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 Tim Montgomerie
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A number of Tory MPs led by Damian Collins have come together to propose a new industrial strategy for Britain. Mr Collins explains how the approach recommended by him and his colleagues is different from the industrial strategy of the 1970s and also a mythical laissez-faire policy:
"The industrial strategy of the 1970s saw Governments give direct financial aid to failing industries in order to protect jobs. Here people were in effect being paid to build cars that customers didn’t want to buy. That approach was unsustainable and it was in time new ownership, leadership, design, innovation and the commitment of the workforce that ultimately saved businesses like Jaguar and Land Rover from the state run motor industry. 21st century industrial strategy is not just about identifying where direct financial assistance can help accelerate the development of a business or economic region, as we are seeing in the Government’s strategy for enterprise zones and the regional growth fund. This has also been important in the development of new economic clusters, like Tech City, where Government support has acted as a catalyst for private enterprises to bring in much greater levels of investment. In addition to this we have to ensure that our tax and regulatory environment helps UK firms that are competing in a global economy to thrive. This is why, for example, the tax credits announced in the last budget for the production of high end television series, animation and video games were so important. Despite the UK having some of the best practitioners in the world, we were losing business to other countries that could undercut us on price significantly because they offered tax incentives to investors."
By Joseph Willits
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In a statement to the Commons yesterday, immediately after PMQs, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander talked of a "generous offer" being made by the Government to reform public service pensions. Alexander said he had "decided to revise the government's offer after negotiations with the TUC, since early October, and with recommendations from the Secretaries of State for Education and Health.
Alexander described the offer as "conditional upon reaching agreement" but believed it "should be more than sufficient to allow agreement to be reached with the unions". It was Alexander's hope, he said that "on the basis of this offer, the Trade Unions will devote their energy to reaching agreement not on unnecessary and damaging strike action".
Alexander announced an increase to the cost ceiling of pensions:
"Future schemes will now be based on a pension to the value of 1/60th of average salary, accruing for each year worked. That is an 8% increase on the previous offer ... A teacher with a lifetime in public service with a salary at retirement of £37,800 would receive £25,200 each year under these proposals, rather than the £19,100 they would currently earn in the final salary Teachers' Pension Scheme. A nurse with a lifetime in public service and a salary at retirement of £34,200 would receive £22,800 of pension each year if these reforms were introduced, whereas under the current 1995 NHS Pension Scheme arrangements they would only get £17,300."
“The space industry is a growing area. That is why it is vital for UK prosperity. There is a multitude of economic opportunities. The industry has grown four times the average since 2000. It adds £6.5 billion to the UK economy annually. My own company, Tektronix, in Bracknell makes sophisticated measurement gear for satellites. The key point is that the industry is growing. Why is it growing? It is because we are the best at it. We have to be the best in this global economy. We also need to anticipate the direction of technological demand in the world.
“It is not just about the economy. The industry also benefits education. It inspires innovation. It inspires generations of scientists and engineers. In one poll of engineers, almost 40% cited it as the reason that they went into their chosen career. It also helps us with the environment, an issue that I am very interested in. It allows us to assess man’s impact on the natural world. It also offers solutions, one example being the transfer of data into space, getting rid of terrestrial-based masts that are so energy dependent.
“The industry is also strategic. It underpins critical parts of infrastructure. It allows Government to have intelligent ways of formulating transportation plans. It is hugely important in defence, of course, and it aids our ability to wield soft power in the world.
“Space is indispensable; that is basically what I am saying. It is an open goal for us. We should be shooting at it repeatedly. The sky is not the limit when it comes to the space industry. It offers a new economy, a green economy that offers real returns, and a niche market that depends more on knowledge than on labour, which is relevant when competing with China, India and Brazil.”
He concluded his Commons debut by summarising his motivations for entering politics:
“People who come in here should want to make this country a better place. I want to put Britain first. I do not want to be part of a Government who manage decline. One way of doing that is by having a strong high-tech sector. Government’s role is to reduce tax and regulation and thereby stimulate an increase in scientific knowledge. I have no idea how long I have in this House. That is up to the people of Bracknell constituency to decide, but when I leave I hope that I will have contributed to putting the “Great” back into Great Britain.”