By Peter Hoskin
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It has just been announced that the Conservative Party’s Jonathan Evans — who won the seat of Cardiff North in 2010, after being the MP for Brecon and Radnorshire between 1992 and 1997 — is to stand down at the next election. We at ConservativeHome wish him all the best for the future. Here is the statement he made to his local constituency association:
“It is now 40 years since I was first selected at the age of 22 as a Conservative parliamentary candidate against the late Michael Foot. Twenty one years ago I was first elected to the House of Commons and I have altogether fought nine parliamentary election campaigns at Westminster and European elections since 1974. By the time of the next election in 2015 I will have served for two decades in the House of Commons and in the European Parliament in Brussels.
I have been honoured by the support I have received from voters in Cardiff North, Brecon & Radnor and throughout Wales during the course of my political career. This outstanding support has given me the opportunity to serve in Parliament, in government, as Leader of the Conservatives in Europe, and as Head of the European Parliament’s relations with the United States Congress.
It is a difficult decision to stand down from public life, but with the introduction of fixed term parliaments, we now know that the next Parliamentary term is likely to run until 2020, and that is a commitment which is I believe is too lengthy for me to make.
I want to assure my constituents that I will continue to work hard for them through to the next General Election in 2015.”
And here is the tribute paid to him by David Jones, Secretary of State for Wales:
“Jonathan Evans has been a dedicated Member of Parliament to his constituency of Cardiff North and I know that as the Welsh MP with the highest parliamentary attendance he will continue to serve them up until the general election in 2015.
He has had a fantastic career serving in both the House of Commons and the European Parliament, as well as being a minister in the DTI, Lord Chancellor’s Department and the then Welsh Office. I understand his reasons for standing down in 2015 and wish him well with all his future endeavours."
And by the Chairman of the Welsh Conservative Party, Cllr Jeff James:
"Jonathan has devoted much of his adult life to public service and has spent a great deal of this time representing the people of Wales as an MP, MEP and Government Minister. Jonathan’s retirement at the next election will be a loss to the world of politics, and whilst I and many others will be disappointed that Jonathan will not be a candidate for our Party at the General Election in 2015, I fully appreciate that he considers that this is the right time for him to step down from the House of Commons.
As Chairman of the Welsh Conservative Party I would like to thank Jonathan on behalf of all our members for his years of service and commitment to the Party.”
By Matthew Barrett
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The Daily Mail this morning reports on the 118 Conservative MPs who have written to constituents indicating their opposition to gay marriage proposals. The Mail says "Their opposition has been expressed in letters and emails sent to constituents who have contacted them with their own concerns", and points out that if these MPs voted against proposals, it would constitute the biggest Tory rebellion in modern times. However, Equalities Minister (and Secretary of State for Culture) Maria Miller pointed out on Twitter that since any vote on the issue would be a free vote, it would not technically be counted as a rebellion.
I have listed the MPs from the Mail's story below.
By Matthew Barrett
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I recently profiled the 2020 and Free Enterprise groups of Tory MPs. Those two groups are formed by ideology: MPs are attracted to the groups because, in the case of the Free Enterprise Group, members wish to open up markets and make Britain business-friendly enough to compete with other world class economies. The 2020's members want to renew and refresh Project Cameron, while considering how the country should look after a majority Conservative government.
The 40 is rather different as it is a group of MPs brought together solely by necessity - the members are those MPs who were elected in 2010 with the narrowest majorities in the Party.
Origins of the group and key members
The group was founded early last year by Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood), Graham Evans (Weaver Vale), and David Mowat (Warrington South). There is no rigid structure to the group as such, given its non-ideological purpose, but when it meets, the convener is usually David Mowat. Other key "executive" members of the group include Evans and Ollerenshaw, as well as Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye), James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) and Ben Gummer (Ipswich).
By Joseph Willits
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Under proposals by the Welsh Boundary Commission, three Conservative seats will be abolished, one will be lost, and two would be gained from Labour. Those being abolished are:
The new seat of Caerphilly & Cardiff North (currently held by Tory MP Jonathan Evans) would have had a Labour winner under the new proposals.
However, two new seats would mean a Tory MP would be elected judging on 2010's results:
By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday saw the Second Reading in the Commons of the Pensions Bill - the legislation currently in the news which accelerates the existing timetable for increasing the State Pension age to 66. This will mean the pension age will be increased from 60 to 65 for women by 2018, before being raised to 66 for both men and women in 2020.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, said the core aim of the Bill is to "to secure this country’s retirement system, putting it on a stable and sustainable footing for the future."
The news headlines surrounding the Bill relate to the fact that women born in March 1953 will begin to receive their pension at 62, but women born in April 1953 will have to wait until 65. Mr Duncan Smith was asked about this early on in his remarks:
"Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Given that the vast majority of the 600,000 people who will be excluded from getting a pension under the raised threshold are women, is the Secretary of State at all worried that the Bill is beginning to look as if it discriminates against women?
Mr Duncan Smith: I recognise the hon. Gentleman’s concern. We are not blind to the issue, but we have decided to strike a balance between making the scheme work from the beginning and avoiding driving people on very low incomes into sacrificing too much and therefore not seeing the rewards. It is important to make the point that in the Green Paper, as the hon. Gentleman will have noticed, we talk about the single tier pension, from which there will be very significant benefits to women. We hope that in due course that will achieve a balance.
I do not dismiss the hon. Gentleman’s considerations. We keep the issue constantly under review and will watch carefully to see what happens. It is important that we get auto-enrolment off the ground in a stable manner. I hope hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise that these are balanced decisions—sometimes nuanced decisions—that we have to take, but we will make sure that we review them."
Mr Duncan Smith was also asked about this specific group of women several times, by Members on all sides, including Conservatives Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) and James Gray (North Wiltshire), as well as Labour's socially conservative welfare reformer, Frank Field. Mr Duncan Smith stood his ground and defended the Government's policy:
In his maiden speech yesterday he noted that there are areas of severe deprivation in his constituency where only 8.1% of pupils achieve 5 GCSEs – and that those pupils can expect to live for nearly 10 years less and to earn an average of £30,000 a year less than those in the more prosperous parts of the seats:
“After 13 years of a Labour Government, this is quite simply a disgrace and should act as a constant reminder to those on the Labour Benches, who have already begun looking back on their time in government as some sort of golden age in which poverty and inequality were abolished. Sadly, the truth is that, under Labour, the poor got poorer while the debt grew bigger. Labour Members will almost certainly be spending the next few years in hysterical opposition, attacking the Government for fixing the mess they created, completely oblivious to the reality that we cannot help the most vulnerable in society by basing the economy on debt. Without wealth creation, we cannot achieve the social justice that we all want.”
He also touched on his own long personal journey to Parliament:
“I was born on a council estate in Cheshire, as the youngest of four children. My father was a wages clerk, but he died when I was young, and my mother worked in a series of local shops and pubs to make ends meet. I left my local comprehensive school with few qualifications and got a job stacking shelves at the local supermarket, but I was fortunate to have the chance to study business at night school, and went on to have a successful manufacturing career working in sales. I should like to think that I was one of those slick salesmen whom the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Gordon Brown) liked to attack on such a regular basis in the last Parliament.
“I have always enjoyed serving my local community, spending four years as a special constable in the Cheshire police and 10 years as a local councillor. I have no idea how long I will serve in the House—that will be up to the people of Weaver Vale—but I hope that if I am to leave this place sooner rather than later, I will be able to help, in a small way, to put the “great” back into Great Britain.”
It should also be noted that the sole Conservative retread of the 2010 intake -Jonathan Evans, who regained Cardiff North for the Tories after a decade in the European Parliament – made his first speech to the House for 13 years in the early hours of this morning, after the late finish of the Second Reading of the Finance Bill.
He secured an adjournment debate to highlight an constituency-related issue: namely, how the methods of enforcement of the Reservoirs Act 1975 are being abused to undermine safety in the case of Llanishen reservoir in Cardiff, which he said “threatens to bring about the destruction of the reservoir itself”.