Jacob Rees-Mogg MP

4 May 2011 10:30:24

Jacob Rees-Mogg's doubts about Robin Hood

Matthew Barrett

Robin_hood_uk-show

There was an exchange between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker during a Finance (No. 3) Bill session last Tuesday that I thought I should bring to readers' attention:

Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): The increase in the tax threshold is extremely welcome, as is the reduction in corporation tax. Being competitive on corporation tax is something that the Irish were so clever about, and may we wish them well in their fight against the European Union's attempts to make them increase it. By reducing corporation tax we attract businesses that could otherwise go anywhere in the world. We know that businesses can move and that WPP is thinking of moving back to the United Kingdom because of the right trend in taxation. In that regard, I encourage Her Majesty's Government to avoid any of this nonsense about a Robin Hood tax. Robin Hood was not as good as he was made out to be-particularly for the sheriff of Nottingham-but even if such a tax were as heroic as the late Robin Hood, it would still be a very bad tax for this country.

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): I was just wondering whether my hon. Friend would agree that Robin Hood actually took from the state to give back to the people.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I am not entirely sure that that is what he did. I think he also stole from the Church, which is why I have my doubts about him; I am not really in favour of people pinching things from holy mother Church.

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" »

1 Mar 2011 18:27:43

Conservative MPs give their takes on the Big Society in the first parliamentary debate on the matter

By Jonathan Isaby

Yesterday saw MPs debating the merits of the Big Society on a backbench motion moved by Dover's Tory MP, Charlie Elphicke, which stated its support for the Big Society, "seeking stronger communities where power is decentralised and social action is encouraged."

"The big society has been "much discussed in the media", yet this was, Elphicke asserted, "practically the first proper occasion on which it has been discussed on the Floor of this Chamber."

His motion had been co-signed by a number of Conservative MPs, as well as Labour's Jon Cruddas and Tristram Hunt and Lib Dem Bob Russell.

Here are some excerpts from a variety of the 24 speeches delivered by backbench Tory MPs - who, interestingly enough, were all members of the 2010 intake.

Charlie Elphicke
Charlie Elphicke Commons What I want to talk about is the sense of annoyance that everyone has when an individual feels put off from simply sweeping the snow from the pavement outside their house for fear that they will be sued, or when they are scared to jump into a pond and rescue a drowning child.

How have we got to the situation where individuals do not feel that they can take responsibility, and that rules and procedures stop them doing so? It is important to encourage people to take more action and more responsibility for their own lives and for their communities. People in communities are frustrated, such as the head teacher who cannot decide which children are in his school and feels that he is being told what to do by diktat, and the hospital worker who wants to take responsibility for his area, but who has to follow detailed rules and procedures.

Communities as a whole-big communities such as mine in Dover-want a greater sense of being able to chart their own destiny and future direction, but feel hampered by central Government saying, "No, these are the rules. This is how it is going to be. It is all going to be top-down and what you say doesn't count for much." It is that sense of annoyance and frustration, which stalks the land up and down the country, that the big society aims to counteract.

Continue reading "Conservative MPs give their takes on the Big Society in the first parliamentary debate on the matter " »

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.

2 Feb 2011 06:29:15

20 Tory backbenchers back Peter Bone's amendment calling for a trigger on an in/out EU referendum

By Jonathan Isaby

At the end of proceedings on the European Union Bill yesterday, there was an opportunity for the Commons to debate and vote on the amendment from Wellingborough MP Peter Bone, which he wrote about here on ConHome last month.

The thrust of his amendment was that an in/out referendum on British membership of the European Union would be triggered if people voted against a transfer of a competency to Brussels under the terms of the new EU Bill.

Peter Bone Bone summarised:

"Let me explain why the Committee should support my new clause. First, it would not alter in any way the purpose of the European Union Bill. The Bill is designed, under certain circumstances, to give the British people, through a referendum, a say on our relationship with the European Union. My proposal would merely extend the referendum lock, under certain circumstances, to whether we should remain part of the European Union.

"Why do I think that this would improve the Bill? If the British people have a chance to approve or disapprove of a transfer of power in the future, and they say yes, then there is clearly no need for an in/out referendum, as it would show that the British people are happy with their relationship with Europe. If they say no, clearly they are unhappy with a proposed change to the European Union. Surely it is right that the alternative question is then put as to whether the British people wish to remain in the European Union.

"An added advantage is that the in/out referendum would be triggered by an event, not by politicians. In the past, referendums have been timed to favour the proponents of the referendum, not necessarily for the benefit of the British people."

Continue reading "20 Tory backbenchers back Peter Bone's amendment calling for a trigger on an in/out EU referendum" »

30 Oct 2010 06:23:36

Jacob Rees-Mogg is fast becoming the star orator of the 2010 intake

By Jonathan Isaby

Jacob Rees-Mogg Commons I always thought that people shouldn't underestimate the abilities of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new MP for North East Somerset, and I think I am proving to have been right.

He is an assiduous attender in the Commons chamber and is already proving his credentials as an independent thinker.

But most of all, he is showing himself to be a first class orator, who is not only incredibly fluent, extremely knowledgeable and occasionally self-deprecating, but he peppers virtually any contribution to debate with historical, classical or biblical references.

Here are a few examples of his rhetoric from the last couple of weeks alone:

From the debate on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, 20th October:

"What a fantastic history lesson we had from the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt). To think that this was supposedly the least discussed reform of Parliament since the Rump Parliament, when Cromwell decided to send in the troops - the only man to send troops into the predecessor building to this House to enforce debate and Divisions. Some of us may think that the Whips are tough, aggressive and forceful, but even in my experience they have not used force, or pikes, to make sure that I go in the right direction. Oliver Cromwell did indeed do that; he prevented people from voting in that forceful way."

From the debate on Labour MP John McDonnell's Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill, 22nd October:

"The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell)... said that we were in some kind of new politics. I think we should be very suspicious of that phrase, because if we look at the annals of history, as I know the House likes to do from time to time, we will see that every generation looks back at the past, and says, "That was a golden age, an age when they knew what to do and did things right and properly. And now look at the times we live in! O tempora! O mores!" as the great Cicero so famously said. He lived in the time of Julius Caesar, so people were making that complaint back in the '50s BC.

"It seems to me to be wrong to expect the procedures of this House to be adjusted for some absurd new politics. As we all know from the book of Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. That is actually right. Politics is never new or old; it is always the same. People want to get what they want and use strategems and sometimes even tricks to get it. We may be shocked at the tricks, but that is the reality."

From the debate on the Savings Accounts and Health in Pregnancy Grant Bill, 26th October:

"Benjamin Disraeli famously said that the job of the Opposition was to oppose, and we have seen that today. Indeed, we have seen it all afternoon. We have seen rather specious opposition to the Bill. Whenever the subject of where the money is to come from arises, there is no answer. VAT should not go up to pay for our bills; benefits should not be cut to pay for our bills; so we must spend, and we must have no increase in taxation. What happens to the nation's finances at that point? What happens to the national debt? What happens to the deficit? We go down the sorry road towards bankruptcy. That really is what Opposition Members have been arguing for. It is the "do nothing" school, the argument that, like Nero, we should fiddle while Rome burns."

27 Oct 2010 17:47:34

Treasury minister Mark Hoban insists the UK is exempt from the EU economic governance regime

By Jonathan Isaby

Further to my report earlier and that of Lee Rotherham on Monday about Herman Van Rompuy's Task Force on EU Economic Governance, Treasury MInister Mark Hoban came to the Commons this afternoon to answer an Urgent Question from Bill Cash on the issue.

Mr Hoban said:

"The report concludes that the EU should take steps to reinforce fiscal discipline and that the euro area in particular must face tougher surveillance of its fiscal policies, with sanctions for non-compliance with the pact where appropriate. It also recommends measures to improve EU-level co-ordination of macro-economic policies. That will ensure that any harmful macro-economic imbalances between member states can be identified and corrective action taken. Finally, the report notes that there should be a permanent crisis resolution mechanism for the euro area. The UK supports its conclusions.

"A strong and stable euro area is firmly in the UK’s own economic interests, given the high level of UK exports to those countries and our close economic ties. In the years before the crisis, fiscal discipline was absent, and not just in states in the eurozone. High levels of debt have exacerbated the problems that some member states face during the economic downturn. The taskforce recommends that there should be greater focus on member states’ public debt levels in future, and the Government agree with that approach.

"I am pleased to note that the report explicitly states that sanctions cannot be applied to the UK under the stability and growth pact. Domestic fiscal frameworks play a crucial role in ensuring that member states act responsibly. EU surveillance is useful, but as the House knows, national Parliaments and national institutions must hold Governments to account for their economic and budgetary policies."

"The UK’s exemption from the sanctions proposal will be explicit, and there will be no shift of sovereignty from Westminster to Brussels. The report makes that clear, agreeing that “strengthened enforcement measures need to be implemented for all EU Member States, except the UK as a consequence of Protocol 15 of the Treaty”.

Bill Cash was not persuaded by the minister's claim:

"Unfortunately, the explanation that we have just heard from the Minister does not answer all the questions that arise in this matter. In particular, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was on the taskforce, and the Council’s recommendation is that these moves should strengthen economic governance “in the EU and the euro area”, in other words not excluding the UK, “and can be implemented within the existing Treaties.”

But Mr Hoban re-iterated:

"The language in the taskforce report guaranteed that sanctions would not apply to the UK. Paragraph 18 of the taskforce report refers “to the specific situation of the UK in relation to Protocol 15 of the Treaties.” In addition, paragraph 4 states that the measures set out in the taskforce report can be implemented through “EU secondary legislation…within the existing legal framework of the European Union”, so nothing in the report requires a treaty change. I am aware that France and Germany have suggested that there may be treaty changes, but we have yet to see the details of such proposals, which would be made to the European Council at the weekend."

Putative treaty changes were also raised by Peter Lilley:

"Can the Minister confirm that even if the proposed treaty concerns only and exclusively the member states of the eurozone, it would still require the support of the British Government to go ahead? Can he assure me that that support will not be given without obtaining concessions in return, such as the return of powers to this country that were unnecessarily given? Can he assure me that we will not give that support without demanding a price? This is the ideal opportunity to obtain that price."

Mr Hoban replied:

"My right hon. Friend makes an important point, but I would point out to him that, at the moment, there are no proposed treaty changes on the table. That may happen at the European Council next weekend, and we should respond to those treaty changes as they arise. However, I go back to the comments that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made: we will not agree to any changes to EU treaties that move more powers from this country to the EU."

Further notes of scepticism were raised by several other Tory backbenchers:

Douglas Carswell: In June, Ministers made a big deal of the fact that the UK Budget would not need to be submitted to EU institutions before it was brought to the House of Commons. Will the Minister confirm that, in fact, the UK pre-Budget report data are part of the European semester process, and that, while we might be exempt from sanctions, we are part of that surveillance? Will he be honest and admit that we are part of the EU fiscal scrutiny process?

Mr Hoban: I believe that this Parliament should hear news about this country’s finances before the EU does. We have secured that situation and that was the right thing to do.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: The Minister has drawn our attention to paragraph 18 of the report. I am curious about paragraph 16, which refers to “New reputational and political measures”, including the threat of “enhanced surveillance”. Would the British fiscal position be subject to enhanced surveillance in certain circumstances, and what would that mean?

Mr Hoban: I take the view that the measures that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has announced in relation to strengthening the fiscal framework, and the consolidation that he announced last week, will ensure that we will not be subject to any surveillance whatever.

Philip Davies: Whenever the Minister defends this country from a power grab and a cash grab by the European Union, he will have the enthusiastic support of Members on these Benches. Some of us are rather nervous, however, because when the Conservatives were in opposition, they opposed the European External Action Service, yet they sang its praises when introducing it in the House not long ago. They also opposed giving more money to the European Union, yet they recently rubber-stamped an increase through this House that had been agreed by the previous Government. Does the Minister agree that his Government should be judged on what they do, and not on what they say?

Mr Hoban: Absolutely. That is why I would encourage my hon. Friend to read this document. He will see the gains that we have managed to secure in Europe to defend our position.

28 Jul 2010 09:38:44

Theresa May defends European Investigation Order as necessary for cross-border crime-fighting but backbench Tory MPs warn her that it is an EU 'power grab'

By Tim Montgomerie

In the Commons yesterday the Home Secretary explained to MPs why the Government was adopting the European Investigation Order. Posted below are key highlights from her opening statement:

The need to deal with cross-border crime: "To deal with cross-border crime, countries enter into mutual legal assistance-MLA-agreements. Those agreements provide a framework through which states can obtain evidence from overseas. MLA has therefore been an important tool in the fight against international crime and terrorism."

The European Investigation Order aims to simplify and accelerate cross-border crime-fighting: "The process is fragmented and confusing for the police and prosecutors, and it is too often too slow. In some cases it takes many months to obtain vital evidence. Indeed, in one drug trafficking case the evidence arrived in the UK after the trial had been completed. The European investigation order is intended to address those problems by simplifying the system, through a standardised request form and by providing formal deadlines for the recognition and execution of requests."

The Association of Chief Police Officers want the EIO: "The Government have decided to opt into the EIO because it offers practical help for the British police and prosecutors, and we are determined to do everything we can to help them cut crime and deliver justice. That is what the police say the EIO will do. We wrote to every Association of Chief Police Officers force about the EIO, and not one said that we should not opt in. ACPO itself replied that "the EIO is a simpler instrument than those already in existence and, provided it is used sensibly and for appropriate offences, we welcome attempts to simplify and expedite mutual legal assistance.""

The EIO does not threaten civil liberties: "We will seek to maintain the draft directive's requirement that evidence should be obtained by coercive means, for example through searching a premises, only where the dual criminality requirement is satisfied. Requests for evidence from foreign authorities will still require completion of the same processes as in similar domestic cases. In order to search a house, for example, police officers will still need to obtain a warrant. The execution of the EIO must be compatible with the European convention on human rights. That means that there must be a clear link between the alleged criminality and the assistance requested, otherwise complying with the request would be in breach of article 8 of the ECHR, on private and family life."

Continue reading "Theresa May defends European Investigation Order as necessary for cross-border crime-fighting but backbench Tory MPs warn her that it is an EU 'power grab'" »

8 Jun 2010 14:43:57

Jacob Rees-Mogg identifies the three historical heroes from his constituency who will be his political inspiration

Jacob Rees-Mogg Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, who won Somerset North East at the general election, used his maiden speech last night to eloquently note three historical figures from his constituency whom he says will serve as an inspiration in his political life:

"Alfred the Great, we must remember, in 678 AD, had just Somerset left, with the Danes all around, as they had begun to take over all of Wessex and already had much of the rest of England. Alfred, however, brought together the people of Somerset, Wiltshire and parts of Hampshire and they crossed over from the Somerset levels through north-east Somerset to Edington, near Chippenham, and there they fought the great battle on which our freedoms depend. They put paid to Danish occupation. Alfred was a great law giver—a man we should think about in this debate particularly, because he did not want to innovate laws; he wanted to codify laws. He wanted to tell people what ancient rights they had and how they ought to have their liberties. He was able to expel the Danes and his grandson became the first King of England on borders we would recognise to this day.

"Moving on a little later, the next great figure from North East Somerset is Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury, born in Weston, a village bordering north-east Somerset and Bath. He is really the first tax martyr. He was called upon to pay the Danegeld, and he took £48,000 to the Danes, then at Greenwich, and handed it over. They said, “Mr Alphege, we would like some more, and if you don’t give us more, we are going to hold on to you as a hostage.” And Alphege replied: “I will not give you more; I will not put higher taxes on my people; I will not have them suffer this imposition.” So they threw ox bones at Alphege until he died. I hope that people will not find it necessary to throw ox bones at me, but as another representative from North East Somerset, I will stand constantly for low taxation.

"The final figure I am going to mention in this great pantheon of wonderful figures from God’s own part of God’s own county is John Locke. Brought up in Belluton—this really is a sop to the Whig coalition that we now have—this philosopher of the Whigs was in many ways the founder of the constitution that we now have, one that has as its essence the fact that power comes from the people up to the legislature, which is there to supervise the Executive. Members will all know that the argument at the time was about the divine right of kings and some may now think that we have another form of divine right of the Executive. Locke made it clear that the duty of the legislature was to check and to stop the Executive exceeding the powers, the rights and the authority that it had from time immemorial.

"Let us take these three great Somerset men: Alfred the Great, the first Eurosceptic, who got rid of the Danes and made England independent; Alphege, the low-tax martyr; and John Locke, standing up for the legislature and the people against the Executive. For however long I represent North East Somerset, I will take these three as my great heroes and hope to model my political words on their thoughts."

Jonathan Isaby