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:
All eight candidates who attended the hustings listed below have been nominated for the post along with a ninth candidate, Anne McIntosh, the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, who has also put herself forward for chairman of the Defra select committee on Wednesday.Given that one female candidate must be elected, there is now effectively a two-horse race between Anne McIntosh and Labour's Dawn Primarolo for one of the posts - although my understanding is that if one of the Conservative males get sufficient votes to be elected before Anne McIntosh, then Primarolo is elected by default as only one Conservative can win one of the posts.
5pm update: Above are the eight candidates for Deputy Speaker at the Dods hustings currently underway in a Commons Committee Room, along with the meeting's chairman, Graham Brady. Left to right: Roger Gale (Con), Nigel Evans (Con), Lindsay Hoyle (Lab), Marsha Singh (Lab), Graham Brady, Tom Clarke (Lab), Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Con), George Howarth (Lab), Dawn Primarolo (Lab)
Whilst on Wednesday there will be the election of select committee chairmen, tomorrow - between 10am and Noon in the division lobbies - will see another secret ballot, this time for the three Deputy Speakers of the House of Commons.
It is the first time that these position have been elected, and the system will work as follows:
I did not personally take a view on the recent 1922 Committee chairmanship election and will not be doing so for the committee chairmanships on Wednesday, but for this vote tomorrow I am declaring in favour of two candidates and would ask you to lobby your MPs to vote as follows.
I would urge MPs to give their first preference vote to Nigel Evans, who has been Conservative MP for Ribble Valley since 1992 (when he regained the seat from a Liberal Democrat and has increased his majority at every election ever since). This is in no way to denigrate the abilities and talents of the other Conservatives standing, all of whom could do the job well (their names are below), but Nigel is a long-standing friend who I know would serve the House with distinction.
In Parliament Nigel already has experience of chairing debates in Westminster Hall and on Statutory Instruments, as a member of the Speaker's Panel of Chairmen available for such duties: he is without doubt a dedicated parliamentarian. He is both liked and respected on all sides of the House, as demonstrated by the fact that several years ago he was elected by the whole House to serve as the UK Parliament's representative on the International Executive of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. He is a former Conservative Party vice-chairman and shadow cabinet member, but also has experience of cross-party working, as one of three Co-Presidents of the British Youth Council, for example. Nigel also has a great sense of humour, which is invaluable for this kind of role.
I would then urge MPs to give their second preference vote to Lindsay Hoyle, who has been the Labour MP for Chorley since 1997. Like Nigel, he is a real House of Commons man, although he was never promoted from the backbenches by either Tony Blair or Gordon Brown due to his tendency to tell it like it is and publicly challenge the actions of the Labour Government. This sets him out as independent-minded and a backbenchers' champion in a field of Labour MPs who are mostly ex-ministers.
I got to know Lindsay through a joint interest in Gibraltar, when he was one of the very few Labour MPs to vocally oppose the previous government's disgraceful attempt to surrender sovereignty over Gibraltar to Spain. Further to that, he also endears himself to Conservatives since he was again one of the few Labour MPs who voted for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty when Gordon Brown junked that commitment.
We will not have the final list of runners and riders until nominations close at 5pm today, but I understand the following names all to be in the field:
If no further names are nominated, Primarolo would be elected by default as the only female candidate (which is outrageously anti-meritocratic but that's an argument for another day).
> Dods are hosting a hustings, to be chaired by Graham Brady MP, at which the candidates will put their case to fellow MPs at 5pm tonight in Committee Room 12. Any MP wanting to attend should RSVP via email to Dods.
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."
Yesterday the House of Commons had Work and Pensions questions.
Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans asked what can be done to make parents take responsibility for their children:
"Poverty for youngsters is often reinforced when a married couple separates by a missing parent who refuses to take their responsibility. The Child Support Agency is often deficient in chasing the missing parent. What action can the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the CSA takes to make sure that it tracks down missing parents, so that they pay for their own children?
James Purnell: In the past year, the CSA—now the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission—has collected an extra £156 million, but we agree that more needs to be done. That is why we are taking powers in the Welfare Reform Bill to be able to take away people’s passports or driving licences without a court process. That will make things much more speedy. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support that, unlike the Conservative party in the Lords the last time that that was proposed. That is also why we are saying that, where there is a payment, parents should be able to keep all of it and that there should be a complete disregard for child maintenance payments and benefits. We think that that could lift an extra 100,000 children out of poverty."
The new Shadow Secretary of State, Theresa May, put pressure on the Secretary of State over child poverty:
"According to a recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 15 indicators of poverty and social exclusion had worsened in the five years preceding the onset of the current economic downturn, more than double the number in the previous five years. That includes the number of people living in very low-income households. Perhaps it is little wonder that the number of children living in poverty has risen by 100,000 in the past two years. How does the Secretary of State explain the Government’s poor performance?
Mrs. May: Yet again, the Secretary of State is very complacent about his attitude to the issue. Another example of the Government’s complacency is their refusal to end the couple penalty in the tax credit system, which would lift 300,000 children out of poverty. Why will the Government not do that?
James Purnell: The right hon. Lady has no policy of that kind, because she has no way of funding it. The Conservatives used to say that they would fund it out of welfare reform, but now they are not prepared to do as much welfare reform as us. If the right hon. Lady wants to repeat that claim, she will have to find new resources. Hers is a policy without a budget, and I hope that she will not pretend to repeat it."
Update: Brian Binley's EDM had been tabled very shortly before this post was written, and has since attracted lots of signatures.
Early Day Motions are effectively petitions signed by MPs to draw attention to an issue; although they are motions for debate, few actually end up being debated. They can be serious, they can be lighthearted, they are often cross-party, they can be sometimes be unpleasant.
Herewith some recently tabled EDMs from Conservative MPs. Click on the links provided to see who else has signed them.
David Burrowes tabled EDM 2388:
"EXTRADITION OF GARY MCKINNON30.10.2008
That this House notes the accepted practice of the governments of Israel and the Netherlands of requiring assurances from the US Administration prior to their nationals being deported to face trial in the United States in cases involving defendants suffering from medical or mental health disabilities, that those nationals will be repatriated to serve any sentence imposed by the relevant United States court; and urges the Home Secretary not to permit the extradition to the United States of Mr Gary McKinnon of Palmers Green, London, an Asperger's syndrome sufferer charged with computer misuse in the United States, until such time as she receives express assurances from the US Administration that in the event of his being found guilty and sentenced to a term of imprisonment that administration agrees to the immediate repatriation of Mr McKinnon post trial to serve any such sentence in the United Kingdom."
At the time of writing, no-one else has signed Brian Binley's EDM (number 2391) on corporation tax for small businesses:
"SMALL COMPANIES RATE OF CORPORATION TAX30.10.2008
That this House recognises that small businesses across the United Kingdom provide employment to 13 million workers and are facing difficult financial pressures due to the economic downturn; and asks the Government to reconsider its plans for a further 1 per cent. rise in the small companies rate of corporation tax announced in Budget 2007 to take effect from April 2009."
Nigel Evans (incidentally the only MP with the surname 'Evans', which seems statistically surprising) asked about people buying drink on behalf of the underaged:
"Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people were (a) arrested, (b) cautioned and (c) proceeded against for buying or attempting to buy alcohol for someone under age in each of the last three years. 
Mr. Alan Campbell [holding answer 17 October 2008]: The information requested on arrests is not collected centrally. The offence of buying or attempting to buy alcohol for someone under age is not a notifiable offence and does not form a part of the arrests collection.
In relation to those cautioned and proceeded against for the offence of buying or attempting to buy alcohol for someone under age; I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker) on 23 April 2008, Official Report, column 2146W.
Why on Earth will it take the best part of a year to put together data for 2007?!
On the day that seventeen peers sign a letter calling for action to stop deportations to Iran we highlight the two Conservative MPs who have identified themselves with the cause of Mehdi Kazemi through this EDM:
"That this House is concerned by the case of Iranian teenager Mehdi Kazemi who is currently living in Holland; notes reports that Mr Kazemi's boyfriend was forced by Iranian authorities to denounce other gay men, including Mr Kazemi himself; is appalled at reports that Mr Kazemi's boyfriend was then hanged for the offence of homosexuality; believes that Mr Kazemi's life is in serious danger if he were returned to Iran; further notes that the Dutch authorities have rejected Mr Kazemi's appeal for asylum in Holland and are likely to deport him to the UK; believes that the Home Office view that Iran is safe for homosexuals as long as they hide their sexuality is contrary to human rights standards on sexual freedom; and calls on the Government to uphold its asserted position as a supporter of human rights by refraining from sending Mr Kazemi back to Iran and near-certain human rights abuses."
Mark Field MP on non-doms: Essentially, this was a paralysis Budget. There was virtually nothing in the Chancellor's speech that had not already been announced several times over. It is clear that the Government are hoping that the ever-darkening economic clouds will pass soon, but that might be wishful thinking. I want to say a little about the tax on non-domiciles. The watering down of the Chancellor's earlier ill-advised non-dom tax proposal should be welcomed. Retrospective taxation, which seemed to be proposed last autumn, is invariably unjustified, and the intrusive demands for details of overseas earnings and the uncertainty heralded by the Government's draft legislation risked undermining the UK's international competitiveness. I find it somewhat disappointing, however, that the Treasury is now intent on pressing ahead even with this diluted legislation on non-doms.
Nigel Evans MP on tax visibility: I want a future Government—even this Government, if they are brave enough—to ensure that on every product on which tax is paid, that tax is made visible and transparent so that people know when they buy a pint of beer that 73p of the price goes on taxation, or when they buy a litre of petrol that three quarters of the price is taxation. That would mean that people would know exactly how much they were paying in stealth taxes. If people knew the level to which they pay taxes, they would think long and hard about how much money is raised from them and their families, and would take more care about how that money is spent.