Jesse Norman MP

28 Sep 2011 13:57:39

Jesse Norman produces an accountable and comprehensive report of his first year as an MP

By Joseph Willits 
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Norman Jesse Norman MP for Hereford, has produced a twenty page Annual Report, detailing comprehensively and honestly what he has done and why in his first year as an MP. The report also lists costs and expenses and provides a breakdown of constituency cases. Norman's idea is a reassuring and commendable move, intending to go some way in restoring public faith in MPs. 

In the report's introduction, Norman writes:

"This Annual Report is a small local step towards that democratic goal. Members of Parliament are public servants, accountable to the people. They are under an obligation to explain what they have been doing, what they stand for, and why. This report tries to do that, for my first year as an MP, May 2010 to May 2011. It is a first shot at something that I hope will grow and improve with time. I plan to do the same thing for every year that I hold elected office."

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28 Jun 2011 19:36:23

Tory MPs voiced their scepticism about an elected second chamber during yesterday's debate in the Commons

By Jonathan Isaby
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I have already covered Conor Burns' sideswipe at Lord Heseltine from the debate on Lords reform, but what else happened during the debate?

Overall, one got the impression that (with a few exceptions) the Conservative benches were highly sceptical about an elected second chamber - including many who are usually deemed to be supporters of the Government.

Later in his speech, Conor Burns spoke in favour of the status quo - ie a fully appointed chamber - and then considered what parties had promised in their manifestos:

"I wish to deal briefly with the argument that reform was in every party’s manifesto. It was, to some degree, and the Liberal Democrats, who had the most pro-reform manifesto commitment, got 23% of the vote in the general election. Labour, which was slightly more lukewarm, got 29%, and the Conservatives, who were the most lukewarm, got 36%. There is almost an argument that if we want to do things on the basis of what was in the manifestos, we should remember that the most people voted for the party that was most lukewarm on the issue. We have to ask ourselves, as at the time of Maastricht, when all three Front-Bench teams are united on something, how do those who dissent make their view known?

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25 Jun 2011 14:03:43

Jesse Norman's campaign for a PFI rebate continues apace

By Jonathan Isaby
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Norman Jesse Last December, Jesse Norman - who was elected MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire at the 2010 general election - wrote here on ConHome about his campaign for a voluntary rebate to taxpayers from contractors who benefited from costly Private Finance Initiative deals negotiated by the last Labour Government.

On Thursday afternoon, he took his campaign to the floor of the Commons' Westminster Hall chamber, opening a three-hour backbench debate on the issue - the first time it had been afforded time for such a debate, he claimed.

Norman said that PFI had caused more than £200 billion of public debt, yet had created great private fortunes, and that it was not unrealistic to press for a voluntary rebate to taxpayers of between £500 million and £1 billion.

He put PFI into context by relating the story of his local hospital:

"Starting in 1999, Hereford hospital was one of the earliest PFI projects. It was built and is currently owned and managed under a 30-year contract through a special purpose company, which is three-quarters owned by Semperian, a large PFI firm based in the City of London, and one-quarter owned by the French industrial services giant, Sodexo. Non-clinical services are contracted out to Sodexo, WS Atkins and to others.

"Car parking charges at the hospital have been the source of huge local anger because they penalise patients at a very vulnerable time in their lives. They particularly hit frequent users such as those visiting in-patients and those suffering from cancer. They are socially regressive, falling relatively harder on the poor than on the rich. As I investigated further, I found that that was only the tip of the iceberg. The reason why the charges were so high was down to the PFI itself, because car parking was contracted out not once but twice—first to Sodexo and then to CP Plus, and each had its own mark-up."

"Later PFI contracts have contained financial safeguards for the NHS, including automatic efficiency savings of 3% a year and the right for a hospital to put services out to public tender periodically. However, the Hereford contract contains neither of those safeguards. There are no automatic efficiency savings, and the contract cannot be retendered until 2029. The hospital trust is doing a valiant job, but it has little influence, legal scope or access to underlying costs which might help it to negotiate changes to the contract. Worse still, no mechanism exists by which the hospital can group together with other PFI hospitals to exercise collective influence over the PFI contractors. By contrast, Semperian has 106 PFI contracts. The imbalance in power is obvious, yet the NHS seems to have done nothing to remedy that."

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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.

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15 Jul 2010 12:08:06

MPs vote to extend 28-day detention for terrorist suspects for another six months

By Jonathan Isaby

Yesterday saw a debate in Parliament over whether to approve the order to extend 28-day detention for terrorist suspects for another six months.

Theresa May Big BenWhilst she has previously indicated that personally she favours a reduction to 14 days, Home Secretary Theresa May proposed the motion, saying that she did not wish at this stage to pre-empt the result of the current counter-terrorism review:

"I want to make it absolutely clear to the House that I consider the 28-day limit to be a temporary measure, and I want it brought to an end once I have completed my review. Since the power to detain for 28 days was passed by Parliament and came into force in July 2006, 11 people have been held for more than 14 days, eight were charged with terrorist-related offences, and four were found guilty. Of those, six people have been held for between 27 and 28 days, three were charged with terrorist-related offences, and two were found guilty. No suspect has been held for more than 14 days since July 2007. When one considers that in the 12 months ending in December 2009 28 terrorism-related trials were completed, with 93% convictions, including six life sentences, it is clear to me that the power to detain for up to 28 days is not needed routinely for the police to investigate, interrogate and charge terrorist suspects.

"The possibility remains that in some extreme circumstances it might be necessary to detain some suspects beyond 14 days, but those circumstances remain rare and extreme, and we need to be sure that the powers are never abused. That is why we need to take time to consider pre-charge detention as part of the review of counter-terrorism powers. Therefore, in moving today’s motion, I am asking hon. Members not to support 28 days indefinitely, nor to support 28 days for 12 months, as was envisaged in the Terrorism Act 2006, but to support a renewal for six months while the counter-terrorism review considers how we can reduce the limit."

"The review of counter-terrorism powers will, as I said yesterday, be informed by the principles of the coalition Government. Those principles—shared principles—are based on a respect for our ancient civil liberties and individual freedom. There is nothing we take more seriously than our duty to protect the public, but in doing so we will not, as the previous Government did, forget to defend our way of life."

In making the case against retaining 28-day detention, former shadow home secretary David Davis discussed the details of what happened surrounding the Heathrow plot, aka Operation Overt:

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15 Jun 2010 10:14:24

Jesse Norman uses his maiden speech to call for a ”new economics” where people are seen as “bundles of human capability"

Picture 11 Jesse Norman gained Hereford and South Herefordshire at the general election from the Liberal Democrats and began his maiden speech last night by comparing the state of the economy bequeathed by Labour to the situation he witnessed in eastern Europe around the time of the fall of communism:

“I was in eastern Europe at a time when civil society was the subject of constant political oppression. Economic activity was shackled by commissars and petty regulation, and industry was funded by an open chequebook from Government. The result was colossal debt and economic stagnation.“

He went on to call for a ”new economics in our Government” where people are seen as “bundles of human capability”:

“The idea of revolution is never dear to a conservative, but even Edmund Burke would agree that we need a revolution in how we think about economics in Government. Over the past two decades the British Government have become steeped in a 1970s textbook caricature—a view in which markets are always efficient, prices reflect perfect information, and institutions are nowhere to be found. One would be tempted to call such a view neo-liberal, were we not in a time of coalition government.

“Worse than that, the deep assumption remains that human beings are purely economic, rather than social, animals. This dismal gospel regards the human world as static, not dynamic—as a world of fixed social engineering, not one of creation, discovery and competition. In policy terms, this textbook economics takes power away from local people. It encourages centralisation and top-down meddling. It pushes us towards an inefficient, inhumane and factory-style view of public services. It is absurdly risk averse. In its apparent inevitability, it stifles public debate about other, more thoughtful approaches. Above all, it actively undermines the ideas of public service, public vocation and public duty—ideas which, I know, lie close to the heart of every Member of this House.

“Now is the moment to re-examine these assumptions. Politics is not a subset of economics, and economics is not a subset of the financial sector. GDP growth is important—goodness knows that is true now—but so are flexibility, resilience and, above all, entrepreneurship in our economy. We need a new economics in our Government, not the desiccated economic atomism of the old textbooks, and we need to see people for what they really are, as bundles of human capability, creative, dynamic and fizzing with imagination and potential.

“If we do this, and only if we do this, we can revive our economy on a huge billow of human energy, one that is barely conceivable within our current conventional economic models, and we can help to restore the trust and the mutual respect that our society so badly requires. It was that great—and rather conservative—economist, John Maynard Keynes, who once warned politicians not to be the slaves of some defunct economist. So let us all cry freedom and move on.”
Jonathan Isaby