By Tim Montgomerie
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Here is a selection of the arguments that Tory MPs made during yesterday's debate on limiting the increase in benefits to 1% for each of the next three years.
The Government's overall policies help those on low incomes: "The Opposition have argued that this uprating of 1% will impact on working people and not just those on benefits. Given that the previous Government made 90% of workers eligible as welfare recipients, that is inevitable. Unfortunately, Labour Members make the mistake of taking these measures in isolation. If we take the Government’s measures as a whole, including tax allowances, energy tariff changes and cutting petrol duty, low-income working households will be better off." - Aidan Burley MP
And the biggest burden of deficit reduction is being met by the better off: "I want to remind the Opposition of what they have done. They have opposed £83 billion-worth of savings this Parliament. That is equivalent to adding another £5,000 of debt for every working family in the country. We hear much about taxing the rich, yet, in this Parliament, the richest will pay more in tax than in any single year of the previous Government—more tax on capital gains, more stamp duty—they will be less able to avoid and evade tax and they will pay more when they take out their pension policies." - Iain Duncan Smith MP
Stop taxing people only to return that money via the benefit systems: "Is not the philosophical underpinning of this debate our wish to create a hand-back society, not a hand-out society? Is not cutting taxes on lower earners the best way to help those on low earnings, rather than recycling their hard-earned money through the benefits system?" - Robert Halfon MP
Fairness between those in work and those out-of-work:
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.
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 Tim Montgomerie
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Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) was one of forty or so MPs and peers from all parties who ran yesterday's Westminster Mile - a race to raise funds for Sport Relief. The winner, though, was another Tory MP, George Eustice. He beat last year's winner David Davies into second place. The Monmouth MP would probably beat George, however, in a boxing contest! Others taking up the challenge for Sport Relief included Alun Cairns MP for Vale of Glamorgan, Rob Wilson MP for Reading East and Karen Bradley MP for Staffordshire Moorlands.
Monmouth's Tory MP David Davies put down the following Early Day Motion on 12th February:
"That this House believes that all banks which have received public funds and in which the British taxpayer now owns more than 50 per cent. of their value should be governed by the same freedom of information rules as Parliament; and calls on the senior management of these part-nationalised banks to publish their receipts for expenses in full."
The motion has the backing of fellow Conservative Nigel Evans but it's most notable for the support of left-wing Labour MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn, Ann Cryer, John McDonnell and David Simpson.
"We have heard more about tough sentences and increased numbers of prisoners, but the reality is that what is important is never the maximum sentence but the sentencing guidelines given to magistrates and judges.
In 2005, for example, 5,957 people were convicted of having a knife in a public place, but only one of them was given the maximum sentence possible. In that same year, 5,689 were convicted of possessing a knife or sharp, bladed instrument unlawfully, but only two were given the maximum sentence. When it comes to drugs, about 7,000 people were convicted of possession with intent to supply cocaine, crack, heroin, ecstasy, LSD, methadone and other class A drugs. Of those 7,000 people convicted of intent to supply, only one—just one—received the maximum sentence. Many of them did not even receive custodial sentences. I recently attended a police raid on a known heroin dealer. A quantity of heroin was found, but the dealer was let off with a caution. For all the Government’s rhetoric, the reality has not been tough on crime or tough on the causes of crime."
More from Hansard here.