Theresa May MP

25 Jan 2011 06:40:00

No killer blows as Theresa May faces Yvette Cooper in her first outing as shadow home secretary

By Jonathan Isaby

Yesterday was Yvette Cooper's first outing in the Commons as the new shadow home secretary after her husband, Ed Balls, was shifted from the job to replace Alan Johnson as shadow chancellor.

Here are the questions she raised at Home Office Questions:

COOPER YVETTE Yvette Cooper: The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice said that there is no link between the number of police officers and the level of crime. However, the  Birmingham Mail has reported that some parts of Birmingham have already seen a recruitment freeze, a cut in the number of officers in the neighbourhood team and a significant increase in the number of burglaries in the past nine months. The local police, who are being put in a very difficult position by the Government, have said that they are struggling to fight crime in the area as a result. Does he still stand by his claim or will he admit, to the police and the public, that he has got it wrong?

Nick Herbert: May I first welcome the right hon. Lady to her post? I look forward to debating these issues with her, although I hope she will not follow the poor example of her successor- [Laughter.] I mean her predecessor. I hope that she will not follow his poor example by partially quoting Government Members. I did not say that there was no link, and she should know that. Instead, I should point out something said by somebody with whom I believe she has regular conversations: that this was a tighter environment for police spending, and would be under any Government. That was what the new shadow Chancellor said to the Home Affairs Committee on 22 November 2010, when he was shadow Home Secretary.

Yvette Cooper: I shall ask the Home Secretary about the counter-terrorism review. On Thursday, the Minister for Immigration had to be dragged to the House to tell us Government policy on pre-trial detention. He told us that emergency legislation would be kept on hand in the Library of the House. The old powers lapse at midnight, yet as of half an hour ago, there was still no draft emergency legislation in the Library. On Sunday, the Deputy Prime Minister told the media that control orders were being abolished and at lunch time today, the BBC-not this House-was briefed that the new measures would include tagging and overnight residence requirements and would look a lot like control orders. This is a chaotic, shambolic and cavalier process. Where is the draft legislation? Will the Home Secretary now tell us what is happening with the legislation and with control orders, and will she take the opportunity to apologise for this shambolic process on such an important issue?

Theresa May Home Secretary Theresa May: First, may I welcome the right hon. Lady to her new post as shadow Home Secretary? I am sure that she will enjoy the post. She is the third shadow Home Secretary I have faced in my nine months as Home Secretary. For her sake, I hope that she stays longer in the role than her predecessors have. The right hon. Lady makes a point about process and refers to the 28-day pre-charge detention issue. May I say to her that the previous shadow Home Secretary clearly supported the Government on taking pre-charge detention down from 28 days to 14 days? Earlier today, the shadow Home Secretary was unfortunately unable to answer the question whether she supported 14 days' pre-charge detention. If she is interested in chaos, she should look at sorting out her own policy.

Cooper took another bite of the cherry via  point of order at 3.30pm:

"This Chamber was told on Thursday that the draft emergency legislation would be placed in the Library of the House. The matter was raised in an urgent question and on a point of order from my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South (Mr Sutcliffe), yet it is not there. The BBC has been told that the counter-terrorism review is now complete. What can you do to assist the House and to get the Home Secretary to give a statement to the House this afternoon, not on Wednesday, on the counter-terrorism review and the location of the emergency draft legislation before the old powers run out at midnight tonight?"

Theresa May replied thus:

"I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. We will place draft emergency legislation in the Library of the House- [Hon. Members: "When?"] We did not say that it would be placed in the Library before the current legislation lapsed. Emergency legislation is available for the use of this House in the intervening period, if necessary, and that is section 25 of the Terrorism Act 2006. The correct legal process for reducing the period from 28 days to 14 days is to allow the existing legislation to lapse because that was the sunset clause put in the legislation by the last Labour Government."

No killer blows from either side on this occasion, but it will be fascinating to see how the Cooper v May encounters develop.

14 Dec 2010 08:37:55

Theresa May and Boris Johnson refuse to close door to riot police using water cannons

Tim Montgomerie

In the Commons yesterday Theresa May was repeatedly pressed by Labour MPs to rule out water cannon as a way of controlling public protests. She repeatedly said that she hoped water cannons would not be used on British streets but did not completely close the door to the possibility. Scotland Yard, says the Daily Mail, believes it would be "foolish" to rule it out.

Boris Johnson, meanwhile, reports Metro, pledged on Monday to oppose the use of water cannon to control protests but he, too, kept options open. "We live in a liberal democracy, I do not want to see the Met police engage in an arms race with the protesters," he said, ‘But, on the other hand, we need to keep this thing under review.’

From Hansard:

Screen shot 2010-12-14 at 08.33.28 Labour MP Jack Dromey: "The Home Secretary was reported yesterday as appearing to contemplate the use of water cannon; today, she appears to be ruling out the use of water cannon. Will she clarify this beyond any doubt: will she rule out the use of water cannon on British streets?"

Mrs May: "I made it clear in my earlier comments that I do not think anybody wants water cannon used on British streets. What I said in the interview yesterday is that the Metropolitan police will of course look at the range of tactics available to them to consider whether there is any tactic not yet used that they might wish to use. Currently, as I speak here today, the legal position is that water cannon are not approved for use on the streets of England and Wales. If the hon. Gentleman had listened carefully to my interview yesterday, he would have heard me make the point that we have a different approach to policing in this country from what is seen in many continental countries. I have reiterated that view in my statement today and in further responses to the questions put to me. In Britain, we police by consent, which depends on the link of trust between the police and the public-and long may that continue."

Labour MP Chris Bryant: "The Home Secretary seems to be equivocating a bit on the question of water cannon. She said that they were not legal yet, as if she was implying that she might be persuaded to change her mind. As one who experienced water cannon in Chile in the 1980s, I can assure her that they are entirely indiscriminate, can lead to panic among those who are protesting, and can cause serious injury. The last time they were used in Stuttgart was a couple of months ago, when two people were blinded by them. Will the Home Secretary therefore rule out giving permission for the use of water cannon in this country?"

Mrs May: "I have made the position absolutely clear to the hon. Gentleman and others. I do not think that any of us want to see water cannon being used on the streets of England and Wales. I have said that several times in response to questions on my statement, and I think that the hon. Gentleman should have listened to my earlier answers."

23 Nov 2010 16:25:22

Theresa May confirms commitment to reduce net immigration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands

Tim Montgomerie

The BBC's Nick Robinson has had to keep 'updating' his blog today. Whoever briefed him on the Coalition's immigration cap gave him a very bum steer.

Home Secretary Theresa May has just delivered an authoritative statement to the Commons. She confirmed the Coalition's central ambition to reduce immigration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. She didn't say it in the Commons but I've had it confirmed by one of her senior aides that the target will be achieved by 2015. Economic immigration from outside of the EU will be reduced by one-fifth and a new salary limit of £40,000 for Inter-Company Transfers will ensure that only higher quality workers will enter the UK under these provisions.

On Radio 4 this morning no less a figure than Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch effectively endorsed the Coalition's approach.

Screen shot 2010-11-23 at 15.38.16

Highlights from Theresa May's immigration statement.

Immigration ran out of control under Labour: "Under Labour, net migration to Britain was close to 200 thousand per year, for most years since 2000. As a result, over Labour’s time in office net migration totalled more than 2.2 million people – more than double the population of Birmingham. We can’t go on like this."

Confirmation of ambition to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands: "To achieve this, we will have to take action across all routes to entry – work visas, student visas, family visas – and break the link between temporary routes and permanent settlement. This will bring significant reductions in non-EU migration to the UK and restore it to more sustainable levels. We aim to reduce net migration from the hundreds of thousands, back down to the tens of thousands."

Tighter economic migration from outside the EU: "I have decided to reduce economic migration through Tier One and Two from twenty eight thousand to twenty one thousand seven hundred – this would mean a fall of over a fifth compared with last year in the number of economic migrants coming through Tiers One and Two, excluding intra-company transfers."

Fast-tracking entry for entrepreneurs: "Last year investors and entrepreneurs accounted for fewer than 300 people – that is not enough. So I will make the application process quicker, more user-friendly, and I will not limit the numbers of these wealth creators who can come to Britain."

Student visas are being abused: "Nearly half of all students coming here from abroad are actually coming to study a course below degree level and abuse is particularly common at these lower levels –  a recent check of students studying at private institutions below degree level showed that a quarter could not be accounted for."

A consultation on redcing student numbers: "I will shortly be launching a public consultation on student visas. I will consult on restricting entry to only those studying at degree level, but with some flexibility for Highly Trusted Sponsors to offer courses at a lower level. I will also consult on closing the Post Study route, which last year allowed some 38 thousand foreign graduates to enter the UK labour market at a time when one in ten UK graduates were unemployed."

Cracking down on family immigration: "Last year, the family route accounted for nearly 20% of non EU immigration. Clearly British nationals must be able to marry the person of their choice but those who come to the UK must be able to participate in society. From next week we will require all those applying for marriage visas to demonstrate a minimum standard of English. We are also cracking down on sham marriages and will consult on extending the probationary period of settlement for spouses beyond the current two years."

Stopping temporary migrants from settling in the UK: "It cannot be right that people coming to fill temporary skills gaps have open access to permanent settlement.  Last year 62 thousand people settled in the UK on that basis.   Settling in Britain should be a privilege to be earned, not an automatic add on to a temporary way in.  So we will end the link between temporary and permanent migration."


My one reservation about the otherwise welcome approach is that we are embarking on more consultations. I would have preferred resolution of key issues by now so that numbers could be reduced quickly and English language colleges and other beneficiaries of the student via system could plan ahead.

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'" »

27 Jul 2010 08:37:37

Theresa May unveils most radical police reforms "in at least fifty years"

By Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-07-27 at 06.00.15In the Commons yesterday, sat alongside police reform minister Nick Herbert, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, unveiled what she described as "the most radical reforms to policing in at least 50 years."

Key extracts are republished below:

The problem: "For too long the police have become disconnected from the communities that they serve, been bogged down by bureaucracy and answered to distant politicians instead of to the people. Crime remains too high, too many families and communities suffer from antisocial behaviour and barely half the public are confident that important local issues are dealt with. Meanwhile, the challenges that we face have changed. Terrorism, the growth in serious and organised crime and cybercrime all require new approaches that cross not just police force boundaries, but international borders."

Remedy one, devolution of power: "We will introduce directly elected police and crime commissioners by 2012. The commissioners will set the police budget, determine police force priorities and have the power to hire and, where necessary, fire their chief constable."

[On ConservativeHome yesterday, Blair Gibbs of Policy Exchange made the case for directly-elected police chiefs].

Remedy two, transparency: "To help the public hold their local police to account, we will publish local crime data and mandate local beat meetings so that people can challenge the performance of their neighbourhood policing teams."

Remedy three, less paperwork: "Front-line staff will no longer be form writers; they will be crime fighters, freed from bureaucracy and central guidance and trusted to get on with their jobs. We have scrapped the policing pledge. We have got rid of the confidence target. We will restore police discretion over charging decisions for particular offences. We will limit the reporting requirements for "stop and search" and we will scrap the "stop" form in its entirety."

Remedy four, a Home Office focused on strategic national challenges, not micro-management: "As the Home Affairs Committee noted during the previous Parliament, the previous Government tried to micro-manage local policing but failed to support forces effectively on national issues, so we will build on the work of the Serious Organised Crime Agency to create a more powerful national crime agency, which will tackle organised crime and protect our borders."

Remedy five, procurement reform: "We will make the police more efficient at force, regional and national levels so that front-line local policing can be sustained. To this end, we are already consulting separately on police procurement regulations to get better value for taxpayers' money."

Remedy six, more public involvement in crime fighting: "We will also do more to encourage active citizens to become special constables, community crime fighters and members of neighbourhood watch groups."


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:

Continue reading "MPs vote to extend 28-day detention for terrorist suspects for another six months" »

3 Jun 2010 12:35:11

Theresa May tells Commons that now is not the time to review Britain's gun laws

Highlights, not verbatim.

Screen shot 2010-06-03 at 12.16.35In an emergency statement to the House, and in her first statement to the Commons in her new role, Theresa May MP reflected on the "senseless" murder of twelve people in Cumbria yesterday by Derrick Bird. She paid tribute to the emergency services. The Home Secretary announced that one hundred detectives had been assigned to the investigation of the tragedy. Mrs May confirmed that Mr Bird's two firearms were properly licensed. She will go to Cumbria tomorrow with the Prime Minister. More funds will be made available to the police, local government and local charities if necessary. Calls for a debate on Britain's gun laws are not just "understandable" but "right and proper" but, Mrs May continued, there should be no rush to judgment until full facts are established.

Most MPs did not press the Home Secretary to make instant judgments but John Pugh, the Liberal Democrat MP for Southport, did say that it was beyond his comprehension that a taxi driver could legally own such firepower as Mr Bird possessed. Labour's Kate Hoey said that Britain had among the most stringent gun laws in the world and urged caution in reviewing them. Mrs May said there would be no knee-jerk reaction but she hoped that the Commons would have an opportunity to debate related issues before the summer recess.

John Stanley MP urged that questions were asked about the rapid reaction times of armed police. Ben Wallace raised the issue of sharing 'protective services' between the Lancashire and Cumbrian constabularies.

Tim Montgomerie

Related link: After Cumbria, calls for tougher firearms laws are understandable. They're also wrong.

12 May 2009 13:27:09

Andrew Selous: Local housing allowance needs reform

Andrew Selous MP Work and Pensions questions came around again yesterday.

Shadow Work and Pensions Minister Andrew Selous called for reform of the local housing allowance:

"It is now clear from reports across the country that not only tenants but charities helping the homeless are being very poorly served by the local housing allowance, so will the Minister agree to urgent reform of that allowance, which, frankly, is failing the very people whom it was designed to help?

Kitty Ussher: We always said that we would review the local housing allowance after two years, but the evidence so far does not bear out the hon. Gentleman’s points. In the pathfinder evaluations, it was shown that 96 per cent. of customers had a bank, building society or Post Office account, and a quarter of those had been opened in order for those customers to pay their rent. We are talking about an important policy, giving more choice to tenants. It is an important part of our plans for financial inclusion. We will, of course, listen to all interested parties, but we do not currently have the evidence that the hon. Gentleman needs to make his point."

Continue reading "Andrew Selous: Local housing allowance needs reform" »

11 Mar 2009 14:31:53

Theresa May excoriates Government for inaction on unemployment

Theresa_may_mpThe Conservatives held a debate on unemployment in the House of Commons yesterday. Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Theresa May spoke from the front bench.

"I am sure that no one in this Chamber needs reminding of the unemployment challenge that this country faces. Every day, Members of this House deal with letters and e-mails from constituents who have lost their jobs and are unable to find another. People feel helpless, frustrated, distressed and utterly let down. Who can blame them? The recession is having a devastating effect on employment around the country. No industry or geographical area remains immune from this downturn and the people of Britain are dealing with its harsh realities every day.

What has been the Government’s reaction to this crisis? Have they taken immediate action to help people now? Sadly not; unemployment has been rising constantly for more than a year, yet the Government closed an average of one jobcentre a week in 2008. As late as last July, Ministers were still issuing press releases patting themselves on the back for record levels of employment, and brushing the unemployment problem to one side. As Ministers were reminding us that we should see the rise in jobseeker’s allowance “in context”, perhaps I can provide a little context for the Government, in the hope that it will get them to face up to the problems that we face.

There are 1.97 million people unemployed. Youth unemployment is at its highest level since 1995. There are record redundancies, combined with the lowest level of vacancies since records began. Jobseeker’s allowance claims are up by 55 per cent. in one year, with the claimant count smashing through the 1 million mark, and there are over 130,000 fewer jobs in the economy since June last year. The reality is that Britain now faces an unemployment crisis.

Yet there is still no real action from the Government. Instead, true to form, they have given us only empty promises. In October, the Government announced £50 million of help for people “currently facing redundancy”. Five months on, how many have received that help? None. Why? Because the projects will not start until April. In December, the Government announced £79 million of funding. Two months later, they reannounced that help. Only then was it revealed that no new employment programmes would be in place as a result of that money until the end of this year.

Continue reading "Theresa May excoriates Government for inaction on unemployment" »

11 Mar 2009 11:47:44

Tories promise improved funding for rape crisis centres

Oral questions on Women and Equality also took place in the Commons yesterday.

Shadow Justice Minister David Burrowes stuck up for the rights of Christians:

"Does the Minister share my concern that equality legislation is in danger of being brought into disrepute by cases such as that of nurse Caroline Petrie, who was disciplined for offering to pray for her patients. Do we not need to tackle the concern of many with religious beliefs, and of Christians in particular, who themselves say that they are facing increased discrimination?

The Solicitor-General: I do not think that that question was about the equality legislation that we are bringing into force. Clearly, everybody has to behave in a balanced and sensible way, and the whole point of the legislation is to promote good cultural relations and good relations among people of all kinds and all faiths. We will drive on with that purpose."

(The Solicitor-General is Vera Baird.)

Worthing West MP Peter Bottomley also had a question about Christian matters:

"As well as doing what the law requires, will the Minister use her good offices to interview any Church of England bishop who says that he will not appoint a suffragan who is prepared to ordain women?

Maria Eagle: I have to be careful about getting too involved in the internal affairs of the established Church, but I will pass on the hon. Gentleman’s remarks to the appropriate people. He will no doubt be aware that the Second Church Estates Commissioner has questions on 19 March."

Norfolk South West MP Christopher Fraser made a very good point about the funding structure for rape crisis centres, which is an ongoing problem:

"What recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of funding arrangements for rape crisis centres. [261697]

The Minister for Women and Equality (Ms Harriet Harman): This financial year—in addition to local authority funding and £1.25 million from the victims fund—the Government have paid out £900,000 from a £1.1 million special fund for rape crisis centres. Since the special fund was announced in March 2008, no rape crisis centre has closed. My officials have been working closely with Rape Crisis England and Wales and the Survivors Trust to shape how this year’s special fund will work. We will announce details of the fund shortly.

Christopher Fraser: Many local authorities do not receive the funding that they need to establish rape crisis centres. Will the Minister commit to instituting a three-year funding cycle for rape crisis centres in all local authorities?

Ms Harman: As I have said, we have increased the funding to local authorities and through special funds. I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that it is important that he and all hon. Members look at what their own local authorities are doing and whether they are providing the services for which they have been financed. I would also say that the money and the investment in those much-needed services come from the Department for Communities and Local Government budget and the Home Office budget. Those are two budgets on which his party has not offered to match the funding that we are promising to put in. We want more funds to go in, but Opposition Members express concerns while not even being prepared to match our spending. I think that that lacks conviction."

Continue reading "Tories promise improved funding for rape crisis centres" »

5 Mar 2009 17:05:23

Theresa May says Government must do more to help women through recession

Theresa_mayThe House of Commons is debating support for women during the economic downturn this afternoon.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary and Shadow Minister for Women Theresa May has made the text of her speech available to ConservativeHome. Here it is in full:

"Mr Speaker, this is an important debate, and would have been timely even if it had not coincided with International Women’s Day this Sunday. For all the talk about bailouts and bankers’ bonuses, it is in the homes of millions of families across the country that the effects of the recession are most severely felt, and our thoughts must be with families struggling to pay bills or facing redundancy.

And we must be clear that the recession’s effect on women is not limited to the workplace. For example, women carers who rely on savings have been badly hit financially, not to mention their concern that local authorities will be forced to cut back on vital services that they rely on.

It is appropriate to concentrate particularly on women this afternoon. There is no ‘typical’ woman, and women will be affected by the downturn in different ways: as both employers and employees, as small business owners and entrepreneurs, as mothers, carers, home-owners, pensioners – women in all parts of the country will feel the effects on them and their families. This is the human face of recession, and it is essential that we take the right action to see people through it.

I do not believe that the Government has got to grips with how it is going to get us out of this mess. Whether it’s the Leader of the House, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor or the Business Secretary, we have seen a flurry of activity that has grabbed headlines but seems to have had no real effect. This ‘headless chicken’ approach to policy-making is not going to help women and families or businesses.

Continue reading "Theresa May says Government must do more to help women through recession" »

3 Feb 2009 13:06:06

Theresa May blames tax credit penalty on couples for child poverty

Theresa_may_mpYesterday the House of Commons had Work and Pensions questions.

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans asked what can be done to make parents take responsibility for their children:

"Poverty for youngsters is often reinforced when a married couple separates by a missing parent who refuses to take their responsibility. The Child Support Agency is often deficient in chasing the missing parent. What action can the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the CSA takes to make sure that it tracks down missing parents, so that they pay for their own children?

James Purnell: In the past year, the CSA—now the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission—has collected an extra £156 million, but we agree that more needs to be done. That is why we are taking powers in the Welfare Reform Bill to be able to take away people’s passports or driving licences without a court process. That will make things much more speedy. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support that, unlike the Conservative party in the Lords the last time that that was proposed. That is also why we are saying that, where there is a payment, parents should be able to keep all of it and that there should be a complete disregard for child maintenance payments and benefits. We think that that could lift an extra 100,000 children out of poverty."

The new Shadow Secretary of State, Theresa May, put pressure on the Secretary of State over child poverty:

"According to a recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 15 indicators of poverty and social exclusion had worsened in the five years preceding the onset of the current economic downturn, more than double the number in the previous five years. That includes the number of people living in very low-income households. Perhaps it is little wonder that the number of children living in poverty has risen by 100,000 in the past two years. How does the Secretary of State explain the Government’s poor performance?

James Purnell: By referring the right hon. Lady to the OECD report, which stated that we had the best record among the industrialised countries for reducing child poverty and inequality.

Mrs. May: Yet again, the Secretary of State is very complacent about his attitude to the issue. Another example of the Government’s complacency is their refusal to end the couple penalty in the tax credit system, which would lift 300,000 children out of poverty. Why will the Government not do that?

James Purnell: The right hon. Lady has no policy of that kind, because she has no way of funding it. The Conservatives used to say that they would fund it out of welfare reform, but now they are not prepared to do as much welfare reform as us. If the right hon. Lady wants to repeat that claim, she will have to find new resources. Hers is a policy without a budget, and I hope that she will not pretend to repeat it."

Continue reading "Theresa May blames tax credit penalty on couples for child poverty " »

27 Jan 2009 18:23:20

Theresa May promises to hound James Purnell on welfare reform

Theresa_may_mpTheresa May, now Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, spoke today on the second reading of the Welfare Reform Bill. The Party supports the bill, although it also takes the view that it does not go far enough.

Determined to continue the work of Chris Grayling, Mrs May set out her stall as a welfare reformer:

"Mr Speaker, this Government has promised many times that it would finally reform welfare.  But every time it has made that promise, it has failed, because too many hon members on the Labour backbenches have believed that to support welfare reform is, somehow, not progressive.  But there is nothing progressive about just handing out cash for being out of work.  Real progressives – like the Secretary of State and me – know that we need to reform welfare so that we help people to help themselves.

That’s why we Conservatives support this Bill.  As it passes through Parliament, the Secretary of State will come under great pressure from many of his colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party to back track.  In those circumstances we will support him if he stands firm.  But I will be watching over his shoulder to make sure that he does stand firm.  And if he doesn’t, hon Members can rest assured that he and his colleagues will be replaced by a Conservative government utterly determined to introduce real welfare reform and get Britain working."

Mrs May has also written an article for the Guardian's Comment is Free site in which she urges the Government to be more energetic:

"Yet, I must still confess to being a little disappointed by the bill. The ideas are there, but the ambition is still lacking. James Purnell's idea of supporting over 1 million people on incapacity benefit with one interview at the jobcentre is not good enough. That's it, just one single interview for people, many of whom have spent this entire Labour government at home on benefits. With lengthening queues outside jobcentres and our benefit bill rising, the challenge of welfare reform is growing; now is not the time to be faint-hearted. That is why I am determined to take reform further and deeper."

Theresa May's appointment was not universally welcomed. But she is full of zeal, and perfectly capable of handling a complex brief without losing sight of the big picture. Hard-pressed taxpayers and vulnerable people alike (and individual membership of both groups is increasingly likely) are more than ready for effective welfare reform.

Tom Greeves

12 Dec 2008 13:16:07

Gordon Brown breaks his promise on Equitable Life

Equitable_lifeSomething else emerged from yesterday's Business Questions.

Shadow Leader of the House of Commons Theresa May asked about Equitable Life:

"I note that the Leader of the House announced a statement on Equitable Life in the first week back after Christmas. Last week, the Prime Minister promised to the House a statement on Equitable Life before Christmas. So will the Prime Minister come to the House to explain why his Chancellor is not doing what the Prime Minister promised the House he would do? Given that the Leader of the House, on numerous occasions, told us that the statement would be given in autumn, perhaps she can explain why this is the first time in living history that autumn has extended into January?"

Harriet Harman replied:

"The right hon. Lady mentioned Equitable Life. I acknowledge that we said that the statement would be ready in the autumn, but it is important to note that the issue has its roots in problems that started in the 1980s. In the summer, there was a substantial report from the ombudsman that needed consideration. We are talking about important issues, and if the Treasury needs to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, it should do so. Surely it is more important that the report is properly considered before it is brought to the House than for us to have an artificial timetable. The statement will be made in January."

It was more than moderately cheeky for Ms Harman to describe the Government's own (abandoned) timetable as "artificial".

Pensions expert Stephen Yeo commented to ConservativeHome:

"The delay is even worse than it seems at first. The Ombudsman's report took an unprecedented 4 years because the Treasury decided to submit 500 pages of prevarication in 'evidence'.  Although the report was published in July, the Government would have had a draft in their possession for some months prior to then.  If so minded they could have responded straight away, but they said they would do so 'in the Autumn'. Yesterday we learnt that meant January!"

Continue reading "Gordon Brown breaks his promise on Equitable Life" »

12 Dec 2008 10:05:03

Theresa May calls for a debate on the economy

Theresa_may_mpThe House of Commons has had its last Business Questions for the year. Shadow Leader of the House Theresa May asked why the Government has failed to find time for a debate on the economy, and then teased Harriet Harman for good measure:

"Last year, in the final business questions before Christmas, I asked the Leader of the House to

    “commit to a debate on the economic slow-down, and the problems in the banking industry and their effects on the housing market”.—[ Official Report, 13 December 2007; Vol. 469, c. 465.]

She did not give us a debate in Government time then, and she has not given us that debate a year later—the debates on the economy have been chosen by the Opposition. Given that that the pound has now hit its lowest level against the euro and the German Finance Minister has said that the Government’s switch to “crass Keynesianism is breathtaking”, when will the Government give us a full debate in Government time on the economy?


Finally, last week at The House Magazine “Year ahead in Parliament” conference, when talking about the economy, the right hon. and learned Lady said

    “I know what it’s like for everyone, stuck in a job with an outrageous boss”.

How can she possibly say that about the man who saved the world?"

Ms Harman responded thus:

"The right hon. Lady mentioned the economy. There will, of course, be a debate on the economy next Monday. As far as the German Finance Minister is concerned, Germany went into this world economic crisis with higher levels of unemployment and Government debt than us. However, it, too, has sought to recapitalise its banks; it, too, has benefited from a cut in interest rates; and it, too, has provided fiscal stimulus—in its case of €31 billion. It has taken action on its economy, and we have taken action on ours.

As for the man who saved the world, I would rather have Superman than the leader of the right hon. Lady’s party, who is the Joker."

What a wit.

On Monday the Commons will debate portions of the Queen's Speech that relate to the economy, pensions and welfare. It is not a debate specifically on the current economic crisis.