Martin Vickers MP

13 Jan 2011 06:13:04

Martin Vickers calls for the Boundary Commission to be given more flexibility in redrawing the electoral map

By Jonathan Isaby

There was a debate in Westminster Hall on Tuesday discussing parliamentary representation and many of the issues which have been brought up by the recent legislation which will reduce the size of the Commons to 600 virtually equal-sized constituencies, save for two Scottish island constituencies.

Martin Vickers, the Tory MP for Cleethorpes, made a contribution calling for the Boundary Commission to be given more flexibility in setting constituency boundaries, and in particular for the "extremely foolish" arbitrary number of 600 MPs to be scrapped.

He said:

"Those of us who have been involved in politics for many years will have had opportunities to redraw boundaries at various stages and to make submissions to the Boundary Commission. Whether we are dealing with constituency or ward boundaries, the fact is that the jigsaw never fits together. It is a big mistake to put the commission in a straitjacket and to limit it to 600.

"It is important that constituents identify to some extent with the unit of administration in which they live. That applies nationally, and I am a great believer in the idea that the nation state is the ideal unit of government. It also applies at local level. My constituency had the misfortune to be moved into the county of Humberside in the 1970s, and the legacy of that lives on. People deeply resent being moved around in that way.

"I served as a constituency agent for 15 years before my move to the House. I served in the Gainsborough constituency, a large rural Lincolnshire constituency neighbouring mine, and it made me appreciate that identities vary considerably over geographically relatively short distances of 30 or 40 miles. To be perfectly honest, people in Gainsborough had no interest in what happened 30 miles down the road. Incidentally, that constituency, with the exception of one ward, had the benefit of being within one district council area.

"Continually changing boundaries will impact on the vitality and sustainability of local political parties. The democratic process needs viable local parties and associations, but constant boundary changes inevitably impact on their viability. Taking one ward out of a constituency can render the local party virtually bankrupt if the ward’s financial make-up means that it contributes greatly to the party. We need to think seriously about that.

"My hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Alan Reid, LD) spoke about the step-by-step increase in the number of Members over the years. Although it is true that there has been an increase, the population itself has grown significantly. I sat in the upper House during its debate yesterday, and I was reminded that there were 33 million electors in 1945. The number of eligible voters has now risen to 45 million. So, although I have no instinctive intrinsic objection to rounding off a reduction in the number, I think that it is extremely foolish to limit it to 600.

"As to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson, Con) made about reform of the House of Lords, I favour a predominantly elected upper House, and there is an opportunity, as he suggested in his intervention, to consider framing that House so that it clearly identifies with communities, particularly if we go along with what I regard as the misguided course of having 600 seats in the House of Commons."

As he referred to in that speech, the relevant legislation is currently going through the House of Lords and since the Commons has already approved the Bill, I think his calls will be falling upon stony ground.

18 Jun 2010 17:53:48

Mel Stride, Anne Marie Morris, Martin Vickers and Jane Ellison all discuss educational issues in their maiden speeches

Here are extracts from four more maiden speeches given during yesterday’s debate on developing a high-skilled economy which focused on education.

Stride Mel Mel Stride, the MP for the newly drawn constituency of Devon Central, spoke passionately in favour of education being “the great highway of social mobility”:

“I have a strong belief that the greatest gift that any young person can receive, after a loving family, is that of a good education. For those who choose the vocational path, it is vital that education be provided with the same energy and vigour as that afforded to the more traditional academic routes.”

“Education is the great highway of social mobility—for individuals to move on and up, in many cases escaping poverty and deprivation in the process. I say that as someone whose mother and father left school at ages 15 and 14, and whose life was transformed by the winning of a free place at a grammar school. The greatest opportunity ever provided to me, that school became the foundation on which the rest of my life was built. I would like to see others have the opportunity that I was privileged to receive.

“I have long admired the ideas and the reforming passion of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and my hon. Friend the Minister of State. They have fully understood the force for good that education and skills can represent, but they have done more than that. They have truly understood the disgraceful and inhumane waste that is represented by continued educational failure—the appalling destruction of life chances, especially among the least advantaged. It is they who have understood the extraordinary power of choice; that choice will drive up standards; that parents know better than bureaucrats; that giving power to those who otherwise just have to take what they are given is the key to raising up the less advantaged; that future generations must be sustained not just by hope but by taking control of their destinies; and most important of all, that there is an age-old truth that the quest to create a stronger and better society cannot be left to the planners, to the bureaucracies, to the well-meaning architects of the state, but must be gifted to those for whom the consequences of success or failure are most keenly felt.”

Morris Anne Marie Anne Marie Morris, who gained Newton Abbot from the Lib Dems at the election, spoke in favour of more vocational tertiary education:

“We should try to improve quality and variety in education along the line—primary, secondary and tertiary. There has been a focus in tertiary education on what I can only describe as the intellectual professions, such as law and accountancy. There has not been a focus on careers as plumbers, engineers and electricians. Those are all valid careers that require no less intelligence, just intelligence of a different variety. I should like some colleges to be the technical colleges that we all knew and loved when we were younger. They should look at proper hands-on training. When I visit colleges I am distressed to find that because of health and safety and all the other rules and regulation, education is all about bits of paper, not about students getting their hands dirty. Getting one’s hands dirty is an extremely good and valuable thing.”

“Then there is the issue of linking tertiary education with jobs, and for my money it is absolutely crucial that we give apprenticeships a real chance. When I talk to people with small businesses in my community, they say, “Anne Marie, one of the challenges is that we cannot afford to take on apprentices, because at the moment all of the burden falls on the employer and it is a huge burden.” I am therefore very pleased to see new initiatives from the new Government that will share the cost of apprenticeships.”

Vickers Martin The new MP for Cleethorpes, Martin Vickers, was also keen to see apprenticeships and appropriate training for school leavers:

“I welcome the Government’s pledge to increase the quality and quantity of apprenticeships that will be available. I hope that such pledges will further the work of facilities such as CATCH—the Centre for the Assessment of Technical Competence, Humber—and training providers such as HETA, the Humberside Engineering Training Association, which operate there. During the election campaign, the Minister for Universities and Science, who was then a shadow Minister and is now, I am pleased to say, a member of the Government, visited the CATCH facility in Stallingborough and I think it fair to say that he was suitably impressed. It is a joint venture between the public and private sectors, and it has an extremely good success rate in securing permanent positions for the young people who train there, educating and training today’s school leavers, so that they become not a lost and forgotten generation but a driving force behind the economic recovery that remains the key aim of Government policy.”

Ellison Jane Meanwhile, Jane Ellison, who gained Battersea, explained her hope that the former Bolingbroke Hospital in her constituency can be re-opened as a Free School:

“Many of us in Battersea hope that the next chapter in its life story will be as a school. For the parents involved in the Neighbourhood School Campaign, supported by Wandsworth council, the free schools legislation offers the best chance of realising their dream of a new state secondary school for south Battersea. A new school would be enormously important, giving further choice to parents in my constituency, irrespective of their means—an important factor in an area that has a lot of families on low incomes. I therefore particularly welcome the coalition’s plans for a pupil premium and more apprenticeships, and its determination to boost the private sector. All those things will greatly assist the many young people in my constituency for whom life is a struggle against the odds from the start, and for whom a good education and a skilled job are an essential way of getting on in life.”

Jonathan Isaby