By Paul Goodman
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I'm also told that Downing Street's original plan was to have junior Ministers taking the lead on policy developments in policy areas for which they are responsible - until senior figures on the '22 pointed out that Ministers, as members of the executive branch of government, are not well placed to represent opinion on the backbenches.
The '22 executive apparently believes that the new board can dovetail with the '22's own policy groups, which I wrote about recently - and that its members, who will be assigned specific policy areas, can work closely and productively with the '22. This isn't to say that all has gone smoothly: my reading of the reaction to the appointments is that they have a bit of a mixed reception.
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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The 2010 intake is, by now, known for being one of the most active and resourceful for a number of generations. In choosing ten MPs who could be promoted from the 2010 intake, I have had to overlook a number of extremely good candidates who, in normal, non-Coalition times would undoubtedly be made Ministers, and would do an excellent job. Those MPs include Fiona Bruce, George Freeman, Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel and Charlotte Leslie. There are a number of other MPs who I have excluded from my list, because their past Parliamentary rebellions would probably rule them out of contention. These include Nadhim Zahawi, Jesse Norman, Andrea Leadsom, Rory Stewart, Richard Fuller, and Andrew Griffiths.
By Tim Montgomerie
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A number of Tory MPs led by Damian Collins have come together to propose a new industrial strategy for Britain. Mr Collins explains how the approach recommended by him and his colleagues is different from the industrial strategy of the 1970s and also a mythical laissez-faire policy:
"The industrial strategy of the 1970s saw Governments give direct financial aid to failing industries in order to protect jobs. Here people were in effect being paid to build cars that customers didn’t want to buy. That approach was unsustainable and it was in time new ownership, leadership, design, innovation and the commitment of the workforce that ultimately saved businesses like Jaguar and Land Rover from the state run motor industry. 21st century industrial strategy is not just about identifying where direct financial assistance can help accelerate the development of a business or economic region, as we are seeing in the Government’s strategy for enterprise zones and the regional growth fund. This has also been important in the development of new economic clusters, like Tech City, where Government support has acted as a catalyst for private enterprises to bring in much greater levels of investment. In addition to this we have to ensure that our tax and regulatory environment helps UK firms that are competing in a global economy to thrive. This is why, for example, the tax credits announced in the last budget for the production of high end television series, animation and video games were so important. Despite the UK having some of the best practitioners in the world, we were losing business to other countries that could undercut us on price significantly because they offered tax incentives to investors."
By Matthew Barrett
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Labour's Luciana Berger also retained her position as the most fanciable female MP, although Tory women are rated as the most attractive with 6 listed in the top 10, while Labour have 4 and the Lib Dems have none. Despite Goldsmith's first place, Labour men did best overall with 5 entries, but the Tories were just behind with 4 places.
Nick Clegg is the only Liberal Democrat to feature in this year’s list, and the only party leader to qualify - both David Cameron and Ed Miliband missed out, although the senior Miliband brother makes 6th place.
Here is the full list (with last year’s rankings in brackets) for Sky's Most Fanciable MP 2012:
By Paul Goodman
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Last year, the Prime Minister flew to Brussels amidst rumour of a leadership challenge if he didn't achieve at least a token repatriation of power.
Today, he faced the Commons not only with no such repatriation realised but with his veto - so rapturously greeted at the time by Conservative MPs - arguably valueless, since it's now clear that he won't challenge the principle of the EU institutions being used to enforce the F.U agreement.
Yet there was no mass revolt from his backbenches, and no revival to date of the leadership challenge rumours. What explains this change in the Tory atmosphere? I hope to explore the question in detail soon, but will for the moment rest with an answer I've cited before.
by Paul Goodman
I've found the following methods in yesterday's first day's debate on the budget - having earlier covered the speeches of Andrew Tyrie, John Redwood and Stewart Jackson.
1) Draw attention to the dire state of the public finances bequeathed by the last Government to this one.
This was the route taken by Jo Johnson (Orpington) -
"When countries that had public finances in a comparable state to ours last May are still fighting off the terrible spectre of sovereign debt default, it would be terrible folly to slow the pace of what is widely regarded as a necessary fiscal consolidation. Our policies are under intense scrutiny by the international bond markets, to which we are paying £120 million in interest daily. We cannot afford for our borrowing costs to rise, as they have elsewhere. We are paying 3.6% in the gilt markets on our staggering public debt. Other countries are paying rates closer to 8% or 9%, and Greece is paying a staggering 12.6%. We simply cannot afford to be complacent, as the Governor of the Bank of England made clear in a recent hearing of the Treasury Committee, at which he stated firmly that UK gilt rates would rise by three percentage points if we backtracked from the course of fiscal consolidation that we have outlined."
Johnson referred specifically to current events in Portugal, and today's debate will surely provide more of the same. Sajid Javed (Bromsgrove) made similar points, and also spotlighted the danger posed to the Government's strategy by rising inflation -
"Lastly, as has been mentioned, in particular by the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern), there is concern about global inflation. Clearly inflation has been caused primarily by rises in the price of oil, metals and food, but in the UK, in particular, devaluation has had an impact. It has had a positive impact on exports, but it tends to import inflation too. What has not been mentioned today is the potential impact of quantitative easing - the policy of buying up to £200 billion of both corporate bonds and gilts. That has an impact on the money supply in this country and it is doubtless having an impact on inflation.
With RPI inflation at 5.5% - the figure was published yesterday-and our gilt rate at 2.37%, the real rate of return is negative on our bond markets and that is a very fragile situation for the markets. To put that into context, the last time that RPI inflation was at that level was in 1991. At that time, our five-year gilt rate was at 10.09%. Clearly if the markets woke up one day and decided that they were not going to accept such low negative interest rates any more, we would be in a much worse predicament. That underlines the need for continued fiscal consolidation."
2) Get specific when praising the Government's strategy.
Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) highlighted the planned increase in apprenticeships -
"Finally, I want to mention the advances that we are making on skills, which are vital to ensuring that our work force can sustain the jobs that we will hopefully help to create in the economy with the additional measures that the Chancellor has mentioned this afternoon. It is fantastic that we will have another 250,000 apprenticeships over the next four years. I am heartened by that, because young people have for so long been cast adrift, and this will help to bring them into employment and training in a sustainable way, and also in a way that will perhaps enable them to garner the knowledge to create their own businesses one day and employ others, which is what we have seen over many years.
I welcome the university training colleges, and I am sure that the large industrial companies in the west midlands will welcome that approach. I hope that it will help people to acquire the skills to fill what those companies are describing at the moment as a void. Companies such as Jaguar Land Rover want to expand greatly, and they need a supply of skills to sustain any such expansion. They need skills from local people in the west midlands. We do not want to bring in people from other countries to fill that void."
3) Ground your speech in your constituency experience
Richard Harrington (Watford) used business trends in his seat to show the effect of Government policy -
"I want to talk about some specific factors that are important to business people, and therefore important to growth. There is a lot of talk about banks and the availability of capital, and about what the Government should do and what they have not done. Again, I want to comment based on my experiences in the constituency. The bank lending situation is getting better; there is no doubt about that, as the loans are beginning to come through. In Watford alone, under the enterprise finance guarantee loan scheme, 23 companies have already borrowed money amounting to £4 million. That is a comparatively small sample and it reassures me for the future that this scheme, which is to be expanded, does work, and that it does so in a comparatively short period of time.
It is very fortunate for us that interest rates are low, but the decisions made by businesses do not change when fluctuations are minor, such as 1% up or 2% down. Their decisions do change when the situation reaches a ludicrous point; I was once left with a loan on which I was paying 2% over base when the base rate was 15%. Variations such as 1%, 3% or 5% make little difference. Again, what matters is confidence in the economy and confidence that the Chancellor has done the right thing today. So I must encourage what the Government are doing on the fundamentals, because people and businesses will want to borrow money only when there is confidence in the future and confidence that we are doing the right thing."
4) Support the budget and float some ideas
Richard Fuller (Bedford) made a pitch with a strong social justice, One Nation flavour -
"In the context of protecting the most vulnerable, let me first urge Ministers to continue to give full support to the welfare reform measures that are being pushed through by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. The universal credit will be of major, long-term, significant and beneficial advantage to low-paid and poor people in our country, and it is a measure that those on the Treasury Bench should support in the years ahead.
Secondly, I should have liked to hear a little more about support for our charities. I was very pleased to hear about the £550 million of support that the Chancellor was offering to them in the form of various benefits, but I should have liked him to be more radical. There are many steps that we can take to ease the rules and regulations and break down some of the barriers that prevent social investment from various sources. We should be a bit more open in relation to the way in which money can flow from social investment to outcomes and social impact bonds. I should have liked to hear about personal tax deductions for charitable donations, and I should very much like the Treasury-either directly or through the big society bank-to help charities to procure local government services. They need that support to arm them in their continuing battles with bureaucracies."
5) Finally, attack Labour.
David Amess does this on the first day of each year's budget debate, and didn't disappoint -
"Turning to the Budget, there is no doubt that this has been the most difficult and gloomy time I have known for people in business-until today. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on his well-crafted and clever Budget, which will cheer up the country. It has already cheered up Government Members and, as colleagues will have observed from the general atmosphere among Opposition Members three or four hours ago, it has absolutely cheesed off the Opposition. I am getting sick to death with Members on the Conservative and, dare I say, Liberal Benches being castigated for the absolute mess that the country is in. One party alone is responsible for that-Labour. It is because of the Labour party that we are facing debt interest of £120 million a day and because of the Labour party that we have the biggest structural debt in the G7.
I want to share with colleagues who were elected last year what the past 13 years have been like. As hon. Members will know, the last Prime Minister was previously the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I had the experience of listening to 10 of his Budgets, which he greatly enjoyed delivering. He used to come to the Dispatch Box and two thirds of the way through his speech he would wind Conservative Members up. Then he would make what he thought would be the headline-grabbing news item that would cheer everyone up. But then we would all go away and people would read the Red Book and within a few weeks we would find out that what he had told us was not in any sense accurate. So I congratulate the Chancellor on the new Red Book, because unlike the previous one it is not big enough to use as a doorstop, which is all that one was fit for."
During Tuesday's debate concentrating on the economy, two of the new Conservative MPs making maiden speeches hgihglighted the needs to get to grips with the deficit.
"We have to get this economy working again, which means that we must focus on reducing the deficit. When I had the honour of being a special adviser in the Treasury, working with “canny Ken” as the Chancellor, I learnt a lesson: we cannot spend what we do not have. That lesson has not been lost on the Government side of the House.
"Having worked in the real world of commerce and industry for more than 20 years in companies such as Asda and PepsiCo, it is clear to me that growth is not determined by state diktat, but based on the decisions of thousands of brave businesses. Growth is developed only in a truly competitive private sector. That is what we need to create jobs, provide valued public services and support those in genuine need. That task will always motivate me as long as I serve the people of Macclesfield in this House."
"The priority now is to achieve an accelerated reduction of the £156 billion deficit and it is one that I wholeheartedly support, as I support the creative and compassionate ways that I know the Government will use to go about that difficult task. The £6 billion of cuts already announced is barely a start in the process. I look forward to the emergency Budget on 22 June and the public consultations on the role of the state, which will follow."
He also emphasised that he is no carbon copy of his brother, Boris:
"At the outset, I should make a declaration, as we do a lot of that at the start of Parliaments. Anyone hoping that I will enliven proceedings in the manner of one of my elder brothers, the former Member for Henley, is likely to be disappointed. Private Eye, in the issue on newsstands at the moment, has helped me to set expectations appropriately low. It quotes an unnamed Oxford contemporary, in the first of a series that it is doing on new Members, and that friendly Oxford contemporary of mine says:
“He could not be more different to Boris. It’s as though the humour gene by-passed Jo altogether and he inherited only the ambition gene.”
"It is an absolutely fair comment, but I do not really apologise for the humour-ectomy, nor, indeed, for any hint of ambition that the House might detect, because these are serious times and politicians need to be ambitious when the country is in such a mess. History will not forgive us if we flannel around in the House over the next five years and fail to pick the economy up off the floor, where it is at present."