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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On Friday, 50 MPs, including 34 Conservatives, wrote a letter to the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, expressing their "serious concerns" with the Department of Health’s proposal to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products.
The letter stated that:
"There is no reliable evidence that plain packaging will have any public health benefit; no country in the world has yet to introduce it. However, such a measure could have extremely negative consequences elsewhere. The proposal will be a smuggler’s charter. ... this policy threatens more than 5,500 jobs directly employed by the UK tobacco sector, and over 65,000 valued jobs in the associated supply chain. ... Given the continued difficult economic climate, businesses should not be subjected to further red tape and regulation"
The signatories of the letter also expressed concern about the freedom aspect of blocking any branding of tobacco products:
"...we believe products must be afforded certain basic commercial freedoms. The forcible removal of branding would infringe fundamental legal rights, severely damage principles around intellectual property and set a dangerous precedent for the future of commercial free speech. Indeed, if the Department of Health were to introduce standardised packaging for tobacco products, would it also do the same for alcohol, fast food, chocolate and all other products deemed unhealthy for us?"
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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Proposals to give Parliament the power to take action on ministers who leak announcements to the media, before informing the Commons, have failed. The motion tabled by Phillip Hollobone MP (Kettering), aimed to be as "non-partisan as possible", was defeated by 228 votes to 119. Hollobone accused all three major parties of mistreating the House of Commons:
"All Governments, whether this Government, the previous Government or the one before that, have leaked information, and that is not how our great House of Commons ought to be treated".
On Sunday, Tim outlined the Speaker's exasperation, after last week's Autumn Statement was the latest example of policy being leaked to the press beforehand. Naturally, Hollobone expressed the same sentiment as the Speaker, saying that Parliament "should be the first place to hear of major new Government policy initiatives". He continued:
"Should it be “The Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday, the “Today” programme on Radio 4 in the morning or ITV’s “Daybreak”; or should it be the Chamber of the House of Commons?"
By Jonathan Isaby
The first of yesterday's opposition day debates in the Commons saw a Labour motion demanding a reversal in January's VAT rise with respect to road fuel and asking where the fuel duty stabiliser was - all in the name of the "hard pressed motorist".
The hypocrisy of Labour's position, given its record in government, was not lost on Conservative MPs, who proceeded to harry Angela Eagle, the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who was opening the debate.
Here is a selection of their interventions and her non-replies to their points:
Greg Knight: Will the hon. Lady help the House? Over the past 13 years, in every aspect of Government policy, the Labour Government were deliberately and decisively anti-motorist. Does the motion before the House today represent a seismic shift in policy, or is it, as we suspect, a transient spat of opportunism?
Ms Eagle: I am rather sorry that I gave way so early in my remarks to that kind of comment. I do not recognise the right hon. Gentleman’s caricature of our policies for motorists. Perhaps he has been reading too much of the Daily Express.
Robert Halfon: I find the Labour motion astonishing, because over the past few years the hon. Lady’s party crucified Harlow’s motorists by putting up fuel duty by 6% a year and increasing it more than 12 times—and it was going to introduce another tax.
Ms Eagle: I will come to the details of the motion later. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will do us the honour of staying in the Chamber and listening to that.
Charlie Elphicke: To clear up the addling of some minds in the House regarding the history of this matter, will she confirm that in 1997 duty was 36.86p and today it is 57.19p?
Ms Eagle: One has to remember that the price of petrol at the election was £1.20 a litre, at a time when the Conservatives were promising to cut 10p off the price of a litre because petrol prices were too high. It is now £1.32 a litre.
Brandon Lewis: Will she confirm that, despite what has been said, my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke) is right: there were 12 fuel duty rises under the Labour Government, and six more were set to come into force before they left office and would have done in the next few years?
Ms Eagle: As I said, we had six years when we did not even increase the price of fuel by inflation, so there were real-terms price falls. The number of increases in all sorts of duties tends to expand the more one is in government.
Andrew Bridgen: The Labour party’s apparent Damascene conversion on fuel taxes will amaze and intrigue the bulk of the electorate. Will the hon. Lady confirm whether she supported the crafty action of the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, who effectively excluded fuel from a VAT reduction in 2008 by raising duty, and then put the VAT on fuel back up to 17.5% in January 2010?
Ms Eagle: One minute Government Members say that we have no plan to deal with the deficit, and the next minute they complain that we had a plan that would have raised money. They really do try to have it both ways and are not remotely coherent.
"The previous Government increased fuel duty four times in their last 16 months in office... They left many tax bombshells, but perhaps that pre-planned tax increase was the tax road mine. There was a pre-planned additional per pence increase on fuel and a pre-planned year-on-year RPI increase—the so-called escalator. Ironically and utterly bizarrely, we are today debating a Labour motion that goes against the policy introduced by the previous Labour Government.
"Listening to the Opposition is stunning. The outgoing Chief Secretary’s message to the incoming Government was that there was no money left. Worse than that, the previous Government had pre-planned increases, which were due to come in now... The bottom line is that it is outrageous for the Labour party to cry crocodile tears about tax increases that it had planned—it is disingenuous in the extreme, and shows that it has no credibility and no leadership on the issues that matter to people, such as motoring, which we are debating today. The audacity of the motion is stunning."
By Jonathan Isaby
East Yorkshire MP and Procedure Committee chairman Greg Knight was keen to know what progress there was to report on the electronic petitioning of Parliament:
"Is he aware that as long ago as 2008, this House was promised a debate in Government time on the electronic petitioning of Parliament? It is now nearly 2011 and we are still waiting. When, oh when, can we debate e-petitions?"
Sir George Young indicated that the Government was keen on making this happen:
"He will know that there is a commitment in the coalition agreement to take the issue forward. I hope that my office will be in touch with his Select Committee shortly to indicate how we plan to bridge the gap between House and country by taking forward the agenda of petitions. The commitment is that when a petition reaches 100,000, it will become eligible for a debate in this House. I am anxious to make progress on that agenda."
So before too long, all you'll need is 99,999 friends to agree on an issue and you'll be able to get it debated in Parliament.
Other issues raised at Business Questions by Tory MPs today included:
Lib Dem Collective Responsibility
Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Will the Leader of the House arrange for a clear statement to be made on ministerial collective responsibility? I appreciate that established conventions might need to be varied to accommodate a coalition Government, with the coalition partners voting differently in certain circumstances, but it surely cannot be right for Ministers, including the Chief Secretary to the Treasury today, to agonise publicly in newspapers about whether they are going to support the Government in the Division Lobby.
Sir George Young: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that issue. It is within his memory and mine that when we had a single-party Government in the 1970s collective responsibility was suspended during the referendum on whether we should stay in the European Community, so there are precedents within single-party Governments for suspending collective responsibility. We have a coalition Government, so some of the normal conventions are not strictly applicable. I draw his attention to section 21 of the coalition agreement, which says in respect of the incident to which I think he is referring, that “arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote.”
Protesters camping out in central London
David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): Further to questions about the situation in Parliament square, is my right hon. Friend aware that there are now tents on the pavement outside at least one Government Department? Does he not think that that reflects very badly on the Government, the Greater London authority and the Metropolitan police? Why is this part of Westminster the only area in the whole United Kingdom where people can pitch a tent and not be moved on by the police immediately?
Sir George Young: The short answer is that that is because of a somewhat surprising decision—which, of course, one cannot criticise—made by a magistrate, who decided that that pavement was not a pavement because very few people used it. The good news for my hon. Friend is that we have now published the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, which deals specifically with encampments on Parliament square. The measures include a power to allow local authorities to attach a power of seizure to byelaws, to allow them to deal promptly and effectively with the nuisances to which my hon. Friend has just referred.
Labour MP supporting student occupations
Greg Hands (Chelsea and Fulham) (Con): Staying on the subject of higher education, may we also have a debate about Members of the House who are supporting direct action by students? Earlier, I notified the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) that I would be raising this matter. His Twitter feed this morning said: “Support Support The Occupations!....To all the student occupations I send a message of my support and solidarity.” Will my right hon. Friend join me in agreeing that we should be democratically debating the measures rather than taking part in the disruption of our higher education institutions?
Sir George Young: I entirely agree. All hon. Members should act responsibly and should not do anything that encourages unlawful action. I think I read that the hon. Member to whom my hon. Friend refers was going to have a conversation with the Opposition Chief Whip; his future can be safely dealt with by those authoritative hands.
By Jonathan Isaby
"Why do we still have to go through the ridiculous ritual of putting our clocks back every autumn, thereby plunging the nation into darkness by mid-afternoon? Will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that the Government will not seek to talk out the private Member’s Bill on this subject that is due to come before the House shortly? If he does as I ask, I suspect the only opponents will be a handful of Scots. If that is the case, should they not be told, “You’ve got your own Parliament. If you don’t like it, go away and give yourselves your own time zone”?
The Leader of the Commons, SIr George Young, gave a very non-commital answer, merely saying that "when the current Bill’s turn comes to be debated, my ministerial colleague who will be responding for the Government will make the Government’s position clear."
According to the Economic and Social Research Council's Devolution website, it appears that time zones are in fact a reserved matter for the Westminster Parliament, so Mr Knight's suggestion that Holyrood could do its own thing could not come to pass.
The Private Member's Bill to which he refers is the Daylight Saving Bill, which is being championed by Castle Point MP, Rebecca Harris.
The Bill's Second Reading will be on 3rd December, at which time I imagine there will be lots more discussion of the issue...
Thirteen Conservative MPs - including nine of the new intake - were successful in the Private Member's Bill ballot earlier in the month.
Today sees them formally presenting their Bills for the first time (there won't be any debate at this stage), which are summarised as follows on the parliamentary website:
PUBLIC SERVICES (SOCIAL ENTERPRISE AND SOCIAL VALUE) BILL - Chris White MP (Warwick and Leamington)
"Bill to require the Secretary of State and local authorities to publish strategies in connection with promoting social enterprise; to enable communities to participate in the formulation and implementation of those strategies; to require that public sector contracts include provisions relating to social outcomes and social value."
DAYLIGHT SAVING BILL - Rebecca Harris MP (Castle Point)
"Bill to require the Secretary of State to conduct a cross-departmental analysis of the potential costs and benefits of advancing time by one hour for all, or part of, the year; to require the Secretary of State to take certain action in the light of that analysis."
ESTATES OF DECEASED PERSONS (FORFEITURE RULE AND LAW OF SUCCESSION) BILL - Greg Knight MP (Yorkshire East)
"Bill to amend the law relating to the distribution of the estates of deceased persons."
ANONYMITY (ARRESTED PERSONS) BILL - Anna Soubry MP (Broxtowe)
"Bill to prohibit the publication of certain information regarding persons who have been arrested until they have been charged with an offence; to set out the circumstances where such information can be published without committing an offence."
LEGISLATION (TERRITORIAL EXTENT) BILL - Harriett Baldwin MP (Worcestershire West)
"Bill to require the Secretary of State, when preparing draft legislation for publication, to do so in such a way that the effect of that legislation on England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is separately and clearly identified; to require the Secretary of State to issue a statement to the effect that in his or her view the provisions of the draft legislation are in accordance with certain principles relating to territorial extent."
PLANNING (OPENCAST MINING SEPARATION ZONES) BILL - Andrew Bridgen MP (Leicestershire North West)
"Bill to require planning authorities to impose a minimum distance between opencast mining developments and residential properties."
COINAGE (MEASUREMENT) BILL - Mark Lancaster MP (Milton Keynes North)
"Bill to make provision about the arrangements for measuring the standard weight of coins."
SPORTS GROUNDS SAFETY AUTHORITY BILL - Jonathan Lord MP (Woking)
"Bill to confer further powers on the Football Licensing Authority and to amend its name."
WRECK REMOVAL CONVENTION BILL - Thérèse Coffey MP (Suffolk Coastal)
"Bill to implement the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks 2007."
FACE COVERINGS (REGULATION) BILL - Philip Hollobone MP (Kettering)
"Bill to regulate the wearing of certain face coverings."
PROTECTION OF LOCAL SERVICES (PLANNING) BILL - Nigel Adams MP (Selby and Ainsty)
"Bill to enable local planning authorities to require planning permission prior to the demolition or change of use of premises or land used or formerly used to provide a local service."
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, CRIME AND VICTIMS (AMENDMENT) BILL - Sir Paul Beresford MP (Mole Valley)
"Bill to amend section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 to include serious harm to a child or vulnerable adult; to make consequential amendments to the Act."
SECURED LENDING REFORM BILL - George Eustice MP (Camborne and Redruth)
"Bill to make provision regarding the rights of secured debtors; to reform the rights of certain creditors to enforce their security; to make other provision regarding secured lending."
I have invited them all to write for ConHome explaining why the have chosen to introduce their particular Bill, so I hope to be able to publish some pieces from them in the not too distant future.
I wondered earlier this week here whether Labour MPs would use the Select Committee elections to make life difficult for David Cameron.
They didn't. Instead, they lined up behind the Conservative establishment candidates. Andrew Tyrie took the Treasury Select Committee; Richard Ottaway, Foreign Affairs (a big, big consolation prize, after his defeat in the 1922 Committee Chairmanship election); James Arbuthnot, Defence; Stephen Dorrell, Health; Tim Yeo, Climate Change. Anne McIntosh, who won the Environment Committee, leans towards the left of the Party.
I didn't, of course, see anyone cast a ballot paper. But unless Conservative MPs turned out en masse to vote against the Party's right - an unlikely course of action, given the '22 Executive results - Liberal and Labour support for less spiky candidates provides the only comprehensible explanation of the results.
It would be unfair to view the victors as patsies. Tyrie, in particular, has a track record of independent-mindedness. But ask yourself whether Cameron Towers would prefer the winners to, say, Patrick Mercer at Defence or Peter Bone at Health (let alone Nadine) or Philip Hollobone at Climate Change, and there's only one answer.
Bernard Jenkin and Chris Chope are both seen as men of the right. But Chope's used the Chamber to launch independent-minded assaults on establishment causes, and it's noticeable that he lost out in the tussle for the Public Administration Committee Chairmanship.
John Whittingdale at Culture and Greg Knight at Procedure, both No Turning Back Group stalwarts, are in unopposed. Graham Stuart won what should have been, even if it wasn't, a close-fought battle for the Education Committee.
As most readers know, the Select Committee Chairmanships have been carved out among the parties, and tomorrow's elections for the posts will be cross-party. So Conservative MPs, for example, can vote for Labour candidates, and vice-versa. Jonathan has a list of those standing here.
A question follows: on what basis will Labour MPs vote for the Conservative candidates? Answer: it depends. Some will support the best candidate. Others will vote for the Conservative candidate seen to be the more left-wing of the two.
Such is the attachment on the Labour benches to climate change orthodoxy, for example, that large number of the Party's MPs are likely to line up behind Tim Yeo, the establishment candidate for the Energy and Climate Change committee.
In other cases, however, Labour MPs will surely ask: who's the candidate more likely to cause David Cameron trouble? Or, if they've a more elevated turn of mind: who's the candidate more likely to stand up for the legislature against the executive?
In some cases, it's hard to tell. For example, both candidates for the Treasury Select Committee Chairmanship, Michael Fallon and Andrew Tyrie, are independent-minded. But in others, it's easier to see who'd be more likely to give Downing Street a fit of the heebie-jeebies.
Step forward, then, Peter Bone - standing for the Chairmanship of the Health Select Committee - John Baron, contesting Foreign Affairs (Baron pursued Ministers energetically about Iraq during the last Parliament) and, in the Defence Select Committee poll, no fewer than three of the candidates: Julian Lewis, Patrick Mercer and, above all, Douglas Carswell (one half of the Carswell-Hannan "Cannon" dynamic duo).
If Carswell in particular wins (an unlikely event, but you never know), expect senior officials in the Ministry of Defence to start screaming and screaming, and be unable to stop...
So if any of the above are elected, take a long, hard look at the Labour benches for those responsible.
Official disclaimer: nothing in this article is to be read as an endorsement of any candidate, in any election, at any time, anywhere...
Tory MPs speak against Julie Morgan MP's Private Members' Bill in favour of lowering the voting age to sixteen.
Brooks Newmark: "One of the big challenges is that it is hard enough to get 18 to 21-year-olds to vote, yet they too, at an earlier stage, called for more representation and wanted a say in politics? Surely we should focus our energies on trying to figure out how we are going to motivate them to get voting instead of continually trying to lower the age limit."
Nigel Evans: "There has to be a dividing line somewhere, and one could argue that it could be 17, 16, 15, 14 or 12, but 18 seems to be the appropriate voting age in the vast majority of places in the world."
Christopher Chope: "Her Bill is not even supported by members of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament, who, when they met in the other place in May and were asked to vote on what they regarded as the three most important issues to campaign on this year, declined to vote in favour of this proposal because they thought that there were three other issues of greater importance?"
Greg Knight: "Most 16-year-olds have the mental capacity to vote. The problem lies in the fact that many of them have not been educated at school about our democratic system. It is a problem of education, rather than of the mental incapacity or immaturity of a 16-year-old."
Mark Harper: "By saying that someone becomes an adult at 18 and someone below that age is a child, we are not, in any sense, disparaging children; we are simply saying that a line has to be drawn. Let us follow the hon. Lady’s argument to its logical conclusion. If we were to move the line for voting to 16, would we not implicitly be saying that there was something not worthy or not appropriate about 14 and 15-year-olds voting? There would be no logical reason not just to drop the voting age all the way down to zero. The fact is that there must be a line somewhere, and wherever it is drawn there will be people on the wrong side of it who have the maturity to take such a decision. The right place for that line to stay is at 18... If we are to say to young people that we do not think that they are sufficiently responsible or competent to take a decision about driving a motor car, using a firearm, consuming alcohol or buying cigarettes, it would be extraordinary to say at the same time that we think that they are mature enough to make a decision about the future of our country and about people who might deploy our armed forces. We know how the Liberal Democrats feel about the decisions made by the Government about committing our armed forces. Those are important and serious decisions, and I cannot see how it would be wise to say that a young person under 18 could not consume alcohol but could vote for a Government who could authorise the use of force in an armed conflict. That is completely inconsistent."
Eleanor Laing: "My main argument against the Bill concerns the question of rights. Correctly, we often discuss rights in this House, but whenever we create a right, there must be a corresponding responsibility. If there is no responsibility, then there is no right, because rights without responsibilities are meaningless. By giving people the right to vote, we are also conferring on them the burden of the responsibility to vote. I argue that 16 and 17-year-olds are gradually given plenty of responsibilities as they move on through life and grow up. It is not right to pile on all those responsibilities at once. Children of younger age groups have to be protected and 16 and 17-year-olds still have to be nurtured and helped along the way while they gradually make the transition from childhood to adulthood."
Stewart Jackson attacks LibDem Lynne Featherstone for comparing the issue to women's campaign for the vote: "The hon. Lady is making a completely fallacious comparison. Women were imprisoned, and, in some cases, they were tortured and they died. They sacrificed their own lives and chained themselves to parts of this building to secure, rightly, the universal franchise for both genders. That bears no comparison with whether a 16-year-old or a 15-year-old can be bothered to fill in a form so that they can vote in 2008."
Exchange between Julie Morgan MP, sponsor of the Bill, and Mark Harper:
Julie Morgan: "The phrase “no taxation without representation” has been used by many groups struggling for political rights over the years, but it applies no less to 16 and 17-year olds working and paying tax who are denied the vote, because there is no age limit on paying income tax and national insurance. Tax is taken on full or part-time work including tips and bonuses, and the most up-to-date figures show that 548,000 16 and 17-year-olds are in some form or employment."
Mark Harper: "The fact is that many children, far younger than 16, pay indirect taxes on the money that they spend. Is the hon. Lady suggesting that a 10-year-old who goes to buy a CD on which VAT is payable should get the vote?"
Julie Morgan: "I do not think that that is a valid intervention."
Brian Binley MP opposes the use of handheld devices in the Commons chamber: "I remember when I was a young lad—I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will have similar memories—going to the cinema and watching western films. Some of the better films, including ones starring Gene Autry and Roy Rogers—I hope that I am bringing nostalgia back for you—showed saloons that stopped people at the swinging doors and asked that they left their guns at the doors. I wish that the Government had taken notice of that particular habit and asked all Members to leave their electrical devices at the door of this Chamber, on the basis that they could cause almost as much trouble as guns in the hands of cowboys in the old west...
I have rarely seen a hand-held device that did not cause disturbance. People forget to turn them off and the things go off inadvertently—we heard of a case of that earlier. Indeed, I have been guilty of the same crime and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were kind enough to recognise that I was a new Member and treated me with great gentleness...
I think that [Sir Peter Soulsby, Labour MP] is absolutely wrong in his assertion that the devices do not disturb. Not only do they disturb, but on occasions they stop participation. That is the point. What is this Chamber for? Is it for Members to participate, or is it for them to come here in a rather ad hoc fashion to do their homework, or to answer correspondence?
...As I understand it, we have always received messages, normally in note form. It is important that that should continue. But should we really have the ability to have conversations with others outside when the prime objective of the Chamber is to be the debating centre of the nation? Do we really want television viewers seeing rows of people acting like secretaries in early 1950s films; great rows of MPs all bashing away on laptops? Is that what the Chamber is about? My argument will be that it is not. This is the debating Chamber of the nation and people should come to take part in that process, not be involved in so-called multi-tasking."
Greg Knight MP's response to Brian Binley: "My hon. Friend alluded to the film industry to demonstrate his point; if he were a film mogul, he would probably be the chairman of Nineteenth Century Fox."
Then Sir George Young MP: " I agree with what he said at the beginning of his speech, when he gently disassociated himself from our hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley) on what is called multi-tasking. I think that that is a somewhat misleading title. All that is recommended is that
“the use of handheld devices to keep up to date with e-mails should be permitted in the Chamber provided that it causes no disturbance.”
It seems to me that that simply validates what has been the practice for some time, and I do not find it enormously controversial...
Mr. Binley intervenes: "No; my concern is not that the issue is controversial. My concern is whether my right hon. Friend recognises that hand-held devices go way beyond the simple act of e-mailing, and how he would control their uses so they are not used in a manner that he might not wish to see happen?"
Sir George Young: I understand that, but it is not the proposition that is before the House. The proposition is that we should keep up to date with e-mails, and just e-mails. There is no proposition that we should take photos of each other during a debate or participate in any other mischief that might be done with the devices with which the Whips have very kindly provided us."
Mr Binley's amendment was defeated and Sky's Jon Craig thinks that a very good thing.
ePolitix.com's summary of the wider debate on modernisation of Commons rules: "The Commons on Thursday debated proposals raised in recent reports from the modernisation and procedure select committees. Reforms included allowing open questions during departmental question times and permitting the use of Blackberry and other hand-held electronic devices in the chamber. The modernisation committee also suggested shorter time limits for frontbenchers in debates and Westminster Hall debates on subjects selected by a ballot of MPs."