Sajid Javid MP

6 Sep 2013 13:15:39

Sajid Javid says he’d “embrace the opportunities” that leaving the European Union would bring

By Peter Hoskin
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SJDid you ever hear about the Exeter Mafia in Conservative politics? David Burrowes, Sajid Javid, Robert Halfon and this site’s founder, Tim Montgomerie, were all contemporaries at that city’s university.

Anyway, the reason I mention it is that one of their number, Sajid Javid, has been interviewed by Paul Waugh for the latest issue of the House Magazine. I’d recommend you read the whole thing for an insight into the workings of this risen-yet-still-rising member of the 2010 intake, but one passage stands out:

“The minister is also a noted Eurosceptic. Though the eurozone has turned the corner, he’s still wary and is delighted the PM has promised a referendum on the UK’s membership. ‘The best outcome is we do have a renegotiated relationship. I’ve done thousands of negotiations in my job in business and you never go into a negotiation without some sort of weapons in your arsenal, so we are right to have a referendum as it increases our ability to negotiate. I think the European Union should be much more focused for us on free trade in goods and services. If the British people decide that they want to leave the European Union, that’s not something I’d be afraid of.

‘In my 20 years in business I’ve worked around the world, I think we are already a global player, an international country when it comes to business. I want that to happen inside the European Union and we can reform it and focus it on trade and ensure it is not insular looking. We can all be better off inside the European Union if it can change some of its ways. But as I say, if the British people decide the decision is they want to leave the European Union, then that isn’t something that I’d be afraid of, I’d embrace the opportunities that would create.’”

Mr Javid is, of course, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. I wonder if the Government’s rather sizeable Eurosceptic Mafia is about to become more outspoken.

9 Jan 2013 09:34:08

The main arguments made by Tory MPs in defence of the benefits squeeze

By Tim Montgomerie
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Here is a selection of the arguments that Tory MPs made during yesterday's debate on limiting the increase in benefits to 1% for each of the next three years.

The Government's overall policies help those on low incomes: "The Opposition have argued that this uprating of 1% will impact on working people and not just those on benefits. Given that the previous Government made 90% of workers eligible as welfare recipients, that is inevitable. Unfortunately, Labour Members make the mistake of taking these measures in isolation. If we take the Government’s measures as a whole, including tax allowances, energy tariff changes and cutting petrol duty, low-income working households will be better off." - Aidan Burley MP

And the biggest burden of deficit reduction is being met by the better off: "I want to remind the Opposition of what they have done. They have opposed £83 billion-worth of savings this Parliament. That is equivalent to adding another £5,000 of debt for every working family in the country. We hear much about taxing the rich, yet, in this Parliament, the richest will pay more in tax than in any single year of the previous Government—more tax on capital gains, more stamp duty—they will be less able to avoid and evade tax and they will pay more when they take out their pension policies." - Iain Duncan Smith MP

Stop taxing people only to return that money via the benefit systems: "Is not the philosophical underpinning of this debate our wish to create a hand-back society, not a hand-out society? Is not cutting taxes on lower earners the best way to help those on low earnings, rather than recycling their hard-earned money through the benefits system?" - Robert Halfon MP

Fairness between those in work and those out-of-work:

  • "My constituents in Erewash often say to me that fairness works both ways. One gentleman said to me that he is working around the clock and his wife has two part-time cleaning jobs, and that they are trying their best to keep things going. Like me, he wants to support people in this society who, for whatever reason, will never be able to stand on their own two feet and get work, but that was not his point. His point was about the standard of living of other people in the area on full benefits. He did not think it right that they should have a higher percentage increase than his family’s budget." - Jessica Lee MP
  • "I was approached by a member of Manchester constabulary in my advice surgery recently. He said, “How can you justify putting out-of-work benefits up by 5.2% last year, when I have had a pay freeze and I risk my life every day?” Is that not the nub of the argument? People who are in work have to be treated fairly." - Jake Berry MP

Continue reading "The main arguments made by Tory MPs in defence of the benefits squeeze" »

5 Sep 2012 20:21:19

Full post-reshuffle list of Ministers

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.

Cabinet Office

  • Minister for the Cabinet Office, Paymaster General – Rt Hon Francis Maude MP
  • Minister for Government Policy – Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP
  • Minister of State – Rt Hon David Laws MP (jointly with the Department for Education)
  • Parliamentary Secretary – Nick Hurd MP
  • Parliamentary Secretary – Chloe Smith MP

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

  • Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills; and President of the Board of Trade – Rt Hon Dr Vincent Cable MP
  • Minister of State (Universities and Science) – Rt Hon David Willetts MP
  • Minister of State – Michael Fallon MP
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State – Jo Swinson MP
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State – Matthew Hancock MP (jointly
  • with the Department for Education)

Department for Communities and Local Government

  • Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
  • Senior Minister of State (Faith and Communities) – Rt Hon Baroness Warsi (jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office)
  • Minister of State (Housing) – Mark Prisk MP
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Planning) - Nicholas Boles MP
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State – Rt Hon Don Foster MP
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State – Brandon Lewis MP

Continue reading "Full post-reshuffle list of Ministers" »

21 Aug 2012 17:03:07

"One-man Think Tanks": how the 2010 intake forced their way into the papers

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.

Continue reading ""One-man Think Tanks": how the 2010 intake forced their way into the papers" »

17 Aug 2012 08:30:36

10 from '10 - ten Ministerial prospects from the 2010 intake

By Matthew Barrett
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Heads and ladders1

The 2010 intake is, by now, known for being one of the most active and resourceful for a number of generations. In choosing ten MPs who could be promoted from the 2010 intake, I have had to overlook a number of extremely good candidates who, in normal, non-Coalition times would undoubtedly be made Ministers, and would do an excellent job. Those MPs include Fiona Bruce, George Freeman, Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel and Charlotte Leslie. There are a number of other MPs who I have excluded from my list, because their past Parliamentary rebellions would probably rule them out of contention. These include Nadhim Zahawi, Jesse Norman, Andrea Leadsom, Rory Stewart, Richard Fuller, and Andrew Griffiths.

Continue reading "10 from '10 - ten Ministerial prospects from the 2010 intake" »

2 Aug 2012 14:43:34

Who are Deep Blue? Matthew Barrett profiles the backbenchers seeking to represent the "sensible right" of the 2010 intake

By Matthew Barrett
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My series profiling the backbench groups of Tory MPs often features groups with ideological goals, such as those representing the traditional right or Thatcherite wing of the Party. There have also been profiles of newer groups with less immediately ideological aims, such as Fresh Start or the Forty. My group this week, Deep Blue, straddles both of these categories. They come from a firmly centre-right standpoint, although they aim to focus not so much on immediate policy issues but more on what the longer-term direction of the Conservative Party should be if it is to win future elections.

Origins of the group

Stride MelThe foundation of Deep Blue was the idea of Mel Stride, the Member for Central Devon. Stride decided to set the group up a few months ago, and the first meeting was held roughly two and a half months ago, after Stride took soundings and found there was "a strong appetite" from colleagues to get together.

Stride, who chairs the group, is an entrepreneur with a strong background in business and is a former President of the Oxford Union. He is PPS to John Hayes, who is the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning. In my report on the Cornerstone Group, I listed Stride as a "friend" of Cornerstone, which is often seen as being on the traditional wing of the Party, while Hayes co-founded Cornerstone.

Members of Deep Blue include Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset), Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne), Nick de Bois (Enfield North) and Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove).

Continue reading "Who are Deep Blue? Matthew Barrett profiles the backbenchers seeking to represent the "sensible right" of the 2010 intake" »

4 May 2012 06:14:38

What is the Cornerstone group? Matthew Barrett profiles the socially conservative Tory backbench group

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

HayesLeighCornerstone 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.

Continue reading "What is the Cornerstone group? Matthew Barrett profiles the socially conservative Tory backbench group" »

21 Mar 2012 05:57:45

What is the Free Enterprise Group? Matthew Barrett profiles the most influential new gathering of Tory MPs

Free Enterprise GroupBy Matthew Barrett
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The Forty. The 301. The 2020. These are some of the groups formed by Conservative MPs after the last general election. Most are largely made up of, or driven by, 2010-intake MPs. Over the next few weeks, I'll be profiling some of these groups. 

Today, we kick off with the Free Enterprise Group (FEG). The FEG is considered influential by sources at the Treasury, and George Osborne is said to think very highly of it, regarding it as the most important of the new groups to emerge. 

Origins of the Group: The group initially formed out of concern at the anti-free market atmosphere that has developed in the last few years. The behaviour of the last government, in cosying up to big business cartels and corporatist interests, often gave people a mistakenly bad impression of the free market that didn't necessarily exist twenty years ago. Polling suggests 21st-century Britons are less receptive towards free enterprise than the Chinese, Americans and Germans. There is also a wider cause - making Britain globally competitive again. The FEG's website highlights startling statistics about our place in the world: the fact that we are now 83rd in the world for regulation, 94th for taxation, and so on. This concern derives not just from the fact that we are being overtaken by emerging markets like Brazil, but also established Western economies, like Germany, have become more free market than Britain.

Continue reading "What is the Free Enterprise Group? Matthew Barrett profiles the most influential new gathering of Tory MPs" »

7 Feb 2012 07:25:01

William Hague condemns Russia and China's UN resolution veto for betraying the Syrian people

By Matthew Barrett
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Hague Syria statement

In the Commons yesterday, Foreign Secretary William Hague gave a statement on Syria, strongly condemning the decision made over the weekend by Russia and China to veto a rather moderate (perhaps inadequate) UN resolution calling for the Syrian government to allow peaceful protests, and begin a new political process.

Mr Hague began:

"Over the last 11 months, more than 6,000 people have been killed. The Syrian regime has deployed snipers, tanks, artillery and mortars against civilian protestors and population centres, particularly in the cities of Homs, Idlib, Hama and Deraa. Thousands of Syrians have endured imprisonment, torture and sexual violence, including instances of the alleged rape of children, and the humanitarian position is deteriorating. It is an utterly unacceptable situation that demands a united international response."

Mr Hague pointed out that the UN resolution could not have been used for military intervention, and should not have been objected to by people wanting a peaceful solution:

"There was nothing in this draft resolution that could not be supported by any country seeking a peaceful end to the tragedy unfolding in Syria. It demanded an end to all violence, called for a Syrian-led political process to allow the Syrians to determine their future, and set out a path to a national unity Government and internationally supervised elections. It did not call for military intervention, and could not have been used to authorise any such action under any circumstances. It did not impose sanctions. It proposed putting the weight and authority of the United Nations Security Council behind a plan to achieve a lasting and sustainable peace in Syria."

Continue reading "William Hague condemns Russia and China's UN resolution veto for betraying the Syrian people" »

21 Jun 2011 07:20:30

Conservative MPs urge Greece to leave the €uro but Treasury minister Mark Hoban declines to agree

By Tim Montgomerie
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In the late 1990s the Tories became the anti-€uro party but in the Commons yesterday a Tory Treasury minister would not echo Boris Johnson's comments and say that it was time for Greece to leave the single currency and pursue an export-led recovery. The frontbench's reluctance contrasted with the anger of Jack Straw and a host of Tory backbenchers, who all called for Greece to quit the currency zone.

It was the Eurosceptic Labour MP, Gisela Stewart, who yesterday forced an emergency statement from the Treasury. Ms Stewart wanted to know what were the Treasury’s contingency plans in the event of a Greek default.

Screen shot 2011-06-20 at 16.08.10

George Osborne was attending a finance ministers meeting and it was left to Mark Hoban, the Financial Secretary, to answer on behalf of the Treasury. He declined to detail any contingency plans but did assure the House that the UK would not participate in any European bailout of Greece:

"We did not participate directly in the May 2010 package of support for Greece, and there has been no formal suggestion of UK bilateral loans or use of the EFSM, which is backed by the EU budget. The UK participated in the May 2010 package for Greece only through its membership of the IMF. So the burden of providing finance to Greece is shared between the IMF and euro area member states, and we fully expect this to continue. Our position on that is well understood across the euro area."

Der-spiegel-euro Jack Straw, the former Foreign Secretary, was unimpressed by Mr Hoban's reticence and, enjoying his own backbench freedom, urged the Government to declare that the €uro was dead in its current form (video here):

"Will the Minister not recognise that there is now a mood change in Europe? Der Spiegel, the German magazine has had a cover story [image on right declaring "Sudden and Unexpected"] contemplating the end of the euro as we now know it, and Mr Charles Grant, the well known europhile, has done the same in The Times today. Instead of sheltering behind complacent language and weasel words that we should not speculate, the Government should recognise that this eurozone cannot last. It is the responsibility of the British Government to be open with the British people now about the alternative prospects. Since the euro in its current form is going to collapse, is it not better that that happens quickly rather than it dying a slow death?"

Mr Hoban responded by noting that Mr Straw once wanted to take Britain into the €uro but refused to join him in stating that the current arrangement was over. "We have a strong interest, though, in the continued stability of the eurozone, as it is our major trading partner," said Mr Hoban, "Continued instability in the eurozone could be a factor in holding back the recovery of the British economy."

Continue reading "Conservative MPs urge Greece to leave the €uro but Treasury minister Mark Hoban declines to agree" »

19 Jun 2011 16:18:35

Majority of the 50 most "cost-efficient" MPs are Conservatives

By Matthew Barrett
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HoCThe company Key Business Insight's "Commons Performance Cockpit" ranks MPs by their total cost - that is, staffing costs, travel expenses, office costs, salary, and so on. The majority of the 50 "most efficient" MPs, in terms of total cost, are Conservatives. 

The top 50 "most efficient" MPs between 1st April, 2010 and 31st March, 2011 are listed below:

  1. Dan Jarvis (Labour, Barnsley Central) £5,457*
  2. Deborah Abrahams (Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth) £12,472**
  3. Eric Illsley (Labour, Barnsley Central) £57,485***
  4. Zac Goldsmith (Conservative, Richmond Park) £59,242
  5. Rushanara Ali (Labour, Bethnal Green and Bow) £59,242
  6. Ben Gummer (Conservative, Ipswich) £60,422
  7. Gavin Shuker (Labour, Luton South) £60,687
  8. George Eustice (Conservative, Camborne and Redruth) £60,692
  9. Sam Gyimah (Conservative, East Surrey) £60,899
  10. Matthew Offord (Conservative, Hendon) £61,077
  11. Anne-Marie Morris (Conservative, Newton Abbot) £61,292
  12. Teresa Pearce (Labour, Erith and Thamesmead) £61,776
  13. Mark Reckless (Conservative, Rochester and Strood) £61,780
  14. Guy Opperman (Conservative, Hexham) £61,857
  15. Gemma Doyle (Labour, West Dunbartonshire) £62,324
  16. Christopher Pincher (Conservative, Tamworth) £62,583
  17. Stella Creasy (Labour, Walthamstow)  £63,510
  18. Ian Paisley, Jnr (Democratic Unionist, North Antrim) £64,755
  19. Richard Drax (Conservative, South Dorset)  £65,102
  20. Owen Smith (Labour, Pontypridd) £65,157
  21. Damian Hinds (Conservative, East Hampshire) £65,365
  22. Julian Huppert (Liberal Democrat, Cambridge) £65,396
  23. Kwasi Kwarteng (Conservative, Spelthorne) £65,571
  24. Gavin Barwell (Conservative, Croydon Central)  £65,651
  25. Jonathan Lord (Conservative, Woking) £66,162
  26. Rebecca Harris (Conservative, Castle Point) £66,576
  27. Anas Sarwar (Labour, Glasgow Central) £67,630
  28. Andrea Leadsom (Conservative, South Northamptonshire)  £67,940
  29. Claire Perry (Conservative, Devizes) £68,047
  30. Sajid Javid (Conservative, Bromsgrove)  £68,171
  31. Sarah Newton (Conservative, Truro and Falmouth) £68,172
  32. Conor Burns (Conservative, Bournemouth West) £68,443
  33. Eric Ollerenshaw (Conservative, Lancaster and Fleetwood)  £68,624
  34. Margaret Ritchie (SDLP, South Down) £68,705
  35. Rehman Chisti (Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham) £68,917
  36. Jim Shannon (Democratic Unionist, Strangford)  £69,063
  37. Liz Kendall (Labour, Leicester West) £69,147
  38. George Hollingberry (Conservative, Meon Valley) £69,251
  39. Alok Sharma (Conservative, Reading West)  £69,273
  40. Chris Kelly (Conservative, Dudley South) £70,316
  41. Angie Bray (Conservative, Ealing Central and Acton) £70,334
  42. Naomi Long (Alliance, Belfast East) £70,581
  43. Kate Green (Labour, Stretford and Urmston)  £70,619
  44. Margot James (Conservative, Stourbridge)  £70,755
  45. Pamela Nash (Labour, Airdrie and Shotts) £70,842
  46. Jack Dromey (Labour, Birmingham Erdington)  £70,912
  47. Kris Hopkins (Conservative, Keighley)  £70,944
  48. Stephen Metcalfe (Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock) £70,966
  49. Shabana Mahmood (Labour, Birmingham Ladywood) £71,072
  50. Tristram Hunt (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central) £71,269

*Took his seat on 3rd March, 2011
**Took her seat on 13th January, 2011
***Resigned his seat on 8th February, 2011 

5 Apr 2011 07:14:19

Lansley under supported on front bench, but strongly supported from backbenches

by Paul Goodman

This morning's reports of Andrew Lansley's Commons statement yesterday haven't missed that he was unsupported in the Chamber by the presence of senior Cabinet colleagues.  (The Prime Minister was en route to Pakistan.)

What some may have missed is the strong support given to the Health Secretary by Conservative backbenchers.  Some it, clearly, had been organised in an operation by the Whips - but not all.  By my count, Lansley received ten questions specifically supportive of his plans -

"Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): As the Secretary of State may know, I still have a faint link with the NHS and medicine in general. The GPs I have met in my constituency and elsewhere are very much in favour of the proposals. In contrast, the complaints are circular letters that have been well organised. Does the Secretary of State agree that GPs will be devastated if there is any reversal and backtracking?

Continue reading "Lansley under supported on front bench, but strongly supported from backbenches" »

24 Mar 2011 18:08:08

Five ways of supporting the Government during a budget debate

by Paul Goodman

I've found the following methods in yesterday's first day's debate on the budget - having earlier covered the speeches of Andrew Tyrie, John Redwood and Stewart Jackson.

1) Draw attention to the dire state of the public finances bequeathed by the last Government to this one.

This was the route taken by Jo Johnson (Orpington) -

"When countries that had public finances in a comparable state to ours last May are still fighting off the terrible spectre of sovereign debt default, it would be terrible folly to slow the pace of what is widely regarded as a necessary fiscal consolidation. Our policies are under intense scrutiny by the international bond markets, to which we are paying £120 million in interest daily. We cannot afford for our borrowing costs to rise, as they have elsewhere. We are paying 3.6% in the gilt markets on our staggering public debt. Other countries are paying rates closer to 8% or 9%, and Greece is paying a staggering 12.6%. We simply cannot afford to be complacent, as the Governor of the Bank of England made clear in a recent hearing of the Treasury Committee, at which he stated firmly that UK gilt rates would rise by three percentage points if we backtracked from the course of fiscal consolidation that we have outlined."

Johnson referred specifically to current events in Portugal, and today's debate will surely provide more of the same.  Sajid Javed (Bromsgrove) made similar points, and also spotlighted the danger posed to the Government's strategy by rising inflation -

"Lastly, as has been mentioned, in particular by the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern), there is concern about global inflation. Clearly inflation has been caused primarily by rises in the price of oil, metals and food, but in the UK, in particular, devaluation has had an impact. It has had a positive impact on exports, but it tends to import inflation too. What has not been mentioned today is the potential impact of quantitative easing - the policy of buying up to £200 billion of both corporate bonds and gilts. That has an impact on the money supply in this country and it is doubtless having an impact on inflation.

With RPI inflation at 5.5% - the figure was published yesterday-and our gilt rate at 2.37%, the real rate of return is negative on our bond markets and that is a very fragile situation for the markets. To put that into context, the last time that RPI inflation was at that level was in 1991. At that time, our five-year gilt rate was at 10.09%. Clearly if the markets woke up one day and decided that they were not going to accept such low negative interest rates any more, we would be in a much worse predicament. That underlines the need for continued fiscal consolidation."

2) Get specific when praising the Government's strategy.

Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) highlighted the planned increase in apprenticeships -

"Finally, I want to mention the advances that we are making on skills, which are vital to ensuring that our work force can sustain the jobs that we will hopefully help to create in the economy with the additional measures that the Chancellor has mentioned this afternoon. It is fantastic that we will have another 250,000 apprenticeships over the next four years. I am heartened by that, because young people have for so long been cast adrift, and this will help to bring them into employment and training in a sustainable way, and also in a way that will perhaps enable them to garner the knowledge to create their own businesses one day and employ others, which is what we have seen over many years.

I welcome the university training colleges, and I am sure that the large industrial companies in the west midlands will welcome that approach. I hope that it will help people to acquire the skills to fill what those companies are describing at the moment as a void. Companies such as Jaguar Land Rover want to expand greatly, and they need a supply of skills to sustain any such expansion. They need skills from local people in the west midlands. We do not want to bring in people from other countries to fill that void."

3) Ground your speech in your constituency experience

Richard Harrington (Watford) used business trends in his seat to show the effect of Government policy -

"I want to talk about some specific factors that are important to business people, and therefore important to growth. There is a lot of talk about banks and the availability of capital, and about what the Government should do and what they have not done. Again, I want to comment based on my experiences in the constituency. The bank lending situation is getting better; there is no doubt about that, as the loans are beginning to come through. In Watford alone, under the enterprise finance guarantee loan scheme, 23 companies have already borrowed money amounting to £4 million. That is a comparatively small sample and it reassures me for the future that this scheme, which is to be expanded, does work, and that it does so in a comparatively short period of time.

It is very fortunate for us that interest rates are low, but the decisions made by businesses do not change when fluctuations are minor, such as 1% up or 2% down. Their decisions do change when the situation reaches a ludicrous point; I was once left with a loan on which I was paying 2% over base when the base rate was 15%. Variations such as 1%, 3% or 5% make little difference. Again, what matters is confidence in the economy and confidence that the Chancellor has done the right thing today. So I must encourage what the Government are doing on the fundamentals, because people and businesses will want to borrow money only when there is confidence in the future and confidence that we are doing the right thing."

4) Support the budget and float some ideas

Richard Fuller (Bedford) made a pitch with a strong social justice, One Nation flavour -

"In the context of protecting the most vulnerable, let me first urge Ministers to continue to give full support to the welfare reform measures that are being pushed through by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. The universal credit will be of major, long-term, significant and beneficial advantage to low-paid and poor people in our country, and it is a measure that those on the Treasury Bench should support in the years ahead.

Secondly, I should have liked to hear a little more about support for our charities. I was very pleased to hear about the £550 million of support that the Chancellor was offering to them in the form of various benefits, but I should have liked him to be more radical. There are many steps that we can take to ease the rules and regulations and break down some of the barriers that prevent social investment from various sources. We should be a bit more open in relation to the way in which money can flow from social investment to outcomes and social impact bonds. I should have liked to hear about personal tax deductions for charitable donations, and I should very much like the Treasury-either directly or through the big society bank-to help charities to procure local government services. They need that support to arm them in their continuing battles with bureaucracies."

5) Finally, attack Labour.

David Amess does this on the first day of each year's budget debate, and didn't disappoint -

"Turning to the Budget, there is no doubt that this has been the most difficult and gloomy time I have known for people in business-until today. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on his well-crafted and clever Budget, which will cheer up the country. It has already cheered up Government Members and, as colleagues will have observed from the general atmosphere among Opposition Members three or four hours ago, it has absolutely cheesed off the Opposition. I am getting sick to death with Members on the Conservative and, dare I say, Liberal Benches being castigated for the absolute mess that the country is in. One party alone is responsible for that-Labour. It is because of the Labour party that we are facing debt interest of £120 million a day and because of the Labour party that we have the biggest structural debt in the G7.

I want to share with colleagues who were elected last year what the past 13 years have been like. As hon. Members will know, the last Prime Minister was previously the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I had the experience of listening to 10 of his Budgets, which he greatly enjoyed delivering. He used to come to the Dispatch Box and two thirds of the way through his speech he would wind Conservative Members up. Then he would make what he thought would be the headline-grabbing news item that would cheer everyone up. But then we would all go away and people would read the Red Book and within a few weeks we would find out that what he had told us was not in any sense accurate. So I congratulate the Chancellor on the new Red Book, because unlike the previous one it is not big enough to use as a doorstop, which is all that one was fit for."

10 Mar 2011 18:04:05

Tory backbenchers welcome the measures contained in the Welfare Reform Bill

By Jonathan Isaby

Last month the Government published its ambitious Welfare Reform Bill and I wrote about it at the time here.

Yesterday the Bill had its Second Reading debate in the Commons and here is a flavour of the warm welcome it got from the Tory backbenches.

Several MPs took the opportunity to expand on the problems of the status quo.

Chris Skidmore (Kingswood)
"I welcome the Bill, which marks a point at which we can send out this message: we cannot continue to spend on welfare as we have previously. Instead, we need to understand that there is no such thing as Government money, free to be given out; there is only hard-earned taxpayers' money, which in these difficult times needs to be spent with caution and care. Over the past 13 years, we saw no evidence of that caution, as the total annual expenditure on benefits mushroomed to £152 billion. Every year, £5.2 billion was lost in overpayments, of which £1.5 billion was lost to fraud. Some £3.5 billion was spent annually on administration costs and paperwork alone. As we have heard from the Minister, other benefits rose, with the cost of housing benefit having increased from £11 billion to £20 billion since 1997. That is simply unsustainable and we must act."

George Hollingbery (Meon Valley)
"There are more than 30 different benefits out there that can be claimed. There are 14 manuals in the Department for Work and Pensions, with 8,690 pages of instructions for officials. There is a separate set of four volumes for local government, with 1,200 pages covering housing and council tax benefits alone. That is an astonishingly byzantine system. One of my constituents, Nigel Oakland, wrote to me: "Nobody at the Jobcentre Plus can explain if it is beneficial if I continue to sign on. The last advice I was given is that I should Google the question." In such a situation, where even the experts at Jobcentre Plus cannot answer the questions that arise, we are clearly in difficulty.

"It is confusing for clients. There is a 30-page form for housing and council tax benefit, including three pages of declarations. Employment and support allowance requires a 52-page form; jobseeker's allowance, 12 online sections, each of five to 10 pages long; and disability living allowance, a 60-page form. Is it any wonder that people become confused and fill in the forms incorrectly and make mistakes? The system is extraordinarily expensive to administer. The DWP spent £2 billion last year administering working-age benefits, and local authorities a further £l billion administering housing benefit and council tax benefit. Even the tiny citizens advice bureau in Bishop's Waltham, a town of 5,000 people in a rural and relatively affluent part of Hampshire, processed 2,176 queries about benefits in 2009-10, advising people how to claim them."

Julian Sturdy (York Outer)
"Over the past 10 years the welfare budget has grown disproportionately, by more than £56 billion. Despite that huge increase, almost 1.5 million people have been on out-of-work benefit for nine of those 10 years. Despite years of economic growth, job creation and increases in the welfare budget, a whole group of people have never worked at all. It is therefore time to review this broken system. After all, the simple truth is that Britain's welfare arteries are clogged up. Too little support is reaching those truly in need and too much is being lost in bureaucratic incompetence-even more worryingly, it is being lost on people who should not be in receipt of such support at all. In essence, the whole culture of our welfare system is wrong; the cost of maintaining it is out of control and the decision-making processes within it are woefully inefficient. The Bill is therefore right to focus on incentivising pathways back to work by ensuring that employment always pays more than benefits. That is fundamental to the Bill and, as a simple Yorkshire man, I feel that it is basic common sense."

"It is a sad but well-known fact that the current system discourages those in low-paid jobs from increasing their hours, as rates of tax and benefit reductions often leave them worse off. This ridiculous situation helps only to dampen aspiration while increasing dependency in the benefits system as a whole. In addition, hard-working, taxpaying families, who are feeling the squeeze in these difficult economic times, should not subsidise the small but still significant number of people in our society who see the welfare system as a career choice. That must stop. By annually capping benefits, withdrawing support from those who refuse to work and increasing the financial incentives for those who do work, the Bill includes specific measures that will make work pay."


Continue reading "Tory backbenchers welcome the measures contained in the Welfare Reform Bill" »

22 Jan 2011 18:24:43

Conservative MPs Mike Weatherley and Sajid Javid differ over whether to clamp down on "ticket touts"

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:

Mike Weatherley Commons "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:

Continue reading "Conservative MPs Mike Weatherley and Sajid Javid differ over whether to clamp down on "ticket touts"" »