James Clappison MP

5 Dec 2012 11:09:15

70 Tory MPs vote to repeal the Human Rights Act

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

BACON RICHARDYesterday in Parliament, Richard Bacon, a Conservative backbencher, tried to introduce a Bill which would repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. One of Mr Bacon's lines of argument was that the legal requirement for Ministers to amend legislation - without a vote in Parliament - in order to comply with European human rights legislation - is "fundamentally undemocratic":

"Under section 10, a Minister of the Crown may make such amendments to primary legislation as are considered necessary to enable the incompatibility to be removed by the simple expedient of making an order. In effect, because the accepted practice is that the United Kingdom observes its international obligations, a supranational court can impose its will against ours. In my view this is fundamentally undemocratic."

Mr Bacon also compellingly argued that the controversial social issues that judges often like to get involved in should be decided by "elected representatives and not by unelected judges":

"[T]here is no point in belonging to a club if one is not prepared to obey its rules. The solution is therefore not to defy judgments of the Court, but rather to remove the power of the Court over us. ... Judges do not have access to a tablet of stone not available to the rest of us which enables them to discern what our people need better than we can possibly do as their elected, fallible, corrigible representatives. There is no set of values that are so universally agreed that we can appeal to them as a useful final arbiter. In the end they will always be shown up as either uselessly vague or controversially specific. Questions of major social policy, whether on abortion, capital punishment, the right to bear firearms or workers rights, should ultimately be decided by elected representatives and not by unelected judges."

Continue reading "70 Tory MPs vote to repeal the Human Rights Act" »

26 Oct 2012 06:22:26

Who are Conservative Friends of Israel? A profile of the Conservative Party's most populous grouping

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

Conservative Friends of IsraelConservative Friends of Israel is an influential affiliate group of the Conservative Party which contains perhaps the largest number of Conservative MPs of any group in Parliament. It exists to promote understanding of and support for the State of Israel in the Conservative Party, and its membership reaches the highest echelons of power, including the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. In this profile, I examine its origins, membership, role, and activities.

Origins of the group

Conservative Friends of Israel (CFoI) is the oldest group of Conservative MPs I have profiled so far: it was founded by Michael Fidler, who was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bury and Radcliffe between 1970 and the October 1974 election. After losing his seat, he decided to focus on building a pro-Israel group within the Conservative Party - there had been a Labour Friends of Israel group since 1957 - so Fidler launched CFoI in 1974, and served as its National Director. 

Sir Hugh Fraser served as the first Chairman of CFoI, from 1974. Sir Hugh was a Conservative MP of the old school: after a distinguished military intelligence career in the Second World War, he entered Parliament in 1945, and he missed out on being Father of the House to James Callaghan in 1983 by only a few days. Sir Hugh had an interest in oil and the Middle East and served a number of positions in the War and Colonial Offices, before entering Cabinet as the Secretary of State for Air in 1962. He might be best known to some readers as the outsider candidate who came third in the 1975 party leadership contest, behind Mrs Thatcher and Edward Heath, gaining only 16 votes.

Continue reading "Who are Conservative Friends of Israel? A profile of the Conservative Party's most populous grouping" »

6 Jul 2012 13:17:19

41 Tory MPs join call by Robert Halfon MP for OFT to investigate high petrol prices

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

C-home Fairness for motorists

Robert Halfon, the Member of Parliament for Harlow, and one of the most successful campaigning MPs in Parliament, has organised a motion, backed by 60 MPs from all parties, and including 41 Tories, calling for the Office of Fair Trading to investigate allegations of price-fixing by British oil companies. The full motion is worded as follows:

"That this House urges the OFT to investigate oil firms active in the UK; calls on the Government to consider the emergency actions being taken in other G20 nations to cut fuel prices, for example President Obama strengthening Federal supervision of the U.S. oil market, and increasing penalties for “market manipulation”, and Germany and Austria setting up a new oil regulator, with orders to help stabilise the price of petrol in the country; finally urges the Office of Fair Trading to note that the Federal Cartel Office in Germany is now investigating oil firms active in the UK, after allegations of price-fixing."

Continue reading "41 Tory MPs join call by Robert Halfon MP for OFT to investigate high petrol prices" »

8 May 2012 13:03:56

The 2010-12 parliamentary session was the most rebellious on record

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter

Screen shot 2010-06-16 at 18.02.09Philip Cowley and Mark Stuart of the University of Nottingham have released a new pamplet - "The Bumper Book of Coalition Rebellions", which documents the 239  backbench rebellions so far in this Parliament, in which 544 votes have been held. 

The pamplet takes us from the first rebellion, on the government’s control of time in the Commons, to the last, on Sunday Trading during the Olympics. This Parliament has seen more rebellions by government MPs than in any other session in the post-war era. As "The Bumper Book" says, "It comfortably beats the previous record of 128, held by Conservative MPs in the 1971-72 session. Indeed, a figure of 239 is higher than all but three entire post-war parliaments."

In fact, there were more rebellions in the last two years than there were between 1945 and 1966 - a period which saw six Prime Ministers and six parliaments. On a different measure, the "relative rate of rebellion", this session's 239 rebellions constitute a rebellion by Coalition MPs in 44% of divisions, which is a record in post-war parliaments. The 44% figure can be broken down further: Conservative MPs have rebelled in 28% of votes, while Lib Dems have rebelled in 24% of votes.

It is also notable how much of a contrast there is between the 2010-12 session and most first sessions in a parliament. As the pamplet says: "The rebellion rate for coalition MPs collectively is way above all other first sessions in the post-war era (the previous record was 28%, for Labour MPs in the 2005-6 session, as the party entered its third, and most troublesome, parliament under Tony Blair)".

Continue reading "The 2010-12 parliamentary session was the most rebellious on record" »

1 Mar 2012 16:43:13

Conservative backbenchers slate Fiscal Union treaty and urge Greek exit from the €uro

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter

CasheurefYesterday in the House, an emergency debate was held on the following resolution, which was moved by Bill Cash:

"That this House has considered the matter of the legal and other action now to be taken by the Government in upholding the rule of law and protecting UK interests in respect of the nature and content of the Treaty on Stability, Co-ordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union."

Cash made his case for us yesterday on Comment, saying more Europe always leads to less prosperity and more disorder. Other Members who spoke made the following points:

Leadsom AndreaAndrea Leadsom was pleased with the opportunity for "change" as a result of any new treaty:

"The euro summit will consider things such as competition and structures, and inevitably will, therefore, be a forum for caucusing... So change is in the air.  I take great pleasure in the fact that, because change is in the air, there is the opportunity for change for Britain too. The prospect is no longer of a two-speed Europe but of a multi-tier Europe—in respect not just of those in the eurozone and those outside it but of those in the Schengen arrangement and those outside it, and of those great fishing nations interested only in the common fishing area and those who wish to be excluded from it. A multi-tier Europe in which member states can pursue their own particular interests but join together in areas of common cause is the opportunity facing us."

 

Continue reading "Conservative backbenchers slate Fiscal Union treaty and urge Greek exit from the €uro" »

21 Feb 2012 11:44:28

Tory MPs queue up to protest Cable's decision to ignore Select Cttee and appoint Les Ebdon to university access post

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter

Some extracts from yesterday in Parliament are pasted below. The exchanges occured after Business Secretary Vince Cable had decided to go ahead with the appointment of Les Ebdon as university access tsar. Michael Gove, David Cameron and the BIS Select Committee had all expressed doubts about Mr Ebdon's suitability. On ConHome last week Jill Kirby explained why. Mr Ebdon does not seem convinced that the root causes of social mobility need to be tackled first and universities do not need more state inteference in who they admit. Supported by David Willetts, universities minister, Mr Cable decided, nonetheless, to go ahead with the appointment. Channel 4's Gary Gibbon interpreted Mr Cable's decision as a sign that, post-Huhne, he wants to lead the Lib Dems' awkward squad.

ClappisonJames Clappison MP expressed his concern at Mr Cable over-ruling the advice of the Select Committee: "Is the Secretary of State aware that this is only the second time that a Select Committee has been overruled in this way? The first such occasion did not set a particularly happy precedent. What effect does he think his decision will have on the authority and standing of Select Committees of this House, and on the confirmation processes that they carry out? Although he may technically have the power to overrule the Select Committee, is it not deeply unsatisfactory for him to have done so with this appointment?"

Mr Cable responded: "The obligation on me, as Secretary of State, was to establish whether any new evidence had emerged from the hearings, and I found that none had. Had the report been unanimous and based on cross-party consensus, we might have responded differently to it, but it was not."

Brian Binley, a member of the BIS committee, tried again: "Given that the Committee was unable to endorse Professor Ebdon’s appointment and instead called for a new recruitment exercise, is it not deeply regrettable that Ministers have been so unwilling to engage with its concerns? Does this exercise not prompt serious questions about Ministers’ approach to higher education, especially as training appears to have been given more priority than the views of Parliament?"

Continue reading "Tory MPs queue up to protest Cable's decision to ignore Select Cttee and appoint Les Ebdon to university access post" »

12 Jul 2011 08:32:49

29 32 Tory MPs rebel against Britain's £9.3 billion EXTRA contribution to IMF bailouts

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter. 

Last night at least 32 Tory MPs (listed below) voted with Labour against an 88% hike in Britain's contribution to the IMF. The hike is to partly fund the IMF's ability to fund bailouts. I write "at least" because I've only quickly scanned the voting list. Please email tim@conservativehome.com if I've missed anyone off the list.

  1. Steve Baker
  2. Brian Binley
  3. Peter Bone
  4. Douglas Carswell
  5. Bill Cash
  6. Chris Chope
  7. James Clappison
  8. Philip Davies
  9. David Davis
  10. Zac Goldsmith
  11. James Gray (added at 9.30am)
  12. Gordon Henderson (added at 9.30am)
  13. Chris Kelly
  14. Edward Leigh
  15. Julian Lewis
  16. Anne Main
  17. Karl McCartney
  18. Nigel Mills (added at 11.30am)
  19. David Nuttall
  20. Matthew Offord
  21. Andrew Percy
  22. Mark Reckless
  23. John Redwood
  24. Simon Reevell
  25. Richard Shepherd
  26. Henry Smith
  27. Graham Stuart
  28. Peter Tapsell
  29. Andrew Turner
  30. Martin Vickers
  31. Charles Walker
  32. John Whittingdale

The Government won the vote to increase Britain's contribution from £10.7 billion to £20.15 billion by 274 votes to 246. This is the first time that the Labour frontbench has voted with Tory Eurosceptics. Labour was voting against an increase in the IMF subscription that was largely agreed during Gordon brown's time in office.

Redwood-on-NewsnightS On his blog John Redwood suggests that the 29 rebels are only one sign of Tory discontent. Given that there are more than 300 Tory MPs he calculates that AT LEAST 80 Conservatives were unavailable, abstained or voted against the government. He writes:

"Some of us want the UK government to use the influence it says it has at the IMF to halt the futile bail outs of Eurozone members. The debt markets show the markets do not believe that Greece can repay all its debts in full and on time. Yesterday was a day when market worries spread beyond Greece, Ireland and Portugal to Italy. Those in  charge of the Euro scheme need to get a grip. It is doing a great deal of financial and economic damage, and they no longer seem to be in control of their project. The IMF should decline to bail out rich countries that have shackled themselves to a currency scheme that was badly put together and needs a thorough re think."

Carswell Douglas Central Lobby 10.30am Douglas Carswell has just blogged this:

"The decision to raise our IMF subscriptions by 88 percent was first mooted when Gordon Brown was in charge – but was okayed by the current government last October.  While Canada, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium all managed to keep the increase in their subs low, whoever negotiated the deal on our behalf seems to have preferred to have UK taxpayers assume greater debt liabilities so that they could sit on a bigger chair at the various international summits they attend on our behalf. Alongside fiscal policy and monetary policy, our approach towards the bailouts and the IMF shows that there has been remarkably little change in economic policy at the Treasury since Gordon Brown was in charge." 

More from Douglas Carswell.

1 Apr 2011 08:02:46

Will the Office for Fair Access provoke the next Conservative rebellion?

by Paul Goodman

On Wednesday afternoon, I picked up unease in the Commons from Conservative backbenchers about the Government's University admission plans.

Yesterday, this unhappiness was reflected during Business, Universities and Skills questions -

"Mr Rob Wilson (Reading East) (Con): I have discussed on many occasions with the Minister for Universities and Science my view that Governments should avoid unnecessary interference in universities. The enhanced role given to OFFA is causing great unease in the sector and among some Government Members. Will the Secretary of State clarify the powers that OFFA has and how it will be expected to deploy them in relation to universities that set fees above £6,000?

Vince Cable: I think that there is complete clarity. I set out the position in a letter that I sent to OFFA some weeks ago, which is available and which I can certainly make available to the hon. Gentleman. It is absolutely right that, in return for being allowed to charge the higher fee levels, universities should make the maximum possible access available to people from disadvantaged backgrounds. There is a particular problem with traditional universities, where social mobility declined in the last decade. We are determined to overcome that."

Continue reading "Will the Office for Fair Access provoke the next Conservative rebellion?" »

25 Jan 2011 06:12:20

James Clappison fails in his attempt to make Parliament - not ministers - decide when a transfer of power to the EU requires a referendum

By Jonathan Isaby

The European Union Bill returned to the floor of the Commons yesterday for the first of three days this week. (Europe Minister David Lidington wrote about its benefits here on ConHome yesterday)

The Bill sets out that if there is deemed to be a transfer of power to the EU and the government of the day supports it, that there should be a referendum on the matter - although it is the government which decides if a transfer of power has taken place.

James Clappison Hertsmere Tory MP and member of the European Scrutiny Committee, James Clappison, tabled an amendment (number 11) to the BIll to give that power to Parliament.

He explained that overall he felt the Bill was "a great improvement on the existing position", but explained his amendment thus:

"It will be very disillusioning for all those whom we have promised and have led to expect that there will be a referendum on great transfers of power or great decisions in the European Union if that referendum does not take place. We want to do all that we can to avoid that sense of disillusionment. It is against that background that I seek to deal with the problem of the significance condition, to which hon. Members have referred.

"Simply, amendment 11 would give Parliament a vote on the question of whether certain transfers of power to the European Union are significant enough to warrant a referendum. As the Bill stands, the decision on whether matters are significant enough is in the hands of the Minister alone, subject to a challenge in the courts. Parliament does not get a say, however, at least on the question of whether there should be referendum."

"Broadly, the question is this: does Parliament decide, or does a single Minister decide? The Government propose that a single Minister should decide, but, as my hon. Friend knows, there is a fall-back position, namely that the Minister should be challenged not in the House but by means of judicial review. I find that somewhat strange, as did some of the distinguished academic witnesses who gave evidence to the European Scrutiny Committee.

"Under the Bill, if one of our constituents is aggrieved by what the Government propose, his recourse will be not to his Member of Parliament but to the courts, through judicial review. I think that that in itself sends a very odd signal. What should I tell a constituent who comes to my surgery and complains about the European Union, as some of my constituents do when it introduces a regulation that has an adverse effect on their jobs or companies, or when they disagree with some transfer of power? Should I say, “I am sorry. You may want a referendum, but you have come to the wrong place: you need to visit the solicitor’s office down the road”? I do not think that that is a very satisfactory state of affairs."

"I see no reason of policy or substance that is an obstacle to my proposal. Perhaps the Minister will tell us why. He has been very reasonable and persuasive on many other points in the Bill... He has been a model of charm and ministerial competence, but he has not yet produced any credible reason why we cannot have a vote in Parliament to decide whether something is significant enough to trigger a referendum, as opposed to leaving it simply to a Minister. What is wrong with trusting Parliament?"

Summing up later on, Europe Minister David Lidington set out his reasons for opposing it:

Continue reading "James Clappison fails in his attempt to make Parliament - not ministers - decide when a transfer of power to the EU requires a referendum" »