Theresa May accused of buying Tory MPs’ support – nearly half Tory MPs getting pay perks

“Theresa May has been accused of “buying the loyalty” of Tory MPs by paying nine of them about £10,000 a year extra to be party vice-chairmen.
Labour’s Chris Bryant claims the cash, which comes from Conservative Party funds, amounts to “hush money”.

The jobs were handed out to the MPs, including some who had lost ministerial posts, in Mrs May’s reshuffle.

According to The Times, they are being paid varying amounts depending on their past experience.

A Conservative spokesman said: “Our new team of vice chairs bring a diverse range of experience to the party.

“The party has decided to offer some remuneration for these positions, reflecting both the importance of these roles and the commitment expected of them.”
The new vice-chairmen were appointed by Mrs May as part of a shake-up of Conservative central office aimed at attracting more young people and ethnic minority voters to join the party.

Brandon Lewis was installed as the new party chairman, with James Cleverly as his deputy.

The vice-chairmen include junior ministers, such as Chris Skidmore and Marcus Jones, who were sacked in the prime minister’s reshuffle and will, therefore, have lost their ministerial salary of £22,000 a year, which comes on top of their £74,962 MPs’ pay.

The new vice-chairmen come in addition to the party’s existing four vice-chairmen and others given what Chris Bryant described as “semi-government” jobs, such as the 15 MPs acting as trade envoys.

“It has never been done before as far as I am aware,” said Mr Bryant, a former Labour minister, of the new vice-chairmen.

“It is basically a means of keeping them on board and extending the prime minister’s patronage.”

“It means they can be sacked,” he added, if they voted against the government or showed disloyalty.

The size of the so-called “payroll vote” – backbench MPs whose independence is supposedly compromised by being given paid or unpaid roles in government – has been a source of controversy under successive governments.

The Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975 says the maximum number of paid ministerial posts should be 109, with the size of the cabinet limited to 21 ministers.

Prime ministers can also appoint MPs to unpaid roles, such as Parliamentary Private Secretaries, or invite ministers to attend cabinet without being full members – there are six ministers in this category in Mrs May’s new line-up.

The BBC estimates that there 105 Tory MPs – out of a total of 316 – on the “payroll vote,” following Mrs May’s reshuffle, but that is before the new list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries has been released, which could take the total to 150 MPs, nearly half of the Parliamentary party.”

Clinton Devon Estates blots its eco copybook at Blackhill Quarry

Will Woodbury ever be free of industrial onslaught?

A controversial Outline Planning Application has been submitted by Clinton Devon Estates for an Extension to an engineering works at Blackhill Quarry instead of returning the area to heathland as originally agreed.

The plan shows the outline application seeking approval for construction of up to 3251 sqm (35,000 sq. ft.) of B2 (general industrial) floor space with access, parking and associated infrastructure (details of appearance, landscaping, scale and layout reserved for future consideration) at Blackhill Quarry Woodbury Exeter EX5 1HD.

EDDC Planning Website 17/3022/MOUT

Electoral Reform Society publishes four hard-hitting articles

There’s a lobbying scandal brewing in the House of Lords”

“As if the House of Lords did not already look like a private members’ club, an investigation by The Times has revealed that peers can continue to use the House of Lords’ subsidised dining rooms even after they retire.”

That means former politicians, who were not elected but selected for the role – are enjoying cheap food and drink thanks to taxpayers’ hard-earned cash. …”

Referendum spending is a murky world – when it should be crystal clear

Negotiations on the UK’s exit from the European Union will dominate much of the political agenda this year. But 18 months on from the Brexit referendum, questions are still being asked about whether campaigners played by the rules when it came to spending. …”

Political parties are too reliant on big donors – and it has to change

“The Mirror today published research findings showing that 39% of all cash donations to the Conservative Party declared so far this year are from 64 individuals and their businesses.

The 64 in question are all members of an exclusive donor club with a £50,000 annual membership fee.

This grants them access to senior party figures via swanky dinner events. Ministers who have attended in the first half of this year include Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond and Jeremy Wright. …”

Ministers are ignoring the elephant in the room when it comes to boundaries

Because of the current winner-takes-all voting system for electing Members of Parliament, 22 million votes were wasted at last year’s General Election – that’s 68% of the total votes cast.

So no matter what the size of your constituency is, most votes went into the black hole of our voting system.

That means 22 million people not just being under-represented – but not being represented at all in Parliament’s elected chamber.

Their votes are being thrown on the scrapheap – and the result is a highly distorted legislature that fails to represent the country. …”

Swire’s biggest concern this week: pensioners in Zimbabwe

Oral Answers to Questions – Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Veterans Abroad: Military Covenant (9 Jan 2018)

Hugo Swire: What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on the application of the Military Covenant’s Duty of Care to veterans living abroad.

Oral Answers to Questions – Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Veterans Abroad: Military Covenant (9 Jan 2018)

Hugo Swire: Of course, we very much welcome that. According to the campaigning charity, ZANE: Zimbabwe A National Emergency, there are 600 former British servicemen—those who have served the Crown—and widows of servicemen living in considerable pensioner poverty in Zimbabwe. Does the Minister agree that although the financial responsibility is that of the Government in Harare, the moral…

Four million people affected by NHS cancellations and waiting times

“Four million people have been directly affected by NHS cancellations and long waiting times, a poll has suggested.

It also found the majority of the public (65%) believe the Government is badly managing the current pressures on the NHS.

And almost half (44%) blame No10 for the crisis, the YouGov survey showed….”