Conor Burns MP

24 Nov 2012 08:54:59

The 118 Tory MPs the Daily Mail lists as being opposed to gay marriage

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.

  1. Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty)
  2. Peter Aldous (Waveney)
  3. Tony Baldry (Banbury)
  4. Guto Bebb (Aberconwy)
  5. Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk)
  6. Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley)
  7. Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen)
  8. Andrew Bingham (High Peak)
  9. Brian Binley (Northampton South)
  10. Bob Blackman (Harrow East)
  11. Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon)
  12. Peter Bone (Wellingborough)
  13. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West)
  14. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)
  15. Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire)
  16. Steve Brine (Winchester)
  17. Fiona Bruce (Congleton)
  18. Robert Buckland (South Swindon)
  19. Conor Burns (Bournemouth West)*
  20. Simon Burns (Chelmsford)
  21. David Burrowes (Enfield Southgate)
  22. Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan)
  23. Douglas Carswell (Clacton)
  24. William Cash (Stone)
  25. Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham)
  26. Christopher Chope (Christchurch)
  27. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds)
  28. Therese Coffey (Suffolk Coastal)
  29. Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon)
  30. Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire)
  31. David Davies (Monmouth)
  32. Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire)
  33. Philip Davies (Shipley)
  34. David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden)
  35. Nick de Bois (Enfield North)
  36. Caroline Dinenage (Gosport)
  37. Richard Drax (South Dorset)
  38. Charlie Elphicke (Dover)
  39. Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North)
  40. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford)
  41. George Freeman (Mid Norfolk)
  42. Richard Fuller (Bedford)
  43. Roger Gale (North Thanet)
  44. Edward Garnier (Harborough)
  45. John Glen (Salisbury)
  46. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)
  47. Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby)
  48. Robert Halfon (Harlow)
  49. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge)
  50. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings)
  51. Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey)
  52. George Hollingbery (Meon Valley)
  53. Philip Hollobone (Kettering)
  54. Adam Holloway (Gravesham)
  55. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot)
  56. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough)
  57. Gareth Johnson (Dartford)
  58. David Jones (Clwyd West)
  59. Marcus Jones (Nuneaton)
  60. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)
  61. Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire)
  62. Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire)
  63. Philip Lee (Bracknell)
  64. Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford)
  65. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)
  66. Julian Lewis (New Forest East)
  67. Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater and West Somerset)
  68. Peter Lilley (Hitchen and Harpenden)
  69. Jonathan Lord (Woking)
  70. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)
  71. Anne Main (St Albans)
  72. Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys)
  73. Anne-Marie Morris (Newton Abbot)
  74. Karl McCartney (Lincoln)
  75. Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton)
  76. Stephen McPartland (Stevenage)
  77. Esther McVey (Wirral West)
  78. Steve Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock)
  79. Nicky Morgan (Loughborough)
  80. David Nuttall (Bury North)
  81. Matthew Offord (Hendon)
  82. Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton)
  83. Priti Patel (Witham)
  84. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)
  85. Mark Pawsey (Rugby)
  86. Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead)
  87. Christopher Pincher (Tamworth)
  88. Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin)
  89. John Redwood (Wokingham)
  90. Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset)
  91. Simon Reevell (Dewsbury)
  92. Andrew Robathan (South Leicestershire)
  93. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury)
  94. Andrew Rosindell (Romford)
  95. David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds)
  96. David Rutley (Macclesfield)
  97. Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire)
  98. Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell)
  99. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)
  100. Henry Smith (Crawley)
  101. John Stevenson (Carlisle)
  102. Bob Stewart (Beckenham)
  103. Gary Streeter (South West Devon)
  104. Mel Stride (Central Devon)
  105. Robert Syms (Poole)
  106. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)
  107. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight)
  108. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester)
  109. Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West)
  110. Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes)
  111. Ben Wallace (Wyre and Preston North)
  112. Robert Walter (North Dorset)
  113. James Wharton (Stockton South)
  114. Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley)
  115. John Whittingdale (Maldon)
  116. Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire)
  117. Gavin Williamson (South Staffordshire)
  118. Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam)
* Conor Burns has stated that he will not be voting against gay marriage but may abstain.

24 Oct 2012 18:40:54

New 1922 Committee and Select Committee members elected

By Matthew Barrett
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After today's 1922 Committee elections, Robert Buckland has been elected Joint-Secretary (replacing Karen Bradley, an Assistant Whip) and Simon Hart and Karl McCartney have also been elected to the Executive, replacing George Hollingbery (now PPS to Theresa May) and Simon Kirby (now PPS to Hugh Robertson).

A few results of the Select Committee elections have trickled through, and this post will be updated with a full list of newly elected committee members in due course.

7pm Update: 

The following MPs have been elected to Select Committee vacancies:

Business, Innovation and Skills Committee

Caroline Dinenage and Robin Walker

Culture, Media and Sport Committee

Continue reading "New 1922 Committee and Select Committee members elected" »

22 Oct 2012 15:31:06

Conservative Select Committee appointments announced

By Matthew Barrett
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SelectCommittesGuido 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.

Continue reading "Conservative Select Committee appointments announced" »

11 Jul 2012 06:56:36

Highlights of yesterday's Lords reform debate

By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday's debate on the Lords Reform Bill was heated, yet relatively polite. I noticed far more speakers against reform of the Lords than for - perhaps because pro-reform Tories knew, the programme motion having been withdrawn, that they would win the Second Reading vote easily (thanks to Labour votes).

Many Tories early in the debate - the initial stages took the form of Sir George Young, the Leader of the House, and his Shadow, Angela Eagle, giving statements on behalf of their leaderships - gave answers which followed the format of "Of course the current Lords is indefensible, but so is this Bill". Gareth JOHNSON GARETHJohnson (Dartford) did not take that line. He was proud to be in favour of the Lords' position as an unelected house:

"I have never defied the party line before, and it is something I hope not to do throughout my time in Parliament, but the Bill is fundamentally wrong. I have been a loyal supporter of both the Government and my party, but I am proud to be British, proud of our constitution and proud of our Parliament. The other place forms an essential part of our constitution, our heritage, history and culture, and once it is gone, it is gone. Seven hundred years of history will be undone if we support the Bill. I want to be able to look my children in the eye and say, “I did not forsake the British constitution. I said no.”"

HART SIMONSimon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) took a similar line:

"I may be in a small minority, but I am one of those people who do not become infected by the view that we must have a democratic House of Lords. I do not want a democratic House of Lords, and that is precisely why I shall vote against the Bill. I want objectivity, expertise, experience and wisdom, all the qualities that we are told so often that we do not have in this House. I do not want Members of the House of Lords to be subject to the electoral and party pressures to which we may be subject here."


Continue reading "Highlights of yesterday's Lords reform debate" »

2 Jul 2012 14:38:48

Backbench Tories urge more action towards a referendum commitment from the Government

By Matthew Barrett
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Between Liam Fox's speech this morning, and David Cameron's statement to the House about his European Council meeting (at 3.30pm), a number of backbench Tories have voiced their mixed feelings about the Prime Minister's referendum intervention.

Bone PeterPeter Bone (Wellingborough), appearing on Sky News, said:

"A lot of people think that the current government should renegotiate its relationship with Brussels so that we just have an economic relationship and then put that to the British people. Either we accept the terms or we leave and I think that’s what many Conservatives think should be done and what we would like the Prime Minister to say very clearly."

Jackson StewartStewart Jackson (Peterborough), appearing on the BBC's Daily Politics, set out his desire for an "unambiguous commitment" from the Prime Minister for a referendum: 

"It’s time we trusted the people, because frankly, people don’t trust senior politicians, mandarins, or Europe any longer. David Cameron has to be clear, unambiguous and specific with a timeframe for what that renegotiation will be. ... What I, and many colleagues want is an unambiguous commitment, a route map to real renegotiation at this historic juncture with the EU and definitely a referendum to let the people decide."

Baron John  2

Continue reading "Backbench Tories urge more action towards a referendum commitment from the Government" »

27 Jun 2012 11:14:11

Ahead of PMQs, backbench Tory MPs make clear their opposition to Lords reform proposals

By Matthew Barrett
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5.45pm Update:

Expanding upon his earlier remarks, Jesse Norman appeared on The World At One, and described the reform proposals as "a constitutional monstrosity", saying the Bill "should never have reached the House  Norman Jesse 2of Commons":

"Unfortunately the Conservative manifesto didn’t contain anything like the commitment that everyone’s pretending it did and it’s a small dishonesty to pretend that it did. What the Conservative manifesto said is that the party made a commitment to ‘seek to build a consensus’ for a mainly elected second chamber. Now it has sought to build a consensus until it is blue in the face and all of that tells us that there’s no possible consensus around the bill. Now, there might have been a consensus around a more intelligently crafted set of reforms but this bill is a total nonsense."

Forsyth Michael NewLord Forsyth, on the Daily Politics show, strongly condemned the proposals:

"This bill, which is being drawn up to satisfy the Deputy Prime Minister, is clearly a nonsense. I think that most people would be pretty outraged at the idea that some grubby little deal between the Conservatives and the Liberals that says we will give you permanent controlling vote position in the House of Lords in return for you to agreeing to vote for boundary changes that will give us 20 extra seats. That is not the basis of which to proceed with major constitutional reform."

SANDYS LAURAA dissenting voice came from Laura Sandys, who claimed on BBC News that an elected Lords would be better able to scrutinise the executive:

"Absolutely not. I think this is an extraordinary piece of legislation in many ways. This is legislation brought forward by a government which actually gives Parliament more power over the executive. We will actually end up with a proper, fully-fledged bicameral system, which will ensure that Parliament can hold government more to account, in many ways ensure that we get better legislation, and possibly from a Conservative point of view desirable with less legislation."


Continue reading "Ahead of PMQs, backbench Tory MPs make clear their opposition to Lords reform proposals" »

18 Mar 2012 08:41:54

Tory MP Claire Perry reportedly told Douglas Carswell to "f*** off and join UKIP"

By Tim Montgomerie
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I wonder if more loyal backbench Tory MPs are getting a little fed up with their more rebellious colleagues?

A couple of weeks ago Conor Burns, PPS to the Northern Ireland Secretary, tweeted his irritation at Peter Bone:

Screen Shot 2012-03-18 at 08.30.07

Now we learn from the Mail on Sunday that Douglas Carswell was apparently told by Claire Perry MP to "f*** off and join UKIP". The newspaper reports:

"Claire Perry is said to have directed the four-letter tirade at well-known Tory Eurosceptic MP Douglas Carswell during a Commons debate. Friends of Mr Carswell say he was outraged at Ms Perry’s alleged verbal onslaught last week. Two Tory MPs present in the Commons say they heard Ms Perry make the comment and insist it was aimed at Mr Carswell."

Claire Perry is one of the Chancellor's staunchest allies and Douglas Carswell as been one of the Chancellor's biggest critics, referring to Mr Osborne as "Continuity Brown" in a series of interviews and blogs. "Under the Coalition macroeconomic policy has remained fundamentally unchanged from what was going on under Gordon Brown," Carswell wrote.

The Mail on Sunday suggests there is a "Giddy's Gang"* of loyalists to the Chancellor. They include Ms Perry, Matt Hancock, Greg Hands, Sajid Javid, Philip Hammond and Justine Greening.

* George Osborne's first name is actually Gideon.

28 Oct 2011 10:55:57

Tobias Ellwood returns as new PPS appointments confirmed

By Matthew Barrett
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Following the resignations of Stewart Jackson and Adam Holloway as Parliamentary Private Secretaries, due to the European referendum vote, the following PPS appointments have been confirmed:

  • Conor Burns, MP for Bournemouth West, will act as PPS to the Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
  • Gavin Williamson, MP for South Staffordshire, will act as PPS to the Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP, Minister of State for Northern Ireland
  • Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, will act as PPS to the Rt Hon David Lidington MP, Minister of State for Europe

Burns previously served as PPS to Hugo Swire, and so his appointment as PPS to Owen Paterson is a promotion. 

Gavin Williamson is a first-time PPS, and Tobias Ellwood was PPS to Liam Fox - until he resigned. 

2.30pm Update: Jonathan Isaby tweets: "News you may have missed: Central Devon Tory MP Mel Stride named as PPS to Skills Minister John Hayes."

Mel Stride replaces Sajid Javid as John Hayes' PPS. Javid became George Osborne's PPS in the ministerial shake-up that followed Liam Fox's resignation. 

Eagle-eyed commenters below also point out Aidan Burley MP (Cannock Chase) has been appointed PPS to Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, having been PPS to Philip Hammond at Transport. 

28 Jun 2011 19:36:23

Tory MPs voiced their scepticism about an elected second chamber during yesterday's debate in the Commons

By Jonathan Isaby
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I have already covered Conor Burns' sideswipe at Lord Heseltine from the debate on Lords reform, but what else happened during the debate?

Overall, one got the impression that (with a few exceptions) the Conservative benches were highly sceptical about an elected second chamber - including many who are usually deemed to be supporters of the Government.

Later in his speech, Conor Burns spoke in favour of the status quo - ie a fully appointed chamber - and then considered what parties had promised in their manifestos:

"I wish to deal briefly with the argument that reform was in every party’s manifesto. It was, to some degree, and the Liberal Democrats, who had the most pro-reform manifesto commitment, got 23% of the vote in the general election. Labour, which was slightly more lukewarm, got 29%, and the Conservatives, who were the most lukewarm, got 36%. There is almost an argument that if we want to do things on the basis of what was in the manifestos, we should remember that the most people voted for the party that was most lukewarm on the issue. We have to ask ourselves, as at the time of Maastricht, when all three Front-Bench teams are united on something, how do those who dissent make their view known?

Continue reading "Tory MPs voiced their scepticism about an elected second chamber during yesterday's debate in the Commons" »

28 Jun 2011 10:52:28

Conor Burns castigates "disgraceful" Lord Heseltine for a decade of silence in the House of Lords

Picture 18
By Jonathan Isaby
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Later today I will provide a write-up of yesterday's debate in the Commons on the future of the House of Lords.

But one thing has immediately jumped off the page of Hansard at me which I thought I would share without further ado: During Conor Burns' speech, Labour MP Thomas Docherty intervened with the following nugget of information:

"Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is not aware that his noble Friend Lord Heseltine has not even made his maiden speech in the House of Lords. “Part-time” would not be a good adjective to describe him. Can the hon. Gentleman think of one?"

Burns replied as follows:

"I can think of many, and it is not often that I am accused of being on the same side as Lord Heseltine. I remember telling Lady Thatcher a couple of years ago that he had not made his maiden speech, having been in the Lords for nine years at the time. Her reply was, 'Well, look on the bright side, at least we haven’t had to listen to it'.”

"He says that he took his membership of the other place because he wanted the honour, but he did not want to participate. He has participated in fewer than 20 Divisions in the 10 years that he has been a Member of the other place. That was why I found it absolutely disgraceful that he came in the other night to vote against the referendum lock in the European Union Bill, which is going through the other place."

19 Jun 2011 16:18:35

Majority of the 50 most "cost-efficient" MPs are Conservatives

By Matthew Barrett
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HoCThe 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:

  1. Dan Jarvis (Labour, Barnsley Central) £5,457*
  2. Deborah Abrahams (Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth) £12,472**
  3. Eric Illsley (Labour, Barnsley Central) £57,485***
  4. Zac Goldsmith (Conservative, Richmond Park) £59,242
  5. Rushanara Ali (Labour, Bethnal Green and Bow) £59,242
  6. Ben Gummer (Conservative, Ipswich) £60,422
  7. Gavin Shuker (Labour, Luton South) £60,687
  8. George Eustice (Conservative, Camborne and Redruth) £60,692
  9. Sam Gyimah (Conservative, East Surrey) £60,899
  10. Matthew Offord (Conservative, Hendon) £61,077
  11. Anne-Marie Morris (Conservative, Newton Abbot) £61,292
  12. Teresa Pearce (Labour, Erith and Thamesmead) £61,776
  13. Mark Reckless (Conservative, Rochester and Strood) £61,780
  14. Guy Opperman (Conservative, Hexham) £61,857
  15. Gemma Doyle (Labour, West Dunbartonshire) £62,324
  16. Christopher Pincher (Conservative, Tamworth) £62,583
  17. Stella Creasy (Labour, Walthamstow)  £63,510
  18. Ian Paisley, Jnr (Democratic Unionist, North Antrim) £64,755
  19. Richard Drax (Conservative, South Dorset)  £65,102
  20. Owen Smith (Labour, Pontypridd) £65,157
  21. Damian Hinds (Conservative, East Hampshire) £65,365
  22. Julian Huppert (Liberal Democrat, Cambridge) £65,396
  23. Kwasi Kwarteng (Conservative, Spelthorne) £65,571
  24. Gavin Barwell (Conservative, Croydon Central)  £65,651
  25. Jonathan Lord (Conservative, Woking) £66,162
  26. Rebecca Harris (Conservative, Castle Point) £66,576
  27. Anas Sarwar (Labour, Glasgow Central) £67,630
  28. Andrea Leadsom (Conservative, South Northamptonshire)  £67,940
  29. Claire Perry (Conservative, Devizes) £68,047
  30. Sajid Javid (Conservative, Bromsgrove)  £68,171
  31. Sarah Newton (Conservative, Truro and Falmouth) £68,172
  32. Conor Burns (Conservative, Bournemouth West) £68,443
  33. Eric Ollerenshaw (Conservative, Lancaster and Fleetwood)  £68,624
  34. Margaret Ritchie (SDLP, South Down) £68,705
  35. Rehman Chisti (Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham) £68,917
  36. Jim Shannon (Democratic Unionist, Strangford)  £69,063
  37. Liz Kendall (Labour, Leicester West) £69,147
  38. George Hollingberry (Conservative, Meon Valley) £69,251
  39. Alok Sharma (Conservative, Reading West)  £69,273
  40. Chris Kelly (Conservative, Dudley South) £70,316
  41. Angie Bray (Conservative, Ealing Central and Acton) £70,334
  42. Naomi Long (Alliance, Belfast East) £70,581
  43. Kate Green (Labour, Stretford and Urmston)  £70,619
  44. Margot James (Conservative, Stourbridge)  £70,755
  45. Pamela Nash (Labour, Airdrie and Shotts) £70,842
  46. Jack Dromey (Labour, Birmingham Erdington)  £70,912
  47. Kris Hopkins (Conservative, Keighley)  £70,944
  48. Stephen Metcalfe (Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock) £70,966
  49. Shabana Mahmood (Labour, Birmingham Ladywood) £71,072
  50. 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 

5 Apr 2011 07:14:19

Lansley under supported on front bench, but strongly supported from backbenches

by Paul Goodman

This morning's reports of Andrew Lansley's Commons statement yesterday haven't missed that he was unsupported in the Chamber by the presence of senior Cabinet colleagues.  (The Prime Minister was en route to Pakistan.)

What some may have missed is the strong support given to the Health Secretary by Conservative backbenchers.  Some it, clearly, had been organised in an operation by the Whips - but not all.  By my count, Lansley received ten questions specifically supportive of his plans -

"Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): As the Secretary of State may know, I still have a faint link with the NHS and medicine in general. The GPs I have met in my constituency and elsewhere are very much in favour of the proposals. In contrast, the complaints are circular letters that have been well organised. Does the Secretary of State agree that GPs will be devastated if there is any reversal and backtracking?

Continue reading "Lansley under supported on front bench, but strongly supported from backbenches" »

26 Jun 2010 06:59:04

Conor Burns uses his maiden speech to highlight the absurdity that potential English language students from overseas have to learn the language before they can come to Britain... to learn the language

Picture 16 In a break with convention, Conor Burns - who was elected MP for Bournemouth West at the general election - secured his own adjournment debate at the end of business on Thursday in which to deliver his maiden speech.

He chose to raise issues asociated with the many schools across the country (of which a number are in his constituency) teaching English to foreigners. He argued that the Labour Government imposed restrictions upon those seeking to attend such schools which risk damaging the economy not only in his constituency, but in Britain as a whole.

Here are the highlights of what he told the Commons:

"More than 500,000 students a year choose to learn English in Britain. That figure accounts for almost 43% of all students who choose to travel abroad to learn English. It is estimated that they contribute more than £1.5 billion to the UK economy every year. It is appropriate that we talk about this in the context of the Budget that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor introduced earlier this week. We have been talking about diversifying the UK economy, away from sole reliance on the financial services sector, and this is a massive export for our country and a contributor to the bottom line."

"Why am I raising this subject now? It has become a problem because of what the previous Government did in their dying months of office. Immigration became a rising political topic as we got closer to the general election, and the previous Government, in an attempt to be seen to be doing something, did the old civil service Sir Humphrey thing: "We must do something; this is something, so let's do it." They changed the criteria on the requirement for competence in the English language that was needed for someone to come to Britain to study English. They also changed the student visa arrangements so that such a person had to return to their country of origin to extend their visa.

"I wish to draw attention not just to the question of the English language schools and the employment that they generate in Bournemouth and Poole, but to the welcome additional earnings in the household budgets of the host families who welcome students into their home, and to the boost to the local economy when students' family and friends come to visit, stay in local hotels and use local restaurants. Professor Fletcher of Bournemouth university has estimated that they contribute more than £200 million to the local economy in the Bournemouth and Poole area."

"The previous Government were right to recognise that there was a problem with some bogus schools, and they put in place measures to try to deal with them. Prior to the introduction of the points-based system, it was estimated that up to 50,000 students could be using the student visa system as a way of staying in the United Kingdom illegally. In April 2009 they introduced the new system, which forced schools to gain Government accreditation and led to the closure of several thousand bogus language schools. Great strides were made in tightening up the system.

"On 12 November 2009, only months after the system was put in place, the then Prime Minister ordered a review of it due to concerns about those coming in to study at below degree level. The hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Mr Woolas) said about that on 11 December 2009:

"I would like to make it absolutely clear that no firm decisions as to whether and what changes ought to be made to Tier 4 have yet been taken. The responses we have received from all parts of the education sector have suggested that there is the potential for some of the broader review questions to affect the UK's attractiveness as a destination for study if they are implemented. Damaging the education sector is not the aim of the review."

"However, the reality is that the outcome of the review has done just that. I wish to go into some detail about what the change to the English language requirement has done. I shall quote a letter from my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Eden, who posed a simple question to my hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration on 20 May. He wrote:

"The simple question that needs to be answered is how are students that are coming to this country to learn English supposed to be able to qualify in English language proficiency in order to receive a student visa?"

"It is not just a very basic understanding of English that they require. The definition of B1 competence, which is the equivalent of about an A* GCSE, is that a student can "understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans."

"It seems to me that if someone is able to do all that, they are pretty fluent and would not necessarily need to enrol themselves on an English language course. We are saying to students, "Learn English so you can qualify to come here to study and learn English in Britain." It is painfully ridiculous."

He went on to express his fear that English language schools in other parts of the world will take the students instead and that the UK will lose out, before concluding:

"I hope that the Home Office will continue to review the changes that the previous Government implemented. We can learn much from other countries and how they handle matters. I am not standing here simply to complain about the previous Government's actions because that is futile. The coalition has an opportunity to review much of that and find other solutions. For example, we could move to a bond system - I know that my hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration examined that before the election - whereby the student pays an up-front sum of money, which would make absconding much less likely. We could have an assessment level, whereby we examined the risks posed by students from particular risk countries, and we could have a classification system, whereby we perhaps relaxed the rules for others.

"The changes that the previous Government made are having a profoundly worrying and detrimental effect on businesses in my constituency and throughout the country. I hope that the Under-Secretary will examine all the alternatives because we can be proud of the English language schools sector. The English language is one of our greatest assets. English is the language of world commerce, and if we shut off the ability of those schools to thrive, to welcome people to our shores and to enable them to immerse themselves in our language, our culture and our values, in time we will look back and realise that we made a very fundamental mistake."

As the BBC reports, the Government is promsing to review the situation, with Home Office minister James Brokenshire saying in replying to the debate:

"The Government are committed to attracting the brightest and the best to the UK, which is why we are determined to encourage legitimate students to come here for study. The UK is the second most popular destination for international students-second only to the United States. We must therefore ensure that our immigration system does not inhibit the education sector, which we recognise has to compete in an increasingly competitive global market."

"The Minister for Immigration intends to undertake a thorough evaluation of the student system in the coming weeks and months, to ensure that the measures currently in place strike the right balance between providing a user-friendly route for bona fide students and education providers and keeping out those who would seek to abuse the student system. Let me be clear: the Government want to encourage genuine students who seek to benefit from our world-class education system and to take away knowledge, skills and a sense of our culture, which they can then put to good use in their home countries."

Jonathan Isaby