17 March 2015

All three Libdem MPs in Cornwall lost their seats at the 7 May 2015 general election. I’ll keep the page open for any interesting actions by local Libdems. I’ve now opened a Cornwall Tory Watch post.

Cornwall Libdem Watch is where I shall scrutinise the three Libdem MPs and other Libdem politicians in Cornwall in Cornwall and the impact of their Tory-led government’s policies upon people here. I have put on the blog more detailed posts about some of the issues. Also see this post, Stepping forward with the Libdems.

On 25 February 2015 the Lords debated an amendment to the Modern Slavery bill from Raymond Jolliffe (lord Hylton). This closes the longstanding loophole whereby someone employed by a foreigner, often from the Middle East, as a domestic cannot leave an abusive employer without losing her visa right to work in Britain for another domestic employer.

The Tory Libdem government opposed the amendment which was passed by 183 to 176 votes (Lords Hansard 25 February 2015 column 1705). Members of the Lords associated with Cornwall voted thus: Brenda Dean (Labour) for the amendment; all four Libdem members Judith Jolly, Matthew Taylor, Robin Teverson, and Paul Tyler voted against the amendment.

On 17 March 2015 the Commons rejected the Lords amendment by 276-209 (Hansard columns 645-684): Dan Rogerson (Libdem North Cornwall) and the three Tory MPs for Cornwall seats voted with the government against the Lords amendment; no vote is recorded for Andrew George and Stephen Gilbert, the other Libdem MPs for Cornwall seats. The Commons then accepted a government amendment in lieu of the Lords one.

The Commons voted on 25 February 2015 on a Labour motion calling for MPs to be prevented from taking paid second jobs as directors and consultants (vote at Hansard column 427). Andrew George and Dan Rogerson voted against the Labour motion; no vote is recorded for Stephen Gilbert.

Last month the Commons debated the large rise in the number of infant classes with more than 30 pupils (Hansard 3 September 2014 column 348). A Labour motion noted the rise and the spending in areas without a shortage of school places through the free schools program. The motion was defeated and Andrew George (Libdem, St Ives) and Dan Rogerson (Lib Dem, North Cornwall) voted against it; no vote is recorded for Stephen Gilbert (Libdem, St Austell). The Libdem 2010 election manifesto promised to cut class sizes, as did the Tory manifesto.

Among the issues around housing are the charges made by letting agents in the private housing sector. In the Commons Labour moved an amendment to the Consumer rights bill to ban such charges. This amendment, new clause 22, was defeated by 281-228 votes ( Hansard 13 May 2014, column 703, division 279). Two Libdems and one Tory voted for the Labour amendment.

Two Libdem MPs from Cornwall, Andrew George (St Ives) and Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay), voted against the amendment. No vote is recorded for Dan Rogerson (Libdem, North Cornwall).

On 12 November 2013 the Commons voted on a Labour motion calling for the repeal of the bedroom tax; there was also a vote on a Tory Libdem government amendment supporting the tax: Hansard columns 823-923, divisions 126 and 127. Cornwall Libdem MPs split. Andrew George (St Ives ) voted for the Labour motion and against the amendment, one of only two Libdem MPs to do so; Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) and Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall), and most Libdem MPs, voted against the Labour motion and for the amendment.

All three Libdem MPs for Cornwall (Andrew George, Stephen Gilbert, and Dan Rogerson) voted against mitigating amendments put by Labour to the Justice and security bill: 4 March 2013, divisions 169 and 170. The bill extends the use of secret courts to protect the intelligence services. There is a brief account of the issues here.

All three Libdem MPs from Cornwall voted on 5 February 2013 for the second reading of the same-sex marriage bill, as did Sarah Newton, the Tory MP for Truro and Falmouth. The other two Cornwall Tory MPs (George Eustice and Sheryll Murray) abstained.

A follow-up of 28. The three Cornwall Libdem MPs split three ways on the report stage and third reading of bill to limit rises in benefits to 1 percent (Hansard 21 January 2013). See the post From him that hath not 2 for details.

On the second reading of the bill to limit increases in social security benefits (Welfare benefits uprating bill) the three Cornwall Libdem MPs split. Andrew George recorded his abstention by voting for and against and Stephen Gilbert and Dan Rogerson both voted for the bill. All three voted against the Labour amendment. Of 57 Libdem MPs only four voted solely against the second reading of the bill, forty ( including one teller) supported the bill, and two recorded abstentions (Hansard 8 January 2013 column 271). See follow-up at 29.

On 12 December 2012 the Lords supported an amendment to liberalise the Public Order Act 1986 by removing “insulting” from the words or behaviour that were prosecutable. Judith Jolly and Robin Teverson, both Libdems, voted for the amendment. No other peer associated with Cornwall voted for or against (Lords Hansard 12 December 2012 column 1119-1133). On 19 December 2012 Andrew George, Libdem MP for St Ives, voted against a bill to automatically treat religious institutions as charities (Hansard 19 December 2012 column 892).

On 19 March 2012 Stephen Gilbert and Dan Rogerson both voted for the enactment of the Unfair dismissal and statement of reasons for dismissal (Variation of qualifying period) Order, 2012; no vote is recorded for Andrew George. See Hansard 19 March 2012 column 517 for the vote at division 494. The Order increases from one year to two years the qualifying period of continuous employment before a worker can claim unfair dismissal. It comes into effect on 6 April 2012. Details of the Order are here. The Tory Libdem government claim is that this higher qualifying threshold will give employers the confidence to take on more workers but it is a lessening of employee security in Cornwall and elsewhere.

Early day motion (EDM) 2659 asks the government to publish the transition risk register for the Health and social care bill. Of the three Cornwall Libdem MPs Andrew George and Dan Rogerson have signed the EDM. The information commissioner has said that it should be published but the government is appealing against that decision. On 22 February 2012 there was a debate in the Commons on a Labour motion calling on the government to publish this risk register. Of the three Cornwall Libdem MPs Andrew George voted for the motion and Stephen Gilbert against.

On 12 December 2011 the Lords debated an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill, an amendment which would, in the words of Tanni Grey-Thompson, its mover, “ensure that the disabled additions for children provided under the universal credit are not cut compared with the disability additions provided through the current benefits and tax credits system”. Read the details in Lords Hansard 12 December 2011 columns 1044-1060.

Her amendment was lost by 189-187 votes. Forty six Libdems voted with the Tories to cut the disability additions for disabled children other than the most severely disabled. Among the forty six were Judith Jolly and Paul Tyler, two Libdem members of the Lords associated with Cornwall. There is an explanation of the disability measures here and a factsheet about universal credit from the Disability alliance here.

On 14 December 2011 the Lords debated amendment 12 to the Welfare Reform bill; the amendment allowed more flexibility for a spare room in social housing related to family circumstances; it hinges on a definition of ‘underoccupancy’. In a vote on amendment 12 Matthew Taylor, former Libdem MP in Cornwall, voted with the majority for the amendment. Judith Jolly, Robin Teverson, and Paul Tyler, other Libdem members of the Lords associated with Cornwall, voted with the government against the amendment. The amendment was carried. See details at Lords Hansard 14 December 2011 column 1285-1308.

I have written three posts discussing these issues and similar and Cornwall Libdem peers’ and MPs’ votes: The shame of the Libdems, How Cornwall peers and MPs voted, and Libdems cross the Rubicon.

The Commons voted on 25 October 2011 on Labour amendment 32 to stop the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) for England and Wales. Andrew George (St Ives) voted for the Labour amendment; Stephen Gilbert and Dan Rogerson voted against the amendment, as did the three Tory MPs for Cornwall: Hansard 25 October 2011 column 238. About 4000 workers in Cornwall benefit from the AWB.

Early day motion 892 of June 2000 expressed the belief that: “any weakening of the Agricultural Wages Board or its abolition would further impoverish the rural working class, exacerbate social deprivation and the undesirable indicators associated with social exclusion…” It was signed by Candy Atherton (Labour MP for Camborne) and the then Cornwall Libdem MPs Andrew George, Matthew Taylor, and Paul Tyler(who are presently members of the Commons or Lords) and Colin Breed.

On the third reading of the Health and social care bill (Hansard 7 September 2011 column 497) which rejigs the NHS, Andrew George voted against; Stephen Gilbert voted for and against, in effect an abstention; and no vote is recorded for Dan Rogerson (the Social Liberal Forum website says he abstained). Forty one of the fifty seven Libdem MPs supported the bill on third reading. (September 2011)

This post discusses the progressive votes of the three Cornwall Libdem MPs on council and housing association tenancies. (June 2011)

Cornwall Libdem MPs split on two votes about selling off the public forests of England on 2 February 2011. Stephen Gilbert voted for a Labour motion calling for a rethink about the sell-off (division 188); Andrew George, Stephen Gilbert, and Dan Rogerson voted against the motion. All three voted for the Tory Libdem government motion supporting the sell-off (division 189) and Stephen Gilbert also voted against it. The votes are at Hansard 2 February 2011 column 970 following. Gilbert’s votes for and against are probably to be seen as an abstention; in an intervention in the debate he said that concerns about the sell-off were “real” and “genuine” (column 941).

The Tory Libdem government, in the face of half a million objections, abandoned its forestry privatisation policy and the consultation on it. Andrew George said 17 February 2011 that the consultation should have been allowed to “run its course”.

The second reading of the Health and social care bill, which makes changes in the NHS, was on 31 January 2011. The vote on the second reading of the bill was in division 185 at Hansard column 700 and this shows Dan Rogerson voted for the bill, Andrew George abstained as he said he would, no vote is recorded for Stephen Gilbert. The three Tory MPs for Cornwall seats all voted for the second reading. (1 February 2011)

On 19 January 2011 the three Cornwall Libdem MPs voted (division 177) in support of the Tory Libdem government’s policy of abolishing the educational maintenance allowance (EMA) and replacing it with a more limited and as yet undetailed scheme. For details this post. There were 7294 recipients of EMA in Cornwall at December 2010: see Cornwall data.

The three Cornwall Libdem MPs were among those who signed the pledge to oppose any raising of the tuition fees for university students in this parliament. Stephen Gilbert, Libdem MP for Truro and St Austell, voted for the rise of fees to a basic of £6000 and a maximum of £9000 a year. Andrew George (St Ives) and Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall) voted against the rise. I discuss this in the post Uncertain trumpets (11 December 2010)

In November 2010 the three Cornwall Libdem MPs voted unsuccessfully to exempt Cornwall (and elsewhere) from the equalising of electorates in the Parliamentary voting system and constituencies bill, the Devonwall and Keep Cornwall whole issue. They voted at third reading for the whole bill which included the equalising parts.

The Tory Libdem government plans to sell off parts of the publicly-owned forests of England though there is a promise of some safeguards for public access and use.

In 2008-2009 there were proposals from the SNP Scottish government for some of the publicly-owned forests of Scotland to be leased to private companies. These were opposed by the Libdems in Scotland and among the opponents of that proposed privatisation was the UK MP Danny Alexander, now chief secretary of the UK Treasury. (Hat tip: Toque ). See here too, the Libdem Save our forests campaign site. See also Hansard 10 November 2010 column 281, the question from Tom Greatrex, Labour MP, about this to which Nick Clegg did not have an answer.

What will the Libdems in the UK parliament do about proposals to privatise some of England’s publicly-owned forests? How will Alexander vote, and the Cornwall Libdem MPs, Andrew George, Stephen Gilbert, and Dan Rogerson? (15 November 2010)

The number of recipients of local housing allowance (for people living in private rented property) in Cornwall who lose money as a result of the June 2010 Tory Libdem budget is 8450. Details are in this post. The three Libdem MPs for Cornwall described the budget as “a step forward for Cornwall and the country”.

The first pilot stage of the domestic violence protection orders scheme – arrangements which instantly safeguard wives and children from the risk of violence – due to start in October in Wiltshire and the West Midlands has been halted and whether the scheme as a whole across England goes ahead will depend on the autumn spending review. The Tory Libdem government is thinking about axing the scheme as part of its cuts.

Read the 2010 legislation about domestic violence prevention in sections 24-33 here. The explanatory notes are here. (6 August 2010)

Addendum 10 August 2010: there is an interesting post on this question at the blog Liberal Conspiracy here.

As I explain in this post the Tory Libdem axing of Labour’s planned extension of free school meals means 9700 pupils in Cornwall will lose out. (29 July 2010)

The Tory Libdem cuts in housing benefits mean nearly one million people, including pensioners, low-paid workers, and the unemployed, will lose an average of £12 a week in 2011/12. The figures come from a government analysis of the cuts. [Guardian 24 July 2010 ]

The Tory Libdem government has frozen the UK matching funding for the £500 million EU Convergence program which funds projects in Cornwall, thus freezing the EU program. If the freeze continues the economy in Cornwall will suffer with economic growth impaired and jobs lost. See details here and here. (13 July 2010)

UPDATE: After a period of much confusion, some of the schemes are to continue.

See 5b, housing. £450 million is to be cut from the budget of the Homes and Communities Agency which has programs for regeneration and the building of affordable housing. This is the figure after the government’s latest decision.

See 2c. Labour’s plans to update, refurbish, or rebuild Humphry Davy Penzance, Camborne, Pool, Redruth, Curnow Special School Redruth, and Poltair St Austell secondary schools have today (5 July 2010) been cancelledby the Tory Libdem government (open number 2 in the article). The government has issued five different lists in succession, I think: Curnow Special School, missing from the first list, now appears as cancelled on the latest 12 July one that I looked at.

UPDATE 6 August 2010: The Cornwall schools do not appear on the list of seventy seven schools now given the go ahead.

UPDATE 29 March 2011: Cornwall Council spent £515 000 on preparatory work for the aborted BSF schools. See here.

Well, 2b has been answered. On 28 June 2010 all three Cornwall Libdem MPs voted forthe motion to increase VAT. There will probably be another vote on the VAT increase in the debates on the Finance Bill: how will the three vote then?

The Tory Libdem government’s education plans for academies and free schools are taken apart here by a Libdem.

How will Cornwall Libdem MPs respond to these plans and to suggestions that they will create a two-tier system and inequality of access?

More testing issues emerging.

(a) The bulk of cuts at the Department of education for England will come from the grants to local authorities, a £311 million cut. How will this affect frontline education services in Cornwall?

(b) Will national affordable housing funds and projects in which Cornwall has a stake be affected by government cutbacks? See here and, for the New Build scheme, here. Additionally, will the PFI schemefor a major boost to affordable housing in Cornwall be affected? (2 June 2010). Now see 9.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat government has abolished the Future Jobs Fund which helped the unemployed in Cornwall get jobs. I have put up a separate post about this here.(29 May 2010)

Ah, the new Tory Libdem politics. It turns out to be corked old wine in recycled bottles.

Read this report.

The Tory Libdem government tried to dictate to the BBC the Labour party representative who should and should not appear on Question Time. When the BBC refused the Tory Libdem demand, the government sulkily refused to send along a minister. Apparently David Laws, a Libdem minister, was meant to represent the government.

Well, the government has been neither liberal nor democratic. Will our trinity express any concern? (28 May 2010)

There are several issues coming up which will test our Libdem MPs in Cornwall. They include the following, though a-c are the most immediate:

(a) The £6 billion cuts to be announced next week. The Libdems argued before 6 May that severe cuts should not be made in 2010 but in 2011 onwards as early severe cuts could imperil any economic recovery. Now they have agreed to the Conservative plans for cuts this year.The basis of Libdem economic policy has been jettisoned. What do Cornwall Libdem MPs think of this?

Vince Cable, now business secretary, in an election leaflet I received said: “I’ve seen David Cameron and George Osborne get it wrong again and again on the economy. Conservative plans will hurt the recovery”.

(b) VAT: this is a regressive tax, hurting the poor more than the well-heeled. Will it be raised in the June budget?

(c) Labour set up a £55 billion school building program, Building Schools for the Future (BSF). Cornwall Council put up all its secondary schools in Cornwall for the BSF program to rebuild and refurnish schools and successfully claimed money for its first wave: secondary schools in Camborne, Redruth, Pool, St Austell Poltair, Penzance Humphry Davy, and Curnow special school: see this Cornwall Council 8 March 2010 media release. That money is now in doubt as the Tory education secretary reviews the program, wishing to divert the money or just cut it. Will Cornwall’s six schools get the money? If they don’t, how will the Libdem MPs for Cornwall respond? Anything other than ineffective wailing? A Libdem election leaflet I received promised they would be “improving every school”.

(d) Further down the line, the Tories wish to cut the number of MPs and equalise the electors in each constituency to around 77 000 which means constituencies crossing county boundaries. Cue the Cornwall Libdem MPs.

(e) And later, child benefits, tax credits, tax allowance for the married, unemployment benefits…

(f) And more generally, globalisation enriches western economies, including Britain’s, but can impoverish individuals within those economies. It demands free markets and the free flow of capital but there are calls to restrict free labour movement to Britain which can disadvantage people working for modest pay. Has the government any idea how to reconcile these contradictions (Labour didn’t have any)? (18 May 2010)

I have already recorded the Libdem pleas to vote tactically for them; and the Libdem conference closed to public and media scrutiny. (18 May 2010)

Link provided for number 8 along with a reference to Curnow special school (7 July 2010)
Number 9 edited to take account of the latest cuts figure for the Housing and Communities Agency (9 July 2010)
Tuition fees post updated (11 December 2010)