Dods at Party Conference 2019

Labour | Conservatives | SNP

18 March 2019
Margaret Beckett

Margaret Beckett has had a front-row seat on political history for over 40 years. The Labour stalwart could be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu as the current EU wranglings rumble on. But, as she tells Sienna Rodgers, just like in 1975 she’s still on the side of a people’s vote

It’s a tumultuous time for the Labour party, to put it lightly. The last few weeks have seen a number of MPs quit, most of them to form a new ‘centrist’ grouping in parliament, and those parliamentarians who remain are deeply divided over its direction, particularly on Brexit. We’ve seen panic about a hard-left takeover and MPs splitting off from Labour; a recession and a minority government; fighting about the UK’s relationship with Europe, an enormously contentious issue that has not run along party lines and has resulted in a referendum. There are differences, of course, but the current state of affairs is undoubtedly reminiscent of the 1970s. And that makes Dame Margaret Beckett the perfect person to interview today. The longest-serving woman MP – Beckett has spent more than 40 years on the green benches over two stints, 1974-1979, and 1983-present day, but misses out on the Mother of the House title to the longest-serving continuous woman MP, Harriet Harman – got her first big...
Sienna Rodgers
18 March 2019
John Bercow

John Bercow has warned Theresa May that he will block a third vote on her Brexit deal unless it is "substantially" different from the one defeated by MPs last week.

In a blow for the Prime Minister, the Commons Speaker cited rules dating back to 1604 which prevent the same proposition from being tabled more than once in the same parliamentary session. Ministers had initially been expected to attempt another so-called "meaningful vote" on the agreement this week ahead of Theresa May's visit to the European Council on Thursday. However, time is running out for the Prime Minister to win over the DUP and Tory rebels before that deadline. Making a surprise statement to the Commons, Mr Bercow warned the Government it could not "resubmit" the same motion that was defeated by 149 votes last week. "It has been strongly rumoured that third and even fourth meaningful vote motions will be attempted, hence this statement which is designed to signal what would be orderly and what would not," he said in a statement to the House. "This is my conclusion: If the Government wishes to bring forward a new proposition that is neither the same nor substantially the...
18 March 2019

More than half of the UK's 43 building societies are finalists in this year’s Moneyfacts awards.

In total 23 building societies have reached the finals across nine mortgage categories; five savings and current account categories; plus the Innovation in Personal Finance and Personal Finance Provider of the Year categories  In total the sector appears 67 times in the list of finalists. The winners of the awards will be announced on 11 June 2019. Lee Tillcock, Editor of Moneyfacts, said: “All the finalists at this year's Moneyfacts Awards should be proud of their achievements, with building societies once again displaying a strong showing. Following a positive year for the building society sector in both lending and savings markets, providers have filled many of the finalist positions. “Despite the current political uncertainty and challenging market conditions, businesses have continued to offer value, choice and innovation across the personal finance sector. By providing the products and services that best meet the needs of consumers, the Moneyfacts Awards...
18 March 2019
Theresa May

MPs have until just Tuesday night to get behind Theresa May’s deal or risk a long delay, Downing Street has warned.

Speculation is rife in Westminster that Mrs May - whose EU agreement was roundly rejected for a second time last week - could call a fresh vote this week ahead of a crunch Brussels summit on Thursday. The Prime Minister is currently seeking to persuade the DUP to drop their longstanding objections to her deal, a move which could prompt a chunk of Tory Brexiteers to come onside. But Mrs May's official spokesperson on Monday made clear that no vote will take place until ministers are confident of victory - and warned MPs that unless a new vote is tabled by Tuesday night, the Prime Minister will have to head to Brussels to press for a long Brexit delay. The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: "There were two Secretaries of State who were giving media interviews yesterday in which they both said that before any further vote was to take place we would want to believe we had a realistic prospect of being successful in that vote... "If we are able to pass a meaningful vote by...
18 March 2019
Jack Lopresti

The Kurdistan Region is a valuable partner in helping to promote religious tolerance, but we must do more to support their efforts, says Jack Lopresti

The UK leads the way in defending freedoms around the world through our fantastic armed forces, cultural soft power, and taking a leading role globally in overseas aid through the Department for International Development. One of the most important of these freedoms is that of religion. The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has rightly taken the lead in this and has asked the bishop of Truro to draw up a report and recommend actions for the UK government. Launching the initiative, Hunt argued that freedom of worship is something that can’t be taken for granted and is a growing concern all over the world. He argues that 80% of all the people who are suffering religious persecution are Christian. He listed atrocities in the Philippines and Egypt, which illustrate findings from the Open Doors organisation that a quarter of a billion Christians are suffering some sort of persecution and repression. He named Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, North Korea, China and India. Hunt’s thesis...
Jack Lopresti
18 March 2019

BANT (British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine) continues to support the Government’s plan to ban pre-watershed junk food advertising as part of the childhood obesity strategy.

BANT has continuously called out for a different approach to the obesity crisis and has suggested: the reintroduction of home economics classes in school; education about healthy eating; how diet and lifestyle can influence health over the short and long-term; and promotion by Government Agencies of the consumption of healthy ingredients and the foods and ingredients that are not ultra-processed. This policy u-turn is the first step in the right direction and will set the background for establishing the changes needed to engender a long-term cultural shift which allows healthy behaviour adaptations to an environment that offers so many opportunities for unhealthy indulgence either knowingly or in ignorance. The causes of obesity are multifactorial and can include increased stress levels, systemic low-grade inflammation, lack of exercise, and choice of foods and their preparation/cooking methods, amongst others.  There is growing evidence that minimally processed...
18 March 2019
Military Stock

Serving personnel and veterans who need mental health care are not receiving the support promised in the Armed Forces Covenant. That needs to change, says Ruth Smeeth

We have a problem. It’s becoming received wisdom that people leave the armed forces broken and without the right support package in place. For the overwhelming majority of veterans this simply isn’t true; they transition to civilian life as well-rounded, highly skilled individuals who contribute hugely to their community. But what is a concern is what’s in place for those people that do need support both during their service and after, how long they need to wait for help, how they can access continuing care pathways and who is supporting their families. Unbelievably, at the crux of the matter is a clash between the Armed Forces Covenant and the NHS constitution. The covenant recognises that our veterans may have the right to special treatment if required (although no one has defined special treatment), but the NHS constitution states that those in the armed forces, reservists, their families and veterans are not disadvantaged in accessing health services in the area they reside. So...
Ruth Smeeth
18 March 2019
Domestic Abuse

Women being forced to stay in, or return to, abusive homes. The Home Secretary must consider extending eligibility of the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession, writes Kirsty Blackman

For many victims of domestic abuse, attempting to flee an abusive relationship takes a great deal of planning. Even with the help of Women’s Aid or Refuge organisations, there can be a worrying lack of certainty about the future, or even simply about where they’re going to be tomorrow. If your immigration status means you don’t have leave to remain in the UK, your options may be even more limited.  Currently, the Government allows those who are in the UK on spousal visas to apply for something called the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC). This allows those fleeing domestic violence to access public funds for a three-month period. That window is desperately important. It allows victims the ability to go to a refuge, where they can be safe and receive expert support. Without the DDVC these women would not be able to claim housing benefit and without access to housing benefit, refuges struggle to provide accommodation, even for a short period of...
Kirsty Blackman
18 March 2019
Isle of Wight

Bob Seely says he only ever wanted to represent the Isle of Wight - a dream that finally came true in 2017. But, as the Conservative MP tells Matt Foster, Government housing policy is leaving young islanders facing an uphill struggle 

“Representing the island is like being married to the right woman,” Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely chuckles as he fiddles with the acoustic guitar he keeps on hand for those rare quiet moments in his Westminster office. “If I was the MP for anywhere else I would be very dutiful. But I would also be very jealous of the person who had the island.” While he's not quite breaking into a ballad for the Isle of Wight, it's clear that the Conservative MP is deeply attached to the "beautiful" quality of life on offer on the other side of the Solent. But he's also increasingly outspoken about the challenges facing its 140,000 residents, who put an acute shortage of affordable housing at the top of their list of concerns. Seely is clear that ministers from his own government must share the blame for housing policy he believes is “actively detrimental to the interests of my island”. “I wish the Government would listen more closely to the advice of MPs who are trying to do the right thing,” he says...
Matt Foster
18 March 2019
Soldier in camouflage paint

To fight back against dropping recruitment rates, the Army must revise its entry criteria and speed up the application process, says Anne-Marie Trevelyan

The Public Accounts Committee has reviewed many Ministry of Defence (MoD) contracts over the years, and there is a depressing familiarity about our latest report, Capita’s Contract with the Ministry of Defence. Two contracts have been causing us continuous concern. First, the MoD’s recruitment contract with Capita – to delegate a critical element of the MoD’s responsibilities, despite having no experience of recruiting soldiers, sailors or airmen and women, thinking that they could save money. Second, the military housing contract for service families, which continues to fail to deliver on the armed forces covenant commitments to those who serve and their families who support them. The MoD decided that the army would lead on the recruiting partnering project, but no one took responsibility for the contract management, rather expecting Capita to suddenly become an expert on the complexities of the 10,000 requirements the service handed down to them. This made the contract too...
Anne-Marie Trevelyan