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 Tim Montgomerie
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2012 is going to be a big year for Britain on the world stage - with the Olympics and the Queen's Jubilee. The Government has grand plans to use the year to send a big message to the world about a vibrant and open Britain. Jeremy Hunt lifts the veil on these plans in an interview for The Telegraph. The year kicks off at midnight with a much grander than normal new year fireworks display over the Thames.
Tory MP Mark Lancaster has been helping prepare for tonight. Before being elected he worked for his family fireworks firm, Kimbolton Fireworks Ltd. 12,000 fireworks will be launched in a show designed by Darryl Fleming. Last year when Kimbolton ran the show most fireworks were launched from barges and from the London Eye. Tonight - wind permitting - fireworks will also be launched from Big Ben. It's going to be quite something.
Mark is photographed below (centre) with Ian Walker (left) and Paul Narinder (right).
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
By Matthew Barrett
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We reported on the policy content of the Chancellor's Autumn Statement on Tuesday. As well as the content of the Statement, it's worth noting the contributions from Conservative backbenchers in the Commons session that followed it. The Chancellor answered 96 questions in total, so it allowed a large window of opportunity for backbenchers to raise questions or points sceptical of the government's economic agenda - backbenchers could have urged the Chancellor to pursue fiscal consolidation more vigorously, or pressed for a more pro-growth direction, and so on.
However, backbench contributions were overwhelmingly positive. There were, generally, two kinds of question from Tory backbenchers. The first would be positive about measures announced in the Autumn Statement. For example:
"Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the welcome opportunity for private pension funds to invest in infrastructure will also give a good return for those pension funds by unlocking the growth that can come from such infrastructure, particularly in rural areas such as East Anglia?"
Thirteen Conservative MPs - including nine of the new intake - were successful in the Private Member's Bill ballot earlier in the month.
Today sees them formally presenting their Bills for the first time (there won't be any debate at this stage), which are summarised as follows on the parliamentary website:
PUBLIC SERVICES (SOCIAL ENTERPRISE AND SOCIAL VALUE) BILL - Chris White MP (Warwick and Leamington)
"Bill to require the Secretary of State and local authorities to publish strategies in connection with promoting social enterprise; to enable communities to participate in the formulation and implementation of those strategies; to require that public sector contracts include provisions relating to social outcomes and social value."
DAYLIGHT SAVING BILL - Rebecca Harris MP (Castle Point)
"Bill to require the Secretary of State to conduct a cross-departmental analysis of the potential costs and benefits of advancing time by one hour for all, or part of, the year; to require the Secretary of State to take certain action in the light of that analysis."
ESTATES OF DECEASED PERSONS (FORFEITURE RULE AND LAW OF SUCCESSION) BILL - Greg Knight MP (Yorkshire East)
"Bill to amend the law relating to the distribution of the estates of deceased persons."
ANONYMITY (ARRESTED PERSONS) BILL - Anna Soubry MP (Broxtowe)
"Bill to prohibit the publication of certain information regarding persons who have been arrested until they have been charged with an offence; to set out the circumstances where such information can be published without committing an offence."
LEGISLATION (TERRITORIAL EXTENT) BILL - Harriett Baldwin MP (Worcestershire West)
"Bill to require the Secretary of State, when preparing draft legislation for publication, to do so in such a way that the effect of that legislation on England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is separately and clearly identified; to require the Secretary of State to issue a statement to the effect that in his or her view the provisions of the draft legislation are in accordance with certain principles relating to territorial extent."
PLANNING (OPENCAST MINING SEPARATION ZONES) BILL - Andrew Bridgen MP (Leicestershire North West)
"Bill to require planning authorities to impose a minimum distance between opencast mining developments and residential properties."
COINAGE (MEASUREMENT) BILL - Mark Lancaster MP (Milton Keynes North)
"Bill to make provision about the arrangements for measuring the standard weight of coins."
SPORTS GROUNDS SAFETY AUTHORITY BILL - Jonathan Lord MP (Woking)
"Bill to confer further powers on the Football Licensing Authority and to amend its name."
WRECK REMOVAL CONVENTION BILL - Thérèse Coffey MP (Suffolk Coastal)
"Bill to implement the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks 2007."
FACE COVERINGS (REGULATION) BILL - Philip Hollobone MP (Kettering)
"Bill to regulate the wearing of certain face coverings."
PROTECTION OF LOCAL SERVICES (PLANNING) BILL - Nigel Adams MP (Selby and Ainsty)
"Bill to enable local planning authorities to require planning permission prior to the demolition or change of use of premises or land used or formerly used to provide a local service."
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, CRIME AND VICTIMS (AMENDMENT) BILL - Sir Paul Beresford MP (Mole Valley)
"Bill to amend section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 to include serious harm to a child or vulnerable adult; to make consequential amendments to the Act."
SECURED LENDING REFORM BILL - George Eustice MP (Camborne and Redruth)
"Bill to make provision regarding the rights of secured debtors; to reform the rights of certain creditors to enforce their security; to make other provision regarding secured lending."
I have invited them all to write for ConHome explaining why the have chosen to introduce their particular Bill, so I hope to be able to publish some pieces from them in the not too distant future.
Yesterday saw Foreign Office questions.
Shadow Deputy Secretary of State for Wales David Jones and former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind both asked about Iran's nuclear ambitions:
"The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): The International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report of 19 February shows that Iran continues to refuse to suspend its proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities and has not granted the IAEA the access that it seeks as required by five UN Security Council resolutions. We, and the international community, will continue to press for Iran to fulfil its international obligations and restore confidence in its intentions.
Mr. Jones: Does the Secretary of State agree that while President Obama’s recent outreach to Iran is welcome, diplomatic overtures must be backed by a readiness on the part of the United States and the EU to impose such further sanctions as are necessary until such a time as Tehran can demonstrate to the unequivocal satisfaction of the UN inspectorate that it has abandoned its ambitions to develop a military nuclear capability?
David Miliband: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his enunciation of the policy, which I think has support across the House. It is the so-called dual-track policy, which is that we should seek to engage with Iran, that we should make it clear that we have no quarrel with the Iranian people and that the choice of Government in Iran should be a matter for them. However, whatever the Government in Iran, they need to abide by their international responsibilities. If they refuse to do so, there are costs associated with that decision.
The hon. Gentleman is right that there are responsibilities on the EU and the US, but the responsibilities go wider. The international coalition, which is right to fear an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, goes wider than the EU and the US. Russia, China and the Gulf states have responsibilities, too, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would want to join me in working to ensure that they are part of a global coalition against an Iranian nuclear weapons programme.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind: With North Korea, it has proved useful to include its neighbours, Japan and South Korea, in the negotiations to discourage it from going down the nuclear weapons route. Should not Iran’s neighbours, particularly Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, be invited by the Security Council to join the negotiations over Iran, especially as the Iranians need to realise that those three countries might themselves go nuclear if Iran ends up as a nuclear weapons state?
David Miliband: Only up to a point. The multilateral negotiations are not being conducted under a UN framework—the E3 plus 3 is not a UN body, but it is recognised to have a global coalition behind it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman might have an important point, which was at the heart of the E3 plus 3 offer agreed under my chairmanship last May in London. It concerns what will happen in the future if Iran ceases its nuclear weapons programme or restores the confidence of the international community that it does not have a nuclear weapons programme. There are important regional political issues about Iran’s legitimate interests in the region, but no discussion of those issues can take place without the involvement of the countries that he has mentioned."
Former Shadow Cabinet member Nigel Evans (right) posed a question on AIDS in Africa. This issue has been given prominence recently following the Pope's assertion that condoms could make the AIDS crisis worse.
Mr Evans asked:
"Antiretroviral drugs are rightly being made more affordable and generally more available, thanks to the support of the United Kingdom, the United States of America and organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Education is vital important, and we should be focusing some of our attention on prevention. What discussions has the Minister held with his opposite numbers about ensuring that education is made available so that the message about how people can avoid getting HIV in the first place can be communicated, and particularly about trucking routes in some countries, such as India, and in Africa?
Mr. Lewis: The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. The new American Administration’s recent announcement about removing some of the ideological and philosophical barriers that prevented us from engaging internationally on prevention and education presents an opportunity for the world community to come together and make a greater impact. We have announced an unprecedented commitment of £1 billion for the global fund and £6 billion to strengthen health systems, but the hon. Gentleman is right to say that we must look innovatively and imaginatively—perhaps through community leaders, faith group networks, informal networks and peer influence—at educating populations in every country. We have to use all the tools at our disposal to ensure that we get across the strongest conceivable message about HIV/AIDS. I also believe that the South Africans’ change in policy will significantly help us in Africa."
Gary Streeter has held the International Development brief in the past. He asked a bold question on the same subject:
"The Minister, to his credit, is known for his outspokenness. Will he make sure that his international counterparts recognise that confronting the dreadful disease that is HIV/AIDS is not just about access to drugs and condoms, important though those things are? If we are to tackle this disease, we must confront, head-on, the true cause: men behaving in a sexually promiscuous manner in too many countries throughout Africa and elsewhere. Will he impress upon his counterparts the fact that issues of public awareness and education are vital if we are to get under the skin of this disease?
The hon. Gentleman rightly raises the important issue of the role of women in society, and highlights the fact that the way in which men in many developing countries see relationships is a major part of the problem. In that sense, we need strong political leadership to make clear the appropriate role of women in society and to empower women in local communities. We must make it clear that we give them the opportunity to fight for their rights. We also need a very clear zero-tolerance approach to violence against women to be enshrined in developing countries’ legislation."