By Matthew Barrett
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Following on from the last few days' rolling blogs, I have below a final list of the MPs (and Baroness Warsi) appointed as Ministers for each department. I have put new appointments in bold.
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Department for Communities and Local Government
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
Cornerstone 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.
By Jonathan Isaby
The fact that Scotttish and Welsh MPs can still vote on matters pertaining to English health, education etc, whilst the devolved bodies in Edinburgh and Cardiff have exclusive responsibility for those matters in their jurisdictions riles a considerable number of Tory MPs, especially the 2010 intake.
And at Scotland Office questions yesterday, West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin sought an answer from the Government as to what progress there had been on the establishment of a commission to examine the so-called West Lothian Question.
Scotland Office Minister David Mundell replied:
"The Secretary of State and I have regular discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister on various issues, including those concerning the constitution. The Government remain committed to establishing a commission this year to consider the West Lothian question."
There then followed this further exchange on the matter, which frankly failed to shed a great deal of light on the Government's intended timetable:
Harriett Baldwin: The Deputy Prime Minister told us that the commission would be established by the end of 2010, then the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mark Harper), told us that it would be established in the new year. Does the Minister know on what date in 2011 the commission will be established?
David Mundell: I am not able to give my hon. Friend an exact date, but as she will know, it is a commitment of the coalition Government to proceed with the commission, and I am sure announcements will be made shortly.
This is an issue which Harriett Baldwin has been pursuing for a while. Click here to read out account of the debate on her private member's bill seeking to right the wrongs inflicted on England by Labour's devolution settlement.
By Jonathan Isaby
In advance of the 2010 General Election, I was proud to found the successful Save General Election Night campaign to ensure that votes were counted as soon as the polls shut, despite a number of Returning Officers wanting to wait until the following day to conduct the count. My reasons for the campaign were set out in the original post on the issue.
The same concern about Returning Officers wanting to delay the counting of votes has now arisen with regard to the Scottish Parliament elections taking place in May, and Labour tabled an amendment to the Scotland Bill in the Commons on Monday seeking to give Returning Officers the same duty with respect to Holyrood elections as for Westminster elections.
Shadow Scotland Office minister Tom Greatrex explained:
"It is widely acknowledged that, by and large, people in Scotland want to know the results of their elections as soon as it is practicable so to do. That was the objective of Minister when he was in opposition in the lead-up to the general election last year and it was supported by the then Opposition parties in respect of an amendment to the Representation of the People Act 1983, which my amendment seeks to replicate."
"I find myself in the extremely unusual position of agreeing entirely with everything that the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) has said. That is not surprising, however, given that the amendment that was accepted by the Government approximately a year ago, before the last general election, was originally tabled by me. The right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) wisely added his name to it and accepted it as a Government amendment, and it became part of the Bill. At the time, I thought that that was the only thing that I had ever achieved from the Opposition Front Bench, but perhaps that was due to the cynicism engendered by 13 years of opposition.
Today saw the publication of a White Paper from the Government responding to the proposals of the Calman Commission on the future of Scottish devolution. It proposes new tax-raising powers for the Scottish Parliament, for which income tax in Scotland would effectively be cut in Scotland by 10p and the Treasury block grant reduced, leaving it up to Holyrood to make up the difference. The White Paper also proposes the devolution of a few further powers such as the regulation of air weapons, setting the alcohol limit for drink driving and setting speed limits.
In the Commons, Shadow Scotland Secretary David Mundell generally welcomed the proposals, but insisted that any incoming Conservative Government elected next year would not feel bound by them an would instead publish its own White Paper:
"Conservatives accept that the Scottish Parliament needs to be more financially accountable, that the devolution settlement needs to be tidied up and that Westminster and Holyrood need to start working constructively together for the good of Scotland and Britain, but we will ensure those things through our own White Paper, not this Government’s proposals launched in the dying days of this Parliament. Will the Secretary of State welcome that commitment and undertake to continue in the spirit of Calman, on the basis of consensus and momentum, regardless of who is in government, and resist the temptation to play party politics with such an important issue as Scotland’s constitution?
"Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that the guiding principle in deliberations on the Calman process has been, and must continue to be, securing Scotland’s position within the United Kingdom? Is he as heartened as I am by recent polling in Scotland that demonstrates that there is very little support for separatism and an independence referendum? Does he accept Sir Kenneth Calman’s view that the establishment of better working relationships between the British Government and the Scottish Government and between the Parliaments here and at Holyrood must be in place to underpin every other recommendation in his report? Given that most of the measures to improve relationships do not require any legislation, can he tell us what he will do to re-establish the good will between Westminster and Holyrood, which appears to have ebbed away?
"Whatever differences we may have with the Labour Government about how to take forward the Calman recommendations, may I invite the Secretary of State to agree with me that they are as nothing compared with the divide between us and the Scottish National party? We are Unionists; they are separatists. We are in the mainstream of the constitutional debate; they are on the extreme."
David Cameron later issued the following statement:
It was Scottish questions yesterday.
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell asked about the block grant:
"Largely as a result of this Government’s reckless tax and spend approach, the Scottish block grant has, indeed, grown to twice the size of 10 years ago. Despite some implausibly optimistic forecasts in the Budget, it is clear that the Treasury is now on course to run out of money, yet all the First Minister has done is attempt to persuade the Government that no cut at all can be made to the block grant. Has the Secretary of State informed the Treasury that, following this development, the Chancellor now looks like only the second most deluded politician in Scotland?
Mr. Murphy: That is entirely pleasant. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has entered himself for the gold medal in that particular competition following his celebration of the 30th anniversary of Mrs. Thatcher’s ascent to power and the disruption of Scottish industry. I am glad to see him in his place following his celebration of that anniversary and Scotland’s commiseration of it over the weekend.
In the previous recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, a generation of young people were abandoned to a life of poverty and a life on benefit. It is our intention to do, wherever possible, the exact opposite to what the Tories did, so that a generation of young people are not abandoned to a life of unemployment free of any hope.
David Mundell: The Secretary of State can resort to all the old mantras that he wants, but they will do him no good because the public know where the buck stops for this crisis. Does he really disagree with the view of the Centre for Public Policy for Regions that the years of the Scottish Executive coffers being full to overflowing thanks to block grant increases are over? Will he confirm that, as a direct result of Labour’s financial mismanagement of the UK, up to £4 billion in real terms will have to be cut from the Scottish budget over the next four years? Is it not about time that he and his Prime Minister finally took responsibility for Labour’s catastrophic economic failures and, in particular, the damage that they have done to Scotland’s public finances?
I have been remiss in not reporting on Shadow Scottish Secretary David Mundell's Scottish Banknotes (Acceptability in United Kingdom) Bill, which had its second reading on Friday.
Mr Mundell told the House of Commons:
"My constituents were instrumental in the Bill’s inception. After my position in the ballot for private Members’ Bills was announced, I sought their views on what piece of legislation I might introduce. The acceptance or, I should say, non-acceptance of Scottish banknotes was certainly to the fore. It was an issue with which I was personally familiar and a problem, at least anecdotally, that most Scots have experienced. There is also a phenomenon to which my constituency of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale bears witnesses. My constituency has as its backbone the M74 corridor linking central Scotland with the north of England. Increasingly, people who are heading back to England, having spent time in Scotland and found themselves in possession of Scottish banknotes, are going to local banks and businesses and asking to have their Scottish notes changed to Bank of England notes, for fear that they will run into difficulty with the use of the Scottish notes back in England. My constituents deal politely with such requests when they can be accommodated, but they are irked by the implicit suggestion that there is something wrong with the Scots notes.
The Bill is not designed to force unwilling retailers to take Scottish banknotes or to impose draconian sanctions on anyone who does not. I am very aware of the regulation that business faces already, and I want less regulation, not more. Unnecessary additional burdens are to be avoided. The Bill simply seeks to put Scottish notes on an equal footing with any other banknote that is accepted.
All Members will have seen Scottish banknotes, and some will even have used them daily, but few will have considered all the issues that are being aired today. If they have not had cause to ponder them before, they might believe that the deeper significance of Scottish banknotes does not resonate with the public. However, I would tell them that the existence of Scottish banknotes is one of those things that we see before us every day but take for granted. Only when Governments have conspired to do away with them, either through carelessness or small-mindedness, has the attention of the public and the media flashed on to what they stand for. Only then do we realise the historical, cultural and promotional value that the notes have in addition to their monetary value.
Earlier this month, a body set up to consider the reform of Scottish devolution ruled out handing over full financial powers to Scotland. Sir Kenneth Calman's body indicated that such a move would be inconsistent with the Union. A full report will come out next year.
Yesterday the subject was raised in the House of Commons. Shadow Scottish Secretary David Mundell backed the interim report:
"We share the Secretary of State’s welcome for the Calman commission. Does he note the contrast between the application and thoroughness of the interim Calman report and the so-called national conversation, which appears to be little more than a taxpayer-funded blog site for insomniac nationalists? Does he share my disappointment not only with the content but with the tone of the First Minister’s response to the interim report? Will he therefore use his best endeavours to persuade the First Minister that now is the time to show that he is man not a mouse—to use the First Minister’s own analogy—by abandoning the national conversation, which does not have the support of the Scottish Parliament, and by engaging, as many in the Scottish Government wish to do, in the Calman process?
Mr. Murphy: The hon. Gentleman is right to say that it is both surprising and disappointing that Scottish Government Ministers will not give evidence to the Calman commission. Of course, Scottish civil servants cannot give evidence to the Calman commission. He is absolutely right to say that if the Scottish Government continue to wish to see this process provide the high-quality outcome that we all want, that position should change
over the next few months. The hon. Gentleman is right: there are a number of insomniac SNP supporters across Scotland at the moment. That is partly because their economic dream has turned into a nightmare and their ambitions of Scotland being just another Iceland are really a nightmare come true."
Over to you - this is a subject that ignites great passions on ConservativeHome. Please play nicely!
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David Maclean MP during the Queen's Speech debate: "I am disappointed—this has been commented on already, but it is my turn to say so, too—that there is nothing in the Queen’s Speech to deal with the constitutional outrage we face in the House whereby there are two classes of MP. It is not good enough for some Government Members to say that if Tory policies were enacted, there would be a second class of MP—we have that already, and it is called the Members who sit for England, whether they are Tory, Labour or Liberal. We are second-class citizens in this House. We have no say on Scottish matters—maybe we do not want to have a say on Scottish matters—yet Members from Scotland can participate in today’s debate and vote through measures that affect my constituents in England but do not affect their constituents in Scotland. This Parliament is unbalanced, because all of us in this Chamber should work under the principle of equal pain.
If I vote through higher taxes, I should face my constituents, who can complain about it. If Members from Scotland vote through higher taxes in England, however, they do not have to face their constituents in Scotland... Members from Scotland can vote through measures in England on tuition fees or health reforms that do not apply in their own country. When they go back to their constituents, they do not have to explain or justify one iota why they have imposed penalties on people in Cumbria or London, and they are getting off scot-free... My constituents have no say on health care at Raigmore hospital in Inverness or on what goes on in Dumfries and Galloway, but, by God, they are paying for it. The hon. Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr. Brown) and the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr. Kennedy) can determine health care in my constituency and that of the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty). They can determine the level of tuition fees for our constituents in England, but we have no say on those matters in Scotland. I do not want to have a say on Scottish matters, which are up to the Scottish Parliament, but it is therefore utterly unfair for Scottish Members of Parliament to come here with additional rights to dictate terms and conditions on taxes to my constituents that they do not have to suffer themselves.
...In this House, where we should all be equal, Scottish Members of Parliament are using their unequal privileges... We are not equal in this House, because the hon. Gentleman has infinitely more rights than me—he can impose things on my constituents, which I cannot do to his. I think that I have made that point about Scotland, to which we will need to return again and again until we rebalance this House of Commons with equal rights for everyone.
Before someone says that I am in an unholy alliance with the nationalists, I must say that I despise, in the nicest possible way, what the nationalists stand for—I despise nationalism. I respect the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), as I respect all other hon. Members, but I despise nationalism and separatism. Scotland and the Government are going down a very rocky route, which will lead to the disintegration of the United Kingdom."
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell responds to the independent report on the May 2007 Scottish elections fiasco:
"The Secretary of State’s apparent suggestion that everybody is to blame, and that therefore no one is to blame, simply will not do. It is time for the Scotland Office to take responsibility for failing the people of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman is also the Secretary of State for Defence, and today he has been forced to come to the House to defend his predecessor, who is, disappointingly but perhaps not surprisingly, absent. However, the right hon. Gentleman has scant chance of success, because there can be no defence to the conclusion of an independent reviewer, who says that both the Scotland Office—the Scotland Office, Mr Speaker—and the Scottish Executive were frequently focused on partisan political interests in carrying out their responsibilities, overlooking voter interests and operational realities. Furthermore, what was characteristic of 2007 was a notable level of party self-interest evident in ministerial decision making.
Does the Secretary of State agree that such behaviour is tantamount to attempting gerrymandering in the worst traditions of Tammany hall politics, and that it demonstrates complete contempt for the democratic process, laying bare the inner workings of the Labour establishment for all to see? Is not the position rendered even worse by the fact that the former Secretary of State was also Labour’s Scottish election co-ordinator?