Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Angus MacNeil Scottish National Party MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Angus Brendan MacNeil (Scottish Gaelic: Aonghas Breandán Mac Niall) (born 21 July 1970) is the Scottish National Party (SNP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, a seat with the smallest electorate in Britain.

He is the SNP's spokesperson for Transport, for Tourism, for Fishing, Food and Rural Affairs and for Scotland Office matters.

Early life

MacNeil was educated at Castlebay Secondary School, Barra, and the Nicolson Institute, Stornoway, before graduating from Strathclyde University in 1992. He played shinty whilst at university.


He worked as an engineer and as a reporter for BBC Radio Scotland before qualifying as a teacher in 1996 at Jordanhill College. His first post as a primary teacher was at Salen Primary School where he taught the first Gaelic Medium Class on the Isle of Mull.
He was elected in the 2005 general election, defeating Calum MacDonald of the Labour Party.
In March 2006, MacNeil came to widespread public attention after lodging a formal complaint with the Metropolitan Police regarding the Labour Party Cash for Peerages scandal. In April 2006, he and former "anti-corruption" MP Martin Bell wrote to prime minister, Tony Blair calling for all appointments to the House of Lords to be suspended in the wake of the scandal.
In November 2006 he won the Best Scot at Westminster section of the Scottish Politician of the Year awards for instigating the inquiry into possible abuse of the honours system.
In 2007, the Sunday Mail reported MacNeil had "kissed and fondled" two girls aged 17 and 18 in a hotel room in 2005. Mr MacNeil said he bitterly regretted the incident and said he was angry it had diverted attention from the "substantial political issues" he had been pursuing. In a statement, MacNeil, then 36, apologised for the "embarrassment and hurt" caused to his family by his actions.
He also received awards from the Spectator Magazine and the Political Studies Society for setting the political agenda in in Britain during 2006
He is a member of the editorial board for political monthly Total Politics.
MacNeil was re-elected to Parliament in 2010.


MacNeil had the highest bill for travel in 2006-2007. This is mainly due to the distance of his constituency from London as well as the awkward geographical layout of the constituency.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Stephen Hammond

File:Stephen Hammond MP.JPG 
Stephen William Hammond (born 4 February 1962) is a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Wimbledon since winning the seat in the 2005 election on 5 May 2005 with a 7.2% swing.
Stephen Hammond was born and educated in Southampton, attending King Edward VI School and afterwards on to the University of London. After graduating in Economics, he began a career in finance at a leading fund management house and subsequently worked for major investment banks. He was appointed a Director of the Equities division of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson in 1994 and four years later joined Commerzbank Securities. In 2000 he was promoted to Director, Pan European Research, with responsibility for seventy professionals based in London and across Europe.
He stood for Parliament for the Wimbledon constituency in the 2001 general election, but failed to improve on the large drop in popularity experienced by the previous Conservative MP. He was elected a councillor for Village ward, Wimbledon in the London Borough of Merton election in 2002 and was deputy leader of the Conservative Group on the Council.
He successfully re-fought the Wimbledon parliamentary seat in May 2005. He was soon promoted to the front bench - in December 2005 David Cameron appointed him Shadow Minister for Transport with special responsibility for rail, buses and London.
On 6 May 2010 he was re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Wimbledon. With 23,257 votes, he won 49% of all votes cast and increased his majority to 11,408. Turnout in Wimbledon was 73%, up from 68% in 2005.
Following the election, Stephen Hammond was appointed PPS to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Stephen Hammond has been married to Sally since 1991. Sally has for many years worked as a private secretary to Members of Parliament based at the House of Commons. They live in Wimbledon Park, with their daughter, Alice.
Stephen used to play hockey for a National League team and for his county. He now plays veterans hockey for Wimbledon. He enjoys reading and cooking as methods of relaxation as well as keeping the company of family and friends.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Ann Coffey

Ann Coffey (born 31 August 1946) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Stockport since 1992.

Early life

Born as Margaret Ann Brown, the daughter of a Royal Air Force officer, in Inverness, she attended Nairn Academy; the Bodmin County Grammar School (closed in 1973); Bushey Grammar School (became the comprehensive Queens' School when it merged with Alexandra School in September 1969) and the Polytechnic of South Bank, London (where she was awarded a BSc in Sociology in 1967, and was elected vice president of the students' union).
She attended Walsall College of Education (where she received a PGCE in 1971 and qualified as a teacher; and University of Manchester where she obtained her MSc in Psychiatric social work.
She began her career as a trainee social worker with the Walsall Social Services in 1971. In 1972 she became a social worker with the Birmingham City Council, moving to Gwynedd County Council in 1973 and the Metropolitan Borough of Wolverhampton in 1974, then to the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport in 1975, moving once more in 1982 to the Cheshire County Council. In 1988 she became the fostering team leader with the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham until her election to parliament.

Parliamentary career

Politically, Coffey was elected as a councillor to the Stockport Borough Council in 1984 and became its Labour group leader 1988-92, stepping down from the council in 1994. She contested the parliamentary seat of Cheadle at the 1987 General Election she finished in third place some 25,000 votes behind the sitting Conservative MP Stephen Day. She was selected to contest the Conservative held marginal Stockport constituency at the 1992 General Election and she defeated the sitting Conservative MP Tony Favell by 1,422 and has remained the MP there since. She made her maiden speech on 12 May 1992.
In her first term in Parliament, Coffey served initially as a member of the trade and industry select committee until she was promoted by Tony Blair to become an Opposition whip in 1995 and became an Opposition health spokeswoman in 1996. When Labour won the 1997 General Election, Coffey was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Prime Minister Tony Blair. In 1998, she became PPS to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Alistair Darling and has remained his assistant since, from 2002-6 in his capacity as the Secretary of State for Transport, and since 2006 as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Coffey is as of the resignation of Tony Blair as Prime Minister on 28 June 2008, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Rt Hon. Alistair Darling MP.
Coffey voted for the military intervention in Iraq in 2003 and for the ban on fox hunting.

Personal life

She was married to Thomas Coffey in 1973 in Pontefract and they have a daughter. They divorced in 1989 and she has since remarried. She enjoys photography and painting.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Ed Balls

File:Ed balls.jpg 

Edward Michael Balls, known as Ed Balls, (born 25 February 1967) is a British Labour politician, who has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 2005, currently for Morley and Outwood, and is the current Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Educated at Oxford University, where he gained a first in PPE graduating ahead of David Cameron, and Harvard where he was a Kennedy Scholar, he specialised in Economics. Balls worked as a leader writer for the Financial Times. Although he was not elected to Parliament until 2005, he was an economic adviser to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown from 1994. From June 2007 to May 2010, Balls served as Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.
Balls became Shadow Home Secretary after unsuccessfully running to become Labour Leader, before becoming Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2011.
Balls is married to Yvette Cooper, and together they were the first married couple to serve together in the British cabinet.

Early life

Balls's father is the zoologist Michael Balls. Balls was born in Norwich, Norfolk and educated at Bawburgh Primary School near Norwich, Crossdale Drive Primary School in Keyworth, Nottinghamshire, and then the private all-boys Nottingham High School, where he played the violin.
Balls joined the Labour Party when he was 16 years old. Whilst at Oxford he was an active member of the Labour Club, but also signed up to the Conservative Association according to friends "because they used to book top-flight political speakers, and only members were allowed to attend their lectures".


His career began as a writer at the Financial Times (1990–94) before his appointment as an economic adviser to shadow chancellor Gordon Brown (1994–97).
When Labour won the general election of 1997, Brown became Chancellor and Balls continued to work as an economic adviser to him. He went on to serve as chief economic adviser to HM Treasury from 1999 to 2004, in which post he was once named the 'most powerful unelected person in Britain'.
While he was chief economic adviser to the Treasury, Balls attended the Bilderberg annual conference of politicians, financiers and businessmen in 2001 and 2003, and returned to the United Kingdom on Conrad Black's private jet on both occasions. In 2010 when after details were reported in the press, Balls commented, "It saved the taxpayer the cost of a plane fare and on both occasions I declared it at the time to the permanent secretary in the normal way."
In July 2004, Balls was selected to stand as Labour and Co-operative candidate for the parliamentary seat of Normanton in West Yorkshire, a Labour stronghold whose MP, Bill O'Brien, was retiring. He stepped down as chief economic adviser to the Treasury, but was given a position at the Smith Institute, a political think tank. HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office confirmed that "the normal and proper procedures were followed."

Member of Parliament

In the 2005 general election he was elected MP for Normanton with a majority of 10,002 and 51.2% of the vote. After the Boundary Commission proposed boundary changes which would abolish the constituency, Balls ran a campaign, in connection with the local newspaper the Wakefield Express, to save the seat and, together with the three other Wakefield MPs (his wife Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh and Jon Trickett), fought an unsuccessful High Court challenge against the Boundary Commission's proposals.
In March 2007 he was selected to be the Labour Party candidate for the new Morley and Outwood constituency, which contains parts of the abolished Normanton and Morley and Rothwell constituencies.

Ministerial career

Balls became Economic Secretary to the Treasury, a junior ministerial position in HM Treasury, in the government reshuffle of May 2006. When Gordon Brown became prime minister on 27 June 2007, Balls was promoted to Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.
In October 2008, Balls announced that the government had decided to scrap SATs tests for 14-year-olds, a move which was broadly welcomed by teachers, parent groups and opposition MPs. However, the decision to continue with SATs tests for 11-year-olds was described by Head teachers' leader Mick Brookes as a missed opportunity.

Political activities

Balls has played a prominent role in the Fabian Society, the think tank and political society founded in 1884 which helped to found the Labour Party in 1900. In 1992 he authored a Fabian pamphlet advocating Bank of England independence, a policy that was swiftly enacted when Gordon Brown became Chancellor in 1997.
Balls was elected Vice-Chair of the Fabian Society for 2006 and Chair of the Fabian Society for 2007. As Vice-Chair of the Fabian Society, he launched the Fabian Life Chances Commission report in April 2006 and opened the Society's Next Decade lecture series in November 2006, arguing for closer European cooperation on the environment.
Balls has been a central figure in New Labour's economic reform agenda. But he and Gordon Brown have differed from the Blairites in being keen to stress their roots in Labour party intellectual traditions such as Fabianism and the co-operative movement as well as their modernising credentials in policy and electoral terms. In a New Statesman interview in March 2006, Martin Bright writes that Balls "says the use of the term "socialist" is less of a problem for his generation than it has been for older politicians like Blair and Brown, who remain bruised by the ideological warfare of the 1970s and 1980s".
"When I was at college, the economic system in eastern Europe was crumbling. We didn't have to ask the question of whether we should adopt a globally integrated, market-based model. For me, it is now a question of what values you have. Socialism, as represented by the Labour Party, the Fabian Society, the Co-operative movement, is a tradition I can be proud of", Balls told the New Statesman.

Children, Schools and Families Bill

Balls sponsored the Children, Schools and Families Bill which had its first reading on 19 November 2009. Part of the proposed legislation will see regulation of parents who home educate their children in England, introduced in response to the Badman Review, with annual inspections to determine quality of education and welfare of the child. Home educators across the UK petitioned their MPs to remove the proposed legislation.
Several parts of the bill, including the proposed register for home educators, and compulsory sex education lessons, were abandoned as they had failed to gain cross party support prior to the pending May 2010 election.

Allegations over allowances

In September 2007, with his wife Yvette Cooper, he was accused by Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP of "breaking the spirit of Commons rules" by using MPs' allowances to help pay for a £655,000 home in north London. Balls and his wife bought a four-bed house in Stoke Newington, north London, and registered this as their second home (rather than their home in Castleford, West Yorkshire) in order to qualify for up to £44,000 a year to subsidise a reported £438,000 mortgage under the Commons Additional Costs Allowance, of which they claimed £24,400. This is despite both spouses working in London full-time and their children attending local London schools. Through a spokesman, Balls and Cooper asserted that "The whole family travel between their Yorkshire home and London each week when Parliament is sitting. As they are all in London during the week, their children have always attended the nearest school to their London house."
Additional allegations have been made about Balls' and his wife's "flipping" of their second home three times within the space of two years.

2010 general election

At the 2010 general election, Balls narrowly won the newly created Morley and Outwood seat with 37.6% of the vote. The election ended in a hung parliament, with the Tories having the most votes and seats, but no party having an overall majority.

2010 Labour Party leadership election

The Right Honourable Ed Balls 

Candidate for
Leader of the Labour Party
Election date
announced 25 September 2010
Opponent(s) Diane Abbott
Andy Burnham
David Miliband
Ed Miliband
Incumbent Harriet Harman (pro tempore)

Website Campaign website
Ed Balls announced, in Nottingham, on 19 May 2010 that he was standing in the election for the post of Leader of the Labour Party, previously held by Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, who resigned on 11 May 2010. Balls was the third candidate to secure the minimum of 33 nominations from members of the Parliamentary Labour Party in order to enter the leadership race. The other contenders were former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband, former Health Secretary Andy Burnham and backbencher Diane Abbott.

Personal life

He married Yvette Cooper MP, who later became Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in Eastbourne on 10 January 1998. Cooper is Member of Parliament for Morley & Outwood's neighbouring constituency of Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford. They have three children. Cooper and Balls were the first married couple to serve together in the British cabinet.
In 2010 Balls was fined £60 and given three points on his licence for talking on his mobile telephone whilst driving.
Ed Balls is a fan of Norwich City.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Keith Vaz

Nigel Keith Anthony Standish Vaz, known as Keith Vaz, was born 26 November 1956 in Aden, Yemen.
Keith Vaz is a British Labour Party politician a Member of Parliament for Leicester East and has been the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee since July 2007. He was appointed as a member of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council in June 2006.

Early life

Keith Vaz was born in 1956 in Aden, Yemen to parents who originally hail from the Indian state of Goa. He moved to Bradford in England with his family in 1965. He was educated at Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith followed by Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge where he studied law and obtained a BA(1979), MA (1987), MCFI(1988).


Vaz lives in London with his wife and his two children; Luke and Anjali.


Prior to beginning a political career, Vaz was a practising solicitor. In 1982, he was employed as a solicitor to Richmond Council; and later as a senior solicitor to the London Borough of Islington. This position lasted until 1985 when he moved to Leicester and was employed as a solicitor at the Highfields and Belgrave Law Centre in Leicester. He remained in this role until his election to Parliament in 1987.

Political life

Vaz has been a Labour member since 1982.
In 1983, Vaz stood in the general election as the Euro-Parliamentary candidate for Surrey West. He stood again in 1984 in the European elections.
On 11 June 1987, Vaz was elected as the Member of Parliament for Leicester East with a majority of 1,924. He was then re-elected in 1992 (majority of 11,316); in 1997 (majority of 18,422); 2001 (majority of 13, 442) and most recently in 2005 (majority of 15,867).
Vaz has held a variety of parliamentary posts. Between 1987 and 1992 he was a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, of which has been the Chair since July 2007. Between 1993 and 1994, he was a member of the Executive Committee Inter-Parliamentary Union. Finally, between December 2002 and July 2007, Vaz acted as a Senior Labour Member of Select Committee fro Constitutional Affairs.
In 1992, Vaz was given the role of Shadow Junior Environment Minister with responsibility for planning and regeneration, his first frontbench role. He remained in this position until 1997, when he was given his first Government post as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General and Solicitor General. This appointment was clearly influenced by Vaz’s legal background.
Vaz then served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Lord Chancellor’s Department for a brief period between May and October 1999. This was quickly followed by his appointment as the Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He served in this position from October 1999 and June 2001.
Other positions currently held include as an elected member of the National Executive Committee and as the Vice-Chair of Women, Race and Equality Committee of the Labour Party. He has held both of these positions since March 2007. Since 2000, he has been a patron of the Labour Party Race Action Group and in 2006 he was appointed the Chairman of the Ethnic Minority Taskforce.
Vaz was the first Asian Member of Parliament since the 1920s and remains the longest standing Asian Member of Parliament.

Filkin inquiry

In February 2000 the Parliamentary standards watchdog Elizabeth Filkin began an investigation after allegations that Vaz had accepted several thousand pounds from a solicitor, Sarosh Zaiwalla, which he had failed to declare. The allegations were made by Andrew Milne, a former partner of Zaiwalla and were denied by both Vaz and Zaiwalla. Additional allegations were made that Vaz had accepted money from other businessmen.
Vaz wrote to Filkin on 7 February 2000 to deny the allegations, and Filkin and Vaz went on to exchange letters until April 2000 in which Vaz responded to Filkin's queries. Geoffrey Bindman, who was acting as Vaz's solicitor, wrote to Filkin on 18 May to ask how much longer her inquiry was to take and Filkin produced a list of 48 questions she wanted answered on 29 June.
On 19 October Filkin wrote and asked for details about properties owned by Vaz, who replied that he owned three properties. However, evidence was later found by BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Vaz failed to disclose all his property interests to Filkin, and that documents showed that he owned four rather than three properties at the time. It was also discovered that he had transferred the ownership of a fifth property in London to his mother on 27 October, eight days after Filkin requested details of all his properties. Vaz said that the timing was a coincidence and the property was put on the market by Mrs Vaz 6 months after the transfer. Land Registry documents showed that Vaz had become the owner of the property on 5 August 1988, and the Electoral Register showed that it had been Vaz's address in 1988 and 1999. Between February 1992 and February 1996 the property was the address of Reza Shahbandeh, who Vaz denied all knowledge of when asked.
On 2 November Geoffrey Bindman warned Filkin that her inquiry could be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Filkin sent a final list of questions for Vaz to answer on 27 November, following which Bindman wrote to Filkin on 4 December that Vaz would not answer any more of her questions, but would co-operate with the Standards and Privileges Committee. Filkin told the Standards and Privileges Committee on 20 December that she had been unable to reach a conclusion on eight of the 18 allegations she had investigated.
On 12 March 2001, the Filkin report cleared Vaz of nine of the 28 allegations of various financial wrongdoings, but Elizabeth Filkin accused Vaz of blocking her investigation into eighteen of the allegations . He was censured for a single allegation - that he had failed to register two payments worth £4,500 in total from solicitor Sarosh Zaiwalla , whom he recommended for a peerage several years later. Filkin announced in the same month a new inquiry which would focus on whether or not a company connected to Vaz received a donation from a charitable foundation run by the Hinduja brothers.
Filkin was reported on 18 March as angered by the way in which Vaz had "spun" her report, saying that he had been representing the report as clearing him when in fact she failed to reach conclusions on several complaints because he obstructed the inquiry. Filkin declined to comment, saying she felt her position on Vaz was set out in her report.

Hinduja affair

In January 2001, immigration minister Barbara Roche revealed in a written Commons reply that Vaz, along with Peter Mandelson and other MPs, had contacted the Home Office about the Hinduja brothers. She said that Vaz had made inquiries about when a decision on their application for citizenship could be expected.
On 25 January, Vaz had become the focus of Opposition questions about the Hinduja affair and many parliamentary questions were tabled, demanding that he fully disclose his role. Vaz said via a Foreign Office spokesman that he would be "fully prepared" to answer questions put to him by Sir Anthony Hammond QC who had been asked by the Prime Minister to carry out an inquiry into the affair.
Vaz had known the Hinduja brothers for some time; he had been present when the charitable Hinduja Foundation was set up in 1993, and also delivered a speech in 1998 when the brothers invited Tony and Cherie Blair to a Diwali celebration.
On 26 January 2001, Prime Minister Tony Blair was accused
of prejudicing the independent inquiry into the Hinduja passport affair, after he declared that the Foreign Office minister Keith Vaz had not done "anything wrong". On the same day, Vaz told reporters that they would "regret" their behaviour once the facts of the case were revealed. "Some of you are going to look very foolish when this report comes out. Some of the stuff you said about Peter, and about others and me, you'll regret very much when the facts come out," he said. When asked why the passport application of one of the Hinduja brothers had been processed more quickly than normal, being processed and sanctioned in six months when the process can take up to two years, he replied, "It is not unusual."
On 29 January, the government confirmed that the Hinduja Foundation had held a reception for Vaz in September 1999 to celebrate his appointment as the first Asian Minister in recent times. The party was not listed by Vaz in House of Commons register of Members' Interests and John Redwood, then head of the Conservative Parliamentary Campaigns Unit, questioned Vaz's judgement in accepting the hospitality.
In March Vaz was ordered to fully co-operate with a new inquiry launched into his financial affairs by Elizabeth Filkin. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Vaz's superior, also urged him to fully answer allegations about his links with the Hinduja brothers. Mr Vaz met Mrs Filkin on 20 March to discuss a complaint that the Hinduja Foundation had given the sum of £1,200 to Mapesbury Communications, a company run by his wife, in return for helping to organise a Hinduja-sponsored reception at the House of Commons. Vaz had previously denied receiving money from the Hindujas, but insisted that he made no personal gain from the transaction in question.
In June 2001 Vaz said that he had made representations during the Hinduja brothers' applications for British citizenship while a backbench MP. Tony Blair also admitted that Vaz had "made representations" on behalf of other Asians.
On 11 June 2001 Vaz was officially dismissed from his post as Europe Minister, to be replaced by Peter Hain. The Prime Minister's office said that Vaz had written to Tony Blair stating his wish to stand down for health reasons.
In December 2001 Elizabeth Filkin cleared Vaz of failing to register payments to his wife's law firm by the Hinduja brothers, but said that he had colluded with his wife to conceal the payments. Filkin's report said that the payments had been given to his wife for legal advice on immigration issues and concluded that Vaz had gained no direct personal benefit, and that Commons rules did not require him to disclose payments made to his wife. She did, however, criticise him for his secrecy, saying, "It is clear to me there has been deliberate collusion over many months between Mr Vaz and his wife to conceal this fact and to prevent me from obtaining accurate information about his possible financial relationship with the Hinduja family".

Suspension from House of Commons

In 2002 Vaz was suspended from the House of Commons for one month after a Committee on Standards and Privileges inquiry found that he had made false allegations against Eileen Eggington, a former policewoman. The committee concluded that "Mr Vaz recklessly made a damaging allegation against Miss Eggington to the Commissioner, which was not true, and which could have intimidated Miss Eggington or undermined her credibility".
Eileen Eggington, a retired police officer who had served 34 years in the Metropolitan Police, including a period as deputy head of Special Branch, wanted to help a friend, Mary Grestny, who had worked as personal assistant to Vaz's wife. After leaving the job in May 2000, Grestny dictated a seven-page statement about Mrs Vaz to Eggington in March 2001, who sent it to Elizabeth Filkin. Grestny's statement included allegations that Mr and Mrs Vaz had employed an illegal immigrant as their nanny and that they had been receiving gifts from Asian businessmen such as Hinduja brothers. The allegations were denied by Mr Vaz and the Committee found no evidence to support them.
In late 2001, Vaz complained to Leicestershire police that his mother had been upset by a telephone call from "a woman named Mrs Egginton", who claimed to be a police officer. The accusations led to Ms. Eggington being questioned by police. Vaz also wrote a letter of complaint to Elizabeth Filkin, but when she tried to make inquiries Vaz accused her of interfering with a police inquiry and threatened to report her to the Speaker of the House of Commons. Eggington denied that she had ever telephoned Vaz's mother and offered her home and mobile telephone records as evidence. The Commons committee decided that she was telling the truth. They added: "Mr Vaz recklessly made a damaging allegation against Miss Eggington, which was not true and which could have intimidated Miss Eggington and undermined her credibility."
A letter to Elizabeth Filkin from Detective Superintendent Nick Gargan made it plain that the police did not believe Vaz's mother ever received the phone call and the person who came closest to being prosecuted was not Eggington but Vaz. Gargan said that the police had considered a range of possible offences, including wasteful employment of the police, and an attempt to pervert the course of justice. Leicestershire police eventually decided not to prosecute. "We cannot rule out a tactical motivation for Mr Vaz's contact with Leicestershire Constabulary but the evidence does not support further investigation of any attempt to pervert the course of justice."
The complaints the committee upheld against Mr Vaz were:
  • That he had given misleading information to the Standards and Privileges Committee and Elizabeth Filkin about his financial relationship to the Hinduja brothers.
  • That he had failed to register his paid employment at the Leicester Law Centre when he first entered Parliament in 1987.
  • That he had failed to register a donation from the Caparo group in 1993.
It was concluded that Vaz had "committed serious breaches of the Code of Conduct and showed contempt for the House" and it was recommended that he be suspended from the House of Commons for one month.

Nadhmi Auchi

In 2001 it was revealed that Vaz had assisted Anglo-Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi in his attempts to avoid extradition to France. Opposition MPs called for an investigation into what one dubbed "Hinduja Mark II".
Anglo-Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi was wanted for questioning by French police for his alleged role in the notorious Elf Aquitaine fraud scandal which led to the arrest of a former French Foreign Minister. The warrant issued by French authorities in July 2000 Auchi of "complicity in the misuse of company assets and receiving embezzled company assets". It also covered Auchi's associate Nasir Abid and stated that if found guilty of the alleged offences both men could face 109 years in jail.
Vaz was a director of the British arm of Auchi's corporation, General Mediterranean Holdings, whose previous directors had included Lords Steel and Lamont, and Jacques Santer. Vaz used his political influence on GMH's behalf; this included a party in the Park Lane Hilton to celebrate the 20th anniversary of GMH on 23 April 1999, where Lord Sainsbury presented Auchi with a painting of the House of Commons signed by Tony Blair, the Opposition leaders, and over 100 other leading British politicians. Lord Sainsbury later told The Observer that he did this "as a favour for Keith Vaz". In May 1999 Vaz resigned his post as a director after he was appointed a Minister. In a statement to The Observer, a GMH spokesman said that Vaz had been invited to become a GMH director in January 1999, yet company accounts showed Vaz as a director for the financial year ending December 1998.
Labour confirmed in May 2001 that Auchi had called Vaz at home about the arrest warrant to ask him for advice. A spokesman said that Vaz "made some factual inquiries to the Home Office about the [extradition] procedure." This included advising Auchi to consult his local MP. The spokesman stressed that Vaz acted properly at all times and was often contacted by members of Britain's ethnic communities for help. In a Commons answer to Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker earlier the same month Vaz confirmed that "details of enquiries by Mr Auchi have been passed to the Home Office".
Since 2003 he has been a Member of the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee.

Speculation over Counter-Terrorism Bill

Vaz’s backing for the 42 day terrorist detention without charge “was seen as crucial by the Government.” During the debate the day before the key vote, Vaz was asked in Parliament whether he had been offered an honour for his support. He said: “No, it was certainly not offered—but I do not know; there is still time.” The Daily Telegraph printed a hand written letter to Vaz, written the day after the vote, Geoff Hoon wrote:
“Dear Keith... Just a quick note to thank you for all your help during the period leading up to last Wednesday’s vote. I wanted you to know how much I appreciated all your help. I trust that it will be appropriately rewarded!... With thanks and best wishes, Geoff.”
Vaz wrote to the Press Council complaining the story was inaccurate, that the letter had been obtained by subterfuge and he hadn’t been contacted before the story was published. The complaint was rejected as the article made it clear that the reports of an honour were just speculation which Vaz had already publicly denied.

Home Affairs Select Committee

Vaz was elected Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, replacing John Denham, on 26 July 2007. He was unusually nominated to the Committee by the Government, rather than by the quasi-independent Committee of Selection which, under the Standing Orders of the House, nominates members to select committees. The Leader of the House argued that this was because there was not sufficient time to go through the usual procedure before the impending summer recess. The Chairman of the Committee of Selection told the House that the Committee had been ready to meet earlier that week, but had been advised by the Government that there was no business for it to transact.

Conflict of interest

In September 2008 Vaz faced pressure to explain why he failed to declare an interest when he intervened in an official investigation into the business dealings of a close friend, solicitor Shahrokh Mireskandari, who has played a role in several racial discrimination cases against the Metropolitan Police, and who was representing Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur in his racial discrimination case against Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Ian Blair.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority began an investigation into Mireskandari's legal firm, Dean and Dean, in January 2008 after a number of complaints about its conduct. Vaz wrote a joint letter with fellow Labour MP Virendra Sharma to the authority's chief executive, Anthony Townsend, in February 2008 on official House of Commons stationery. He cited a complaint he had received from Mireskandari and alleged "discriminatory conduct" in its investigation into Dean and Dean. The Authority was forced to set up an independent working party to look into whether it had disproportionately targeted non-white lawyers for investigation.
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Vince Cable said that Vaz should make a public statement to clear up his role in the affair. "It is quite unreasonable that an independent regulator should have been undermined in this way. I would hope that the chairman of the home affairs select committee will give a full public statement."

Detention without charge inquiry

In July 2007, Vaz was appointed chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee. Select committee members are usually proposed by the Committee of Selection, but Vaz was the only nomination made by Commons Leader Harriet Harman.
In September 2008, Vaz came under pressure when it was revealed that he had sought the private views of Prime Minister Gordon Brown in connection with the Committee's independent report into government plans to extend the detention of terror suspects beyond 28 days. The Guardian reported that emails suggested that Vaz had secretly contacted the Prime Minister about the committee's draft report and proposed a meeting because "we need to get his [Brown's] suggestions". An email was sent in November 2007 to Ian Austin, Gordon Brown's parliamentary private secretary, and copied to Fiona Gordon, at the time Brown's political adviser. Another leaked email showed that Vaz had also sent extracts of the committee's draft report to the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, for his comments; according to Parliament's standing orders, the chairman of the Select Committee cannot take evidence from a witness without at least two other committee members being present.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, compared it to a judge deciding a case privately emailing one of the parties to seek their suggestions.
Vaz denied that he invited Brown to contribute, except as a witness to the committee.

Parliamentary Expenses

Vaz’s total expenses of £173,937 in 2008/2009 were ranked 45th out of 647 MPs with office running costs and staffing costs accounting for 70% of this. The register of Member’s interests shows he owns the constituency office.
His second home expenses, ranked 83 out of 647 at £23,831 in 2008/2009 were the subject of a Daily Telegraph article. Vaz who lives in Stanmore, a 45 minute journey time from Parliament, claimed mortgage interest on a flat in Westminster he bought in 2003.
In May 2007, after claiming for the flats service and council tax, he switched his designated second home to his constituency office and bought furniture. The report into the Parliamentary expenses scandal by Sir Thomas Legg showed 343 MPs had been asked to repay some money and Vaz was asked to repay £1514 due to furnishing items exceeding allowable cost. New expenses rules published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority which came into force after the 2010 general election limit the second home allowance to £1,450 a month, i.e. the Westminster cost of renting a one bedroomed flat. Profits made on existing second homes will be recouped.

Alternative medicine

He is a supporter of homeopathy, having signed several early day motions in support of its continued funding on the National Health Service sponsored by David Tredinnick.


Video game violence

Following the February 2004 murder of a fourteen year old boy, Vaz asked for an investigation between the video games and violence, saying the parents of the victim believe that the killer was influenced by the video game Manhunt. Although the police dismissed the claim and the only copy found belonged to the victim, Tony Blair said the game was unsuitable for children and agreed to discuss with the Home Secretary what action could be taken.  The sequel Manhunt 2 described by the British Board of Film Censors as “distinguishable its unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone” became the first video game banned by the in the UK for 10 years. Vaz said: "This is an excellent decision by the British Board of Film Classification, showing that game publishers cannot expect to get interactive games where players take the part of killers engaged in 'casual sadism' and murder."
Vaz has also criticised Bully, which had a pre-release screenshot showing three uniformed pupils fighting and kicking. In 2005, he asked Geoff Hoon: "Does the leader of the house share my concern at the decision of Rockstar Games to publish a new game called Bully in which players use their on-screen persona to kick and punch other schoolchildren?" The game has a BBFC 15 rating in the UK.
In 2009 Vaz called for a ban on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, because of scenes in which undercover soldiers pose as terrorists and are asked to help shoot civilians. No action was taken.
In October 2010, Vaz put down an Early Day Motion (EDM) noting that the race shootings in Malmo, Sweden "have been associated with the violent video game Counter-Strike." The EDM also noted that the game was previously banned in Brazil and was associated with US College Campus massacres in 2007. It called on the Government to ensure the purchase of video games by minors was controlled and that parents were provided with clear information on any violent content.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Andrew Lansley

Andrew David Lansley, CBE, MP (born 11 December 1956) is a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom and Secretary of State for Health. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for South Cambridgeshire since the 1997 general election, and was Shadow Secretary of State for Health from June 2004 until becoming Secretary of State for Health in May 2010. Lansley's Health and Social Care Bill 2011, introducing major reforms to the NHS, is one of the most controversial plans of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, resulting in strong opposition from both the Royal College of Nursing and British Medical Association.
He was appointed as a Privy Counsellor on 13 May 2010.

Early life

Born in Hornchurch, Essex, Lansley was educated at Brentwood School and the University of Exeter, gaining a BA in politics. His father, Thomas, worked in a pathology laboratory and was co-founder of the Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine and chair of the Institute of Medical Laboratory Scientists.
Before entering politics, Lansley had "a promising career in the civil service". Lansley worked for Norman Tebbit for three years as his principal private secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry. This encompassed the period of the IRA's 1984 Brighton hotel bombing at the Conservative Party Conference in which Tebbit was seriously injured. Lansley and others are praised by Tebbit for their support at that time.
Lansley went on to become more fully involved in politics. In 1990 was appointed to run the Conservative Research Department. He ran the Conservative campaign for the 1992 General Election, which he describes as one of "his proudest career achievements" and for which he was awarded a CBE. He suffered a minor stroke in 1992, initially misdiagnosed as an ear infection, but made a full recovery save from permanently losing his sense of "fine balance".

Member of Parliament

Lansley sought to enter parliament and was selected for the South Cambridgeshire seat where he was subsequently elected as an MP in 1997. He immediately joined the House of Commons health select committee.
At the 2001 election he again took on a strategy role as a Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party. As part of his duties Shadow Ministers had to clear the timing of their announcements with Lansley. He fitted them into a timetable known as the 'Stalingrid'. The 2001 election was not a success for the Conservative Party and party leader, William Hague, resigned in its wake. Iain Duncan Smith, the new leader, offered Lansley a position after the election but was turned down and, until Michael Howard became leader, Lansley was a backbencher.

Shadow Cabinet

After Howard's election as party leader, Lansley soon returned to the Conservative frontbench. He served as the Shadow Secretary of State for Health. In his post he developed policies centred on using choice to improve the National Health Service, and was author of a chapter in The Future of the NHS.

Secretary of State for Health

After becoming Prime Minister in May 2010, David Cameron named Lansley as Health Secretary in the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government.

Proposed reform

In January 2011 Ministers published the Health and Social Care Bill, detailing planned reforms that will pave the way for GP consortia to take over management of the NHS from Primary Care Trusts. Prime minister David Cameron said "fundamental changes" are needed in the NHS. But doctors leaders believe that GPs could simply have taken charge of PCTs instead - and got the same results. The reforms will pave the way for groups of GPs to take control of the NHS budget, the consortia will take charge of about 80% of the funding, they will be in charge of planning and buying everything from community health centres to hospital services, however, some specialist services such as neurosurgery will be provided by the national board, the consortia will take charge from 2013, although pilots are beginning to start.
In a letter to The Times, BMA chairman Hamish Meldrum, Royal College of Nursing chief executive Peter Carter and the heads of Unison, Unite and others said the speed and scale of the reforms proposed risked undermining the care of patients by putting cost before quality. Criticism of the reform had been mounting ahead of the publication of the Health and Social Care Bill on 19 January 2011.
Lansley’s white paper on the NHS has led to him being the subject of an unflattering hip hop track and video by rapper NxtGen with the chorus "Andrew Lansley, greedy / Andrew Lansley, tosser / the NHS is not for sale, you grey-haired manky codger," which has now been viewed over 250,000 times on YouTube and which was picked up as one of the theme tunes to the anti cuts movement and spawned several placards at the March for the Alternative in March 2011. The video, partly paid for by Unison features NxtGen rapping about Lansley's proposed GP commissioning policy, his relation to the expenses scandal and the controversial donation he received from private health company Care UK. Lansley has responded with the statement he was "impressed that he's managed to get lyrics about GP commissioning into a rap", but "We will never privatise the NHS".
Following the widespread criticism, on 4 April 2011, the Government announced a "pause" in the progress of the Health and Social Care Bill to allow the government to 'listen, reflect and improve' the proposals.
On 13 April 2011, 96% of 497 delegates at the Royal College of Nursing conference backed a motion of no confidence questioning Andrew Lansley's handling of NHS reforms in England. Later that day, Lansley met with 65 nurses at the same conference, and apologized by saying "I am sorry if what I'm setting out to do hasn't communicated itself."


Conflict of interest

While in opposition as health spokesman, Andrew Lansley accepted a donation of £21,000 from John Nash, the chairman of private healthcare provider Care UK and founder of the private equity fund Sovereign Capital, which owns several other private healthcare companies, to help fund his private office, leading to allegations of a conflict of interest. Such companies stand to be the biggest beneficiaries of Conservative policies to increase the use of private health providers within the NHS.

Obesity controversy

Andrew Lansley has also gone on record as saying "people who see more fat people around them may themselves be more likely to gain weight. Young people who think many of their friends binge-drink are likely to do so themselves."


Andrew Lansley wrote a blog entry on the Conservative Party website on 25 November 2008, which claimed the "good things" from a recession included people being able to spend more time with their families. He was later forced to apologise.

Parliamentary expenses

In the Parliamentary expenses scandal in 2009, Lansley was accused of 'flipping', or redesignating, his second home, after claiming for renovation of a rural cottage prior to selling it. It is claimed that he then 'flipped' his second home designation to a London flat, and claimed thousands of pounds for furniture. Lansley responded to the claims by stating that his claims were "within the rules".

Health policy

Lansley has also courted controversy by putting fast food companies such as McDonald's, KFC and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg's, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease, said by campaign groups to be the equivalent of handing smoking policy over to the tobacco industry.

Personal life

Lansley's wealth is estimated at £700,000.
In 1997 Lansley left his first wife, Dr Marilyn Biggs, with whom he had three children. He has two children with his second wife Sally Low. He is a member of the Church of England.


Lansley's wife runs a PR firm that works on behalf of food and drug companies. She advises them on how to “establish positive relationships with decision-makers".

Food advertisers

Until December 2009, Lansley received £134 an hour from a firm of advertisers that represents clients such as Walkers Crisps, McDonalds, Unilever, Mars and Pizza Hut; Private Eye suggests a link between these activities and Lansley's desire to see a more lightly regulated food industry. The same publication suggested a similar link to a Department of Health report on Red Meat in which the only products listed in the report found to contain suitable amounts of red meat to merit a "Good" rating were a McDonald's Big Mac, and a Pepperami (manufactured by Unilever).

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Jeremy Hunt

File:Jeremy Hunt Farnham 2010.JPG 
Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt (born 1 November 1966) is the British Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.
He is the Conservative MP for South West Surrey.

Early life

The elder son of Admiral Sir Nicholas Hunt, a senior officer in the Royal Navy, Hunt was raised in Surrey close to the constituency that he now represents in Parliament.


Hunt was educated at Charterhouse School, an independent school near Godalming in Surrey, where he was head boy, followed by Magdalen College at the University of Oxford, where he achieved a First in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). He became President of Oxford University Conservative Association in 1987.

Life and career

Shortly after graduating, Hunt became a management consultant before resigning to become an English language teacher in Japan. Whilst living in Japan he became a proficient speaker of Japanese and an enthusiast of modern Japanese culture.
On his return to Britain, Hunt joined Profile PR, a public relations agency specialising in IT which he co-founded with Mike Elms, a childhood friend. With clients such as BT, Bull Integris, and Zetafax Profile did well during the IT boom of the mid 1990s. Hunt and Elms later sold their interest in Profile to concentrate on directory publishing. Together they founded a company now known as Hotcourses a major client of which is the British Council. Hotcourses has provided financial support to Hunt's parliamentary office.
In September 2010, The Observer reported "raised eyebrows" that Hunt's former Parliamentary Assistant Hon Naomi Gummer had been given a job within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on a fixed-term civil servant contract
after Hunt had proposed departmental cuts of 35%-50%. The head of the Public and Commercial Services Union questioned Hunt's motives saying:-
Political independence of the civil service is a fundamental part of our democracy and we would be deeply concerned if this was being put at risk by nepotism and privilege.
Gummer is the daughter of Tory peer Lord Chadlington who was a director of Hotcourses between 2000 and 2004.
Hunt was appointed as a Privy Counsellor on 13 May 2010.

Member of Parliament

Hunt was elected at the 2005 General Election, after Virginia Bottomley - a former member of the Board of Trustees of British Council - became a Life Peeress. He won the constituency with an increased majority of 5,711.
After supporting David Cameron's bid for leadership of the Conservative Party, he was appointed Shadow Minister for Disabled People in December 2005. In David Cameron's reshuffle of 2 July 2007, Hunt joined the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport.
He launched his own YouTube Channel in March 2008.
Hunt has been actively involved in many local campaigns within South West Surrey. These include campaigning; against closure of the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department of The Royal Surrey Hospital, against closure of Milford Hospital, for protecting community beds at Haslemere Hospital. He cites the successful campaign to save the Royal Surrey County Hospital as his proudest political achievement so far.

Political views

An ardent Tory of the same generation as David Cameron and Boris Johnson, Hunt became involved in politics during the Thatcher Years of the 1980s - a period which coincided with his time at Oxford University, where he was active in the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA). Hunt was one of the four Conservative MPs who voted in favour of the 2010 Digital Economy Act.


In 2009 Hunt was investigated by a "sleaze watchdog," the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards after allowing his political agent to live in his taxpayer funded home in Farnham as a lodger from November 2005 to June 2007. The commissioner found
Mr Hunt was in breach of the rules in not reducing his claims on the Additional Costs Allowance in that period to take full account of his agent's living costs. As a result, public funds provided a benefit to the constituency agent... But I accept that Mr Hunt received no real financial benefit from the arrangement and that the error was caused by his misinterpretation of the rules.
Hunt’s offer to repay half the money, i.e. £9,558.50 was accepted.
Hunt also had to repay £1,996 for claiming the expenses of his Farnham home whilst claiming the mortgage of his Hammersmith home. The commissioner said
Mr Hunt has readily accepted that he was in error, and in breach of the rules of the House, in making a claim for utilities and other services on his Farnham home in the period during which it was still his main home. He has repaid the sum claimed, £1,996, in full. It is clear that, as a new Member in May 2005, his office arrangements were at best disorganised. [10]
The Legg Report showed no other outstanding issues.[11] Hunt's expenses were ranked 568 out of 647 in 2008-2009 and 548 out of 645 in 2007-8.[12]

Hillsborough comments

Hunt attracted controversy for suggesting football hooliganism played a part in the death of 96 football fans in the Hillsborough disaster. He later apologised saying "I know that fan unrest played no part in the terrible events of April 1989 and I apologise to Liverpool fans and the families of those killed and injured in the Hillsborough disaster if my comments caused any offence."

Culture Secretary

As the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Hunt oversaw an expansion of the responsibilities of his Department. Competition and policy issues relating to media and telecommunications became the responsibility of the culture secretary; they were removed from the purview of the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, after Cable was recorded stating that he had "declared war" on News Corporation.
Hunt was consequently given the quasi-judicial power to adjudicate over News Corporation's proposal to take full control of the satellite broadcasting company British Sky Broadcasting. Hunt elected not to refer to the deal to the Competition Commission, announcing on 3 March 2011 that he intended to accept a series of undertakings given by News Corporation, paving the way for the deal to be approved.

Personal life

Hunt married Lucia in 2009. They have a son (born May 2010).