By Tim Montgomerie
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As reported widely in today's written and broadcast media a new Tory-led group has been formed to support equal marriage. You can read more about 'Freedom to Marry' on its website.
I should declare an interest. Some months ago I made a conservative case for gay marriage on this website and I've joined the group as one of its supporters. The other initial supporters are listed below:
As media outlets have noted the support of evangelical Christians Alistair Burt and Desmond Swayne as well as the Catholic Cabinet minister Patrick McLoughlin is an indication of the group's broad base. More high-profile supporters will be announced in the coming days and weeks.
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 Tim Montgomerie
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Like Graham Brady I wasn't keen on the nature of some of the electioneering but the overall result of the 1922 elections was, as I blogged this morning, encouraging. I'm more worried about the outcome of the elections for the Backbench Business Committee.
The BBBC has been hugely successful. It has meant that the House of Commons has debated issues that wouldn't have been discussed if the two frontbenches had had their way. The most famous debates of this kind were on prisoner voting and, of course, the EU referendum motion (in which 81 Tory MPs rebelled). Other debates have included the war in Afghanistan, welfare of circus animals, contaminated blood products, metal theft, charging for Big Ben tours, assisted suicide and the Hillsborough stadium tragedy.
Their voting behaviour (see list within this post) may have been too anti-Coalition for their colleagues but central to making the BBBC a success were Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone. Sadly both were unsuccessful in yesterday's election and I fear the BBBC will be a little more tame from now on. Two changes orchestrated by the Whip's Office since the "81 rebellion" made them particularly vulnerable. One change, a few months ago, meant that the BBBC's members were no longer elected by the whole house but the Tory members by Tory backbench MPs only and Labour representatives by Labour backbench MPs etc. The second change was to allow ministerial aides (Parliamentary Private Secretaries) as well as full backbenchers to vote and these received instructions from Keith Simpson, bag carrier to William Hague to vote for change. I don't know what the margins were in the secret ballot but the two rule changes certainly contributed to the fact that the new Tory representatives exclude Messrs Bone and Hollobone. The successful candidates were David Amess, Bob Blackman, Jane Ellison and Marcus Jones.
By Paul Goodman
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8.45pm Update by Matthew Barrett: I have now learned which candidates are being backed by the traditional organisations on the right of the Conservative Party, such as the No Turning Back group. I have highlighted these in purple.
The following have been returned unopposed:-
Posts for which elections will take place (I have marked those previously identified by Tim as members of the 301 slate in blue):
1) Secretary - the following nominations have been received for TWO posts:
NICK DE BOIS
2) Executive members - the following nominations have been received for TWELVE posts.
PRITI PATEL - Priti Patel is being backed by both the 301 group, and the right of the Party.
Finally and separately, the following nominations have been received for Conservative members of the Backbench Business Committee - four posts:
By Paul Goodman
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Grovelling? Yes, let's face it: it happens. But not yesterday when the Prime Minister was questioned after his statement on Libya. Read Patrick Mercer on Islamism, Andrew Tyrie on torture, Peter Lilley on getting Libya to pay, Baron on intervention, Chisti on Syria. Plenty of pertinent questions
Also follow David Cameron being polite to Mark Pritchard, telling Rory Stewart that he shouldn't have gone to Libya recently, and being thrown for a moment by a very sharp question from Andrew Bridgen. Here are the exchanges in full from Hansard.
"Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): As someone who had reservations about the principle of intervention, may I congratulate the Prime Minister on a successful outcome in Libya? It was largely achieved by two aspects: first, it was legal; and secondly, it had the support of the Libyan people. Further to the previous question, however, will my right hon. Friend now use it as an illustration to persuade permanent members of the Security Council, such as Russia and China, that a well conducted intervention can be successfully used to restrain autocrats in countries such as Syria?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he says. Everyone should have misgivings about such operations, and one should never have the naive belief that they are easy or that everything is going to go to plan. That very rarely happens, and we should always be hard-headed and careful about such things. We should also respect the fact that this is not done—this is not completed yet.
Also, I think that we should be very cautious about trying to draw up a new doctrine, because it seems to me that as soon as a new doctrine is established, a case comes up that flies completely in its face, but I do hope that other members of the Security Council will see that there has been success in removing a dictator, and in giving that country a chance of peaceful and democratic progress, which will be good for the world.
By Jonathan Isaby
Yesterday saw MPs debating the merits of the Big Society on a backbench motion moved by Dover's Tory MP, Charlie Elphicke, which stated its support for the Big Society, "seeking stronger communities where power is decentralised and social action is encouraged."
"The big society has been "much discussed in the media", yet this was, Elphicke asserted, "practically the first proper occasion on which it has been discussed on the Floor of this Chamber."
His motion had been co-signed by a number of Conservative MPs, as well as Labour's Jon Cruddas and Tristram Hunt and Lib Dem Bob Russell.
Here are some excerpts from a variety of the 24 speeches delivered by backbench Tory MPs - who, interestingly enough, were all members of the 2010 intake.
What I want to talk about is the sense of annoyance that everyone has when an individual feels put off from simply sweeping the snow from the pavement outside their house for fear that they will be sued, or when they are scared to jump into a pond and rescue a drowning child.
How have we got to the situation where individuals do not feel that they can take responsibility, and that rules and procedures stop them doing so? It is important to encourage people to take more action and more responsibility for their own lives and for their communities. People in communities are frustrated, such as the head teacher who cannot decide which children are in his school and feels that he is being told what to do by diktat, and the hospital worker who wants to take responsibility for his area, but who has to follow detailed rules and procedures.
Communities as a whole-big communities such as mine in Dover-want a greater sense of being able to chart their own destiny and future direction, but feel hampered by central Government saying, "No, these are the rules. This is how it is going to be. It is all going to be top-down and what you say doesn't count for much." It is that sense of annoyance and frustration, which stalks the land up and down the country, that the big society aims to counteract.
One of the innovations in this new Parliament is the creation of a BackBench Business Committee which is gaining the power from the Establishment to determine the backbencher-initiated business in the Commons chamber and Westminster Hall.
Last week Labour MP Natascha Engel beat Tory MP and former Deputy Speaker Sir Alan Haselhurst by 202 votes to 173 to chair the new committee.
Yesterday the names of the remaining members emerged and it is notable that the eurosceptic Tory Right is more than amply represented in the form of Peter Bone, Philip Davies and Philip Hollobone. They are joined by Jane Ellison from the 2010 intake.
Birmingham Yardley MP John Hemming will be the Lib Dem on the committee, whilst David Anderson and Alison Seabeck will be the other Labour MPs on the committee.
Here are extracts from four more maiden speeches given during yesterday’s debate on developing a high-skilled economy which focused on education.
“I have a strong belief that the greatest gift that any young person can receive, after a loving family, is that of a good education. For those who choose the vocational path, it is vital that education be provided with the same energy and vigour as that afforded to the more traditional academic routes.”
“Education is the great highway of social mobility—for individuals to move on and up, in many cases escaping poverty and deprivation in the process. I say that as someone whose mother and father left school at ages 15 and 14, and whose life was transformed by the winning of a free place at a grammar school. The greatest opportunity ever provided to me, that school became the foundation on which the rest of my life was built. I would like to see others have the opportunity that I was privileged to receive.
“I have long admired the ideas and the reforming passion of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and my hon. Friend the Minister of State. They have fully understood the force for good that education and skills can represent, but they have done more than that. They have truly understood the disgraceful and inhumane waste that is represented by continued educational failure—the appalling destruction of life chances, especially among the least advantaged. It is they who have understood the extraordinary power of choice; that choice will drive up standards; that parents know better than bureaucrats; that giving power to those who otherwise just have to take what they are given is the key to raising up the less advantaged; that future generations must be sustained not just by hope but by taking control of their destinies; and most important of all, that there is an age-old truth that the quest to create a stronger and better society cannot be left to the planners, to the bureaucracies, to the well-meaning architects of the state, but must be gifted to those for whom the consequences of success or failure are most keenly felt.”
“We should try to improve quality and variety in education along the line—primary, secondary and tertiary. There has been a focus in tertiary education on what I can only describe as the intellectual professions, such as law and accountancy. There has not been a focus on careers as plumbers, engineers and electricians. Those are all valid careers that require no less intelligence, just intelligence of a different variety. I should like some colleges to be the technical colleges that we all knew and loved when we were younger. They should look at proper hands-on training. When I visit colleges I am distressed to find that because of health and safety and all the other rules and regulation, education is all about bits of paper, not about students getting their hands dirty. Getting one’s hands dirty is an extremely good and valuable thing.”
“Then there is the issue of linking tertiary education with jobs, and for my money it is absolutely crucial that we give apprenticeships a real chance. When I talk to people with small businesses in my community, they say, “Anne Marie, one of the challenges is that we cannot afford to take on apprentices, because at the moment all of the burden falls on the employer and it is a huge burden.” I am therefore very pleased to see new initiatives from the new Government that will share the cost of apprenticeships.”
“I welcome the Government’s pledge to increase the quality and quantity of apprenticeships that will be available. I hope that such pledges will further the work of facilities such as CATCH—the Centre for the Assessment of Technical Competence, Humber—and training providers such as HETA, the Humberside Engineering Training Association, which operate there. During the election campaign, the Minister for Universities and Science, who was then a shadow Minister and is now, I am pleased to say, a member of the Government, visited the CATCH facility in Stallingborough and I think it fair to say that he was suitably impressed. It is a joint venture between the public and private sectors, and it has an extremely good success rate in securing permanent positions for the young people who train there, educating and training today’s school leavers, so that they become not a lost and forgotten generation but a driving force behind the economic recovery that remains the key aim of Government policy.”
“Many of us in Battersea hope that the next chapter in its life story will be as a school. For the parents involved in the Neighbourhood School Campaign, supported by Wandsworth council, the free schools legislation offers the best chance of realising their dream of a new state secondary school for south Battersea. A new school would be enormously important, giving further choice to parents in my constituency, irrespective of their means—an important factor in an area that has a lot of families on low incomes. I therefore particularly welcome the coalition’s plans for a pupil premium and more apprenticeships, and its determination to boost the private sector. All those things will greatly assist the many young people in my constituency for whom life is a struggle against the odds from the start, and for whom a good education and a skilled job are an essential way of getting on in life.”