Archive for July, 2012
Richard has signed a motion calling for the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate allegations of price-fixing by British oil companies. The motion, initiated by Robert Halfon MP and supported by a number of MPs across all parties, is likely to be debated in Parliament in September.
Richard said, “As the Times and Citizen fuel campaign has shown over recent months, our local petrol prices are unjustifiably high. Although the Government has already done a great deal to support the motorist – stopping the 3p August rise, scrapping the January rise, and cutting fuel duty by 1p in 2011 – there is much more that should be done to challenge the oil companies and their part in keeping petrol prices high.
“The OFT has failed to tackle the oil companies and that’s why I am calling for an OFT investigation – a crucial next step in the T&C’s campaign for fairer fuel prices.”
Robert Halfon MP added, “I’m delighted that Richard is campaigning for cheaper petrol and diesel. To be fair to the Government, they have now cut fuel duty by 10p, compared with what Labour were planning. But it’s essential that we also crack down on the oil companies to make sure they pass on cheaper oil process at the pumps. That’s why Richard and I are pressing for a full enquiry by the OFT.”
Richard welcomed the Government’s announcement on rail investment for 2015-19 that places Bedford at the centre of new investment in our railways.
Richard commented, “These plans will upgrade the Midland Mainline, which connects London through Bedford to Sheffield, by electrifying the line from Bedford northwards. The announcment also reconfirmed the Government’s commitment to re-building – and fully electrifying – the railway between Bedford and Oxford as part of the East-West Rail Project. The Department for Transport will also be continuing discussions with local authorities to secure the final piece of the East-West rail line that will connect Bedford to Cambridge and beyond.
“Bedford and Kempston have a proud rail heritage and I am delighted that Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Transport has recognised this in today’s announcement. Although scheduled some time ahead, these investments emphasise Bedford’s centrality for commerce and will provide a long term boost to the potential for local job creation.”
On Tuesday I was one of 91 Conservative MPs to vote against the proposed reforms to the House of Lords. We were joined in the ‘No’ lobby by 26 Labour MPs, and 8 members of the Democratic Unionist Party. Had the Government also sought to limit the amount of time Parliament could spend debating the Bill, it is likely there would have been far more rebels.
I did not take the decision to vote against the Bill lightly and it is not because I am against reforming the House of Lords.
I agree that the size of the House of Lords should be reduced and that provision should be made to allow for the removal of Peers guilty of wrongdoing. I agree that we should get rid of the system of political patronage and remove the remaining hereditary Peers. I think that these are points that everyone can agree on.
So why did I vote against the Bill? There were a number of reasons why I did not feel able to support the proposed reforms, the most significant of which were:
- Making the Lords into an elected chamber will provide it with a democratic legitimacy that is incompatible with the expectation that the House of Commons will retain primacy. The two Houses will most likely compete and this will lead to legislative gridlock. The issue of the roles of each House needs to be addressed before we can press ahead with changing the composition of the Lords.
- Election via a proportional party list system and a term of office of 15 years does nothing to promote democracy. Party leaders will still be able to exert powers of patronage by placing their chosen candidates near the top of the party lists and elected peers will have no real accountability to voters. Turning the Second Chamber into a party political body like the House of Commons will remove many of the expert and diverse voices that are currently heard in the Lords and who are not the type of people to seek election.
- The new system will be much, much more expensive than the current one. There will be the expense of another election and the running costs of a full-time salaried and staffed Upper House.
Finally, I would urge the Government to give much greater consideration to holding a referendum on such a significant constitutional change. If we are to alter the very structure of our constitution, then we need to have the full support of the people.
When I raised the need for criminal prosecutions in financial services at Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons last December, I did not believe we would come so far, so fast.
Yet I feel that we have only just seen the tip of the iceberg of potential wrong doings in the financial sector during the financial crisis.
That is why I welcome the call for a Parliamentary inquiry into professional standards in financial services.
Put bluntly, people want these issues sorted out quickly, and they don’t expect to fork out a fortune to get the job done. The public wants to be engaged. If I draw one conclusion from recent judicial led enquiries, it is that they distance, rather than engage the public from the resolution of the issues that concerns them.
People want to know and see that those responsible are held to account and that those who acted criminally are imprisoned.
Parliament would have been weakened if, yet again, when a major issue of concern needed resolution, MPs had voted to pass it off to someone else.
Parliament has democratic accountability. Members of Parliament are responsible to our constituents and Parliament has the power to reshape the laws of our land.
It is time that Parliament stood up to these responsibilities and stopped contracting them out to others. The vote this week, and the willingness of the Opposition to engage constructively, is a positive development.
We are living through times not only of great economic uncertainty but also of great doubt about the veracity and legitimacy of major institutions that impact our daily lives: the media: the banks; the European Union and, indeed, Parliament itself.
In a democratic society, the pathway to recovering people’s faith in these major institutions – and Parliament itself – is for Parliament to assert its authority, to find its voice, and to work together to get the public’s work done. I am pleased we have started the job.
Richard attended the Armed Forces Day parade, which took place in Bedford town centre last Sunday. The parade consisted of armed service personnel from the past, present and future.
On Monday, a ceremony was held for the signing of the Armed Forces Community Covenant – a statement of mutual support between the civilian community and the armed forces community, which includes service personnel and their families as well as reservists and veterans.
The Covenant aims to encourage local communities to support the armed forces community and to promote understanding and awareness of the issues affecting them, as well as remembering the sacrifices made by them.