By Paul Goodman
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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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On 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?"
By Matthew Barrett
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In my series profiling groups of Tory MPs, most groups I've looked at have been mostly or wholly composed of 2010 intake MPs. The next group is bit different, as it was founded more than 25 years ago. The No Turning Back group has a proud history of celebrating and promoting Thatcherism. How is the group doing now? In this profile, I'll be examining what No Turning Back, the backbench group for Thatcherites in Parliament, is doing now.
Origins of the group
No Turning Back was founded in 1985 to defend Mrs Thatcher's free-market policies. The 25 founding members included, amongst others, now-Deputy Chairman Michael Fallon, now-Defence Minister Gerald Howarth, and the late, great Eric Forth.
The name of the group comes from Mrs Thatcher's famous conference speech given in October 1980:
"To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the “U” turn, I have only one thing to say. “You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning.” I say that not only to you but to our friends overseas and also to those who are not our friends."
There are about 100 members of the group, which is chaired by John Redwood, including "quite a lot" from the 2010 intake. Members include such big beasts as John Redwood, David Davis, Bernard Jenkin, Peter Lilley, Lord Forsyth, and Liam Fox. Current Conservative officeholders who are members of the group include the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith; David Cameron's PPS, Desmond Swayne; Nick Clegg's Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Mark Harper; the Minister of State for Transport, Theresa Villiers; a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, Jonathan Djanogly; three government whips, Angela Watkinson, Mark Francois and Greg Hands; the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, Greg Knight; and the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, John Whittingdale, who was Mrs Thatcher's Political Secretary in the late 1980s.
By Matthew Barrett
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Earlier this week I covered some of the Budget debate contributions from backbenchers. On Thursday, other Tory MPs gave their verdicts on the Chancellor's financial plans. I have compiled the best speeches below.
"The family is the backbone of our society, and the issue of child benefit is always difficult. Fairness remains the key, and the original changes proposed caused considerable difficulty. I am pleased that the Chancellor listened to our concerns, and those of constituents, that the proposed changes were not really acceptable. By amending the proposals and tapering the benefit from an annual income of £50,000, some 90% of families will continue to benefit from financial support during these difficult financial and economic times. This Government are listening and changing policies after representations have been made, and that is to the credit of the Chancellor and the Treasury team."
"One of the most remarkable things about the Opposition’s response to this Budget is that we have not heard a single pledge to reverse any of the changes being proposed. We have heard a lot of carping and that they are going to vote against some of the measures on Monday, but they are not actually going to change them should they ever come back to power. When they do carp, they seem to be carping on behalf of some rather strange interests. They want the top 10% of households to keep their child benefit. They want the better-off pensioners to keep their age-related allowances. Indeed, they want the super-rich to go on enjoying some £65 million-worth of evasion of stamp duty and abuse of tax reliefs. That seems to me an extraordinary position for the Opposition to get into."
By Matthew Barrett
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The question of select committee impartiality is raised today by Tom Watson's appointment to the Shadow Cabinet. Although he doesn't have a specific department to shadow, he is the "Labour Party Deputy Chair and Campaign Coordinator", and is listed as an ordinary Shadow Cabinet member - in between the Shadow Secretary for the Cabinet Office, and the Shadow Secretary for Northern Ireland - if Labour's website listing is supposed to designate importance.
Tom Watson's media profile has been considerably raised this year by his participation in the uncovering of the News International phone-hacking scandal. His ability to uncover that news story derives from his membership of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport.
Traditionally, Ministers and Shadow Ministers have not been able to attend Select Committees. Readers of Chris Mullin's diaries will recall his dilemma at choosing a Ministerial position over being Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee (and often regretting his decision).
by Paul Goodman
Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) returned to Labour's debt legacy -
"The shadow Chancellor was wrong blindly to dismiss what is happening in the gilt markets. I read the yield curve this morning, just as he did, and it is clear that 10-year gilts yields are low at the moment. If the market believed that the Government’s debt reduction plan was going to change, those yields would undoubtedly rise and the cost of borrowing would rise substantially from £120 million a day, ruling out any prospect of more of the things that we really want to spend public money on. Labour Members shouted out, “Too fast, too deep,” yesterday, but they should remember that there are risks involved, and that theirs is an equally dogmatic strategy.
The shadow Chancellor, in contending today that the changes were too fast and too deep, once again relied on the Keynesian multiplier. He is an eminent economist, and he should know better than to rely too heavily on that mechanism. It has traditionally held out the prospect that public sector investment has an impact on the private sector, so there could be an element of crowding out and of limiting of growth potential. If the right hon. Gentleman has read the recent academic research, however, he will also know that the size of the multiplier in the growth phase of an economy is about a third of the size of the multiplier when an economy is going into recession. To rely on that thesis is therefore to rely on a very weak economic mechanism."
Sam Gyimah (East Surrey) drew on his business experience -
The hon. Member for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson) mentioned bank lending, but fast-growing companies’ revenues are often volatile and their cash flows can be unpredictable. Banks do not want to lend to them, so we need to be able to create an environment for equity lending. One thing we know in the UK is that, if people want to raise amounts below £2 million, they find it incredibly difficult to do so. Such risk capital, however, encourages businesses to take a risk—to take on the new plant, to hire new staff—so it is great that there are so many changes to the enterprise investment scheme in “The Plan for Growth”.
Increasing relief to 30% means that someone who is going to invest in a business knows that they can offset 30% of their investment against tax. It will encourage people to take sensible risks and invest in those companies that will drive growth. Raising the relevant annual limit to £1 million and to £10 million per company means that companies can seek capital from high net-worth and private individuals, not just from institutions. Anybody who is involved in small businesses knows that people often rely on friends and family to support their business in its early stages, so it is good to see the Government backing those who are ready and willing to take such risks.
Raising the limit on qualifying companies to 250 employees means that the measure will apply not just to start-up companies, where the failure rate can be quite high, but to well-established companies that need capital to grow. I would like to see what more the Government can do to allow connected persons to enjoy such tax reliefs, because connected persons—directors—cannot enjoy them at the moment, and that is where businesses get much of the expertise that they need. By making investment in small businesses easier, the Budget recognises and encourages people who are willing to take risks."
And Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) also spoke about business -
"The most exciting aspect of yesterday’s Budget was the direction of travel the Chancellor set in respect of the conditions for business that he wants in Britain, because growth will ultimately be achieved through the individual efforts of business leaders, not through Government. The 2% cut in corporation tax signals to companies that Britain is once again open for business. It is now clear to every potential investor, in the UK and overseas, that this Government are committed to putting in place the best corporation tax rates in the G20 by the end of this Parliament. Overnight, global companies such as WPP have said that that will make a difference to their decisions on where to invest. That is great news.
The Budget also encourages those who want to set up a business to go for it. It contains a big nudge from the Government for people to give entrepreneurship a go. There is a golden carrot to dangle before those thinking of taking a risk: a 10% capital gains tax rate up to £10 million. The profit motive is a motivator, and the Budget clearly says, “If you believe in your business, take the risks and are successful, you will be much better off financially.” Therefore the message is, “Unless you’re a cracking singer or can dance like the Business Secretary, forget `The X Factor’ and `Strictly’; this Budget gives you a golden ticket to join start-up Britain.”
The moratorium on new legislation for small businesses with fewer than 10 employees will be a big relief for entrepreneurs, who need to be fully focused on jobs and growth rather than the latest wheeze from Whitehall. When I was a small business owner, dealing with employment law took more time than any other management responsibility. Employment laws and regulations have been piled on British business since 1997."
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks), a Party Deputy Chairman and Select Committee member, decided to make constituency points to illustrate his general ones -
I am struck in my constituency by how many companies succeeded in growing even under the previous Government, without direct subsidy or specific grants. I visited three recently. The Sevenoaks energy academy, which I had the honour of opening last year, trains hundreds of engineers in renewable energies, providing courses in fitting solar panels, rainwater harvesting and so on. One of Sevenoaks's most dynamic business women, Julie Walker, made a £1.5 million investment in that academy, and I welcome that.
Michael Fallon: I will not, if the hon. Gentleman will excuse me. Secondly, Vine Publishing is a new media company in my constituency, which is heavily involved in all kinds of print and digital work. Its turnover now approaches more than £3.25 million and it employs 12 people. It was founded by three entrepreneurs, who dropped out of university because they preferred to go into business.
Thirdly, I attended the opening of the Ideal Waste Paper Company this month. It has built a major new recycling facility at Swanley-a £14 million investment, creating 60 new jobs and recycling more than 250,000 tonnes a year.
Those are examples of companies of the future, in the new technologies, the new energies and the new media. We should all ask ourselves how we get more of them. Of course, getting the long-term climate is right, but we must also address how to make it easier for people to set up such companies."
As did Jessica Lee (Erewash) -
"I was particularly delighted to hear the announcement about the establishment of an enterprise zone for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. My constituency is right in the heart of that area, and I will do my best to ensure that we are its beating heart; I will fight for an appropriate level of investment. We also have some of the centres of innovative manufacturing that were announced yesterday, at Loughborough university and the university of Nottingham. Again, many young people in my constituency could benefit from that training and help, and I will do all I can to make those facilities available to them.
The enterprise zones will follow the structure set out in the local enterprise partnerships. We were lucky to have a strong LEP application for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire from the outset, and it was one of the first to be accepted. That group is already taking great steps towards being up and running, so that it can take in bids and bring in investment and jobs. I think that the enterprise zone will assist in that even further.
Finally, the freezing of council tax will benefit hard-working families in my constituency. We are lucky in Erewash because this is the second year running in which the borough council has frozen council tax. That will really help people."
By Paul Goodman
Peter Hoskins has posted a brief account on the Spectator's Coffee House site about this morning's Treasury Select Committee appearance by George Osborne. The Chancellor promised to allow the committee to approve his proposed new appointments to the Office of Budget Responsibility - thereby giving them the power to veto his suggestions if they wish.
I left the Commons largely because I believed it was changing for the worse. So it's right to acknowledge that in some ways the place is getting better. The cross-party election of Select Committee Chairman has been a democratic revolution. MPs from previous Parliaments especially told me that they've found canvassing support from political opponents a liberating experience - as they line up with them as legislators to hold the Executive to account.
I wondered earlier this week here whether Labour MPs would use the Select Committee elections to make life difficult for David Cameron.
They didn't. Instead, they lined up behind the Conservative establishment candidates. Andrew Tyrie took the Treasury Select Committee; Richard Ottaway, Foreign Affairs (a big, big consolation prize, after his defeat in the 1922 Committee Chairmanship election); James Arbuthnot, Defence; Stephen Dorrell, Health; Tim Yeo, Climate Change. Anne McIntosh, who won the Environment Committee, leans towards the left of the Party.
I didn't, of course, see anyone cast a ballot paper. But unless Conservative MPs turned out en masse to vote against the Party's right - an unlikely course of action, given the '22 Executive results - Liberal and Labour support for less spiky candidates provides the only comprehensible explanation of the results.
It would be unfair to view the victors as patsies. Tyrie, in particular, has a track record of independent-mindedness. But ask yourself whether Cameron Towers would prefer the winners to, say, Patrick Mercer at Defence or Peter Bone at Health (let alone Nadine) or Philip Hollobone at Climate Change, and there's only one answer.
Bernard Jenkin and Chris Chope are both seen as men of the right. But Chope's used the Chamber to launch independent-minded assaults on establishment causes, and it's noticeable that he lost out in the tussle for the Public Administration Committee Chairmanship.
John Whittingdale at Culture and Greg Knight at Procedure, both No Turning Back Group stalwarts, are in unopposed. Graham Stuart won what should have been, even if it wasn't, a close-fought battle for the Education Committee.
As most readers know, the Select Committee Chairmanships have been carved out among the parties, and tomorrow's elections for the posts will be cross-party. So Conservative MPs, for example, can vote for Labour candidates, and vice-versa. Jonathan has a list of those standing here.
A question follows: on what basis will Labour MPs vote for the Conservative candidates? Answer: it depends. Some will support the best candidate. Others will vote for the Conservative candidate seen to be the more left-wing of the two.
Such is the attachment on the Labour benches to climate change orthodoxy, for example, that large number of the Party's MPs are likely to line up behind Tim Yeo, the establishment candidate for the Energy and Climate Change committee.
In other cases, however, Labour MPs will surely ask: who's the candidate more likely to cause David Cameron trouble? Or, if they've a more elevated turn of mind: who's the candidate more likely to stand up for the legislature against the executive?
In some cases, it's hard to tell. For example, both candidates for the Treasury Select Committee Chairmanship, Michael Fallon and Andrew Tyrie, are independent-minded. But in others, it's easier to see who'd be more likely to give Downing Street a fit of the heebie-jeebies.
Step forward, then, Peter Bone - standing for the Chairmanship of the Health Select Committee - John Baron, contesting Foreign Affairs (Baron pursued Ministers energetically about Iraq during the last Parliament) and, in the Defence Select Committee poll, no fewer than three of the candidates: Julian Lewis, Patrick Mercer and, above all, Douglas Carswell (one half of the Carswell-Hannan "Cannon" dynamic duo).
If Carswell in particular wins (an unlikely event, but you never know), expect senior officials in the Ministry of Defence to start screaming and screaming, and be unable to stop...
So if any of the above are elected, take a long, hard look at the Labour benches for those responsible.
Official disclaimer: nothing in this article is to be read as an endorsement of any candidate, in any election, at any time, anywhere...
Joint endorsements from Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome and Will Straw of LeftFootForward.
"Who will Chair the House of Commons Select Committees that hold ministers and their departments to account? For the first time ever the Whips won’t decide. Those wanting to chair the 23 committees are having to stand for election. They will only win those elections if they win support from MPs in all parties. This democratic mandate will give the Select Committees new authority and independence from the party hierarchies. It is a very welcome and overdue development that strengthens the power of the House of Commons relative to the executive.
In one small way of communicating the importance of these elections we have come together as editors of ConservativeHome and LeftFootForward to endorse four candidates – two Conservative MPs and two Labour MPs. We believe these candidates represent the spirit of this constitutional innovation. Candidates of independent mind. Candidates who enjoy cross-party support. And candidates who have command of their briefs.
On the Tory side we endorse Michael Fallon as candidate for the Treasury Select Committee. As Deputy of the TSC for the last eight years he has developed a reputation for tough, insightful questioning. The four members of the committee who are still in Parliament but not standing themselves are backing Fallon because they know that with previous Chair – Labour’s John McFall - Fallon established the high reputation of this most important of all the Select Committees. Those members are Andy Love and John Mann from Labour; John Thurso from the Liberal Democrats and Conservative MP, Graham Brady. With an inexperienced team inside HM Treasury, Fallon’s constancy of service and familiarity with the issues will provide some important balance.
Our second Conservative endorsement is more controversial. We endorse Douglas Carswell for the very simple reason that he will challenge the defence procurement industry. Over a number of years, defence contracts have been running massively over budget and over time. At a time when spending cuts are going to be necessary it is vital that procurement is reformed so that taxpayers get better value for money and our armed forces get better equipment. Carswell has a solid record of challenging his own party leadership and the Commons authorities. His independence of mind would make him a very bold choice.
On the Labour side we endorse Keith Vaz to maintain his chairmanship of the Home Affairs Select Committee. His continuity of service in one of the most difficult areas of government will be useful to policy scrutiny in the Parliament ahead whilst his strong network within the BAME community and experience in foreign affairs gives him valuable insight into the most challenging of policy issues from immigration to counter-terrorism.
For the Public Accounts Committee we endorse Labour's Margaret Hodge. With experience in four government departments and 20 years of local government service before that she is well placed to hold ministers and officials to account. As the government faces difficult choices on public spending her strong record of cross-party co-operation will be invaluable in examining government spending decisions with the taxpayers interests in mind, rather then the perspective of mere party political advantage.
Regrettably Margaret Hodge is one of only five women (out of 44 applicants) standing to be a select committee chair. While she stands on her own merits, this is another reason for our endorsing her."
Last week it emerged that Conservative MPs will chair twelve of Parliament's select committees, with those influential chairmanships being decided by ballots of all MPs from across the Commons next week.
This morning's Times reports on the battle to chair one of the most important committees, the Treasury Select Committee. We are apparently set to see Michael Fallon (pictured), the deputy chairman and senior Conservative on the committee in the last Parliament, likely to be challenged by Andrew Tyrie, who has also served on the committee and is a stalwart of several Ken Clarke leadership campaigns.
Nominees need the public backing of 15 MPs from their own party and at least 5 from other parties in order to run.
The Times suggest that Michael Fallon already has the backing of all other members of the committee from the last Parliament (bar Mr Tyrie), suggesting that he has broad support from across the House; but supporters of Mr Tyrie, a Tory moderate, claim he too would be well positioned to gain support from across the Commons.
Nominations do not need to be submitted until next Tuesday, so there will be doubtless much informal campaigning and collecting of signatures for all these posts when MPs return form their mini-Whitsun recess tomorrow.
Watch this space for more news.
The Telegraph's Jonathan Isaby notes how the government were defeated in this vote on Friday because they wrongly calculated that the vote would be inquorate if they didn't actively vote against it.
I am grateful for the wide support that the Bill has received, not only from my co-sponsors from all parts of the House, but from those councils at the forefront of good energy practice, the Local Government Association and our energy industry, which is ready and willing to help meet the challenge of climate change.
This is not a big Bill, but it does one important thing: it will enshrine in law, I hope, the so-called Merton rule, which I shall describe in more detail. Back in 2003, the London borough of Merton adopted in its local planning documents the policy that, for new developments, at least 10 per cent. of the new energy required must come from renewable or low-carbon sources on or near that development. The aim was to reduce the amount of energy that had to be brought in from miles away and to encourage microgeneration and more energy-efficient buildings, which would use less energy in the first place.
The Bill therefore gives Merton-style planning policies statutory protection. I should emphasise that it does not compel other councils to follow Merton, although around 100 are doing that. I should add—perhaps because the ghost of our late colleague Eric Forth seems to haunt this place on Fridays—that the Bill does not compel anybody to do anything. What it does is to put on the statute book the ability of a council to adopt a Merton-style policy, if it wants to do so. Without the Bill, councils will be left uncertain as to whether the policies that they adopt will remain legal."
More from Hansard here.
Having recently topped the Private Members' Bill ballot Michael Fallon MP has decided to use his slot to encourage renewable energy at a local level:
"I want to see councils leading the fight against climate change. This Bill enables them to reach beyond the minimum standards set by government. It encourages localism."
His Planning and Energy Bill will be introduced in the Commons tomorrow. It will enable local authorities to set renewable and low carbon energy targets for new development, reinforcing the "Merton rule" under which over 100 councils have followed the London Borough of Merton in setting onsite renewable energy targets for new housing.
John Gummer and Michael Jack have sponsored the Bill, as well as several non-Conservatives including former Energy Minister John Battle and LibDem leadership contender Chris Huhne.
Julian Brazier and Stephen Crabb will also have the opportunity to propose legislation in the near future.
Sevenoaks Tory MP Michael Fallon has the best hope of introducing backbench legislation after finishing top of the Private Members' Bill ballot. Julian Brazier was the next best-placed Conservative and then Stephen Crabb. Via ePolitix.com, here is the full list:
Full ballot results:
Wikipedia explains PMBs here.