Posted Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 16:36
On the Order Paper today is the notification of the joint committee to be selected to hear petitions against the Covanta proposal.
Tomorrow we will have further news and a link to the relevant section of the Parliamentary website with instructions how to petition and an outline of the proceedings. (UPDATE: the petitioning kit is available here)
The committee, which is more like a court hearing than a select committee as the proceedings are quasi judicial, will be made up of three members from the House of Lords and three MPs. As a Speaker's Panel Chairman I have asked to chair the committee, however, not only am I not allowed but I cannot even sit on the committee as I have a constituency interest.
A committee hasn’t sat like this in the Commons for over ten years. The committee will hear the petitions, deliberate and then cast a vote. Only people directly affected by the proposal are allowed to petition. This means everyone in all of Bedfordshire I would imagine, as who knows how far toxic fly ash will blow on a windy day!
More news tomorrow. Relevant action groups and councillors are already informed and on the case. Petitions have to be submitted by December 19th.
Posted Tuesday, 29 November 2011 at 21:38
Response to EHRC report
Posted Wednesday, 23 November 2011 at 13:25
Posted Tuesday, 22 November 2011 at 16:42
This article in the Daily Telegraph speaks for itself;
Right to Buy Returns
Posted Monday, 21 November 2011 at 17:29
Less well off families need stability and continuity to flourish and survive in exactly the same way that well off families do.
Familiarity of surroundings, continuity through the school education system, the slow and steady harnessing of friends in the community, attachment to community organisations such as churches, scouts, brownies etc all provide what are generally known as ‘roots’.
Not so long ago I was a vociferous opponent of our policy to challenge those who over occupy council house accommodation once families have left and moved on. My unhappiness was based on the fact that a family home has huge emotional attachment and it doesn’t matter if it’s a castle or a council house, the principle is still the same- if someone has raised a family in a council house and lovingly tendered the property and been a good neighbour then those tenants have earned the right to remain.
I am delighted with the announcement of our re-opening of the ‘right to buy’ scheme’ allowing council tenants to buy their homes and using the money raised to reinvest in building more homes.
As a beneficiary of that policy last time there was a Conservative Government and witnessing the impact it had on the council estate I lived on, I believe that there is no other single policy which does more to raise aspiration, foster pride and encourage social mobility.
We live in a society which is paralysed by a poverty of aspiration amongst those struggling to visualise a way forward. Until now there has been nothing to lift anyone up and out of a hopeless poverty trap. That’s about to change.
Posted Saturday, 19 November 2011 at 13:25
Yesterday, whilst I was attending a graduation ceremony at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton, Michael Gove was visiting Luton schools. In the evening we hooked up for an evening with teachers and our annual fundraising dinner during which we also raised £1000 for Keech Children's Hospice.
Before the dinner began, Michael sat down with a group of Mid Beds teachers who were passionate about education.
Michael asked them what was the worst and the best thing to have happened since he became Secretary of State for Education. It was heartening to hear a head teacher respond that the reduction in bureaucracy and red tape, which allowed him to focus on delivering education, had been the most noticeable difference to him. We have only been in charge for eighteen months and already the positive changes are filtering through.
I will post the photos on Monday from the day and the evening. When Michael left to catch his train, he left a lovely atmosphere behind him, which meant everyone stayed on much longer than normal.
He is a great man. There is something very unusual about Michael. His humility is what everyone first notices; his humour a close second and then you are very much blown away by the depth of his knowledge, commitment and his ability to recall names and events.
Three years ago I gave a speech at which Michael was present during which I recalled an event which had taken place during my childhood in Liverpool, which had made me hitch my wagon to the Conservative party. Last night, Michael recalled my speech verbatim, which shocked me, to say the least, as there is no record and it wasn't written down, he did it from memory.
One teacher happened to mention the name of a relative of his and Michael responded 'oh yes, I met him at a conference last year'. He meets literally hundreds of people every month. The teacher looked as shocked as I was.
We all felt honoured to have had him with us for so long and everyone who has contacted me since last night has done so to say 'what a lovely, amazing person he is'.
He is, he's a top man. The best.
Ken and Arthur
Posted Friday, 18 November 2011 at 17:21
Juxtapositions at the BBC
Posted Friday, 18 November 2011 at 09:08
Is it any wonder that the viewing figures for political TV programmes are abysmal?
Switching on BBC 1 late last night and the This Week programme, I was greeted by a screenfull of Michael Portillo, John Reid and Andrew Neil. Needless to say I switched straight back off again.
Why would any woman, even a political one, want to view overly made up, elderly men struggling to hide the liver spots and wearing bright green shirts which scream ‘I’m young and hip, really I am’. Why?
Mid-way through hitting the change button on the remote, Andrew Neil announced that the next item was about the glass ceiling and the problems women have getting into the board room and securing the top jobs.
You just couldn’t make it up.
Wake up BBC. Get your act together. It’s our money, remember?
PS Apologies to John Reid, who is really quite nice and probably the only one of the three to agree with me on this.
Posted Thursday, 17 November 2011 at 14:16
At last night’s Spectator awards the Children’s Minister Tim Loughton, journalist Gary Gibbon and I were sat on what Gary described as the ‘Nick Clegg Glee school’ table.
On my right sat Nick’s civil service SPAD and on my left sat his political SPAD. Someone at the Spectator was having a laugh when they worked out the seating plan.
They were actually very good company although I was slightly disappointed during the awards hand out and speeches.
When someone receives an award it is polite to clap. You may not agree and you may have other ideas as to who should have received the award but it doesn’t matter, you clap. It’s the right thing to do.
Last night, when Bernard Jenkin collected the award on behalf of Adam Holloway for his principled resignation and return to the back benches during the EU ‘81’ vote, the Lib Dem SPADs chose not to applaud.
This may be because Bernard read back to Nick some of Nick's own words regarding an EU referendum. Bernard quoted Nick as follows;
“I believe we should have a real vote on Europe...whether we should be in Europe or out… the public back our position by a margin of 2:1”
Well done Bernard for using such an occasion to highlight the Liberal Democrats total and utter hypocrisy.
However, it was just another one of those ‘this is what you said Nick and this is what you did’ moments. It’s hard to understand why they would be miffed, surely they are used to it by now?
The Lib Dems did the right thing on the tuition fees vote but should have never given their pie in the sky guarantees before the election when they thought they had no chance of being in Government!
Likewise, the SPAD hands remained in laps when Charles Walker collected the best speech award for his four words, ‘If not now, when?’
Slightly churlish methinks, especially as they joined in with the rest of the applause in the room for Shirley Williams.
The boys in question may think that this blog is a bit mean but I’m sure when they think about what I could be writing in it they will agree I’m being really quite generous.
Ah, politics, it’s such a lovely world to work in.
Having been alerted to an Independent diary piece on my blog, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/diary/diary-they-bullied-poor-georgie-and-silvio-says-nadine-6262421.html I was far more interested to read about Larry's love for Maisy! That cat had better have the PMs full support or he will have the back benches to deal with. We want no distasteful Cherie Blair cat napping repeats under a Conservative Prime Minister.
Last week in the constituency...
Posted Wednesday, 16 November 2011 at 11:17
Remaining in Italy...
Posted Monday, 14 November 2011 at 10:58
Posted Monday, 14 November 2011 at 10:54
I have been baffled this weekend about the lack of outrage with regard to the behaviour of Angela Merkel and Sarkozy and their behind the scenes game playing in bringing about regime change in both Italy and Greece.
BBC Newsnight journalist Paul Mason was the first to alert us to the goings on during yet another round of Euro crisis meetings. Merkel supposedly personally telephoned the finance ministers of Italy and Greece ordering that they remove their respective premiers, Papandreou and Berlusconi and that they be replaced with two technocrats.
Whilst the phone calls were taking place, visible outward demonstrations of sneering, lip curling and behaviour which remsebled an out of control bullying schoolground where aimed in the direction of the Greek and Italian Prime Ministers in order to ridcule them both in front of the worlds assembled cameras at the G20, a spectacle aimed specifically at the citizens of both Italy and Greece. The subtext being, ‘they’re an embarassment to you, we will replace them’.
Papandreou had had the temerity to suggest a referendum and that the people of Greece should be given a say in their financial future. Germany, the top dog at the economic table of Europe, has made demands which have reduced Greece and Italy to nothing more than compliant partners in the attempt to save Germany from its own paranoid fear of inflation.
Is this what the eurozone amounts to then, a group of seventeen countries who surrender their democratic rights and are controlled by Germany and France?
Boris has an article in today’s Telegraph which is briliantly readable and hints at what may be the difficulties ahead.
Question Time and Twitter
Posted Friday, 11 November 2011 at 17:11
As Question Time was in Newcastle and my first pre surgery appointment started at 9am, it was a drive through the night, a couple of hours sleep and then back on the road.
Here is the link to QT. It was interesting to hear during the post show dinner that 2,400 texts were sent during the screening of the show. . http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/question_time/default.stm
Peoples Pledge Video
Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 14:00
Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 10:15
George Osborne is quite honest in this video where he states that any ‘disorderly’ breakup of the Euro would be catastrophic. No one wants a ‘disorderly’ break up. But it can be controlled and orderly and therefore not catastrophic. So why doesn’t he say that? It’s the old smoke and mirrors again!
Covanta Update: Special Parliamentary Procedure
Posted Monday, 7 November 2011 at 16:15
Followers of the Covanta saga will be aware that the decision taken by the IPC is subject to a process known as Special Parliamentary Proceedure.
An amendment will be tabled in the Lords tonight to remove this process from the planning act 2008.
This blog is really a memoir to the action groups to reassure them that, if they notice this happening, there is no need to worry. The amendment, if passed, will not be retrospective.
The interesting thing is that the SPP is in the Act at all and I can only conclude the following:
a) John Prescott wanted to give the Government a get out clause, albeit a weak and difficult one one such as this if the IPC made a decision the government were truly unhappy with.
b) The drafting of the bill was a complete and utter dogs dinner as, if the intention of the bill was for the IPC to be fully independent, the SPP would never have been in there in the first place.
Of course, given the hapless nature of the Labour Party, B is the most likely scenario.
Posted Saturday, 5 November 2011 at 17:27
I'm really cross that this man, Charles Crawford, has got to the word 'blogoir' before me. http://charlescrawford.biz/critics.php
Not that I ever would have got there, but now that he has, I really want it for my own! * Puts hands on hips and stamps foot*
I'm going to make up a new word. My blog isnt a blog either, it's a bliary. A hybrid between a blog and a diary. There, *smuggly straightens skirt and flicks back hair*, I got there in the end.
Posted Friday, 4 November 2011 at 15:46
Today was the day Mid Bedfordshire schools reaped the rewards for collecting computer vouchers.. photos to follow..
A busy but productive two days
Posted Thursday, 3 November 2011 at 11:48
The last forty eight hours have been slightly odd and rather busy. I have had a photo shoot for Conde Naste, chaired three Westminster Hall debates and put a question to Bill Gates about the children in Equatorial Guinea, in addition to a very lively PMQs, discussions with backbenchers over Europe, meetings over Covanta and all the usual inward flow of constituency work.
However, I have learnt two very important things over the last couple of days;
The first came whilst I was chairing a debate convened by Barry Sheerman MP on carbon monoxide poisoning.
Barry was my first Chairman when, as a rookie MP, I sat on his education select committee. He was a good Chairman. Barry has valiantly championed raising awareness of carbon monoxide emissions for ten years following the death of a child in his constituency. During the debate I learnt about the death of a child whilst camping with his parents. Following a BBQ, they brought the used disposable BBQ container inside the tent overnight to keep it dry. I had no idea that a used BBQ emitted carbon monoxide or that it could so easily be fatal. I now feel like I want to warn the world about this.
Bob Russell MP convened a fantastic debate during which he named and shamed a cowboy builder in his constituency and a much longer debate convened by Paul Maynard MP on HS2 and the north of England was impassioned and fiery.
The second thing I learnt yesterday was about the value of Westminster Hall debates. They provide MPs with a great opportunity to hold Ministers to account at eye level. I felt very proud when I finished chairing the two and a half hours of debates and, although the eyes of the media and the pundits had all been on Prime Ministers Questions, Westminster Hall was ticking along like an engine in the boiler room facillitiating democracy at its very best.
What name the ’81?
Posted Tuesday, 1 November 2011 at 11:35
There are more political MPs groups in Parliament than you can poke a Mace at.
The most famous and influential in the Conservative party is the 1922 Committee, named after the year a group of Conservative backbench MPs voted to end a coalition formed by the Liberals and Conservatives.
We also have groups such as ‘Cornerstone’ and ‘Better off Out’. I was a founder member of Cornerstone but the brand and objectives of the group, which was to provide a home for MPs with similar traditionalist interests, was contaminated by Cameron’s attempt to ridicule us. No leader likes MPs meeting in groups. There is an old adage in Parliament, ‘what do you call three MPs talking in a corridor? A plot. This can be worrying if you are a leader.
I’m a supporter of Better off Out but as a single interest group it has never ignited enough interest to increase membership.
And now we have the 81, brought together with a single shared objective.
Not all the 81 will want to form a new group. Some who abstained or voted with the government will now regret doing so and may want to join.
What happened last Monday night was historic in terms of parliamentary tradition and is worthy of being honoured in the same way as the ’22 and, who knows, one day history may repeat itself.
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