Category Archives: Government

My speech to Parliament during Coalition against ISIL debate

Surely, humility and modesty should be our watchwords in this debate, if only because the reductions we have made to the size of our armed forces across the Army, Navy and, I am afraid, Air Force are so significant; yet we do not seem to have made the same reduction in our leading politicians’ desire to intervene across the world with the relatively modest armed forces that we still have.

I am pleased that there has been quite a strongly pro-American tone in this debate—both from the left and the right—and President Obama has found the words to describe very impressively what the Americans are trying to do. I wish them enormously well in that, but the size of their forces and their ability to intervene is one, if not two orders of magnitude bigger than ours.

We need to think about our record in previous debates. It is only a year ago that we were debating a Government motion to bomb the other side in Syria. It is only three years ago that 557 hon. Members from across the House voted for the intervention in Libya. It is very difficult to say whether anything is better in Libya as a result because it is so dangerous that people cannot tell us what is going there. That suggests the answer may not be the one that we would wish.

A week or two ago, I went to Calais and met a gentleman, Peter, who had come from Ethiopia through Sudan and Libya to Lampedusa and was then moved on by Italians and left at Bologna to get a train to Paris and then Calais. He is one of thousands of such people. One thing at least that Gaddafi did not do was encourage those boats. He had an agreement with Italy and defended their borders. The change that we have had has not helped us.

We talk of the legitimate, democratic Government in Iraq, but we have pretty much a sectarian Shi’a Government. A little less than perhaps half of the people vote for those parties. About a fifth of the country supports the Kurdish parties, which are happy to support the Shi’a regime, as long as they pretty much run things in Kurdistan. A fifth of the country is made up of the Sunnis who are disengaged, to put it at its mildest, from that process. The reason why we have this problem is that they prefer ISIL—or at least many of them do to one degree or another—to the Shi’a sectarian Government who were either persecuting them or not giving them a share of the spoils in that state.

Some people in the House—the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr Hain) is one; my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) is another—have said that they regret their votes on the Iraq war in 2003, but I do not understand what the Prime Minister’s position is. I would feel perhaps more prepared to support the Government if I knew whether he thinks that he made a mistake in 2003. Does he regret that vote, given what has happened, or is it something from which he does not resile? An answer to that would help, and we need to be modest and humble in our decision today.

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My letter to PM on whips and child abuse inquiry

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Video: Tribute to Baroness Thatcher

Mark Reckless offers his tribute to Baroness Thatcher during the Parliamentary debate on 10th April 2013.

Text from Hansard:

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood, Conservative)

It is a privilege to make the last Back-Bench speech in this debate. I had decided not to speak, but I thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to do so now.

I came to the debate before Prayers and found that there was nowhere to sit on the Benches, so I sat just to my right on the floor. Just above me to the right was my hon. Friend Conor Burns. He told me—I was not aware of this—that that was the seat on which Margaret Thatcher sat after she stopped being Prime Minister. I felt that it would be a privilege to sit through the seven and a half hours of debate and tributes, and that I would not seek to speak, but I wish to address one area.

The day before yesterday, the noble Lord Bell said that Margaret Thatcher believed in principles, which perhaps set her apart from virtually any politician of today. I am not sure that that is fair and I believe that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and many who sit behind him, were inspired by Margaret Thatcher, and that much of the politics in which she believed has found its way into our Government. In different ways, I believe that we are taking forward her legacy.

When I was at school, perhaps my oldest friend was Daniel Hannan, who is now an MEP. Together we observed the progress of the Thatcher Government, and we took a greater and greater interest, particularly in Europe. At the time, I was beginning to take an interest in economics and seeking to understand the interface of politics and economics. At the time, Margaret Thatcher and the now noble Lord Lawson were involved in a disagreement about shadowing the Deutschmark, and on that issue I believe that Margaret Thatcher was simply right. Even at the time, it seemed to me that it was just too good; we had had a consumer-led recovery, but as a teenager in my naive way I thought it was getting out of control. Nevertheless, I heard that there could not be a problem because the pound was at the same level against the Deutschmark and we had cut interest rates to keep it below three Deutschmarks. There was a disagreement between the Chancellor and the Prime Minister that I think was resolved terribly unfortunately for our country, but it was the Prime Minister who was right.

Towards the end of Margaret Thatcher’s time in office, Europe became the central driving issue. There is too much of a trend to say that in the last days of her premiership she had somehow lost her touch or that the man-management was not there. The issue of Europe did not develop afterwards; it was there in the central disagreement on economic policy in her Government.

I do not believe that Margaret Thatcher’s personal split with Geoffrey Howe was about personality. On 25 June 1989, Geoffrey Howe with the noble Lord Lawson said to Margaret Thatcher that unless she set a timetable to join the exchange rate mechanism, they would resign. She believed that Geoffrey Howe was behind that, and a month later she removed him from his post as Foreign Secretary. Eighteen months later she made a statement when she came back from the Rome summit, which we recall for “No. No. No.”, and which led to Geoffrey Howe’s resignation and his later speech that set in train the events leading to Margaret Thatcher’s downfall. Listening to that debate again this morning, what struck me was how she answered Tony Benn when he said to her, “You now say this, but how do we know that this is any more than you seeking partisan short-term advantage by wrapping yourself in the flag? It was you who took us into the ERM without consulting the British people, you who signed the Single European Act, and you who sat in a Cabinet that took us into the Common Market without a referendum.”

Margaret Thatcher answered him and said that she would have used different words. In essence, however, she agreed with him. There was a mea culpa. On those issues, he had been right and she regretted the stance that she had taken. She said those things while she was Prime Minister, and I believe that it set in train the process that led to her fall. However, she also inspired a new generation of politicians. There is the question

whether we will ultimately be part of an ever-closer union in Europe or again be an independent country. Margaret Thatcher at least kept open that possibility by restoring our national strength, so that it could once again be resolved in favour of independence.

Blog: Is Sir Humphrey source for attack on Vaz?

The Telegraph report of an apparent twelve-year old police investigation into Keith Vaz’s finances has two interesting passages regarding its sourcing. At one point it states:

“But the controversies had little impact on Mr Vaz’s political career and he has gone on to play a key role in examining the role of the Metropolitan Police in the phone-hacking scandal. It may now be detectives working for Scotland Yard who have evidence that could call into question his conduct”.

However, as well as having seen partial extracts from a confidential police investigation, the Telegraph makes clear that it was briefed by senior civil servants:

“Mr Vaz is chairman of the home affairs select committee, charged with holding the police to account. Whitehall sources claimed that he had not been vetted for the role, unlike holders of other senior offices”.

It strikes me as implausible that an individual police detective involved in investigating Mr Vaz would get hold of a report and suddenly show it to the Telegraph twelve years on, still less that the Met at a more senior level would condone such a leak with Lord Justice Levenson’s report pending.

Further, if the Telegraph’s source really was a Met detective, it would be rather unprofessional for journalists then to write in the article “It may now be detectives working for Scotland Yard who have evidence that could call into question his conduct”.

A senior civil servant with access to a 2001 Met report copied to the then Cabinet Secretary is therefore the more likely source for the Telegraph, whose columnist Sue Cameron also seems to be Sir Humphrey’s favourite outlet.

Few would dispute that Keith Vaz has been one of the most effective Select Committee Chairs in holding senior officials to proper account since Select Committees and their Chairs have been elected, rather than “vetted” by whips and officials advising the executive.

It may be that unelected officials in Whitehall are striking back at their inquisitors.

Ministerial Pensions – an open letter to Francis Maude

Rt Hon Francis Maude MP
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

2nd May 2012

Dear Francis,

The House of Commons Library notified me that you slipped out a ministerial statement yesterday as Parliament was being prorogued and few MPs were here. You stated that:

“In order to ensure that this change in contributions does not inadvertently increase the benefits earned by the members of this pension scheme, which are determined by a complex calculation, it is now necessary to make some further small technical changes by way of an amendment scheme”.

I would be grateful if you would confirm the following:

1)   I was correct in warning on 20th March that the changes which you were going to bring in on 1st April would have the effect of increasing Cabinet Minister pensions;

2)   If I had not pursued this issue, you would have ensured that Cabinet Ministers, uniquely in the public sector, would have been paid bigger pensions in return for making higher pension contributions;

3)   Your statement to Parliament yesterday that your 1st April changes would “increase the benefits earned by the members of this pension scheme” is incorrect, as only Cabinet Ministers would have received higher pensions and more junior ministers would have paid for these by receiving lower pensions;

4)   Whether you, or your special adviser, on or around 2nd April made statements to the media describing what I had published as “wrong” and denying that your pension changes would increase Cabinet Minister pensions;

5)   If such statements were made by your special adviser or other media conduit, whether you personally authorised it and take responsibility for them;

6)   You failed to consult the trustees of the pension scheme about the further changes which you have made to the scheme from 1st May and that their legality may consequently be questioned;

7)   Cabinet Ministers will still receive higher pensions in return for their higher contributions on account of accrual during April, contrary to what you told Parliament in your ministerial statement of 1st May;

8)   Whether you fully notified minister of state and under-secretaries of the reduced pension they would receive following your 1st April changes;

9)   The extent to which you oversee changes to civil service pensions or have a role, consultative or otherwise, in respect of other public sector pension schemes; and

10) Whether it is appropriate for you to continue exercising such responsibility in light of your management of the ministerial pension scheme.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Reckless MP
Member of Parliament for Rochester and Strood

VIDEO: Building A Better Future