Having reshaped his Cabinet substantially last summer - sacking two Cabinet Ministers in the process - David Cameron is unlikely to do so again during this one. This is because to do so would both risk destabilising his already fractious Parliamentary Party, and offend his instinct to keep changes to his front bench to a minimum. From the Prime Minister's point of view, it makes sense to delay a substantial Cabinet clearout until next summer, when a team can be put in place to fight the election in 2015.
Leaving the next big shuffle until later in the Parliament will also minimise any backlash from sacked Ministers, since they will rally round Cameron during the election run-up (that's the theory, at any rate). The claim that Sir George Young will stay in post for the time being would dovetail with such an approach. The Prime Minister's most likely reshuffle course, therefore, will be to restrict change to the lower ranks of the Government - but to promote to just below Cabinet level men and women who, in his view, are capable of making it to the top table next year.
By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.
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
Follow Matthew on Twitter
Of the Parliamentary groupings founded by MPs after the 2010 general election, the 2020 group is perhaps the least understood. Channel 4's Michael Crick and the FT (£) covered its launch during conference last year. Those two reports implied the 2020 group was a centre-left grouping pre-occupied with "countering the rise of the right". The 2020 is not about bashing the right. It's about upholding the ideas and optimism of the Cameron leadership era, and ensuring they can help inspire a majority Conservative government. In this profile, I will take a closer look at the 2020, its aims, role, and plans for the future.
Origins of the Group:
The 2020 was founded in Autumn 2011 by Greg Barker, the Minister of State for Climate Change, Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-upon-Avon), and George Freeman (Mid Norfolk), with Claire Perry (Devizes) joining soon after. It was launched at conference last year.
Members of the group (see below) are drawn from across the ideological spectrum (one member told me the 2020 tries to "reject the stale orthodoxies and dogmas of the old left versus right split in the Tory Party"), but members are united in wanting to develop conservatism and what the Party might look like in 2020. Founder George Freeman said: "The 2020 was set up as a forum to help the new Conservative generation define a modern progressive Conservatism for our times. What is the DNA that unites this diverse new generation? What are the long term social, economic, and technological changes that will shape our world? By tackling these and related questions we hope to help Conservatives define and dominate the radical centre ground of British politics."
Fellow founder Greg Barker explained another aspect of 2020's mission: "There's a strong strain of optimism that ran through the early Cameron message, and that message of change, hope and optimism, sometimes because of austerity, gets overshadowed, and we see ourselves as the guardians of that message".
By Jonathan Isaby
Follow Jonathan on Twitter
Concerns from Tory MPs about the sentencing aspects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill have been well covered, not least with Philip Davies' ConHome piece on the topic yesterday.
He repeated those concerns in a speech during yesterday's Second Reading debate on the bill, and was part of a small rebellion that opposed allowing the bill to pass that stage.
The bill was given a second reading by 295 votes to 212, but five Conservative MPs voted with Labour in the No lobby:
One issue which has not received so much coverage is the fact that some of the 2010 intake have serious concerns about the proposed cuts to legal aid.
Helen Grant led the charge, saying that the plans to reform legal aid were "brave and bold" (isn't that Yes, Minister speak for "wrong"?) and set out her problems with what is currently envisaged.
In her maiden speech on Monday, apart from paying tribute to her predecessor, she took the opportunity to set out her vision for promoting social mobility:
"I want to say something about social mobility. One of the greatest attributes of the British people is their belief in fairness, and it is that sense of fairness that supports the notion that whatever your starting point in life’s marathon, it does not have to be your personal best for the rest of the race. If you try to move up the field, or even get into the leading pack, you should have the opportunity to do so. Aspiration, family and enterprise have been essential elements in my own personal journey. They are also fundamental in a society in which mobility can flourish and not flounder. I should like to say a few things about each of them.
"I believe in opportunity and aspiration, and in the ability of individuals to achieve, progress and reach their full potential, whoever they are and wherever they are from, if they choose to do so. I came from a pretty humble start, but I was allowed to progress in life because I had the good fortune to engage with people who instilled in me the importance of working hard and aiming high, and values such as individualism, self-empowerment, choice, freedom, free enterprise, self-reliance and self-esteem. I hope that we, as politicians, can advocate and reinforce those values, because if we do we may be able to help many, many people to rise beyond the circumstances of their birth, and if we do that, society as a whole will prosper
"I also believe in the power of the family. I believe that the family is a fundamental and vital tool in holding society together. It can provide security, stability and commitment. In the family we learn how to give, how to share, how to be kind, how to care, and how to build relationships. Those are the foundations that people need in order to progress. Yet for many years the family has been badly neglected as an institution, although it is also key to dealing with issues such as gun crime, knife crime, teenage pregnancy, truancy and antisocial behaviour. I hope that we, as a Parliament, will do all that we can to support the family.
"As for enterprise, it enables aspiration to become reality. It can also create wealth, independence and choice. I set up my first business when I was 11 years old, digging up old bottles from a Victorian dump in Carlisle and selling them at an old curiosity shop. I know that that sounds like something out of Dickens, but it is absolutely true. At one stage I was making about £2 a week, which was a lot of money in those days. I have always loved business, and I have always been enterprising.
"In our country it has nearly always been possible to aim high, work hard, be resourceful, take a risk and make money, but that is changing. Over-regulation is strangling enterprise. Every accident is someone else’s fault, and people are quick to talk about rights—but what about responsibilities? Even our employment legislation has become so potentially onerous that people must be very careful about whom they take on. Any redefinition of a job description can be construed as constructive dismissal, and any criticism of performance may equal “harassment”. I often feel that I cannot give a bad but honest reference without fear of litigation.
"The combined effect of all that is a massive disincentive to enterprise, which is bad for business and bad for Britain. I hope that, through this coalition Government, we can get rid of some of this nonsense, replacing it with a much more common-sense approach."
The Daily Mail, on Monday, was first to notice the change in policy. In the 1990s Michael Howard instituted his 'prison works' policy and crime began to fall because repeat law-breakers could not commit offences so long as they were incarcerated. Incarceration, rather than the deterrent or rehabilitation effects, were most important in turning the tide against crime. Dr David Green of the Civitas think tank has long been a champion of this view.
Ken Clarke - under huge budgetary pressures and in alliance with the anti-prison Liberal Democrats - is ready to operate a more targeted prisons policy. Ken Clarke, thundered the Mail, needed to be "a little less Liberal and a little more Conservative".
The extent of the retreat from Michael Howard's 'prison works' policy was evident during Justice questions on Tuesday. Pasted below are some key exchanges between MPs and prisons minister, Crispin Blunt.
Mrs Helen Grant MP: In the context of capacity and overcrowding, what are the Minister's views on short sentences, especially for women?
Mr Blunt: The evidence is that short custodial sentences are not working. They produce terrible reoffending rates. We do not have the capacity in the probation service to address people on licence, which is one reason why they do not have any supervision when they leave prison, and we are on the most dreadful merry-go-round. It is one of the glaring gaps in the way that we deal with offenders and reoffending behaviour, and the current Administration will do their level best to address the issue.
Mr Jack Straw MP (Lab): "Does the Under-Secretary acknowledge that there has been a sustained fall in crime from 1995 to date, and that the increase in prison places and the fact that more serious and violent offenders are now incarcerated has contributed to that fall?
Mr Blunt: "Evidence on the effects of incarceration is mixed at best. We must take the political temperature out of the debate. Outbidding each other on how robust we will be in dealing with offenders probably does potential future victims no good. We must have policies that address future offending behaviour and consider the life cycle of potential and actual offenders so that we can support them effectively."
Mr Straw: "The whole House would agree that the fundamental test of an anti-crime policy is whether crime has fallen. With that in mind, will the Minister now acknowledge that crime fell consistently from 1995 and throughout the 1997 to 2010 Administration?"
Mr Blunt: "No, because the change in trend on crime was achieved by Michael Howard, the then Home Secretary, who delivered a robust policy that effected changes. He was the author of the change in policy, but there is a limit to continuing that process, as there must be to the rate of growth of incarceration. In the end, we cannot lock up everybody who might be a threat to someone, because in that way, the entire population would end up in prison. There is a logical end to that process, and we will do our level best to deliver more effective policies to ensure that there are fewer victims in future."
Dr William McCrea (DUP): "The Justice Secretary is reported as saying that millions of pounds could be saved by jailing fewer offenders and slashing sentences. Does the Minister accept that our first duty is the protection of the public and that we must provide prison capacity accordingly?"
Mr Blunt: "Yes, but I do not entirely recognise the hon. Gentleman's presentation of my right hon. and learned Friend the Justice Secretary's comments over the weekend. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the first objective is public protection, and if we are to protect the public of tomorrow, so that there are fewer victims, we have to ensure that we have a justice service that will deliver a reduction in reoffending rates and can divert people from offending in the first place."