Andrea Leadsom MP

23 Mar 2011 11:33:04

Andrea Leadsom calls for tougher sentences for cyclists who kill

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 14 Yesterday afternoon Andrea Leadsom, the Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill that would create new criminal offences of causing death or serious injury through dangerous or reckless cycling.

In making her call for a new offence, she cited the tragic death in 2007 of 17-year-old Rhiannon Bennett, who was killed after a cyclist rode at speed onto the pavement where she was walking, knocking her over and causing her head to smash onto the kerb.

The perpetrator was convicted by magistrates of "dangerous cycling" and fined a mere £2,200.

Mrs Leadsom went on:

"We should just imagine what would happen if a motorist drove on to a pavement and killed a teenager. If the driver had walked away with only a fine, there would have been a national outcry.

"The police and the Crown Prosecution Service had an alternative to the dangerous cycling charge. The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 carries a section on "drivers of carriages injuring persons by furious driving". It declares: 'Whosoever, having the charge of any carriage or vehicle, shall by wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect, do or cause to be done any bodily harm to any person whatsoever, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour'.

"The Act is still in force, but for obvious reasons it is little used. It was developed to deal with the century during which horses pulled carriages and coaches, and is now completely out of date. From what little information I have found on it, this law is rarely, if ever, invoked. In any case, the CPS found that the charge of dangerous cycling was the most appropriate in Rhiannon's case. There are other offences, such as manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, that could theoretically be used against a cyclist, but these are also rarely appropriate in the case of road accidents.

"What is needed is an offence that fills the gap in the law and provides a charge that reflects the seriousness and the consequences of a cyclist's actions. In other words, an updated law is required so that cyclists can be charged with similar offences and given similar punishments to those that motorists currently face. For a motorist, causing death by dangerous driving carries a penalty of one to 14 years in prison; causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. We need to give justice to the small number of pedestrians killed each year by dangerous cycling, by applying similar penalties to those that exist for causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving."

"The idea of creating a new law to deal with this problem was last considered in 2005 by the Ministry of Justice, which decided that no such law was required at that time. Six years later, with the growing number of bikes on our roads, more and more cycle lanes being introduced and the introduction of excellent schemes that I take advantage of myself, such as the cycle hire scheme in London, we need to look at the matter again, and I ask the House to support the Bill."

The House did not divide on the question, but since the Bill's Second Reading is not scheduled until November 4th, it has no chance of becoming law (unless the Government decides to back it and allow government time for the debate).

2 Nov 2010 20:32:36

Mark Harper admits "exasperation" over prisoner voting rights as he faces the wrath of angry Tory MPs

By Jonathan Isaby

This afternoon in the Commons, Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper was summoned to the Dispatch Box to answer an Urgent Question on the decision to grant the right to vote to prisoners. Quite why Nick Clegg could not have done so, given that his is the only of the main parties to have actually promoted this policy, I don't know.

Mr Harper explained:

Mark Harper "The UK’s blanket ban on sentenced prisoners voting was declared unlawful by the grand chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in October 2005, as a result of a successful challenge by a prisoner, John Hirst. The Government accept, as did the previous Government, that as a result of the judgment of the Strasbourg Court in the Hirst case, there is a need to change the law. This is not a choice; it is a legal obligation. Ministers are currently considering how to implement the judgment, and when the Government have made a decision the House will be the first to know."

Labour shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan then responded with a flurry of questions:

"When the previous Government consulted on this matter, the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), who was then the shadow Secretary of State for Justice and is now the Attorney-General, described the prospect of giving prisoners the vote as “ludicrous”. Does the Minister share that view? One of the most troubling aspects of the European Court ruling is that it opens the door to the possibility of serious offenders being given the vote. Will he explain how the Government would ensure that serious offenders are not given the vote? Press reports suggest that sentence length will be the key determinant in deciding which prisoners can vote. If that is the case, what length of sentence do the Government have in mind? How will they ensure that prisoners who are guilty of serious offences but serving short sentences are not given the vote? Will the Minister provide details of the precise mechanics that prisoner voting will entail? Can he also tell us whether prisoners will be allowed to vote in referendums as well as elections?

"The Prime Minister is reportedly “exasperated” and “furious” at having to agree to votes for prisoners. Does the Minister share that view? There is a strong sense that the decision is being forced on this country against the will both of the Government and of the people’s representatives in this Parliament. For the sake of public trust in British democracy, will the Minister who is standing in for the Deputy Prime Minister therefore agree that any legislation put before the House on this vital issue should be the subject of a free vote?"

The minister responded:

"No one would have realised, listening to that, that the right hon. Gentleman was ever a member of the previous Government, who also accepted that the law needed to be changed, and accepted the judgment. I have looked carefully at the media reports, and all I can see is an expression by the Government, relating to what they are going to say in a pending legal case, that they must comply with the law. I would not have thought that explaining that the Government had to comply with the law was particularly revelatory. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman shared our view when he was in government. He was quite right to draw the House’s attention to the fact that the Prime Minister is exasperated. I suspect that every Member of the House is exasperated about this, but we have no choice about complying with the law.

"The fact that the previous Government failed for five years to do what they knew was necessary has left our country in a much worse position, both because of the possibility of having to pay damages and because case law has moved on. The only thing that would be worse than giving prisoners the vote would be giving them the vote and having to pay them damages as well. That is the position that the previous Government left us in.

"I shall now turn to the right hon. Gentleman’s questions. I made it clear in my statement that Ministers were considering how to implement the judgment, and when decisions have been taken they will be announced to the House at the Dispatch Box in the usual way. No decisions have been taken, and I am therefore unable to answer any of his questions at this time. The previous Government took five years to do nothing when they knew that something had to be done—in exactly the same way as they behaved in not dealing with the deficit. This Government have been in office for only a matter of months, but yet again our two parties are having to deal with the mess left behind by Labour."

There then followed questions from a wide variety of MPs, including many angry Tories from across the whole spectrum of the party. Here is a selection of their points:

Continue reading "Mark Harper admits "exasperation" over prisoner voting rights as he faces the wrath of angry Tory MPs" »

10 Aug 2010 07:00:00

Andrea Leadsom MP answers ConHome's Twenty Questions for the Class of 2010

Here is the latest in our series of Twenty Questions with members of the Class of 2010...

Andrea Leadsom Commons Andrea Leadsom was elected MP for South Northamptonshire with a majority of 20,478.

1. What is your earliest political memory? Sitting round the dinner table aged 13 discussing nuclear war - my Mum was in favour of an independent nuclear deterrent, my Dad in favour of unilateral disarmament...

2. Complete the sentence: “I’m a Conservative because… I have always believed I could make this country a better place. I want to do that now more than ever".

3. Who is your political hero and why? Aung San Suu Kyi because she has made the most unbelievable personal sacrifices of family and freedom to try and free her people from tyranny.

4. When did you decide you wanted to become an MP? Aged 13.

5. What is your reading material of choice? Newspapers; adventurous or heroic or historical novels; news and comment websites.

6. Who is your favourite political interviewer/presenter on TV or radio? Jeremy Vine - he combines good intellect with good manners, proving political discussion can be civilised.

7. If you could run any government department, which would it be and why? Treasury - we need to sort out the banks, get our economy back on track and invest in preventing social breakdown.

8. Which non-Conservative politician do you most admire? Barack Obama.

9. Who would you least want to get stuck with in a House of Commons lift? I'd rather be stuck with anyone than alone - it's too claustrophobic in those lifts...

10. If you were in the US, would you be a Republican or a Democrat? Depends on the President.  I would be a Democrat today, but a Republican in Reagan's day.

11. What do you enjoy doing to unwind and relax? Dinner parties with friends; spending time with my husband; being with my children.

12. What is your favourite book? Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks - it's unforgettable and made me realise both how tragic war is and what a huge debt we owe those who fight for us.

13. What is your favourite film? Hard to say, but I have to watch Four Weddings and a Funeral every couple of years because it makes me laugh every time!

14. What is your favourite music? Best song of all time is Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody for the memories of singing it with my sisters as kids and seeing my own three singing it to us now; I love Jason Mraz, Lily Allen, loads of different stuff.

15. What would be your ideal meal and where would you eat it? Roast anything, at home with my husband, children and my Mum on a Sunday, cooked by me and loved by them...

16. What is your favourite holiday destination? Kitzbühel, Austria.

17. What do you most want to achieve during your first term in Parliament? Solve the world's problems - that's all.

18. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about yourself.  Nah - that could only be a bit of self promotion.

19. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about your constituency. It is as far from the sea as you can get in Britain; it is home to the Silverstone Circuit and the British Grand Prix.

20. Share with us your most amusing story or favourite anecdote from the campaign trail. I was handing out leaflets in Towcester and met Keith, who was very cynical about politics, saying he doesn't vote as no politician has ever bothered to seek his support.  A few days later, I was canvassing and knocked on a door in Towcester, when who should open it but Keith... We laughed and he said I had obviously followed him home to try and prove him wrong.  A week later was polling day and I was telling outside one of Towcester's polling stations.  Yes, Keith walked in!  I now often see him at the Job Club I set up in Towcester and he no longer thinks politicians ignore him.

> Previously: Gordon Henderson MP

23 Jun 2010 06:53:46

Andrea Leadsom draws on her City experience in her maiden speech to explain how to restore the financial services sector to health

Leadsom AndreaAndrea Leadsom won the newly drawn South Northamptonshire seat at the general election. She used her maiden speech during the Budget debate yesterday to speak about restoring health to the financial services sector, drawing on her personal experience:

“To me, it is absolutely key to restore the health of our financial services sector as a critical part of restoring our broken economy. There are two ways of doing that. First, I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already decided to give back extra responsibility to the Bank of England.

“In 1995, Barings bank collapsed due to rogue trading in the far east. Nick Leeson had found a way to put on massive uncovered derivatives exposure without the knowledge of Barings’ treasury in London, in a different time zone if not on a different planet. At the time, I was managing the investment banks team at Barclays, and we were the principal banker to Barings. The collapse came on a Friday evening and the markets were threatening chaos, but Eddie George, the then Governor of the Bank of England, called together a small group of bankers, including myself, and we worked over the weekend to calm the fears of banks that were exposed to Barings. The direct result was that there was no run on the banks on the Monday morning, Barings was allowed to fail and there was no systemic contagion.

“The difference between that experience and the more recent experience with Northern Rock is the difference between accountability and the tripartite system. In 1995, Eddie George knew that it was down to him to prevent a run on the banks, whereas in the case of Northern Rock, we had the Financial Services Authority looking to the Bank of England, which was looking to the Treasury for action. The result was the first run on a bank in 150 years and a taste of the financial meltdown to come.

“From my experience, I am positive that a key to restoring the health of our financial sector is giving back powers and accountability to the Bank of England, and I am delighted that my right hon. Friend plans to do just that.

“There is a second key action that we need to take as well. The financial crisis was not just a failure of regulation; it was also a failure of competition. The great Adam Smith always said in his wealth-creation ideas that for markets to be free and for us to create new wealth we have to have free entry and free exit of market players.

“But in the world of finance those principles have not been true for years: cost and complexity have created huge barriers to new entry; we have already seen that Governments cannot possibly allow a single bank to fail when there are issues of systemic contagion; and we see every day the distortion of free competition in the power of investment banks to charge huge margins for derivatives trading and underwriting.

“So, I and many of my ex-City colleagues argue that a key way of making our banking system safer is through measures to change the culture of our financial sector. The banks that are supposedly too big to fail must be broken up. The barriers to entry must be removed. The ability to charge monopoly prices must be taken away.”

Jonathan Isaby