By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday 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."
By Matthew Barrett
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Guido 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.
By Paul Goodman
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As a former broadsheet Comment editor, I over-estimate the importance of comment pages, both on paper and online. Since the blogs, such as this one, now compete with them, fewer people read them - especially since the rise of the paywall. Then there's TV. Then there's Twitter. Then there's the rest of the new media...
So I declare an interest and a bias. But despite both, I think Fleet Street comment pages, broadsheet or tabloid, help to set the terms of political debate.
By Matthew Barrett
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We know that 91 Tories voted against the Lords Reform Bill last night. That's the big, headline grabbing figure - the biggest rebellion in this Parliament.
By Matthew Barrett
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Robert Halfon, the Member of Parliament for Harlow, and one of the most successful campaigning MPs in Parliament, has organised a motion, backed by 60 MPs from all parties, and including 41 Tories, calling for the Office of Fair Trading to investigate allegations of price-fixing by British oil companies. The full motion is worded as follows:
"That this House urges the OFT to investigate oil firms active in the UK; calls on the Government to consider the emergency actions being taken in other G20 nations to cut fuel prices, for example President Obama strengthening Federal supervision of the U.S. oil market, and increasing penalties for “market manipulation”, and Germany and Austria setting up a new oil regulator, with orders to help stabilise the price of petrol in the country; finally urges the Office of Fair Trading to note that the Federal Cartel Office in Germany is now investigating oil firms active in the UK, after allegations of price-fixing."
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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Keen biker and Hove and Portslade MP, Mike Weatherley, didn't quite get into his leathers today in Brussels, but he did join motorcycling protestors outside the European Parliament. Riders' rights groups have been urging fellow motor cyclists to take part in a day of action against proposed EU regulations. The proposals would force bikers to wear fluorescent clothing, and would not allow any customisation of motorbikes.
Weatherley, who in September led a convoy of bikers in protest into Brighton city centre, said that "for many motor cyclists, tuning, improving and transforming their machines is a large part of the satisfaction of owning a bike. These proposals will ruin that." He stressed that riders were "in favour of responsibility and safety on the roads", but over regulation, and these "intrusive measures"were not the answer. If bikers were forced to wear flurosecent clothing, Weatherley asked where the measures would end:
"Will there be reflective strips on all motor cars, and will all pedestrians have to wear high-visibility jackets every time they walk out to the shops?"
By Jonathan Isaby
Yesterday saw the Second Reading of the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill, a private member's bill being promoted by Labour MP Sharon Hodgson.
The central measure in her bill is a proposal to make it illegal for an unauthorised individual to sell tickets for a sporting or cultural event at a price greater than 10% above face value, when those involved in putting on the event have successfully applied for protection from the unauthorised resale of their tickets.
The Tory MP for Hove, Mike Weatherley, declared his support for the Bill, saying:
"Music and other forms of creative expression are vital to the British economy. I have delivered a number of speeches in the House about the importance of the music industry to the country for overseas earnings and suchlike. The performing arts and sport sustain employment and tax revenues, which benefit all our citizens. There is, however, a blight that creams off revenues by exploiting an imperfect market and contributes nothing to the creative copyright holders. That blight consists of those who profiteer by exploiting excess demand.
"Ticket touts who take advantage of availability do nothing to promote our creative industries, and this is one of those rare examples where the Government need to step in to protect creative persons. There are five conditions for the formation of a perfect market, such as perfect knowledge of alternatives and so on. One of those conditions concerns the availability of supply. That is fine for physical products, which can be increased or decreased according to demand—for example, when manufacturing output is turned up, supply increases and the equilibrium price is found again. However, where supply is based on an individual, it is impossible for the number of hours in the day or the number of days in the year to be increased. A performer cannot be in two places at the same time. An imperfect market is then created, and prices rise due to a shortage of supply.
"The question is whether intermediaries should be able to take advantage of that imperfection against the wishes of those providing the service... My view is that the copyright owner who produces the good, whether it is a concert or a sports event, is the owner and should have control of it for various reasons. There are many reasons why a business might want to price at below full market value—in specific sectors, market penetration is one such reason; reward for loyalty is another. Football is a good example. There is differential pricing in stadiums, but clubs depend on their regular, grass-roots fan base, and this is recognised in the lower prices in certain sections. Many clubs have a young persons’ section at half-price. They could easily charge full-price for that section, but they do not. If the argument of free market enterprise were applied to those tickets, young people would buy them and sell them on at a much higher value, but the club does not want them to resell those tickets at a higher price, as it knows they could, because it wants to encourage a loyal fan base and benefit the community.
"On the face of it, ticket touts provide a free-market service, but scratch a little deeper, and for some events that is a misguided and counter-productive service. The touts are exploiting a market abnormality to the detriment of the wishes of those who put on the event."
But a number of Conservative MPs made clear their opposition to the measure. Here's what Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid had to say:
Thirty-nine pubs are closing each and every week. The all-party save the pub group secured a Westminster Hall debate last week to highlight the problem and discuss solutions. Contributions from MPs are extracted below.
Karen Bradley MP said pubs are socially useful: "The group shares a belief that the British pub is an important part of this country's history and heritage, and that pubs are hugely important to the communities they serve as a focus for community, social, sporting and charitable activity. The traditional public house also provides a sociable and controlled drinking environment, which is important to encourage responsible sociable drinking."
Jack Lopresto MP says the smoking ban should be relaxed: "Overall, the smoking ban has been positive. It has improved the environment of pubs no end, especially for those that rely on serving food as a key part of their business, and it makes for a much more pleasant experience for most people who are non-smokers. It has also made pubs more family friendly. But there needs to be a re-think on having a dedicated smoking area inside buildings, with extractor fans, where no children would be allowed and no food would be served. I realise that this would not be possible in every case, but it would allow many pubs to utilise extra space or even have a smoking bar and non-smoking bar or room/lounge-whatever-and end the practice of smokers being thrown outside in all weathers at any time of day or night, with the problems that can be caused with disturbance to local residents who live close by. That would generate a significant increase in business for pubs that are currently struggling and it could make the difference between a pub staying open or closing."
Thérèse Coffey MP said that pubs should offer diverse services: "We must also encourage other income streams; I think of what is happening with post office essentials. If a pub is open from 11 until 11, there is no reason why one cannot buy stamps and get driving licence forms and so on there. There are also aspects such as the internet hub. We have the digital village pump, and I know that schemes are afoot already to try to ensure that it is near the pub, so that people can use the internet there as well. Of course, we had the endorsement of His Royal Highness Prince Charles in 2001, when he spoke about the pub as the hub. On that note, I raise my glass and toast the future of British pubs. Cheers, everyone."
Here is the latest in our series of Twenty Questions with members of the Class of 2010...
1. What is your earliest political memory? Breaking the Socialist Workers' canteen boycott at University.
2. Complete the sentence: “I’m a Conservative because… I believe in personal freedom"
3. Who is your political hero and why? Sir Keith Joseph. His views on free markets changed my life.
4. When did you decide you wanted to become an MP? 1999 when an article in the local paper asked candidates to come forward for a selection.
5. What is your reading material of choice? Metal Hammer.
6. Who is your favourite political interviewer/presenter on TV or radio? Briony Leyland (BBC South)
7. If you could run any government department, which would it be and why?
Culture, Media and Sport. I have a strong interest in music (passion!), sport (varied and many) and films.
8. Which non-Conservative politician do you most admire? Lembit Opik - not really because of his policies but the way he got notoriety with ease (although if I was to emulate his 'notoriety' I'd prefer it was due to political successes rather than gaffes!).
9. Who would you least want to get stuck with in a House of Commons lift? Gordon Brown.
10. If you were in the US, would you be a Republican or a Democrat? I'd move.
11. What do you enjoy doing to unwind and relax? Listen to very loud rock music.
12. What is your favourite book? Filth by Irvine Walsh.
13. What is your favourite film? One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
14. What is your favourite music? Heavy metal. From Iron Maiden to Bullet For My Valentine.
15. What would be your ideal meal and where would you eat it? Cheese, a good selection of cured hams and wine. At La Cave à Fromage in Western Road, Hove.
16. What is your favourite holiday destination? Rio De Janeiro.
17. What do you most want to achieve during your first term in Parliament? To be the Parliamentary champion of film and music - and locally to build upon Hove's excellent base and start the process of expanding the constituency into a major media and cultural centre.
18. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about yourself. Does a tattoo count? It has the inscription 'Live for the moment'.
19. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about your constituency. Hove was an early pioneer of films - it all started here!
20. Share with us your most amusing story or favourite anecdote from the campaign trail. Can't do one - I'm totally humbled by the huge number of really fantastic people involved in the local community and each has its own story worthy of telling.
> Previously: Chris Kelly MP
Two MPs who were elected at the general election for the same seats that their fathers once represented made their maiden speeches yesterday.
"There was, of course, another Member for Worcester with whom I am very familiar, but as my hon. Friend spoke so eloquently on his behalf in his maiden speech, I shall say only that, as many thousands of constituents have reminded me on their doorsteps, he is a hard act to follow. I owe that Member, my father, my lifelong knowledge of, and deep love for, my constituency and its history, not to mention my support for the once and future premiership rugby team, the Worcester Warriors, and my support—shared with the Governor of the Bank of England—for the cricket team, which has the most beautiful ground in the country."
He then put his political credo in an historic context:
"At the end of the battle of Worcester, the parson of the parliamentary army addressed the troops and said to them:
“Say you have been at Worcester, where England’s sorrows began, and where happily they are ended.”
"I hope that, given the alleged role of Worcester woman in bringing Labour to power over the past 13 years, the same might be said again today.
"The civil war was one of the historic events that gave us the evolved constitution that we have today. Respect for that constitution is one of the things that inspires me in politics, and, despite much tinkering over the past 13 years, there is still much to be defended: the unique position of the Crown; the privileges and stature of this mother of Parliaments in holding the Government to account; the powerful ties that bind Members to their constituencies; and a system of election that is simple, effective and allows for the removal of failed Governments. All those are worth fighting for with the same passion that our ancestors fought on the battlefields of Worcester."
He concluded by recalling the words of his father's maiden speech from 1961:
"The last Walker to speak for Worcester began his maiden speech by saying,
“I hope that if, in the course of my remarks…I make what are considered to be constructive criticisms of the Government’s economic policy, this will not be considered indicative of a person representing a constituency noted throughout the world for its production of sauce.”—[Official Report, 20 April 1961; Vol. 638, c. 1433.]
"I shall be equally ready to make constructive criticisms and to place my constituency at the forefront of my parliamentary career. In the interests of Worcester, I commend the Gracious Speech."
"Previous Members include Andy King and, before that, someone well known to me, since that person is my father—James Pawsey, who was first elected for Rugby in 1979. I know that it is not unusual for a son or a daughter to follow their father here, and there are many examples in the current intake. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), who spoke just before me, as a son following a father into the same seat. My father still has an excellent reputation in Rugby as a hard-working constituency MP. Throughout the time that I was seeking to be elected, many potential constituents spoke to me about how much he has done for the people of Rugby. I have heard many similar tributes from people here since I arrived—colleagues and staff who remember his contributions, particularly in the field of education. Like my hon. Friend, I feel that I have a very tough act to follow."
He went on to voice his belief in the need to back business:
"I have spent 25 years starting, running, managing and building up a business, and I have a good understanding of the challenges that businesses face. We need to recognise more effectively those who create wealth and jobs. Small business is ready to make its contribution, but it needs a work force with the skills and the attitude to roll up their sleeves and play their part. Too often, regrettably, there is insufficient incentive for jobseekers to do that, and I welcome the changes in our welfare system that will put incentives to work firmly back in place. I make no apology for putting the case for manufacturing and for business, particularly small business, and I look forward to doing so in the House over the coming years, in addition to representing all the electors of Rugby, with whom I believe I have a special bond."
“I come to politics from a background in film and music, and I shall channel my passion for each into supporting local talent. It is no secret that Hove is home to a great number of musicians, some of whom are internationally famous, but it is home also to the excellent Brighton institute of modern music. Hove's cinematic past, however, is often overlooked, and it is frequently forgotten that, at the end of the Victorian era, the pioneers of Hove developed techniques that are still in use throughout the world today.
“The distinctive beaches and buildings of Brighton and Hove translate extremely well on to film, and that is why they have featured in countless films over the years. Classics include "Brighton Rock", "Oh! What a Lovely War", "Carry On At Your Convenience", "Carry On Girls" and "Quadrophenia"; and in recent years there has been "The End of the Affair", "Circus", "London to Brighton" and the rather curiously named "Brighton Wok: The Legend of Ganja Boxing".
“Returning to music, I perhaps bring something new to the House in the form of my huge passion for rock and heavy metal. A few years ago I rashly pledged that I would be the first Member to wear an Iron Maiden T-shirt in the Chamber, so, Mr Deputy Speaker, I may be in touch soon to see how I can deliver that promise without breaking too many rules. The benefit of this country's musical success to our economy is often understated. In 2008, for example, overseas earnings rose by 15% to £140 million. I was particularly delighted, therefore, to see a commitment to live music in the coalition policy document.“
“Earlier, I was pleased to hear my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary mention the green agenda, climate change and the need for new energy sources in the future, because all that represents an opportunity for Great Yarmouth… Great Yarmouth can benefit from renewable energy. I believe that I can work with my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) to make Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth an epicentre for renewable energy in our region, as well as in our country and in Europe.
“We in Great Yarmouth already have the experience of working with the offshore oil and gas industries, and the offshore wind farm at Scroby Sands used to be the largest in Europe. A new wind farm is coming, and there is the local potential to exploit marine energy and other renewables because we have the necessary experience and expertise. Most importantly, our phenomenal new outer harbour has created a deep-water port that will allow us to service the industry, not just through facilitating its supply chain when it is built, but by acting as its construction base. I intend to play my part, loudly, in bringing that about. I have already talked to Ministers to ensure that Great Yarmouth gets a really good shot at delivering on some of the opportunities arising from the new energy industry. I want to protect and grow our economy, and to protect and grow energy for our country in the future.”