By Tim Montgomerie
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Tobias Ellwood MP to Ed Balls during yesterday's Budget debate (my emphasis):
"When the right hon. Gentleman was in office, the UK debt was £347 billion. Before the crisis struck, it rose to £624 billion. After the crisis it ratcheted up another £200 billion."
You'll find no defence from me for the Coalition's inadequate deficit reduction strategy (see yesterday) but let's never forget that Labour increased debt in good economic times.
By Matthew Barrett
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Philip Hammond's statement to the House this afternoon announcing cuts to the Army was bound to be a challenging time for the Secretary of State for Defence. The announcement signals the beginning of a long transformation for the Army, and jobs will undoubtedly be lost as a result of the changes. Mr Hammond told the House that the 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, 2nd Battalion the Royal Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire regiment, 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment and the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh would all be "withdrawn" or disbanded. The Secretary of State said:
"These withdrawals and mergers, unwelcome as I know they will be in the units affected, are fair and balanced, and have been carefully structure to minimise the impact of the regular manpower reduction and optimise the military effectiveness of the Army."
Update on Saturday 2nd June:
The Daily Mail reports that a majority of MPs (331) are now supporting Tobias Ellwood's campaign to rename the 316 feet-tall Clock Tower, which houses the Big Ben bell, as the Elizabeth Tower. The newspaper concludes the renaming is now almost certain to proceed.
Mr Ellwood told the Mail:
"Commemorating an iconic landmark as famous as Parliament is indeed a truly exceptional tribute and I am grateful that the majority of MPs believe the Queen deserves such an outstanding accolade."
Not everyone is happy though. "The anti-monarchist pressure group Republic has," reports The Guardian, "criticised the proposal as "crass and profoundly inappropriate given that the tower in question is a landmark of our democratic parliament"." Read more in the Mail.
By Tim Montgomerie
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The tower on the left is called the Victoria Tower, after Britain's last great female monarch. Tobias Ellwood MP wants to rename the Clock Tower or East Tower after Elizabeth II.
MPs are urging that St Stephen's Tower of the Houses of Parliament be renamed the Elizabeth Tower to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The Tower is often called the Clock Tower because Big Ben sits on top of it. There would be an historical precedent for the move because, as the Daily Mail reports, "in 1860, the west tower of the Palace of Westminster, originally called The King’s Tower, was renamed the Victoria Tower to commemorate her long reign."
Tobias Ellwood MP, instigator of the idea, told The Sun:
"I cannot think of a greater tribute for Parliament to bestow than to rename such an iconic landmark as the Clock Tower. Most people will continue to call it Big Ben but it would be appropriate to change the official name."
Two former Foreign Secretaries are already backing the move - Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw.
The full text of Mr Ellwood's Early Day Motion is:
"That this House expresses its profound gratitude to Her Majesty The Queen for her dedication to a life of public service; pays tribute to the energy, wisdom and grace with which she carries out her many public duties; welcomes the opportunities over the coming months that the nation will have to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee - a landmark that of the 41 monarchs who have reigned England and the UK since William the Conqueror -only Her Majesty and Queen Victoria have observed; notes that the west tower of the Palace of Westminster was originally called The King's Tower; further notes that when the Palace of Westminster was rebuilt in 1860, it was renamed the Victoria Tower, to commemorate the long reign of Queen Victoria; proudly recalls Her Majesty's tribute to Parliament in her Address to both Houses as `an unshakeable cornerstone of our constitution and our way of life'; signals its desire to honour Her Majesty's commitment to democracy in Britain and the Commonwealth; and therefore calls on the House of Commons Commission to consider proposals to rename the Palace of Westminster's east tower holding the Big Ben clock the Elizabeth Tower, in recognition of Her Majesty's 60 years of unbroken public service on behalf of her country."
By Joseph Willits
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In a Parliamentary debate on Armed Forces Personnel yesterday, Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey rather poignantly assessed the state of the military now, compared with the First and Second World Wars.
Harvey paid his respects to those killed in military combat. "Remembrance" he said, "is not a political occasion" but "about recognising that the real price of war... is a human price—a price paid not just by those who have died but by their families and by all those who have returned wounded, physically or mentally".
The armed forces today, he said "are different in many ways from those who fought on the Somme or at El Alamein", and that conscription then, was a "reflection of the existential threat facing the country at that time". Harvey stated that public awareness of the military had "declined" and was not "woven deeply into the fabric of the nation" as it once was. He suggested two reasons for the said decline; the numbers of those "who fought in the world wars or undertook national service" has dwindled, and service downgrades "since the end of the cold war." Harvey was careful to emphasise a decline in perception and awareness of the armed forces, rather than respect for them. "The people of Royal Wootton Bassett [who] chose to mark the return of the fallen is surely testament to that", he said.
By Matthew Barrett
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Following the resignations of Stewart Jackson and Adam Holloway as Parliamentary Private Secretaries, due to the European referendum vote, the following PPS appointments have been confirmed:
Burns previously served as PPS to Hugo Swire, and so his appointment as PPS to Owen Paterson is a promotion.
Gavin Williamson is a first-time PPS, and Tobias Ellwood was PPS to Liam Fox - until he resigned.
2.30pm Update: Jonathan Isaby tweets: "News you may have missed: Central Devon Tory MP Mel Stride named as PPS to Skills Minister John Hayes."
Mel Stride replaces Sajid Javid as John Hayes' PPS. Javid became George Osborne's PPS in the ministerial shake-up that followed Liam Fox's resignation.
Eagle-eyed commenters below also point out Aidan Burley MP (Cannock Chase) has been appointed PPS to Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, having been PPS to Philip Hammond at Transport.
By Paul Goodman
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Grovelling? Yes, let's face it: it happens. But not yesterday when the Prime Minister was questioned after his statement on Libya. Read Patrick Mercer on Islamism, Andrew Tyrie on torture, Peter Lilley on getting Libya to pay, Baron on intervention, Chisti on Syria. Plenty of pertinent questions
Also follow David Cameron being polite to Mark Pritchard, telling Rory Stewart that he shouldn't have gone to Libya recently, and being thrown for a moment by a very sharp question from Andrew Bridgen. Here are the exchanges in full from Hansard.
"Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): As someone who had reservations about the principle of intervention, may I congratulate the Prime Minister on a successful outcome in Libya? It was largely achieved by two aspects: first, it was legal; and secondly, it had the support of the Libyan people. Further to the previous question, however, will my right hon. Friend now use it as an illustration to persuade permanent members of the Security Council, such as Russia and China, that a well conducted intervention can be successfully used to restrain autocrats in countries such as Syria?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he says. Everyone should have misgivings about such operations, and one should never have the naive belief that they are easy or that everything is going to go to plan. That very rarely happens, and we should always be hard-headed and careful about such things. We should also respect the fact that this is not done—this is not completed yet.
Also, I think that we should be very cautious about trying to draw up a new doctrine, because it seems to me that as soon as a new doctrine is established, a case comes up that flies completely in its face, but I do hope that other members of the Security Council will see that there has been success in removing a dictator, and in giving that country a chance of peaceful and democratic progress, which will be good for the world.
By Jonathan Isaby
Momentum appears to be growing behind Rebecca Harris' Private Member's Bill to reconsider the pros and cons of permanent Daylight Saving Time and run a three-year trial of it.
Today her parliamentary colleague, Tobias Ellwood, the MP for Bournemouth East, bas published a glossy pamphlet, Time to Change the Clocks, arguing that the case for permanently moving the clocks forward an hour is "stronger than ever" and would carry a wide variety of benefits, namely:
There are a variety of informative graphics like that below, demonstrating the difference that the change would make in terms of creating more daylight hours when people can appreciate them.
Click here to download the full pamphlet.
The House of Commons returned yesterday, and launched into questions to ministers from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Kettering MP Philip Hollobone ensured that he won't get an invitation to join the front bench any time soon:
"Given that we spend far too much time in this country celebrating cultures other than our own, is it not time to start redressing the balance by creating a public holiday to celebrate St. George’s day?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Barbara Follett): I commend the hon. Gentleman for the work he does in promoting Englishness and the flag of St. George. I would have to discuss with Government colleagues the idea of holding a public holiday to celebrate St. George’s day, but I hope that people will follow the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and celebrate St. George’s day, while also remembering that we will also be celebrating the birth of William Shakespeare."
Shadow DCMS Minister Tobias Ellwood asked about lapdancing clubs:
"As the Minister will be aware, the so-called designated premises supervisor is legally responsible for the conduct of any pub, club or lap-dancing establishment. However, there is no requirement for that supervisor to be present in his establishment at any time; he can verbally hand over responsibility to an untrained manager with no qualifications. Will the Minister examine whether that is the best way to ensure that pubs, clubs or lap-dancing operations are run properly? The feedback from local authorities with vibrant town centres is that it is not.
Mr. Sutcliffe: Designated door supervisors have been a force for good in the sense of working with establishments, the police and local authorities. I made an enjoyable visit in my Bradford constituency to police on the licensing route late one Friday night, to see at first hand how door supervisors were working. [ Interruption. ] No, lap dancing was not on at that venue that evening. We are trying to ensure that local authorities, the police and the industry are working together in trying to protect the public."
There are a handful of interesting answers in the latest Hansard.
Buckingham MP John Bercow reminded the useful idiots that Cuba is not Paradise, but rather a dystopian nightmare:
"John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the number of people convicted of the crime of social dangerousness in Cuba in each of the last five years. 
The Cuban government does not publish statistics on the number of people convicted on these grounds, but the non-governmental Cuban commission for human rights and national reconciliation, estimates that there are currently between 3,000 and 5,000 people in prison in Cuba convicted of “pre-criminal social dangerousness.”
Our embassy in Havana has requested these figures from the Cuban authorities and I will write if we receive a reply."
Tobias Ellwood, Bournemouth East MP and a Shadow DCMS Minister, has posed a written question that is all the more interesting in light of the fact that Tony Blair has just visited Gaza for the first time since being appointed Middle East envoy for the EU, Russia, UN and US in June 2007.
"Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 2 February 2009, Official Report, column 893W, on Tony Blair, how much has been paid from the public purse towards the running of the office of Tony Blair as Quartet Representative; what arrangements there are for accounting to Parliament for such expenditure; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: Our answer given on 2 February 2009 sets out the Government support to the office of the Quartet Representative. Standard arrangements exist for accounting this expenditure to Parliament."
Here is the 2 February answer:
"Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much the Government has contributed towards the salary of Tony Blair for his work for the Quartet in the Middle East. 
Bill Rammell [holding answer 15 January 2009]: Mr. Blair does not draw a salary in his role as Quartet Representative. The Government do support the team for Mr. Blair through a £400,000 contribution to the UN Development Trust Fund, which supports the Quartet Representative’s office in Jerusalem. The Government also provides four secondees and funding for a political analyst."
It has to be said that Mr Blair does not seem to be working particularly hard in his role. He is, however, able to command over £150,000 for a 90 minute speech. As a professional speechwriter, far be it from me to begrudge him that. But it does prove - if proof were still needed - that he's no socialist. And maybe he should pull his finger out on the other stuff.
On Thursday Westminster Hall held a debate on the annual report of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe announced that Exchequer funding for Sport England (the English sports council) has increased from £33 million in 1997 to £133 million in 2008-09, and that nine out of ten pupils now do at least two hours of "high-quality physical education or sport a week". That is good as far as it goes, but they should be doing at least two hours of sport, period. And Lottery funding for sport is an altogether different matter, as Labour have raided that source of money for other purposes.
Between February this year and March 2011, 618,000 free theatre tickets will be available for people aged 26 and under. £15 million a year up to 2011 will be invested in a project called "Sea Change”, to "create new performance spaces, improve theatres, restore promenades, enable the redesign of beach fronts and provide new exhibition spaces".
A creativity and business international network has been launched in Liverpool, to "bring together the most influential international creative and business figures to shape the future development of the worldwide creative economy".
The minister also assured the Hall that the Government is working to combat problem gambling.
Tobias Ellwood, a Shadow DCMS Minister, responded for the Tories:
"My first question is why the Department has this debate in this particular context. For many other Departments, the report that scrutinises their work is written by the Select Committee—it is not written entirely by the Minister and his team. In this situation, we will get a rose-tinted picture.
Of course, the Minister managed to circumnavigate all the issues around 2012 that lie ahead. On several occasions, we have questioned the Minister for the Olympics on our concern about the changes to funding and the way in which money has been taken away from other areas—good causes and so on—because of the escalating costs of the Olympics.
We in the Opposition feel that the marketing capability in respect of tourism in the UK has gone a little awry. That has been compounded by devolution, since 1998, by Visit Scotland and Visit Wales doing their thing and by the nine regions doing their own thing, too. Until we pointed it out to the Government, six different offices representing different corners of the UK were marketing their patch in Boston, Massachusetts. How ridiculous is that? Instead of having one voice saying, “Come to Great Britain”, all those organisations were spending a lot of money, with overlapping interests, trying to market their corner. People are not even aware of what is in the north-west of England, by way of a brand name, and certainly not the south-west—although they may have heard of Blackpool and Liverpool—but they will certainly have heard of Great Britain. That should be the starting point.
We are the sixth most visited place in the world. That is a fantastic position to be in, but if we compare that fact with the numbers involved in global tourism from 1997 to today, the statistics are sad to see. In 1997 we had 6.9 per cent. of the global tourism market, which is an impressive statistic. Today, that figure has dropped to 3.3 per cent."
The Shadow DCMS team, ably led by Jeremy Hunt, is in fine shape.
"Who are the role models we enjoyed when we were young, compared with today’s role models? In a broken family, where the father figure has disappeared, where does little Johnny, aged five, six or seven, look for aspiration? Today’s role models are different from those that I grew up with and absolutely different from those that my parents and grandparents grew up with. We lack those people in society who can guide those fragile and impressionable children in the way that they should be guided. That is why children end up joining gangs—so that they can feel part of a cohesive unit, because their family no longer provides one... Whether we are talking about Amy Winehouse or the way Wayne Rooney goes up to referees on television and swears at them; we cannot hear the words, but we can see exactly what he is saying. A four-year-old sees such behaviour and thinks that it is the way to deal with authority. I would like to see a sin bin in football, so that people understand straight away that they cannot get away with challenging authority in that way. Those are, I am afraid, the building blocks that lead to a legacy of crime, which starts either because people do not respect the authority figures around them or because there is simply an absence of authority figures."
Tobias Ellwood: Stonehenge is a first-rate heritage site with second-rate facilities supported by a third-rate tourism policy. Even the United Nation’s World Heritage Committee is complaining about the standards at Stonehenge. The Government now admit that they have nothing to show for 10 years of work after spending £23 million of taxpayers’ money. Does not this reflect the Government’s attitude towards tourism, with budgets cut and a failure to stand up to other Government Departments? It has been some time since the druids conducted their last human sacrifice at Stonehenge. Such is the anger at the Government that I suggest the Minister treats with caution any invitation to Stonehenge that she may receive for the next summer solstice.
Margaret Hodge: I have already visited Stonehenge; it is an issue of major concern that I want to resolve. I have had good discussions on the subject with the hon. Gentleman’s Back-Bench colleague, the hon. Member for Salisbury (Robert Key). This Government have invested more in the past 10 years in supporting our heritage and tourism than the previous Government managed in 18 years. I have no doubt that with good will on all sides—including the local Conservative county council and the local district council—I am sure we will reach a conclusion.
Tobias Ellwood: We have been waiting 10 years.
Margaret Hodge: That is not an answer. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman would have taken a similar decision had he been sitting on this side of the House. We could not afford to undertake the scheme that was on the table and we need to find a lasting, better and—
More from Hansard here.