eric Ollerenshaw (Conservative, Lancaster and Fleetwood) £68,624
- Margaret Ritchie (SDLP, South Down) £68,705
- Rehman Chisti (Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham) £68,917
- Jim Shannon (Democratic Unionist, Strangford) £69,063
- Liz Kendall (Labour, Leicester West) £69,147
- George Hollingberry (Conservative, Meon Valley) £69,251
- Alok Sharma (Conservative, Reading West) £69,273
- Chris Kelly (Conservative, Dudley South) £70,316
- Angie Bray (Conservative, Ealing Central and Acton) £70,334
- Naomi Long (Alliance, Belfast East) £70,581
- Kate Green (Labour, Stretford and Urmston) £70,619
- Margot James (Conservative, Stourbridge) £70,755
- Pamela Nash (Labour, Airdrie and Shotts) £70,842
- Jack Dromey (Labour, Birmingham Erdington) £70,912
- Kris Hopkins (Conservative, Keighley) £70,944
- Stephen Metcalfe (Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock) £70,966
- Shabana Mahmood (Labour, Birmingham Ladywood) £71,072
- Tristram Hunt (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central) £71,269
*Took his seat on 3rd March, 2011
**Took her seat on 13th January, 2011
***Resigned his seat on 8th February, 2011
2 Apr 2011 07:54:37
by Paul Goodman
As some MPs prepared for the Easter recess, one in particular was still in the Commons yesterday - that inveterate attender, Peter Bone (Wellingborough). He moved the second reading of his Broadcasting (Public Service Content) on behalf of Christopher Chope (Christchurch), which succeeded the Broadcasting (Television Licence Fee Abolition) Bill, also originally introduced by Chope -
"The aim of the Broadcasting (Television Licence Fee Abolition) Bill was fairly modest: it just wanted to abolish the licence fee in total. I do not think that that is right. I want to retain the licence fee, but I want it to cost a lot less, and I want its benefits to be available to non-BBC broadcasters. At the moment, it is not so much a licence fee as a BBC fee. All the money goes to the BBC, and none goes to other broadcasters...I am told that the current licence fee, which is in effect a poll tax, is £145.50 a year. Almost no one can avoid paying that if they are under the age of 75. Anyone who has more than one television set in more than one location has to pay more than one licence fee. It is a very regressive tax. Also, anyone who does not have a television is still hounded as though they do have one. I had a constituent—this is not made up—who told the BBC licensing authorities that he did not have a television set. They did not believe him. They sent inspectors around to inspect every room in his home to see whether there was a hidden television. That is the sort of thing we might get in a totalitarian state, but surely it is not acceptable in the United Kingdom at any time, and certainly not in this century?"
Bone went on to explain what the effect of his Bill would be, if passed -
"The public service content is mentioned in clause 1(1) and is defined in some detail in clause 1(2). Let me outline the idea behind the Bill. The licence fee will be available to all broadcasters and it will be paid out in return for public service broadcasting content. It will not be left purely to the BBC, but be open to ITV, Channel 4, Sky and any other broadcaster and to local radio. The licence fee, which many people think is paid directly to the BBC, is, in fact, paid to the Secretary of State, who then dishes it out. I believe that the licence fee should be allotted for a specific purpose—in this case, the provision of public service content broadcasting. That is what my Bill would do."
Continue reading "A Bone to pick with the BBC" »
19 Nov 2010 07:18:55
By Jonathan Isaby
Yesterday the Commons used the time allocated by the Backbench Business Committee to debate the issue of immigration. Here is a selection of excerpts from the contributions of Conservative backbenchers...
Chris Skidmore set out why it was important to discuss the issue of immigration:
"People have been afraid to discuss this crucial issue, which, happily, we are now beginning to address. Why is that? It is because people have been concerned about being viewed as intolerant-as bigots, even-if they raise the issue of immigration publicly. We all know that Britain is not a bigoted nation. The British people are not and have never been bigots.
"It is not bigoted to be genuinely concerned about how our local schools might cope with increasing school rolls or about how teachers can keep discipline with several different languages being spoken in the classroom. It is not bigoted to be genuinely concerned about the pressures being placed on the NHS by population expansion and how local hospital services will cope with the increased demands placed on them. Nor is it bigoted to be genuinely concerned about how all our local services-our infrastructure-might be able to cope with an increased population."
"The lesson that all three parties learned from the general election was that the issue needed to be debated. Happily, it was debated at the end of the general election, although it should have been brought forward sooner. It is clear to me that it is only right and responsible for us to act now to protect our public services and local infrastructure. It is clear that we can no longer go on as we were, with a policy of uncontrolled immigration and net migration reaching almost 200,000."
Continue reading "Conservative MPs debate the merits of immigration - and why it's important to dicuss the issue" »
10 Sep 2010 06:19:55
Here is the latest in our series of Twenty Questions with members of the Class of 2010...
Christopher Pincher was elected MP for Tamworth with a majority of 6.090.
1. What is your earliest political memory? The three day week in 1973. I remember the power cuts and did not like suddenly being plunged into the dark. An early taste of union militancy for a four year old.
2. Complete the sentence: “I’m a Conservative because… I believe in government that does not pry into our lives, pick our pockets or undermine our institutions and freedoms.”
3. Who is your political hero and why? Theodore Roosevelt – he was a larger than life character who symbolised his America. He had a real sense of his country’s history and where it was going and he wasn’t afraid to take on vested interests.
4. When did you decide you wanted to become an MP? About 1996, when I finally decided to apply for a no hope Labour seat.
5. What is your reading material of choice? Newspapers (especially on Sunday mornings), The Spectator, Political Betting, history and biography, most stories by Simon Raven and, of course, ConHome.
6. Who is your favourite political interviewer/presenter on TV or radio? Jeremy Paxman – though watching rather than being on the receiving end!
7. If you could run any government department, which would it be and why? I suppose it would have to be Energy & Climate Change. I think we face a clear and present energy security threat in the coming decade, which not only has implications for our defence and foreign policy but live domestic issues such as fuel poverty and the green economy.
8. Which non-Conservative politician do you most admire? Ernie Bevin. He was a great patriot who showed that through skill and hard work any one can get to the top in Britain – and could even back then.
9. Who would you least want to get stuck with in a House of Commons lift? Jeremy Paxman.
10. If you were in the US, would you be a Republican or a Democrat? I think I’d prefer the Bull Moose ticket.
11. What do you enjoy doing to unwind and relax? It may sound trite but I really enjoy friends’ company as well as reading, watching grand prix and, when I can, going horse racing.
12. What is your favourite book? The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
13. What is your favourite film? That’s a difficult one. Mandy (which has nothing at all to do with the Prince of Darkness), A Canterbury Tale and St Elmo’s Fire are my favourites for different reasons.
14. What is your favourite music? Lots of jazz and big band numbers.
15. What would be your ideal meal and where would you eat it? Fish and chips at home.
16. What is your favourite holiday destination? North Cerney in the Cotswolds.
17. What do you most want to achieve during your first term in Parliament? Helping to get the government that little bit more out of people’s lives.
18. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about yourself. I collect pens.
19. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about your constituency. You cannot get further from the sea in England than Tamworth – although Leamington makes the same claim. Tamworth was also the capital of the Kingdom of Mercia.
20. Share with us your most amusing story or favourite anecdote from the campaign trail. The sight of the shrieking Lib Dem candidate prostrating herself in front of David Cameron’s battle bus and refusing to move – until the bus did!
> Previously: David Nuttall MP
6 Jun 2010 18:58:38
Below is a final quintet of excerpts from maiden speeches delivered during Wednesday’s debate on the Queen’s Speech.
Charlotte Leslie, who gained Bristol North West, described education as “the single most effective way of closing that gap between the haves and the have-nots”:
“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.”
Christopher Pincher, who gained Tamworth at the election, explained why education is such an important issue in his constituency:
“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.”
Heather Wheeler, who is the first Conservative MP for Derbyshire South since Edwina Currie, also raised the importance of schools provision and apprenticeships in her constituency:
“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.”