IPT Fellowship

Many constituents are already employed in the media industry and with the BBC moving more departments up to media city the number of constituents engaged either directly or indirectly in the media sector and supporting businesses will continue to increase. With this in mind I have for several months been making arrangement to undertake what they call a Fellowship – in media and broadcasting – through the auspices of the Industry and Parliament Trust (IPT). The Industry and Parliament Trust is a registered charity which is dedicated to promoting mutual understanding between the worlds of business, industry and commerce for the public benefit.

MP’s and peers from all parties are encouraged to spend time in different sectors to learn about business in much greater depth than is normally possible. My placements will be with various media companies from across the sector and last Tuesday I had my first briefing session with ITV. I will in due course be spending time with STV , BBC possibly C4 and a smaller independent production company. There is a commitment on the part of the Member to undertake 18 days of placements with host organisations but these are spread over a period of around one and half years so there is plenty of opportunity to fit the days in with my other commitments.

Scottish Independence

Who would have thought just a couple of years ago that the question of Scotland becoming an independent nation would seriously be taking up Parliamentary time. It is now. Last week we had a statement as the Government launched a Consultation paper on how to respond to the plans by the Scottish Nationalist Government in Scotland to hold a referendum as to whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom.

There would of course be a whole host of problems and difficulties. The first would surround the exact nature of the ballot. Who would be entitled to vote? Why should only current residents of Scotland be entitled to vote. There are thousands of passionate Scots who for a variety of reasons are presently living elsewhere in the United Kingdom – or indeed in other parts of the World. What currency would Scotland use? What would the United Kingdom flag look like? ( no blue!) How much of the national debt should the Scots take with them? At the moment there are many more questions than answers.

Politically, the Conservatives – traditionally the Conservative and Unionist Party – are staunchly supporting the preservation of Scotland within the United Kingdom despite the fact that we have only one MP from North of the Border. Labour who have dozens of Scottish MP’s are also and perhaps not surprisingly also keen to retain Scotland and their Scottish MP’s.

I am not surprised that support for the Union is so divided in the England. I think in recent years the failure to properly address the West Lothian question ( that is the fact that Scottish MP’s can vote on matters at Westminster which affect my constituents but not their own! ) has increased the sense of resentment and unfairness among many and I suspect that support for the Union in England would increase if this anomaly was rectified.

Human Rights

I am one of the ten backbench Conservative MP’s who have promoted a new work on the impact of the Human rights legislation which has been published today. The work is essentially that of the excellent researcher Robert Broadhurst who is employed by the European Research Group which we are all members of.

The publication has received high profile coverage in the Daily Mail today and readers can access it via the following website:
www.makinghumanrightswork.org.uk

Commons Returns

The House of Commons returns today with the firs day ‘s main debate being the Second Reading of the Local Government Finance Bill which will allow the local retention of Business rates by local Councils. It also provides for Council Tax benefit to be determined locally and allows local councils to decide what level of discount to allow for empty properties. Equally it introduces a discretionary ’empty homes levy’ to allow local authorities to charge up to 150% of the Council Tax bill where the property has been empty for more than two years.

Tomorrow, in addition to the first Prime Ministers Questions of 2012 the main business is a debate on a topic to be decided by the opposition the motion for which is not on the order paper yet. I have been selected to serve on a public Bill Committee which will be considering the Details of the Local Government Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill in the morning and in the afternoon I will be attending a public evidence session being held by the Procedure Committee as part of the ongoing enquiry into the sitting hours and days of the House.

On Thursday the business is determined by the Backbench Business Committee and will see debates being held on pub companies and parliamentary representation.

Backbencher of the Year

Many congratulations to my colleague John Redwood the MP for Wokingham who has recently been voted as the Backbencher of the Year on the Conservative Home website. I was placed 14th and the highest placed of any in the North West area. A big thank-you to all those who voted for me. I particularly appreciated the fact that the sites editor Tim Montgomery publicly declared in the article that he had voted for me. It is true that I am only interested in trying to do what is best for my constituents and I will do this regardless of any personal advancement. Despite what many think there are lots of MP’s ( on both sides of the House incidentally)who are genuinely interested in trying to improve the lot of voters.

http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/2012/01/john-redwood-is-conservativehomes-backbencher-of-2011.html

The full article can be found by clicking here

Happy 2012 !

A happy and healthy 2012 to all visitors to my website. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the hosting of the Olympic Games will provide two superb opportunities for the United Kingdom to showcase our great Country.