Conservative Diary

Parliamentary moments

1 Apr 2012 08:58:48

Key Commons committee urges Cameron to state where the Government stands on European treaty

By Matthew Barrett
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Given the glut of stories about tanker-driver-gate, I thought I'd focus on the Sunday Telegraph's important preview of a report to be issued by the Commons' European Scrutiny Committee.

The key part of the report will condemn David Cameron for using his veto late last year for the wrong reasons, and for failing to set out his future plans on Europe:

"The Government has made clear that it has reservations about the legality of what has been done, but the question of what it intends to do remains unsatisfactorily unresolved. Politically and legally, it is profoundly unwise to suggest taking action, and then not to explain how it intends to carry it through, or what concessions anew are being sought and achieved. We therefore recommend that government clearly states as soon as possible what action it now intends to take on the treaty”.

The Committee takes issue with the Prime Minister's objections to the treaty. He objected to it because of its possible tax consequences for the City, but the Committee says he could and should have objected to it on legal grounds. The report will says: "The conduct of this treaty provides further and ever more disturbing evidence of the European Union dangerously ignoring its own precepts for political ends".

Continue reading "Key Commons committee urges Cameron to state where the Government stands on European treaty" »

24 Oct 2011 22:18:14

111 MPs (including more than 80 Tories) take part in biggest ever rebellion on EU

By Tim Montgomerie
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This is what I write in tomorrow's Guardian:

"After this evening Cameron needs to relaunch his whole style of governing. We are only 18 months into the parliament but problems that normally characterise senile governments are already evident. If he does not reconcile with the unhappy squad on his backbenches, the next few years will get a lot unhappier. Ed Miliband may not look like a prime minister in waiting, but Tory strategists are in danger of gambling too many chips on the Labour leader's weaknesses. Voters hate divided parties but the Conservative party is in serious danger of getting a reputation for disunity again. Add in the prospect of many years of declining incomes for many families and you have a dangerous political recipe.

When Downing Street called me last week and asked for my advice on how to handle the EU vote issue, I suggested they take a step back. I urged them to think of this as an issue of party management, not Europe. The rebels won't obey the captain if they don't feel part of the team. Large numbers of MPs, commentators and centre-right campaigners have little or no contact with No 10. Many others don't think they or, just as significantly, the ideas they cherish will ever be promoted. Downing Street has been repeatedly warned of discontent. Those warnings were ignored, and that discontent erupted on a grand scale today. Unless Cameron becomes a lot more collegiate, it's only going to get worse."

Read the full piece.

11 Aug 2011 14:41:22

Cameron should popularise the idea of "police hours on the streets" to counter Labour's populism on police numbers

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter.


I'm impressed with Cameron's stamina. He's been on his feet for 165 minutes, answering questions from MPs. Apparently that's a record. 160 questions answered in 165 minutes. Every MP will press release their questions and his answers... so that's a lot of local newspaper coverage.

Throughout that time he was pounded by Labour MPs on the question of police numbers. My guess is that, unfortunately, they'll have the public on their side.

The Prime Minister, like the Home Secretary, is making the perfectly reasonable argument that budget cuts do not necessarily need to lead to a reduction in police numbers or frontline capacity. Policing minister Nick Herbert has set out the kind of economies necessary to protect policing capacity. I use the term "policing capacity" because "police numbers" should not be the only measure of "police impact". You could have a reduction in police numbers but still have an increase in frontline presence if you got fewer police officers out on to the streets a lot more.

I think Cameron needs to find a better way of making this argument.

He and the Home Secretary need to introduce and popularise the concept of Police Hours On The Streets. This would be a better measure of police impact than police numbers. I understand from experts that the data wouldn't be difficult to compile and it would be a new way of holding constabularies to account.

That would be a way of presenting the existing policy in a better way.

The PM could go further by forcing police chiefs to maintain police numbers. It wouldn't be localist but the Home Secretary could order Chief Constables to maintain police numbers and cut deeper into bureaucracy.

19 Jul 2011 14:15:02

Open thread on MPs' grilling of the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks

You don't have to be signed up to Twitter to follow Tim Montgomerie's list of favourite political Twitterers. They can be read at any time via this webpage.

30 Jun 2011 06:52:46

The three MPs from the Tory margins at the centre of the Commons

by Paul Goodman

Screen shot 2011-06-29 at 21.23.00 When Jonathan last updated his list of the most rebellious Conservative MPs, Philip Hollobone came in first on both his broad and narrow estimates.  Peter Bone came in fourth and fifth respectively, and Philip Davies fifth and third.  All three of them are at the Parliamentary Party's margins, then - not so much because of their views (although these are certainly to the right of those of many of their colleagues) as their voting.  It is rare for a Tory MP to vote against their party almost 30 times, as Bone has - and that's at the lowest end of this spectrum.

Yet as Parliament's summer recess draws near, and the time comes to glance back over the last year, these three peripheral people turn out to have been near the very core of events in the chamber.  This isn't so much because of how they vote or even what they say as where they sit.  For they are the three Conservative members of the backbench business committee, elected by their peers to help decide what is debated in backbench business time.  And it is this committee which over the last year has enabled the Commons to express a view (for example) on Afghanistan, on votes for prisoners, and - last week - on wild animals in circuses.

Together with the election of Select Committee chairmen and members, the creation of the new committee has meant a small but significant shift of power from the executive to the legislature - a move to the credit of the Coalition (and one which honoured commitments made in the Party's manifesto).  But the tonic for the chamber can be a headache for the whips.  Last week's fracas saw Downing Street accused of bribery and bullying by a senior officer of the 1922 Committee.  The debate over votes for prisoners gave the Commons a chance to express a view on the matter, and send an message to the European Court of Human Rights (which it did by the unambiguous margin of 234 votes to 22).

Continue reading "The three MPs from the Tory margins at the centre of the Commons" »

16 Apr 2011 06:20:53

Douglas Carswell seeks an inquiry into whether George Osborne lied to the Commons

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 3 I am only just catching up with a story which ran in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday but for some reason never seems to have been published on their website and was only picked up, it appears, by Gary Gibbon of Channel Four News on his blog.

For some time now, Douglas Carswell, the Conservative MP for Clacton, has been raising questions (as we noted here in February for instance) about the deal agreed by European finance ministers in May last year on the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM), making all EU nations liable to contribute to potential euro bailouts.

It was the weekend after the general election that the meeting took place and Alistair Darling was there to represent the UK as Chancellor amidst the ongoing coalition negotiations, although he had had a conversation about what was happening with George Osborne, who was of course then still the shadow chancellor.

The controversy for Carswell surrounds what Osborne did or didn't agree with Darling.

The Clacton MP has seized on a Treasury document signed by Treasury Minister Justine Greening from July last year (highlighted by Paul Waugh on his blog at the end of last month) which suggests that there was a "cross-party consensus" over the EFSM.

Yet there has been a series of strenuous denials to the Commons that Osborne agreed with the decision made at the meeting in Brussels on May 9th.

Continue reading "Douglas Carswell seeks an inquiry into whether George Osborne lied to the Commons" »

20 Oct 2010 12:32:15

Highlights from the Comprehensive Spending Review

By Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-10-20 at 12.39.05 Delivering his statement George Osborne alongside other members of the 'Quad' - the four people who have overseen the CSR.


  • Britain has the largest structural deficit - £109bn - in Europe. We are paying £120 million in interest every day on servicing the debts left behind by Labour's Decade of Irresponsibility. The IMF, OECD, CBI and Governor of the Bank of England all agree that we need to bring borrowing down, as the Coalition has proposed.
  • It takes time to turn around the debt supertanker and the cost of interest payments will still be £63bn by the end of the parliament.
  • The three guiding principles for the CSR have been the elimination of waste, a fair sharing of the costs of deficit reduction and investment in growth, including science, infrastructure and education.


  • The Coalition will exceed its waste reduction targets - eliminating £6bn in waste in Whitehall rather than £3bn.
  • The administrative budgets of every government department will be cut by a third.
  • Over four years 490,000 jobs will go in the public sector - largely through natural turnover.
  • Royal Household Budget to be cut by 14%.
  • 7.1% pa cut in local government funding but all ringfencing will be lifted.
  • £2bn extra for social care.
  • Aid budget will grow by 37% over next four years. Britain will be first major nation in world to spend 0.7% of national income on fighting global poverty.
  • Police budgets will be cut by 4%pa for four years. Overall Home Office and Justice budgets to fall by 6%pa.
  • £900m more to be spent on tackling illegal tax dodging in the hope of recovering £7bn in lost revenues. A crackdown on welfare fraud and overpayment will yield £5bn.
  • Confirms state pension age will be raised to 66 in 2020.
  • £1.8bn will be saved from public sector pensions. Final salary pension scheme for MPs will close.
  • Sick pay will be limited to 12 months except in extreme circumstances.
  • "We will keep benefits for pensioners, free eye tests and prescriptions, bus passes, tv licenses and winter fuel".
  • Equitable Life holders will get £1.5bn in compensation (two-thirds in next four years).
  • 50% increase in spending on adult apprenticeships.
  • Science spending of £4.6bn will be protected.
  • 5%pa decrease in Energy and Climate Change budget but £1bn allocated to Green Investment Bank.
  • 8%pa decrease in DEFRA budget.
  • Health spending will grow by real terms plus £4bn over next four years.
  • Free entry to museums and galleries will stay.
  • Licence fee will be frozen for six years and the BBC has guaranteed that it will not encroach upon the growth of private local media entities.
  • £30bn will be invested in transport projects over next four years, including Crossrail. Victory for the Mayor of London.
  • Train fares up by RPI + 4%pa.
  • 7.1%pa cut in Business Dept's budget.
  • Spending up by 0.1% in real terms for next four years for nation's schools. £2.5bn pupil premium will be introduced for poorest children.
  • Sure Start spending frozen in cash terms.
  • Because of modelling error (Gary Gibbon explains) the child benefit restriction will save £2.5bn not £1bn.

5 Jul 2010 16:32:31

Clegg announces fixed term parliaments, equalisation of constituency size and a May 2011 vote on AV

Screen shot 2010-07-05 at 15.33.04 Sat alongside David Cameron, Nick Clegg has just confirmed that the referendum on changing Britain's voting system to AV will be next May. His main announcements were:

  • Broad political reform: These reforms are part of a wider political reform programme that includes the power to recall ethically questionable MPs; electing the Upper House; giving the public the power to shape parliamentary business; and transparency of the lobbying industry.
  • Fixed term parliaments: Parliamentary terms will be fixed at five years meaning that the next General Election will be on 7th May 2015.
  • 55% rule surpassed: Arguing that there is a difference between a vote of confidence in a government and a vote to dissolve a parliament he said that, under Coalition proposals, a government would still be brought down by a simple majority of MPs but that parliament could only be dissolved by 2/3rds of MPs. [It appears that the 55% threshold has been surpassed]. If, after a vote of no confidence, a new government could not be formed within 14 days there would be a General Election.
  • Equalisation of constituency size: There would be a review of constituency boundaries which will see the number of MPs cut from 650 to 600 MPs as part of an effort to equalise constituency size. This reduction in the number of MPs will save the taxpayer £12m per year. [ConservativeHome launched a campaign for Fair-Sized Seats in January 2008 and we're delighted to see this part of Mr Clegg's announcement].
  • AV referendum on May 2011: The public will vote next May on whether to change the electoral system to Alternative Vote. The Electoral Commission will test the wording of referendum. It is taking place on the same day as Scottish, Welsh, N Irish and English local elections to keep costs as low as possible. This will save £17m. The 2015 election will be held under system and with new boundaries. Orkney & Shetland (Libdem) and Western Isles (SNP) will be exempted from boundaries review. [Protests from the Isle of Wight's Tory MP Andrew Turner had to be silenced at this point by the Speaker].

Continue reading "Clegg announces fixed term parliaments, equalisation of constituency size and a May 2011 vote on AV" »

25 May 2010 17:58:32

Twelve of the new intake are standing for the Executive of the 1922 Committee

Nominations have closed for the officers and Executive Committee members of the 1922 Committee and the Chief Whip has this afternoon issued the following notice listing those who have been nominated:

The ballots for the positions on the 1922 Committee will take place in Committee Room 12 tomorrow.  The timings will be as follows:

Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary – 3:30pm-5pm.  The results of these ballots will be announced at the 1922 Committee meeting at 5:30pm.

The elections for the twelve positions on the Executive will take place after the conclusion of the 1922 meeting.  It will last for one and a half hours (between approx. 6pm and 7:30pm).

The results for the twelve positions on the Executive will be announced the following day.

Those Members who have been nominated are listed below.

For the post of Chairman:
Graham Brady
Richard Ottaway

For the post of Vice Chairman (two posts):
Peter Bottomley
Nicholas Soames
Charles Walker
John Whittingdale

For the post of Secretary (two posts):
Christopher Chope
Mark Pritchard
David Tredinnick

For the post of Treasurer:
Brian Binley - elected unopposed

For the Executive (twelve posts):
David Amess
Harriet Baldwin
Gavin Barwell
Peter Bone
Peter Bottomley*
Graham Brady *
Angie Bray
Julian Brazier
Philip Davies
Jackie Doyle-Price
Charlie Elphicke
Lorraine Fullbrook
James Gray
Robert Halfon
Bernard Jenkin
Andrea Leadsom
David Nuttall
Priti Patel
Mark Reckless
Laurence Robertson
Alec Shelbrooke
Nicholas Soames*
David Tredinnick*
Andrew Turner
Charles Walker*
*indicates standing for another post.  If they are elected for that other post, their name will be removed from subsequent ballots.

Of those 25 candidates for the Executive, 12 are members of the new intake.

Jonathan Isaby

25 May 2010 14:31:55

Live blog of the opening of the Queen's Speech debate

I will be covering the opening proceedings of the new Parliament here.

Picture 16 2.35pm The proposing of the Loyal Address is being done by Peter Lilley, the former Cabinet Minister, who is doing so with suitable humour. I have been wondering whether Conservatives should call Lib Dems their honourable "friends" in the chamber and he has touched on the issue. He shuns the idea of calling them honourable partners on the grounds that implies even more intimacy, but settles on "honourable allies". I wonder if it will stick?

2.45pm Don Foster for the Lib Dems seconds the Loyal Address from the government backbenches - although he refers to Peter Lilley as an honourable member rather than an honourable ally...

Picture 20 2.55pm Harriet Harman rises as Leader of the Opposition and beings by paying tribute to those killed in Afghanistan since the House last met.She also pays tribute to the two MPs who died during the last session - David Taylor and Ashok Kumar. She congratulates Peter Lilley for his speech and thanks him for not singing to the House (as he did during Tory conferences in the 1990s). She also paid tribute to him for his work on International Development issues.  

Harman congratulates David Cameron on becoming PM and thanks him for the kind words he spoke about the outgoing Labour Government on the steps of Number Ten on taking office. She says Labour will be an effective opposition and not oppose the Government for the sake of it. She attacks cuts in university places and cuts to the future jobs fund and wants cuts introduced in a fair way and not in way that will affect future growth.

On Cameron and Clegg as a couple, she says that the in-laws are saying they are just not right for each other. Labour say you can't pay couples to stay together, she adds, and it will take more than a £3 a week to keep this couple together.

She attacks the Government for announcing the cuts yesterday to a press conference and not to the chamber.She also questions the Government approach to the EU, contrasting the different positions taken by the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.

She says she supports some of the Government's proposed constitutional changes, but wants 4-year fixed terms and opposes the 55% rule, which she compares to a pre-nup. She also opposes the Lib Dems having access to Short Money - they're trying to cling on to the trappings of Opposition, she says to much merriment across the House.

Picture 23 3.10pm David Cameron rises to speak - and asks why there was no apology from her for the state of th country Labour has left. Until they learn what they got so badly wrong, I'm not sure whether people are going to listen to them again. Across the House, we've been sent here to renew faith in our democracy, he says, before paying tribute to the soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan. He also pays tribute to the two MPs who died at the end of the session and congratulates Peter Lilley on his speech proposing the Loyal Address. Referring to the fact that Lilley's wife is a former European Movement member, he said he might be asking him for advice on how to keep his relationship with Nick Clegg going, when he explained that he had just got into bed with a Europhile. He also talk about Don Foster's speech, referring to him as an honourable member.

He teases Harriet Harman about why she is not standing fo rthe Labour leadership, pointing out that her husband, Jack Dromey, could secure her 2 million votes from Unite.

He talks about the fact that British troops remain overseas in Afghanistan and that a stable Afghanistan is vital for our security. He also says that Iran must not be able to acquire nuclear weapons and that pressure on Iran must be ratcheted up.

The Government is driven by the national interest, not party interest, he says, driven by freedom, fairness and responsibility.

David Blunkett intervenes to attack the "asset-rich" Cabinet for stopping Child Trust Funds. Cameron responds by reminding him that in the words of Liam Byrne, "we've run out of money".

Labour MP Tom Harris wants to know when MPs can vote on the Hunting Act. Cameron says there will be a free vote on the issue on the floor of the Commons. Another Labour MP David Winnick attacks the 55% rule; Cameron says that in the Scottish Parliament Labour voted for a 66% rule.

Labour MP Denis Macshane quotes Nick Clegg calling Tory European allies "nutters" and David Cameron responds by citing some of the allies Labour have in the European Parliament.

Lib Dem Simon Hughes intervenes to seek reassurances on building affordable housing. Cameron says he will prioritise social housing.

He commends other aspects of the Queen's Speech, and says that all Labour's economic claims were wrong, as they leave an economic mess. No more spending beyond our means and no more reckless borrowing - this Government has done more for the economy in two weeks than Labour did in the last two years. Having found a variety of savings, Labour's jobs tax can be stopped.

This Queen's speech marks a decisive break from the past and promises real changes. He says the Acadmies Bill will pass before the summer. This Government will give power back to people.

Maria Eagle for Labour presses Cameron on the 55% rule and the House of Lords. Cameron says that Labour thirteen years to reform the Lords and failed - and that this government will succeed on that front.

Here begin the years of responsibility, good government and a new start for Britain, he concludes.

Jonathan Isaby