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."
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 Matthew Barrett
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After last week's reshuffle of the Secretaries and Ministers of State, and this week's reshuffle of Parliamentary Private Secretaries, it's possible to investigate the state of a dying breed: the backbenchers who've always been loyal. The list below features the Conservative MPs who meet the following criteria:
By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday, Justine Greening said she would "push on" with awarding the West Coast rail franchise to FirstGroup, rather than Virgin, despite Sir Richard Branson’s calls for an inquiry into the decision.
"Virgin, Stagecoach and Sir Richard Branson have lost the West Coast Rail franchise bid after a very rigorous, professional, lengthy and carefully-evaluated process conducted by the Department for Transport and its expert advisers - as required for such an important contract. The bid selected has been assessed as the best for the taxpayer and rail user.
May I call upon Sir Richard to accept this outcome and move on to the many other opportunities that exist for him and his organisation. His refusal to accept the decision - despite not raising any objection to the process until he had lost - smacks of sour grapes. We cannot operate major Government procurement decisions on the basis of a publicity campaign, or move the goalposts after a decision has been properly reached.
Any delays to the start of the new franchise will delay the delivery of benefits promised and bring great uncertainty and concern for all concerned - not least the employees who are all due to transfer to the new franchisee.
Sir Richard must realise that, although he is a very successful businessman, he is not entitled to automatically receive government contracts or be the judge of which bid is the best. He should show a little humility and accept the outcome of this process with good grace."
By Harry Phibbs
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David Morris, the Conservative MP for Morecombe, used to work in the music industry. He was among the Stock, Aitken and Waterman's team of songwriters and he also played keyboards for Rick Astley.
This background proved useful when one of his constituents needed help in a dispute over royalties. Russ Courtenay, 54, co-wrote Whatever You Need for Tina Turner in 1990. He received royalties at the time, but then battled to get paid when it came out later on a compilation CD. After Mr Morris intervened, EMI paid up.
Having met in this way, Mr Courtenay and Mr Morris decided to write a song together. The song, Give Me Hope, is being performed today by children from Morecambe, at the Armed Forces Day service at St Barnabas’ Church, in Morecambe’s West End. The children aged eight to sixteen, all sing with the Remix Pop Choir.
Mr Morris says:
“ When Russ and I wrote the song, we did it for an aspiring local singer to sing. We had no idea that a choir would do their own version and that it would be performed at an occasion such as armed forces day. I am pleased the remix choir will be singing the song and I look forward to hearing it when I attend the service.”
Give Me Hope, was originally recorded by fourteen year old schoolgirl Molly Wilson who performed the song at Morecambe’s Winter Gardens as part of the town’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.
It is available for download on itunes.
By Matthew Barrett
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I recently profiled the 2020 and Free Enterprise groups of Tory MPs. Those two groups are formed by ideology: MPs are attracted to the groups because, in the case of the Free Enterprise Group, members wish to open up markets and make Britain business-friendly enough to compete with other world class economies. The 2020's members want to renew and refresh Project Cameron, while considering how the country should look after a majority Conservative government.
The 40 is rather different as it is a group of MPs brought together solely by necessity - the members are those MPs who were elected in 2010 with the narrowest majorities in the Party.
Origins of the group and key members
The group was founded early last year by Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood), Graham Evans (Weaver Vale), and David Mowat (Warrington South). There is no rigid structure to the group as such, given its non-ideological purpose, but when it meets, the convener is usually David Mowat. Other key "executive" members of the group include Evans and Ollerenshaw, as well as Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye), James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) and Ben Gummer (Ipswich).
By Joseph Willits
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David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, is set to call for a change in the law on Wednesday, making it compulsory for all hairdressers to be state registered. A Bill under the Ten Minute Rule to amend the Hairdressers (Registration) Act 1964, will be introduced.
Morris, who has 28 years of hairdressing experience in Wigan and Bolton, before becoming an MP, has previously warned of the "wrong" and "dangerous" implications of unlicensed hairdressers:
"At present anybody can just open a hairdresser's shop and go about cutting and dying people's hair using corrosive chemicals without any training or licensing."
Drawing from his own experiences as a hairdresser, Morris said:
"When I ran salons I had people coming into me with pink and blue hair and scalp burns and hair snapping off at the root, and we'd have to sort them out because they'd had their hair and skin damaged by cowboys who don't know what they're doing".
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).
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Caroline Spelman has just made a difficult statement to the Commons, making a full U-turn on the Government's proposals to sell off some state-owned forests. She announced
Mrs Spelman said that she takes "full responsibility" for the situation and in particular takes the message from this experience that people cherish the forests and woodlands and the benefits they bring. She concluded:
"I am sorry. We got his one wrong. We have listend to people's concerns."
Later on I will try and include some of the reaction from Tory backbenchers.
In the meantime, do read my post from last Friday: Lessons for the Government to learn from the forests fiasco.
Nick Watt from the Guardian has already blogged to commend Caroline Spelman's execution of the U-turn and to criticise Labour's spokesman, Mary Creagh, for a laboured and ineffective performance.
He rightly observes that Creagh managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by speakng for far too long and claiming that Labour was the party of the countryside, which prompted Tory MPs all the more to go into bat for Spelman and aid her in attacking Labour's hypocrisy on the issue of forests.
Here's a selection of the contributions from the Conservative backbenches in response to her statement:
Nick Boles (Grantham and Stamford): The Secretary of State has had the honesty and guts to come here to say that she presented ideas to the British public, but the British public did not much like them, so she said sorry and came up with a new approach. Is it not instructive that that is in such amazing contrast to the behaviour of that lot on the Opposition Benches who, no matter how many acres of woodland they sold and no matter how much gold they sold and at what price, nevertheless ran our economy into the ditch, from which we are trying to dig it out?
By Jonathan Isaby
He has just tabled two early day motions, the first of which was inspired by a proposal made by Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear that speed cameras should have the speed limit affixed to them. EDM 1240 reads:
That this House notes that speed cameras have become increasingly prevalent in recent years; further notes that many motorists believe they exist solely for revenue raising purposes; believes that Jeremy Clarkson was right to advocate fixing signs to the back of the cameras with the speed limit on; further believes that this will make cameras easier to see, reducing traffic speed and cutting the number of penalty charge notices issued; and demands that the Government and local authorities consider this proposal very closely.
“For too long the placing of these cameras has been far more to do with revenue raising than reducing accidents. This idea will help drivers notice the cameras, cutting traffic speed whilst ensuring people don’t get fined. If this was all about road safety everyone would agree with Clarkson on this idea.”
Meanwhile, EDM 1241 calls on the Government to consider implementing the one-time Conservative policy of a fuel duty stabiliser:
That this House notes recent calls in the press for the Government to implement a fuel price stabiliser; further notes that such calls have been made against a backdrop of financial problems for the haulage industry; believes that such a stabiliser would be a pragmatic way to help both private and commercial drivers over short-term increasesin crude oil prices; and calls on the Government to consider implementing this policy as soon as practically possible.
Just last month he tabled a motion calling for cuts to fuel tax.
The first of the 148 Conservative MPs of the 2010 intake to make his maiden speech was Richard Harrington, who rose for the first time in the Commons at 5.32pm yesterday, the very first day of the new Parliament.
Aside from paying tribute to his Labour predecessor as MP for Watford, Claire Ward, he began with a little self-deprecating humour:
"I fear I did not make the cut for Cameron’s cuties, so I have to rely on Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail. He referred to my stature in Parliament as broadly equivalent to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Nicholas Soames) and of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr Pickles). However, I think Mr Littlejohn was referring not to political stature but to my girth."
He went on to emphasise the importance of encouraging young people to enter the world of business:
"To me, one of the most important parts of the Government’s programme—this came out in the Queen’s Speech—is providing a business environment where people are incentivised to create employment for others. If I do nothing else in Watford, and in my political career, I would like to be able to do this one thing: I would like to change the attitude to business among young people, together with a Government who are able to give them incentives to fill the empty shops and offices, so that we make business something that people want to do. I have spoken at many schools in Watford, and always to very bright young people. I say to them, “What do you all want to do after university?” but so few of them want to start businesses. It is not fashionable, and it should be. Government can incentivise people, but it is the responsibility of us all to encourage people to go into job-creating schemes.
"The very large number of young unemployed people in this country—1 million—is obviously a scandal, but boiling that down to individuals, I believe that it is the job of Government to facilitate some form of change. I was delighted to hear in the Queen’s Speech that the welfare reform Bill, much of which is based on our election manifesto, is to provide interesting schemes, such as a mentoring scheme for small businesses and sole traders to take in young people and give them a chance."
Two further Conservative maiden speeches followed during the course of yesterday's debate on the Queen's Speech:
"Like Robin Hood, I have a desire to counter over-taxation, to protect the most vulnerable in society, and to make sure that oppressive government does not bring misery on the people."
He went on to outline his desire to see the promotion of localism and power being passed back down to lower levels, and called for driving without due care and attention to attract a three-point penalty on driving licences. He also welcomed the proposed abolition of regional spatial strategies:
"They have put enormous pressure on the greenbelt in my constituency, and they fill residents with fear. Those people live in villages and towns, but they cannot escape them at rush hour, because of the amount of traffic on the roads. I hope that we can find a method to give local authorities the power to look much more strategically at where they place housing, because there are areas of my constituency that need extra housing, and we would welcome developments not only for younger people who want to live near their families, but for older people who want to stay in their village."
"Tourism in this country has declined rapidly over the past 20 years, and in its place there is a lot of deprivation. I should like the coalition Government to do something to address areas of deprivation and the fact that sometimes in the forgotten-about coastal areas, social issues slip through the net. I would like to be a champion for the town of Morecambe and its regeneration plans, and I wish to say here and now that I will always fight the corner of the disadvantaged, not just in Morecambe but in all the other areas of the country that have similar problems."
He went on to speak out in favour of nuclear power - "I will always fight the corner of the nuclear power industry... because if we do not, in 10 years’ time the lights will go out" - and welcomed the Coalition's promotion of localism, whilst opposing the siting of wind farms in the middle of areas of outstanding natural beauty in his constituency.
As a candidate who unsuccessfully fought a seat in 2001, he offered his view that William Hague is "the best Prime Minister we never had".
As the rest of the new intake settle in to life in the Commons over the coming days, weeks and months, ConservativeHome will be seeking to highlight their maiden speeches as they make them.