Sir George Young MP

1 Sep 2013 12:24:10

Reshuffle speculation, what reshuffle speculation?

By Mark Wallace
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It's a measure of how uncertain politics can be that on my grid of events likely to dominate the news on a particular day, today's date has the words "RESHUFFLE SPECULATION" scrawled next to it. 

For obvious reasons, the news agenda today is dominated by Syria instead.

As it was written a few weeks ago, and I don't have a source inside Assad's chemical weapons team, I'm going to take the liberty of forgiving myself. The near total lack of reshuffle speculation suggests that the ministerial rejig has been put off while the crisis (in Westminster and Damascus) boils. 

Even if it does occur, it seems likely to focus on junior positions. It's noteworthy that what little mention there is of reshuffling in today's papers features Alan Duncan and Sir George Young in very different tones.

In Duncan's case, the Mail's Black Dog reports that a Number 10 source criticises his "disloyalty", and the column speculates freely that this "doesn't bode well for Duncan in the coming reshuffle".

By contrast, in the same paper James Forsyth has been told that the Prime Minister intends to keep Sir George Young as Chief Whip despite last Thursday's fiasco. Of course the ideal situation is for no-one to be talking about your being replaced, and the fact a cabinet minister is quoted defending him suggests Young knows that all too well, but it seems Cameron is willing to quash rumours of an imminent replacement.

Reshuffle prediction often has a lot in common with scrying through tea leaves, but the order of beasts is seemingly intact - junior ministers will continue to feel rather more endangered than the kings of the jungle.

30 Aug 2013 09:04:08

Who's to blame? Cameron, the Whips, or both?

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-08-30 at 08.55.21Conservative MPs I spoke to yesterday were excoriating about the shambles of the recall of Parliament and the whipping of yesterday's vote.  One told me that the first he heard of the decision to recall was a message from EasyJet offering him a flight back.  "Perhaps the Whips Office should just be franchised out to EasyJet," he told me.  Another said that he wasn't contacted by the Whips until Wednesday evening, less than 24 hours before the start of yesterday's debate.  A third said that he had a missed call from one of the Prime Minister's PPS's, but no message or text explaining it or asking him to ring back. One of the three said that although Sir George Young runs the office in a calm and courteous way, it lacks the presence of MPs with a feel for what their backbench colleagues are thinking: as others have done, he recommended the recruitment of Tracey Crouch, one of yesterday evening's rebels.  He also offered the thought that the Government Whips Office has not recovered the status it lost under Tony Blair, when it was moved out of 12 Downing Street.

A senior backbench source disagreed with this view, claiming that the Whips warned Downing Street months ago that as many as 70 Conservative MPs could vote against intervention in Syria.  (Those who opposed the Government motion yesterday were only the tip of the iceberg, since the motion was effectively a dry run for one proposing such action.)  I suspect that the truth is between these two extremes.  It's important to remember that most Whips would themselves have been absent from Westminster earlier this week, and a co-ordinated office ring-round both to ask backbenchers to return to the Commons and seek their views on military action would therefore have been slower to get under way than in term time.  Above all, David Cameron was clearly thrown by Ed Miliband's volte-face on missile strikes: he was expecting a Labour abstention which would allow the original Government motion to pass.  In other words, he was prepared to push his Syria policy through in the teeth of the opposition of perhaps a third of Tory MPs, and thus risking yesterday's wounding blow to his authority - and defeat for Government foreign policy unprecedented in modern times.

2 Mar 2013 12:45:14

We're governed less by professional politicians than we think

By Paul Goodman
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The combination of Eastleigh and Italy have between them unleashed a tidal wave of commentary about the drawbacks of being governed by the professional politics.  Consider Charles Moore's column in today's Daily Telegraph:

"Eastleigh brings out something which more and more voters feel. A quarter of a century ago, when people used to complain in pubs that “they’re all the same”, I used to argue back: it seemed to me patently false. Today, I stay quiet. Nigel Farage says that we have three social democrat parties now. There is a bit of truth in that, but I would put it differently. It is not so much that they all think the same thing. It is more that they are all the same sort of people. They all belong to a political elite whose attitudes and careers are pretty different from those of the rest of us."

Even the briefest inspection of David Cameron and Ed Miliband supports this view.  Miliband has been a full-time political apparatchick since University.  Cameron briefly had a job in television, but not a career: the post was acknowledged to be a waiting room for the Commons, even by his employers.

Continue reading "We're governed less by professional politicians than we think" »

21 Nov 2012 15:57:10

Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Liz Truss, Charles Walker and Jesse Norman amongst the stars of the Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year awards

By Matthew Barrett
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Spectator-Logo-resize-395x400Below are the winners of the different categories of the Spectator's Parliamentarian of the Year awards, which were held this afternoon.

  • Newcomer of the Year – Andrea Leadsom MP (Con)
  • Backbencher of the Year – Alistair Darling MP (Lab)
  • Campaigner of the Year – Andy Burnham MP (Lab)
  • Inquisitor of the Year – Margaret Hodge MP (Lab)
  • Speech of the Year – Charles Walker MP (Con) & Kevan Jones MP (Lab)
  • Resignation of the Year – Lord Hill of Oareford (Con)
  • Apology of the Year – Nick Clegg MP (Lib Dem)
  • Resurrection of the Year – Sir George Young MP (Con)
  • Minister to Watch – Elizabeth Truss MP (Con)
  • Double Act of the Year – Edward Davey MP (Lib Dem) & John Hayes MP (Con)
  • Peer of the Year – Rt Revd Justin Welby
  • Minister of the Year – Theresa May MP (Con)
  • Parliamentarian of the Year – Jesse Norman MP (Con)
  • Politician of the Year – Boris Johnson (Con)

Three names especially strike me: Jesse Norman, Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May.

Jesse Norman deserves relentless praise for his defence of our constitution against the offensive, mandate-lacking desire of some in the Coalition to see the House of Lords destroyed. But Mr Norman is far from being a mere skilled rebel. He is a serious economic and philosophical thinker, and a remarkable talent on the backbenches. His award is richly deserved.

Continue reading "Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Liz Truss, Charles Walker and Jesse Norman amongst the stars of the Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year awards" »

22 Oct 2012 12:40:12

Andrew Lansley and Sir George Young take office with light legislative schedule

By Matthew Barrett
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Commons_chamberParliament is properly back, and Conservative MPs can now get used to Andrew Lansley, the new Leader of the House of Commons, and Sir George Young, the new Chief Whip. Sir George was a fine Leader of the House, and managed to fit plenty of opposition and backbench debates into the parliamentary calender, as well as dealing with this Government's legislation. One hopes Mr Lansley continues in the same vein. The Government Bills currently in front of the Commons are:

Continue reading "Andrew Lansley and Sir George Young take office with light legislative schedule" »

13 Jun 2012 17:03:50

Hunt puts in strong performance, as Government wins vote of confidence. (And the DUP votes with the Government.)

By Matthew Barrett
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8.30pm Update: I have been through the ayes and noes, and have found the following Tory abstainers:

  • Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty)
  • John Baron (Basildon and Billericay)
  • Bill Cash (Stone)
  • Rehman Chisti (Gillingham and Rainham)
  • Christopher Chope (Christchurch)
  • James Clappison (Hertsmere)
  • Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) - a DfID Minister
  • Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) - a deputy Speaker
  • William Hague (Richmond) - Foreign Secretary
  • Mark Lancaster (Milton Keynes North)
  • Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke)
  • Louise Mensch (Corby)
  • Patrick Mercer (Newark)
  • Simon Reevell (Deswbury)
  • David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds)
  • Henry Smith (Crawley)
  • Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness)
  • Ben Wallace (Wyre and Preston North)
  • Sarah Wollaston (Totnes)

It's worth noting that there may have been circumstances which prevented the MPs from voting with the Government that were out of their control. In William Hague and Alan Duncan's cases, for example, they will probably be overseas on Government business. In Louise Mensch's case, the Queen was visiting her Corby constituency today as part of her Jubilee tour. 

The following DUP MPs also voted with the Government: 

  • Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) - the DUP's Westminster leader
  • Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley)
  • Ian Paisley, Jr (North Antrim)
  • Jim Shannon (Strangford)


Hunt Commons June 2012

Labour's Commons motion on whether Jeremy Hunt should be investigated for breaching the Ministerial Code in his handling of the BSkyB bid has been rejected - the Government won the vote of confidence in Hunt by 290 to 252.

Continue reading "Hunt puts in strong performance, as Government wins vote of confidence. (And the DUP votes with the Government.) " »

25 May 2012 16:13:46

After attacking graverobber as "scumbag" Gavin Barwell MP is The Sun's "hero of the week"

By Tim Montgomerie
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Tory MP Gavin Barwell discovered that metal thieves had stripped a memorial from his father's grave. His reaction on his Twitter account was retweeted across the internet:

Screen Shot 2012-05-25 at 16.06.40

The Sun has made Mr Barwelll their "hero of the week" for his instinctive response:

"Politicians who speak their mind are a rare commodity. Most tip-toe around the issues, prevaricate and avoid saying anything that might loosen their grip on the greasy pole. So it was refreshing to hear Gavin Barwell speak with such honesty when he suffered a devastating personal setback this week. The Croydon Central MP was shocked to discover sick metal thieves had stolen a memorial plaque from the gravestone of his dad David, who died in 2005. The dad-of-three didn't pull his punches when he spoke about the incident because he'd one eye on his career. He branded the thief a "scumbag" and warned: "If I ever find out who you are, you are going to regret it." It was a very natural, very human response to an appalling crime. Mr Barwell had already impressed many in Westminster with his response to the devastating impact of last summer's riots on Croydon. At a time of crisis, he spoke out eloquently on behalf of the silent majority of law-abiding people in his town. We could do with a few more MPs like Mr Barwell in Westminster."

In the Commons yesterday Sir George Young told Mr Barwell that the Government was considering tougher penalties for those convicted of metal theft. Here is the full exchange:

Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): "Last night I learned that the plaque marking my father’s grave has been stolen, along with a huge number of other plaques in Beckenham cemetery. I am sure that all Members share my utter contempt for people who would steal, and trade in, such memorials. The Government have taken some action in relation to the scrap metal industry, but may we have a debate on what other measures might be needed, and in particular the proposal raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s question on whether this should be an aggravating factor in sentencing?"

Sir George Young: "I am very sorry to hear of what happened to my hon. Friend’s father’s tombstone; I understand how distressing that must be. He will know what the Prime Minister said at yesterday’s PMQs. We have already taken some steps in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, but we recognise that other measures may well be needed. The Government are actively considering what further steps we might take, such as increasing the penalties and having a better regulatory regime for scrap metal, in order to avoid distressing incidents such as that which my hon. Friend described."

28 Apr 2012 16:07:06

Sir George Young reminds Labour of their failure to take action against Damian McBride while in office

By Matthew Barrett
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Young GeorgeBusiness Questions - as in Business of the House, rather than commerce - is becoming a good session of the House to watch. For Labour, the hyper-partisan Angela Eagle always seems to want to provoke Sir George Young. But Sir George is unflappable. The latest example came on Thursday. Ms Eagle used her questions, which are supposed to concern the business of the week, to jump on the News International bandwagon:

"The Culture Secretary came to the House yesterday to try to explain himself. He failed. He said on Tuesday evening that now was not the time for knee-jerk reactions. On Wednesday morning, he kicked out his special adviser. The Culture Secretary may have thrown his aide to the wall, but the ministerial code is crystal clear: the Secretary of State is responsible for the conduct of his special advisers. Will the Leader of the House now answer the following questions, which the Culture Secretary conspicuously failed to answer yesterday?"

Sir George made a simply but effective point:

"On special advisers, the hon. Lady rehearsed a number of issues that were raised yesterday. I cannot remember which Minister resigned when Damian McBride had to leave No. 10 Downing street."

Continue reading "Sir George Young reminds Labour of their failure to take action against Damian McBride while in office" »

12 Mar 2012 10:02:12

The Government's attempt to fix the Backbench Business Committee would take back power for the executive

By Matthew Barrett
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SelectCommittesOne of the great reforms of this Coalition has been the creation of the Backbench Business Committee (BBBC). The Committee has forced debates on topics as diverse as Europe, voting rights for prisoners, banning circus animals, and cuts to petrol prices. It has caused trouble for both the Government and Opposition. It has helped to hand back power to the backbenches, and remove it from the executive. Most importantly, it has helped restore Parliament to its rightful place as one of the centres of national debate.

Therefore, the Government has decided to change it. Sir George Young is expected to amend the workings of the BBBC so small-party MPs like Caroline Lucas can attend the currently eight-member Committee. Not only is Sir George's proposal an intrusive intervention in itself, but the Procedure Committee, chaired by Greg Knight, which deals with the practices and procedures of the House, is already compiling a report into the workings of the BBBC, and is expected to issue its verdict soon. 

Total Politics quotes the BBBC's chair, Labour MP Natascha Engel as saying:

"They, out of the blue, put these motions down for debate on Monday when today [Friday] is the last day for a call for evidence from the procedure committee on the workings of the backbench business committee. What's the hurry? Why can they not wait for the procedure committee to do their report? The government is not consulting with anybody and just putting down these motions," Engel adds. "Why ask the procedure committee to do a review if they are just going to do this?" She also reveals that neither herself nor the procedure committee were consulted about the plans tabled for Monday's order paper – "which is a bit of bad form".

Continue reading "The Government's attempt to fix the Backbench Business Committee would take back power for the executive" »

10 Jan 2012 11:01:59

A lot in the Lords, less in the Commons as Parliament returns today

By Matthew Barrett
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COMMONS-sittingParliament sits again today following the Christmas break, and will be considering some important legislation during January, including:

  • Local Government Finance Bill
  • Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims (Amendment) Bill
  • Public Services (Social Enterprise and Social Value) Bill
  • Wind Turbines (Minimum Distances from Residential Premises) Bill
  • Scotland Bill
  • Welfare Reform Bill
  • Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill
  • London Local Authorities Bill

There are two strands of parliamentary activity at the moment - the first is the heavy-duty Government legislation, which is mostly going through the Lords, including the Welfare Reform Bill and the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. 

Continue reading "A lot in the Lords, less in the Commons as Parliament returns today" »

16 Dec 2011 13:17:48

Three cheers for Sir George Young, defender of legislative restraint

By Matthew Barrett
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Young George HouseSir George Young, the Leader of the House of Commons, did something rather admirable yesterday: he rejected the knee-jerk tendency, seen during the New Labour years in particular, to pass legislation at every possible opportunity. 

During Business Questions, Sir George announced that the Second Reading of the Local Government Finance Bill would take place on the 10th January. His Shadow, Angela Eagle, referenced this in her long and unfocused response, which also criticised, among other things, the Coalition's supposed "isolation" in Europe, and youth unemployment. She said:

"Many of us are incredibly relieved that we have finally spotted a Government Bill arriving in the House, even if we have to wait until next year to see it."

Continue reading "Three cheers for Sir George Young, defender of legislative restraint" »

6 Dec 2011 15:29:57

A motion seeking to prevent ministers leaking policy before addressing Parliament is defeated

By Joseph Willits 
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HolloboneProposals to give Parliament the power to take action on ministers who leak announcements to the media, before informing the Commons, have failed. The motion tabled by Phillip Hollobone MP (Kettering), aimed to be as "non-partisan as possible", was defeated by 228 votes to 119. Hollobone accused all three major parties of mistreating the House of Commons:

"All Governments, whether this Government, the previous Government or the one before that, have leaked information, and that is not how our great House of Commons ought to be treated".

On Sunday, Tim outlined the Speaker's exasperation, after last week's Autumn Statement was the latest example of policy being leaked to the press beforehand. Naturally, Hollobone expressed the same sentiment as the Speaker, saying that Parliament "should be the first place to hear of major new Government policy initiatives". He continued: 

"Should it be “The Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday, the “Today” programme on Radio 4 in the morning or ITV’s “Daybreak”; or should it be the Chamber of the House of Commons?" 

Continue reading "A motion seeking to prevent ministers leaking policy before addressing Parliament is defeated" »

29 Jul 2011 09:08:25

Should the centre right blogs unite behind a parliamentary petition campaign?

By Tim Montgomerie
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Screen shot 2011-07-29 at 09.00.22
As of this morning the e-petitions site is live. Petitions that attract 100,000 signatures will be considered by the new backbench business committee for debate. 'Considered' is the important word. Even petitions that are vetoed for being offensive or trivial have no guarantee of Commons time.

Should ConservativeHome and other blogs be thinking of using this mechanism to get a subject debated by MPs? What should that subject be? Guido Fawkes has already promised to launch a petition to get capital punishment for child and cop killers debated. I'd be surprised if the Express didn't try and get its campaign to leave the EU into the Commons timetable.

Young George Leader of the Commons Sir George Young explains what this initiative is trying to achieve:

''In recent weeks, Parliament has been at the centre of public interest, by leading the debate on phone hacking allegations. But this shouldn't mean that Parliament becomes complacent. There's much more that we can do to build confidence in the work of the House of Commons and we should continue to find new ways of encouraging people to engage. The public already have many opportunities to make their voices heard in Parliament, and this new system of e-petitions could give them a megaphone. Of course, parliamentary time is not unlimited and we want the best e-petitions to be given airtime - so we will monitor the site closely over the coming months to assess whether the 100,000 figure is an appropriate target.''

22 Mar 2011 06:19:48

MPs quietly voted to freeze their salaries last night

By Jonathan Isaby

After the intensity of and the interest in the debate on Libya yesterday, another motion on the order paper  - which would have created huge media interests were it not for international events - was quietly passed after a short debate.

It was on the thorny issue of MPs' pay and, contrary to my headline, they didn't in fact vote for a freeze: a) the motion to freeze pay for two years was actually passed without a vote; and b) as is the case for public sector workers earning over £21,000, a freeze does of course amount to a real terms cut.

Sir George Young Commons The Senior Salaries Review Body had proposed a 1% pay rise for MPs, but the leader of the Commons, Sir George Young, proposed the motion to reject it, explaining:

"On 3 July 2008, the House agreed a new formula for uprating Members’ salaries... The annual percentage increase would be the median of a basket of public sector comparators, and this percentage would be calculated by the Senior Salaries Review Body and notified to you, Mr Speaker, in a letter from its chairman. That percentage increase would then take effect automatically from 1 April.

"That system has considerable advantages. It provides a fixed uprating formula so that we do not determine our own salaries. It is transparent, as the formula and the SSRB’s determination are there for everyone to see. It is also fair in that it provides a link between the salary of a Member of Parliament and the salaries of others in the public sector. Those are the virtues that the Government usually believe should underpin any system for determining our salaries—independence, transparency and fairness. We have therefore not taken lightly the decision to set aside the pay increase and thereby abandon the formula."

"The whole House will be keenly aware of the country’s difficult financial situation, and both sides of the House accept that we have a substantial structural deficit, which must be brought down. The Government have had to take difficult decisions throughout the public sector, including imposing a two-year pay freeze on public sector workers earning more than £21,000. Hon. Members must now decide whether their constituents would welcome Parliament exempting itself from that policy and thus insulating itself from decisions that are affecting households throughout the country, or whether, as I believe, the public expect their elected representatives to be in step with what is being required of other public servants. I believe that it is right for us, as Members of Parliament, to forgo the pay increase that the current formula would have produced."

Among the speeches made by MPs was the following powerful contribution from Conservative MP, James Arbuthnot, which I reproduce here in its entirety:

"I have never before spoken in a Members’ salary debate; I trust I will never have to again. Today we have been debating what the armed forces will be doing in Libya. As Chair of the Select Committee on Defence—albeit not speaking on behalf of that Committee—I have only one point to make. For the armed forces to receive no pay rise and for politicians to receive a pay rise would be just so unacceptable in the country that we could not possibly think of allowing it to happen tonight."

27 Jan 2011 11:02:27

Can George Osborne fire MPs without their permission?

By Jonathan Isaby

Yesterday saw Gerry Adams appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead - an office of profit under the Crown that therefore disqualifies him from remaining an MP.

But a row has broken out over how the appointment was made.

A Sinn Fein spokesman said earlier in the week that it "couldn't give a toss" about the formal procedure required of an MP wanting to resign. And after David Cameron told the Commons at PMQs that Adams had accepted that office of profit under the Crown, the Sinn Fein President issued a denial:

“This is untrue. I simply resigned. I was not consulted nor was I asked to accept such an office. I am an Irish republican. I have had no truck whatsoever with these antiquated and quite bizarre aspects of the British parliamentary system... I have spoken to the Prime Minister's Private Secretary today and he has apologised for today’s events... The only contact I have had with the British Parliament is a letter I posted to them last Thursday."

The Speaker announced to the Commons last night:

"I can inform the House that I have received formal notification from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that Gerard Adams has been appointed to be steward and bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. Under the terms of section 4 of the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, for the purposes of the provisions of this Act relating to the vacation of the seat of a Member of the House of Commons who becomes disqualified by that Act from membership of that House, the office of steward or bailiff of Her Majesty's three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham, or of the Manor of Northstead, shall be treated as included among the offices described in part III of schedule 1 to the Act. The hon. Member for Belfast West is therefore disqualified from membership of the House by virtue of section 1 of that Act."

And the Leader of the House, Sir George Young, then clarified what David Cameron said earlier:

"The Prime Minister was aware of the process to appoint Gerry Adams to be steward and bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. It might have been better for my right hon. Friend to have said "is being appointed" instead of "has accepted", and I am happy to make that clarification for the record."

The formal appointment was indeed announced by the Treasury yesterday afternoon since it is made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But if Adams did not request the appointment, could George Osborne technically disqualify MPs without their permission? This was the subject of 15 minutes of points of order last night, with Tory MP Richard Bacon concluding:

"If what appears to have happened today is confirmed as being an acceptable way forward, that would mean that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could decide whether someone should be a Member of Parliament or not, without their say-so. That is not acceptable."