David Burrowes MP

7 Feb 2013 07:09:21

There is a lot of illiberalism amongst so-called liberals and a lot of intolerance from those who once preached tolerance

By Tim Montgomerie
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Burrowes and Barwell 2

If only all MPs debated contentious issues with such care and generosity as David Burrowes (left) and Gavin Barwell. Photographs from i-Images.

I was occupied with other things for most of Tuesday and missed the debates on the same-sex marriage legislation. It was, overall, a very high quality debate with both sides making important points. It contrasted with much of the preceding 'debate' in the media, on Twitter and in veiled threats to 'out' MPs who didn't vote the right way. David Burrowes MP used the debate to talk about some of the abuse he has faced. Some of it directed at his children. He worried that this intolerance of his own opposition to gay marriage was a sign of things to come:

"I do not have a monopoly on victimhood. The homosexual community has been subject to abuse which, sadly, has characterised debates about sexuality. It is intolerable, however, that as soon as Members of Parliament put their heads above the parapet and speak to the media, they are called “a homophobe”, “a Nazi”—I have been called that—“a bigot”, and many other expletives that I would not dare to read out. I have been told to be ashamed of myself, and to die: I have received specific death threats relating to my travel plans. I have been told that I am a disgrace, and that I have no right to express my opinion on this subject. My children have been told that their dad is a bigot and a homophobe.

That is only the tip of the iceberg of rude and offensive comments that many Members have received via Twitter. I have broad shoulders, and I can continue to stand up and support marriage in Parliament. Today’s debate has not been characterised by hatred and vitriol—we have shown ourselves in a good light—but I fear for the liberty of the conscience of my constituents who may not have such broad shoulders: public sector workers, teachers and others in the workplace who see no protection in the Bill."

Continue reading "There is a lot of illiberalism amongst so-called liberals and a lot of intolerance from those who once preached tolerance" »

7 Jan 2013 06:04:33

A quick profile of David Burrowes MP

ConservativeHome is inviting Tory MPs to complete brief profile questionnaires. We are grateful to David Burrowes for kicking off the series. We'll publish Tim Loughton's responses tomorrow.

Burrowes DavidName: David Burrowes MP.

Date of birth: 12th June 1969.

Constituency: Enfield Southgate.

Areas of interest and expertise:

  • Criminal justice
  • Drugs and Alcohol policy
  • Family policy
  • Umbilical cord blood
  • Cyprus, Israel and Burma.

Distinguishing career milestones: (including education, jobs, positions and offices held):

  • Exeter Law LLB;
  • Criminal Defence Solicitor;
  • London Borough of Enfield Councillor -Cabinet Member for Voluntary and Community Development;
  • Deputy Chair of Social Justice Policy Group review of addictions;
  • Shadow Justice Minister;
  • Parliamentary Private Secretary to Francis Maude, Oliver Letwin and now Owen Paterson.

Greatest source of political pride: (could be swing, legislation passed, involvement in a campaign): Securing freedom for my constituent Gary McKinnon from extradition to US.

Political hero and why:

William Wilberforce for his Christian convictions, persistence, principles and social reform.

Inspiring political quote:

GK Chesterton - “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”

What advice would you give to a young politician?:

Make sure politics is not your life and you are rooted in your local community.


  • Do you support gay marriage? No
  • At how many weeks of pregnancy should abortion become illegal? Am in principle pro life so would support any reduction in time limits which reduces number of abortions
  • Should we legalise assisted dying? No
  • At some point drugs like cannabis should become legal? No
  • In, out or reform of Europe? Reform or out
  • Favourite US president? Reagan
  • Who is likeliest to be next Tory PM - Boris or one of the 2010 intake? Neither!
  • English votes for English laws? Not yet
  • Will America, China or India be the most powerful nation by 2050? China
  • You have to increase taxes on high value properties, air travel or tobacco? Which one? Tobacco.

24 Nov 2012 08:54:59

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

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

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.

26 Oct 2012 06:22:26

Who are Conservative Friends of Israel? A profile of the Conservative Party's most populous grouping

By Matthew Barrett
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Conservative Friends of IsraelConservative 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.

Continue reading "Who are Conservative Friends of Israel? A profile of the Conservative Party's most populous grouping" »

4 May 2012 06:14:38

What is the Cornerstone group? Matthew Barrett profiles the socially conservative Tory backbench group

By Matthew Barrett
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My series profiling the backbench groups of Tory MPs has so far mainly featured groups founded or mostly composed of 2010 intake MPs. Last time, I looked at the Thatcherite No Turning Back group, founded in the 1980s. This week's group is somewhere between the two. The Cornerstone Group is the main group whose defining mission is to represent socially conservative Members of Parliament. The group was formed in 2005, and presented some challenges for David Cameron's leadership. In this profile, I'll see how the group is doing now.

Origins of the group

HayesLeighCornerstone was founded by Edward Leigh and John Hayes, who still chair the group. Leigh has been the MP for Gainsborough since 1983, and is a former Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry, who was sacked for his opposition to Maastricht, and John Hayes, who has been the MP for South Holland and the Deepings since 1997, and the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning since 2010.

Cornerstone admired the work done during Iain Duncan Smith's time as leader to promote a more communitarian, Burkean conservatism, and wanted to ensure IDS' work on this front was carried on.

When the group launched formally in July 2005, it released a pamphlet, which criticised Michael Howard's election campaign for being too quiet about tax cuts, public service reform and family values. Strongly condemning the personality politics and liberalism of New Labour, Leigh wrote:

"We believe that these values must be stressed: tradition, nation, family, religious ethics, free enterprise ... Emulating New Labour both lacks authenticity and is unlikely to make us popular. We must seize the centre ground and pull it kicking and screaming towards us. That is the only way to demolish the foundations of the liberal establishment and demonstrate to the electorate the fundamental flaws on which it is based."

The group first exerted its influence during the 2005 leadership contest. A group of about twenty Cornerstone supporters interviewed David Cameron, David Davis and Liam Fox. Fox apparently put in the best performance, while David Davis was, reportedly, not able to take criticism well. This meeting, combined with David Davis' alienating stint as the Minister for Europe under Major, and Davis' reluctance to support Iain Duncan Smith's compassionate conservatism programme wholeheartedly, is thought to be why many Cornerstone supporters first voted for Fox, and then switched to Cameron.

Continue reading "What is the Cornerstone group? Matthew Barrett profiles the socially conservative Tory backbench group" »

24 Nov 2011 09:29:30

Parliamentary authorities clamping down on "political" material in the Palace of Westminster?

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

BurrowesInCommonsA question asked yesterday by Conservative MP David Burrowes suggests that Parliamentary authorities are restricting the rights of constituents to bring material of a political nature into Parliament. The incident in question occured when a constituent from Mr Burrowes' Enfield Southgate division tried to attend a Palestine-focused lobby meeting. The full question - and Mr Deputy Speaker's unfortunately unhelpful answer - was:

"Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Something happened to one of my constituents today that is of fundamental importance, I believe, to all hon. Members regarding constituents’ access to Parliament. My constituent attended a Palestine lobby, similar to one she has attended on many previous occasions, but on this occasion things were different. As she arrived at security, a police officer confiscated her lobby briefing material and told her that she was not allowed to have anything of a political nature. In fact, she was told that this was a direction from the House authorities. The officer then spoke to a senior officer, who gave the same response. Eventually, the material was returned to her, but she was told, “Yes, we will return this material, but do not do this again.” I ask your advice, Mr Deputy Speaker. Was this a direction from the House authorities? Will you confirm that constituents are not allowed to have anything of a political nature with them when they attend Parliament?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): This is a matter for the staff and the police. The hon. Gentleman will know that we do not discuss security issues or what has gone on as a matter of security, but he has put his views on the record. I am sure that the authorities and security will look into the matter, and I am sure that someone will come back to the hon. Gentleman now that he has raised it on the Floor of the House."

The appropriate section of Hansard can be found here.

6pm Update: Political Scrapbook has more details on the objectionable material in question:

"Scrapbook has spoken with the woman concerned, who says the officers told her this was “a directive of the Serjeant-at-Arms”. You can view the materials which the officers found so objectionable here."

22 Oct 2011 12:26:45

Nick de Bois' knife crime amendment wins praise from the Sun

By Joseph Willits 
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6a00d83451b31c69e2015432942f5b970c-150wiEnfield North MP Nick de Bois has won plaudits from the Sun in pursuing his knife amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. The Sun describes "a lowly MP who humbled a Prime Minister"who "refused to give up, and eventually won the support of the PM's own knife advisor, Brooke Kinsella". 

The amendment states that under 18s who use a knife in a threatening or endangering fashion will face a mandatory six-month prison sentence. 40 backbench MPs are supporting the amendment.

De Bois's perseverance with the issue stems from ten fatal stabbings happening in Enfield North since 2008 - the most recent being the murder of Stephen Grisales in September 2010, killed by under 18s in a knife attack. It bears no hallmark of political wrangling or getting one over on the Government, but of immense community concern. There is a sense, which the Sun has picked up on, that encouragement from the Government has been minimal up until now.

Continue reading "Nick de Bois' knife crime amendment wins praise from the Sun" »

19 Mar 2011 07:43:37

Conservative MPs line up to support Cameron on Libya - but he's probed about the arms embargo

by Paul Goodman

I list below every question asked by a Conservative MP yesterday in response to the Prime Minister's Commons statement about Libya.  For better or worse, I haven't cited his replies in every case, but his answers on regime change, the arms embargo and the International Criminal Court are of special interest, and are therefore quoted in full.

"Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): As one of the doubting Thomases of the past few weeks, I congratulate the Prime Minister on his success and leadership and offer him my full support. I also join him in paying tribute to Sir Mark Lyall Grant and his team at the UN for what is a remarkable diplomatic success, which hopefully will mark a turning point in the development of these issues at the UN.  I am sure the Prime Minister agrees that difficult questions remain. At this moment, however, it is incumbent on all of us to stand behind the armed forces, particularly our airmen, who have to implement the resolution.

Mr James Arbuthnot (North East Hampshire) (Con): Yet again, my right hon. Friend has shown a breathtaking degree of courage and leadership. I support what he has said and what he has done. Does he agree that, while regime change is not the aim of these resolutions, in practice there is little realistic chance of achieving their aims without regime change?"

Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): I join others in congratulating the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and all the others who have been involved in securing this very tough resolution, and indeed the building of a broad-based coalition to deal with Gaddafi. Does the Prime Minister agree, however, that in the weeks to come it will be important for the country to know that at the same time as trying to deal with Gaddafi, the Government are also intent on forging ahead, with our European partners, in keeping the middle east peace process revitalised and going, so that we can draw the poison from the well?

Continue reading "Conservative MPs line up to support Cameron on Libya - but he's probed about the arms embargo" »

11 Jan 2010 12:52:07

David Burrowes highlights the life-saving resource of umbilical cord blood

David Burrowes Commons David Burrowes, the Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate and chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Umbilical Cord Blood and Adult Stem Cells, was granted the adjournment debate at the end of business last Thursday.

He took the opportunity to raise an issue about which many may well be ignorant: the potentially life-saving benefits of collecting umbilical cord blood. As he explained:

"Patients in the UK requiring a bone marrow donor currently have a one in four chance of survival. Only 50 per cent. of those looking for a donor will find one, and of those only 50 per cent. will survive. For those who find a bone marrow donor, many get their donor too late in their disease for the treatment to achieve success and that contributes to the 50 per cent. failure rate. Greater provision of cord blood could help those patients to get treatment faster and improve their chances of survival. For those who currently have no bone marrow donor, a larger provision of cord blood would give many of them a potentially life-saving option.

"Despite an increase in the awareness of those reading or listening to this debate, I feel that a short explanation of umbilical cord blood is in order. The baby's blood which is left behind in the umbilical cord contains many different types of cells. Some of these cells are stem cells, which have been shown to have a number of medical applications. Over the past 20 years, collected cord blood has been used for transplantation in the same way as bone marrow. It has been used to treat patients suffering from diseases such as leukaemia, sickle-cell diseases, immune deficiencies and others. Currently, there are over 85 treatments based on cord blood and there are more clinical trials in the pipeline.

"Researchers believe that cord blood has the potential to treat many more diseases, once adult stem cells are properly understood. There have been trials that show that cord blood may be helpful in treating brain injuries in children. It is also being developed for other possible treatments such as diabetes, liver therapy, multiple sclerosis, testicular cancer and to regenerate damaged heart cells. The medical and financial value of cord blood should not be underestimated. Early indications from research conducted in the UK suggests that many of the patients currently receiving enzyme treatments at a cost of well over £100,000 per annum to the taxpayer, could find a cure through a cord blood transplant.

"Cord blood is particularly valuable in the treatment of leukaemia. It can be used as an alternative to bone marrow transplants. Collection of umbilical cord blood is a far less invasive procedure than extracting bone marrow. Units can be collected, frozen and then stored for years. That leads to fewer complications and makes transplants more readily available than bone marrow. Most importantly, it is easier to find matching stem cells from cord blood than from bone marrow. A properly developed infrastructure for the collection and storage of cord blood will do much to alleviate the severe shortage of life-saving stem cells needed for transplantation and facilitate research."

He went on to note that there is now an NHS cord blood bank which had banked 14,000 donations as of October 2009 and provided 279 units of cord blood to British patients. However, he said that academic research suggested that the country needs to bank at least 50,000 units of cord blood and urged the Government to fund appropriate research into the matter and to ensure that advantage is taken of "the wonderful opportunity offered by cord blood" rather than literally allowing it to be thrown away.

He emphasised that he believes that it should be "a matter of routine that all expectant parents are advised about cord blood, its value and benefits, and where it can be collected."

There is a full transcript of the debate on David Burrowes' website.

Jonathan Isaby

2 Dec 2009 07:02:36

Conservatives challenge Alan Johnson over the extradition of Gary McKinnon

Picture 15 Yesterday Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, David Burrowes, successfully tabled an urgent question to the Home Secretary over his decision not to intervene to stop the extradition of Gary McKinnon, his constituent, to the United States.

Mr Burrowes said that he wanted Alan Johnson to consider one particular aspect of the case:

"I want him to focus on the medical evidence, which he has considered and not disputed, and the limited human rights discretion that he accepts he has. Does the Home Secretary not accept that Professor Jeremy Turk’s report of 8 October raised new and material evidence, namely that Gary McKinnon “is now suffering from an exacerbation of his very serious Major Depressive Disorder… aggravated and complicated by anxiety and panic attacks” aligned to his having Asperger’s syndrome?

"Given that he now places Gary McKinnon at an “even higher risk of self-harm and suicide” than after his earlier report, and concludes that “suicide is now a real probability and will be an almost certain inevitability should he experience extradition”, and that there is a high probability that he “will require inpatient psychiatric containment”, surely he has established a real risk of human rights being breached should extradition proceed. Putting it more bluntly, how ill and vulnerable does Gary McKinnon need to be not to be extradited to the United States?

"The Home Secretary wants to rely on previous court judgments. Given that Lord Justice Stanley Burnton indicated that if Gary McKinnon were not extradited he could be prosecuted in this country, how can it be proportionate to allow the extradition of a UK citizen who is suicidal and sectionable? Is it not the case that far from being powerless to stop Gary McKinnon’s extradition, in the light of the medical evidence the Home Secretary has shown himself and his Government to be spineless?"

Shadow Home Affairs minister Damian Green also weighed in with a series of points from the front bench:

Continue reading "Conservatives challenge Alan Johnson over the extradition of Gary McKinnon " »

6 May 2009 10:53:49

No-one should be forced to fund a political party

Julie Kirkbride MP There were questions to Justice ministers yesterday. These are the highlights.

Bromsgrove MP Julie Kirkbride raised the thorny issue of the state funding of political parties:

"Does the Secretary of State agree that there is a huge conundrum when it comes to party political funding? The public want democracy, but it is expensive. They do not want to pay for it with their own taxes, and they do not want other people to pay for it with their hard-earned cash.

Mr. Straw: The hon. Lady has put the dilemma very acutely. She will know that one of Sir Hayden’s key recommendations was that in return for donation limits there should be very extensive state funding. I think it is now recognised, not least given the state of the British economy, that the British people would not take kindly to that proposition. In Canada, where there had been state funding, the Government of Mr. Stephen Harper suddenly decided to withdraw it as an economy measure, causing a fundamental crisis in Canadian politics. That, I suggest, is another reason not to introduce comprehensive state funding.

Yes, it is true to some extent that the public want democracy and do not want to pay for it. Meanwhile, I happen to believe that it is entirely honourable to ask people to contribute to the political parties of their choice, provided that those who donate make it clear that they are donating."

Large donations should be declared. No-one should be compelled to donate to a political party, either through their membership of an organisation or through their taxes. It should be up to parties to make themselves sufficiently appealing to voters that they want to support them, and many of us would deeply resent being made to fund a political movement we find repugnant (and I'm not even thinking of the ghastly extremist parties!).

Continue reading "No-one should be forced to fund a political party" »

11 Mar 2009 11:47:44

Tories promise improved funding for rape crisis centres

Oral questions on Women and Equality also took place in the Commons yesterday.

Shadow Justice Minister David Burrowes stuck up for the rights of Christians:

"Does the Minister share my concern that equality legislation is in danger of being brought into disrepute by cases such as that of nurse Caroline Petrie, who was disciplined for offering to pray for her patients. Do we not need to tackle the concern of many with religious beliefs, and of Christians in particular, who themselves say that they are facing increased discrimination?

The Solicitor-General: I do not think that that question was about the equality legislation that we are bringing into force. Clearly, everybody has to behave in a balanced and sensible way, and the whole point of the legislation is to promote good cultural relations and good relations among people of all kinds and all faiths. We will drive on with that purpose."

(The Solicitor-General is Vera Baird.)

Worthing West MP Peter Bottomley also had a question about Christian matters:

"As well as doing what the law requires, will the Minister use her good offices to interview any Church of England bishop who says that he will not appoint a suffragan who is prepared to ordain women?

Maria Eagle: I have to be careful about getting too involved in the internal affairs of the established Church, but I will pass on the hon. Gentleman’s remarks to the appropriate people. He will no doubt be aware that the Second Church Estates Commissioner has questions on 19 March."

Norfolk South West MP Christopher Fraser made a very good point about the funding structure for rape crisis centres, which is an ongoing problem:

"What recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of funding arrangements for rape crisis centres. [261697]

The Minister for Women and Equality (Ms Harriet Harman): This financial year—in addition to local authority funding and £1.25 million from the victims fund—the Government have paid out £900,000 from a £1.1 million special fund for rape crisis centres. Since the special fund was announced in March 2008, no rape crisis centre has closed. My officials have been working closely with Rape Crisis England and Wales and the Survivors Trust to shape how this year’s special fund will work. We will announce details of the fund shortly.

Christopher Fraser: Many local authorities do not receive the funding that they need to establish rape crisis centres. Will the Minister commit to instituting a three-year funding cycle for rape crisis centres in all local authorities?

Ms Harman: As I have said, we have increased the funding to local authorities and through special funds. I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that it is important that he and all hon. Members look at what their own local authorities are doing and whether they are providing the services for which they have been financed. I would also say that the money and the investment in those much-needed services come from the Department for Communities and Local Government budget and the Home Office budget. Those are two budgets on which his party has not offered to match the funding that we are promising to put in. We want more funds to go in, but Opposition Members express concerns while not even being prepared to match our spending. I think that that lacks conviction."

Continue reading "Tories promise improved funding for rape crisis centres" »

10 Feb 2009 14:28:15

Chris Grayling worried about illegal immigrants

Chris_graylingYesterday the Commons hosted questions to the Home Office. The new Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling (right), had a chance to shine.

Shadow Justice Minister David Burrowes asked about drug prevention:

"Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Last month, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse published figures that reveal that nearly 25,000 young people aged under 18 are in treatment for drug and alcohol problems. Is that not an indictment of the fact that the Government did not do more earlier on drug prevention, and the fact that just 12 per cent. of the drugs budget was spent on prevention? There is no evaluation at all of many of the activities.

Jacqui Smith: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise the progress made by those working in the drugs field over the past 10 or 11 years. Overall drug use and class A drug use among young people are now at their lowest levels ever, as measured by the British crime survey. Among school pupils, overall drug use has fallen. The rate of frequent drug use among pupils has also fallen. The people involved in that work should be congratulated, unlike the hon. Gentleman’s party, which proposes cuts to the Home Office budget; that would certainly impact on our ability to counter the harms caused by drugs. I hope that he will back up his words with words advising his Front-Bench team to put back that money."

Maria Miller, Shadow Minister for the Family, received a similar answer to her question, which answer again poured scorn on the Conservatives' spending plans:

"The Basingstoke rape and sexual abuse centre, along with many other rape crisis centres, does an excellent job to support victims. Why do the Government not do one thing that would really help those centres and adopt a three-year funding cycle, as suggested by colleagues on the Opposition Benches, to try and put an end to the financial uncertainty that so many of those crisis centres still face?

Mr. Campbell: The Government provided £1 million extra this year to rape crisis centres, and I am informed that no rape crisis centre has closed since that period. We value the work of rape crisis centres and are working with local partners to see how best they can be funded, but coming from a party that will cut investment, suggesting a commitment to a three-year period is asking a lot."

Let us take a deep breath and patiently say this once again: when a budget is large and complex it is possible to make overall savings whilst increasing or maintaining spending on specific areas!

Continue reading "Chris Grayling worried about illegal immigrants" »

6 Feb 2009 18:17:04

David Burrowes says Government has failed on effective sentencing

David_burrowes_mpYesterday Shadow Justice Minister (and practising criminal solicitor) David Burrowes spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on effective sentencing. This follows a report from the Justice Committee (chaired by the Lib Dem MP Sir Alan Beith).

Mr Burrowes made a lengthy speech. Herewith highlights.

"Reference has been made to the whole issue of reoffending and seeking to reduce it. The statistics make stark reading and impact severely on all our communities. There is an estimate—and it has to be an estimate in many ways—of 65 per cent. reconvictions. I make that point because it is only in relation to the reconvictions about which we know that we are able to say that 65 per cent. of adults are reoffending. What is the figure in terms of actual reoffending—in other words, those who do not get to the criminal justice system?

The point has also been made that reoffending sadly increases when the age of an offender is younger—the figure is 75 per cent. of 18 to 21 year olds and is even higher for those under 18. Therefore, the matter is of real concern to us all.


There are certain answers that we can come up with for what works. If one talks to the Youth Justice Board or to others—as it has, indeed, pointed out to me in a meeting today—housing, family ties and having a job helps. Those three factors have a massive impact on someone when they have been released from prison. All too often, there is a lack of not just one, but all three of those factors in relation to helping drive down crime. We need to consider sentencing in relation not only to the process of what happens in court and the sentence that is handed down, but the effect of the sentence and how it is enforced both in custody and in a non-custodial setting. Crucially, we also need to consider what happens in the time after a sentence and ensure that the investment in trying to ensure that the offender does not reoffend is properly made out and given true value by resettlement.

That is why we have produced the document “Prisons with a Purpose”—if you will forgive me, Mr. Key, for advertising it. I have not got a signed copy here, but I certainly recommend that all hon. Members read it. We would say that a key part of providing effective sentencing is to improve accountability, which is so lacking throughout the system. In terms of the adult prison estates, we must ensure that a prison governor, through a prison rehabilitation trust, has that accountability. Indeed, payment by results would ensure that rehabilitation programmes in prison drive down the risks of reoffending, that there is involvement outside on resettlement and that there is housing, a family connection and a job. That would very much help to reduce high reoffending rates.


I commend the Committee on highlighting the failings of the Government’s sentencing approach. They include: the plethora of ill-considered and reactive legislation; the failure to plan for the introduction of indeterminate sentences; the inappropriate warehousing of mentally ill prisoners, whom we have not had the opportunity to discuss, but who are a key concern; the lack of judicial and public confidence in community penalties; the massive overcrowding; and the almost 50,000 criminals who are released early. They represent a damning verdict on the Government, particularly in terms of providing sufficient prison capacity—despite numerous warnings that their building programme was inadequate."

4 Feb 2009 13:11:11

Highlights from Justice questions

Humfrey_malinsWoking MP Humfrey Malins (pictured right) was one of several Conservatives to make an important point at Justice questions yesterday:

"I must give the Minister a dreadful statistic. After 12 years of this Government, seven out of 10 young men released from the young offender custodial estate reoffend within 12 months and most reoffend 30 times within 12 months of release. What is he doing to stop that awful situation?

Mr. Hanson: Those figures are coming down, but I accept in part what the hon. Gentleman says. There is still a high level of reoffending by young people leaving those institutions. As I have said, support is needed in learning and skills, literacy and numeracy, employment and housing, and in tackling the drug and alcohol problems that people have, and last summer we introduced the youth crime action plan to try to tackle some of those issues early on in people’s criminal careers. The hon. Gentleman mentions 12 years of this Government, but the Conservatives’ proposals to cut further money from this budget would be unlikely to lead to a positive improvement in the level of activity at Lancaster Farms and Hindley in the north-west."

Shadow Minister David Burrowes shed some light on why reoffending rates may be so high:

"May I remind the Minister of another of the Government’s figures, which show that three quarters of those in young offenders institutions are dependent on drugs? Last year, why is it that only 100 young offenders from Lancaster Farms YOI started drug treatment? Does the Minister agree with the chief inspector of prisons’ view, published in her annual report last week, that it is remarkable that so little has been done to tackle the fourfold increase in alcohol-related problems in prisons?

Mr. Hanson: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that this Government have increased by a massive amount the resources devoted to overcoming those problems. Obviously, there is a lot of drug-related crime, which means that individuals who enter the system need greater levels of support. In the north-west alone three drug and alcohol programmes and two offending behaviour programmes are in operation. In particular, there is the CARAT scheme, which provides counselling, assessment, referral, advice and throughcare. It deals with self-esteem, drug programmes, sexual health, the supply of drugs, healthy eating, steroid abuse, stress management and relapse prevention. All those schemes are funded by Government resources that, unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman’s party has pledged to cut from our Department."

It seems likely that David Hanson (Minister of State at the Justice Department) is being disingenuous. Refusing to match future spending plans is not the same as cutting specific services. And as we saw later in the session, the department does not spend all its funding wisely.

Continue reading "Highlights from Justice questions" »