By Paul Goodman
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The combination of Eastleigh and Italy have between them unleashed a tidal wave of commentary about the drawbacks of being governed by the professional politics. Consider Charles Moore's column in today's Daily Telegraph:
"Eastleigh brings out something which more and more voters feel. A quarter of a century ago, when people used to complain in pubs that “they’re all the same”, I used to argue back: it seemed to me patently false. Today, I stay quiet. Nigel Farage says that we have three social democrat parties now. There is a bit of truth in that, but I would put it differently. It is not so much that they all think the same thing. It is more that they are all the same sort of people. They all belong to a political elite whose attitudes and careers are pretty different from those of the rest of us."
Even the briefest inspection of David Cameron and Ed Miliband supports this view. Miliband has been a full-time political apparatchick since University. Cameron briefly had a job in television, but not a career: the post was acknowledged to be a waiting room for the Commons, even by his employers.
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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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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In my series profiling groups of Tory MPs, most groups I've looked at have been mostly or wholly composed of 2010 intake MPs. The next group is bit different, as it was founded more than 25 years ago. The No Turning Back group has a proud history of celebrating and promoting Thatcherism. How is the group doing now? In this profile, I'll be examining what No Turning Back, the backbench group for Thatcherites in Parliament, is doing now.
Origins of the group
No Turning Back was founded in 1985 to defend Mrs Thatcher's free-market policies. The 25 founding members included, amongst others, now-Deputy Chairman Michael Fallon, now-Defence Minister Gerald Howarth, and the late, great Eric Forth.
The name of the group comes from Mrs Thatcher's famous conference speech given in October 1980:
"To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the “U” turn, I have only one thing to say. “You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning.” I say that not only to you but to our friends overseas and also to those who are not our friends."
There are about 100 members of the group, which is chaired by John Redwood, including "quite a lot" from the 2010 intake. Members include such big beasts as John Redwood, David Davis, Bernard Jenkin, Peter Lilley, Lord Forsyth, and Liam Fox. Current Conservative officeholders who are members of the group include the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith; David Cameron's PPS, Desmond Swayne; Nick Clegg's Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Mark Harper; the Minister of State for Transport, Theresa Villiers; a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, Jonathan Djanogly; three government whips, Angela Watkinson, Mark Francois and Greg Hands; the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, Greg Knight; and the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, John Whittingdale, who was Mrs Thatcher's Political Secretary in the late 1980s.
By Joseph Willits
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To commemorate Holcaust Memorial Day this coming Friday, yesterday evening the Holocaust Educational Trust hosted its annual Lord Merlyn-Rees Memorial Lecture at Portcullis House. Whilst the keynote address was given by historian Sir Ian Kershaw, its guest speaker was Francis Maude.
Maude praised the work done by the Holocaust Educational Trust in its Lessons from Auschwitz Project in educating young people thoughtfully, and enabling them to return from their visit with a sensitive awareness of the actual event. Perhaps the most crucial lesson learnt from the Holocaust Educational Trust's project, is being able to apply the horrors of Auschwitz, to proactively fight prejudice in all forms on their return.
There were three main points made by Maude in his speech:
At Cabinet Office questions yesterday, shadow Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude raised his concerns about the costs of the 2011 census. He suggests that it could be cheaper if it were less intrusive, and appears to suggest that a Conservative Government would want to do that - but for the fact that the current Government intends printing next year's form before this year's general election.
Here's his exchange with Cabinet Office minister Angela Smith on the subject:
Francis Maude: How can the cost of half a billion pounds, which is double the cost of the last census, be justified at this time of fiscal crisis? In 2001, 10 per cent. of the data was not even counted; it was imputed. Is this not a thoroughly wasteful and inaccurate exercise?
Angela E. Smith: Absolutely not. It is a very valuable and important exercise. The cost is about £482 million, but we estimate that the benefit to the economy of the work that has been done is about £700 million, so the benefits outweigh the cost. The cost is about 87p per person per year. For every person in the country to pay 87p per year for the benefit that we get from the census is good value.
Mr. Maude: The census is not even accurate. Why are Ministers rushing to send millions of the 32-page census forms to the printers this March, a full 12 months before the census date? Should not a responsible Government be scaling the census back? Is not the answer a less intrusive, much cheaper census that offends the public less, increases compliance and therefore yields much more accurate information?
Angela E. Smith: I think the right hon. Gentleman struggles to make his point. If we look at the costs of censuses across the world, our census is better value for money and cheaper than those conducted in such countries as New Zealand, Canada, Australia and the USA. In the USA the census costs more than £2 per person per year—significantly more than in this country. [Interruption.] Hon. Members may find that amusing, but I find value for money quite an important aspect. The Government are doing everything they can, working with the ONS, to ensure that the information is accurate. It is important that the response rate is as high as possible. We use the information to help to allocate Government priorities and Government expenditure, so I totally refute the right hon. Gentleman’s comments.
It was a report from Bloomberg which first warned of the threat to the future integrity of mobile phones in the vicinity of the Prime Minister on hearing bad news:
But if Gordon Brown has been throwing mobile phones around, they would appear not to have been ones issued to him, based on replies given to parliamentary questions asked by Shadow Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude. But we do learn that any government-issue handsets which have been damaged were replaced free of charge by Vodafone...
Here's the answer Francis Maude got on February 23rd 2009:
And this is his most recent exchange on the matter:
Back in December 2008, Mr Maude was told that the Security Commission - a Cabinet Office body dedicated to investigating security breaches in Whitehall - had looked into two cases since 1997. Reports were published. One of these was about the Ministry of Defence; the other related to Buckingham Palace.
However, the Treasury was oddly unconcerned by another event:
"Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will request the Security Commission to undertake an investigation into the unauthorised disclosure of information relating to taxation measures in the Pre-Budget Report 2008. 
And yet the Security Commission has actually published reports of other inquiries.
Details of the 2008 Pre-Budget Report were widely trailed in the media. Martin Broughton, President of the CBI, said "The Treasury appears to be leaking like a sieve". Bookmakers stopped taking bets on major policy changes before the Report officially came out.
All of this contrasts rather strikingly - and indeed suspiciously - with the East German approach taken to the Damian Green case.
Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude has pressed the Prime Minister over the rather fraught issue of Lord Falconer's pension. In November 2007 the Telegraph reported that Lord Falconer was ready to sue Gordon Brown over the size of his pension. Lord Chancellors have historically had generous arrangements to reflect the fact that they have to give up legal careers when they assume the role. Lord Falconer was reported to believe that he was entitled to a pension twice what the Cabinet Office had in mind, i.e. £52,193, according to the Telegraph.
A £100,000 plus pension would not go down well in the current climate, if ever.
Mr Maude has asked the Prime Minister about Lord Falconer's pension:
"Mr. Maude: To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 28 January 2009, Official Report, column 541W, on Ministers: pensions, whether Lord Falconer of Thoroton is to receive (a) a pension equivalent to that received by other Secretaries of State in the House of Lords, (b) a pension entitlement derived from the provisions of the Lord Chancellor’s Pension Act 1832 as amended or (c) a pension settlement on another basis in respect of his service as Lord Chancellor; and if he will make a statement. 
"Mr. Heald: To ask the Prime Minister whether the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs will receive the pension entitlement of the Lord Chancellor (a) during the planned transition period before the proposed abolition of the office and (b) subsequently, if the office is abolished; and if he will make a statement. 
The Prime Minister: No. The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs has elected to receive only a salary and pension equivalent to that received by other Secretaries of State in the House of Lords."
It would be helpful - for the public if not the Labour Party - if a specific figure could be put on Lord Falconer's pension entitlement.
Questions were put to the Cabinet Office / Duchy of Lancaster yesterday. Members were swift to express their deep sympathy to David Cameron and his family over the death of Ivan. I add my own.
Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Nick Hurd posed a question about charities. (Naomi House, to which he refers, is a children's hospice in Hampshire.)
"On behalf of the Conservative party, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary and other hon. Members who have expressed sadness at the death of Ivan Cameron. His was a tragically short span of life, but one filled with a great deal of love. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) will draw strength from the House’s condolences.
Until now, the Treasury has done nothing for a significant number of charities, which have lost money in the Icelandic bank failure, so charities such as Naomi House face having to cut back their good work just when it is most needed. Let me make the Parliamentary Secretary an offer. We support the principle of a short-term Treasury loan fund to help sound charities, which face genuine hardships as a result of lost bank deposits. Will he work with us to develop cross-party consensus on a measure that will have minimal cash-flow impact on the Treasury and deliver real help to a vital sector of society?
Kevin Brennan: I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s interest in the matter, but we need to separate the budget from the issue of help in the short term. I have already made it clear that there are attempts in the case of Naomi House to look at brokering a local solution. Those discussions are ongoing and we will be carefully monitoring the situation of charities more generally."
Francis Maude, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, was recently informed in a written answer that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport lost several pieces of art in 2006:
Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Angus of 21 April 2008, Official Report, columns 1737-8W, on departmental property, what the (a) title and (b) Government Art Collection reference number was of the art work stolen from his Department in 2006. 
Barbara Follett: The works of art listed in the following table were prints reported as missing from various Government offices in the UK and around the world and recorded in DCMS's Losses Register in 2006.
Let's hope that Titian's Diana and Actaeon doesn't go the same way - especially given the Scottish Government's contribution!
The Interception Modernisation Programme is a plan for a database (condemned by critics as a "Big Brother" database) of every phone call, email, text and web browsing session. Conservatives have been unable to extract from ministers an estimate of how much it will cost, although a figure of £12 billion has been cited in the media.
Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Francis Maude has recently received a written answer on the matter:
"To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the estimated (a) set-up and (b) running costs of the interception modernisation programme are. 
Mr. Coaker: The Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) will require a substantial level of investment which will need to tie in with the Government's three year CSR periods. The scale of overall economic investment is very difficult to calculate because of the complexity of the programme and wide ranging implementation solutions currently being considered.
Given the commercial and national security sensitivities, the precise costs of the programme cannot be disclosed. Further detail on budgetary estimates for the IMP will however become available once the public consultation process (announced by the Home Secretary on 15 October 2008) commences."
This is a subject on which ConservativeHome will want to keep its own eye.
The Cabinet Office has recently published a White Paper on social mobility - entitled New Opportunities - in which it expresses regret that:
"In certain high-status professions, the chance for individuals to access opportunities can be frustrated by traditional cultures, established recruitment processes and inflexible career pathways. These often longstanding practices and processes can make it hard for people from disadvantaged backgrounds to break into certain sectors, despite having the skills needed to be successful."
Notwithstanding the ghastly New Labour language, the passage above outlines an admirable aim. But yesterday Francis Maude, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, exposed the hollow nature of the Government's rhetoric in spectacular fashion:
"It is great to see the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster here, filling a gap in his schedule between his cappuccino and his soup. Yesterday, he published a White Paper that made much of the aim, shared by everyone, of removing barriers to opportunity for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Why, then, are half of all civil service vacancies published only on a secret website accessible only to existing civil servants? Is that not exactly the sort of barrier to opportunity that should be swept away? Is it not a modern-day closed shop?
Mr. Watson: Yes, the right hon. Gentleman is right: internal vacancies are naturally advertised internally to colleagues, but we are doing a lot of work on this and I very much hope that civil service jobs will get a wider audience in weeks and months to come.
Mr. Maude: Is not the real reason for keeping this information secret from the public the fact that there is now a proliferation of public sector—state sector—jobs? Just this week, the Cabinet Office alone is recruiting for a chief psychologist, a Downing street butler and a change manager. Is not the solution to the recession caused by Labour not a change manager but a change of Government?
Mr. Watson: No, none of that is right. We have the smallest civil service since the second world war, and we are targeting £5 billion of efficiency savings. However, the right hon. Gentleman is right about the specific question. We do need to improve how people access vacancies for civil service jobs, and I hope to announce more measures on that in months to come."
(Anyone wondering about the remarks about cappuccino and his soup should read this.)
Eric Pickles (Shadow Communities Secretary) uncovered last February that nearly 3,000 civil service jobs are not advertised to the public online:
"To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many and what proportion of Civil Service vacancies have been advertised on the (a) public and (b) Civil Service and accredited non-departmental public bodies staff-only sections of the Civil Service recruitment gateway website in the last 12 months. 
Mr. Watson: Government Departments are responsible for ensuring that their vacancies are publicised on the civil service recruitment gateway. Data is not collected centrally on the total number of civil service and NDPB vacancies at any given time.
From 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2007, 5,727 vacancies were advertised, of which (a) 2,916 were advertised on the public part of the site and (b) 2,811 on the civil service and accredited non-departmental public bodies staff-only section of the civil service recruitment gateway website."
This is Opposition at its best. Well done to both Mr Maude and Mr Pickles.
Whilst some jobs in the civil service will be best suited to candidates who are already civil servants, the application process should surely be far more open than it is currently. Indeed who is to say that a successful business person (for example) should necessarily not go straight into a senior civil service role?
If that appears unthinkable, bear in mind that both the last Prime Minister and the probable next one had no ministerial experience (although David Cameron has worked in Whitehall).
Francis Maude, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has received yet another interesting written answer:
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what estimate the Office for National Statistics has made of the number of new additional jobs created since 1997 in the (a) public sector and (b) private sector. 
As National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question concerning the number of new additional jobs created since 1997 in the (a) public sector and (b) private sector. (241590)
The Office for National Statistics collects employment statistics for the public sector as part of the Quarterly Public Sector Survey and for the private sector as part of the Labour Force Survey. However, statistics related to job creation are not collected.
However we can provide the growth in employment within both sectors. The data are attached at Annex A.
I am extremely surprised that the growth in public sector jobs isn't higher - I had understood that such jobs have mushroomed under Labour. Is there more to this than meets the eye?
Of course nearly 600,000 extra jobs in the public sector is not insignificant. Labour will claim them as a success - but are they merely creating client voters by drumming up jobs that the taxpayer can ill afford?
Francis Maude, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, has had a noteworthy written answer:
"To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission with reference to the answer of 4 March 2008, Official Report, column 2242W, on Liberal Democrats: finance, what the (a) status and (b) timetable is of the Electoral Commission's investigation into the permissibility of the donations by Mr. Michael Brown to the Liberal Democrat Party. 
Sir Peter Viggers: The Electoral Commission informs me that following the recent conclusion of criminal proceedings against Mr. Michael Brown, it has now resumed its investigation into the permissibility of donations made to the Liberal Democrat Party by Mr. Brown in 2005.
This is an episode that the Liberal Democrats would doubtless rather forget. Mr Brown, who donated £2.4 million to the Liberal Democrats, was recently found guilty of fraud on massive scale - stealing £36 million from clients, one of whom was the former Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards. Brown is currently a fugitive, and was tried in his absence.
On a more prosaic matter, geeks should note that Sir Peter Viggers is a rare thing - a Conservative MP responsible for answering written parliamentary questions.