John Baron MP

1 Dec 2011 14:59:41

Tory backbenchers line up to support the Chancellor's Autumn Statement

By Matthew Barrett
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Osborne autumn statementWe reported on the policy content of the Chancellor's Autumn Statement on Tuesday. As well as the content of the Statement, it's worth noting the contributions from Conservative backbenchers in the Commons session that followed it. The Chancellor answered 96 questions in total, so it allowed a large window of opportunity for backbenchers to raise questions or points sceptical of the government's economic agenda - backbenchers could have urged the Chancellor to pursue fiscal consolidation more vigorously, or pressed for a more pro-growth direction, and so on. 

However, backbench contributions were overwhelmingly positive. There were, generally, two kinds of question from Tory backbenchers. The first would be positive about measures announced in the Autumn Statement. For example:

"Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the welcome opportunity for private pension funds to invest in infrastructure will also give a good return for those pension funds by unlocking the growth that can come from such infrastructure, particularly in rural areas such as East Anglia?"

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18 Nov 2011 11:59:49

John Baron MP says Bundesbank should use its £130 billion of gold reserves if Germany wants to save €uro

By Tim Montgomerie
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Earlier this week John Baron MP called a debate in Westminster Hall to question UK participation in IMF bailouts of the Eurozone. Pasted below are extracts from what he, Mark Hoban MP and Mark Field MP said.

Screen shot 2011-11-18 at 11.47.45Endless bailouts and EU summits are not addressing the Eurozone's underlying uncompetitiveness: "Will additional IMF funding work? That will simply reinforce existing eurozone policy, which is itself fundamentally flawed. The existing policy simply does not address the core causes of the crisis, which are a lack of competitiveness and Governments spending too much. Debt is the problem, as I have said, not demand. We have had 14 or perhaps even 15 gatherings, conferences and summits to save the euro, but each has failed to address the core reason for the problem, which is a fundamental lack of competitiveness."

IMF packages usually rely on devaluation nut that option is not available inside the Eurozone: "Another reason why this policy will fail is that it fundamentally ignores the importance of devaluation to recovering economies. Usually, there are three elements in an IMF package: reduced spending, increased revenue and the ability to allow the currency to devalue. That last bit is important because a currency that devalues helps to take the strain off the economy. If an economy is deemed to be, say, 25% uncompetitive compared with its neighbours, allowing its currency to depreciate to about the same extent will go a long way towards taking the strain. If we cut off that option, that 25% gain in competitiveness can only really be brought about by cuts to public services, salaries and pension funds. That is simply not an option, and for that reason that makes those austerity packages so much worse."

The Eurozone, not the IMF should address its problems: "I question why the IMF is getting involved in these bail-outs. The eurozone is a currency union. If a state within the United States got into trouble, the IMF would not be expected to ride to the rescue. The same should be true of the eurozone. I contend that Greece is not economically sovereign; it has no central bank; it cannot set interest rates; it has no currency; and it cannot devalue. I would go so far as to question whether Greece is even politically sovereign. At least in the United States, the people can elect the governor of individual states. That is not happening in Greece and Italy."

The Bundesbank should use its reserves to save the Eurozone: "What makes the situation even worse is that the eurozone has resources that could do much more to help the situation. For example, the Bundesbank has reserves of £180 billion, £130 billion of which is in gold, and gold is going up in price. That is in stark contrast to our country and the action of the previous Government, who sold gold at near the bottom of the market."

The UK government is showing no leadership: "The Government seem to have fallen in behind the French and Germans in this cry that somehow we must save the euro. I suggest to the Minister that that is economic clap-trap. Binding divergent economies into a single currency without full fiscal union was, and remains, a massive mistake. Similar thinking warned us of the perils of exiting the exchange rate mechanism, yet look what happened then: almost to the day that we exited the ERM, our recovery started and it was a very strong recovery."

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9 Nov 2011 16:40:45

Government EU budget motion passes without rebellion

By Paul Goodman
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COMMONS-sittingThere are conflicting views at present about where Conservative Euro-revolts go next.  One is that they peaked on the vote over an EU referendum.  Another is that they will climb higher if Britain enters any new treaty negotiations without a repatriation of powers proposal. My view is the latter (were the Government to present a bill based on such a treaty).

But either way, it is worth recording briefly that a Government motion relating to future EU budgets was passed yesterday evening without a Tory backbench amendment.  Both a source loyal to the Government and a rebel used the same phrase to me yesterday about potential future rebellions - "guerilla warfare".

In other words, they are united in agreeing that rebellions will be back sooner or later, but for the moment there is no appetite for more among most of the 81 Conservative MPs who voted against the Government on the referendum motion.  I think that Tracey Crouch's letter to Mark Pritchard last week rather caught the mood.

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6 Sep 2011 07:28:35

An absence of backbench grovelling to "liberal, practical Conservative" Cameron over Libya

By Paul Goodman
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Grovelling? Yes, let's face it: it happens.  But not yesterday when the Prime Minister was questioned after his statement on Libya.  Read Patrick Mercer on Islamism, Andrew Tyrie on torture, Peter Lilley on getting Libya to pay, Baron on intervention, Chisti on Syria.  Plenty of pertinent questions

Also follow David Cameron being polite to Mark Pritchard, telling Rory Stewart that he shouldn't have gone to Libya recently, and being thrown for a moment by a very sharp question from Andrew Bridgen.  Here are the exchanges in full from Hansard.

"Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): As someone who had reservations about the principle of intervention, may I congratulate the Prime Minister on a successful outcome in Libya? It was largely achieved by two aspects: first, it was legal; and secondly, it had the support of the Libyan people. Further to the previous question, however, will my right hon. Friend now use it as an illustration to persuade permanent members of the Security Council, such as Russia and China, that a well conducted intervention can be successfully used to restrain autocrats in countries such as Syria?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he says. Everyone should have misgivings about such operations, and one should never have the naive belief that they are easy or that everything is going to go to plan. That very rarely happens, and we should always be hard-headed and careful about such things. We should also respect the fact that this is not done—this is not completed yet.

Also, I think that we should be very cautious about trying to draw up a new doctrine, because it seems to me that as soon as a new doctrine is established, a case comes up that flies completely in its face, but I do hope that other members of the Security Council will see that there has been success in removing a dictator, and in giving that country a chance of peaceful and democratic progress, which will be good for the world.

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15 Apr 2011 11:29:22

Tory MP demands recall of Parliament to debate latest Libyan developments

By Jonathan Isaby

John Baron Just before the Commons rose for its three-week Easter recess, I speculated that there was a higher than usual possibility of a recall of Parliament owing to events in Libya.

And today the first demand for such a recall has come from a Conservative MP, John Baron.

Baron - who was the sole Tory to oppose the military action in Libya - reckons that this morning's article by David Cameron, Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy (already covered here on ConHome this morning) shows that the allies have changed the terms of the intervention.

He has just told the BBC:

"I believe Parliament should be recalled. This statement is a clear alteration to the original mission and that would justify a recall. When we debated this the case was put this was a humanitarian mission. Clearly that is no longer the case and maybe never was. If you were being charitable you could say this was an example of mission creep. If you were being uncharitable [you] could say it was an ulterior motive."

> On March 29th, Mr Baron set out his view on ConHome that Cameron and Sarkozy have intervened in Libya to secure regime change but are not willing to admit it.

1.15pm update:

Former shadow home secretary David Davis has just added his voice to calls for a recall. He has told Radio 4's World at One:

"Parliament did not authorise the next phase of this. I approve the of the next phase. I think it's necessary, I think it's probably unavoidable, and I think Cameron has done the right thing at every step so far - to go to the next phase he has to get Parliamentary authority".

Meanwhile Wellingborough MP Peter Bone has also said that the Commons should be abel to debate these latest developments:

"I'm not taking a view on the arguments. I'm saying I want to hear the arguments and want Parliament to take a view on it."

Mr Baron has also confirmed that he has fornally written to the Speaker requesting a recall.

22 Mar 2011 06:15:58

A sole Tory MP joins the 15 MPs voting to oppose military action in Libya

By Jonathan Isaby

It came as no surprise that Basildon and Billericay MP John Baron voted against the motion supporting the UN-backed action in Libya, given this article he wrote for ConHome yesterday morning.

Mr Baron aside, 14 other MPs voted against the motion (all Labour unless indicated):

  • Graham Allen
  • Ronnie Campbell
  • Katy Clark
  • Jeremy Corbyn
  • Mark Durkan (SDLP)
  • Barry Gardiner
  • Roger Godsiff
  • Caroline Lucas (Green)
  • John McDonnell
  • Yasmin Qureshi 
  • Linda Riordan
  • Margaret Ritchie (SDLP)
  • Dennis Skinner
  • Mike Wood

All Conservative MPs voted for the motion apart from the following who abstained - although it is impossible to differentiate between anyone who may have wanted to register an abstention and those who were unavoidably absent from the division:

  • Gregory Barker
  • Henry Bellingham
  • Peter Bone
  • Conor Burns*
  • Douglas Carswell
  • Oliver Colvile*
  • Alan Duncan
  • Gerald Howarth
  • Edward Leigh
  • Charlotte Leslie
  • David Lidington
  • Peter Lilley
  • Jack Lopresti*
  • Stephen McPartland
  • Jesse Norman
  • Owen Paterson*
  • Mark Reckless
  • John Redwood
  • Laurence Robertson*
  • Mel Stride*
  • Hugo Swire*
  • Martin Vickers
  • Gavin Williamson*
  • Tim Yeo

Tim summarised David Cameron's speech opening the debate yesterday here.

4pm update: The 8 asterisked* MPs are ministers and aides from the Northern Ireland Office along with members of the NIO departmental select committee who were all on parliamentary business in Northern Ireland last night.

8 Mar 2011 08:24:39

William Hague defends "sending a British warship named after a pork sausage to rescue Brits from a Muslim country". Yes, really.

Tim Montgomerie

I recorded the substance of William Hague's statement on Libya yesterday but this bizarre exchange between backbench Tory John Baron and the Foreign Secretary is also worth noting:

Images Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay): "Apart from the irony of sending a British warship named after a pork sausage to rescue Brits from a Muslim country, is not the real lesson from this situation that we should stop meddling in other people's affairs and be very careful before we lecture countries on democracy when we have armed their autocratic rulers with crowd-control weapons?"

Mr Hague: "I differ a little from my hon. Friend on that point. When we had to evacuate British nationals from Benghazi, it was important to send the nearest royal naval ship available, irrespective of its name. That is not the only vessel that has been involved. HMS York has also been there, and my hon. Friend will understand that I am particularly proud of that as a Yorkshireman. I hope he has no difficulty with that. Those ships have been there not to meddle in anybody else's affairs, but primarily to take humanitarian aid and to evacuate our nationals and the nationals of many other countries out of harm's way."

10 Sep 2010 15:59:01

MPs vote overwhelmingly in favour of British troops remaining in Afghanistan (with only one Tory MP dissenting)

By Jonathan Isaby and Paul Goodman

8.45 pm update: It's also worth noting the amendment tabled by Julian Lewis, supported by three other Conservative MPs, which sought to add to the motion the following words -

"provided that a more realistic military strategy is adopted designed to fulfil the United Kingdom's long-term interests in the region at lesser cost in life, limb and financial resources".

Lewis argued that -

"...all the Governments are signed up to an unrealistic strategy which ought to be changed. The reality is that General Richards was not really wrong in what he said previously and he is not really wrong when he says that we ought to be talking to the enemy. It is a question of timing. The truth of the matter is that General Petraeus is absolutely right to pursue such a counter-insurgency strategy, provided that we have all the time in the world and that we are prepared to take the casualties that are being inflicted on us by irregular forces. If we are not prepared to take those casualties, we will have to adopt a more realistic strategy, because otherwise we will withdraw arbitrarily and, on our withdrawal, the likelihood of the Afghan Government's being able to sustain themselves is open to doubt."

His speech can be read here.  He was supported in the lobbies by Philip Hollobone and Andrew Turner.  Conservative MPs seem to have been whipped to vote against the amendment.


Yesterday saw a debate initiated by the Backbench Business Committee on the presence of British troops in Afghanistan.

The motion before the Commons was "That this House supports the continued deployment of UK armed forces in Afghanistan" and was passed by 310 votes to 14. Only one Conservative opposed the motion - John Baron - and two Lib Dems, Julian Huppert and John Hemming. The remaining opponents were a variety of Labour MPs along with the Green and a Plaid Cymru member.

Below are some of the highlights of the Conservative contributions.

Bob Stewart Commons Bob Stewart (Beckenham):

"We have made some fundamental mistakes. I am not blaming anyone, but we made mistakes in 2006 when we dissipated our forces so they were in platoon houses and were not within the envelope. That meant that they could not have protection from artillery, and we had to use air power instead. The air power protecting them knocked out houses around them and killed local people, turning the people against our forces. In 2007 and 2008 we had gone back to counter-insurgency tactics—taking, holding, building—and our gallant troops went in to take, but they could not hold. They had to withdraw. Perhaps Members remember those pictures of helicopters flying with men strapped aboard to try to bring troops back. We could not hold the ground. Also, of course, our enemy came in and put devices on the ground that caused real problems, and they continue to do so to this day.

"We now have a situation in which there is an increase in the number of soldiers on the ground, principally from the United States, and the principles of counter-insurgency are, in fact, beginning to work. They are protecting the people, and the key is whether the Afghan people feel protected and safe and can live a decent life."

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29 Apr 2009 14:35:51

George Osborne mocks the Government's growth projections

George Osborne It was Treasury questions yesterday.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne poured scorn on the Budget growth forecasts:

"As the Chancellor knows, the growth forecasts that he gave us in the Budget last week, which predicted a return to boom levels of growth in just two years, and that the economy would stay at those boom levels, were greeted with near-universal derision, yet they were the fiction on which he constructed every other Budget forecast. When he gave those forecasts, did he know that the IMF was planning to contradict them flatly just an hour later?

Mr. Darling: Yes, of course I knew the IMF forecasts. The IMF takes a more pessimistic view, not just of our economy but of every economy across the world. However, we ensure that our forecasts are based on the information that we have. If hon. Members look at the IMF and its forecasting over the past three months, they will see that it has downrated its forecasting three times since last October, which demonstrates the uncertainty in the system. However, I believe that because of the action that we are taking, because of the fact that we have low interest rates, because inflation will be coming down this year, and because of the action that most other countries are taking to look after and support their economies, that will have an effect, which is why I remain confident that we will see growth return towards the end of this year.

Mr. Osborne: Frankly, I do not think the Chancellor is in any position to lecture anyone else about downgrading their forecasts after last week. Is not the truth this—that the dishonest Budget has completely unravelled in the space of just a week? We have seen the IMF produce those growth forecasts, which were wholly different from the ones given an hour earlier to the House of Commons. We have the CBI saying that there is no credible or rigorous plan to deal with the deficit. We have the Institute for Fiscal Studies pointing to the black hole, and yesterday a former member of the Cabinet, beside whom the Chancellor sat at the Cabinet table, said that his tax plans were a breach of a manifesto promise that is damaging not just to the Labour party, but to the economy. Today we had the Prime Minister getting a lecture in prudence while he was in Warsaw. We are used to Polish builders telling us to fix the roof when the sun is shining, but not the Polish Prime Minister as well.

Does not the collapse of the Budget in the past week and the damage to the Chancellor’s credibility make an almost unanswerable case for an independent office for Budget responsibility, so that we get independent forecasts on Budget day and the assumptions of the Budget are believed by the public?

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22 Apr 2009 10:47:57

John Baron continues campaign on behalf of nuclear test veterans

John Baron In October I reported that John Baron (MP for Billericay and Opposition Whip) had joined forces with Labour MP Ian Gibson. They convened an inquiry in 2007 on the question of whether veterans and their descendents have suffered ill health as a result of direct or parental exposure to radiation during nuclear tests.

Following a meeting that included leaders of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Assocation, the Government has issued a written statement. It comes from Kevan Jones, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence:

"The Government have been actively engaging with the concerns expressed by our nuclear test veterans that they and their offspring have been adversely affected by their participation in the British nuclear tests of the 1950s and 1960s.

The wider published peer-reviewed epidemiological evidence to date has not demonstrated a general link between veterans’ ill-health and participation in the tests. Similarly there is no peer-reviewed evidence suggesting that their children and grandchildren are at increased risk of genetic abnormalities.

The Government are, however, determined to address the ongoing concerns of nuclear test veterans. I had a constructive meeting with the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association (BNTVA) and interested MPs on Monday 20 April. I am pleased to report that the BNTVA have agreed to help identify a representative sample of veterans and their descendants with a view to conducting an assessment of their health needs. I therefore announce today an intention that the Ministry of Defence will work with veterans and experts to finalise the details of research to investigate the particular health needs of nuclear test veterans and their offspring with a view to identifying priorities and taking action to improve health. I also intend some follow-up to last year’s New Zealand chromosome study. The aim will be for projects to be of practical relevance to veterans with results delivered to a reasonable time scale. The work will be tendered in the normal manner and should be under way before the end of this year. A working group including representatives from the BNTVA will be established to take these projects forward."

I am told that the two new studies will not actually have the aim of establishing causation (or absence of causation) between the tests and ill health. They will however consider the extent of congenital health problems among veterans’ families, which is unprecedented. 

The New Zealand study suggested chromosomal “translocations” among veterans. The follow-up could help allay fears that veterans are passing on severe health problems.

High Court case will hear this week whether a group of veterans will be allowed to proceed with a civil claim against the Government.

Tom Greeves

10 Dec 2008 11:31:16

John Baron asks about consultation on new prisons

John_baronBillericay MP and Opposition Whip John Baron posed an important question yesterday about the building of new prisons:

"The Government have again refused my freedom of information request for a list of possible sites for the new titan prisons. The Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Malik), has written to me saying that the

    “release of the information you seek would inevitably lead to increased speculation...thereby affecting our ability to procure land for the sites eventually chosen at a reasonable market value”.

So I must ask the Secretary of State the following question: is that not a blatant admission that any subsequent consultation involving local residents will be a complete sham, given that the Government intend to buy the sites before informing local residents? What is he going to do to put that right?

Mr. Straw: I understand that in most, although not all, areas of the country there is concern whenever there are proposals for new prisons to be built; regardless of the size of the prison, that has been an almost eternal verity. I must say to the hon. Gentleman that his party is committed—on some days, at least—to increasing the prison population. Part of his party’s Front-Bench team says that it wants to increase it to 101,000, rather than to 96,000, as we have proposed. That will mean more prisons, and they have to be placed in individual constituencies.

On the hon. Gentleman’s specific issue, we have a duty to the taxpayer to protect the public purse, so we must provisionally identify sites. Typically, when the sites are identified an option is taken on them, subject to planning permission. Planning permission, and the consultation relating to it, is a very public and highly visible process. I hope that we shall not get into a situation where the Conservative party wills the end of an increase in the prison population but every time there is a proposal to will the means it opposes that increase in prison numbers."

A year ago Jack Straw announced that three Titan jails would be built to hold 2,500 inmates each. That is much bigger than any current prison in England or Wales (Wandsworth held 1,461 inmates this time last year).

Although London, the West Midlands and the North West are areas where demand for prison places exceeds supply (albeit not demand on the part of criminals!) experts have suggested that a large-scale prison would be a security risk in or around London. As an Essex MP, Mr Baron may well therefore be concerned that a Titan prison could be built in his constituency.

23 Oct 2008 14:39:32

MPs of the day - John Baron and Ian Gibson

Nuclear_testBillericay MP John Baron, an Opposition Whip, spoke in the House of Commons about British veterans of nuclear tests yesterday. He explained that while the issue itself is not new, recent scientific evidence from New Zealand suggests that radiation exposure has caused people to suffer terribly. He went on:

"The history to the debate needs to be understood. Between 15,000 and 20,000 servicemen took part in Britain’s nuclear tests, which included Operation Grapple on Malden Island and Christmas Island in 1957-58. Other tests took place at Monte Bello islands, Maralinga, and Emu field. It is thought that only about 3,000 veterans are alive today. Many of those involved believe they were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation that resulted in their own ill health and that of their descendents.

Veterans and their families seeking redress in the form of a war pension encounter a frustrating tribunal system that is both inconsistent and subject to delays. For many years, the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association or BNTVA has campaigned for recognition for its 800 or so surviving veteran members, and many more widows and offspring, but successive Governments have used a controversial series of reports by the National Radiological Protection Board or NRPB to insist that no harm was done."

Mr Baron has been working in tandem with Labour MP Dr Ian Gibson. They undertook a two day inquiry. Veterans and scientists took part, but the Ministry of Defence would not. Mr Baron and Dr Gibson have asked the Government for a similar study to that carried out in New Zealand.

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