Mark Spencer MP

28 Mar 2013 13:26:36

Mixed reaction from Conservative MPs to Cameron's micro-shuffle

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By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.

  • Further to Tim Montgomerie's report earlier this morning, Conservative MPs and others are asking whether the main driver of the move was the Liberal Democrats' desire to get Hayes out of DECC - though they will find Michael Fallon no pushover: the very opposite - or David Cameron's wish to get him into Downing Street.
  • If the latter is the case, a further question arises - namely, does the Prime Minister now feel that his position with part of his own party is so troubled as to justify a small reshuffle?  If so, is the move a sign of strength or weakness?
  • As one of the founding members of Cornerstone, the gregarious Hayes is not in a bad position to make overtures to the centre-right of the party.  But he isn't on easy terms with all of it, let alone other parts of the Parliamentary Party.
  • And as the tweets above indicate, there is irritation among some MPs with an interest in energy policy at Hayes being moved out of DECC.  After all, he was moved to that department in order to "deliver our people a win on wind farms" - as Cameron is reported to have told him.

5 Dec 2012 11:09:15

70 Tory MPs vote to repeal the Human Rights Act

By Matthew Barrett
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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" »

22 Oct 2012 15:31:06

Conservative Select Committee appointments announced

By Matthew Barrett
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SelectCommittesGuido 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.

Continue reading "Conservative Select Committee appointments announced" »

14 Sep 2012 14:09:34

The 24 Conservative MPs who are still on the backbenches and have never rebelled

By Matthew Barrett
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After last week's reshuffle of the Secretaries and Ministers of State, and this week's reshuffle of Parliamentary Private Secretaries, it's possible to investigate the state of a dying breed: the backbenchers who've always been loyal. The list below features the Conservative MPs who meet the following criteria:

  • Are not currently on the government payroll (including as PPSs)
  • Were not on the government payroll before the reshuffle (including as PPSs)
  • Have not rebelled against the Government
I've excluded Nigel Evans, who is a Deputy Speaker, and I've noted their constituencies and years first elected. It's also perhaps worth noting Arbuthnot, Dorrell and Yeo are Select Committee chairmen. 
  1. James Arbuthnot (North East Hampshire, 1987)
  2. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk, 2001)
  3. Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury, 1983)
  4. Steve Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire, 2010)
  5. Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley since 1997, MP since 1992)
  6. Aidan Burley (Cannock Chase, 2010)
  7. Neil Carmichael (Stroud, 2010)
  8. Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham, 2010)
  9. Oliver Colvile (Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, 2010)
  10. Stephen Dorrell (Charnwood. 1979)
  11. Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock, 2010)
  12. Charlie Elphicke (Dover, 2010)
  13. Graham Evans (Weaver Vale, 2010)
  14. Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet, 1983)
  15. Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest, 2010)
  16. Rebecca Harris (Castle Point, 2010)
  17. Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne, 2010)
  18. Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke, 2010)
  19. Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock, 2010)
  20. David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale, 2010)
  21. Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham, 2010)
  22. Chris Skidmore (Kingswood, 2010)
  23. Mark Spencer (Sherwood, 2010)
  24. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk, 1983)

Continue reading "The 24 Conservative MPs who are still on the backbenches and have never rebelled" »

2 Jul 2012 20:18:25

34 Conservative MPs write to Andrew Lansley to express "serious concerns" about plain tobacco packaging

By Matthew Barrett
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Lansley2On Friday, 50 MPs, including 34 Conservatives, wrote a letter to the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, expressing their "serious concerns" with the Department of Health’s proposal to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products.

The letter stated that:

"There is no reliable evidence that plain packaging will have any public health benefit; no country in the world has yet to introduce it. However, such a measure could have extremely negative consequences elsewhere. The proposal will be a smuggler’s charter. ... this policy threatens more than 5,500 jobs directly employed by the UK tobacco sector, and over 65,000 valued jobs in the associated supply chain. ... Given the continued difficult economic climate, businesses should not be subjected to further red tape and regulation"

The signatories of the letter also expressed concern about the freedom aspect of blocking any branding of tobacco products:

"...we believe products must be afforded certain basic commercial freedoms. The forcible removal of branding would infringe fundamental legal rights, severely damage principles around intellectual property and set a dangerous precedent for the future of commercial free speech. Indeed, if the Department of Health were to introduce standardised packaging for tobacco products, would it also do the same for alcohol, fast food, chocolate and all other products deemed unhealthy for us?"

Continue reading "34 Conservative MPs write to Andrew Lansley to express "serious concerns" about plain tobacco packaging" »

17 Apr 2012 07:59:19

What is the 40 group? Matthew Barrett profiles the MPs trying to keep hold of the most marginal Tory seats

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).

Continue reading "What is the 40 group? Matthew Barrett profiles the MPs trying to keep hold of the most marginal Tory seats" »

17 Feb 2011 12:50:48

Caroline Spelman formally cancels the forest sell-off consultation: "I am sorry. We got this one wrong."

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By Jonathan Isaby

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Caroline Spelman has just made a difficult statement to the Commons, making a full U-turn on the Government's proposals to sell off some state-owned forests. She announced

  1. The forestry clauses will be removed from the public bodies bill;
  2. The consultation on the forest sell-off - due to have been going on until later in April - has been called off after two weeks, owing to the sheer volume of opposition from the public and MPs;
  3. An independent panel will be set up to consider future forestry policy for England.

Mrs Spelman said that she takes "full responsibility" for the situation and in particular takes the message from this experience that people cherish the forests and woodlands and the benefits they bring. She concluded:

"I am sorry. We got his one wrong. We have listend to people's concerns."

Later on I will try and include some of the reaction from Tory backbenchers.

In the meantime, do read my post from last Friday: Lessons for the Government to learn from the forests fiasco.

5.30pm update:

Nick Watt from the Guardian has already blogged to commend Caroline Spelman's execution of the U-turn and to criticise Labour's spokesman, Mary Creagh, for a laboured and ineffective performance.

He rightly observes that Creagh managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by speakng for far too long and claiming that Labour was the party of the countryside, which prompted Tory MPs all the more to go into bat for Spelman and aid her in attacking Labour's hypocrisy on the issue of forests.

Here's a selection of the contributions from the Conservative backbenches in response to her statement:  

Nick Boles (Grantham and Stamford): The Secretary of State has had the honesty and guts to come here to say that she presented ideas to the British public, but the British public did not much like them, so she said sorry and came up with a new approach. Is it not instructive that that is in such amazing contrast to the behaviour of that lot on the Opposition Benches who, no matter how many acres of woodland they sold and no matter how much gold they sold and at what price, nevertheless ran our economy into the ditch, from which we are trying to dig it out?

Continue reading "Caroline Spelman formally cancels the forest sell-off consultation: "I am sorry. We got this one wrong."" »

26 May 2010 07:00:00

Richard Harrington, Mark Spencer and David Morris are the first of the 2010 Conservative intake to make their maiden speeches

Picture 28 The first of the 148 Conservative MPs of the 2010 intake to make his maiden speech was Richard Harrington, who rose for the first time in the Commons at 5.32pm yesterday, the very first day of the new Parliament.

Aside from paying tribute to his Labour predecessor as MP for Watford, Claire Ward, he began with a little self-deprecating humour:

"I fear I did not make the cut for Cameron’s cuties, so I have to rely on Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail. He referred to my stature in Parliament as broadly equivalent to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Nicholas Soames) and of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr Pickles). However, I think Mr Littlejohn was referring not to political stature but to my girth."

He went on to emphasise the importance of encouraging young people to enter the world of business:

"To me, one of the most important parts of the Government’s programme—this came out in the Queen’s Speech—is providing a business environment where people are incentivised to create employment for others. If I do nothing else in Watford, and in my political career, I would like to be able to do this one thing: I would like to change the attitude to business among young people, together with a Government who are able to give them incentives to fill the empty shops and offices, so that we make business something that people want to do. I have spoken at many schools in Watford, and always to very bright young people. I say to them, “What do you all want to do after university?” but so few of them want to start businesses. It is not fashionable, and it should be. Government can incentivise people, but it is the responsibility of us all to encourage people to go into job-creating schemes.

"The very large number of young unemployed people in this country—1 million—is obviously a scandal, but boiling that down to individuals, I believe that it is the job of Government to facilitate some form of change. I was delighted to hear in the Queen’s Speech that the welfare reform Bill, much of which is based on our election manifesto, is to provide interesting schemes, such as a mentoring scheme for small businesses and sole traders to take in young people and give them a chance."

Two further Conservative maiden speeches followed during the course of yesterday's debate on the Queen's Speech:

Picture 2 Mark Spencer, who gained Sherwood from Labour, began by comparing himself to his constituency's most famous son:

"Like Robin Hood, I have a desire to counter over-taxation, to protect the most vulnerable in society, and to make sure that oppressive government does not bring misery on the people."

He went on to outline his desire to see the promotion of localism and power being passed back down to lower levels, and called for driving without due care and attention to attract a three-point penalty on driving licences. He also welcomed the proposed abolition of regional spatial strategies:

"They have put enormous pressure on the greenbelt in my constituency, and they fill residents with fear. Those people live in villages and towns, but they cannot escape them at rush hour, because of the amount of traffic on the roads. I hope that we can find a method to give local authorities the power to look much more strategically at where they place housing, because there are areas of my constituency that need extra housing, and we would welcome developments not only for younger people who want to live near their families, but for older people who want to stay in their village."

Picture 1 The newly-elected Conservative MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, David Morris, noted that seaside resorts have more than their fair share of social problems:

"Tourism in this country has declined rapidly over the past 20 years, and in its place there is a lot of deprivation. I should like the coalition Government to do something to address areas of deprivation and the fact that sometimes in the forgotten-about coastal areas, social issues slip through the net. I would like to be a champion for the town of Morecambe and its regeneration plans, and I wish to say here and now that I will always fight the corner of the disadvantaged, not just in Morecambe but in all the other areas of the country that have similar problems."

He went on to speak out in favour of nuclear power - "I will always fight the corner of the nuclear power industry... because if we do not, in 10 years’ time the lights will go out" - and welcomed the Coalition's promotion of localism, whilst opposing the siting of wind farms in the middle of areas of outstanding natural beauty in his constituency.

As a candidate who unsuccessfully fought a seat in 2001, he offered his view that William Hague is "the best Prime Minister we never had".

As the rest of the new intake settle in to life in the Commons over the coming days, weeks and months, ConservativeHome will be seeking to highlight their maiden speeches as they make them.

Jonathan Isaby