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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Conservative Friends of Israel is an influential affiliate group of the Conservative Party which contains perhaps the largest number of Conservative MPs of any group in Parliament. It exists to promote understanding of and support for the State of Israel in the Conservative Party, and its membership reaches the highest echelons of power, including the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. In this profile, I examine its origins, membership, role, and activities.
Origins of the group
Conservative Friends of Israel (CFoI) is the oldest group of Conservative MPs I have profiled so far: it was founded by Michael Fidler, who was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bury and Radcliffe between 1970 and the October 1974 election. After losing his seat, he decided to focus on building a pro-Israel group within the Conservative Party - there had been a Labour Friends of Israel group since 1957 - so Fidler launched CFoI in 1974, and served as its National Director.
Sir Hugh Fraser served as the first Chairman of CFoI, from 1974. Sir Hugh was a Conservative MP of the old school: after a distinguished military intelligence career in the Second World War, he entered Parliament in 1945, and he missed out on being Father of the House to James Callaghan in 1983 by only a few days. Sir Hugh had an interest in oil and the Middle East and served a number of positions in the War and Colonial Offices, before entering Cabinet as the Secretary of State for Air in 1962. He might be best known to some readers as the outsider candidate who came third in the 1975 party leadership contest, behind Mrs Thatcher and Edward Heath, gaining only 16 votes.
By Matthew Barrett
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My series profiling the backbench groups of Tory MPs has so far mainly featured groups founded or mostly composed of 2010 intake MPs. Last time, I looked at the Thatcherite No Turning Back group, founded in the 1980s. This week's group is somewhere between the two. The Cornerstone Group is the main group whose defining mission is to represent socially conservative Members of Parliament. The group was formed in 2005, and presented some challenges for David Cameron's leadership. In this profile, I'll see how the group is doing now.
Origins of the group
Cornerstone was founded by Edward Leigh and John Hayes, who still chair the group. Leigh has been the MP for Gainsborough since 1983, and is a former Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry, who was sacked for his opposition to Maastricht, and John Hayes, who has been the MP for South Holland and the Deepings since 1997, and the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning since 2010.
Cornerstone admired the work done during Iain Duncan Smith's time as leader to promote a more communitarian, Burkean conservatism, and wanted to ensure IDS' work on this front was carried on.
When the group launched formally in July 2005, it released a pamphlet, which criticised Michael Howard's election campaign for being too quiet about tax cuts, public service reform and family values. Strongly condemning the personality politics and liberalism of New Labour, Leigh wrote:
"We believe that these values must be stressed: tradition, nation, family, religious ethics, free enterprise ... Emulating New Labour both lacks authenticity and is unlikely to make us popular. We must seize the centre ground and pull it kicking and screaming towards us. That is the only way to demolish the foundations of the liberal establishment and demonstrate to the electorate the fundamental flaws on which it is based."
The group first exerted its influence during the 2005 leadership contest. A group of about twenty Cornerstone supporters interviewed David Cameron, David Davis and Liam Fox. Fox apparently put in the best performance, while David Davis was, reportedly, not able to take criticism well. This meeting, combined with David Davis' alienating stint as the Minister for Europe under Major, and Davis' reluctance to support Iain Duncan Smith's compassionate conservatism programme wholeheartedly, is thought to be why many Cornerstone supporters first voted for Fox, and then switched to Cameron.
Here is the latest in our series of Twenty Questions with members of the Class of 2010...
1. What is your earliest political memory? My parents being helped by the late Selby MP, Michael Alison in the early seventies.
2. Complete the sentence: “I’m a Conservative because… of the values that I grew up with. Personal responsibility. Family. Opportunity for everyone regardless of upbringing. It is also the Party that genuinely believes in giving people more power and control over their lives."
3. Who is your political hero and why? Margaret Thatcher, for reversing our nation’s decline of the late 1970s.
4. When did you decide you wanted to become an MP? Just after selling my first business in 1999.
5. What is your reading material of choice? Selby Times & Post, Yorkshire Post, The Press, Guido Fawkes and ConservativeHome obviously.
6. Who is your favourite political interviewer/presenter on TV or radio? Harry Gration (from BBC's Look North)
7. If you could run any government department, which would it be and why? DCMS. Putting the Olympics to one side, DCMS can play a major part in promoting economic recovery through the creative industries and tourism.
8. Which non-Conservative politician do you most admire? Kate Hoey.
9. Who would you least want to get stuck with in a House of Commons lift? For very different reasons, it’s a toss up between Dennis Skinner and Cyril Smith.
10. If you were in the US, would you be a Republican or a Democrat? Republican.
11. What do you enjoy doing to unwind and relax? Playing cricket, theatre and rock concerts.
12. What is your favourite book? Penguins Stopped Play by Harry Thompson.
13. What is your favourite film? Most things with Jack Black in but in particular Nacho Libre.
14. What is your favourite music? Green Day, best live band in the world.
15. What would be your ideal meal and where would you eat it? Breakfast at Sandy Lane.
16. What is your favourite holiday destination? Italy.
17. What do you most want to achieve during your first term in Parliament? To be a hard working and effective advocate for my constituents and play a part in helping the Government begin to reverse thirteen years of Labour waste and failure.
18. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about yourself. I once played the part of Kenickie in the musical Grease. The video evidence is safely locked away.
19. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about your constituency. King Henry I (reigned 1100 – 1135) was born in Selby c.1068.
20. Share with us your most amusing story or favourite anecdote from the campaign trail. My Lib Dem opponent emailing a voter and telling him that he should vote Conservative (as featured on ConHome).
> Previously: Andrea Leadsom MP
After my name was drawn 18th in the ballot to introduce a Private Members’ Bill, I was inundated with suggestions for the topic of my Bill and I had a few ideas of my own.
I was also keen to ensure that my constituents had a say in the focus of the Bill and so I placed an appeal in the local press and on my website, for constituency-related ideas or concerns.
The issue of the protection of local services, championed by the Campaign for Real Ale and its members (CAMRA) was by far and away the most popular suggestion and so I arranged a meeting with representatives from CAMRA to discuss the details of the Bill and how to take it further. My constituency of Selby and Ainsty is a brewing constituency, with many breweries in and around including John Smith’s in Tadcaster and so, despite this Bill focusing not just on pubs but on all local services, I could immediately see the relevance for my constituents.
The short title I came up with is the Protection of Local Service (Planning) Bill and it would give local planning authorities in England the power to “opt in” to protect local services from conversion to another use or demolition without the need for a developer to apply for and be granted planning permission. Local services include but are not limited to pubs, post offices, community buildings, open spaces and local shops as defined in accordance with the Sustainable Communities Act 2007.
I was particularly attracted to this topic because the Bill aligns itself with the underlying principles of the localism agenda by giving control of their communities back to the local people, in this case a greater control of the planning system.
I believe this Bill would be an important piece of legislation because local services play a large part in community adhesion, particularly in smaller communities such as many of the rural populations in my constituency. Local services can strengthen community life by providing a space for people to meet with others and participate in community events, all of which contributes to healthy, sustainable, prosperous and vibrant local communities.
At present, a loophole in the current planning system allows unlisted and freestanding premises used to provide such local services to be demolished without the need to seek planning permission and leaving Councils and local people powerless to act in order to save valuable and, in some cases, well used local community amenities. CAMRA also informed me that it is also possible to convert pubs into restaurants, cafes, financial service offices or shops without the need for planning permission because these are classed in the same use bracket. Currently, it is entirely possible for developers to react to a refusal of planning permission or the possibility of a historic listing by simply demolishing the building and, therefore, extinguishing the previous “use” of the premise.
This aim of this Bill is to close this loophole in the planning system, meaning that local people will have a greater say in the fate of their local services and community buildings – demolition and changes of use would still be possible, but not without the consent and planning authority officially required.
New legislation is urgently required to protect local services from such demolition or change of use without proper consideration and such legislation would benefit communities such as those in my constituency and empower local people by reinforcing their voice. The loss of local services is exacerbated by a planning system that currently fails to adequately protect them. This Bill would have significant impact on local communities, employment and valued local services but it does not represent a significant financial or administrative burden on local authorities because of the “opt in” nature of the Bill.
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.
Maiden speeches are often used by MPs to speak up for local industries in their constituencies.
Here are three such example from this week:
"Aberconwy is a diverse constituency. It is dependent on tourism, with Llandudno, which I have mentioned, the queen of Welsh resorts, in the centre of the constituency, and locations such as Conwy with the castle of Edward I, Llanfairfechan and Betws-y-Coed in the Snowdonia national park. There is no doubt that tourism is an important industry within the constituency. Agriculture, on the other hand, has seen a decline during the past 10 years. The agriculture industry, which is centred on the market town of Llanrwst in my constituency, is in need of support.
"While I am in the House, I will try to support the tourism industry and ensure that it is not seen as a Cinderella industry. In our part of Wales it is crucial to creating employment and retaining young people in the area. In the same way, we need to develop the food sector and the food industries by working with farmers and the agriculture sector. I would like to see the development of real opportunities for businesses to be created in the food sector in my constituency."
"We desperately need to support the brewing industry that is so vital to Burton. We have seen a haemorrhaging of pubs, and of the strength of the brewing community, as a result of 13 years of the last Government. I hope that the new coalition will act to right that wrong as well. Tony Blair told us that the late-licensing laws would usher in a café culture, but that is certainly not what we are finding in Burton, where in just a few weeks there have been a fatal stabbing and two brutal beatings—all as a result of people spilling out of late-night drinking establishments.
"I hope that the new coalition Government will do something for the brewing industry and the people of Burton, and tackle our late-licensing problem. I also hope that they will introduce measures to prevent below-cost selling in supermarkets. We are seeing too many young people drinking in parks, and going out to drink when they have already consumed too much alcohol.
"Finally, I hope that the Government will introduce the “smart taxes” that were proposed in our manifesto. The last Government, with a Scottish Chancellor, did very well for the Scottish whisky industry. I believe that our proposals to tax the bad and reduce the taxation on low-strength alcohol will help to tackle binge-drinking, and also to support the brewing industry in Burton."
"The Selby and Ainsty seat does its bit for energy production with two large coal-fired power stations: Drax and Eggborough. Drax alone provides 7% of the UK’s electricity needs. It has plans to build three new large-scale dedicated biomass plants alongside the co-firing facility at its existing coal-fired station, which could result in Drax becoming responsible for supplying at least 15% of the UK’s renewable power and up to 10% of total UK electricity. The total renewable capacity could be enough to power 2 million homes, which is the equivalent output of 2,000 wind turbines."
He also outline his opposition - like Chris Heaton-Harris before him - to onshore wind farms:
"Regular readers of the Selby Times and The Press in York—I am sure that there are many of those in the House this afternoon—will be aware that in the seat there are several controversial applications, including for onshore wind farms and incinerators, which are causing great concern to local residents. A total of 30 turbines are in planning, each over 400 feet high and taller than power station cooling towers. More are being scoped by developers. If all the applications go ahead, the landscape of our district will be blighted by a forest of windmills that will do little to meet our desire to reduce carbon emissions. I agree that wind power should play a part in a mix of renewable sources, but it would be a better idea to install them where the wind blows fairly regularly: offshore."