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Today the government's legislative plans for this Parliamentary session were delivered in the Queen’s speech. My response is below:
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Tribute to armed forces
Mr Speaker, I am sure the whole House will want to pay tribute to our armed forces.
Since the last Queen’s Speech, UK military operations in Afghanistan have come to an end.
453 British Servicemen and women lost their lives in that campaign and many more were injured.
They served with valour and they deserve our gratitude.
We honour them here today.
Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with their families, to whom we pledge our enduring support.
Congratulate mover and seconder of Queen’s speech
Mr Speaker, I want to congratulate the mover and seconder of the Queen’s Speech.
Can I explain for the sake of those who were elected for the first time.
Traditionally the seconder is a rising star with a bright future ahead of them, and the mover is someone of great distinction with an illustrious career behind them.
So it’s a pleasure to congratulate the Rt Hon Member for Chelmsford as the mover of this Queen’s Speech.
He came into the House in 1987, shortly after I did.
I remember it well Mr Speaker, because he cut a real dash.
Many of us, well me actually – thought he looked like a young Robert Redford.
I know these days he is a bit more Jeremy Clarkson, but believe me – back in the day he was a real head-turner.
As everyone could hear from his speech, he is ebullient, outspoken and engaging.
He was Public Health Minister but he didn’t let that stop him smoking. It was the red box in one hand, and a cigarette in the other.
And the fact that he is a Tory, has never stopped him being a passionate supporter of the US Democrats and Hilary Clinton’s number one fan.
And his good humour didn’t desert him, even when he was Rail Minister dealing with the vexed issue of HS2.
Nothing will stop him speaking his mind…except possibly you Mr Speaker.
At a time when we politicians are thought of as ‘all the same’ - too cautious, too guarded - no one could ever say that about him.
He made a fine speech today and I congratulate him.
I also congratulate the Seconder of the Motion, the Hon Member for South East Cornwall.
She was elected in 2010 as the first woman to represent her constituency, and only the sixth women ever elected in Cornwall.
We are all here to bring the issues of concern of our own constituencies to the heart of Parliament.
She is a fine example of that when she speaks about her beloved county of Cornwall, or as we now know it, the County of Poldark.
And she doesn’t just speak for them - she gets things done for them.
It’s hard to believe that someone who was only elected for the first time in 2010 has already got two Bills put into law: The Marine Navigation Act and the Deep Sea Mining Act.
She comes from those Cornish fishing communities and shares not only their joys but also their sorrows.
When, only one year after she was elected, her husband was killed in a fishing accident, we all admired the tremendous courage she showed in the face of such a tragic loss.
Her speech showed her as she is – brave, determined – human.
At a time when people are sceptical about politicians, she is a credit to this House.
Congratulate the Prime Minister
I congratulate the Rt Hon Member for Whitney. He returns to this House as Prime Minister.
Although he and I have many differences, people have pointed out in some ways we are alike.
One of the things that we have in common is that we are both, by our own admission, interim leaders.
So from one interim leader to another, can I give him some advice, and I’m sure that he will understand what I mean when I say – beware the blonde on the zip wire.
And speaking of interim leaders, can I now turn to the Hon Member for Moray.
Can I give him some friendly advice about the thorny issue of seating arrangements, the lion might be roaring in Scotland, don’t mess with the Beast of Bolsover.
Mr Speaker, we have come through a General Election.
We applied for the job, but he got it.
Even though we didn’t get the job we wanted, we do have a very important job to do for this country – holding the Government to account.
Where he acts in the interests of the country, we will support him.
But when he doesn’t, we will not hesitate to be a determined, forensic and vocal opposition – and that is what every one of our 232 Labour MPs will do.
He is a Prime Minister with a very slender majority, so he won’t have it all his own way.
Mr Speaker, Britain faces a fragile future for our economy, our constitution and our public services.
Although we are seeing economic growth return, the economy remains fragile.
Compared to other countries, Britain’s productivity lags behind.
Tax revenues have fallen short of where the Government said in 2010 that they would be now, meaning it’s taking longer to reduce the deficit.
Britain cannot succeed by low-skilled, low-wage, insecure employment with a race to the bottom.
The path to economic recovery must be with a high-skilled, long-term approach.
But our productivity is being held back by a lack of investment in training, infrastructure and industry.
We will support investing in the skills that people need for the future.
We will support measures which genuinely help to get people in to work.
We will support measures that help small business – the vital drivers of the economy.
We will support investment in our infrastructure – particularly in affordable, green transport systems.
All of that will help productivity.
But what we won’t support are more arbitrary measures to undermine people’s rights at work.
They have already made it so expensive that it’s virtually impossible to go to an employment tribunal.
Mr Speaker, that’s not about better productivity. It’s divisive posturing.
The Government are bringing forward legislation on tax.
We support a fair tax system.
We don’t want to see taxes going up for those on lower or middle incomes.
But the Government must not repeat what they did in the last Parliament which saw those on the very highest incomes prioritised for a tax cut.
This legislation must not block off the possibility of the Government being able to raise taxes on the very highest earners, if that is necessary to protect public services.
Because we believe it is a matter of basic principle - those with the broadest shoulders must bear the biggest burden.
Mr Speaker our political and constitutional system is fragile too.
Big changes are underway and no one should be in any doubt that there needs to be further reform.
He must keep the promises on further devolution to Scotland, to Wales and to Northern Ireland.
And there will need to be change in England, and in this House.
But to get change which is fair and lasting, it must be done in way which builds the broadest possible consensus.
The Prime Minister must seek agreement and break his habit of divisiveness.
Of course the SNP want to break up the Union. They want people to have to choose between being Scottish and being British.
But it would be utterly irresponsible for the Prime Minister to continue what he did so shamefully in the General Election. Which was to set the English against the Scots.
No party - especially one that claims to be a ‘One Nation’ party - should set the interest of a family in Gloucester against the interests of a family in Glasgow or Glamorgan.
And let’s be in no doubt…the worst possible outcome for Scotland would be the SNP demanding full fiscal autonomy, that they know doesn't add up, and a Tory Prime Minister giving it to them.
Mr Speaker, let’s continue with the much-needed process of constitutional evolution.
But whether it’s his proposals for English votes for English laws or constituency boundary changes, he must proceed in a way that is absolutely in the interests of the country and not just in the interests of his party.
And if there are to be any changes on party funding it must be done on a fair, cross-party basis – not just rigged in favour of the Tory party.
And when it comes to devolution to the English regions, with local councils facing unprecedented cuts, especially in the north and some of the most deprived areas of the country, you can’t empower local government if you impoverish it.
Mr Speaker, on Europe, we will support the Government’s Bill for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.
We believe it will be better for Britain if we stay in the European Union.
It’s important for the future of this country, and that’s why 16 and 17 year olds should have the right to vote in the referendum - it’s their future too.
Our continued membership is important for our economic prosperity.
But that prosperity has to be more widely shared across this country, and a crucial part of that includes stopping unscrupulous employers exploiting migrant workers and undercutting wages.
Our membership is also important for our place in the world.
Mr Speaker, Europe does need to change.
And we want to see reforms.
So we wish the Prime Minister well with his new best friend - President Juncker.
Human Rights Act
Turning to human rights – normally there is a degree of unravelling of the Government’s legislative program after the Queen’s Speech.
This is the first time I have known it to start unravelling before Her Majesty has even spoken.
This is a classic Gove-special.
They’re clearly still working on the back of that envelope.
We’ve heard the grandiose rhetoric. We’re yet to see the proposals.
But let me make this clear.
If they seek to…
- undermine basic human rights
- take us out of the European Convention
- or undermine our ability to stand up for human rights abroad
… we will oppose them all the way.
In the meantime, we’ll be keeping an eye out for another group that might need their own special rights – the poor foxes.
Fragile Public services and communities
So Mr Speaker, a fragile economy, a fragile constitution and sadly, fragile public services too.
Top of that list is the NHS.
The Government should be straining every sinew to protect and improve our health service.
But where is the effective action
- So that people can get to see their GPs
- So that patients in A&E are seen promptly
- And so that people, especially those needing cancer treatment, don’t get stuck on waiting lists
- On mental health
The Prime Minister’s got form on this.
He has made promises before on the NHS.
And he’s broken them.
Whatever’s in the Queen’s Speech, we know you can’t trust the Tories on the NHS.
Mr Speaker, turning to education.
Action should be taken to improve schools that are not highly performing, but for this we need to see a focus on the quality of teaching, an improvement in schools working together and devolution of decision-taking powers.
And we will hold him to account for his latest promises on childcare.
The rhetoric might be promising, but the reality is that children’s centres have closed and the cost of childcare has soared.
The average family are now paying £1500 more per year for nursery fees than they would have been in 2010.
Parents don’t need more empty promises.
They need childcare they can afford.
On welfare, we back measures to get people in to work, to achieve full employment, and thereby get the social security bill down.
That’s why we put in our manifesto a commitment to a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee for young people and the long term unemployed.
We support a cap on household benefit entitlement.
The Government are now planning to reduce it.
We are sympathetic to that, but it makes it even more important that
- The jobs are there for people to move into
- The childcare is there, particularly for lone parents
- And that there are adequate funds for discretionary housing payments.
All that is necessary to ensure that this doesn’t put children into poverty, increase homelessness or end up costing more than it saves.
On housing, we want to see more people able to own their own home. And more housing that people can afford to rent.
But the Prime Minister has a poor record on this.
The percentage of people who own their own homes is at its lowest for thirty years.
And now the age at which people are able to afford their first home has risen to 33.
In the last Parliament, when the Government increased the discount for people buying their own council homes, they promised that for every council home bought there would be another council home built.
They didn’t keep that promise.
For every ten council homes bought, there’s only been one replacement council home started to be built.
Now they plan extending Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants. And are making more promises.
But they haven’t said how it will be paid for, it will clearly lead to fewer affordable homes and there is an emerging view that it because it is uncosted and unfunded, it’s unworkable.
Security, crime and Justice
A fundamental priority for every government is to protect our security.
Never more so than from the threat of violent extremism.
We await David Anderson's Review and will look at the detail of the government's wider proposals.
If the Government bring forward extra powers, we will want to see greater accountability for the use of those powers.
And we will want to see the strengthening, not the watering down, of community-based counter-radicalisation programs.
Mr Speaker, the rhetoric at the beginning of this Queen’s speech is well honed.
Indeed, the best lines look uncannily like we wrote them – actually we didn’t just write them, we engraved them on a table of stone.
But that’s another story – so perhaps let’s not go there.
Mr Speaker, we fear the reality of this Queen’s speech will be very different from the rhetoric.
The Queen’s speech talks of ‘One Nation’– yet he sets the nations of the country against each other.
The Queen’s Speech talks of ‘working people’ – yet he threatens basic rights at work.
At a time when our economy, our constitution and our public services are all fragile, we fear this Tory Government will make things worse.
So as the dust settles, the real question for this Queen’s Speech is - will it improve our country, our communities and people’s lives?
That is the test that will be set for this Government.
And that is the standard to which we, as the Opposition, will hold them.
The Queen’s Speech today confirms legislation to ban legal highs
I am really pleased with the announcement today in the Queen’s Speech regarding the ban on legal highs. The increasing use of legal highs has been one of growing local concern in the towns, especially following the untimely and sad death of Jimmy Guichard. Their sale and use is an issue I campaigned on in the last Parliament and I am pleased that the Government has listened to these concerns and will bring forward legislation to introduce a ban on this new generation of psychoactive drugs.
Her Majesty will announce the extra powers for Scotland which Labour and Conservatives offered prior to the referendum. As we have discussed recently, this will need to include a new financial settlement when Parliament comes to debate and approve the detail. She should also announce early progress on English votes for English needs (EVEN) , which I expect to be undertaken by an amendment to Standing Orders of the Commons in the first instance.
The bigger question behind this work is can the Union now be stabilised? Is there some degree of devolution which will satisfy the majority of Scots, even if it leaves their SNP MPs disappointed? Is there some complementary level of devolution to England which can make England think we now have a fairer settlement? How do we avoid devolution being a process rather than a settlement? Might it prove to be like peeling an onion, where there is always another layer to remove, as the SNP hope?
I wrote “The death of Britain?” at the end of the last century, arguing that lop sided evolution at home, and the transfer of substantial powers abroad in the EU could prove to be forces which threatened the union of the UK. So it has proved. A new constitutional settlement needs the repatriation of power from Brussels, and a fair devolution of power to all four parts of the Union. This in turn requires a sense that the money is shared fairly.
Our union is above all a currency, benefits and tax union. We pool all the revenues, share all the expenses, and follow one overall budget, money and interest rate policy. If Scotland seeks to unpick too much of the spending and borrowing part of this it can undermine the rest, and can lead to a sense of greater unfairness in other parts of the Union. You only need to calculate precisely who puts in what and who takes out what if you no longer wish to pool everything.
The SNP will be a vocal part of the opposition. They will mainly be arguing about money. They think the UK should borrow and spend more, especially in Scotland. They do not see the irony that they also think the UK should stay in the EU come what may. If we obeyed the rules of the EU properly we would immediately cut public spending and put up taxes to get down to the 3% maximum permitted deficit. So why don’t the SNP rail against EU budget rules in the way they do against “tory spending plans”?
I think the most powerful intervention the parties of the Union made in the referendum campaign to sway more Scots to vote for in was when all 3 main union parties said they would not let an independent Scotland remain in the sterling system. I think this had far more impact that offers of yet more devolution. Union parties should learn from that experience.
Yes, I see the parallel with the EU. If the EU says to us there is no chance of change, then let us leave. Our commitment to the EU is far less deep and well based than Scotland’s reliance on the pound. Were I a Scottish nationalist I would want my own Scottish currency to become fully independent. I found it odd they could not say this. I guess it was because most Scots do want to stay with the pound.
Unless the truth will do more harm than a lie. Possibly in wartime when the truth would help the enemy and put our soldiers lives at risk. Possibly in health pandemics to avoid panic. Possibly to reduce mourners' grief by glossing over deaths details.
In non-emgencies there is no excuse for lying. It is wrong and stupid. Like all MPs I have made mistakes but I have never lied. Mistakes should be corrected at first opportunies.
Avoiding telling a lie cost me five weeks of expulsion from parliament. I said in an oral question that 'Politicians lie : soldiers die.' The Speaker demanded to know if I was saying that Ministers had lied? To answer 'no' would have been a lie. Many ministers had lied telling soldiers they were risking their lives in Afghanistan to stop Taliban attacks on the UK. I told the truth that I did believe ministers were not so stupid to believe that the Taliban planned terrorist atttacks on the UK. Others planned them. But not the Taliban. I willingly accepted the inevitable punishment of expul;sion. I would do the same again.
A lie for the great majority of MPs is an extremely rare event. There is the virtually certainty of being found out and being punished. Every word we say in Parliament is open to scrutiny for ever. MPs have a s a prime duty to restore public faith in politics. Lying drags us deeper into the gutter.
Malcolm Bruce demeaned himself, his trade and parliament in his car-crash interview today. Alistair Carmichael is an aimiable competent minister. On Channel 4 news in early April he said the first he knew of Frenchgate was a call from an newspaper. That's was untrue. By any accurate definition it was a lie. He had authorised the leak. It was not in the public's interest to spread a fictitious account of the meeting. It was in the interests of influencing public opinion in favour of the LibDems, of Mr Carmichael as candidate and to smear the SNP. He did nothing to correct the untruthful impressions until the election was over and he had gain personal and party advantage from the untruth.
This is a matter for the Parliamentary Commissioner on Standards and Mr Carmichael's constituents. He should go.
More details on tomorrow's events here: http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/occasions/stateopening/
Exhilarating, isn't it? A referendum on Britain's continued membership of the European Union is at hand. For the first time in a generation, there's a real possibility that Britain might leave.
With that prospect so tantalisingly close, it's tempting to want to rush ahead. "Bring it on!" many regular readers will say.
Hold on. Let's make sure we maximise our chances of winning.
Like it, or not, a great many voters - despite all that Brussels red tape and all those ghastly EU commissioners – have yet to be convinced that we should leave. If you think that winning over fifty percent of the votes is easy, just cast your mind back to election night in your constituency ......
For almost forty years, we Brits have complained about Europe. We've found the over regulation irksome and the arrogance of Brussels officials overbearing. We have muttered and grumbled.
But every time we have started to contemplate the alternatives, the political elite have bought us off with the promise that things are about to change.
Maastricht, we were told, was the high-water mark of federalism. Deregulation, Tony Blair insisted, would make Europe globally competitive. Subsidiarity would close the democratic deficit.
Of course, none of it ever happened. But the idea that things would be different has been used to keep us in. Let's not fall for it again.
That is why we should allow David Cameron time to negotiate his new deal.
Show us what different looks like, Prime Minister. Take your time. Don't rush things with Jean Claude Juncker. Why just a weekend at Chequers? Invite him to stay for the summer, if it helps....
The longer that the Prime Minister takes negotiating his new deal, the more evident it will become that there is no fundamentally new relationship with the EU on offer. Indeed, the Prime Minister is not even pushing for it.
The primary purpose of Mr Cameron's new deal is not to change our relationship with the EU, but to keep us in - just like Harold Wilson's faux deal all those years ago.
Once it becomes apparent that things are not fundamentally going to change unless we leave, many of those undecided voters will decide that enough is enough. The only way to get the trade-only arrangements with Europe is to vote to quit the EU.
Another brandy, Jean Claude?
MP HAILS FLAG SUCCESS
Westminster, 19 May 2015
David Jones, the newly re-elected MP for Clwyd West, has congratulated Ysgol Pen y Bryn, Colwyn Bay, on its success in designing a flag as part of the ‘Parliament in the Making’ programme.
The programme commemorates the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and the 750th anniversary of the Simon de Montfort Parliament, and has included, among other events and activities, an opportunity for pupils from schools across the United Kingdom to design flags representing their own Parliamentary constituencies. Out of 500 submitted designs, 80 have now been selected to represent the historical counties of the United Kingdom, and the flag designed by Ysgol Pen y Bryn has been chosen to represent the historical county of Denbighshire.
The 80 selected flags are being flown in Parliament Square between 18 and 22 May, and will also be flown at Runnymede, the location at which Magna Carta was signed, on 15 June, in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen.
David Jones said:
“I am pleased to support the ‘Parliament in the Making’ programme, and am delighted that the flag designed by Ysgol Pen y Bryn has been chosen to represent the historical county of Denbighshire.
“Encouraging children to take an interest in Parliament, government and politics is essential, and I believe that the flag design project has been a very stimulating and valuable way of doing so. I commend Ysgol Pen y Bryn’s efforts, and look forward to continuing to support this year’s commemorations.”
Karen Lumley has welcomed new figures showing 1,559 fewer people in Redditch County claiming Jobseeker's Allowance and Universal Credit compared to 2010 - a 62% per cent drop. This means more people in work, with the security of a good job and a regular pay packet so they can provide for themselves and their families.
People are getting off benefits and into work across West Midlands, with 142,616 more people in work since the last Labour Government. Across the UK, there are 2.05 million more people at work than at the end of thirteen years of a Labour Government.
Karen Lumley said: "At the general election one of my three key priorities was jobs. I am committed to achieving full employment for Redditch, so everyone who wants to work can have the security of a regular pay-packet. It is the best route out of poverty. I want to be the MP for an area where people who work hard and do the right thing are able to get on.
It's excellent news that once again fewer people are relying on Jobseeker's Allowance in Redditch County. This is thanks to the hard work and the determination of local people, and the great work of our ever growing army of local businesses, but it is also down to the Conservatives' strong leadership and clear economic plan, which is committed to building a Britain that offers working people security at every stage of their life. This was our message at the election, and it was one that the people of Redditch and of Britain voted for, so now we must get to work on making it happen."
I am delighted to have been appointed the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change in the new Conservative Government.
This is a great challenge and I am really pleased to be working with my friend and colleague Amber Rudd MP, who has been appointed the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
My priorities in this new role will be to ensure energy bills stay low and that the lights stay on! There is lots to do and I am eager to get started.
Jeremy Hunt ‘proud to serve another term’ as MP for South West Surrey
UKIP’s Mark Reckless speaks to BBC’s Sunday Politics South East show following his general election defeat in Rochester and Strood.
Victoria Prentis won 30,749 votes (53%) in total, a majority of 18,395 over her closest opponent.
She has succeeded fellow Conservative Sir Tony Baldry, who announced he was stepping down last year after first being elected in 1983.
After the declaration she told a crowd at the count: “This constituency has been Conservative since 1922. I can’t tell you how relieved I am that we haven’t broken that record tonight.
“Locally we are reaping the benefits of some sensible sound economic management over the last five years and I am looking forward to five more years of sensible, aspirational tax-cutting Conservative government.”
Turnout in the election overall was 65.84 per cent, an increase of about 1.1 per cent on 2010.
Labour candidate Sean Woodcock came second with 12,354 votes (21.3%), followed by UKIP candidate Dickie Bird with 8,050 (13.9%), Liberal Democrat candidate John Howson with 3,440 (5.9%), Green candidate Ian Middleton with 2,686 (4.6%) and National Health Action Party candidate Roseanne Edwards with 729 (1.3%).
Ms Prentis’ victory was not a surprise result.
Banbury is considered a safe seat for the Conservatives and has been held by the party.
Its previous MP, Sir Tony Baldry, had a majority of 18,227 votes in 2010.
Mrs Prentis managed to increase that figure marginally, by 168 votes, an achievement she said she “never expected”.
She added: “It is extraordinary… and a testament to the strong Conservative council we have [in Cherwell] and the fact we have really benefited locally from the national economic boom.”
But Conservative party figures this morning still said they did not “take for granted” how much of Sir Tony’s majority Ms Prentis would carry over.
Her election agent, Chris Rowlands, said: “It has been a very long campaign, we always said there was not a single vote we could take for granted.”
Sir Tony Baldry said: “I think Victoria will make an outstanding MP.”
The Haringey Indepedent asked me to outline reasons why people should vote for me… Here’s my response!
“Starting with the very basic – I am local! I grew up in Haringey, went to Highgate primary, and still live in the constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green today.
“It’s so important to know the area you want to represent.
“I also have a 20 year record of working with residents and campaign groups to protect and improve our local services.
“If I had to pick the single most important campaign – it would be saving the Whittington A&E from the previous Labour Government’s closure plans. The second I got wind, I posted the information on my website (where it remains today!) and kicked off a massive campaign.
“Joining forces with local residents and campaign groups – I marched, I petitioned, I secured a debate and asked questions in Parliament, and together we were successful and Gordon Brown’s Government backed down. If we hadn’t saved it – I don’t think we’d still have a hospital.
“Nationally, I’ve fought for policies that benefit our borough. The Lib Dems in parliament have taken the lowest paid workers out of paying tax, and introduced the Pupil Premium to get extra money to schools in more disadvantaged areas.
“These measures mean that thousands of low-paid Haringey workers have be taken out of paying income tax altogether, and £13 million extra has been given to our local schools, teachers and pupils.
“In Government, I’ve used my ministerial positions to push a progressive agenda. As Equalities minister, I was the originator and architect of equal marriage. I then moved to the Department for International Development, where I announced a £35 million programme to end FGM within a generation, and protected the aid budget.
Decisions that frequently keep married couples apart from each other, partners separated, and children away from their parents.
I was contacted by a local resident because the application for her husband to stay in the UK was refused. She's a British national, he's a Canadian firefighter. They are understandably distraught at the prospect of being apart. They have a 6 month old child, and it really is devastating news for them all as a family.
Dominic Grieve gives the second Palliser Lecture
Both Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw deny being involved in a ‘cash for access’ scandal.
Straw has accepted suspension from the Labour party, both men have referred themselves to the parliamentary standards committee. They deny wrongdoing. Whether they have breached any rules will be assessed over the next few weeks.
The incident reminded me of a security briefing when a Defence Minister. “If a beautiful Russian or Chinese woman seeks your company in a bar Minister, it is unlikely to be because of your devilish good looks”. I’ve never forgotten it.
For the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) to discuss working for a bogus Chinese company is very odd indeed. To be frank, I can’t believe ISC members are allowed outside interests. They see more sensitive information than most government ministers.
If anything positive can come from these revelations it should be that ISC members are prohibited from having outside interests. Members of the committee should be subject to the same disclosure rules as government ministers. I hope the PM will put this right before Parliament rises for the election.
Summer recess, however, is a great opportunity to catch up, take stock, and get on top of things as best as possible, so here I am again with a new (Parliamentary) year resolution to get back to blogging.
I hope I still have at least one reader left!
First published by The Observer Parliament talks ceaselessly of “the next generation”. But, in Cumbria, where I’m an MP, voluntary activity and politics are generally driven by people over the age of 55. Every village seems to have a retired engineer attempting to build a community fibre-optic cable network and baffling the most confident civil servant […]
The post Our culture excludes the old when they have so much to contribute appeared first on Rory Stewart.
In addition, the subject of MPs' accommodation arrangements in London continues to be the focus of some attention, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to provide an update on my own arrangements.
When first elected in 1997 I rented a room for a short period but it quickly became apparent that in the longer-term it would be cheaper to have a mortgage and claim the interest. Over the years I have stayed overnight and claimed mortgage interest on a bedsit or one-bedroom flat in Westminster.
Under the rules of the scheme, I would be entitled to retain any profit made from increases in the value of such property prior to the 2010 General Election. But I have made it clear that in my view the purpose of the scheme is simply to give MPs somewhere to live whilst in London and not to provide a profit. I have therefore said for some years that when I no longer owned a property in Westminster I would return any profit to the taxpayer. I am now making arrangements to do this.
In October this year I sold my London flat and am now renting (and ceased claiming for mortgage interest in July). I estimate that I made a profit, net of capital gains tax and legal fees etc. of around £22,000 through increases in the value of the properties on which I have claimed. I have therefore written to IPSA confirming that I wish to return this sum and asking for details of how I can return this amount to the taxpayer.
Speaking on the day that Greenpeace and NUTFA (the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association) launched their Manifesto For Fair Fisheries, Tom called on the government to take the lead in supporting small fishing communities. He said the case had now been made for a “radical overhaul” of the way fishing quotas are allocated within the UK.
Smaller “inland” fishing vessels make up three quarters of the UK’s fishing fleet and employ nearly two thirds of all full-time workers. But they are restricted from catching more than four per cent of the UK fishing quota, with 96 per cent being allocated to the larger industrial fleet.
Tom added: “Labour wants reform that tackles vested interests and rewards those who fish more sustainably and selectively, with less impact on the environment. It is unacceptable that fleets representing the smaller, sustainable end of the industry, and which employ nearly two thirds of full-time workers, should have to survive on just four per cent of the UK fishing quota.
“The Government should be taking a lead in supporting our small fishing communities that are the lifeblood of many coastal areas.
“The case has now been made for a radical overhaul of the way fishing quotas are allocated within the UK. The Government needs to issue a definitive list of who exactly owns the rights to UK quota, and begin urgent talks on significantly increasing the percentage quota allocated to the Under Ten fleet.”
Prior to the meeting, I had already been in touch with Network Rail, to strongly urge them to deal with some of the key issues around the station. Network Rail confirmed at the meeting that, as a result of my request, they had immediate plans in place now to paint the station, address the rodent problem, board up unused windows and clear graffiti They had also requested additional litter bins from Hounslow Council. At the meeting, St George's highlighted the work they had been doing too to clear up graffiti in the local area.
I am very pleased that Network Rail responded so well and are giving Kew Bridge Station a 'facelift,' which will help local residents. It will make the station seem cleaner and safer and I welcome their efforts to improve it for passengers. As a group, we are also in discussion regarding the future of the station building at Kew Bridge. As it is a Listed Building, it is obviously of architectural importance. It would be excellent if it could be restored to its former glory and put to good use.
The group is going to meet again within the next month to review progress and discuss next steps.
Maria said: “This new legislation will make a real difference to how local matters are decided. The Community Rights measures, for example, will give new rights to local community and voluntary groups to protect, improve and even run important frontline services that might otherwise close down, such as local shops, pubs and libraries,.”
Maria added: “This Bill offers great opportunities for Basingstoke. Among other things, it will radically reform the planning system so that local people have a greater say and influence over what Basingstoke looks like in the future. Giving local people the opportunity to shape the development of the communities in which they live is something that I have long campaigned for, and I am delighted to see it being enshrined in law.
“The Borough Council’s current consultation on the number of new homes needed in Basingstoke is part of this process of taking local people’s views into consideration in developing a vision for the future. I would urge all residents to let the Council have their views on this before the end of the consultation on 14 January.”
The long parliamentary recess has started - weeks without time being spent in the weekly grindingly boring train ride to London and back. Mind you its a hectic pace back at Southport but you can control your agenda better.
Yesterday I found a little time for light exercise the odd game of table tennis and a workout with heavy weights.
I've done the latter all my adult life and it has a slight addictive quality. If you don't do it for a while you actually feel muscle cramps only relieved by putting the old system under pressure.
Constraints of time often mean I forego all the warm ups and warm downs etc. So there I was on Tuesday doing a few front squats in excess of 300lb. I finished, replacing the barbell on the shoulder-high squat stand or so I thought. The stand was not aligned right .It tilted sideways as I released the weight and as the weight crashed to the floor the stand was pulled rapidly down by it pausing on its way to hit the stooping me on the head and catching me on the hand.
If you wanted to dramatise it , it might be compared to being hit on the head by a 20 stone man with an iron bar from a short distance. I thought I'd better take a break. We've had enough by- elections recently
When the family saw me with a lump as though a tennis ball had been buried in my scalp I was advised to pop into A&E. So clutching a plastic bag filled with ice cubes to my temple and bleeding from my finger I was run there and tested by some very nice jolly staff who established so far as we could tell that there was no skull or brain damage.At any rate I could still recall who the Prime Minister and reigning monarch was. I left a wiser man with a determination to avoid photo opportunities for a few days.
This will be enough for the amnesty to achieve its real objective - photos of a smiling Minister in front of an impressive looking array of guns claiming that the government have "taken action".
But make no mistake the serious criminals will continue to roam the streets without any fear of being stopped and searched, (human rights) and knowing that even if by some chance they are found in poossession of a gun or knife the sentence will be minimal.
The toll of death will continue to rise.