Christopher Chope MP

5 Jul 2011 08:30:46

Conservative MPs rebelling more against Cameron than Major

By Tim Montgomerie
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Over on the NottsPolitics blog Professor Philip Cowley underlines the rebelliousness of backbench Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs since the formation of the Coalition. This graph confirms that this is the most rebellious intake since the second world war:

Screen shot 2011-07-05 at 08.20.20

Cowley notes:

  • "Backbench dissent amongst government MPs is running at a historically high level – with a rebellion in almost one in every two votes in the Commons...
  • This is especially striking once you remember that this is a first session (normally relatively quiet) and even more so once you realise that this is a first session after a change of government (normally extremely quiet)...
  • The rate [of rebellion] for Conservative MPs alone is higher than in any first session since the war, including that of John Major in 1992, when he faced all the Maastricht rebellions...
  • The rates of rebellion are themselves very high: Philip Hollobone in particular is rebelling at a rate of roughly one rebellion in every four votes.  This is much higher than, say, Jeremy Corbyn under Blair or Brown..."

Jonathan Isaby has produced his own list of top rebels. Professor Cowley has done the same:

Screen shot 2011-07-05 at 08.20.37

Read Cowley's full blog.

20 Jun 2011 11:30:10

Christopher Chope makes the case for a maximum limit for unfair dismissal compensation

By Matthew Barrett
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Christopher_chope_mpAs Jonathan Isaby reported last week, Friday saw the Second Reading of Christopher Chope's Private Member's Bill, the Employment Opportunities Bill, which would allow "freely consenting adults" to opt out of the minimum wage.

Mr Chope takes an interest in employment legislation, and has sought to change the minimum wage before

Friday also saw the Second Reading of Mr Chope's Tribunals (Maximum Compensation Awards) Bill.

The Bill "would set a limit on compensation for awards for unfair or wrongful dismissal or discrimination arising out of employment and provides that that maximum limit should be £50,000". Mr Chope told the Commons:

"People are making or threatening to make claims when they are faced with dismissal, saying that they will not go for the ordinary unfair dismissal but will base their claim on the fact that their dismissal has been on the grounds of racial discrimination or discrimination based on sex, gender or something similar. We are getting a two-tier system in which people threaten to sue in a tribunal for the much larger, open-ended awards that are available and my Bill would place a cap of £50,000 on all that."

Continue reading "Christopher Chope makes the case for a maximum limit for unfair dismissal compensation" »

5 Mar 2011 11:32:27

Chris Chope introduces Bill to force universities to award places on merit alone

By Jonathan Isaby

Yesterday Christchurch MP Chris Chope saw his Further and Higher Education (Access) Bill get its Second Reading debate.

Chris Chope The Bill would "make provision to require all institutions of further and higher education in receipt of public funds to allocate places on merit" and Chope expanded on his cause thus:

"There is a lot of confusion at the moment, among universities in particular and other institutions of higher education, because the Government seem to be at sixes and sevens in developing their policy in this area. Originally, the Government said that they would publish guidance to the Office for Fair Access by the end of January to enable it to give guidance to universities by the middle of February on their admissions policies for the academic year starting in 2012. Despite full guidance having been issued in the middle of February, with the Minister for Universities and Science saying in a press statement at the time that OFFA would be able to advise universities by the end of February, as of now, in the first week of March, there is still no information from OFFA on the principles that universities should apply for next year’s admissions."

"The full guidance that was issued by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Minister for Universities and Science to the director of fair access in February was based on the draft guidance that was issued on 7 December 2010. Paragraph 6.1 of the draft guidance was very clear: 'There have been no changes in the legal constraints on your powers as Director of Fair Access. You are not empowered to interfere in institutions’ decisions about the admissions of students and you may only set conditions that clearly relate to promoting participation and access.'

"When the final guidance was issued last month, that paragraph was omitted. I tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister for Universities and Science, asking why it had been omitted. Unfortunately, the fact that I received a holding reply rather than an immediate substantive reply makes it obvious that he had to think about the reasons why it had been omitted. Eventually, he came back with an answer pursuant to the holding answer of 16 February: 'Paragraph 6.1 was unnecessary as it provided no new information.'

"I am not convinced by that and remain very suspicious. Indeed, the full guidance is more extensive than the draft guidance. The full guidance is some seven and a half pages long, whereas the draft was only five and a half pages long. That clearly expressed paragraph is omitted from the final guidance. I share the concern of many people in universities that the Government are trying to increase regulation and interference to tick boxes on social engineering and social mobility, and that that is ill conceived."

"My Bill is designed to promote the freedom of universities to decide the issues in question for themselves and to restrict the Government’s ability to interfere in the governance of our universities, many of which are international institutions of high repute. They are expanding and raising their standards in the global higher education context, and they are highly respected. They do not need an interfering Government, who are pledged to reduce regulation, increasing the regulatory burden on them. However, that, of course, is exactly what the Government’s current policy seems to be."

Continue reading "Chris Chope introduces Bill to force universities to award places on merit alone" »

12 Feb 2011 07:07:32

Whatever happened to justice for England?

by Paul Goodman

Screen shot 2011-02-11 at 19.44.55 The second reading of Harriett Baldwin's Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bill took place in the Commons yesterday.  Beneath its unstirring title lurks an emotive subject - namely, how to right the wrongs inflicted on England by Labour's devolution settlement.

Baldwin's solution is what she called "a lower-strength version of English votes for English laws".  However, I don't want so much to explore her bill - or Malcolm Rifkind's detailed account of his long-standing proposals, or Jacob Rees-Mogg's probing speech against the bill, or others in favour of it - as probe the Government's view.

The Conservative manifesto said -

"A Conservative government will introduce new rules so that legislation referring specifically to England, or to England and Wales, cannot be enacted without the consent of MPs representing constituencies of those countries."

The Coalition Agreement picked up this ball, and kicked it into the long grass, as follows -

"We will establish a commission to consider the West Lothian question."

Baldwin quoted this commitment, and then added, tactfully but pointedly -

"On 26 October last year, I asked the Deputy Prime Minister in this Chamber when the commission would be established, and I was told that it would be established by the end of 2010. However, it became apparent on the final sitting day of 2010 that the commission had not been established, and I again put the question to my hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb), the Minister on duty, who said that

“the Government will make an announcement on the commission in the new year. I am happy to confirm that we do indeed mean 2011. That is very much part of our programme for next year.”—[Official Report, 21 December 2010; Vol. 520, c. 1338.]

If nothing else, given the fragile life chances of private Members’ Bills, I am pleased to use today’s debate to encourage the Government to advance their own business."

A few moments later, Chris Chope intervened on Baldwin, and asked, just as pointedly (but less tactfully) -

"Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on introducing this Bill. She describes the issue as complex. Does she understand why it is so complex that the Government have not even been able to set up a commission to look into it? Surely, that should not be beyond the capability of the Deputy Prime Minister. Has she been able to find out why that has not been done?

Harriett Baldwin: My hon. Friend asks a somewhat cheeky question. I am sympathetic to the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper)—a constituency neighbour of mine—has had a rather busy last couple of weeks. I am giving him a little slack because of that, but I agree that it is important to keep pressing for the establishment of the commission."

Later, Mark Harper replied to the debate on behalf of the Government and - having been intervened on by Chope - went on to say later:

"Although the coalition parties came up with very different solutions to the West Lothian question, both parties consider it important to attempt to answer it, and neither party believes that it is possible to answer it by ceasing to ask it. We consider it a serious question that will be best tackled when we can tackle it in a calm and reasonable manner rather than waiting for a crisis.

I can confirm that we will set up the commission this year, as, indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire established through her perceptive questioning. We had hoped to make announcements to the House at an earlier stage, but I look forward to making them in the not-too-distant future, and the commission will then be able to consider the ideas that have been advanced today. Hon. Members have effectively made bids to participate, either as members of the commission or in giving evidence to it. I hope that it will arrive at solutions that we can subsequently debate."

This brought Chope to his feet -

"Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I had not intended to speak in the debate, but I must say that I am disappointed that the Minister was not more forthcoming about the commitment in the coalition agreement to establishing a commission. As he and other Members have observed, this issue is extremely complicated, so why are we now delaying even the appointment of the people who will consider it? We have already delayed for far too long. The original commitment was that the commission would be established before the end of 2010, but the Minister now expects us to accept as a big deal the information that he will make an announcement before the end of this year...

...I would not expect my hon. Friend the Minister to comment on what I am about to say. Indeed, the reason I am able to speak after him is that he will not be able to comment on it. I think that the Deputy Prime Minister, who is in charge of my hon. Friend’s Department and is the person who can give the yea or nay to whether the commission is to be set up and when, has not got his heart in it. I hope that my hon. Friend will tell the Deputy Prime Minister that in the extra time that he will have next week, now that he has cancelled his trip to South America, he should give serious consideration to getting on with working out who will be on the commission and what will be its scope and remit. Surely the commission should be set up now, so that it can get to work before all the other stuff that is coming along is before the House. The last written answer on the issue says:

“Careful consideration is ongoing as to the timing, composition, scope and remit of the Commission to consider the… question.”

Some of us were not born yesterday. It is obvious that this is a stalling exercise by the Government. There was an unholy compromise in the coalition agreement but the Deputy Prime Minister is not even delivering on that compromise. He may realise that it could have implications for his party. There is no point, if the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have different views on the matter, trying to paper over the cracks. Why do we not get on and appoint the commission? Perhaps the coalition cannot even agree who could be on it, or what its scope and remit would be.

The written answer goes on to say that the commission

“will need to take account of our proposals to reform the House of Lords”.

Well, what has happened to those? We were told that a draft Bill would be published before Christmas. We have not seen that yet. We might be waiting another year or so before those proposals emerge.

The written answer goes on to say that the commission will need to take account of

“the changes being made to the way this House does business”.

There will be further changes to the way the House does business when the Backbench Business Committee is able to look at both Government legislation and Back-Bench business, and we are told that that will not start until the third year of this Parliament—another recipe for delay.

The written answer says that the commission will have to consider

“amendments to the devolution regimes”.

We know that a referendum will be held shortly in Wales, but why do we need to wait for the outcome of that before we set up the body that will look into these complex issues? There is then a reference to the fact that there is

“the Scotland Bill presently before the House”.

The written answer concludes; it is similar to what my hon. Friend the Minister has said today:

“We will make an announcement later this year.”—[Official Report, 31 January 2011; Vol. 522, c. 549W.]

It does not even say that the commission will be set up later this year...

...I remain suspicious about the motives of the Deputy Prime Minister. I think that he is stalling seriously on the issue. If the Bill goes into Committee it will give all hon. Members the opportunity to keep the pressure on the Government to meet what was a pretty meaningless commitment in the coalition agreement anyway. At least it would be something.

Mr Harper: I know that my hon. Friend is not perhaps the most enthusiastic supporter of the coalition Government but I think that he sees mischief where there is none. The clear message from the thoughtful speeches of all Members today is that the issue is complicated. If the Government are to deal with it calmly and sensibly and in a manner that does not put the Union at risk, we must proceed thoughtfully and properly. However, I have given a clear commitment that we need to deal with the matter and answer the question. Therefore, I urge him to be a bit more generous in spirit.

Mr Chope: I am generous by nature but I would be even more generous if my hon. Friend had explained why it has turned out to be impossible for the Government to appoint the commission before Christmas, as they originally intended.

Chope wound up as follows -

"That is what leads me to conclude—I think any rational observer would conclude this—that the Government have not got their heart in this. They are hopelessly split between the Liberal Democrat agenda and the Conservative party agenda, which was clearly set out in our manifesto. We compromised on that in the coalition agreement, and we have given the tools whereby that compromise might be taken forward, namely the setting up of the commission, to the leader of the Liberal Democrat party. I do not think he has got his heart in trying to achieve any progress on this matter, however. I sympathise enormously with the Minister, but I hope that by getting the Bill into Committee we will be able to maintain the pressure. That is why I support the Bill."

I've quoted Chope at length because, whatever one thinks of his view of the issues, his take on the process is surely right - or at least, it's hard to think of any other reason for delay.  There are good and bad aspects of the Coalition: as I've written many times, the good, in my view, outweigh the bad, and the Coalition should be supported.

But this issue throws up a serious problem, at two levels.  The first, unashamedly, is a party political one.  The Party won more votes in England than Labour even in 2005.  It won an absolute majority of seats in England in 2010, gaining 36 more seats than the other parties combined - an outcome I tested here, though admittedly in the context of Labour gaining a majority because of its strength elsewhere.

Before 1997, the right response to this outcome would have been: hard luck - there's more or less a level playing field for all parts of the Union.  Post-1997 and Labour's devolution settlement, such an answer won't do.  MPs from Scotland can now vote on England's business, but not vice-versa.  Proposals for further Scottish and Welsh devolution look to tilt the imbalance further.  And Northern Ireland has its Assembly. 

In a sparsely-attended House, Baldwin's bill passed by 19 votes to 17.  One Labour MP, Kate Hoey, supported the bill, which was otherwise backed by Conservatives only.  One Tory MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, opposed the bill.

1 Jul 2010 17:43:04

The Alternative Queen's Speech (from Christopher Chope, Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone)

3 The BBC's Mark D'Arcy has noted a number of so-called Presentation Bills tabled by Peter Bone, Chris Chope and Philip Hollobone. Mark presents these bills as an Alternative Queen's Speech. They include:

  • The EU Membership (Referendum) Bill
  • The BBC Licence Fee (Abolition) Bill
  • The National Service Bill
  • The Asylum Seekers (Repatriation to Safe Countries) Bill
  • The Apprehension of Burglars (Protection from Prosecution) Bill
  • The Taxation Freedom Day (Celebration) Bill
  • The EU Bill of Rights (Repeal) Bill
  • The Snow Clearance (Protection from Prosecution) Bill

Who'd vote for the Bone, Chope and Hollobone party?

Tim Montgomerie

10 Jun 2010 12:19:35

Select Committee election results: Labour and Liberal MPs line up behind the Conservative establishment

I wondered earlier this week here whether Labour MPs would use the Select Committee elections to make life difficult for David Cameron.

They didn't.  Instead, they lined up behind the Conservative establishment candidates. Andrew Tyrie took the Treasury Select Committee; Richard Ottaway, Foreign Affairs (a big, big consolation prize, after his defeat in the 1922 Committee Chairmanship election); James Arbuthnot, Defence; Stephen Dorrell, Health; Tim Yeo, Climate Change. Anne McIntosh, who won the Environment Committee, leans towards the left of the Party.

I didn't, of course, see anyone cast a ballot paper.  But unless Conservative MPs turned out en masse to vote against the Party's right - an unlikely course of action, given the '22 Executive results - Liberal and Labour support for less spiky candidates provides the only comprehensible explanation of the results.

It would be unfair to view the victors as patsies.  Tyrie, in particular, has a track record of independent-mindedness.  But ask yourself whether Cameron Towers would prefer the winners to, say, Patrick Mercer at Defence or Peter Bone at Health (let alone Nadine) or Philip Hollobone at Climate Change, and there's only one answer.

Bernard Jenkin and Chris Chope are both seen as men of the right.  But Chope's used the Chamber to launch independent-minded assaults on establishment causes, and it's noticeable that he lost out in the tussle for the Public Administration Committee Chairmanship.

John Whittingdale at Culture and Greg Knight at Procedure, both No Turning Back Group stalwarts, are in unopposed. Graham Stuart won what should have been, even if it wasn't, a close-fought battle for the Education Committee.

Full list of victors.

Paul Goodman

8 Jun 2010 14:09:20

How Labour MPs will vote tomorrow to make life difficult for David Cameron

As most readers know, the Select Committee Chairmanships have been carved out among the parties, and tomorrow's elections for the posts will be cross-party. So Conservative MPs, for example, can vote for Labour candidates, and vice-versa. Jonathan has a list of those standing here.

A question follows: on what basis will Labour MPs vote for the Conservative candidates? Answer: it depends.  Some will support the best candidate.  Others will vote for the Conservative candidate seen to be the more left-wing of the two.

Such is the attachment on the Labour benches to climate change orthodoxy, for example, that large number of the Party's MPs are likely to line up behind Tim Yeo, the establishment candidate for the Energy and Climate Change committee.

In other cases, however, Labour MPs will surely ask: who's the candidate more likely to cause David Cameron trouble?  Or, if they've a more elevated turn of mind: who's the candidate more likely to stand up for the legislature against the executive?

In some cases, it's hard to tell.  For example, both candidates for the Treasury Select Committee Chairmanship, Michael Fallon and Andrew Tyrie, are independent-minded. But in others, it's easier to see who'd be more likely to give Downing Street a fit of the heebie-jeebies.

Step forward, then, Peter Bone - standing for the Chairmanship of the Health Select Committee - John Baron, contesting Foreign Affairs (Baron pursued Ministers energetically about Iraq during the last Parliament) and, in the Defence Select Committee poll, no fewer than three of the candidates: Julian Lewis, Patrick Mercer and, above all, Douglas Carswell (one half of the Carswell-Hannan "Cannon" dynamic duo).

If Carswell in particular wins (an unlikely event, but you never know), expect senior officials in the Ministry of Defence to start screaming and screaming, and be unable to stop...

So if any of the above are elected, take a long, hard look at the Labour benches for those responsible.

Official disclaimer: nothing in this article is to be read as an endorsement of any candidate, in any election, at any time, anywhere...

Paul Goodman

12 Mar 2010 16:31:53

Tory MPs raise questions about the cost of the proposed parliamentary nursery

At questions to the MP representing the House of Commons Commission (Nick Harvey) yesterday, a succession of Conservative MPs raised issues about the cost of the recently refurbished Bellamy's Bar being turned into a nursery for the children of MPs and House of  Commons staff...

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold):  This important issue has not suddenly arisen before the House. I believe that the process so far has been unacceptable and undemocratic. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that £400,000 has recently been spent on refurbishing Bellamy's bar, and that this proposal will cost an additional £400,000? Will he confirm whether that has been included in the House budget estimates for this financial year?

Nick Harvey: The recent refurbishment in Bellamy's involves a significant amount of work and furnishing that can be reused-certainly about a third of the cost can be used directly. The hon. Gentleman says that this has come about swiftly, but I would point out that there have been constant surveys of the need for child care provision here, and the decision has been taken to move swiftly with this project so that the option is available to new Members as early as possible in the new Parliament to take up this facility if they need it.

Peter Luff (Worcestershire Mid): I entirely share the perception of the need for such a day nursery, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the House of Commons should establish any such facility on an exemplary basis. Given that, as on this particular occasion, a nursery cannot comply with statutory guidance to providers, I hope he will search urgently for an alternative site - one that would comply with that guidance.

Continue reading "Tory MPs raise questions about the cost of the proposed parliamentary nursery" »

16 Oct 2009 20:39:33

Labour Chief Whip introduces attempt to ban BNP MEPs from House of Commons

The motion put forward by Nick Brown MP was as follows:

"That the Resolutions of the House of 30 January 1989 relating to House of Commons Services and 6 December 1991 relating to Access (Former members and United Kingdom members of the European Parliament) shall cease to have effect insofar as they relate to United Kingdom members of the European Parliament."

Labour MP Andrew Dismore explained the aim:

"On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As you know, motion 52 excludes Members of the European Parliament from gaining access to the House through passes, which would of course mean that the newly elected British National party Members would not be allowed to get into this place. Most Members are of the view that that should be the case."

Christopher Chope MP objected to the motion in order to have it debated.

Some weeks ago Fraser Nelson explained why he opposed the change:

"Thatcher killed off the National Front in the late 70s by taking the issue immigration head-on. But David Cameron won't. He thinks the subject scares away voters in the marginal seats he needs to take power. This is the problem. Westminster only cares about swing voters in swing seats - so millions are forgotten. As an MEP, Nick Griffin is entitled to use the Commons bars and dining facilities. The MPs' response? Ban him. Pathetic. If I had my way, I'd base Griffin in Westminster so MPs would see his smug face walking past every day. He is a reminder of THEIR failure to reach out to forgotten voters. Their failure to grapple with difficult subjects. Griffin's BNP have had more votes than Mosley's blackshirts, or the National Front could ever dream of. And the silence from Westminster suggests that its shocking success story is far from over."

13 Jun 2009 09:50:53

The BBC is using licence fee money to broadcast "smut" says Christopher Chope

In the Commons yesterday Christopher Chope MP introduced a Bill that would ensure revenue from the licence fee would only go to public service broadcasting.  Here are some key sections of his contribution:

The definition of public service broadcasting currently used by the BBC is useless: "The argument is that if we are to have a licence fee, income from it should be expended solely in support of public service content. Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, was guest speaker at a breakfast that I was privileged to attend earlier this year that discussed Ofcom’s review of public service broadcasting and content. I asked him what part of the BBC output, funded by the licence fee, was not public service content. He assured me that the definitions of the genre of public service content are so wide and all-embracing that 100 per cent. of the output of the BBC is public service content. I do not think that that accords with common sense or with the views of most people."

On 'Kirsten's Topless Ambition': "In the last few weeks, I have been confined to barracks by a health condition, and I was able to note how various programmes on BBC3 were described by the BBC itself. I did not waste time watching these programmes, but one programme caught my attention—“Kirsten’s Topless Ambition”, which was produced by the BBC, funded by taxpayers’ money and, according to the chief executive of Ofcom, is “public service content”. The BBC describes the programme on its website as “A documentary in which kids TV presenter Kirsten O’Brien must decide whether to take her clothes off for a lads’ mag to try and clinch bigger presenting jobs.” It adds that the programme “contains adult themes.” In other words, it contains smut. Why should that programme be funded out of public money raised by a poll tax—that is effectively what the licence fee is? I understand that BBC3 has very low viewing figures, and it is obviously trawling desperately to try to attract new viewers."

The need for public service broadcasting for children: "A lot of us are concerned that in the present squeeze on funding for public service broadcasting, traditional children’s programmes are losing out. The definition of “public service content” in my Bill would ensure that programmes designed to inform, educate or entertain children would have a high priority and could draw on licence fee revenue as programmes that contained public service content."

VAIZEY-ED Last October Ed Vaizey Tory Culture spokesman clashed with Mr Chope on the BBC.  Yesterday, Ed Vaizey again set out the frontbench's thinking:

"Although the licence fee has imperfections, it is probably the least worst mechanism for funding the BBC. However, we remain concerned that the BBC is set to exceed the total of private sector revenues by larger and larger margins. The free, plural media market needs a strong BBC, but it also needs strong competition. That will be increasingly difficult as the BBC gets £1 billion more in TV revenue and £300 million more in radio revenue than all commercial broadcasters combined. We have set out a range of options to try to keep the BBC within recognisable limits. First, the increase in the licence fee from £139.50 to £142.50 should be frozen—the Government and the Liberal Democrats oppose that. We have also said that the BBC should start to publish the salaries of some of its highest paid executives and broadcasters, as well as their expenses. Our licence fee payers, who pay for that, should be able to see the figures. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch that it is high time the BBC was audited by the National Audit Office."

Tim Montgomerie

17 Mar 2009 12:45:55

Backbench Tories fail to stop UK Youth Parliament from being able to use House of Commons chamber

Christopher Chope MP was unsuccessful yesterday in his bid to block the UK Youth Parliament from ending centuries of exclusive use of the Commons by elected MPs. Here are some of the MP for Christchurch's arguments:

"I could understand a case being made for the use of this Chamber by any number of different organisations, but the fact is that we have never used this Chamber for anything other than parliamentary debate. We do not even use it for parliamentary meetings—party meetings. If it had been used for party gatherings, one might have imagined that when Mr. Blair was lauding all the young women Members of Parliament who had been elected on a Labour party ticket in the 1997 general election, he might have chosen to have the photo-shoot in this Chamber, rather than somewhere else on the parliamentary estate. I can imagine a very strong case for an incoming Conservative Government with 400 or 500 Conservative MPs being able to say, “There is nowhere else large enough on the estate where we can meet following our great election victory, so why not take over the House of Commons Chamber for a meeting?” That would be wrong, because we should not abandon or abandon lightly the traditions of this House, which have meant that this Chamber is the one for those who have the privilege of being elected as Members of the real Parliament, not members of a mock parliament, whether it be a youth parliament, a Muslim parliament or any other parliament.

...The Government have put the cart before the horse. The first principle that we should debate is whether we wish this Chamber to be used for purposes other than those for which it has been used hitherto. If it is decided that we should use the Chamber for other purposes, we can work out whether the applications should be chosen by ballot, such as the one held for exhibitions in the Upper Waiting Hall area; by discussion; or by members of the Administration Committee, who—ironically, and I speak as a member myself—consider the detail of applications for exhibitions in the Palace, but have not been consulted on this point."

...We do not yet know the financial cost of using the Chamber for one day for the annual meeting of the Youth Parliament, but we do know that when the Chamber in the other place was used for half a day, the cost was some £30,000 to £40,000. That was funded partly by this House and partly by a grant from the Ministry of Justice. One might wonder whether that was the best use of that money, in terms of educating a wider group of people about what we do in this place."

...Allowing young people to participate in party political activity, conferences and young people’s political organisations is very helpful for democracy, and I regret very much the reduced activity in all our political parties, including—I am not sure which political party my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling) belongs to now— [Interruption.] Very well, the wilderness political party. I gave the example of the late Lord Biffen and the current example of my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks, but there have been many other people who gained an appetite for engaging in democracy and debate through the political process, without coming to visit Parliament and without having to sit on the green Benches."

Tim Loughton MP dissented from the party's frontbench:

Too often, young people say that politics, Parliament and the ivory tower that is the House of Commons are not for them. They believe that they are populated by people in dark suits who do not understand or engage, and they say, “They are not for us.” What better way to send a message that they are wrong, that we do value their voice and views and that we want to hear from them than by allowing them to have their deliberations in that citadel of privilege, that ivory tower? It is a risk worth taking, subject to the many details that needed to be ironed out.

The debate that we appear to be having about procedural detail will give rise to accusations that we can, at times, be out of touch with people in the community in general, and particularly with young people. We continue to go down that trail at our peril if we want to improve the engagement of young people in politics and improve on the appalling statistic from the last general election that the percentage of 18 to 24-year-olds who bothered to turn out and vote was 39 per cent., or barely one in three. That is the biggest challenge that faces us all. For goodness’ sake, let us take a step in the right direction and say, “Come here. We want to hear what you say, so let’s give it a go.”

The following MPs, mainly Tory, backed Mr Chope's stance:

  1. Atkinson, Mr. Peter
  2. Bacon, Mr. Richard
  3. Binley, Mr. Brian
  4. Bone, Mr. Peter
  5. Brady, Mr. Graham
  6. Browne, Mr. Jeremy
  7. Burgon, Colin
  8. Campbell, Mr. Gregory
  9. Chope, Mr. Christopher
  10. Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
  11. Davies, Philip
  12. Davis, rh David
  13. Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
  14. Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
  15. Hollobone, Mr. Philip
  16. Leigh, Mr. Edward
  17. Luff, Peter
  18. McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
  19. Ottaway, Richard
  20. Russell, Bob
  21. Steen, Mr. Anthony
  22. Swire, Mr. Hugo
  23. Whittingdale, Mr. John

6 Mar 2009 07:37:39

Tory MPs lobby Harriet Harman and Speaker for debate on 'quantitative easing'

Update: Daniel Hannan is also outraged at the democratic deficit.

Alan Duncan, Shadow Leader of the House at Business Questions, and Anne Main, Julie Kirkbride and Christopher Chope later, all pressed yesterday for full parliamentary scrutiny of the Bank of England's momentous decision to start printing £75bn of extra banknotes:

Alan Duncan: "Why are we not being given a statement, even today, on the economy? Can we not have a statement from the Government and a full debate on quantitative easing, so that Members can question the Government on how they intend to steer a course through inflation and deflation? The decisions being taken today are of the utmost gravity and will have profound effects on the economy for many years to come. They are desperate measures designed to address economic failure and collapse. When can we be told in clear terms exactly what the Government are doing and why?"

Harriet Harman: "The hon. Gentleman asked for more opportunity to discuss the economy. There will be a written ministerial statement later today about the decision by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee to ensure that the inflation target is met and that the economy does not fall below that target by putting extra money into the economy, which is described as quantitative easing. There will be an opportunity to debate the economic situation in Government time next Monday, as well as an Opposition debate on Tuesday on unemployment and a debate on business rates on the following Wednesday. On Monday week there will be a debate on industry and exports and on Tuesday week there will be a debate on the Welfare Reform Bill. There will be a great deal of further discussion on the economy in the next week or two."


Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have just had an update from the Leader of the House that we have now gone to £75 billion quantitative easing, which is uncharted territory. I ask the Leader of House to consider arranging an emergency statement on the matter so that the House might debate it. Frankly, I am surprised that we are not at least being offered a topical debate on the matter, given that it was widely trailed on all the radio programmes this morning and is now a reality.

Mr. Speaker: I am not responsible for as and when Ministers come to give statements to the House, except when hon. Members ask for an urgent question. I can then call the Minister—

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: If I can finish. I can then call a Minister to the House. I have no doubt that the deep concern that the hon. Member for St. Albans (Anne Main) has mentioned will be noted.

Miss Kirkbride: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The announcement was only made at 12 o’clock, although it had been widely anticipated. Clearly, it is possibly the most significant economic move that any of us will see carried out by the Government and the Bank of England in our lifetime. Can you tell us whether Treasury Ministers have said that they are prepared to come to the House either today, or at the very latest tomorrow, to explain this enormously significant economic move?

Mr. Speaker: These things are up to Treasury Ministers. The matter has been put on the record by both hon. Ladies.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. We sympathise with the position in which you are placed by the arrogance of the Government, but can you give us an indication of whether you would be prepared to consider an urgent question for tomorrow? The House happens to be sitting this Friday and there will be a lot of public interest in the major announcement that was made by the Government today.

Mr. Speaker: I am not suggesting that I will grant an urgent question, because it would be wrong of me to do so at this stage. Matters have been put on the record and the deep concern of hon. Members has been conveyed, and it will percolate through to Treasury Ministers. An application for an urgent question can be made in the usual way—[Interruption.] The Clerk reminds me it has to be done for 11 am. I used to work to a stopwatch when I was at Rolls-Royce.

11 Feb 2009 12:35:22

Christopher Chope calls for minimum wage opt-out

Christopher_chope_mpChristchurch MP Christopher Chope introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill yesterday on employment opportunities.

He made a very persuasive speech, and it should be noted that no-one rose to speak against it (although Labour MP for Thurrock Andrew Mackinlay expressed concern about unfair competition).

Herewith the speech in full:

"Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I beg to move,

    That leave be given to bring in a Bill to introduce more freedom, flexibility and opportunity for those seeking employment in the public and private sectors.

Two months ago we were celebrating the 60th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights. Article 23.1 states:

    “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.”

Article 6 of the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, to which the United Kingdom is a party, states:

    “The State Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right to work which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work, which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.”

It may come as a shock to many Members of this House to know that, currently, many people are not given the rights to work enshrined in those important United Nations articles.

This is an issue of increasing significance with the advent of the economic depression and the soaring numbers of innocent victims of the Government’s gross mishandling of the economy. In Christchurch, unemployment has more than doubled in one year, with very few job vacancies now available. Few would dispute that everything that possibly can be done must be done to create new job opportunities for our fellow citizens. My Bill, by restoring rights to work that have been taken away by this Government, would boost employment.

The first group that would be helped would be refugees who have sought refuge in this country by reason of persecution and are waiting for the Home Office to determine their applications for asylum. Why should those people not have the right to take employment opportunities that have not been taken up by British citizens and thereby enjoy the dignity of having a job? Although it might cause some raised eyebrows among colleagues to hear this, I am pleased to report that the Trades Union Congress is of the same view.

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29 Oct 2008 13:52:12

Conservative dissent on climate change

CloudsYesterday the House of Commons continued to debate the Climate Change Bill. In particular, the Government is eager that emissions from shipping and international aviation be reduced. They have not been included in the Bill's target of an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, however.

Instead amendments have been introduced that would require the Government to publish regular projections for emissions from international aviation and shipping. Within five years shipping and international aviation should be included in the Government's targets or an explanation laid before Parliament as to why they have not been.

The Conservative front bench has welcomed this development. However, some Conservative MPs have dissented.

Hitchin & Harpenden MP Peter Lilley (a former Secretary of State for Social Security) offered this observation:

"In the speeches of a number of hon. Members, it has been assumed that the whole House is unanimous on the measures before us, and on the Bill that they amend or add to. Historically, the House has made its worst mistakes not when it is divided, but when it is virtually unanimous; not when it is adversarial, but when MPs switch off their critical faculties in a spasm of moral self-congratulation. My concern is that, in considering these measures, we are displaying that tendency. It is vital that we bring the House back down to earth by considering the hard costs and benefits of, and alternatives to, what is proposed and what we are doing. We have not done that very much so far in the debates in the House. Only once in Committee was mention made of the costs and benefits of what we are proposing."

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20 Oct 2008 15:58:40

Conservative MPs disagree over TV licence fee

Bbc_logoOn Friday, backbencher Christopher Chope had the Second Reading of his Broadcasting (Television Licence Fee Abolition) Bill. He explained:

"This debate is about abolishing the television licence fee, which is more accurately described as the television tax. It is not about abolishing the BBC. One can be a friend of the BBC—as I am—without being a supporter of the licence fee, although the lengths to which the BBC sometimes goes to defend the licence fee often create enemies."

His effort, inevitably for now, failed. It was opposed by Shadow Arts Minister Ed Vaizey, who said:

"I want to put it on record that I am a firm supporter of the licence fee, as is the Conservative party. Nevertheless, no one should be afraid to rehearse the arguments about whether the licence fee is the best funding mechanism."

Mr Chope quoted former BBC Director-General Greg Dyke, who said the licence fee has:

“always been an unfair tax—the rich pay the same as the poor— will be increasingly difficult for the BBC to collect the amount they collect now. In the age of internet TV, how can you insist people continue to pay a licence fee? A licence fee for what? Already you don’t need to pay the licence fee to watch most of the BBC’s programmes if you watch them on your computer via the iPlayer”.

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