Archive for the ‘Parliament’ Category
So said Bedford and Kempston MP, Richard Fuller, in Prime Minister’s Questions today, with the Prime Minister agreeing about Bedford’s “leadership in all things”.
Richard had raised the issue of encouraging new businesses and securing employment. He spoke of the example Bedford is setting by being the first area in the country to set up a Local Enterprise Fund, in which people who care about Bedford and Kempston have raised £400,000 to invest in businesses locally.
The Prime Minister showed support for the fund that Richard has spearheaded and said that we need to see more enterprise and more businesses starting.
Bedford and Kempston MP, Richard Fuller, has joined calls for a freeze in beer duty in the March Budget by sending a special ‘message in a barrel’ to the Chancellor at an event in Parliament.
The hand-crafted oak barrel, an iconic symbol of Britain’s world-renowned brewing and pub industry, is a reminder of how important brewing and pubs are to the Bedford and Kempston constituency, says Richard.
The barrel, with its calls for a freeze in beer duty, was later delivered to the Treasury by MPs and representatives of the British Beer & Pub Association, CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) and SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers).
“I strongly support calls for a duty freeze, and I hope the Chancellor will listen. The brewing and pub industries are incredibly important to our town. The Charles Wells brewery was founded in 1876 in Bedford and is still going strong nearly 140 years later. Nearly 2,000 local people are employed by the industry and I do not want any further increases in duty to put any of these jobs in jeopardy.”
Brigid Simmonds Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, which organised the event, added:
“I want to thank Richard for championing beer and pubs in Bedford. Beer tax hikes are not raising more revenues for the Government, and with a duty freeze we can create many more local jobs.”
MP for Bedford and Kempston, Richard Fuller, spoke out for pregnant women in the asylum system at an event in Parliament on Monday 25 February.
Richard was hosting the launch of new research from The Refugee Council and Maternity Action that showed UK Border Agency policies are putting the health of hundreds of pregnant women and their babies at risk, by moving them to accommodation around the country, thereby removing them from essential healthcare and leading to isolation.
The charities are calling for women in the asylum system to be allowed to prepare for motherhood and access the healthcare they need.
Richard Fuller MP said:
“Every woman should be allowed dignity in pregnancy, no matter what their immigration status. The Government has recognised this with recent changes but I want to see them go further to ensure a health pregnancy and birth.”
The report explains that asylum seeking women in the UK have high risk pregnancies, often due to serious mental and physical health conditions having fled torture, or sexual violence in their own countries. The study found, however, that due to UKBA’s policies, such women are being separated from the specialist treatment they need throughout their pregnancies, contrary to guidance from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
On Tuesday 5th February, the House of Commons debated a Bill aimed at allowing same sex couples to marry. I attended the House of Commons for the entirety of the debate because I wanted to listen to points raised on both sides, and I am glad that I did so. I also spoke in the debate to explain why, though I share the ambitions of the Bill, I would be abstaining in the vote in order to ensure that concerns expressed with anomalies in, and potential consequences of, the bill would be taken seriously as the Bill progresses. You can view a video of my contribution to the debate below, or you can read a transcript here.
As you may be aware, the Prime Minister has detailed his view of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. In short, Mr Cameron has clearly declared that the EU needs to change; that ‘ever closer union’ is not the right path; and that he will seek a better relationship for Britain.
Importantly, he will put the outcome of these negotiations to a referendum where people can decide to accept a new settlement or to leave the EU.
As I have said before, I want the British people to be given a choice over our future with the EU. To this end, I am pleased that the Prime Minister has committed to holding an ‘in/out’ referendum. As he must have time to negotiate a better position for Britain, I see the merit in deferring this until no later than the end of 2017.
I realise that some people are calling for an immediate in-out referendum, but a vote today between the status quo and leaving would be – as I said previously – a false choice. The EU is in a state of flux while the Eurozone countries work out their new relationship. For a vote to be held there must be clarity of the choice on offer.
Richard has welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement today that veterans of the Arctic Convoy will be awarded their own medal, while members of Bomber Command will receive a medal clasp as recognition of the vital roles that they played during World War Two.
Arctic Convoy veterans, including some residents of Bedford, have long been fighting for their own campaign medal. Last December, Richard wrote to the Prime Minister on behalf of local constituents to press for recognition of those who served on the Arctic Convoys.
Richard said: “We owe an immense debt of gratitude to the brave sailors who served on the arctic convoys in almost unimaginable conditions. Ensuring that supplies reached our allies in Russia was an incredibly important part of the war effort and I am pleased that these veterans will now get the official recognition that they deserve.”
During the recent debate on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, Richard called on the Government to do more to support business and to encourage job creation:
“Enterprise and regulatory reform, part of the title of the Bill, are words to bring succour to those who work in the engine room of the British economy — words that can take a thousand ideas for a new business, which have been discussed over a pint or sketched out on paper, and transform them into job-making, wealth-creating vehicles of growth.
“The anticipation for the Bill is almost tangible, but I fear that it will fall short of fulfilling the hopeful expectations. Where is the rolling back of the myriad fees and charges that are blithely imposed on businesses; where is the relief for shopkeepers from the sky-high rateable values set at the peak of Labour’s boom-cum-bust; and where is the implementation of our policy to roll back job-destroying EU regulation?
“The Bill’s proceedings should have started with a rallying call to our businesses that this Government are unambiguously on their side; a statement cherishing the principles of the free market as the most liberating force for social good; a determination to embrace, defend and expand the global free market that has lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty, to which too many were consigned by the misguided socialist policies of the past; a rebuttal of the insidious assumption, which too often underlies Government intervention, that, left to their own devices, people who run their own business cannot be trusted. That assumption should be replaced by a presumption of trust that in starting and growing businesses, people are doing the essential work of a grateful nation, burdened by its debts and seeking the wealth to maintain its cherished public services.
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.”
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.