The latest figures on executive pay are so preposterous that they should provoke uproar.   As an example recently published, Bob Dudley, chief executive of BP, was given a total remuneration package of $15.2m in 2014.   That illustrates how far executive pay is now largely hidden from public scrutiny: his basic salary was ‘only’...
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Today, I am excited to be visiting the House of Lords to witness an incredibly important event in the Parliamentary calendar: the official State Opening of Parliament. Alongside other Members of Parliament, I will be listening to the Queen’s annual speech which will set out the new Conservative Government’s legislative agenda for the next 12 months. Not only does this ... Read More

Today the government's legislative plans for this Parliamentary session were delivered in the Queen’s speech. My response is below:

 

---CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY---

 

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.

 

Effective Opposition

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.

 

Fragile Future

Mr Speaker, Britain faces a fragile future for our economy, our constitution and our public services.

 

Economic fragility

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.

 

Tax

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.

 

Political fragility 

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. 

 

Europe

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.

 

NHS

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.

 

Education

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.

 

Welfare cap

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.

 

Housing

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.

 

Conclusion

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.

 

Ends

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.

Last month I did a piece on the passing of Dave Forshaw but I had some notes that Dave gave to me when I last saw him and I thought I would update the eulogy I wrote. I think we're hoping to do something similar for all the people I've given so much to Labour Party in some commemorative format. I'll be doing one on Pam Barton soon following the speech I gave at St James's Church at her

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.

Never.

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.

 

 

The sovereign rarely attends parliament but the new session always features a new Queens Speech by her Majesty's government. It is an occasion of pomp and ceremony but also a vital reminder that the Queen may be sovereign but the commoners run the country.
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?

Elections are happening in Spain in which a party with a similar view to the Greek Syriza  (Podemos - We can) is putting forward an "anti-austerity" platform. The difficulty in government is that policies have to work.   The Greeks appear to have put a major hold on payments to suppliers prioritising employees and other objectives.  Inevitably suppliers have put a hold on supplying the Greek
It was great to see so many faces – old and new – at our GC on Friday. Clearly the General Election was a hugely disappointing result both here in Morley & Outwood and across the country. Locally we ran a fantastic campaign and we were a great team.  During the six weeks of the short campaign, [...]
Today, I visited Esher High School, one of our top local secondary schools. It was a great opportunity to meet the (still relatively) new headteacher, Mike Boddington, tour the school to see the impact of the expansion (now almost complete), and of course talk to local pupils.

The facilities have undergone major improvement, and there was a really upbeat buzz around the whole school. I listened to a student presentation, as part of a school project, and addressed GCSE Citizenship students on what the role of an MP entails in practice. We then had a good discussion on everything from 'super heros' to PMQs! I am very grateful to Mr Boddington and Philippa Lockhart for the invitation. I look forward to visiting again soon.


This week the new Conservative Government set about the task of implementing our manifesto in full. Unemployment Too many young people had been left without a hope of finding work by the previous Labour government, and one of our biggest successes was turning this around. Before the election I was delighted to hear that youth unemployment in Stratford on Avon had fallen by 80% in the last 5 years. Today brought the news that the number of young people not in work or education has fallen to a ten year low in England. However, the Conservatives are still committed to providing better opportunities for the young people of Britain whatever their background, with a target to create 3 million more apprenticeships in this parliament. We want to provide the chance of a better future for all. The NHS In our Manifesto we rightly put protection and enhancement of the NHS at the forefront of our promises to the elecotrate. That is why the Prime Minister's first major speech in this government was on our commitment to the NHS, how we will provide high quality free healthcare to everyone whenever they need it, 7 days a week – as promised in our manifesto. You can read his speech in full here The Queen's Speech Next week brings the Queen’s Speech, which is scheduled to include legislation to confirm our promise to give the British people a say on our relationship with Europe, to tackle those primary schools which fail to help our children read and write, to devolve even more powers to a local level and an Enterprise Bill to cut red tape and provide businesses with the right conditions to thrive and create even more jobs. This Government’s purpose is about making life better for all of the people in Britain. We have a plan to do this...
Hearts & Souls, a Buckinghamshire cardiac rehabilitation charity, has been shortlisted for a £5000 award from the Aviva Community Fund. There is an excellent cardiac rehabilitation service at Wycombe hospital, helping patients get back to normal after cardiac events. The exercise sessions that form part of the rehabilitation programme depend on charitable donations. It costs more than £20,000 a year to run these exercise sessions and Hearts & Souls is a charity dedicated to raising this money. The £5000 award would be […]

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.”

I am one voter who believes we should attempt to change the face of the EU, that we should seek temporary control of our borders (how can we budget for schools, housing and transport when we don’t...

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.

The election last Thursday delivered a very good result for Cornish Conservatives and I want to thank all those in the Camborne, Redruth and Hayle constituency who placed their confidence in me for a second term. Now the election is over, I want to be clear that I intend to represent everyone in this constituency whether they voted for me or not.

In these last five years I have prioritised the regeneration of our towns. I grew up here and hate the way some people talk down Camborne and Redruth. We have an industrial heritage to be proud of and the housing development at the old Holman's site in Camborne shows we can create new housing as well as protect some of the beautiful architecture that we have. Work to do the same to the old brewery site in Redruth is underway and the transformation of Hayle Harbour is finally taking shape. In the next five years, I want to get things moving on some of the other derelict sites we have like Avers roundabout and Tuckingmill. 

We also need to attract new industries and better paid jobs. Unemployment has halved here in the last five years, but the next step is to increase wages and create more opportunities for young people. The new Barncoose Gateway building will provide space for twenty companies employing 500 people. There are already two software companies moving in who between them will employ around 200 people and our schools are now putting more emphasis on maths, physics and computer coding so young people here will be better equipped to take these well paid jobs when they leave school.

Next on my list of priorities is to help those on the bottom rung of the ladder. When people lose their self confidence or get trapped in debt, it can be incredibly demoralising. We need support and advice for those trapped in debt to help them get their life back on an even keel.

Finally, I want to ensure Cornwall gets its fair share of funding for public services. Just because we are a long way from London doesn't mean we should get less than our share. Progress has been made in re-balancing the funding formula so it recognises the challenges faced by Cornwall which has to contend with an older population, increased visitors in the summer and the difficulty of being a peninsula at the end of the line.

Jeremy Hunt ‘proud to serve another term’ as MP for South West Surrey 

 

 

read more

UKIP’s Mark Reckless speaks to BBC’s Sunday Politics South East show following his general election defeat in Rochester and Strood.

A new Conservative MP has been elected in Banbury, retaining the seat for the party with a sizeable majority.

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.

“Finally, I would like you to vote for me because there is still more that needs to be done – for all the reasons I got into politics. We need stronger public services. We need to continue to promote fairness and equality. We need to fight for a community where we take care of those less able than ourselves. I’d like to be a part of that work for the next five years.”
It was such a pleasure to be invited to formally open the new Centrality building in Meppershall last week. A big 'well done' to Mike and his team and I hope the growth will continue! This is another example of how business is booming in Mid-Beds, ...

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.

Am I the only one who has found that the rise and rise of twitter (and to an extent) facebook has eaten their blog? Despite the best of my intentions, I have ended up posting minute by minute stuff on Facebook and Twitter. Does this say something about our ever diminishing attention-spans as a society? Or just about me not being very good at managing the blogger app on my iphone...?   Who knows.  But be warned - this blog may not be updated as much as it should be. A big blue bird came and ate it up.

Dominic Grieve gives the second Palliser Lecture

INTRODUCTION

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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.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the occasion of the Bill’s return from the House of Lords in much improved form, if I may say so. In general, I welcome the Bill although I am concerned about some elements. Perhaps it is a Welsh trait that we can never completely agree on things, and I want to touch on one issue where I am not in agreement.

What I welcome in particular is the new reality of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition shaping the process and future of devolution and driving forward, leaving—if I may say so to the shadow Secretary of State—Labour languishing in its wake. He may describe that as a U-turn, but that is the reality today. I want to make just one important point, which is very much a personal view. I disagree with one specific aspect of the Bill, but I would like to emphasise my overall support: it is a very good and welcome Bill.

I would like to put my point in context by painting some background to my personal journey in the devolution debate. I was not in favour of the form of devolution on offer in the referendum on 18 September 1997. It seemed to me to be creating a permanently unstable constitutional settlement. A settlement is the last thing it was. I attended the count in Llandrindod Wells leisure centre, watching the TV coverage as the decision of the voters of Wales came through and they decided in favour of establishing a national assembly for Wales. I drove home knowing that there was no going back. The people had spoken, albeit by a tiny margin of 0.6%. We were now facing an entirely new question: how would devolution work in practice? I concluded immediately that the new Welsh Assembly would eventually become a law-making, tax-raising Parliament based in Wales. That has influenced my thinking on the issue ever since. I did not want to be dragged, kicking and screaming, and trying to refight the 1997 devolution referendum. I preferred to get ahead of the curve and identify where we were going to get to, and move towards that in a positive and smooth way. That was not a change of mind, but a recognition of a new reality.

Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North)

My hon. Friend, through his service in the Assembly, has been one of the individuals who has encapsulated the position adopted by the Conservative party. Although the party battled against establishing the Assembly in the first place, and although the margin was only 4,000 in a million, nobody could claim other than that my hon. Friend and the party in Wales have since not been dragged back to the previous debate, but have moved forward and sought to make a success of the devolution settlement.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire)

Nowhere has that been more obvious than in the contribution from those on the Front Bench when we started today’s debate.

The Government of Wales Act 2006, introduced by the Labour party, moved things forward quite a lot, as did the 2011 referendum in relation to tax-raising powers. The Wales Bill takes us further down the road to what I consider to be the inevitable conclusion, but not far enough for me on tax levying responsibility. I will be blunt about my view: it is a mistake that the Bill requires a referendum before devolving responsibility for levying part of income tax collection to the Welsh Government. That is properly an issue for a general election. The Welsh Government are not financially accountable to the people of Wales until they are responsible for levying a degree of income tax. It is also my personal view that financial accountability through responsibility for income tax is so fundamental to a proper, grown-up National Assembly for Wales and Welsh Government that we should not devolve extra responsibility until this principle is accepted—no financial accountability, no new powers.

The First Minister, and perhaps Labour Members here on the Opposition Benches, do not want financial accountability. How convenient it is to bask in the credit of every spend that the people of Wales approve of and blame the UK Government for every difficult decision needed to bring order to the United Kingdom’s finances. We see the First Minister in Wales scrabbling around for any reason he can come up with to avoid committing to a referendum. First, it was lockstep, which is removed by the Bill. Then it was the Barnett deficit, until it became clear that it is a rather smaller Barnett deficit than we thought. I hear now that air passenger duty might be another reason, and if that is resolved, there will be another one. The reality is that Welsh Labour in Cardiff is desperate to avoid financial accountability. It does not want to be properly financially accountable to the Welsh people.

Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd)

I am following the hon. Gentleman’s argument and thinking about what the Labour spokesman said. When the Silk proposals were being discussed, the First Minister of Wales was adamant he did not want air passenger duty devolved, but suddenly he has woken up and is desperately keen on it. It depends what day of the week we are in.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire)

I would be more encouraged if I thought the day of the week was the reason. I think it is a desperate attempt to find one more hurdle to prevent us from moving towards financial accountability.

During the passage of the Bill, I accepted it would include a commitment to a referendum on devolution of income tax levying powers. It was a recommendation of the all-party Silk commission, and in 1997 there was a referendum on this issue in Scotland. In my view, however, the Silk commission was wrong, and weak in its recommendation on this point. Devolving income tax powers is not as big a change as is being made out, and it is entirely appropriate that it be decided at a general election; it does not need a referendum. If a Welsh Labour Government acted irresponsibility, which they might well do, they would quickly be turfed out of office. It is much easier to sit in blissful impotence, complaining.

I would like to see manifesto commitments by my party, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru to revisit this issue, perhaps in a Wales Bill early next Parliament

and before the Assembly elections in 2016, and to devolve income tax. We should put an end to Labour’s easy ride in Wales and make the Welsh Government properly fiscally accountable to the Welsh people. Only then will devolution grow up and reach its inevitable, logical conclusion.

 

Make sure you stay up to date with all of James’s news by liking his Facebook page!

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So, avid readers will notice that I've been a little absent in the blogging world over the past few months.  I've been busy, which isn't an excuse as we are all busy, I know, but writing a blog can't be top on the list of my priorities so posts on here have fallen by the wayside a little bit, sorry.

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.

One of the welcome features of the new expenses system is that constituents can see all expenses claims online here, including everything from claims for rent on the constituency office, office phone bills or standard class rail tickets to Wesminster.

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.
Shadow Fisheries Minister Tom Harris has welcomed a campaign by representatives of the smaller fishing industry to win a fairer share of UK fishing quotas.

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.”
I recently organised a meeting with a number of local residents about the upkeep and maintenance of Kew Bridge Railway Station. I met with representatives from Strand on the Green Association, St George's, Kew Green, The Kew Bridge Society, Express Tavern, West Thames River Group, a disability interest group, Friends of Stile Hall Gardens, Brentford Community Council and Network Rail.
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 Miller, MP for Basingstoke, has welcomed the Localism Bill published by the Government on 13 December. The Bill will give individuals, groups, and their local councils a much greater say in decisions affecting their local communities.

 

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.”

 

Starting with a Bang

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.
Desperate to prove they are doing something about the rising toll of deaths from guns and knives the government have resorted to the old idea of an "amnesty." This will enable a few aging war veterans who collected a "souvenir" and some farmers who forgot to renew their shotgun licenses to hand over guns that would never have been used for any kind of crime. Some of the younger "wannabe" gansters may also find that their weapons, usually replicas, are handed in by angry mothers.

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.