Dods at Party Conference 2019

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14 October 2019
School strikers march with signs. A teenage girl with long brown hair holds a cardboard sign saying

Lord Bird talks to Georgina Bailey about his his latest campaign for a UK-wide Future Generations Act, and how he's not afraid to "cheese off some people" to ensure that society and the planet work for the children born in the next few decades. 

Who Crossbench peer and Big Issue founder Lord Bird What Bird is launching his campaign for a Future Generations Act on Monday 14 October, as the next Parliamentary Session begins. His Bill would create an independent UK Commissioner for Future Generations, who would act as a guardian to protect the interests of future generations, and oversee UK Government policy to ensure that their needs are met. It would also provide legally enforceable rights for individuals to hold public bodies to account, and ensure that the UK government increases its focus on preventative spending and works to protect future generations from social, cultural, economic and environmental threats. Why As Bird – who entered the Lords in 2015 – explains, “I came in to the House very much on the basis of preventative methodology. It wasn’t really about keeping the poor comfortable… I was obsessed with the idea that my job was to dismantle poverty and prevent it from happening.” His Bill is very much an...
Georgina Bailey
14 October 2019
Border Communities Against Brexit holding protests on Old Belfast Road in Carrickcarnon

The deadline for Westminster legislation on abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland is fast approaching. Meanwhile Stormont remains in deadlock with an ongoing dispute over the Irish language. But is any return to power-sharing now wholly dependent on a successfully­­­­-worded Brexit compromise? Crossbench peer Lord Bew reports

In the early part of this year, many of the senior players in Northern Irish politics were reasonably confident that devolution would return later this year or early next. The Brexit impasse has, however, thus far served to stymie such hopes. Yet it is not difficult to see why there was a reasonable degree of optimism. Sinn Féin, the only party which is holding out against a return of Stormont, has not really prospered at the polls. Some of their electors see the Irish language as a rather abstract issue. The current internal electoral contest over the post of vice-president is a sign of unease – it is also a welcome sign of a normalisation of that party’s internal life. The militaristic elite is still there but the very fact of an open contest for votes reduces the role of the ageing warlords. The Irish language issue, now the most divisive issue between Sinn Féin and the DUP, may have to wait for the aftermath of a general election before it is solved. That said, the DUP came close...
Lord Bew
14 October 2019
Britain's new Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a speech at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain on July 24, 2019

To bridge the rural-urban divide in social mobility, counties must be given the funding and powers to improve further education opportunities, writes Peter Aldous MP

When the prime minister used one of his first speeches to talk about ‘levelling up’ England’s left-behind regions, he could quite well have been referring to the lack of opportunities available to young adults in deprived coastal or rural communities, with no clear career pathway after leaving secondary school. Many of these areas were pinpointed in last year’s social mobility report from the County All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). The key conclusion from the report was that there exists a misconception that county areas are all affluent. This masks socio-economic challenges, with eight of the 10 least-socially mobile areas in England being located in counties, rather than in metropolitan areas. Many of the county councils that provided evidence to the APPG identified a lack of post-16 options in their areas, with fewer opportunities to attend sixth forms or colleges offering the right courses, and fewer opportunities to improve their skills or access training. In remote rural...
Peter Aldous MP
14 October 2019
Three female students stand with their backs facing the camera in full graduation gowns and caps

Replace student fees with graduate contribution to a higher education fund and make degree courses free at the point of delivery, writes Justine Greening MP

After 14 years in Parliament, I’ve seen some reviews open the way for policy to move forward. But there are other times when they move things backwards. In February 2018, Theresa May commissioned Dr Philip Augar to review the approach to financing post-18 education in England. I felt then that the system fixes we needed were clear and, to a large extent, already being developed within the Department for Education (DfE). After the long wait for the Augar review to report, many of its recommendations were already policy proposals within the DfE. We didn’t need a lengthy review to recreate existing proposals or, worse still, take things backwards on social mobility. After 18 months of uncertainty for students and universities, it really wasn’t worth it. So where did it go wrong and what should we do instead? Well for a start, the overriding aim of the review should have been driving social mobility. I understand first-hand the transformational impact universities have, and I...
Justine Greening MP
14 October 2019
The Supreme Court Justices leaving the annual Judges Service at Westminster Abbey

The careful balance between courts, Parliament and Acts of Parliament is being badly shaken by recent events, and needs consideration, writes John Redwood MP

The Supreme Court was a formed under Tony Blair as part of a complex and expensive reform of the role of Lord Chancellor and the Law Lords. The court became part of a network of so-called ‘supreme courts’ in the EU, united by one central feature that none of them were supreme but all had to accept the ultimate authority of the European Court of Justice in many matters governed by EU law and the treaty. Its recent judgement over the issue of prorogation of Parliament has catapulted it into political debate. The government accepted the right of the court to do as it did but disagreed strongly with the judgement and reasoning behind it. The government needs to uphold the rule of law and accepted the results of the judgement. After a hectic period of wider constitutional change it is likely now the Conservative Party will consider what amendments or clarifications are needed to our constitution through primary legislation to place in its manifesto. At issue are the Fixed-Term Parliaments...
John Redwood MP
14 October 2019
Eleanor Laing MP sits in front of curtains patterned with green portcullises in her House of Commons office

Writing ahead of The House magazine’s Speaker Hustings, Dame Eleanor Laing MP sets out what she would bring to the chair

Confidence in our finely balanced democratic system has been badly rattled during these turbulent times. The election of a new Speaker is a great opportunity for us all to work together to restore that confidence. If elected Speaker, that would be my top priority. I pledge that I would: Set an example of dignified, respectful behaviour in the chamber Argument is good. Aggression is bad. We have a duty to the people we represent to behave in the decent and courteous way that they expect of us. Be strictly impartial Having been Deputy Speaker for six years I can honestly say that it is not terribly difficult to be fair and impartial when you are in the chair. That is just a matter of decency and common sense. It is rather more difficult to put aside your own views and put your duty to the chair and to the House first and foremost in absolutely everything you say and do. I have proved that I can do that and I will continue to do it. Protect the rights of backbenchers and minority...
Eleanor Laing MP
14 October 2019
Protesters shelter from the rain outside the Supreme Court in London

Modern Britain has outgrown this system. It is time for a written constitution drawn up by citizen-led assemblies, writes Caroline Lucas MP

I don’t often find myself nodding in agreement in response to a government minister’s reply to my question. But on the day Parliament resumed after its unlawful prorogation, I asked the attorney general Geoffrey Cox if he would consider proposals for a written constitution, developed with real citizens’ engagement. He agreed – not only that there were grounds for thinking again about our constitutional arrangements, but that any change would need to include widespread consultation to ensure public support and consent. The attorney general began his response by saying “as we depart from the European Union”, but it’s not Brexit which demands that we reform the way we are governed. It’s the clear failure of our current system, whatever our relationship with the EU. Our centuries-old unwritten constitution based on gentlemen’s agreements is not fit for purpose when dangerous populists are in office. It barely works when government is functioning “normally”, let alone when we have an...
Caroline Lucas MP
14 October 2019
Students walking along a corridor in blue blazers and kilts

Children from low-income households should not have to face the stigma and embarrassment caused by zealously enforced school dress codes, writes Emma Hardy MP

For many parents a school dress-up day is just one of life’s inconveniences, involving a last-minute search to find a costume. But evidence has emerged that the growing trend of schools to increase the number of dress-up days is harming the education of our most disadvantaged children through an increase in unauthorised absences. Analysis by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) showed a significant increase in unauthorised absences on 14 December – ‘Christmas Jumper Day’. Unauthorised absences among pupils regarded as disadvantaged in the schools studied showed it was nearly three times higher than a typical day. For those regarded as without disadvantage it was still nearly twice as high. Increasing numbers of people are struggling to meet the basic costs of living, with the knock-on effect being a rise in child poverty. The ASCL study has unearthed an unintended consequence of what most would imagine to be a fun day because the scale of poverty among our children...
Emma Hardy MP
14 October 2019
Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid will deliver his first Budget as Chancellor on 6 November - but only if the UK leaves the EU with a deal on 31 October.

In a surprise announcement, the Treasury said the setpiece event would happen within days of the scheduled Brexit date. However, those plans will be scrapped if Boris Johnson is forced to seek another extension beyond Hallowe'en. Instead, the Chancellor will rip up that plan and deliver an emergency Budget within weeks if a deal cannot be secured. A Treasury source said: "If there's not a deal, we will move quickly to outline our approach to the economy, with a full Budget to follow in the weeks after." He would be expected to give more details on the Government's approach to no-deal in the run-up to 31 October. On the 6 November plan, Mr Javid said: "This will be the first Budget after leaving the EU. I will be setting out our plan to shape the economy for the future and triggering the start of our infrastructure revolution. "This is the right and responsible thing to do – we must get on with governing." UK and EU negotiators are still in talks aimed at securing a deal in time for a...
14 October 2019
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg delivers a speech during the

The latest Commons Gossip from Alain Tolhurst

The special hustings for lobby journalists to grill the candidates to be the next House of Commons Speaker saw lots of shameless attempts by MPs to curry favour with political hacks. There were pledges there would be more desks than ever in the Press Gallery once Parliament returns from its refurbishment decant, a promise we wouldn’t end up behind glass like the public gallery in the chamber, and one even praised the Lobby for its new-found abstemiousness. But the award for leading brown-nose went to current Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing, who said that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”, before looking over to the row of reporters and saying: “And you are the sunlight”. Cue groans all round. --- With the government successfully proroguing at the second attempt, the man at the heart of the process, Jacob Rees-Mogg, gave an insight into how it all goes down. With his dramatic drawl he explained: “I wasn't asking for the prorogation, the way the Privy Council works is that the Lord...
Alain Tolhurst